Words by: Stephen (Anastasia) Hok
What is really a ‘real’ woman or man? Some might say that the biology of our bodies determine our gender, whilst others have said that gender is the product of societies’ stereotypes and beliefs. Such speculations about gender rarely affect those who identify as cisgender. However, debates such as these are usually at the centre of transgender individuals’ lives.
From my own observations, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter feature stories and articles of transgender people and their gender transitions, the majority of which appear to be heavily built around the topics of either the genitals of said transgender people, or the legitimacy of the gender they personally identify with. Some of the most common comments that accompany these stories are typically along the lines of ‘she’s really a he’ and ‘that person has a penis, so they’re a man’. It’s fairly obvious that these sorts of comments aim to delegitimize transgender people by tying gender to the biological sex that we’re born in. Frequent comments like those mentioned above emphasise the issue of ‘passing’ as a ‘normal’ woman or man when society judges transgender people. One’s ability to ‘pass’ places significant implications on how people in the transgender community view themselves; it places a lot pressure on physical appearance for transgender people, and can create anxieties about whether one is able to acceptably pass as the gender they identify as according to expectations of society when it comes to what a male or female is ‘supposed’ to look like. I know for a fact that comments on social media can affect how I see my own gender identity when I look into the mirror.
These reductions of people in the transgender community to their gender, or to their physical appearance, can be incredibly harmful and objectifying. To put it simply, we are people before we’re a gender. We all have feelings, thoughts, and emotions that make us who we are, and it’s no different with transgender individuals; they are people. So why all the controversy around transgender people and their gender identity on social media? As someone who has been heavily questioning their own gender identity for the past few years in the closet, and believes that they are a woman, it always hurts me inside when I see the comments that some people make on social media about transgender people. Comments like those mentioned above make it harder for people like me to come out as themselves, and affects their mental health in a negative way.
But it’s not all negative. The ever growing support for transgender people, and the LGBT+ community overall is spread throughout the world through social media, with various companies and groups pledging their support. It’s really nice to know that people outside of our community are supporting us.
Regardless of what people say or think, I’m proud to be who I am, and so should everyone else. It’s sometimes difficult for transgender people to find self-acceptance with all the hostility out there, but I wouldn’t change myself due to that. We’re so much more than just what is in our pants.