I hear a lot of trans people say they wonder I they should have just “tried harder” to be their incorrect, assigned gender.
It makes me sad.
I’ve been in an abusive relationship, and one of the classic things that runs through a victim’s mind right before and right after they leave is “maybe if I’d just tried a little harder”. I think, in some ways, trans people are in an abusive relationship with the wider culture we’re in. We’re mistreated, trained to devalue ourselves, gaslit, have shit constantly projected onto us (like a totally incorrect identity!).
Realizing you’re trans and starting transition is like realizing a relationship is bad and beginning to leave it. Not only do things get worse before they get better, and include moments of grief and non-linear healing, but there’s also this terrible insecurity of “maybe I could have fixed it”. I think time heals it.
Just like an abusive relationship, once you’re out, there will eventually be a moment where you deeply understand that there wasn’t much you could have done except survive and get out.
The burden of opposing strict gender roles should not be placed on the shoulders of a statistically tiny and already-oppressed (and suffering) trans minority. There are ample opportunities to challenge rigid gender roles both during and after transition, too. Many trans men desire to explore femininity, and many trans women wish to break the stereotypes of what being a woman socially means.
Those contributions would actually be impossible for them without transitioning.
There should be a lot more to life than just survival and endurance. I’m transitioning to straighten out some problems, including being treated in a way that makes sense to my mind. But I’m also transitioning to get closer to the blueprint of my best self, to bring it out and use it productively in the world.
For a million different reasons, trans people will tell you why they can’t do that without transition, and most are valid reasons. It boils down to optimization. How can you best help a person optimize themselves and their life, with the proven tools that science and society have right now?
It’s not to say the fight against limiting gender roles shouldn’t continue, and many trans people continue it both during and after transitioning.
But trans people are under no obligation to wait for things to be perfect and risk-free before they decide to better their circumstances. We’re people with brains, too — we weigh the risks, and take action to balance pain and reward, just like anyone else would.
Think of the expensive and risky things people do to feel true fulfillment in life. One could argue that almost every truly life-affirming decision, from going to college to having a child, contains huge risks and financial commitments. People have to search their souls sometimes before they know such decisions are right for them.
And the decisions are often upheld by society, because they contribute to the advancement of a person being able to contribute positively to society.
So does transition.