November is Transgender Awareness Month, which if you're transgender means it's just November. I'm appreciative that we do have our own month to be made aware of, but this year apparently we have a theme: "True to You." I thought that's what we were already doing? On top of that, I wasn't aware we had decided on a theme. I guess if you miss one meeting, this is what happens. I personally would have voted for "Gender Under the Sea," or "Gender Goes '80s" for our theme, but then no one listened to me at prom either.
OK, to be fair, I'm fine with giving it a theme, because it draws attention to different aspects of being transgender, of which there are a lot. Yet I want to talk about one that's kind of important to me, and that is that transgender people really, desperately need to quit reinventing traditional gender norms and values. There, I said it. I feel better. I'm serious, though, we need to get on board with the whole third-wave feminism thing and get over what it means to express who you are as a transgender person. This goes for both trans men and women. Look, I understand that we as trans folk were forced to conform to gender expectations for a good portion of our lives; boys have to act like boys, and girls have to act like girls. It sucks, and that angst and emotional pain can drag you down, often with terrible and dramatic effect. I also get that when you first begin your transition, you blow that closet door off its hinges, and you come out like a racehorse after the gate has dropped. Trans men start obsessively checking their face like 13-year-old boys for chin hairs, and trans women go out and buy the most godawfully unflattering dress they can find. Trans men hit them gym and buy enough cargo shorts and ball caps to supply a fraternity and trans women wear enough black eyeliner to qualify as Cure groupies.
I just want to say to all of you: Stop it, just stop, you don't have to do it. It's fine to want to shed a lot of who you were forced to be and come into the world as the person you think you should be, but seriously, stop it. Look around you at the people who were born female and male and look at all the diversity. Fat dumpy men, men in kilts, men in suits, men who do makeup, and men who work on cars. Ladies, women wear jeans and T-shirts. They go without makeup, they have bad hair days, shoot guns, say "fuck" a lot, and play sports. Be who you want to be. If that means being a gym rat, then go for it. If that means looking like you work the Clinique counter at Macy's, go for it. But you don't have to be that. We need to embrace that.
Whenever I go to these transgender forums, it bugs me to see young superfeminine trans women asking, "How do I look?" and everyone fawning all over them, but the ones who are a bit too fat, too old, have too square of a jaw, or a receding hairline get just a few comments that barely surpass that awkwardly polite, "You look ... nice." Jeez, folks, go ahead and say "How precious" like you would to an ugly baby and be done with it. Trans people, don't be like that. I see trans people post brilliant, insightful things on the internet and have less than 100 followers, while there are attractive uber-feminine trans people who do nothing but post selfies and talk about their shopping trips who have over 5,000 people waiting to like or favorite their average lives. Stop it. I get the anxiety of passing, but don't turn it into praising those who do and shaming or ignoring those who don't. You're reinventing the crap that got handed to us by our unfortunate circumstances in our own transgender-ed image. I honestly think that hurts more than we realize, to finally get to be who you want to be and to be marginalized by your own community and feel like you aren't measuring up to not only the world's expectations but our own community's.
Embrace who you are, be you, be proud, be happy. But embrace those who aren't perfect examples of the transgender ideal. Be the woman or man you want to be and not a page out of Glamour or Men's Health. Be goth, punk, fat, old, preppy, a frat boy, a geek, a hippie, whatever. But don't look down and make others feel imperfect because they're country, butch, a hippie, a nerd, old, bald, or fat. Celebrate those who aren't society's perfect example of masculinity or femininity. Praise and enjoy our diversity and imperfections, or else we're just reinventing what we already had to suffer through.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.