Are you socially transitioned into your gender role?

Vada Voices

Lola Olson

There isn’t a lot out there about agender people. In fact, the only openly agender person I know of is rapper Angel Haze.

I would hazard to say a lot of transgender people wouldn’t even be very familiar with ‘agender’. It’s a difficult place to be, at least from where I stand. How am I supposed to convince cis people that agender is a real thing if I can barely convince trans people?

I guess it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise then that, after spending two years awaiting treatment, I was discharged from the gender identity clinic for essentially not being convincing enough. The letter concludes:

‘Whilst we acknowledge [their] strong wish for a smaller breast size and acknowledge [their] reported internal sense of being agendered [sic] we would not countenance endorsement of an irreversible surgical procedure unless the individual had been able to demonstrably consolidate a social transition including name change to the preferred gender role.’

It’s not enough that I’ve been out as agender to my friends and to the people who matter the most to me in my life for years. Sure, maybe I don’t come out at every workplace I enter, but I also don’t generally advertise my disability or my bisexuality.

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It’s not enough that I’ve been trying to get my chest corrected for upwards of five years, even unsuccessfully fundraising once. The fact that my nickname is Lola means that I’m apparently not serious about how I experience my body.

I was born with a brain malformation that’s resulted in blindness in one of my eyes and an inability to produce a number of hormones – including oestrogen and testosterone. It’s likely that because of this, I looked very androgynous growing up.

I found that looking androgynous only meant teasing and bullying. It meant people taking it upon themselves to discover my gender if they couldn’t find out themselves by harassing it out of me. Even though that was during my childhood, I don’t feel confident much would change as an adult.

There is no reason to get rid of my nickname. Yes, ‘Lola’ is what this society would describe as a ‘feminine’ name. But picking a gender neutral name would not convince anyone to see me as agender. That’s not something possible in this society.

I was honest with the gender identity clinic in that I didn’t plan on changing my nickname, although I do plan on changing my legal name. I was honest that I don’t live in a society that sees me for who I am. To them that meant I accepted my lot. I don’t accept it. I just have no other choice but to make peace with it and know that the people I care about will see me for who I am.

Still, I’m meant to ‘demonstrably consolidate a social transition’. How does someone even do that as an agender person? Legally, I can’t refuse to give my gender on forms. I can’t even use gender neutral titles half the time. What exactly am I supposed to demonstrate socially in order to be really ‘agender’ by their definition?

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I showed up to my last appointment wearing jeans and a t-shirt and yet they described me as ‘presenting as female’, noting my shoulder length hair. But I guess only women have long hair?

I’ve heard people say that they think transgender people reinforce gender roles – that it’s trans people that believe all it means to be a woman is wearing a dress or being a man is sitting with your legs obnoxiously wide. But the truth is that many transgender people – even agender people like myself – are forced to perform gender and meet these ‘social’ roles straight out of the 50s in order to get the medical help we need.

When I expressed how much my chest distressed me to friends, how badly I needed this – a lot of them told me to lie, to pretend that I was transitioning into a man and I wanted surgery. But I just couldn’t do that, because it’s not the truth.

I suppose the cost of not playing the game is that you don’t win the prize – but this should not be a game. And gender is a game I just don’t want to be forced to play.

Maybe if more people are aware of how much trans people have to bend and stretch to fit these roles just to get help, they won’t assume that trans people are the ones perpetuating the idea that only women have long hair.

Lola is currently raising funds for their surgery via YouCaring.

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