I completely respect and support transgender rights from a rational perspective. I can see that it is something that 1) doesn't significantly affect other people so other people shouldn't be able to restrict your gender expression and 2) clearly is harmful to individuals psychologically is they are forced to present a gender they don't identify with. However, I have trouble connecting with what it means to be transgender emotionally which I feel inhibits my ability to truly empathize with people in this position.
I am a cis gendered female and for me, my primary experience of my gender is through the social experience of it. The primary way I feel I identify with my "femaleness" is because of the way others interact with me because their perception of my gender. This can be positive things like the way women are able to casually hug friends or negative things like frequently being interrupted in meetings. Without these social or on occasion physical feedbacks and responses, I'm not sure I would have an strong identity as a woman. Maybe this is because I am cis gendered so I just don't notice all the ways my gender identity is affirmed but from my current perspective my gender identity is the way society perceives me as a woman. For me it is similar to race; the reason I identify as I do is because of the way society treats me.
I want to have more emotional empathy transgender people because I know I am missing something here. Rationally I can say, no one would go through what transgender people go through if there was not something more to gender than the social experience I identify with. I don't have close transgendered friends and clearly it is inappropriate to approach transgender acquaintances with these types of questions. I tried visiting some transgender advocacy websites for information, but I was unsatisfied withe the answers. For example transequality.org states
It can be difficult for people who are not transgender to imagine what being transgender feels like. Imagine what it would be like if everyone told you that the gender that you’ve always known yourself to be was wrong. What would you feel like if you woke up one day with a body that’s associated with a different gender? What would you do if everyone else—your doctors, your friends, your family—believed you’re a man and expected you to act like a man when you’re actually a woman, or believed you’re a woman even though you’ve always known you’re a man?
But my response to their thought exercise is "If I had lived that way my whole life, then I would probably consider myself a man". All this said, my question is this:
- Ideally: How do I experience or identify with my gender that aren't tied to the social experience or my physical body that will help me better understand the transgender experience?
- Alternatively: How can I get my questions on this topic answered without invading the privacy of transgender people?
I understand if this isn't the right forum for this question. I looked around for a while trying to find a stack exchange site that was appropriate, and this was the best I could come up with. Recommendations are welcome.