According to Wikipedia, "Transgender (pronounced /trænzˈdʒɛndər/) is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles. Transgender is the state of one's "gender identity" (self-identification as woman, man, neither or both) not matching one's "assigned sex" (identification by others as male, female or intersex based on physical/genetic sex). "Transgender" does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them. The precise definition for transgender remains in flux, but includes: "Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles, but combines or moves between these." "People who were assigned a sex, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves." "Non-identification with, or non-presentation as, the sex (and assumed gender) one was assigned at birth.""
Got all that? Great! But...what does it all actually mean? What is life like if you're transgender? Well, I'll tell you what it's like, from my point of view, based on what I've been through and what I go through on a daily basis. My opinions are my own, and probably don't reflect the majority of other transgender folks out there. Your mileage may vary.
For me, being transgender means:
*Growing up confused, shunned, and disappointing my parents. Although I'm sure there's nothing I could've done to impress them, my parents were certainly not happy with their queer little kid, even when I didn't know I was queer. Mom would let me wear jeans and t-shirts and boy clothes at home, but when it came time for other people to see me, it was dresses, tights, and cramming my feet into tiny little girly shoes. I learned very quickly that who I was and how I acted was shameful and embarrassing. I overcame that in time, of course, but fuck it all - I shouldn't have had been made to feel that way in the first place.
*Looking in the mirror and never seeing who I really am. My outsides don't match my insides. The reflection I see might as well be my sister, cousin, or a friend who happens to look a little bit like me. But that's where the similarity ends. I don't know that person.
*Constantly explaining my life. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind setting people straight about misconceptions, or answering well-meaning questions. It's the day-to-day hassle of reminding people to address me as he, not she. I'm Daniel/Danny/Dan/DC/hey-you-asshole/studly-man-muffin - nothing else. My legal name has very little meaning to me anymore - it's just a reminder of the hell I went through as a child and in my early adult years. It's a reminder that I'm not who I want to be. Who I SHOULD be. Who I'm SUPPOSED to be. And really, you have enough names to pick from in that list. You don't need one more.
*Being something my family has to explain. Hubby and I can't go very many places without being gawked at or asked questions. Because. Of. Me. Because people can't just live and let others live. I'm not a science experiment. I'm not a side show attraction. I'm a human being. And the thought that I'm any sort of a hassle or an impediment to my family is heartbreaking. My happiness is a hardship. Do you have *any* idea whatsoever what that feels like??
*Everything is a hassle. Shopping for clothing - hassle. I don't want to wear pink fu-fu fluffy crap. I want to wear man clothes. The only problem is, I don't FIT in most man clothes. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a nice button up shirt in the women's department that doesn't look like Lady Gaga fashioned it for Barbie, or Betsy Ross stitched it for my grandmother??? And WTF is up with the low cut neck lines?? I can't believe ALL women like to dress that way. And WHY THE HELL is there a stupid pink flamingo on half the tank tops in stores right now? Perfectly good gender-neutral tank top, and they stitch a stupid pink flamingo to it. REALLY???? Shopping for jewelry - also a hassle. Try to find a masculine watch that fits my tiny wrists. Go on, try. It took me 45 minutes to find a pair of hoop earrings that didn't have either flowers or some other girly thing hanging off them. When I asked the store clerk if they had anything "with a little less fu-fu fluff on them," she looked at me like I'd handed her a knife and asked her to give me her kidney. Going to the bathroom is a hassle. I don't belong in the women's room. Men use the men's room. Not me, though. I still have tits, therefore I MUST be a woman, right?
*Ignorance is not my friend, but I've gotten used to him. How many times in a day do you automatically address people by a gender-specific pronoun? How often do you say "thank you, ma'am?" How often to you say "that woman/man over there?" How often do you think you might be wrong? Just because the person in front of you has a chest, that doesn't make them female. There really is no reason to address people by gender-specific pronouns. A waitress who says "How are you ladies doing today?" could easily just say "How are you both doing today?" Same greeting, but slightly more aware and compassionate. Instead of "Can I help you, ma'am?" how about just "Can I help you?"
*No matter what I do, some people will never ever treat me with respect. I have co-workers who just flap their hands at me and say "oh, come on. you're a woman!" My mother still thinks me being bisexual is a "phase" at the age of 32. She won't even discuss the transgender aspect.
*To society, I'm always going to be a label, no matter what. Even if I had the surgeries and hormone therapy, I'll always be TRANSGENDER. I'll never just be a man. A guy. A dude. There will always be "well, he's transgender." Or "my transgender friend Daniel." I'll never just be Daniel.
*Living up to a label is HARD. There's a weight on my shoulders - on the shoulders of every transperson out there - to be an example. To live up to some shiny, really high expectation. I'm supposed to be more open minded because of what I am. I'm supposed to be kinder, gentler, nicer. Never mean. Never angry. Always appreciative, always supportive, always helpful. I'm supposed to like every other gay/bi/trans person on the PLANET because we're in the same club and we even have the decoder rings. NOT. I'm just like everyone else - sometimes I'm a flaming fucking asshole you want to punch in the face. Sometimes, I want to curl into a ball on your lap and sob my eyes out. Sometimes, I want to scream until my voice is hoarse. And I don't want to put on an outlandish outfit and go flap my arms around at a pride parade like a queer emu. I'll sponsor your endeavor - I may even get a table and pimp my writing and a few others'. But I'm going to do it in a civilized, quiet fashion, thank you very much.
*I'll always have to think about where I'm going - who will be there, what I should wear, is it safe to take my partner, is it safe to flirt with other men, is it safe to have a couple drinks, can I walk there safely or should I drive, should I carry pepper spray or not, who will have my back if there's an issue, how will I deal with the homophobic police force if there's an issue...etc.
*I will never, ever fit in. Even among the GLBTQ community, there is animosity and hatred toward transgender people in some circles. I will always be a target, and my family will always be in danger in some way, shape, or form.
So. All that said - most of it really, really not pretty - what's the point? The point is, being transgender also means:
*Taking no prisoners in life - meeting everything head on and climbing every mountain that's put in front of me.
*Understanding that I deserve this - I deserve to be happy, no matter who spits on me.
And those six little things are worth all the rest, ten times over.