Ya, being transgender makes me different…and that’s what makes me so normal

It is not uncommon to hear the label ‘freak’ applied to a transgender person.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Scan the comment threads that accompany most stories about Caitlyn Jenner, for example, and she’s often described as a “freak.” That is usually followed by a rude remark about her physical appearance, with much of the focus placed on her large hands, her large feet, her elongated frame and her gangly gait.

Put that on heels and in a dress, then slap on some lipstick, and—be afraid, kids, be very afraid—it’s Brucesquatch coming in from the forest.

That is, of course, terribly mean and cruel, but not at all surprising since society is brimming with nasty natterbugs hung up on self-imposed, time-worn dictates that are, supposedly, designed to provide definition to normal and abnormal.

The thing is, no one gets to write the Official Book of Normal.

Is a woman with a body and face full of tattoos normal? You say no, I say yes.

Millions of “non-freaks”—nay, billions—worship a god they’ve never seen. They’ve never talked to him. Yet they kneel and pray to him and they won’t reference their god without the reverence of an uppercase G or H. This is normal behavior? Genuflecting to an invisible somebody or something who, much like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, has never been seen or heard from?

Yet it is not the gospel sharks who are “mentally unbalanced” or “mentally ill” or just plain “sick.” It is Caitlyn Jenner and others like myself, the transgender individuals. It is we who “need our heads examined.”

And I get it. I mean, go ahead and ask any “normal” man if he’d like to have someone chop off his testicles and have his penis experience the ultimate shrinkage, and just watch the reaction. He’ll screw up his face like he just squeezed out a wet fart, and gasp, “Are you nuts?” (Pun intended.) You’d have to be crazy, no? Little wonder all those trans girls featured on Jenner’s reality show I Am Cait spend most of their time swilling wine and weeping. They’re freaking weirdos, right?

Heck, there’s reason to believe the High Priestess herself once was of a mind to shove all of us transgender folks into the wacko box.

“What has really impressed me,” Jenner said toward the conclusion of Episode 3 of her eight-part opus, “is at this point in their life how normal these girls are.”

And she expected what? One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? Did she have Nurse Ratched on standby in the likely event that the crazies would go bonkers and ransack the ritzy hideaway she rented in California’s Napa Valley?

I realize our girl Cait meant well, and this was supposed to be a poignant summarizing of a four-day frolic with her new trans gal pals, but, as is Jenner’s wont, her delivery and knowledge were found to be lacking. Seriously. She’s “impressed” that transgender girls are “normal?” Geez, thanks for that ringing endorsement, Cait. I’ll be sure to use you as a reference the next time a would-be employer refuses to hire me. Or the next time a would-be landlord refuses to rent me an apartment.

The thing is, whatever notions Jenner harbored ahead of her pajama party, they were dispelled. Why? Because she actually spent quality time with living, breathing transgender individuals. She talked to them. Laughed with them. Cried with them. Drank wine with them (lordy, can those girls toss it back!).

And that’s all it takes. Talking. Trying to understand.

I mean, ask the tattooed lady why she covers her body in so much ink and I’m sure you’ll receive a reply that would assure you that she is a person of reason and logic. Ditto the religious zealots. Given time in their company, they can be as convincing as the tattooed lady.

I have never made any attempt to convince people that I’m “normal.” Why would I wish to be limited by the constraints of normalcy in a world of abnormalities? Besides, normal and different inter-are. One does not exist without the other.

Thus, if being transgender means I’m different, I’m okay with that. Vive la difference! I do, however, reject any notion that it makes me a whack job who belongs on Nurse Ratched’s ward.

Just to be certain, though, I went on Facebook and asked this: Does anyone think I’m mentally unbalanced? Or mentally ill? Or sick? Or a freak? The perfect response came from two people: “Who isn’t?”



12 thoughts on “Ya, being transgender makes me different…and that’s what makes me so normal”

  1. Thank you. Listening is an art that most people haven’t mastered, because they’re too busy talking about themselves or judging others.

  2. I’ve never even remotely viewed anyone who is transgendered as “mentally unbalanced”, “mentally ill”, “sick” or a “freak”. I’ve always felt badly for the person trapped in the wrong body, and have been glad if they were able to finally live as who they really are. I don’t think we’re all nuts lol; I do think we’re all human beings with our own struggles, and I wish some people weren’t so judgemental of fellow human beings who have done them absolutely no harm.

    1. Well said, Rick, but there are so many out there who don’t share you sensibilities. They’re convinced gender identity conflict is a mental illness and we all belong on the psych ward. Many people still believe homosexuality is a sickness. That stigma will never go away in my lifetime, I’m afraid.

  3. The problem I think is society usually hears from the loudest people and they are almost inevitably the most bigoted and hateful. Most people in North America believe people are born homosexual, and it has progressed from being diagnosed as a mental illness to marriage equality. In large part, that’s because of the visibility factor as more and more gay people come out. When your son, cousin or friend is gay and you already know them as a decent human being, old misunderstandings and prejudices usually disappear. I hope the transgendered community experiences the same progressive curve. I think it will, but I realize there is a long, long way to go. Beware of listening too loudly to the bigots. most of whom spout selective religious scripture. There is a silent majority out there who I believe is a lot more compassionate and decent, with the younger generation at the forefront. Cheers.

    1. I have often said and written that if there were an LGBT member in every family, our society would be a much more caring, understanding and loving place.

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