Ignoring What Doesn't Exist

What would you do if you were invisible to everyone around you? Say you tried to tell a coworker about an exciting weekend you had, but they wouldn’t listen to you. Later on that same coworker held the door for the people in front of you, but as soon as you started to walk through they let it slam in your face. How would that make you feel? Now say that the reason people ignored you and pretended you didn’t exist was because you were different from them and they just didn’t know how to respond. The difference is that you are a transsexual and they are not. Transsexuals are people who want to be the opposite sex of the sex they were born. People believe that sex and gender should go hand in hand, but for transsexuals that is not the case. They wish to be the opposite sex so even though someone was born a male, they’ll dress and act like a woman which causes trouble for transsexuals. There is a sexual binary that exists in society which forces males to act like men and females to act like women; for those who deviate from the norm suffer the repercussions. Since there is no category for transsexuals then their punishment is simply being ignored. When someone’s lifestyle choices are strange and unfamiliar, like a transsexual, people will refuse to acknowledge they exist and are a functioning member of society.

Aaron Link wrote the story “Vision” which describes certain experiences throughout his life where he felt he was invisible to others because he was a female to male transsexual. Society doesn’t know how to deal with people like him so instead of facing reality and learning more about transsexuals, people shut Link out.

Link struggled as a young boy with not being visible because he was still seen as a girl by everyone around him instead of the boy he knew he was inside. Link realized after reading a science fiction novel that people make you invisible by not accepting your differences and acknowledging them. When he was in junior high he struggled with day to day activities like which restroom to use because he preferred to use the boy’s bathroom, but since he wasn’t seen as a boy then he was forced to use the girl’s bathroom; this is hard for Link because it’s suppressing who he is and who he longs to be. Link believes that “being invisible would be great … except that you get lonely” (Link 88). He has yet to be recognized as a boy and because of that he feels alone. Even if people ridiculed Link, at least they would be seeing him for who he is instead of not seeing him at all.

Even as a young adult, Link struggled with acceptance and acknowledgement as a male. Link’s mom thought he was crazy and should seek help from a mental health counselor after suggesting a sex change operation. He tried to find help to figure out if something was medically wrong with him, but it wasn’t much of a success since the doctors couldn’t see him either. He realized the problem was that the doctor couldn’t see Link, “but a [female] voice in the room troubled the doctor” (Link 88). Even the doctors didn’t have the ability to understand Link’s situation and offer him any kind of help our encouragement. Link could have tried to force the doctor to see him by being more expressive as a male, but that would have been pointless because even if the doctor actually saw Link for who he really was that moment would only last for a short time before Link was back to being invisible.

Link made the choice to keep quiet and remain invisible for a long time because as he grew older he never saw any proof that other people like him existed. When Link tried to find evidence that more people like him were out there in the world he had a hard time finding anything. He searched in medical literature and autobiographies of transsexuals, but no one seemed to take pictures of transsexuals. Link came to the conclusion that the “inviolable natural law makes it impossible to photograph the invisible” (Link 88). Why would people take pictures of something that didn’t exist in their world? Link eventually found a picture that was the closest thing resembling him: a picture of someone with no breast or genitals or color, with no identifying features. Link was able to relate and picture this person as his partner because he didn’t see any identifying marks on himself either; the genitalia he was born with did not match how he felt inside so he didn’t want to see the things that identified him as a female. If there is never any hard evidence that transsexuals like Link exist in society then nothing will change in how people treat transsexuals.

Link finally takes the initiative to become more visible by undergoing a sex change operation. The surgery would allow him to finally appreciate his own body and to force others to see him as the man he is. Link arrived home in an ambulance where his neighbor happened to see him get home. Link’s neighbor came over worried about him so Link told his neighbor that he’s getting better. Afterward, Link’s mother warned him not to talk to the neighbor about the details of his surgery because the neighbor was wearing a fundamentalist Christian t-shirt. Meaning, Link’s neighbor probably wouldn’t be able to understand what Link was going through and why Link made the choices he did. The next time Link saw his neighbor, he wasn’t wearing any of his bandages on his chest so it would be clear to his neighbor the purpose for his surgery. After a moment of talking his neighbor understands fully what this surgery means and Link noticed how “he stares at Link for a long time and he watches his eyes strain to focus … Link watches himself disappear in his [neighbor’s] eyes” (Link 89). Even though Link took the step to have his sex match his gender so that he could fit in, people still saw the male gender in a female body.

Link’s story helps to show how there is a difference between sex and gender; they don’t have to match. The problem is that people have a hard time seeing Link as a man unless he has a man’s body, so Link doesn’t exist in his female body. Society needs to learn how to accept transsexuals and in order to do that people need to better understand their situation. There are transsexual people everywhere, but most of the time we don’t know who they are. It could be a coworker or a neighbor, a cute person you met at the bar. Transsexuals are real people and don’t deserve to be ignored.

Additional Readings

Understanding What "Transgender" Means: An Expert's Perspective
Male to Female Surgery
Understanding Transgender
Gender Vision

Works Cited

Link, Erin. “Vision.” Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary. Eds. Nestle, Joan, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins. Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2002. 86-89. Print.

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