The first time meeting with someone or even passing by someone on sidewalk, you form a generalization of that individual. You might first make a note of if that person is a male or female. Other things you may take note of is their physical appearance: deformities, tattoos, piercings, clothes etc. An individual’s physical appearance can place them into stereotypical categories based on wealth, intelligence, and cleanliness. One category society likes to place people in is sex. In our society we base gender off of two sexes: male and female. These two sexes are classified by their physical attributes: long hair, short hair, genitalia, or if that person is wearing makeup. Often when you don’t fit in a certain category where one has placed you, they can react towards you with anger or confusion. Transsexuals are one category of people who struggle to balance what society expects and the acceptance of who they truly are. According to Wikipedia, transsexualism “is a condition in which an individual identifies with a physical sex that is different from their biological one” (Wikipedia).
Transsexual people face this dilemma of being labeled everywhere they go. Transsexuals are continuously conscious of the way they appear towards the public, and hope that the public will perceive them for the gender they want to be without repercussions. A modern example of this was in an episode of Nip/Tuck. Matt Mcnamara, a high schooler at the time, went to a bar exploring the option of whether he was a transsexual, after finding out a past girlfriend of his was a transexual. He met a girl named Cherry and they started to become intimate. Once Matt realized that Cherry was a pre-op transsexual he becomes filled with anger, and violently assaulted Cherry. Although Matt knew he was going to a bar where transsexuals were, his reaction may have been due to the reality that Cherry was a transsexual with male genitalia or confusion with himself. This is just an example from a TV show, it illustrates the emotions one can have when they find out that an individual is a transgender and how a transgendered can be labeled as outcast. This also serves as an example of the medias representation of transsexuals, the reactions they portray are typically negative.
Transsexual people face a lot of challenges individually with trying to fit in with the gender binary. However, they also face challenges with the public’s reaction of who they are and these reactions can turn into isolation.
One transsexual is Aaron Link, who went under sexual reassignment surgery, female to male. In his story, “Freaks”, Link provides us with an example of how was he subject to social isolation. Link recalls his experience in the hospital after his sexual reassignment surgery. While checking out of his surgery Link states that, “the discharge nurse neglected to provide necessary postoperative care instruction and devices, tried several times to forget out prescriptions for painkillers and antibiotics, and giggles hysterically through the entire process”(Link, 90). Here Aaron faces neglect from other individuals because they are rejecting the reality of what gender Aaron is/ chosen to become. With individuals in society choosing to neglect those who lie outside the binary, how can one find social acceptance?
Another example is before Aaron underwent surgery. In his story, “Vision” he describes a memory of when he was exploring transsexualism and was searching for information about people who were like him.Since society only has two categories of sex there is not a lot of text about transsexuals, leading them to feel lost. While searching for information he says, “ There are no pictures of people who look like me. I look and look through books of gender theory… medical literature.” He refers to himself as invisible. When meeting with people he describes how when people focus their vision and see him for who he is, he watches himself disappear in their eyes. This is because society does not want to change what they see him as causing Aaron to feel like he is the only one like him in the world.
Stacey Montgomery is a male to female transsexual, who struggles with fitting into a specific gender and faces the challenge of “passing”. Passing refers to the public accepting the identity of what gender the individual identifies with, as in Stacey’s case, a female. In “Twenty Passings” she illustrates twenty memories of her experiences being a male to female and the anxieties of social isolation and not fitting into the gender binary. When the opportunity to attend a formal event arises, she states, “I hated dressing formally as a boy, and I have never dressed formally as a girl…claiming as much of my femme identity as seems safe and…proper” (Montgomery, 243). Montgomery describes her emotions as being scared when faced with the decision of what to wear to the event. She wants to look “lovely” and “desirable” but faces the challenge of hiding behind her androgyny because she doesn’t know if she’ll “pass”, which brings a lot of anxiety to the individual. Many transsexuals face this challenge of constantly trying to “pass” and explaining their gender identity to society. How would that make you feel if you were being questioned if you were a man or a woman?
The male/female dichotomy needs a serious retrospection. Individuals who come out of isolation give a voice to those still struggling with their gender and serve as educators for people who don’t understand the challenges that come when you don’t fit into a specific category. Society needs to understand that these humans exist among our society, and by forcing them into isolation can limit their sense of self and their lifestyles.
Link, Aaron. “Freaks” Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary. Eds. Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2002. 90-93. Print.
Link, Aaron “Vision.” Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary. Eds. Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2002. 86-89. Print.
Montgomerey, Stacey. "Twenty Passings” Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary. Eds. Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2002. 238-246. Print.