RE: Transcult

An analysis of the trans community through the lens of Steven Hasan’s BITE Model.

Steven Hassan’s BITE (Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotion Control) model has become the standard tool used in analysis of groups perceived to be cults.

This article is going to explore the BITE model point-by-point and analyze what anti-trans activists have been known to call the Transcult.

Before we begin though, we should establish who exactly this group we’re examining actually is.

Immediately, we are met with a challenge in that there is no centralized leadership to this group, and depending on the person hurling the accusation, “transcult” could refer to the entire trans community, anyone who is trans, trans activists/orgs only, or perhaps only segments of any of the above populations. Considering that I have been labeled a member of the transcult and am even on @CultBlockerPro on twitter, a service which automatically blocks “trans cultists,” I must default to analyzing the trans community as a whole.

Behavior Control

Promote dependence and obedience

It would be fair to say the trans community does enforce obedience to some degree, but does not promote dependence. Many unspoken rules are set on ways which we must identify ourselves and one another. Simply calling yourself a transwoman (or heaven forbid, someone else) without the space or agreeing that trans people should be treated any differently than anyone else on the basis of their natal sex can earn you the community’s chagrin.

Modify behavior with rewards and punishments

I think we’re all familiar with the phrase, “stunning and brave” in reference to trans people, which goes to show how prevalent this system of reward actually is, though you’ll only hear things like this when transwomen are behaving appropriately by calling ourselves women. When we behave inappropriately, we are called things like “truscum”, “TERF”, “quisling”, “self-hating”, “deluded”, and/or accused of internalized transphobia as forms of punishment.

Dictate where and with whom you live

This point I’ve never seen any instances of, but I’d be interested to hear about it if anyone has.

Restrict or control sexuality

Toward its members, the trans community is very free when it comes to sexuality. The attitude that sexuality and gender are not linked in any way is very prevalent. In this regard, I’d say no, the trans community does not restrict or control sexuality of its members. However, how we communicate about it is restricted, for instance a transwoman could never openly identify as homosexual and date men without expecting some form of behavior modification, though identifying as homosexual and dating women would be perfectly fine.

Control clothing and hairstyle

Our clothing and hairstyle is controlled, to be sure, but I’d say that comes from society’s enforcement of gender rather than being enforced in any way within the trans community. Non-conformity is actually a lot more celebrated in our community than is perceived from the outside.

Regulate what and how much you eat and drink

Nope, definitely not.

Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep

Only through my own anxiety over the behavior of our community and activists who wave our flags around.

Exploit you financially

This isn’t something that the trans community as a whole does, but certainly pockets do, though far more often than not, this exploitation is for a good cause that goes to helping people in need, so I’d not even call it exploitation so much as empathy and sharing opportunity.

Restrict leisure time and activities

Nope, not at all. For several years following transition, I had nothing to do with the trans community at all and literally no one cared. I’d say there is a sense of urgency we all experience to speak out and have our voices heard in our movements, but there is no force compelling us to but our own drive to be seen an understood by the world.

Require you to seek permission for major decisions

In some fringe cases, this might be true, but on the whole, I’ve never experienced anything at all like this.

Information Control

Deliberately withhold and distort information

There are certain things the trans community certainly doesn’t like being talked about. Among them being detransition, desistence, typology, questions over the handling of our rights, and anything that makes us seem different/other compared to anyone opposite our natal sex. For the most part though, I’d not call what I see deliberate withholding/distortion so much as just many trans people/activists quite honestly not being very well educated on these difficult topics. I’d advise exercising patience when it comes to talking about these things. Have some empathy and try to build understanding. These things are important to talk about, but very difficult for us, for what I would hope are obvious reasons.

Forbid you from speaking with ex-members and critics

This ties in well with the previous point. Yes, this does happen with regard to ex-members too often, which I’m sad to say leaves them ostracized. I’d say we need to be there for them and support them. They’re still part of our community and deserve our respect and support in what’s probably the most difficult time in their entire lives. Myself and many others would like to see this change. These are all community dynamics though, and not enforced by any centralized authority, they just tend to happen, therefore I’d say not very cult-like. As for critics– there’s much debate over this. Equal numbers would say our critics should be engaged with so we can build bridges to understanding with them as would say they should *not* be engaged with and all bridges should be burned. C’est la vie? Not a cult.

Discourage access to non-cult sources of information

This one’s fair to say does happen, in line with the previous two points, though again I maintain that it follows since these are all issues based in community dynamics and difficulties handling self-critique and does not come from any top-down directive or anything of the sort, it’s hard to make a fair argument this is cult-like.

Divide information into Insider vs. Outsider doctrine

This is a clear yes, and it’s something I deeply dislike about the trans community. There is a deeply ingrained “us vs them” mentality that leads both trans people and activists to view anyone expressing concerns over issues as enemies. Too often, they are far too quick to label the “enemy” as TERF/bigot and use this to control discourse. These are dirty tactics that myself and many other members of the trans community do disagree with, though in the eyes of some of the most extreme-minded among us, opposition to their tactics in and of itself can leave you seen as an enemy. This returns to the earlier points on behavior control, where people like myself are labeled with all manner of aspersions and ostracized from the community.

Generate and use propaganda extensively

This one’s difficult to say, as what would count as propaganda is really subjective. I’d say yes, certain activists/orgs do very much engage in propaganda campaigns, but does the trans community as a whole? I don’t think so, though I’m sure someone could see even my article here as propaganda so who knows!

Use information gained in confession sessions against you

We don’t have confession sessions, so no? Though I’d say I’ve certainly seen DMs and such used against people online. I think that’s typical of most any online community though. There’s never not drama.

Gaslight to make you doubt your own memory

When it comes to the behavior of activists toward their “enemies” outside the community, I’ve seen quite a bit of this, but this aspect of the BITE model is about in-group brainwashing. There’s little to none of that. Sure, there’s the people who like to deny their biological sex and any nuance that comes with it and will give me crap for publicly speaking about the fact I’m male, but as I’ve experienced things, they’re not nearly as prevalent as outsiders like to believe. That’s a loud, extremist fringe of our community. The majority of us are reasonable and realistic about our differences and would never gaslight anyone, inside or outside the community.

Require you to report thoughts, feelings, & activities to superiors

Thank goodness, no… I want nothing to do with authority figures. In fact, I kind of abhor society’s tendency to grant power of authority to celebrity figures. Caitlyn Jenner is not Queen of the Trans People, who cares what she thinks? For goodness sake, stop putting her on television. She’s rich and powerful enough as is. Sorry, just had to have a bit of a rant there.

Encourage you to spy and report on others’ “misconduct”

Again, no, though certain vindictive extremist pockets of the community might engage in this sort of behavior, it isn’t terribly common, especially not from authority figures. I can think of only one trans authority figure who has been problematic in this regard. On the whole, I’d say that the trans community is very free when it comes to information and ideas. I’ve had many healthy, respectful debates among my trans peers over our differing philosophies and experiences of the world. There certainly are pockets that dislike this sort of thing and find it unhealthy/othering, freak out, block you over it, etc. but I and many others would say they’re wrong to do so. So long as there’s a healthy battle of words, and there is, we are clearly a community, and not a cult.

Thought Control

Instill Black vs. White, Us vs. Them, & Good vs. Evil thinking

Unfortunately, yes. There is far too much of this in the trans community. It’s something I firmly believe needs to change. It isn’t good for us. Humans are naturally tribalistic. We all want to be part of a team, and we want our team to win. In that, it’s easy to internalize these attitudes. It’s part of a broader sickness growing in humanity with the rise of social media, particularly Twitter, and I think it’s something we all need to be critical of in every one of our communities.

Change your identity, possibly even your name

Erm.. Well, that’s just part of being trans. It’s not a requirement for anyone, but of course we do it as part of transition. Bit ridiculous to label it cult-like though, I think. It’s not like we’re forced to. It’s something that makes us feel better about ourselves. I didn’t jump off this bridge because everyone else did. I did it because it’s been good for me. I never expected to find all these others swimming in the water here with me, but here we are!

Use loaded language and cliches to stop complex thought

Yes. Of all the points on the BITE model, I think this one is most accurate to the trans community. The “trans women are women” mantra, while something I agree with in certain political aspects, is unfortunately too often weaponized to stop complex thought. When the answer to complex questions about trans issues becomes, “trans women are women and if you disagree with me you are a TERF/bigot,” we have a very big problem. Even if “trans women are women and cis women are women” is a true statement, within it we have acknowledged a great deal of difference. We may as well translate it to, “male women are women and female women are women” to properly understand it. Like it our not, our biological sex and all the experiences/nuance that comes with it does matter and I find it important to defer to our differences when we discuss complex topics. To deny them isn’t only foolish, it denies the entire depth and breadth of our pre-transition experiences; our entire dysphoric life histories. It needs to stop.

Induce hypnotic or trance states to indoctrinate

Nope, not in my experience. In fact I’ve never experienced anything I’d call “indoctrination” at all, only that I struggled in a horrific war with my own body that I sought, and sought, and sought treatment for; I tried everything, no treatment helped but transition very much did.

Teach thought-stopping techniques to prevent critical thoughts

This doesn’t seem so much of a problem with the trans community as it’s a problem with social justice activists. They’re the same ones who tend to take the “trans women are women” mantra far too far and weaponize it as I’ve described above. You’ll see them behaving the same way in all forms of social justice activism, “If a woman/trans person/person of color/etc is speaking, shut up and listen.” I’ve seen several documents written, tossing about dictation on how people should behave when in the presence of any given group that read exactly the same in spite of the fact each is about a different group. It’s an awful, divisive form of activism and I’m not here for it, no matter what form it takes.

Allow only positive thoughts

This one’s fair to peg on the trans community, but I think it’s with the best intentions. A problem I’ve seen is an unwillingness to be critical of our own. I’m not a fan of blindly believing the best in everyone calling themselves part of the trans community. There’s this incredibly regressive idea that our group can/has/could never do wrong. But that simply is not true. We are human, and as such we are flawed. We make mistakes. We need to be willing to own them and be critical of them. Thankfully, these days I’m seeing more and more of that and fewer and fewer uncritical blind eyes.

Use excessive meditation, singing, prayer, & chanting to block thoughts

Hmm.. The only example I can think of here is again the “trans women are women” mantra, which truthfully is more intended to be a counter to the hurtful idea we are men than anything, but as I’ve discussed activists do take it too far too often. I’m sure there are other examples you might find here and there at protests and the like especially, but would you ever call them “excessive”? I think not. They’re fringe.

Reject rational analysis, critical thinking, & doubt

This is one we are split on. As I’ve said previously, I’ve had a lot of healthy, respectful, rational debates with members of the trans community. You’ll find one faction that celebrates all of the above, and another that rejects them.

Emotional Control

Instill irrational fears (phobias) of questioning or leaving the group

This doesn’t seem common, but I’m sure that it does happen, especially when it comes to people considering detransitioning, but I think when that happens it isn’t driven by malicious intent, and instead more often driven by concern for the individual. We might fear someone’s detransition will lead them back to living in constant dysphoric distress or just generally be detrimental to their well-being. I don’t think any of that’s irrational, and I’m sure that it’s exactly what the detransitioner is struggling with themselves. The concern’s valid, but when you think about it, it really only adds to their burden. I’d say the proper response should be to give them all the support and positivity we can muster.

Label some emotions as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong

Emotions? No, I’d not say anything emotional is restricted by the trans community in any way, unless you count fringe extremists who attempt to enforce that very narrow-minded and misguided view that anyone calling themselves trans can do no wrong and we must be positive and uncritical about ourselves at all times! They’re a bit nuts, I think most anyone would agree.

Teach emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, homesickness

Again no, I don’t think either of these apply. I could draw some abstractions, but honestly I don’t think that would be worth my time or yours.

Promote feelings of guilt, shame, & unworthiness

I’m going to be very honest here. Yes, I’m of the mind that the beliefs of too much of the trans community do promote all of the above. In our quests from AMAB/AFAB to becoming women/men, we are at impossible odds, as sex is ultimately immutable, and there’s only so far our transformations can carry us. It helps us a great deal, but it isn’t perfect, and there’s a lot of complexity and nuance that is a constant burden on us, which we are made to feel guilt and shame over. We are taught that our differences are bad. Being “other” is shameful. That living with our differences somehow means we are unworthy of womanhood. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think our experience has a lot to bring to the table. We can speak of what it’s like to walk the world being perceived as both men and women. With that, comes so much complexity I find worth celebrating that too many of us deny. I don’t think this is driven by any kind of cult mentality though, it’s a natural extension of dysphoria. It’s us pathologizing society, and taking our need to pass and be included as women and men too far, to the detriment of both ourselves and society. I’m very critical of myself in this regard and encourage all other trans people to be also. I’ve found that most of us truly are self-critical, it’s the activists waving our flags around who engage in the vast majority of the denial of our differences. We can only hope they listen to us and learn something one day.

Shower you with praise and attention (“love bombing”)

Stunning and brave.

Threaten your friends and family

This certainly happens. It hasn’t happened to me personally, but I have friends it has happened to. Actions like this are nearly universally condemned across the trans community, but individuals and pockets of extremists will engage in this kind of crap. It’s so ugly, but I’m proud of how critical the community as a whole is of anyone engaging in it.

Shun you if you disobey or disbelieve

Yes, again going back to the behavioral control we see from certain extremist pockets of the community.

Teach that there is no happiness or peace outside the group

The only way I can see this applying is again to detransitioners, who might be told they’ll never find peace by detransitioning by people with good intentions who pave the road to hell with them.

Conclusion

And that’s that! The whole BITE model.

So, what do you think? Is the trans community a cult?

On the whole, I’d say certainly not, but we do have a lot of concerning behavior in pockets of our community worth criticizing. You may disagree, and if so I welcome your disagreement (on this point or any other I’ve written here) and am happy to discuss this further.

From my experience of things, it seems far more accurate to declare that there are cults of personality within the trans community that coalesce around certain figures, activists, and orgs and share ideas in echo chambers whilst blocking out any critical voices that might rattle their walls.

As I alluded to earlier, this kind of thing is a sickness we can see springing up all across humanity, in most all of our endeavors recently. Look any discourse over most any political alignment. Western society is deeply divided generally right now. We have a multitude of gaps to bridge, and too many people who are only interested in burning bridges rather than building them. This is way bigger than what we see happening within the trans community.

It’s everywhere, in all things, and I’d say that every community should be mindful of this sort of thing and be willing to apply a critical eye and analyze itself with tools like the BITE model.

I hope that the points of concern I’ve raised can help us build a better community that will move out into our divided world and work to mend those divides rather than deepen them.

The Woman in the Mirror

Mirrors are just glass. We are more than that, but just as fragile.

There’s a woman in my mirror.

She’s been there all my life.

Staring back at me, in spite

Of what others may have seen.

She has suffered, like me. She is

Me after all, never have we

Not shared circumstances.

 

She is a “TERF”, a woman scorned

Who lacks empathy for the man

She sees in her space, whose

Presence threatens her life, preventing her

From safety

freedom of mobility,

and opportunity

To live and seek happiness. To feel

Safe.

 

He is a threat to everything she

Longs to be. His presence

Dominates her. Screaming at

Him in rage, she takes the wooden brush

From the counter-top below.

Pulling back her arm, she weaponizes

It, hurling it at his grotesque

Face. The mirror shatters, leaving

Behind nothing but dysphoria.

Roots: Gatekeeping

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! ❤

Roots: Passing

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.