I am a trow.
What is that supposed to mean?
Trow is my term for a trans woman, but in the form of a simple word rather than a compound word or a pair of two words. The “tr” stands for trans and the “ow” stands for woman, the word should be spoken to rhyme with “wow.” It is my rendering into English of “trau”, created by combining “trans” and “frau” (woman in German). As I learned via an internet search after creating this word, in Shakespeare’s time, the word “trow” was used for believing, trusting, clearly related to the German word “trauen” (trusting). That is, German “trau” corresponds to English “trow” by an old established linguistic pattern.
For me, “trow” represents exactly what I am. I am not a “man”, because I hardly feel a sense of belonging to this gender, because I simply do not have many of the feelings generally ascribed to men, because I feel a stronger emotional bond to women than to men, because I feel comfortable in women’s clothing. But neither am I a “woman” because being a woman is intimately bound up with many experiences that I never had and never will be able to have. Being can not be separated from one’s own body, and after all I do not have the body of a woman. I have never had a monthly bleeding, I never had the hope or expectation or fear of becoming pregnant, I never had to confront the possibility of birthing a child. Practically all women have to deal with all these issues, regardless of whether they want to give birth to a child or not. To separate these and many other experiences from being a woman means negating the body and reducing existence to a matter purely of the spirit. If being a woman or a man is reduced to the mere feeling of being a woman or man, the words “woman” and “man” lose most of their content.
On the other hand, being a woman or man can not be reduced to a matter of the body only. If people were purely biological organisms, lacking culture and society, without social roles and traditions, with no laws, then one could reduce the terms “woman” and “man” to the biological function of reproduction. However, women are not mere “females” and men not mere “males”, but instead they are human beings who are raised in their families, societies, cultures according to the predominant gender roles. There are conceptions of how a “proper” woman and a “real” man are to behave. People who can not find a way to fit themselves into this scheme, who would rather live according to many of the precepts for the “other” gender or who would rather see themselves in the body of the “other” gender, simply do not fit into the gender category that corresponds to their body.
Yet, I do not quite like the term trans woman. To me, this term suggests that I consist of two opposite parts. A female spirit in a male body. A duality rather than a unity. A woman trying to break out of her male body, but not quite managing to do so. A person who constantly struggles to emphasize her femininity, who has to fight her body in order to look as much like a woman as she can. This may involve operations, lifelong hormone treatments, removal of facial hair that may have to be repeated every few years, difficult voice training the results of which may not be fully convincing, daily cosmetics. Feminists have long criticized that women are pressured to adapt their bodies to beauty ideals conceived by the male-dominated fashion industry, wreaking violence against their own bodies. Does it make sense for trans women to work even harder on modifying their own bodies?
In contrast, I see great promise in the word “trow”. I see it as a way to find a new unity, my own path. A person with a “man’s” face wearing “women’s” clothes doesn’t need to be a contradiction – that is simply a person with a “trow’s” face wearing “trow’s” clothing. With my “trow’s” clothing I can adopt elements of women’s fashion and adapt them to my body, emphasizing the natural elegance and beauty of my body, without having to follow beauty ideals that the fashion industry has created for women. I can even cultivate certain “feminine” elements more strongly than women usually do (for example, I rarely wear pants, in contrast to most women whom I know). Rather than having a woman’s mind in a man’s body, I have a trow’s body-mind. At a mental/spirit level, I am a trow because I do not think and feel exactly like a woman, but neither do I think and feel like a man, but rather – like a trow. My bodily feeling of comfort in women’s clothes was a key driver of my growing awareness of being a trow – in this regard, my body led and my mind followed. I savor those of my bodily characteristics that are more typical of women than of men. As a trow, I do not try to force my body to become a woman’s body, but rather develop in mind-body-spirit as a trow. To the extent that I modify my body, I do so according to my image of how I want to be as a trow.
If in public I am quite simply a trow, I do not need to pretend to be anything. I do not hide that I am not a “real” man and I do not try to “pass” as a “real” woman, because either of these would require huge effort and ultimately denial of self.
In other words, I am completely “out”. I am “out” just like all women are “out” as women and men are “out” as men. Like all Muslim women who cover their hair and Jewish men who wear a kippa. Like all foreigners who speak the language of the country where they live with a foreign accent or a limited vocabulary. Like all people whose skin color is considered darker than “normal” in the country where they live. Like all people who require a wheelchair for movement. Like all people who, in certain contexts, use language that is not sufficiently “educated.” All of us stick out as somehow different in certain situations. That as such is not a problem. We humans constantly observe each other and notice differences – we are hard wired to do that. And since we are not clones of each other, there are differences.
What is a problem and causes trauma and injury is to be treated as inferior, to be excluded, to be verbally abused, to be violently attacked because of one’s “difference” – whether that be one’s gender, one’s cultural or national origin, one’s skin color, the religion one belongs to, one’s sexual orientation etc. Fortunately, so far I have never been attacked because of being a trow. In many places I would have no such luck. Regardless of such experiences, for me it is now a matter of course that I am “out.” What unfortunately continues not to be, but should be, a matter of course is that people who are visibly “different” are treated as being of equal value.