“No one would *choose* to be transgender! No one would choose to have this be the life they live!” I’ve heard it said over and over again. To be fair, I’ve probably said it myself. I know the rhetorical function it serves: It lets people know that transgender people face a wide variety of serious and complex discrimination and barriers to access, it tells people that being transgender is hard, it says that being transgender is not a choice.
All of these things are said to drive home this fact: Transgender people are human and we long for protections, rights, and access.
Because of our marginalized status we often have to fight hard for those protections and so we say what people need to hear. Saying what people need to hear doesn’t make what we’re saying untrue, but it does only paint half of the picture.
In January I celebrated the seventh anniversary of the beginning my medical transition. A couple weeks later I found myself giving a Transgender 101 presentation to a group of school social workers and one of the video clips I showed used the “no one would choose to be transgender” line and it got me thinking about my own life and my own journey.
Would I choose to be transgender? I don’t know. That’s a complicated question that doesn’t lend itself to an easy answer. But I can say this, my life is beautiful. I am thankful for my transgender history. I am thankful for this life that I am currently living.
So let’s flip the script. Here’s what I have learned and what I love about my transgender life:
- After so many years of being uneasy in my own skin, I love the fact that these days I look in the mirror and I recognize myself.
- I love that I know who my real friends are. The people in my life love me for me and they are committed to my well-being.
- I treasure the fierce community I am a part of.
- I love the way that being transgender has made me cognizant of my own privilege in other areas and how to work against that privilege.
- I am thankful that my own struggles with finding access to safe spaces (like bathrooms, dressing rooms, etc.) has made me aware of broader issues of accessibility in the churches that I pastor.
- I am thankful that my experiences with feeling marginalized have taught me to read the Bible from that perspective which has, in turn, opened up a world of new interpretation.
My transgender identity has made me question things that I would have taken for granted had I been born cisgender (with a gender identity that matched the sex I was assigned at birth). I probably would have stayed in the church that I grew up in, I would haven’t asked questions about the theology I was being taught, I wouldn’t have fought to make the church a more incursive space.
With all of the struggles I have had finding a place in the world because of my identity, I don’t think I would trade it. This life has taught me so much, introduced me to amazing people, deepened my faith in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and helped me to find peace.