This question arises because I am currently in London and for the first time noticed several women on OKCupid that had listed their gender as transsexual. This follows a pattern of more transsexuals being open about their gender reassignment in other dating apps I use.
I say that one day gender reassignment will be viewed more or less like breast implants are today. How long? My guess is two to three generations at most (about 50 years or so).
So what are the similarities?
Of course, both involve body modification surgery.
Both types of body modification face criticisms of inauthenticity. We ask women if “they’re real” as if having breast implants is illegitimate. The discrimination trans women face today is much worse, but I anticipate in the future comments will slowly move in the same direction so that the main criticisms of trans women will revolve around their “fakeness” rather than the harsh and detesting discrimination they currently face.
Of course, it is often not so easy to tell if a woman has had breast implants, especially when she has clothes on. More and more the story is the same with transgender women. I actually dated a woman for a several months recently and to this day do not know if she had breast implants (I know that sounds ridiculous, but it’s true; there were signs in opposing directions). Many, many times on dating apps I see a woman and I cannot tell if she is trans or just happens to have masculine features or has a preference for a particular type of makeup application. Sometimes I cannot tell at all and only know from her openness about it on her profile. I’ve been on a date with a woman that was particularly tall with a deep voice and a less curvy figure; but she also had many feminine features. I still have no idea whether she was trans.
Both M2F sexual reassignment and breast implants are a move toward femininity, which is to say both procedures move in the same direction. Neither procedure may conform to everyone’s view of femininity, but it is at least the view of those undergoing the procedure.
In a discussion about the comparison to breast implants a friend pointed out that one difference is that transsexual women will never be able to bear children. I think eventually science will overcome this problem, transplanting more sexual organs into gender reassignment recipients, but I admit this is likely more than 50 years off (perhaps the first experimental procedures of this nature will take place in 50 years). But from a practical point of view I think men are less intent on having their own children than women, and so “settling” for adoption isn’t so bad.
So while breast implants and gender reassignment differ in that the former doesn’t affect the ability to reproduce, on the whole I view them both as compromises one may have to make: “Well, I’m not that into breast implants, but I love you so let’s be together” vs. “Well, I would have liked to have biological children, but I love you so we can adopt.” And note that of course many relationships today survive various female infertility problems with what I suspect is not to much heartache on the side of the man.
Breast implants are not for everyone. Some men don’t like the way they look or feel. Some fraction of men prefer breast implants for the same reasons. In 50 years dating a transsexual woman will be viewed the same way. A few men will have a trans fetish, as they do now, and some won’t be able to get over the aesthetic aspects. But on the whole most men will be willing to compromise and trans discrimination will be limited to whispers that “someone’s had some work done” rather than prohibition on North Carolina bathroom usage. This is not to say subtle forms of discrimination are not hurtful, but again that transsexual discrimination in 50 years will be equivalent to the whispers and judgement those with breast implants get today.
And by the way, note that many women today may or may not have masculine attributes such as sharp facial features or prominent facial hair (ex. eyebrows) and men are correspondingly attracted, or not, according to their taste. Because (especially non-Asian) trans women tend to have more masculine features men will or will not be attracted to them on the same grounds they are or are not attracted to more masculine women today.
You may be tempted to point out that the anatomical changes necessary for breast implants are far less than those necessary for gender reassignment and so people’s views about having sex with a tans woman, even in 50 years, will be different than our views about having sex with females that have had breast augmentation today.
I think many people over estimate the anatomical differences however, and they are only likely to diminish over time as surgical techniques improve. If anything, the fact that transsexual vaginas are sculpted from “scratch” may mean that men will find them more pleasurable. To this point, a trans female acquaintance once told me “trans pussy is the best pussy” (and no I’m not making that up).
And note that STDs are still an issue. Trans women have high rates of STDs. In this way the early trans movement is similar to the emergence of gay culture in the 1980s.
Most men probably don’t care too much one way or another whether their partner has breast implants. It may not be their preference, but for most men breast implants aren’t a deal breaker. In 50 years dating a transsexual will be viewed the same way. Rather than be a deal breaker for most men, as the situation stands today, my grandchildren (or perhaps their children) will mostly not care. The important thing will be whether they love their partner, they’ll have to make certain compromises — as we all do — to find an ideal mate and their partner’s previous gender will be one such minor compromise that may arise.
I suspect that the younger the person when they underwent surgery the easier it will be to accept a partner’s new gender. Dating someone that had reassignment surgery at 18 somehow seems easier to stomach than dating someone that had the same surgery at 40. In some ways I simply view this as the fact that we find people with their shit together more attractive and so the sooner someone “finds themself” and has gender reassignment surgery the better. We all know someone in their mid-40’s starting their 4th career and wonder what’s going on. The other component, of course, is that for whatever reason the longer someone has lived with their current gender the more legitimate it seems.
Some women are quite open about their breast implants. Others do not open up about it immediately. Some get what you might call “breast implants as a badge,” what look to me to be ridiculous and audacious implants that announce to the world what is living inside their breasts. In 50 years transsexual women will behave the same way.
In fact, various stages of openness are already starting to occur. I have met a transsexual woman who feels it is not her responsibility to inform her partner because she no longer self-identifies as a women. Many other women on dating apps like Tinder and OKCupid change their profile gender to “trans” or announce in their profile something along the lines of “I’m a post-op transsexual women. If that bothers you please keep your comments to yourself and move along.” Some trans women seem to intentionally project themselves to make it obvious they have had gender reassignment surgery.
There is a question as to whether there is a greater sense of identity wrapped up in gender reassignment. Gender is part of identity to be sure, but I’m not convinced it is drastically more important to our identity than our occupation; national, state, city, or neighborhood affiliation; physical appearance; or political ideology. For a particular type of person “political reassignment surgery” is just as drastic a change as gender reassignment surgery. More broadly, for many Americans “reassignment” away from being “a Boston cop” or “a religious Texas rancher” is no less drastic or unthinkable than M2F reassignment. This is all to say I think there is a similar sense of identity involved in both sorts of surgery where body modification is an attempt to transform one’s physical appearance to comport with the way in which one imagines themselves, and that gender transformation is not necessarily anymore intertwined with identity than many other aspects of ourselves.