By Konner Jebb
Most people in the trans community have heard of the idea of #nottransenough, but we all likely have our own definitions of what it means to us. This is because one trans person’s experience is rarely the same as another’s. While we may share transgender identity, it’s not as though each of us identifies with the standard, “x-gender trapped in a y-gender body,” knowing our true self from a young age and being able to recognize that. We’re also not all white, straight, and able-bodied. Being trans may push up against normative cis media in and of itself, but it’s not as though there is a homogenous and single thing that transgender identity is, or means.
And yet this same, singular story told of us in the media and even by doctors promotes another idea that there is only one way of being transgender. In some places, doctors still assess transgender and questioning patients as to whether they are “trans enough” to go on hormones or other transition necessities that require medical attention. If they are not “trans enough” for the doctor, they can be denied access to any of these transition needs. This is called gatekeeping.
Gatekeeping is now not just a problem when facing doctors, but within our own community. Fights about trans people not experiencing enough dysphoria to be trans, not presenting feminine enough to be trans, or masculine enough to be trans, non-binary enough to be trans; the list goes on. That has led many to worry that if their own diverse transgender experiences are valid.
I think and worry about this a lot with my own unique transgender experience. Despite the transgender community’s support of trans siblings with families who are not accepting, it often seems like the voices most loudly heard are the ones of those who were accepted or are now accepted. Those of us who haven’t been accepted are less visible. Being transgender in a family that doesn’t accept you comes with a lot of different emotions and experiences, all of which have made me feel more alone, more isolated. Quite frankly, I often get the sense I’m made to feel #nottransenough.
I experience more doubt about my trans identity than is #transenough. I’ve effectively been told by my parents time and time again that they know me better than I know myself. Therefore, they imply, how can I possibly be transgender? Since they aren’t able to see my identity, why and how should I be able to be so sure about it? They refuse to use my pronouns and use my birth name. They don’t even bat an eye when my friends use “Konner” or “he” around them. They’ve been ignoring my transness in hopes that it will just fade away. (It’s been five years—and guess what? I’m still trans!) I feel invisible at my old home, and often confused more than anything else. Confusion because, after all, these people are still my parents, right? I’m tempted to rationalize their behavior—they must just be looking out for my best interests. And that kind of thinking sends me into a spiral of doubt: how can my parents possibly be wrong? I know I am transgender. But what if they’re right?
From there, more negativity arises. I feel guilty. I used to love getting gendered correctly, marching proudly into the men’s department, placing “Konner” in the heading of all my college papers, until over time it began to feel like betrayal. Gender dysphoria feels wrong. Yet gender euphoria feels worse. If my parents knew how being transgender made me feel, it would disappoint them. I fight them every day. Sometimes I feel I’ve developed a severe case of internalized transphobia because I’ve internalized my parents’ own transphobia.
I describe this lack of acceptance as a grey area because I often feel stuck. My life is trudging ahead of me and I’m not there to enjoy it. I’m always paranoid. My brain hasn’t slept in five years: Can I trust what I’m feeling? I need to go on T, but what if they’re right and I am making a mistake? Could I be financially and emotionally stable if I transitioned without their permission? Am I ruining my life? The answer is this: now I am 23, living on my own and in graduate school. I’m in a place where they can’t take my undergraduate degree away from me if I went on T, or my ability to support myself if I went on T, nor would I be homeless if I went on T and yet, I still worry. I deeply, sincerely, and painfully know transitioning is the absolute right choice for me. It’s just getting the courage to accept that permission to be myself does not have to be granted, and that parents don’t always know what’s best for you.
What’s most harmful about a parent’s lack of acceptance of their transgender child are the thoughts that hold us back. As a community, I wish we would engage with these experiences more and have a discussion on how we can help anyone else who feels like this. More importantly, I want to hear the voices of trans people who come from unaccepting backgrounds so that we can feel #transenough, too.
Konner Jebb is currently receiving his MFA with hopes of using his poetry and other writings to become an activist for the transgender and LGBT community as a whole. He plans on sharing his transition and experiences on YouTube, blogs and articles so he can contribute to the same community that helped him. For now, you can follow @trainersarecoolest on Instagram and kawnerwithak on Tumblr.