Response: Is there a transgender ‘lifestyle’?

I’m going to be honest, I don’t read many trans-specific websites.  In fact, I don’t think I read a single trans-specific anything if it’s not on Tumblr or LiveJournal.  I’m past that phase in my life and most of the people on trans-specific sites annoy the hell out of me.  Plus, I can’t keep my damned mouth shut when I should.  However, every now and then a post will so saturate the web that even I notice it.  Such is the case with the (relatively) recent editorial on

We’ve all heard ‘lifestyle’ used in a negative context, generally in the form of religious leaders saying they can’t support trans* rights because they don’t approve of our ‘lifestyle’.  What we don’t generally think of is the more common usage of the word, one used to denote a particular set of common traits and beliefs.  If someone talks about their ‘bohemian lifestyle’ we immediately picture bare lofts in industrial squats, homes packed with artists, and few (if any) modern comforts.  I also picture Mark Cohen dancing on a table, but I’m kind of a geek.

Using that definition is there a ‘transgender lifestyle’?  I don’t think so.  There are so many different ways to be trans* that to me the idea of us all fitting under one nice heading (even one as large as ‘transgender’) is a bit absurd.  I am not the same as a genderqueer identified person.  I am not the same as a trans man who considers the ‘trans’ part of that to be central to his identity.  I’m not even the same as most gay (trans) men who could easily be thought of as straight.  We all have different needs, different comfort levels, different ways of approaching society.  Many trans people wish to challenge the gender binary and bring awareness of genderqueer and other-gendered identities.  I have no desire to do such a thing, in fact, I’m perfectly happy with my “man” box.  I simply wish more people would recognise that it’s my box to occupy.

The other term being considered is ‘culture’, a word that has a much more high-brow sound.  When people refer to culture it tends to be either in an academic sense or when speaking about such things as art and literature.  In that case, is there a transgender culture?  I would say there is, particularly considering the recent emergence of magazines, artwork, films, and books written by and for trans* people.  However, I feel it is important to note that not every trans* person has any interest in what could be considered trans* culture.  As I said before, I don’t read anything trans-specific these days.  If there’s a new biography out I might pick it up, but I’m far more likely to read the latest on Simon Doonan or Sir Elton John.

I see this in very much the same way I see ‘gay lifestyle’ and ‘gay culture’.  Many people (rightly) get upset when spoken to about their ‘gay lifestyle’.  There’s a certain connotation that none of us is all too thrilled with, it sounds like we try to “convert” little boys in between clubbing and obsessing at the gym.  ‘Gay culture’, on the other hand, brings to mind drag queens, pride parades, and rainbows.  Not everyone likes drag queens, but they are an integral part of gay history and early gay experiences.  Those who wish to have no connection to gay culture have every right to go about their lives ignoring it.  I know many of these people and in every case I can understand why they choose not to participate.  They relate to gay culture in the same way that I relate to trans* culture: it’s simply not something they need.  However, for those of us who didn’t have words to explain our interests, camp films and drag shows are incredibly affirming.

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