We Are All Transgenders
This week's issue of Bekhsoos brings together stories by transgenders in our community. The idea came in light of the 12th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance – November 20th 2010 – a day that memorializes those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
It can be very difficult for transgender persons, and transexuals in particular, to hide their chosen genders. They are often mistaken for effeminate gay men or butch lesbians – when in fact, the way they feel about their gender could very well be unrelated to their sexual orientation. Theirs is often a life of struggle and alienation within a culture that insists that the female/male gender binary should be at the heart of any society.
Indeed, when family members refuse to be accepting, when most workplaces are aggressively transphobic, many male-to-female transexuals are forced to lead dangerous, nocturnal, and marginalized lives. Their bodies, exoticized and eroticized, are often labelled as sex objects for those with a particular fetish for trannies, lady-boys, she-males, etc.
Growing up a transgender person in Lebanon could be similar to dancing one’s way through a minefield. Without proper medical, psychological and emotional support systems, some attempt to leave the country in search of a better life, while others, either desperately try to commit suicide, or find themselves driven towards unregulated sex work after being completely ostracized by their families and by society at large. Lucky and resilient are the ones who manage, despite all odds, to create a healthy and fulfilling environment for themselves and their loved ones.
The stories in this issue are based on conversations with transgenders who got together with our team of writers and who shared a wide range of their experiences. In the interviews, we noticed that many themes kept surfacing: The pressures of fully transitioning, of conforming to gender binaries, the discrimination that comes with being Gender Queer, experiences with family, self-discovery, growing up “in the wrong body,” patriarchy, etc.
This issue features only 6 out of thousands of stories that all of us would hear a lot more often, if only we would sit and listen to the transgenders in our lives, no, in ourselves. Who among us do not remember exploring what it is like to be the “other” gender? Who among us were never made to feel that they weren’t “man enough” or “woman enough” at one point or another? Was it the baggy pants, the thick eyebrows you didn’t feel like plucking that week, the smaller boobs, your “natural” look, the toys you played with, the way you sat like a boy and learned not to? Was it how much you enjoyed wearing your mother’s heels at the age of 5, the hairs you anxiously kept expecting on your chin, the fact that you wrote poetry, the pink shirt you wore last week?
Gender is learned and we are all transgenders – most of us simply forget that gender is how our families, classrooms, playgrounds, churches, mosques, friends, doctors and toilets teach us how to be boys and how to be girls.