Even with all the resources and trans media out there to set the world straight, there are still many misconceptions about trans women. Let me bust some of these myths for you.
3 Myths about Transgender Women
1. Trans Women Aren’t “Real Women”
I find the most prevalent myth of all the easiest to get around. When this one comes up, I often give a vague, “well, yes and no.” This gives me a chance to point out that everything depends on what one’s definition of a “real woman” is.
This reveals rather quickly that everyone has a different idea. If menstruation makes someone a woman, are they not women before or after this part of their lives? Is a woman still a woman if her breasts are removed because of cancer? If “feminine” means lace and mascara, are women like me who wear boxer shorts to bed really men? If it’s about spiritual qualities or empathy and nurture, do men who care turn into chicks?
More often than not, this line of inquiry leads people to the truth on their own: a real woman is someone who identifies as a woman. Period.
2. You Can always “Tell”
If you think you can always tell, consider this: you’re an admirer, and you’ve been observing transgender women closely. Because the very cues that clue you in to a woman’s trans status are things that attract you, you are finely attuned to them. The subtle mannerisms or physical markers that you’ve come to recognize as characteristics of trans women are not necessarily evident to the rest of the world. So I don’t doubt that trans admirers and trans women themselves can tell most of the time if a woman is transgender.
But that doesn’t mean everyone can tell, and it doesn’t mean that you are always able to, either.
Some transexual gals are far more feminine than cis women, and they often have better surgeons.
It’s also true that some trans women are not at all concerned about “passing.” There are even some t-gals who choose not to take surgical or hormone therapy, and at least one, Alex Drummond, who is living as a woman with her full beard. Additionally, there are cis women who are naturally hirsute or physically stocky. As in all things, nature is a diverse rainbow.
3. Trans Women Are Confused or Going through a Phase
I’m more interested in helping people overcome their misconceptions than I am in slamming every thought as transphobic. A little understanding can go a long way. Instead of freaking out when someone suggests that your girlfriend is going through something they will grow out of, why not help them differentiate between transgender folks and people who ARE confused, or going through a phase?
Activists can get so wrapped up in human-rights politics that they forget that the people committing the alleged infractions are humans too. They understandably want to protect trans people from harm, but they forget the best way to do that is to build allies and dissuade misconceptions.
Some people DO go through phases. I sure did. In my late teens I cut my hair short, threw out my cosmetics, and even wore a tie and blazer. I still use a boy’s name! I was rebelling against society’s definition of feminine, and thought I made a better guy. This didn’t last long. I’m still boyish, but I’m all woman.
By understanding that there are phases and various states of confusion throughout human life, we can help our friends and acquaintances see the difference. Transgender women are a lot less confused when they accept who they truly are, than when they are trying to be someone they’re not.