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Traversing transgender medical care is a handful. When I started out, you had to go to two different therapists for evaluation — which took months if you were lucky — before you could even access hormones, and you were required to live at least one year in your “chosen” gender before surgery.

Caster Semenya is a South African middle-distance runner. She took home Olympic gold in 2012 and 2016 and has won the world championships three times.  

She grew up in the village of Fairlie, located in South Africa’s Limpopo province. While she took up running in order to train for soccer, it was the former she has made her name in.

So often when people who are not transgender speak of transgender people, there is one important thing that is gotten terribly wrong, and I think it’s a core part of understanding exactly what it is to be transgender.

As an example, I want to talk a bit about Chelsea Manning.

I grew up in a Southern California suburb in the 1970s, a short distance from the smog-filled skies of Los Angeles. It was a time of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” album, a veneer or patriotism brought forth thanks to the bicentennial of the adoption of the United States Declaration of Independence, and the era of mood rings and bell-bottoms.

I cannot tell you for sure when, in those days of avocado green and harvest gold, I first heard of the existence of transgender people.

It feels like every day someone is attempting to legislate transgender people. While “bathroom bills” feel like they’re finally on the wane, laws around transgender medical needs, the right to serve in the military and so many more horrible bills are making their appearance. Oh, and of course, the other big fad: whether transgender people can participate in sports.

Every time these rules come up, however, we’re left with one fundamental question: How does one define gender or sex?

Buckle up. This one is gonna get messy.

Centuries ago, during the witch trials of the medieval era, a unique way of determining who was or wasn’t a witch was created. A woman suspected of being a witch would have her right thumb bound to the big toe on her left foot. She would then have a rope tied around her waist, and be thrown into a nearby pond or river.

She was viewed as a witch if she floated, as her body had “rejected baptism” in the water. She would then be put to death for her supposed crimes. If she sunk in the water — drowning in the process — she was deemed pure.

Either way, the woman ended up dead.

For the last couple of years, I spent a lot of time warning of the dangers to come. Now, I no longer have to. Because, you see, the danger is here.

The Supreme Court of the United States took an unusual action recently, in a 5-4 decision to let the Trump Administration ban transgender members from the military, even as lower courts are still hearing arguments. This could well mean thousands of transgender people may be discharged.

It amazes me how so many seem to view the notion of “transgender people” as if it were something that magically winked into existence just five years ago. It’s as if the moment they first heard of transgender people is the moment transgender people came into existence, rather than it merely being the moment they stopped living in ignorance about the existence of transgender identity.

So, once again, we reach the closing of the year.

When I was much younger than I am today, as the scent of the Douglas fir my father set up in the front room would waft through the house and the glow of holiday lights would produce a diffused glow of color against the window blinds on my bedroom, I would find myself making my holiday wish list.

Recently, a Dutchman named Emile Ratelband made a bold proclamation: He wanted to legally change his age. At age 69, he claimed that his age made it hard for him to score on dating sites, and requested to be 49 instead.

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