“2. It Medicalizes the Experience of Being Transgender.
The phrase “gender dysphoria” became the go-to phrase after “gender identity disorder” was deemed offensive and inaccurate. Since then, the two phrases have been used interchangeably in the medical realm.
Need I remind you that Western medicine has been less than kind to trans people historically?
Trans people were “treated” by being encouraged to conform and accept their assigned gender rather than transitioning. Medicalizing the lives of trans people hurt us for a long, long time – it meant that we were treated as having a psychological disorder rather than a valid identity.
Placing the lives of trans people into an “illness” framework ultimately stigmatized their identities and left their needs to be dictated my “medical professionals” rather than trans people themselves.
The medical model disempowered trans people.
Trans people were treated as deviants with a shameful mental disorder, and language like “gender identity disorder” and “gender dysphoria” is tied to that history. The medicalization of trans people was a major source of oppression and harm.
When you suggest that dysphoria is the one way of determining whether or not someone is trans, you are relying on a medical model that wasn’t created by trans people, but rather, created by Western medical “professionals” who viewed transness as a disorder rather than an identity.
And I’d like to move as far away from this framework as possible.
Changing it from “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria” doesn’t change the fact that it’s still operating within the same medical model and still functioning as a “diagnosis.”
3. It’s a Eurocentric Definition of Transgender
A lot of trans folks will say that “transgender” as an experience didn’t originate in the West – and they would be correct. There have been “trans” experiences in many cultures globally, long before the West had any concept of “transgender.”
Some identities outside of the West that you might know of include two-spirit, hijra, and kathoeys, and they have a history that precedes ours.
Many trans folks in the Western world insist that to be transgender is to be dysphoric, without acknowledging that this is a very Western understanding of what it means to be trans.
It doesn’t acknowledge that transness can exist outside of the West and has existed outside of it long before we came along – with its own definitions, language, insights, and experiences.
To say that being transgender is exclusively about experiencing dysphoria is making a universal statement for all trans people, but it’s steeped in Western understandings about gender. It completely erases indigenous and international identities and experiences.
It’s tricky (and sometimes, really problematic) to apply individual understandings of gender to all people.
“Transgender” as an umbrella is so diverse and complex that it’s best to avoid generalizations altogether, and allow people to name their own experiences.”
“6. It Breeds Transphobia
There is a pervasive fear that if we leave “transgender” as a term that relies on self-identification, it will be rendered meaningless by people who claim it for the wrong reasons.
But this weirdly mirrors a lot of oppressive attitudes that are used against all trans people.
Take the trans bathroom debate, for instance. There is a widespread belief that cis people will pretend to be trans just to get into the wrong restroom and violate other people.
Um, when you’re on the side of Fox News, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your stance.
If trans people interrogate other trans people with disbelief, we are giving permission to the rest of the world to do it to us.
If we bully trans people and tell them they are deceiving other people, or following a fad, we’re telling cis people that they can accuse us of being imposters, too.
We’re taking away the right to self-identify and giving the rest of the world permission to misgender us if they, too, decide we’re not “trans enough.” We tell the rest of the world that they don’t have to believe us because we don’t believe in each other.
If you don’t believe a trans person when they say that they are trans, why should a cis person believe you?”