Honor Your Transgender Friend

Life is difficult, we all know that. But, there are times when it seems like we get more than our fair share of garbage dumped on our face. Sometimes the decisions we make aren’t understood or supported by important people in our day-to-day lives. But, that doesn’t mean we’re wrong or that our decisions are wrong.

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth. -John F. Kennedy

This is the story of someone who experienced this first-hand and wants to educate others.

Subject A had to manage a very difficult life with many different obstacles along the way. They had battled clinical depression nearly their entire life and had used self-harm as a coping mechanism for nearly 40 years. Subject A also struggled with self-esteem and social anxiety. This was further manifested in other mental health diagnoses. At the young age of 19, they began taking prescription medications to help them traverse through life. But, it took a few serious suicide attempts and nearly losing their life before they realized that there was more to their story. And this is where education is so important. Let’s learn about Subject A’s story.

Gender Identity

This term is defined as, “One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.” Human Rights Campaign.  This is referred to as transgender.

Anyone who has broached this topic has been faced with enormous negativity and shaming from the general public, social media, government leaders, and loved ones. While this topic has been around for hundreds of years, it has only been the last 2-3 decades that it has become a more approachable topic bringing about more conversations. And yet, thousands of people still don’t share their own struggles with gender identity because of fear for their own safety. And their fear is valid.

Every week in areas all over the world, people who identify as a different gender than what was assigned at birth are targeted and killed. In 2018, it was shown that at least 25 people were killed for identifying as transgender and that is just in the United States alone. (Human Rights Campaign)

What has become increasingly obvious is that there need to be more conversations about what transgender means. A lot of the hate and prejudice shown towards transgender folks is based on fear alone without any other substantive reasons.

“Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” Dictionary.com

When treating people who experience phobias (such as spiders, snakes, roller coasters, heights, etc), “phobia treatments that are based on the psychology of fear tend to focus on techniques like systematic desensitization and flooding. Both techniques work with your body’s physiological and psychological responses to reduce fear.”

If we can remove fear, then the concept of transgender becomes less scary and less intimidating. That is true for nearly all fears. When we take away the power fear has upon us, then we reach a place where we can make more informed decisions and subsequently respect and love those who are different than ourselves.

What is Transgender?

Think about a horizontal line. On one end is the word “male” and on the opposite end is the word “female.” Those two words represent what many refer to as the gender binary, meaning you’re either male or female and that’s it.

Now, think about yourself or those you know who may fit on this horizontal line somewhere between the two genders, a spectrum between the two. For example, we all know men who may be more sensitive, feeling or emotional. And it’s also equally likely that we know women who aren’t very feminine in attire, hobbies or work. In fact, I’m going to hypothesize that every one of us fits on this spectrum somewhere and that no one is 100% male or 100% female.

So, when we talk about folks who identify as transgender, they see themselves somewhere on that spectrum. If you were to do some serious reading about this topic, you will soon discover that there are actually a lot of different ways that people identify their gender. But, for those who may tell you that they are transgender, they are merely saying that they are not defined by just one of the two genders.

But, let’s not get confused here. Gender identity is NOT the same as sexual identity/preference such as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, et.al.

Transgender vs. Nonbinary

You will meet at least one person in your lifetime that refers to themselves as non-binary. This term is used to describe someone “whose gender identity isn’t exclusively male or female.” But, how do the terms differ from each other?

“A trans nonbinary person is someone who doesn’t identify with the sex that was assigned at birth (trans) and also has a gender identity that can’t be categorized as exclusively male or female (nonbinary).

A nonbinary person who doesn’t identify as trans may partially identify with the sex assigned at birth, as well as have a gender identity that can’t be categorized as strictly male or female.” Healthline.com

For example, Jane Doe identifies as nonbinary but not necessarily transgender. They don’t see themselves as strictly male or female. But, at the same time they only partially identify with the sex they were assigned at birth (which is based on the sexual reproductive organs they were born with).

Another option which is slowly becoming more accepted is surgically transforming one’s body to match one’s gender identity. An outdated term for this is a sex change operation. It is now referred to as gender reassignment surgery. This applies to females and males. This is referred to as FTM (female to male) and MTF (male to female). And along with this is the option to begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

This is a very quick lesson on what it means when someone says they are transgender and/or nonbinary. But, it’s also important that everyone knows what transgender and nonbinary are NOT. They are not pedophiles, sex offenders, sex abusers, sex addicts, sexual deviants and every other misinformed and incorrect assumption that exists and is talked about in social media. While this may be true for a few, it is definitely the minority and not the norm.

Our transgender population can be college educated, have vocational skills, hold down very successful careers, be entrepreneurs, raise families, have given birth, are married, have hobbies, are members of school boards and other organizations, and hold political offices. They are not to be feared. They are not to be treated poorly and be discriminated against for choosing to live their life according to their own gender identity. And transgender folks and all people in general, should not be trampled upon by religious zealots because their gender identity is not “acceptable” in their faith, church, or by their God.

Remember Subject A in our story? Well, after many many years of counseling and self-acceptance, they have come to learn they don’t identify as male or female and in fact, they are nonbinary. They changed their name, changed their physical appearance and are continuing to work towards their physical transformation.


©2020 Ajae Corbett


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