There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.
Enough is enough.
First of all, don’t panic, I’m not detransitioning; I’ve just got something to say.
For a long time now, the subject of detransitioning has weighed heavily on me. It started several years ago when I met a detransitioned man who we will call Ken for the purposes of this article. Ken was a former transwoman who had detransitioned several months before I met him. He had been deeply traumatized by the experience and was desperately seeking a pathway to healing.
It wasn’t so much detransitioning itself that had left Ken with trauma, it was the conditions leading up to and following his detransition that had harmed him. Ken was told by local trans peers that he was “not the right kind of trans” by the TrueTrans™ crowd, primarily because he transitioned after 30. As a person who had endured dysphoria his entire life leading up to transition, Ken knew those accusations were nonsense and kept on battling his dysphoria alone.
Ostracized and isolated, Ken came to the decision that he would be better off in life by detransitioning to reclaim his male identity. Knowing that his dysphoria would return with its full intensity and dreading the moment testosterone would take control of his body again, Ken came out to tell the world, “I am detransitioning,” and then the floodgates opened. Ken endured a torrent of hateful, vitriolic rhetoric from the LGBT community he had once viewed as nothing but friends and allies, who did everything within their power to invalidate Ken and distance themselves from him.
When I met Ken some months later, he was anguished and desperate to have his story heard. So much so that he had become involved with a group of anti-trans activists who had taken him under his wing and who were grooming him to amplify his anger for the community who had disparaged him. His anger was so tangible that I honestly thought he couldn’t possibly be a real trans person, “Must be another sock account,” I assumed wrongly, completely unaware at the time of how nasty that trans/LGBT groups could treat detransitioners.
Thankfully, I realized my mistake before any harm was done, and Ken and I became friends. I keep a regular habit of checking my assumptions, and in this case I’d never been so glad that I did. Through our friendship, he was able to find some small amount of peace that the trans community at large had not afforded him and and not long after, cut his ties with the aforementioned anti-trans activists and set out to live his own life, vowing to avoid drawing any further attention to himself or the injustices that burdened him.
Ken deserves that peace, but I can’t live with injustice like that in the world. His story is not unique. It reflects the experience of almost every detransitioner I’ve since had the pleasure of meeting. Trans people and allies have it in their heads that there are particular types of people who simply are trans, and there are types who are not. Detransitioners are thought to be the types who are not, and excluded from the trans community.
What a bunch of TERFs we have become.
We exclude, ostracize, and hate our own. We treat them like bigots, liars, and enemies.
Selfishly, we fear them, terrified that it might mean we’ll be in their shoes one day. Little could be more transphobic.
Obviously I’m being hyperbolic here as not every trans person/ally reacts this way to detransitioners, but if these assertions turned your stomach, good. They should. That is the point. I am describing everything we should not want to become and I can only hope that it will help instill the desire to be better and call out this kind of trash wherever we see it.
When someone comes out to let the world know they are detransitioning, the response from trans people and allies should invariably be affirmative and supportive. They are embarking on one of the most difficult journeys of their entire lives. It should be no different whatsoever from the reaction to someone coming out as trans to begin with, because detransition is just another one of life’s many transitions, and it’s just as difficult, if not more so than transitioning in the first place. I would dare call it “stunning and brave” but that phrase wore out its welcome in my vocabulary ages ago.
As troublesome as these reactionary attitudes toward detransitioners are on their own, this issue runs far more deeply than them. This strikes directly in the hearts of political correctness and social justice activism. It is politically correct to assume that detransitioners are indeed not trans and the response from social justice activists is to bury their heads in the sand and hope no one notices they exist. Meanwhile, they get little to no social support, there is no one advocating for their rights, research into detransitioning is stifled, and too few seem to actually care that one of the most at-risk groups of people in the world is suffering.
I have no intent to detransition, but if I ever were to, I would so desperately need support and validation from my friends and family. I’d need trained mental and physical health professionals who are fully equipped to help me through the process. I’d need legislation in place to make the legal processes of reclaiming male identity as painless as possible. I’d need support groups, crisis lines, shelters, etc. with resources available for to help me.
And I would get none of it.
It’s time for change; for justice; for the LGBT community and its allies to prune the toxic blooms that are growing out of our prejudice, before it rots us out and leaves us hollow.
Of life on the edge.
I’ve recently learned that my dad isn’t my biological father.
Before he married my mom, he’d had a vasectomy. They tried to reverse it but the attempts were unsuccessful. Still, they wanted a child and my mom was determined to carry one into the world. Thus, they opted for a donor.
I’m 35 years old and just now hearing the news.
There are so many complex thoughts and emotions brewing in me. This revelation feels so incredibly important, but meaningless at the same time.
On one hand, this changes nothing.
My parents are still my parents. I love them with all my heart. I don’t blame them for not telling me. I understand completely why they didn’t. They raised me as their own to the best of their ability and provided me a great foundation for opportunity in life. My dad broke his body working in factories for more than half his life to keep our family afloat. Carrying that sort of burden is what makes a man a father, not DNA.
On the other hand, this changes everything.
It feels like there’s this whole strange, new half of me that I never knew existed, that was buried away in my DNA. I have a completely different biological makeup than I’d previously understood. The man whose DNA I share is a doctor. An incredibly healthy one no less. Risks that I’ve feared my entire life from my dad’s side of the family are no longer things I need to worry as much about. Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and more. My dad endured a heart attack at around my current age. I’d feared for so long that the same might be likely for me.
I now also know that I have siblings living all across the United States. Many of whom have kids of their own. I’m an auntie to at least five!
Two half-sisters have already contacted me through 23andMe, one of whom found all this out when she was 15 and set about doing all the legwork for the rest of us. She’s spent years seeking out the donor and our siblings. I’m so grateful to her for being so informative for me in this time of need. She told me his name, all about his history of endocrinology practice all over the country, his current location, health status, family life, everything I could hope for and more!
If I had learned all this but had nothing to go on, I’d feel so much more lost. Knowing his name and being able to learn so much about him and our genetic family so quickly has been such a blessing.
All at once, those new thoughts and emotions exist within me. A new, very deep well from which to draw life experience and inspiration from is here and I’m eager to dive into it, but at the same time terrified to. Right now, I really can’t know how this knowledge might change me.
I’m going through something a lot like a grieving process. My old self has died and there’s a whole new me here now. Who am I? I’m not entirely sure I know yet. But then again, I’m not entirely sure any of us ever knows the answer to that question.
I’m feeling very… between right now.
And that brings me to the broader topic I’d like to discuss today.
Liminality is a concept I have recently been grappling with.
The term has its roots in anthropology. It refers to the period following a rite of passage, during which one may have completed their rite and should, by all rights, be changed through the experience. But they exist in a state of betweenness, in which they struggle with the idea that they themselves have actually changed and society shares the same struggle in accepting them within their newly acquired role.
A good modern example of this might be the time following completion of a degree but prior to settling into one’s career in that field. Your rite of passage is complete, but yet the sense that any passage has actually been complete is liminal.
It’s like living on an edge. Split between your past and future selves.
Liminality is an aspect to life all humans endure. It’s a part of the human condition, there’s no doubt, but it’s an aspect to humanity that I find especially prevalent with regard to trans people.
Transitioning is interesting to think about in terms of liminality and rites of passage. The intent of our rite of passage is to change our sex from male-to-female or female-to-male, but given current technology, sex is immutable. Some sex traits are mutable, no doubt, but sex itself remains unchanged. Thus, our rite of passage can be thought of as incomplete. Moving from one state to the other is impossible for us. All that completing our rite of passage can possibly allow for us existence within a constant state of liminality.
We transfolk live on the edge, existing in a liminal reality every moment of our lives following transition. The idea that a transman is male or a transwoman is female is something that exists only in verisimilitude. When I’m seen by others and interpreted to be female, their conceptualization of me has the appearance of being true, but appearances can be deceiving.
While it’s possible for most anyone to slip in and out of liminal states, once we transition and slip into ours, the only way out is detransition. I’d happily choose intrinsic liminality over existence as a man any day.
This intrinsic, ever-present liminality is a huge part of what defines us as transwomen/transmen and makes us distinct from both men and women. It’s a burden we must carry as trans people. Those who are not can come to carry similar burdens following various rites of passage, but living on the edge is not intrinsic to their existence as it is to ours. For them, the edge is escapable. They can return from it to center themselves in reality with time and effort. For us, escape would only mean falling into the void. The edge is all we have.
So now, as I stand on the edge of this new well of experience and peer down into its darkness, I’m both terrified and excited to take the plunge and see where this new passage takes me.
I’ll see you all on the other side.
An exploration of gatekeeping practices in the trans community.
Every group of people has its gatekeepers.
In some groups, gatekeeping is necessary. For instance, we would never trust our political leaders if they were people who simply stepped up and walked into their positions. We accept them (or at least deal with them) because we gatekeep them through our political processes. Voting, or political gatekeeping, enables us to choose candidates at least somewhat democratically.
Gatekeeping in the trans community is also necessary, but for very different reasons. But what are the gates being kept, and whose place is it to keep them?
Often, members of the trans community choose to take this responsibility on themselves and position themselves as the gatekeeper. Such people are often labeled “TruScum”, “bigot”, or “TERF” given the exclusionary nature of such practices, and it is commonly correct to apply these terms to them, but I’ve been called all of the above and worse myself for maintaining that gates should be kept at all.
In my view, it isn’t our place as members of the trans community to keep the gates of our community policed. That right belongs to the medical and psychological practitioners who take us on as patients and work with us toward diagnosis and treatment. Our engagement with them is deeply important to ensure our mental and physical health as we move toward transition and undergo treatment. These individuals are the only ones who should be granted the power to police our gates. As members of the trans community, our role should be at most to constructively criticize those who avoid the gates and help them access proper care.
I’ve mentioned diagnosis above, only in that it is commonly part of our trajectory through the process. Personally, I don’t believe diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria / Gender Incongruence should be required to access treatment, though I would support a mental health evaluation as part of the requirement, provided we could be granted guaranteed access to it, no matter our social or financial circumstances.
Processes and care channels for transition vary by location. When I first transitioned, 3 months of therapy was required leading up to diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria. Once diagnosed, I was recommended on to a doctor who physically examined me and informed me on the medication for my treatment. At any point in this process, anyone can legally change their name, as I did at the very beginning. However, when it came to my gender marker, a surgical requirement barred me from legal recognition as female. For many years, this was detrimental to my well being. I’m a pre-operative transwoman, meaning that I’ve not yet had sex reassignment / gender affirmation surgery. It’s a procedure I desperately need, but have been unable to have due to health and financial complications preventing me from it. It’s something I can get one day, but there’s a long road toward it ahead of me still.
Thankfully, my state changed the law to accommodate people like myself. Now, the way it works is that the onus for gatekeeping is removed from surgical procedure and instead is placed on the medical professionals monitoring our hormone treatments. I approve of this system because it encourages us toward proper care channels without being too much of a burden; also because medical professionals are in the best position to make the judgement call as to whether or not we should be legally recognized and being that they must stick their necks out on our behalf keeps them accountable and serious in the endeavor.
Engagement with a system like this is good for both us and for society. My state has not once to my knowledge seen an incident of abuse of our systems. And given the availability and affordability of care here, even the most underprivileged are rarely unduly burdened by the ways our gates are kept. It is fair, balanced, and promotes safety and security for everyone.
Self-ID has become a big topic around the world, recently, with the UK debating implementation of the policy and other countries, such as parts of the US, Canada, Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, and a few others have already done so. For the uninitiated, self-ID effectively overrides systems like the legitimizing pathway to legal recognition in my state, in favor of legal recognition on the basis of self-declaration alone. Meaning, one could change their gender marker on their birth certificates/government ID at will.
It’s argued that self-ID will benefit poor/underprivileged trans people by removing the burdens of requiring engagement with established care channels like the ones I’ve been through. I have so many issues with this, it’s hard to decide where to begin. There is great potential for abuse of these laws and rights conflicts over sex-based rights that radical feminists have been rallying against. I won’t touch deeply on these concerns and will let those feminists speak for themselves. My main concerns are self-ID’s trans-centric effects.
First of all, it would remove the layer of accountability I described that currently exists between doctors and patients in my state. With this layer of accountability removed, doctors will have less incentive to provide us with the highest possible quality of care. This could allow professionals to let other conditions presenting as dysphoria (i.e. schizophrenia, psychosis, PTSD) or comorbid conditions to slip through the gates unaddressed. It would also detract from the process of legitimization earned via our caregivers’ gatekeeping, making society at large less stable and secure. Stability and security are ensured in our current systems via this gatekeeping by the accountability of medical professionals, who ascertain that we ourselves are stable, secure, and dedicated to transition.
Self-ID would also enable transfolk to self-medicate indefinitely. Many are not aware, but it is possible to purchase hormones via black markets and medically transition without the involvement of medical professionals at all. I find this concept of indefinite self-medication highly dangerous for trans people. Hormone replacement therapy is not idiot-proof, and without proper monitoring of hormone levels and dosages, one can develop liver disease, cardiovascular diseases such as DVT, etc., it is excessively easy to destroy your body if you don’t know what you’re doing. Self-ID seems to encourage this behavior. Another worry I have that springs forth from this line of thinking is that self-ID might lead to lowering in the demand for proper care, as indefinite self-medication becomes more feasible.
If demand for proper care channels decreases, incentive to improve those care channels will also decline. This should be the opposite of our goals. Poor/underprivileged trans people’s main issue comes from inaffordability and inaccessibility of proper care. If we are to solve that problem and meet their unanswered demand, we need incentives to increase the breadth of availability of care and design systems to help individuals in need with accessing and affording them. This is the true solution to this problem that our governments are ignoring. Self-ID is just a bone they are throwing to us in hopes we will be satisfied and ignore the actual problem.
The actual problem is far bigger than just poor/underprivileged trans people and no one seems to want to talk about that in this debate. Poor/underprivileged people die every day due to inability to access and/or afford proper care. The trans community is just a tiny fraction of the population who suffers from this social injustice.
Many trans people like myself who have been through these processes and find value in our current systems have begun to speak out against self-ID. This conflict is at the peak of trends in certain spheres of trans activism that have culminated with the splitting of our community.
On one side, we have the new wave of activists pushing a very identity-based narrative that effectively calls for rejection of the idea there is a biological underpinning to what trans people are and that instead, gender is entirely about one’s internal sense of identity. This side would tell you that anyone who wants to be trans is, and that transition is a choice.
On the other side, we have those who understand being trans is a condition with a biological underpinning that one is born with that brings with it undeniable biological imperatives. This side would tell you that only those who are diagnosed with the condition are actually trans and that we are born this way.
The truth is likely somewhere between the two.
It’s difficult to say exactly where, but unless we address this growing divide in discourse with one another, I feel as though this is going to rip the trans community apart.
Personally, my views align more with the thinking we are born with a condition. However, I think that it’s a condition that exists on a wide spectrum, as all human conditions do. It manifests in different ways in different bodies. Biological imperatives may vary from trans person to trans person. Most of us suffer from a full body dysphoria, that drives us to binary transitions. Others suffer from partial body dysphoria, and may only need to transition to certain degrees such as in the case of some non-binary trans people and some non-op binary trans people. Others still experience social dysphoria, which is born primarily of the distress of existing as a man/woman in society. And let’s not forget the group that claims to have no dysphoria at all.
I think that when transfolk say they don’t have dysphoria, they mean many different things, but very few of those is actually, “I am perfectly comfortable living with my birth sex.” More often than not, such people actually do have the same condition but maybe have lived life in such a way that they’ve avoided suffering from dysphoria or perhaps they *do* experience it but genuinely don’t experience it the same way as others, or simply don’t understand it in the same way others do.
You’ll find in this internal debate that there are a great many opinions within the trans community on what constitutes a trans person. Some will say that we should blindly accept everyone. Others would say we should maintain restrictive criteria to use in judging who to accept and who to reject. Both sides make good points.
On one hand, if we accept everyone on blind faith, we open the door to those who will use that to manipulate us. There are MANY bad people out there who appropriate either trans identities or trans activism for personal/political/financial gain. With no barriers protecting ourselves from them, we are susceptible to subversion by such people. We are forced to accept them as fellow trans people/allies without questioning their motives.
On the other hand, the need for gatekeeping in our community is obvious, given the pitfalls of the aforementioned view.
Earlier in this article, I already gave my opinions on who the gatekeepers are and where/how the gates should be kept, by accountable psychological and medical professional evaluation. The remainder of this article is going to examine why community-driven gatekeeping attempts fail spectacularly.
In order to become a gatekeeper of the trans community, one first needs criteria by which to judge other trans people.
Typical criteria involves things such as sexuality, age of transition, ability to pass, operation status/desire, personal history, etc.
The criteria for a TrueTranswoman™ will commonly look something like this:
- Androphillic, exclusively attracted to males
- Medically transitioned before the age of 25
- Passes as a woman organically
- Has had sex reassignment surgery or a clear need for SRS
- Gender non-conforming/feminine prior to transition
- Gender conforming and highly feminine post-transition
- Dysphoria began in childhood and persisted through adulthood
- Never had children
If one doesn’t meet this criteria, they are labeled as “pseudo-transsexual” or “transtrender” and shunned by some who follow this criteria.
The key word here is “some” because not every trans person who follows this TrueTrans™ ideology follows this same criteria.
If you ask anyone following this ideology what their criteria is, they might give the above set, or offer something similar with slight variance. Where might you think the difference between their criteria comes from?
If you guessed “themselves” you are correct.
TrueTrans™ people design the criteria used for their own merit-based gatekeeping systems just right to include themselves. If someone transitioned at 28, they might say 30, instead of 25 is the age limit. If they are gynephillic, meaning exclusively attracted to females, they might nix the sexuality requirement entirely. If they were not gender non-conforming pre-transition or are still non-conforming post-transition, they might abstain from that criteria. And so on, with ever-moving goalposts.
Underlying TrueTrans™ ideology, there seems to also invariably exist another layer intended to police trans people based entirely on behavioral mechanisms and like-mindedness. Any time a trans person might advocate something a TrueTrans™ person disagrees with, or behaves in such a way that doesn’t conform to “proper” trans behavior, these will also be used as demerits.
Earn enough demerits based on any given criteria, and you are not TrueTrans™. You are a psuedo-transsexual. A transtrender. Part of some #transcult incursion against true transsexuals.
As I hope is already apparent, TrueTrans™ ideology is flawed.
The inevitable end to this way of thinking, is that the beholder of TrueTrans™ ideology is the only true transsexual. If you dig deeply enough into each and every one of us, you will invariably find criteria by which to exclude us all.
I believe that the majority of those who adopt TrueTrans™ ideology have a pathological need for validation that is satisfied by the ideology. This need can come from many sources, but most commonly it seems to be adopted by individuals who live isolated lives and struggle against oppressive forces that degrade their sense of agency, or control over themselves as they exist in their reality.
By posturing themselves as a true transsexual and disparaging others who don’t fit their criteria, they receive a dose of self-validation. After disparaging another trans person, they might experience a sense of euphoria, or garner some sense of control over agency. But, these feelings are only temporary, and they always need another fix.
To be fair to those who do follow TrueTrans™ ideology, not all of them are this deranged. Many do follow this way of thinking with purity of intent. They intend their actions as a gatekeeper to have a positive effect over the trans community and society at large, but so often their methods and/or motives are terribly flawed.
So, what do you think? Which way of thinking is better? TrueTrans™ ideology, or blindly accepting all people claiming to be trans legitimately are?
There isn’t a good answer to this question as far as I can tell other than recognizing that gatekeeping, while important to the trans community and society at large, is not our place. That onus is, and should remain, on the professionals who work with us in transitionary care channels. If an individual has not engaged with those care channels, they should be criticized, but constructively, in ways that might help direct them toward or assist them with accessing proper care. If an individual has engaged with those care channels but you still believe they aren’t TrueTrans™, then recognize that they are not your enemy. They are victims. Victims of a professional who should be held accountable for not providing them with proper care.
Roving around through trans communities in TrueTrans™ attack packs to assault and harass trans people who don’t fit one set of TrueTrans™ criteria or another does no one any good. For every actual fake such groups might successfully exclude from the community, they hurt two more who are genuine.
This is obviously a deeply complex and nuanced issue. I am aware that my views have flaws too, but as far as I can tell, they are the best way forward. As always though, I am open-minded and eager to hear my readers’ opinions.
If you have any thoughts, especially with regard to how we should handle this issue moving forward, I would appreciate if you shared them in the comments below.
Thank you! ❤
Know all your enemies.
We know who our enemies are.
Let’s talk about bogeymen.
In mythology, bogeymen are known to be imaginary evil spirits and are commonly depicted frightening children. They are the beast in your closet. The monster under your bed.
In reality, for many, they are everywhere.
We create them. We call others them.
They are social constructs.
In his 1919 novel Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson writes:
“At his desk the writer worked for an hour. In the end he wrote a book which he called “The Book of the Grotesque.” It was never published, but I saw it once and it made an indelible impression on my mind. The book had one central thought that is very strange and has always remained with me. By remembering it I have been able to understand many people and things that I was never able to understand before.The thought was involved but a simple statement of it would be something like this:
That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful.
The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of them. There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon.
Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful.
And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.
It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.”
These grotesques Anderson describes are, in essence, what I understand to be bogeymen manifesting in reality. They are released into the world via our own perceptions, by embracing the false notion that we are capable of perceiving truth and claiming it as our own.
When one embraces such truths as their truth and uses them to build a monolithic representations of groups of people, bogeymen are born.
Racists fear bogeymen of other races. Sexists fear bogeymen of other sexes. Homophobes and transphobes fear LGBT bogeymen. Conservatives fear liberal bogeymen. Liberals fear conservative bogeymen. Xenophobes fear immigrant bogeymen. These are direct manifestations of our tribal psyches.
We trans people have a particular breed of bogeyman that we call “TERF”.
TERF, as I’ve written about in a similar article stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. TERFs are perceived to be a real, organized extremist group of anti-trans activists. They seek to erase access to medical care and expunge accommodations granted to us by our societies for our safety and protection. But not everyone with questions and concerns over trans people or movements in trans activism is such a bogeyman. The TERF label is often applied to avoid difficult discussion and what might otherwise be reasonable discourse.
Anti-trans activists, and primarily TERFs, have their own bogeyman. They call it the transcult. The transcult is perceived to be a real, organized extremist group of pro-trans activists. They are misogynists who seek to harm women and erase them from society. They prioritize the needs of trans people and punch sideways (never upward) in their activism, at primarily vulnerable groups of women with reasonable concerns over our movements. But not every ally to trans people is such a bogeyman. The transcult label is often applied to avoid difficult discussion and what might otherwise be reasonable discourse.
I have a long history of speaking out against activists calling people TERFs and/or pushing any other divisive or inciteful rhetoric. It’s important to label the problem. It’s important to identify the group and those who do belong to it. It’s not appropriate to employ the term as an aspersion against individuals.
In my own activism and advocacy, I seek out those who have questions and concerns over us. I engage in difficult discussions with them and through them, work to build bridges to common ground where we can constructively address the issues they have. I’ve had so many wonderful conversations with such people and I find that once we clear the air of toxicity, it is excessively easy to do so.
But clearing the air of toxicity is no easy task in our current political environment. There’s simply too many bogeymen running around. The air is so toxic that it affects the perceptions of those I engage in discourse with. They pre-conceive that I am a member of the transcult. That I am a sexist. A rapist. A narcissist. Deluded. Mentally ill. Misogynistic. All qualities ascribed to the transcult bogeyman.
I’m used to it. I’ve been breathing the toxic air of our politics for a very long time now. It doesn’t skew my perceptions anymore. Where so many others seem to see bogeymen running amok, keeping the world constantly on fire, I see people with differing philosophies, doing what they can to put those fires out.
There’s my take, now you might be asking yourself, “So what?”
So we need to expunge trans activism of bogeymen.
If you are a non-trans ally in activism who makes a habit of not engaging with others in good faith and instead just call them names, label them with aspersions, or stir hateful or inciteful rhetoric into the discourse, your voice is no longer welcome as far as I am concerned.
Try to see this from my perspective as a trans person who works to build bridges with those who hate us. For every bridge I build, you burn two more. Your rhetoric adds nothing of value to the discourse, and when taken out of context is used to socially construct the transcult bogeyman I am mistaken for every day of my life. I’m forced to live with the consequences of your actions every waking moment. You are not.
By no means is this to say that our allies don’t have my support. They do. Many are wonderful and nothing but constructive. The sort I take issue with are destructive. They detour us from engaging in difficult and important conversations, spewing toxicity into the air that does nothing but create more bogeymen.
If you aren’t convinced, look at it this way:
If a TERF is attacking you, pushing divisive & hateful rhetoric, they are making themself look like a fool and fueling the fires against their own cause. I don’t care what they say. I say let it be. Let their hate speak for itself. Don’t retaliate with backlash. Any time you reach a point where you can no longer engage in good faith, simply don’t. Let it stand, block/mute them, and move on with your life. Don’t sink to their level.
The moment you lash back is the moment bogeymen are born. Any venom you spew back at them can and will be taken out of context to fuel the fires of hatred against us and your attacks only strengthen their resolve, further cementing the idea of the transcult bogeyman into their brains. It adds nothing whatsoever of value to the discourse. All it does is make us look bad.
In our activism and advocacy, we need to get back to the heart of the matter. We need to overcome this tribal mentality and stop demonizing the other tribes. Instead, we should be uplifting and celebrating our own tribe, while using positivity to engage in good faith with other tribes, and showing them all the good we have to offer the world.
There’s so much we need to do. So much work that needs done. So many trans people living in pain, distress, poverty, isolation, etc. and all the reductive, divisive, inciteful, hateful rhetoric coming from our side of the discourse is only distracting us from meeting those ends.
Please consider the impacts of your activism on the big picture and to borrow a metaphor from one of our most well known detractors, clean your room.
What is “passing” exactly?
Most people have at least a vague concept of what passing means in reference to trans people. If you ask one of us, we’ll describe a myriad of meanings, as passing means something different to each of us based on our personal experiences with the act.
If you listen to many of our stories, a common theme will most certainly emerge that looks something like this:
Passing is a euphoric refuge from a dysphoric experience in a transphobic world.
It allows us to let our guard down and enjoy simply being ourselves, fully equipped with the privilege of being interpreted as male or female when we are in fact transsexual, which allows us freedom of societal mobility and safety from the forces that would disparage us if we were recognized as trans.
That’s the unfortunate state of things for transfolk. We lead a quite frankly terrifying existence which is very often dependent on passing. We are forced into strict gender conformity, the likes of which I haven’t seen imposed since the 1950s. If we stray from it, we risk losing our ability to pass, which can have devastating consequences for us. This goes for transmen and transwomen alike, though the box women are expected to fit into is decisively smaller and more restrictive than that of men.
Our critics might tell us that we are reinforcing an oppressive system by adhering to these standards and attempting to pass, but what needs to be understood is that it’s something we tend toward in order to survive within said system. It’s the same for all people, trans or not. We all tend to adhere to our prescribed standards in order to survive in our societal systems around the world. Challenging them, for most any of us, can be dangerous. We could lose our livelihood. Our social support structures could collapse. Our families and friends could abandon us.
Why? Just because we’ve decided to dress differently or live our lives in a way more appealing to us?
Why do we put so much importance on these prescribed standards in our existences? I’m not going to claim to have any answers. This question is far bigger than me, but I do think it’s an important question to ask. At the very least, I think we all need to examine the qualities of these standards and be willing to challenge them in our daily lives, especially where they intersect with freedom of mobility and equality of opportunity.
Passing should not be a prerequisite to our freedoms, rights, or privileges. We should all be allowed to express ourselves, free from disparagement for methods of expression we might find suitable to ourselves in our embodied lives.
What if we could live in a world free from transphobia, where being trans weren’t something we need to hide?
My particular corner of the world has been kind to me. I’ve not encountered much, if any transphobia in my life. I pass well and am lucky to live in a largely trans-friendly community. I’m out in all aspects of my life. My family knows. Everyone I’m friends with knows. My coworkers know. It’s become something I feel comfortable with being and sharing with others in my life.
It wasn’t always that way for me though.
I was born in Mike Pence’s hometown. If you know anything at all about the man, understand that his hometown is very much like him. The majority are conservative, Christian, and love America. The sort of people who listen to country music. Radio stations blared Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless America” every Independence Day. Nice folks, mostly.
But they don’t tend to like change.
Transitioning there was terrifying. Between circumstances where I lived and deep concerns over how my family would react, I didn’t come out much until I was 28 when I finally allowed myself to begin Hormone Replacement Therapy. Only my most trusted friends and partners knew I intended to transition.
To my surprise, everyone in my life accepted me, and living as a trans woman was easy because I passed well. I can only imagine how different my life might have been if I hadn’t been able to. It’s granted me so much privilege.
I had the privilege to allow the fact I am trans to disappear and live free from fear of the kind of discrimination transfolk face every day.
And I did.
For around 5 years, only those I had known prior to transition actually knew I was trans. In my day to day life, I was interpreted in the same way as every other woman. When I started the job that led me to my current career, I never came out. No one I worked with knew for several years. We’ll come back to this later.
Being a woman of course came with its own pitfalls and perils. I’ve been a survivor of a constant stream of misogyny, sexual assault, manipulation, discrimination, etc. I’ve been terribly unlucky.
But at least I wasn’t seen as trans for most of it.
Passing was never not important in my mind.
Even when I’d speak out as a trans woman in real life or on social media, I would insist I was a woman and engage in completely pointless arguments with others over it.
“Trans women are men,” cried anti-trans activists.
“Trans women are women,” we cried back, as the phrase became my mantra.
My invocations of this mantra were less a response to the assertion I was a man, and more a desperate effort to pass on a completely different level.
Being trans didn’t matter much to my real life. As I said, in my daily life I was just a woman. And I wanted it to not matter in any context. I wanted the fact I am trans to disappear into the fact I was read as a woman. I rejected my own complex reality as a trans woman and instead opted to erase the idea the word “trans” carried any meaning that I saw as potentially invalidating my womanhood. It was a point I was completely unwilling to capitulate. It was as important to me as passing itself.
I would make arguments such as, “Trans women and tall women are both women,” as if “tall” carried a similar meaning to “trans”.
But in the case of both trans women and tall women, tall women are still tall, and trans women are still trans. Being trans is as inescapable for me as being tall might be for a tall woman.
Trans, I realized, was something I could never not be, rage against my own biology and societal resistance to the idea as I might.
The inevitable conclusion for me was acceptance that trans women, are in fact, transwomen. Once I accepted this truth, doorways opened for me that allowed me to see and appreciate the truly complex reality of my embodied life. The truth was simultaneously beautiful and terribly ugly. I’ve become so much more sensitive to the concerns of others when my complex reality intersects and interplays with their own.
Some of my trans friends and allies have expressed concern for me over my change in attitude, but I can assure everyone my head has never been more clear. As I’ve explained, it’s been a long road for me coming to acceptance of myself as a trans woman, and it feels wonderful to take pride in the fact I am exactly what I am.
My co-workers all know now that I’m trans, and the context under which I came out to them is very much part of my journey toward this newfound level of self-acceptance.
A little bit over a year ago, another co-worker of mine who works in a different area came out and transitioned. One night, co-workers in my area were talking about her and saying some very transphobic things.
It wasn’t easy, but as one co-worker was beginning to talk about his experiences with the one trans person he’s known in his life who rubbed him the wrong way, I interrupted and told him he in fact, knows two. His stunned silence spoke volumes.
I’ve come out in similar contexts to others I work with, and every time it has had overwhelmingly positive effects. Transphobia, at its heart, is a fear of change. People get used to people as they are, and then when they transition, it’s like that person they’ve known dies and something strange and new replaces them.
What my co-workers have realized about their own transphobia is exactly that. I’ve asked several, “Having known me as a woman for years, would it be equally as difficult for you to accept me if I detransitioned and became a man as it is for you to accept transitioning people you know?” The answer has been, “Yes.” in every instance.
My coming out and proudly telling others that I was, in fact, a transwoman completely washed away any transphobia that my co-workers might have held in their hearts.
One day, I would like to see all of society overcome transphobia, so we can all come to share a better, safer society.
Where visibly trans people and passing trans people can live with the same freedom of mobility and equality of opportunity.
Where transwomen can be transwomen and transmen can be transmen and live in relative peace with ourselves.
Where our lives, be we trans or not, no longer depend on passing.
A mix of prose and poetry describing psychological abuse and sexual assault. Not for the faint of heart.
The Bible is not meant to be read literally.
Nor is the title of this article.
This isn’t an article about the big red-horned fallen angel who supposedly hates God and rules over Hell.
Well, that’s a lie, it is.
But not literally.
This is an article about my own personal Satan.
In biblical sources, the Hebrew term satan describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as the sixth century B.C.E. occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity.
– Elaine Pagels, “The Origin of Satan,” 1995
It was then,
As I was a woman
All drawn out of shape,
That the Devil appeared
With its devlish smirk.
The Devil took me up by the mind
And told me its name
I’ve since forgotten it.
But I’ll never forget what it means.
The Devil came up from Kentucky.
I drove it here myself.
We met online.
We’d spent the several weeks previous texting and calling one another every day.
It was going so well.
I’d gone through a divorce about a year and a half prior and I finally felt ready to date again. I’d dated one other guy briefly. He was nice, but not for me. We’ve maintained a friendship at least.
This time, it felt right.
We met for lunch and then I drove him up tour my hometown.
All throughout the day, everything was perfect. We got along every bit as well in person as we had electronically.
I decided to invite him back to my place.
He sat down, legs spread in my easy chair.
And then, his shape changed.
He became something else.
Satan revealed itself to me.
It said it was in love
With another woman,
drawn in its shape.
No one could ever love me
But as a waif.
It brought me to
The other side of the veil.
Showed me the void,
and took me to Hell.
It wanted to be called “daddy”
and called me its whore.
If I was a good girl
Maybe I could be more
Maybe it would take me down
For a spin upon its cock
And maybe it would unravel me
From this knitted sock.
The Devil took my shape that day,
And twisted its already twisted form.
and twisted it more
And that’s the last thing I can tell you about that. The rest is one big blank I have ripped out of my mind. I honestly can’t tell you what followed.
I can only remember the terror of it.
Complete subversion. Total bewilderment. Utter disorientation.
What did I do? What choice did I have?
I like to think I stood up to it and overcame my adversary right then and there and threw it out of my house.
But I know that’s not what happened.
The nearest memory I have, I was driving again, on the road back to Kentucky.
The Devil’s shape wasn’t twisted anymore.
It was the same as before.
I thought about driving my car into the Ohio River.
The world would have been a better place if I did.
It haunted me for years after.
My mind was filled with monsters. The world was on fire.
Once you meet the Devil, it’s always with you.
It’ll never stop trying to rip you from Heaven and condemn you to Hell.
But, like any adversary, it can be overcome.
Like God, and like me, I hope you have angels to help if you ever meet it.
It was a long road to calling myself a survivor, but I’m lucky in that I had a very strong social support network in my life at the time. So many wonderful wounded women who had been through similar events helped me to overcome it.
They are all like sisters to me.
Their support taught me an important lesson. The devil can’t catch you if you’re smarter than it. And so that’s what I did, I became smarter than it. I poured myself into my work. I studied and worked harder than I’d ever known I was capable of and became crafty enough that the Devil couldn’t catch me anymore.
In a weird way, I’d like to thank the Devil.
I’m a much better person because of it.
But that would require forgiveness, and that’s not mine to give…
The devil almost had me fooled.
It knew the weaknesses of my shape
And exploited every one.
Its tricks twisted me
To its own twisted shape.
But I learned from its tricks
Some tricks of the trade.
I learned how to spin
To twist who I am
And I learned how to do it
Better than it
I learned how to shape
To be impenetrable by the Devil
I’ve cast from my Throne.
to eternal shaplessness.
It taught me to shape
And how to forget.
It taught me survival
And the pain of it.
It taught me forgiveness…
and the truth therein:
Sometimes, it’s best left to God.
I hope the Devil’s somewhere praying.
The Devil can arrive at any moment
You don’t always hear its chime
It will try to change your shape
It will try it every time
And sometimes, if you let it
While you’re not watching your shape
It will take and take and take from it
The foolish thing in all this is
This shape the Devil’s made of you
Is its own devilish shape
The only shape that matters is
The shape you make alone
The shape that you take with you
That pattern you follow
The shape you make is better
This shape is your own
It’s in the music you make
It’s in the sound of your voice
It tastes just like the taste of your tears
It’s woven into choice
It overcomes the worst you fear
It can bring your thoughts to cheer
It’s in the burden on your back
It’s the plan when you attack
It’s your guide
when nothing’s clear.
It’s written into the presence you have
And the way you make your way.
Next time Satan tries to twist it:
Overcome the meaning of its name.