If I were to tell you three foundational things about me, they would be this:
one. I was raised by a single mom who gave me the strength and conviction to know what hard work and perseverance can bring.
two. I experienced loss in the worst way when I watched my grandmother, who was my hero and best friend, take her last breaths.
three. I should be embarrassed by the amount of times I've been caught blaring Miley Cyrus in my car, alone... but I'm not.
When you get to know me a little bit better, after we've shared dinner, inside jokes, and something more than first and last names, I might let you in on a little bit more. You'll learn I'm a brother, an uncle, a blogger, a veteran. I'm a really terrible 20-something, and I can't walk past pet stores or animal shelters without going inside.
If we get really personal, eventually I will tell you how it felt to hear the words "You have cancer" spill out of my doctor's mouth and how isolating the following treatments felt. I will tell you how my clothes are worn as armor, my shirts and pants carefully chosen to hide parts of me from wandering eyes.
As luck would have it, last week Facebook conveniently made it possible for me to broadcast my gender as I see fit, allowing more than 50 options instead of the traditional binary 'male' and 'female.' Gone are the days of me quietly disclosing this part of my history. Now you can have full disclosure before we ever even speak! Fall upon my profile and you have the opportunity to know that I'm a Trans Person. Or if you really want to get specific, I could be a Trans Man. Trans Male. Transgender Man. Or my favorite, Trans* Man, male, person.
So it would seem.
But being transgender is not a gender. It is a war that we have fought and won with ourselves, one we continue to fight on a daily basis just to be heard, to be seen simply as people. As human beings. As no-disclaimer-no-clarification needed people. Quite frankly, Facebook, "they" is the pronoun that would suffice just fine.
Perhaps I come bearing a cross that I shouldn't, but I'm going to be honest. When I saw that Facebook opened its options to include a "they" pronoun, I was genuinely impressed. After I realized the flood gates had opened to include the aforementioned customization of genders, I was met with shock and awe when I voiced the opinion that this was a terrible move for the "progressive movement."
Facebook boasts of its options but yet, the redundancy is blatant. What's the difference between a transwoman and a trans female? Gendervariant and genderfluid? Why does "male" or "female" need to come with a disclaimer when for so long we, as transpeople, have worked so hard to sway the world to see us as the person we know we are?
I fear for the reaction from the people nowhere on the LGBT spectrum of "identities." At work the other day, I overheard some people discussing the option, prompted by the (no surprise negative) FOX broadcast about Facebook's gender options. Someone says, "Oh, yeah. Now I can choose to be a transsexual freak of nature just like those people do."
Yes. It's 2014 and we are still hearing that transgender people choose to live this life, that we have just randomly decided one morning to go against the grain.
I did not choose this. I did not choose to outright dislike myself for over two decades, staring up at my ceiling and wondering when my body would stop feeling so foreign to me. I did not choose to potentially lose my friends and my family because of who I am. I chose to pursue my medical transition because, like every other transgender individual, I had to stop holding my breath, waiting for some change that was never going to happen without movement.
I took my first breath the first time I felt the testosterone flood my body; my breaths that followed came the first weeks I found female pronouns were long gone, when I could walk into male-only spaces without fear.
We, as transpeople, are already expected to be okay with being treated differently, treated as something "less than." We are expected to openly discuss what is or isn't beneath our clothes, give graphic details about our surgeries, and when we don't comply, we are the enemy. We often receive disdain from the LGB counterparts, being told that we are demanding special treatment when it comes down to just wanting humane treatment.
And now, we have a sticker list of labels and identities that we are expected to choose from. Sure, we can stick to the male and female options, choose to 'hide' our gender from our public profiles. But what about those who choose not to, instead decorating their profiles with a plethora of genders (as Facebook doesn't limit you to picking just one - in fact, for about 5 minutes, I existed in the realm of my social media as a 'cisgender transperson'), contributing to the mockery of the people we've struggled to become?
These are the people that right-wing individuals will grasp onto, showing the rest of the world that transpeople continue to expect more separation from our cisgender neighbors and partners, that we will always need an "other" option.
We, as a minority, have to prove our personhood on an almost daily basis. We have had to work to enter the proper bathroom, to join the proper gender-specific sports teams, to receive basic healthcare. Now we're broadcasting our medical conditions on our profiles like it is no different than posting a horribly filtered picture of our lunch or a picture of our child's outfit on their first day of school.
If that's the game Facebook wants to play, where is the option for "cancer survivor"? Where's the option for "Lupus"? "HIV+?" "Asperger's"?
There isn't. No one would dream of asking anyone to display that so openly, so succinctly summing up their medical records in a drop-down menu. But yet, here we are.
I am a cancer survivor. I am transgender. These are two significant parts of my experience as the man I am today, but they do not define me.
And when we meet, I will tell you: Hey, I'm Landon.
And I am more than my medical history.