Comment: Not having surgery doesn’t make trans people less trans

Some trans people take hormones or have surgery as part of their transition. Some do not. Any of these options are valid and don’t make anyone more or less trans than anyone else.

This might not seem like a radical notion, but it’s an amazingly contentious issue, even among trans people.

There is a divide between those who go through or want to have a medical transition, and those who do not. The former can accuse the latter of not being “trans enough”, and then the latter accuse the former of upholding cis normative body standards.

This can then lead to cis people believing that the only way to be “properly trans” is to undergo medical transition, or you’ll never quite be real.

A woman we spoke to said “I was talking to my ex about my concern about fitting surgery in around work and the fact I really don’t want it to obstruct my career but I fear there won’t ever be a right time.

“Her response was ‘You have to make time, don’t you want to be a real woman?’

“It really hurt.”

Those who suffer the most from these attitudes are non binary and genderqueer people. Among those we spoke to, nonbinary people reported the worst problems.

One person said: “I’ve been told that I’m not transsexual because I’m not binary gendered”.

Another told us: “I’ve been told that I don’t count as trans because I don’t want surgery and am non-binary.”

Mal Pinder said: “People seem to assume we’re non binary because we don’t want surgery, or don’t want to ‘properly’ transition, even tho a lot of us do want surgery or hormones, like me.

“The medical establishment does not really help since it requires so many of us to closet ourselves as binary to get treatment.

“So it looks from the stats or what doctors say that few or no non-binary people get surgery or hormones.”

The medical and legal establishment are certainly not helping matters. In order to apply for a gender recognition certificate, one must explain why they have not had or do not intend to have hormones or surgery, despite neither being a requirement for gender recognition.

Doctors and psychiatrists will grill patients on why they don’t want a particular type of medical transition, with “I just don’t want to” not always being an acceptable answer.

It seems we have fallen into the common idea that all trans people must experience dysphoria about their bodies, and this is the only thing that makes trans people trans. Trans people who only want to transition their gender role, and not their bodies, are seen as lesser.

And when those people fight back, they can often accuse dysphoric trans people of upholding unnecessary body standards, ignoring the very real pain that dysphoria causes people.

But we should always remember that there are as many ways to be trans as there are trans people, and all of them are valid.