we're in a trans moment, what with the amazon series transparent and a lot of other developments. i have some misgivings about the ways transitioning people often talk about gender. so, it's often framed like this: finally, i can be who i really am; i always felt like deep down i was someone else than who i was in public. but the way this is formulated often makes gender and identity the very same thing. who are you deep inside? 'a woman' is an odd answer to that question: awfully generic, for one thing. i guess i'm pretty identified with my gender, but i think it's probably good that i would not answer the question of who i really am with 'a man', any more than i'd start by saying 'i'm white' or something. of course those things are in my identity, and central to the way i'm moving through my culture, but i want to think of myself not as a generic white man deep inside (or a black person trapped in a white body, say), but something a bit more specific and more interesting and less completely socially defined - less a blank demographic slot and more an actual set of experiences. it's true that testicles dangle between my legs, but that might not be the most interesting fact about me, or even the very center of my human identity. you know?
i think often the rhetoric around trans gives way too much power to gender, or 'naturalizes' it in an excruciatingly problematic context, or just where it should be breaking down. and we might want to reduce rather than increase the power of the binary to shape identities. i guess i've felt that some of the trans people i've known and read are under the spell of the gender binary, which is a bit ironic because from another point of view their experience might be used to break this binary down or throw it into question or complexify it. often the trans conceptuality seems entirely caught in gender dualism and essentialism: you fundamentally are one thing or the other as a kind of essence: you realized when you were 7 that you were 'really' female. i don't know, what if we all stopped worrying quite so much about whether we are male or female, outwardly or deep inside, or affirm other central aspeects or possibilities of human identity? it's easy for me to say, but maybe you're worrying too much about whether you're a man or a woman, or what clothes you're wearing, etc.
one common trope, also pulled out in transparent: wait are you going to dress up in women's clothes from now on? oh for heaven's sake, i've been dressing up my whole life! finally i'm appearing in public as who i really am. but we're all dressing up in a our little performances of gender. it's odd to think that the right outfit has to carry the weight of who you really are, since fashion transforms pretty quickly. look maybe i'm less aware than a drag queen about how my clothes are a gender performance, but they surely are. maybe a cross-dresser would find it easier to lose track of the fact that he or she is performing their gender in the crossed outfit. but they're still performing gender, becuase for one thing what it means to 'dress like a woman' in 2014 is completely different than it was in 1850 or 1950. 'now my ensemble reflects my natural essence' just isn't plausible.
for everyone's sake, it is important to de-naturalize gender, or show the ways it is socially articulated, the ways it is volatile over time. the kind of gender theory i like long ago tried to de-essentialize male and female, multiply categories and options, historicize the roles, and so on. but the way trans experience is presented right now often just effortlessly presupposes the categories through which the person is transitioning, even as the transition itself enacts the liquidity of the categories.
to go biological: every human body has its limitations, its frustrations, and its capacities for pleasure too. notoriously, one can't really know what the sexual experience of people of the other gender is like, for example. but you know what? one thing i've concluded from cuddling up with women is that our sexual experience, and our experience in general of being human bodies in a world, is actually very massively similar. men and women, whether we're biologically or socially distinguished, are basically the same sort of thing. sometimes we're in pretty close communication, and we tell and show each other about our own experience all the time; perhaps we can know a lot about each others' experience after all, or even share these experiences, to some extent have experiences across various lines or various aspects of gender. gender can have its little mars/venus communication frustrations, etc, but i also feel that we routinely communicate almost everything across the gender line one way or another.
again, we are all human bodies sharing the very same world. it might adjust you in one way or another to cross the line, but it won't help you solve or transcend the basic situation; it won't necessarily cure your sense of being displaced or not quite in the right body or not quite comfortable in the world as who you are now, or not quite having the right name, you know? it won't perfectly square your inner self with your outer enactment; that's a struggle for all of us all the time. i guess i'd advise people overall to try to enjoy the body they have at a given moment and put it into interesting communication with other bodies. but that does sound potentially prejudicial and if you are moving toward surgery, that's your call, and i don't, i acknowledge, have excellent access to every aspect of your experience.