trans issues

Algorithms of dysphoria

I am one of those fortunate trans people who don’t experience a lot of dysphoria around their gender. Really, for years now I’ve been in a place where I go long periods without thinking about my gender at all (which makes a certain kind of sense since I’m pretty much agender, to be honest. Why would I spend time thinking about something that doesn’t exist?*)

The dysphoria I do experience is mostly (maybe entirely?) social rather than physical/bodily – which is to say, I can and do experience discomfort related to my gender when I am misgendered (explicitly or implicitly), but my body itself isn’t a source of dysphoria for me. This makes me very lucky, because it means I can, and do, escape from sources of dysphoria on a regular basis. It’s a lot harder to run away from your own body.

But still, when you get right down to it, social and physical dysphoria aren’t as easily separable as all that. And this is an important point, because there are people who like to gatekeep non-dysphoric trans people, or solely socially dysphoric people from being considered Really Trans (TM). There’s a related misconception that direct physical dysphoria (that is, discomfort with one’s own body) is the only reason someone would pursue medical transition (hormones, surgery, etc.) – the true hallmark of being Really Trans.

Reality is, of course, far more complicated than that.

In fact, if I experience dysphoria because the shape of body causes people to misgender me, even though the *best* solution would be to teach people not to do that, the more expedient solution is still be medical intervention to my body (who wants to wait through the several generations it’s likely to take for the general population to get comfortable with trans people in general, let alone non-binary genders?) But in many cases, even if there are doctors near you that work with trans people in the first place, depending on the model of care they follow, simply being non-binary, being someone who experiences primarily social forms of dysphoria, could make you ineligible for their help.

So people who don’t experience the “right” kind of dysphoria can be stuck in a feedback loop of gatekeeping, they’re not Really Trans because we don’t seek medical intervention, but we often times *can’t* seek medical intervention, on the grounds of not being Really Trans

Ouch.

——-
*this is mostly facetious. Being gendered all the time when you’re agender can be pretty uncomfortable.

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: T is for “transgenders, transwomen, transmen, and tr***y”

CW: uncensored t-slur appears once in this post

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

T is for “transgenders, transwomen, transmen, tr***y”

Cis people really don’t know how to talk about trans people. And part of me wants to be patient with people around this, because of course if someone is approaching a new concept, they’re not going to be on top of it right away.

But at the same time, I often see cis people (even those who are aware of their own ignorance on the topic) blithely jumping into threads where trans people have already repeatedly demonstrated good terminology and just using whatever the heck words they make up/decide to use instead. It’s extremely frustrating y’all!

So, here’s a quick-and-dirty look at words you should and should not use to refer to trans people:

DON’T say

  • Transgenders/’a transgender’ – Much like I am not ‘a tall’, even though I am a tall person, I am not a transgender, even though I am a transgender person. Similarly a group of transgender people is just that, not a group of ‘transgenders’.
  • Transwomen/transmen/transpeople – except for in the very specific case when the specific person you are talking about actually very specifically uses any of these words to describe themselves, these sorts of compound words are actually a little dehumanizing. Again, like I’m not a tallperson, or a whiteperson, (although I am tall and white) I’m also not a transperson.
    Say it with me: Trans men are men. Trans women are women. Although trans people need the word trans (or transgender) in order to talk about the ways in which our experiences differ from cis (or cisgender) people’s, we aren’t completely different kinds of humans, and our transness doesn’t make our genders any less legitimate than cis people’s.
  • Tranny – this is a literal slur, y’all. Like with other slurs, those directly impacted by it may sometimes reclaim it, or use it to refer to themselves, but if you are cis you should never use it. Just don’t.

DO say

  • Transgender people
  • Trans people
  • Trans men/transgender men (when referring to people who are trans and identify as men)
  • Trans women/transgender women (when referring to people who are trans and identify as women)
  • People (Pro tip: this is always safe for talking about any people! Amazing!)
  • Men (when referring to people who identify as men)
  • Women (when referring to people who identify as women)

 


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The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: S is for “Sensitive”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

S is for “sensitive”

Trans people (as with people in any marginalized group) are sometimes often accused of being overly sensitive about our struggles. I’ve addressed the problem of marginalized people being accused of over-reacting to things before (more than once, in fact), but the specific case of trans people merits a bunch more words on the topic, so here we go.

Somehow trans people sometimes find themselves accused of being over-sensitive even when the topic is trans people who are murdered or bullied to death for being trans. I… don’t know where to start with that honestly. If you think that yelling about shit like that is an over-reaction, you are beyond hope of ever getting it, so I don’t even see the point.

More often, though, these accusations come up in conversations about things like bathroom bills or people being misgendered. Why do we make such a big deal about things like that anyway? Isn’t it just an honest mistake or whatever?

A lot of the time, cis people will go that extra step further and insist that they wouldn’t be bothered by such a thing, so why are trans people?

…So, for one thing, I’m not going to let the implicit claim that cis people don’t care about this stuff just slip by like that. Cis people’s fears about which bathrooms they are using and who they are sharing those bathrooms with are the entire reason for trans-exclusionary bathroom bills in the first place, so plenty of y’all care enough about that shit to legislate it. And cis people, by and large, will correct you *immediately* if you misgender their baby, or even their dog for that matter, even in the most passing of interactions. With babies sometimes they will even get pretty upset about it (because nothing is more embarrassing for a baby boy than being mistaken for an identical baby girl, am I right?)

Trans people, meanwhile, very often make the call not to correct people in minor interactions, because doing so risks any number of negative consequences, up to and including death. So, there’s that.

And that brings me to my main point here. Because when cis people make the claim that trans people should just let this stuff roll off their backs the way they personally do or imagine they would do, what’s happening is a failure or empathy. Because cis people making this always seem to be talking about how they would feel if in their current life and identity, someone misgendered them. But that misses the point *entirely*, because cis people’s lives and identities are wildly different from trans people’s, in some extremely relevant ways.

Here’s the thing you need to remember, cis people: for your entire life, since before you even understood that you existed, much less that you had a gender, people have probably been for the most part correctly gendering you. If you were misgendered by random strangers as a baby, chances are your parents corrected them even then. And if you are misgendered now, people likely apologize when they realize their error.

It’s a weird thing, actually, because I think that cis people really don’t get how different this experience often is for trans people. It’s not just that it’s something we’ve struggled with sometimes for our entire lives. And it’s not just that trans people experience this sort of thing far more often than cis people do. For us, it is also far and away more likely that if we correct someone, they will act like their mistake was our fault. We will be the ones being difficult for correcting them in the first place. I’m sure this sort of things happens to cis people sometimes, too, but it isn’t to the same extent or frequency.

Over time, and through repeated lived experience, trans people have no choice but to learn that when we are addressing our own marginalization, when we are calling people out on things, that it is going to become a big deal whether we make it one or not. So yes, sometimes we take the initiative to make the thing a big deal, so that the big deal isn’t just a bunch of cis folks jumping up and down declaring that this gender thing is over, and can’t we all just get along? We need our voices heard over that fucking din, ok?

 


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The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: Q is for “Queen, Drag”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

Q is for ‘queen, drag’

The persistence with which cis society in general continues to conflate trans women with drag queens is infuriating. But also admittedly complicated. I am not even going to attempt a thorough cover of this topic. The purpose of having this post in this series is really just to say: trans women are not drag queens, (unless they are performing as such in a drag show.)

“Trans woman” and “drag queen” are entirely different concepts.

Trans women are women whose parents/guardians thought they were boys when they were born, and usually for quite a long time after that.

Drag queens are people who have developed a flamboyant lady persona for the purposes of (usually comedic) theatrical shows. The overwhelming majority of drag queens are cisgender men (so, neither trans, nor women!) And in fact, drag shows are often misogynistic,  anti-femme, and/or trans-antagonistic, although I don’t think they are inherently any of those things.

The vast majority of drag queens are not trans women. And the vast majority of trans women are not drag queens. Stop conflating these two, very different, categories.

Kthxbai!


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The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: P is for “Phase”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

P is for “phase”

I wrote about this before, when someone close to me expressed a concern that my non-binary-ness was a phase.

For some reason, cis people are very concerned about the stability of other people’s gender identities, and seem to have decided en masse that unless they are sure that your gender and pronouns are never going to change again, then your preferences aren’t real and don’t have to be – or possibly even shouldn’t be? – respected.

You’ll see this particularly with children; cis people spend a lot of time hand-wringing about whether simply recognizing and respecting your child’s stated identity may – somehow – harm them if they later decide to identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

I am here to say: it literally does not matter whether a person’s currently stated gender turns out to be a temporary ‘phase.’ It really doesn’t. It’s none of your business in the first place, for one thing. If a person changes their mind about their gender, or if their gender changes later, then that’s what happens and it’ll be fine. Why do you even care?

More importantly, even if this is a phase, what makes you think that you somehow have the magical ability to know what that person’s gender is or will be after the phase is complete? Defaulting to pronouns based on birth-assigned gender simply because you think someone’s non-assigned gender might be a phase is nonsensical, to be honest. It always makes the most sense to go with the best information you have available, and the best information available always is, and always will be, the information you get from the first-person perspective of the person whose gender you’re worrying about.

So, honestly, just stop worrying about whether someone’s gender is a phase! If it turns out to be one, they’ll let you know, and you can handle it then!

 


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The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: L is for “Love”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

L is for “Love”

This one has multiple sides. On the one hand, I want to take a moment to acknowledge here that there are cis folks out in the world who just love the trans folks in their lives, unproblematically and unreservedly. It’s not all bad! In fact, when I was originally mapping out this alphabet, I had intended for this post to be simply positive, for a bit of a break.

But, as it worked out after my unplanned break, this post is going up on Transgender Day of Visibility (I am coming out to the folks I work with today in fact! Expect to hear more about this soon), and I really don’t want to spend my TDOV post celebrating cis people.

And in any case, the word ‘love’ is actually used against trans folks at least as much as it is used to support us.

The classic example of this is one that applies to LGBT people generally, in the form of that good old (primarily Christian) adage “love the sinner, hate the sin”. More than any other ‘sins’, this rhetoric gets pulled out in attempt to demonstrate that it’s possible to hate LGBT people’s LGBT-ness without hating the people themselves.

This is, of course, a steaming pile of bullshit. I mean, I hope it’s obvious that it is inherently hateful to consider an uncontrolled, unchangeable part of a person’s lived experience and identity as a ‘sin’, as something that renders them incapable of being unsinful. Even if you only tie the ‘sin’ to actions rather than internal experiences (e.g. accepting that homosexual attraction simply exists naturally, but still believing that pursuing homosexual sexual relationships is sinful, or believing that trans people are fine as long as we keep to ourselves never actually express or present as anything other than our birth-assigned gender), it is still blatantly hetero-/cis-sexist to take this attitude toward LGBT people, not least because it’s not even a scriptural stance in the first place.

On top of all of that, even, ‘love’ is often used against trans people in other violent ways, as when a cisgender parent tells a trans man in the same breath as “ I love you” that “you’ll always by my little girl”, or when a cisgender friend insists that their trans friend will always by [deadname] to them. Because, y’know, love.

These sorts of sentiments are intensely selfish, as it suggests that these cisgender people really only love the idea they had of the trans person before they found out who that person really is. Bringing love into this kinds of violently invalidating statements perverts the entire concept of love, and turns it into a weapon by implying that trans people should accept bad treatment from their loved ones.

And I hope it is very, very clear that that is not how love works. That is, in fact, how abuse works. It is emotional blackmail, and it is not ok.


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The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: J is for “just so curious”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

J is for “just so curious”

If  you are a trans person, and if anyone in your life knows that you are trans, this one is pretty much impossible to avoid. Cis people find trans people endlessly fascinating. So much so that they keep on writing stories about what they imagine trans people are like, and then giving each other awards for them.

And look, ok, I admit it; curiosity is a pretty normal human thing – we all most likely wonder what it would be like to different from how we are, in so many ways. And when ways of being that we haven’t thought about before are brought to our attention, we wonder about those too.

So, I don’t think cis people’s curiosity about trans people is wrong, for the record. I mostly think it’s just something y’all prioritize really badly.

You curiosity it valid. But it does not now, nor will it ever, trump trans people’s right to privacy. It isn’t rude for us to get annoyed when you ask us intrusive questions; it isn’t rude for us to decide not to satisfy your curiosity. We don’t owe you information.

You don’t have the right to have your curiosities satisfied, about our genitals (what they looked like in the past, look like now, or may look like in the future), about the sex we may or may not be having, or anything else.

The thing that actually bothers me about cis curiosity, though, is this: it so very often comes with the implication that our personhood in other people’s eyes, that the validity of our very genders, depends on how well or how comprehensibly we can answer those questions.

Cis people, know this: the satisfaction of your ‘curiosities’ about trans people cannot and will not ever be an acceptable prerequisite for your support and acknowledgement of trans personhood, and of trans identities. If and when you stop seeing trans people as strange experiments, when you forge real relationships with us on the basis of our personhood, when you have built trust with us, when you have demonstrated that your questions are not simple prurient, but actually coming from a desire to better understand trans struggles, only then should you even begin to consider that you might be worth the time and energy of answering your questions.

And even then, you are never entitled to any individual person’s time or labour. Ok? ok.

 


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