Trans (In)Visibility by
was a time when I spent a lot of energy fighting to prove my masculine
identity despite my female
appearance. Now, I exert energy on reminding the world of my transness,
because it often goes unnoticed or forgotten. Only five years ago,
I was stared at every day for presenting as a boy who was obviously
female. Now, I look and sound like a boy, so I’m assumed to
be one. Most of the time, I am completely invisible. Sometimes, I’m
only partially invisible, because I am more often than not, read
as a gay man. Although it is not entirely accurate because I don’t
date non-trans men, being read as such is somewhat validating because
it is still a visible queer identity. More than that, it’s
a queer masculine identity, and that’s me. I don’t identify
as gay, but I’m definitely a queer guy, so "gay guy" is
closer than just "guy" because "gay" is part
of the queer community to which I belong.
I try to be visible as a transman, but that is basically impossible
even though I don’t bind (chest binding is something pre-op
or non-op FTMs sometimes do in order to create the appearance of
either a male chest or a non-female chest.) I’m very small-chested,
so people never notice that I do actually have breasts, because people
who don’t know me usually stop at the sight of my facial hair
and the sound of my baritone voice. Before I could grow the hair,
the combination of the voice (which came much sooner than the facial
hair,) and my visible Adam’s apple was more than enough. Eyes
don’t wander further down unless the boy audio clues aren’t
there. The most I can do to be visible is talk about it, and I do
that a lot. It is important to me because it is an uncommon experience,
and my identity doesn’t fit the norm. There are a lot of trans
people who don’t fit the typical classifications of a binary
gender system, and many of us still transition physically anyway.
Though you can’t see us as easily maybe, we’re still
gender variant. However, not all of the trans people who medically
transition, hold onto the trans/queer identity once a level of passability
is reached. For some, it is a matter of personal safety, and for
others it’s just a comfort factor. For some when transition
is completed, that’s it. Not all trans people are activists
and not all of us are queer just because of our atypical physical
experience. Some transguys are just guys, but I am not just a guy.
I consider myself different than people who were assigned male at
birth because well, I wasn’t. That is based solely on primary
male physical traits, and I don’t have those. Many find offense
to classifying the difference between transmen and male-assigned,
male-identified men as "bio men," meaning "biological
men," as some consider themselves equally biologically male.
It could also lead to dimensions of power and "realness."
However, while my secondary masculine physical traits now create
an illusion of complete maleness, I consider my difference constantly
as a source of strength and a gift of wisdom many will never know.
I am that guy who knows what menstrual cramps really feel like. How
many guys do you know who even want to talk about menstruation? But
in lacking those primary male traits, I also lack the socialization
of that assignment and of course the physical experience. For many
trans people, body image is incredibly painful, and I certainly have
had my share of discomfort, but not all trans people hate our bodies,
as might be a common misunderstanding. Discomfort yes, hate, not
To many FTMs, it is incredibly disrespectful to their male identities
to think of them in any way different than other men. I cherish my
trans identity, consider myself differnent than a male, and wish
to be visible as a transman while at the same time receive the due
respect of my queer masculine identity that lives inside a person
who was assigned female at birth. I transitioned medically because
I am not a woman, and now, no one assumes that I am.
images and content copyright © Joshua Cole 2007.
All Rights Reserved.