Friday, 11 March 2022

Trans Like Me


In Trans Like Me, CN Lester takes readers on a measured, thoughtful, intelligent yet approachable tour through the most important and high-profile narratives around the trans community, turning them inside out and examining where we really are in terms of progress. From the impact of the media's wording in covering trans people and issues, to the way parenting gender variant children is portrayed, Lester brings their charged personal narrative to every topic and expertly lays out the work left to be done.

Trans Like Me explores the ways that we are all defined by ideas of gender -- whether we live as he, she, or they -- and how we can strive for authenticity in a world that forces limiting labels.

Love, love, love this book. Perfectly written and beautifully narrated. 

I especially liked the point about language:

As a teacher, I’m constantly introducing words that are new to my students: rubato, cantabile, légèrement. When new words can bring us closer to something we want to say then we are all too happy to learn them. And this is why I’m suspicious of the claim that trans-related words are too much, too hard and of no use.

Even when a word has been in usage for a long time, those who are suspicious of what that means in terms of gender are quick to claim that the change is too fast. ‘They’ has been used as a singular pronoun in English for hundreds of years; we find examples of the singular they in the works of Shakespeare, Austen and Swift. But trans people like me, who use the pronoun ‘they’ as a gender-neutral alternative to ‘he’ or ‘she’, are often mislabelled in the media by editors who struggle with its usage. By implying that trans people are faddish and difficult about words, writers can cast aspersions on the validity of our language – and of our selves. By claiming that our words are too hard to understand, the media perpetuates the idea that we are too hard to understand, and suggests that there’s no point in trying.

Language is fascinating in every context, and especially here. The point is so well made above, and highlights how language reinforces societal constructs, dragging people back when they try to escape. 

As a cis-gender bi woman, I struggle with language even today. A few years ago I wondered if I should call myself 'pan' because I've been attracted to, and out with, trans people in the past. It's always been the person, not what's between their legs, that I've been attracted to because, let's face it, you're going to have fun either way. Did that mean that I wasn't 'just' bi - and why do I say bi? I use it because that's the word I had growing up to describe attraction to both sexes. But there wasn't anyone visibly trans or non-binary at my school, so I wouldn't have known if I was attracted to people of other genders, and in the early 90s people had a hard enough time with 'gay' and 'lesbian,' yet alone 'bi.' I don't think I ever heard the words 'trans,' 'pan,' 'a-sexual,' or 'non-binary' back then, not in my little village. So, you use the language you've got. And because that's the language I had, it's the word I've always used. And, whereas I guess by definition I am pansexual, I think I'm probably always going to refer to myself as bi. 'Pansexual' just sounds odd as a descriptive for myself, but would I come to feel comfortable with it if I used it? Other people also seem to find 'bi' a simple one to grasp in comparison. So, do I use it because it's easy? I guess a little of everything. I'm cis gender she/her, but I like the GNP 'they' and when talking to new people, I often refer to previous partners as 'they,' which is a common bi sidestep when not wanting to present as straight or gay to new people. 

So, yes, language is a mind bender. And a little exhausting sometimes.

There are so many wonderfully quotable lines in this book. 

I would be scattered away into pieces if I let other people decide me in their own words.


To get access to treatment as an adult, you have to have known you were trans since early childhood, but if you say that you're trans in early childhood, you're told that you're too young to know.


We assume that anything that is new to us is new to human society as a whole and that if we don't see it reflected in history books and recent memory then it can't have existed for long.


A strict gender binary has never been able to hold the totality of humanity. Not in the past, not in the present, not in the future.


It is heartbreaking that bodily integrity, the sanctity of selfhood and the right to live free from pain could mean so little compared with the pressure to fit into a false dichotomy. Trans or cis, intersex or not, we need to wake up to the fact that treating sex as a fixed and oppositional binary is not only a distortion of reality but is doing active extreme harm to a significant percentage of our population. Rather than forcibly applying a fantasy to our very real detriment, we could decide to accept the reality and learn and grow from there. 


Like many people, I hang more than a few of my hopes on the open mindedness of my generation, of the generation that follows. It would be dangerous though to think trans liberation a done deal because of that. In bleaker moments I have heard fellow activists suggest that the best we can hope for is a future in which the most hateful have died of old age, where this young generation have made good on their promise. In my bleakest moments I worry that they're right. But that would be a denial not only of the other changes happening around us but of our responsibility to agitate for those changes, encourage their developments and guard against pushback.

I just really enjoyed how smart yet easy to follow this book was. It shot down a lot of really nasty arguments that are bandied at trans people with extreme logic, solid statistics and a lot of heart. I think, even if you think you know a bit about the trans experience and you have trans friends or partners, maybe you've read a little around the subject in the past, it's just really nice to have access to somebody else's world, told through their eyes and with their words. And if you've never read anything about the trans experience, this is an excellent starting point. This book is just really open and straight-talking (pardon the pun). I feel like I learned a lot and got a healthy dose of humanism along the way. 

Go and get it. It's a great book.

No comments:

Post a Comment