Why does society encourage trans people to transition rather than finding a simpler solution to their unfortunate dilemma?
You’re begging the question! Your question assumes that society does encourage trans people to transition, yet that premise isn’t proven.
I knew I was a girl when I was 2 or 3 years old. I didn’t transition until I was in my 40s. Why? Because society discouraged me from transitioning. Anytime I saw or heard anything about a transgender person, it was always always always accompanied with a negative message about them: “look at this freak!”, “omg, they are so delusional!”, ”that girl I kissed was really a dude? I need to vomit!”, “they’re mentally ill!”, “it’s a fetish/perversion/paraphilia”. I was scared to death that any of these statements might be applied to me!
When I finally did begin my medical transition, I didn’t just walk into a doctors office and pick up my boobs. I had to first go to a psychologist to be evaluated for Gender Dysphoria, and then they had to write a letter to a doctor to give me permission to begin hormones. When I went to get my bottom surgery, I needed a letter from a psychiatrist, another letter from a psychologist, and letters from each of my primary care physician and endocrinologist before my surgeon would even accept me as a patient. And then I had to figure out how to pay for the surgery!
And medical transition is only one aspect of transition. To change my name legally, I had to petition the court, pay over $400 in filing fees, get my fingerprints taken and pay for state and federal criminal background checks, then take time off work to appear before a judge, who could (but thankfully did not) deny my petition for any reason (or no reason whatsoever). And that was the easy part. To get my gender marker changed on my social security, driver’s license, passport, and birth certificate, I had to get – you guessed it – more letters from doctors, and pay all sorts of fees to have the various documents changed and reissued. And once I was done with that, I had to contact each and every company and organization I have any relationship with and beg them to change my name and gender marker; many of them had their own unique and non-sensical requirements, and a few flat out refuse to make the change. This includes bank accounts, credit cards, frequent flier accounts, utility accounts, HOAs, store loyalty accounts, subscriptions, charitable organizations, churches, websites, schools, etc. You really don’t have any idea how many different places a name lives until you try to change it everywhere!
Then there’s social transition. You have to come out – to family, to friends, to coworkers, to clients, to teachers, to clergy, to classmates, to congregations, to the person who mows your lawn, to the person who cuts your hair… each one can potentially respond poorly and make things difficult for you. You have to come out to your spouse/partner – who may just divorce/leave you rather than try to figure out the dynamics of a changing relationship. You have to come out to dates – who may reject you just for being trans, or may assault or even kill you. You come out… over and over and over again, until it becomes second nature; and then people start to give you a hard time about “why do you have to be so… out?!” When you’re trans, sometimes you never stop coming out.
Financially, transition is freaking expensive! Hormones, medications, and surgeries are obvious costs, but then there’s the cost of building a different wardrobe, makeup, and accessories. Transfeminine people may need to utilize permanent hair removal systems – laser hair removal and electrolysis – which can easily grow into the high 10s of thousands of dollars. Transfeminine people might also need to use hair transplants, vocal coaching, and other services and procedures to overcome the effects of years of testosterone. Transmasculine people might need to acquire binders to minimize the appearance of breast tissue under their clothes, as well as packers to give a more natural-looking bulge.
Everything about society is set up to discourage trans people from transitioning, yet many still transition. This should be an indicator of just how important and how necessary transition is for those who pursue it. And for every trans person who transitions, there are countless others remaining in the closet, suffering – often silently and with minimal or no support.
I’m interested: what “simpler solutions” might you suggest? Lots of “solutions” have been tried, yet transition remains the only one which is effective.
Consider it this way: being transgender has to do with an incongruence between the gender a person experiences (which lives in the brain) and their body and how their body is perceived. Science and medicine doesn’t know how to safely and precisely change people’s brains, but science and medicine have given us the ability to make substantial changes to our bodies. Further, society is finally beginning to grasp the reality and complexity of what it means to be transgender, and is slowly changing to also make it a little easier for transgender people to change how they relate to and fit into society. These are the best treatments and solutions we currently have. So these are the treatments and solutions we use.