Ever since Caitlyn Jenner ‘came out’ as transgender on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, the mainstream media has been more preoccupied than ever with discussions of gender. Sometimes, these discussions are positive for the LGBTQ community - they highlight the issues faced by the transgender community, illustrate the difficulties of daily life (a lack of gender-neutral bathrooms for example) and, most importantly, humanise transgender people. However, these discussions can result in negative consequences - one example of this is the show ‘Girls to Men’, which aired recently on Channel 4. A quick Twitter search of the documentary title shows “girlstomen consent” and leads to a statement from CJ Bruce, an individual that claims they were deceived by the show producers - just one of many accusations of deceit levelled at the show's producers.
An extremely illuminating and insightful video (entitled "Things not to say to a trans person) posted a few months ago by the BBC featured a number of trans activists including Paris Lees and Fox Fisher sharing the ridiculous (and often quite offensive) questions that the transgender community are asked on a daily basis. Amongst the most problematic was “When did you have the op?” - a question which essentially reduces trans identities to nothing more than biological genitalia. As is pointed out in the video, the trans umbrella covers many individuals - from transexuals (individuals that have surgically transitioned) and transgender people (those who feel they were born in the wrong body - their gender identity and biological sex don’t match up) to genderqueer and gender ambiguous individuals.
Even the title of the documentary is a clear indication that, once again, all focus is on “the transition”. As a society we love a good before & after - here is Georgina, she used to be George! - and nothing makes this more evident than the promotional image that came with the show, depicting three trans males holding up smartphone pictures of their “old self”. This does nothing to reinforce the fact that the trans community is diverse. A biological male with a biologically male body can identify as female without having had “the op”, but a social fascination with sexed body parts restricts these people from living their life because they don’t fit social ideals of the female aesthetic.
There are certain characteristics to biologically-sexed bodies - an Adam’s Apple on a biological male for example, which means that some transgender people have to spend the majority of their lives trying to “pass” for the opposite sex. If you are lucky enough to be born with androgynous features, you can live an easier life than a trans person born with features typical of their biological sex. We need to drop the fascination with appearance, with sexed body parts and we also need to drop our fascination with ‘legitimacy’ of trans identities. If you identify as trans, you should feel free to live your life as you feel free. If you want to change your genitalia - again, feel free. Unless you are trans or are having sex with a trans individual, you should really stop worrying about what’s going on downstairs and just accept that we’re all free to designate our own gender identity. No “girls to men”, no “before or after” - just perfectly legitimate humans with perfectly legitimate identities.