In Chinese conversations, you can sometimes hear the phrase, “neither male nor female” in describing a transgender. It is used more commonly on male-to-female transgender persons (MtF). Many times, this was uttered in a derogatory manner, hinting at inadequacy. Without doubt, such an attitude arose from ignorance of the distinction between biological sex and gender.
Frequently these are conflated with sexual preference to form a rigid entity. This is erroneous. There are MtFs who are lesbians i.e. biologically males who feel like women and prefer women as partners. There are also asexual MtFs. These may come across as bizarre to some. However, the gender you like does not determine what gender you feel like.
The transgender community has been stereotyped and marginalized by both the general public as well as the queer community. It was believed that being queer is tantamount to possessing a decent grasp of all things queer. Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge is no respecter of persons. The transgender forum, which took place during the first week of IndigNation elucidated the fact that one’s inherent gender cannot be altered. Contrary to popular belief, transgender persons did not choose their gender- they were born with it. That is, if you feel like a woman, you will continue to feel like one in years to come.
An MtF on the forum previously lived as the socially assigned gender (accorded to her based on her biological sex) in her attempt to live according to conventions. This was possible for her because of her fluid sexuality (sexual orientation). For other MtFs who do not have the luxury of such “partner choice”, many grappled with sexuality issues, with doubts of being gay. This happens as they face the consequences of going against the public grain of gender and sex concurrently.
Media depictions of the transgender community are extremely skewed representations. Sensational news sell and is given priority coverage. Coming the mystique of the transgender community and the salacious nature of the sex trade, this potent concoction is bound to horrify, riding on unfamiliarity and a lofty, yet unsubstantiated moral ground. Transgender sex workers have their own reasons for being there. Just as we would not label heterosexuals as perverts based on sex workers in Geylang, we should also refrain from labeling the entire transgender community as propagating a fetish. Indeed, numerous successful transgender persons go into stealth- they are not easily distinguished as transgendered because they blend into the mainstream community. Many of these successful TGs are highly educated and high-flyers in their respectable field of work. Thus, the stereotype of transgender folks falls flat in these instances.
The pains of the costly transition process it not something that the average person from the street can fathom. We salute our valorous sisters. May increased education about this community to the public prompt social understanding, acceptance and a fine appreciation of the transgender world!
Visit: www.SgButterfly.com a website in Singapore for the transgender community.