Assigned one gender at birth, we’d felt like the other since childhood. That feeling—which had nothing to do with sexual desire—grew until life in the wrong gender seemed not worth living. So we came out as trans women or trans men to loved ones and health-care providers, who gave us the courage, the hormones, and maybe the surgery to live as who we always were, and then we were fine.
That story describes many transgender lives; parts of it describe mine. It’s also a relatively easy narrative for cisgender (non-transgender) people to follow, and it’s the only one that popular culture supplied until recently. Many health-care providers required an even narrower story. Until 2011, widely accepted medical standards mandated that we prove we were really trans by living in our genuine gender for three months or more without hormones. They also stipulated that we try to look conventionally masculine or feminine, and that we not identify as gay.
Such stories exclude people whose experience of being trans has shifted over their lives. (Some regret or reverse their transitions; many more do not.) They exclude people with more complicated experiences of gender and sexuality. And they exclude nonbinary people, who live as both genders, or neither, often taking the pronouns they/them. We can hear more stories now—not only life stories, but fiction, poems, comics, films, essays, both about trans people and by us. Some of those stories may reassure trans readers, or help cis readers accept us. Other stories aim to disrupt and unsettle the narratives we already know.