There is No One Way to Be Trans or the Number Three, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

There Is No One Way to Be Trans, or the Number Three


Jennifer Angelina Petro



There is no one way to be trans just as there is no one way to express, well, anything, even, let’s say, numbers.  The number three is a quantitative value that can be expressed with three acorns, three pieces of candy, three pennies, a triangle, a tripod, and so on.  It can be expressed as 3, III, or three—not to mention how it is expressed in the many different languages of the world.  The fundamental value of a three does not change because of how it is written or illustrated, or expressed or in what language it is referred to in.  Transpeople are fundamentally human beings who just so happen to exist and express themselves on a spectrum of infinite variety.

I could care less how “feminine” I look in some respects, in others I do, but the point is, I choose what is right and true and comfortable and fun for me.  I do not base my gender identity or expression on what the world might think is most “feminine.”  Three pencils and three jolly ranchers both express “threeness” equally validly, and “correctly.”  I express the value of “transness” not wearing makeup just as much as another transperson wearing tons of makeup.

I have met transwomen who were trapped (or so it seemed to me) in the traditional gender binary.  And this is sad.  And can be tragically sad.  Some transwomen try so hard to fit in to what they perceive is the “right” feminine gender norm and kill themselves when they perceive they can’t or don’t.  Some transwomen seemingly buy into the same misogynistic impressions of “femininity,” that many cis-gendered people do.

This past year in which I came out, several transwomen have told me I will never “pass,” unless I fix my eyebrows.  Of course, I had no idea my eyebrows were broken AND I had no idea “passing” was the goal. I thought being my authentic self was. If that includes passing, cool; if it doesn’t, still cool.

One transwoman, a few years older than myself, recently said, after looking me over:

“Have you ever heard of the uncanny valley?”

I hadn’t.

“Well, it’s the idea that some robots and zombies and aliens, etc. make humans feel eerie and uncomfortable because they appear to look CLOSE to human, but aren’t.”

“I see,” I said, while inside drifting steadily into a protective dissociative state (really).

“You just need to fit in more,” she went on without mercy, “work on your makeup, your hair is too flat, your clothes, well, your clothes are OKAY, but you can work on those too.  And your eyebrows…they are way too big.  You haven’t feminized your voice or your moves—your walk.”

Later, after much reflection and a healthy dose of needing to be talked down from a highly triggered state of dysphoria, I thought about just how sad it must be to be her.

She is stuck—I daresay—bound–to the belief that the task of a transwoman is to fit into “American” society’s prevailing views of what women should look like.  If I would only “feminize” myself in such ways, this would, in her mind, make me look more “human,”—less threatening to the “normies.”  If I would just toe the line of “traditional,” “American,” “feminine” ideals then I would find a job and a place to live.  I wouldn’t be so depressed.

I also realized later on that I must be a threat to her on some levels.  She was likely told and bought into the idea that she had to look a certain way in order to be a “real” woman, a woman who “passes,” or a woman who, at very least, doesn’t draw attention to herself.  There are, of course, very real safety concerns for some transwomen, but I think in this case, I must have contradicted decades of, what deep-inside she must view as, her wasted time, money, and life trying to “fit in.” Turns out you can be trans and not have to look a certain way, not have to give a fuck about fitting in.  Something she may never have been told.  Something she cannot bear to hear.

The fact that I don’t wear makeup must fly in the face of her “traditions” about what women should and should not do.  The fact that I don’t care about covering my five-o’clock shadow might make her upset for all the money and time she spent on electrolysis or expensive makeup, not to mention the time she spent shaving, and so on.  The fact that I don’t care how fluffy my eyebrows are might make her resentful at herself for all the countless hours she spent plucking, waxing, trimming, shaping, or threading her eyebrows—and here I am—a whipper-snapper transwoman—who comes along and says: “Um, I’m trans, and I have fluffy eyebrows.  Fuck you.”

Of course it is completely possible she looks the way she does, and does the things to help herself look the way she does, because she likes it, because she chooses it consciously, thinks it’s fun, affirming, liberating, and so on.  And that’s all totally fine, totally acceptable, totally trans.  And when I dress the way I dress or choose not to “feminize” myself in the ways others think I should, I am also acting perfectly, acceptably, and totally, wonderfully trans.

So let’s get some things straight, because there are some things in the world that need to be straight, and these are a few of them:


1). There is no one way to be trans.

2). There is no right or wrong way to be trans.

3). Transgender folks are human beings just like everyone else.  We do not belong to any uncanny valleys.  Uncanny valleys are stupid.

4). There is no one way to be a woman, a man, or genderfluid, genderqueer, asexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, a child, a dog, a puppy, cat, whale, moose, tree, or sky.

5). There is no need for transgender policing in the transgender community.


Those are eternal truths just as the number three will always and ever be a three.  A thousand years from now you can hold three pieces of stardust in your hands and they will still represent the number three. A thousand years from now the idea of uncanny valleys will still be stupid.

A penis is most commonly found on “men.”  A vulva most commonly found on “women.”  But that doesn’t mean they are the only places for those organs to be found, and further more they do not define the gender of a human being any more than an arm, leg, nose, liver, or knee cap does.  I am a woman with a penis.  And I don’t like wearing makeup very much.  And further-further more, I just divulged a very personal bit of information about myself because I chose to.  In actuality, what anyone has or does not have in their pants, skirt, spacesuit, etc. is none of your business, and if you think it is, then perhaps the idea of the uncanny valley IS valid because it would then apply to you.

I am a transwoman with fluffy eyebrows.  I am a transwoman who still likes her voice.  I am a transperson who doesn’t believe in “dead names.”  And I am still perfectly, wonderfully a number three, a person, a transperson, a woman who just so happens to be powerful, creative, and full of life.  I am a person who just so happens to be fed up with the policing that goes on in some trans communities.  A person who cares deeply about the young transfolk coming up behind us.

They need to be accepted completely and fully for who they are and how they want or need to express themselves.  They need us.  They need us strong, together, and smart.  They need us to have their backs.  They need us to look in the mirror and at one another, and at THEM, and see love—pure and simple expressions of infinite variety.


me again 2







Rejoice in the Body Positive, A Spoken Word Poem, by Jennifer Angelina Petro

Rejoice in the Body Positive
A Spoken Word Poem
Jennifer Angelina Petro



sassy me
I do not wear makeup to cover him,
I wear make up to honor her.
My makeup isn’t done on a walking cadaver,
My makeup is done on a living, breathing, woman.
I do not wear makeup to impress you or to make you think that I need it to be beautiful–
I am beautiful and I choose to wear makeup because it’s fun—
It’s part of my life I never got to explore
Until now
And it’s fun. I get to be a teenager in a way I never was able to until now,
And I love it. My body is a canvas to play upon.
And I rejoice in the body positive.
I do not wear makeup or shave my face or legs or chest to conform
To anyone’s misguided standards of what it is to be a woman,
I do these things because I like to—I love the smooth feeling of newly shaved legs,
I love to run my hands over my hairless breasts,
I love a smooth face—much easier for makeup application—but don’t think
For a second I do any of this for you, or to pretend to be a her that I’m not,
I do not do this to hide him–
He, like it or not, is still with me. He
Is my most faithful friend.
I do not hate him—
He is alive and well, informing this beauty with all he’s got,
And yes, this beauty is mine. And I rejoice in the body positive.
This hair on my face, chest, legs, arms—it’s all there
For a reason. He did not sprout it to torture me, and I refuse to be laden
With the damp shawls of self-hate any longer. I rejoice in the body positive.
This form, this face—it’s all me—so what it may not
Blurt out “woman” to your ideas of what a woman is or should be—this beauty is mine,
This body is mine and, much to the chagrin of those scared radical femmes,
It is every bit a woman as theirs’.
So what if my life as a woman disturbs you, or my weight or my shoulders,
My big hands or my jowls—this beauty is mine,
I cannot stop you from living in your lies of how a woman should look or dress or shave,
This beauty is mine—these hands, this face, these breasts—
This beauty is mine–
And I rejoice in the body positive
For hairy women rock—all women rock.
I shave out of choice not enslavement to you—not to tame the wildness–
And some days I don’t shave, some days I do not wear makeup
And the world does not come to an end.
I do not shave or wear makeup to hide the earthiness of the body.
I do not do these things to hide the way I was born.
I do them out of my own sense of myself and how I want to look.
If I grow a fucking beard again, it would in no way negate
My womanhood. This is the body I have. I could fight it,
Hate it, and condemn myself to death while still living in it,
And for what?
Today I choose to rejoice in the body positive—
These breasts, this penis, these hairs on my arms, this heart—it’s all beautiful—
And if I want to shave I shave, if I wear makeup I wear makeup,
If I wear a dress that flows like liquid wind
Or jeans and a t-shirt—–it needn’t matter to you—
I rejoice in the body positive—and send the joy of who I am
Resounding through the mindless traditions—-shattering the paradigms of what beauty is
Of what womanhood is, of what manhood is—-Come! Let’s tear off all the hoods—
And rejoice in the body positive.
Gendered clothing, facial hair,
Makeup, body parts—it’s all preposterously silly—
Free the nipple, free the vagina, free the penis,
Free the chub, free the skin and bone model starving to death,
Free it all from the constraints of fear-based, shame-based, hate-based,
Lie-based, money-based, lust-based, greed-based, power-based,
Ignorant-based, bigoted-based, false-masculine-based, false-feminine-based,
Deep shadow-based BULLSHIT—
And yes, the world will come crashing down—so be it–
Sometimes the temple needs to be destroyed
So that a real sanctuary can be built—a sanctuary for all bodies,
All genders, all colors of the rainbow and the darkness, the brilliance,
The whispered hymns and the shouted choruses, a place where love reigns
And hands explore and hearts make room, and minds open
For the fresh winds of freedom to blow through–
Come build with me.
Come celebrate the body positive,
Come love who you are and change what you want,
Come love who you are and change nothing at all,
Come love who you are and let go of the world’s expectations
Of who you should be or what you should say—let freedom ring,
And rejoice in the body positive,
Come love who you are and love one another,
Let’s dance or keep still, whatever we need,
Whatever we choose, let’s do it all with ferocious kindness,
And rejoice in the body positive.



All donations go to furthering my transition.  Thank you.  <3