This is our truth, tell us yours
This is a post I have started, and abandoned many times. Partially because the last thing the world needs is another think piece on trans people, and partly because I worried the usual suspects might misquote and misuse it. So let’s be clear, this is a personal post, about the experience of being cis, and as such it is about me, although others may find words resonate it proves nothing except perhaps as Carter sometimes says I over think everything.
How do you know your gender? For some its a meaningless question, they take an ontological approach, they know which gender they are because they are that gender. For others of us, its more complex. If, like me your feminism was formed in the crucible of gender being a social construct when your experiences fail to meet the expectations of society then it can cause you to question yourself, or your construction of yourself.
This was the situation I was in after the birth of my children. I most certainly did not feel like a “mother” and the more I tried to force myself into the box shaped mother, the unhappier I felt. This is not to say I disliked being a parent, some aspects such as breastfeeding I enjoyed immensely. However any biological claims to this proving something about my gender identity are refuted by the fact I hated my periods, in fact hate is too mild, I was, since childhood dysphoric about menstruation, refusing to accept it happened to me, denying I had periods and often ending up in embarrassing and shameful situations because I was unable to accept that my body bled each month.
My relationship with other parts of my body was conflicted as well, not quite as powerful, but more an intense dislike. My breasts were hidden in baggy, shapeless, gender neutral clothing. My hips and backside similarly covered from view. I knew there was nothing attractive about them, or my legs, so chosing clothing which simply did its job in the most practical way possible, made perfect sense.
Our social sense of womanhood, or perhaps womanness is a better term,is so tied up with what is determined to be acceptable for being a mother that if one does not feel that you fit into that box then it is easy to question whether you are also a woman. Or at least easy for me, my sense of motherhood and womanhood being so intertwined. It may be worth pointing out here I don’t think I was a bad parent, I subscribe to the idea of being a good enough parent, not a perfect one. Show love, tolerance and being prepared to listen is pretty much what matters. I could not, however, fit into the role of the good mother society dictated.
That was then, this is now, and in the here and now is there any point in this post? Firstly when I see terfs mocking people who are questioning their gender, I think its important to say, hey, cis people do that too. Which is not to say that something is only valid if a cis person does it. However the reductive idea that there are a group of “troublemakers” creating genders on tumblr is all too often used to attack others. It is my belief that by saying many people question their gender, and arrive at different answers challenges this idea of a few troublemakers.
Secondly my experiences tell me that even if gender is a social construct, not fitting into that construct can cause huge amounts of pain and suffering. I am, if nothing else, a believer in harm reduction. Again, even if there is not biological basis for someone’s gender identity being different to the gender they were assigned at birth, if this is causing them pain and suffering why oppose change? Terfs seem to be saying in one breath that gender is not “real” whatever real means, and then in the other it is so permanent and unchanging it must never be questioned.
Well I am cis, I questioned my gender, the construct of gender caused me pain and suffering, looking back it is only by going through that can I know, and love who I am now. How can any person with compassion and decency deny that process to another human being?