“Is your family accepting?” The question comes too often to be heartening. I appreciate the concern, but I am also suspicious. When cis people ask about my family, I hear sympathy in their voices, but I also hear pity; cis people are glad they aren’t me. Pity is often disguised as compassion – it lurks in the media that romanticizes trans struggle and fetishizes trans bodies, it lies in the movies that turn to cis actors to portray trans characters, and it lingers in the faces of cis people who ask about my family.
I suppose I am accepted by my family. They usually use male pronouns. I haven’t been kicked out of the house. I haven’t been physically abused. Many trans people aren’t so lucky. But if these concessions mean that my family accepts me, then acceptance isn’t enough. We deserve to be welcomed and loved not in spite of being trans, but because we are trans. My transness is not a flaw that I can only hope my family will pardon. I refuse to aspire to be accepted.
I will not give cis people the power to accept or to deny me my humanity. My humanity is my right – not a gift cis people can generously bestow. My life cannot be a quest for cisgender approval. If we have learned anything from our Mattachine sip-ins, from our Cafeteria Riots, from the bottles and bricks we threw at Stonewall, it is that queer people must fight to be heard. I will not be conciliatory in demanding my rights.
I will not be conciliatory in claiming my body either. I know I must be cautious as I seek hormone therapy or surgery; I must consider the changes I hope to make and why I hope to make them. I am wary of my longing for top surgery; I must not change myself irreversibly in order to match cis opinion about what trans bodies should look like. I would be giving cis people too much power. At the same time, I cannot refuse surgery and refuse to alleviate dysphoria in order to prove my indifference to cis opinion. Again I would be giving cis people too much power. How can we free ourselves from institutionalized cis supremacy? How can we f**k the cistem?
Trans power and trans pride require us to claim ourselves on our own terms. My body is my choice, and I will get surgery. I need the scalpel against my skin, the scars, the stiches, and the freedom. Surgery is for me, and I hope my family can learn to be as excited as I am.
– Kira Daniel