A 2014 update of an article I wrote for a now-defunct forum in 2008
How many of you can recall Hans Christian Anderson’s fable about the Emperor duped by his own vanity parading about naked amongst his subjects?
The reason I mention this famous tale is that it frequently comes to mind when encountering neophyte transitioning Male to Females (MtF’s).
The danger for the transitioning individual who fails to realistically evaluate her ability to “pass” is two-fold. One: Much like that Emperor of old, she will likely end up an object of ridicule. Two: When the reality of her situation finally hits, she can find herself emotionally devastated, spiralling into a severe bout of depression.
While I am not advocating a “don’t transition if you can’t pass” policy of transgender expression; I think it important to balance internal perceptions with external realities for the reasons stated above.
Moreover, I think it incumbent upon the transitioner to maximize the success of her transition socially in order to legitimize transgender expression in the midst of a misinformed/dis-informed public. Too often, I see outraged MtF’s criticizing society’s institutions for failing to acknowledge their inherent female status while the former still possess significant male physical attributes.
Although, we can all agree that society should offer no refuge for bigotry and ignorance; Neither should we expect a largely uninformed/dis-informed society to embrace such profound changes in its transgendered populace. I think it only fair and reasonable that we provide society the opportunity to come to terms with the intricacies involved in the process of transition.
God forbid that we should appear as modern examples of the naked Emperor along the lines of Little Britain’s Emily Howard (”Britain’s worst transvestite”) and Florence (the one with the moustache). The two of whom zealously hold fast to the standard “We’re Lay-dees” despite all appearances to the contrary.
The disconnect between internal perception and external reality is at once both obvious and painful as Miss Emily and faithful sidekick mince about England, failing repeatedly to convince a sceptical public that they are indeed, female. Sadly, these two “characters” represent a greater reality than many MtF transsexuals are willing to admit.
Simply put, “Methinks the lay-dees doth protest too much!”
Florence and Emily of “Little Britain”
Much of this touches upon the problematic gender binary strongly opposed by many if not most within the trans community. I have written elsewhere regarding the gender binary—
At any rate the issue is far from resolved. Recently, CNN commentator, Piers Morgan and transgender personality, Janet Mock ran afoul of one another due to the issue of self-identification vs. societal identification of gender. The trans community does not hold a monopoly on the notion of gender identity. It is common to all of us; and yes, even piers Morgan had to at some point resolve that question for himself.
Here you can see the decidedly awkward confrontation following the initial interview:
Basically, it all comes down to Piers working within a traditional binary of male and female and Janet arguing/defending/forwarding a notion of gender that is self-defined— genitalia notwithstanding. Personally, I felt the issue was far too nuanced for mainstream consumption. At the risk of advancing yet another metaphor we in the trans community too often expect the general public to join the fragmented gender arena with the precision of a finishing carpenter when they are by in-large capable only of bringing the crudest of framing instruments to the discussion.
As an addendum to the topic of passing — Janet Mock advances the elevated idea that she is not trying to “pass” as anything. Rather, she is simply realizing the truth of “being”— in her case as a female. The disconnect occurs because the wider culture does not always add legitimacy to the individual’s perception of self. It can work fairly smoothly for someone like Janet Mock who presents within accepted societal perceptions of femininity. However, simply walking about and living life as a “laydeee” may run a little less smoothly for the Emily Howards of this world.