Vanity Fair’s cover story featuring Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce, prompts me to post this article.
Not all people have always known or been conflicted with gender identity. it's a common misconception that all trans people have strongly felt that they belonged in the wrong body all their lives. For some, it's been the pressure of adult gender roles that has forced that realization; for others, transitioning is not a simple male-to-female or vice versa thing, but a shift to androgyny (combination of masculine and feminine characteristics), or to being a gender/genderless, or something else altogether.
Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.
So after the hormones, cosmetic surgery and perhaps finally surgical reassignment surgery comes what might be years of psychological introspection. Gender is the non-obvious part of sex. The sex we can see is the shape and construction of the body, but there is a neurological component too. Although we may recognize that our mind is a given gender, and we may have many expressions of that internal, mental sex, that are obvious to our self and others, we must understand that we have missed out on years and years of social conditioning.
The natural behaviors of gender are exaggerated by society. Little masculine or feminine behavior traits that we are born with and express naturally have been developed into a complicated performance over centuries of social development. Sometimes these behaviors can be so exaggerated that they are unrecognizable as natural traits. In order to be accepted as our chosen sex and gender, we’ll need to learn some of these affectations, in order to fit into society. However, we don’t need to learn all of them, or use most of them, if we do not want to. It is important to use only as much of social gender performance as we need to gain the level of acceptance we desire.
Therefore, transition is not only physical, it is also learning the rules and codified behaviors that society demands of people too. The value of this is passing, the act of being accepted without question, and in general, passing is survival.