My daughter is absolutely amazing. Some of you know her, either through my social media or because you’ve met her along the way. I did a post a few years ago about our journey, but it was from my perspective as a parent, because I wanted people who might not understand to have a way in or a post they could point others to who were struggling to accept. We’ve come such a long way since then, and I hope to continue on that path.
Today I asked my daughter whether she wanted to send me something in honor of Transgender Day of Visibility. I told her there were no parameters. Here is what she sent.
Transphobia in the Trans Community
Transphobia coming from trans people sounds like the kind of argument you hear from those trying to discredit the community as hypocritical teenagers who don’t know what they’re talking about. But it is a serious issue, and can be seen even in some of the more visible faces of the trans community. It doesn’t come in the form of open bigotry, however, but more in the form of harmful rhetoric that creates a narrow and restrictive view of what it means to be transgender. These things can sound reasonable at first glance, but don’t hold up to scrutiny. And they are unfortunately pervasive among some trans people.
The harmful rhetoric in question comes in the form of gender skepticism and ‘trans-medicalism.’ The basic tenet is that being transgender is a condition, dependent on gender dysphoria. However, gender dysphoria takes on all shapes and forms, and can vary wildly in severity. It can also be alleviated with social and medical transitions. Because of this, what makes one trans person dysphoric may not have the same effect on another. For example, there are some trans men who find that the word ‘boobs’ can trigger dysphoria regarding their own chests. Others, however don’t experience that effect. Neither side is ‘correct,’ but standardizing on a view that if one doesn’t experience dysphoria in a certain way can do serious harm to those who lay somewhere in the middle, and choose not to fully conform with the norms of any one gender. Despite being a trans woman, I rarely put on makeup or do my nails, and I still prefer pants in many cases. And that’s okay. Just as it’s okay for a trans man to still enjoy messing with makeup.
So why is this so harmful? For one thing, it segregates the community, and alienates many gender nonconforming people. Even in small settings, promoting these ideas can make a nonbinary or just nonconforming trans person feel invalid, and even make them question their identity altogether. In larger settings, however, it can lead to widespread harassment of individuals that don’t fit the idea of a trans person that some have in their head. For instance, after being featured in a video about so-called ‘Trans-trenders,’ a young nonbinary trans-masculine individual named Brennan Beckwith experienced a vast number of hateful, transphobic, and even threatening comments. They were also doxed and chased off the internet for several years. It’s important to note that they were legally a minor when this happened. And while not every gender-nonconforming individual in trans and queer spaces will face this kind of widespread targeted harassment, the threat of it still looms over any who choose to share their experiences online, even to an audience of only a few dozen people. It silences those who don’t fit the common idea of a trans person, and reinforces stereotypes that exclude anyone different. Which seems to defeat the point of our movement for acceptance, quite frankly.
The reasons for these pervasive ideas spreading in the trans community is simple. Anyone who doesn’t appear super gender conforming is viewed by bigots as trans people ‘not knowing what they want’ or ‘just going too far’ or ‘being crazy.’ And those who fit into the gender roles they identify with may want to separate themselves from the more divergent parts of the community, because in doing so they think they’ll find more acceptance with transphobes and bigots. And I can see the logic in it. Because I used to internalize it myself. But the truth is that we’ll never change everyone’s mind. And by dividing ourselves and fighting each other rather than the system that makes us the outcasts, we’re only hurting ourselves. If we want to be accepted for who we are, we need to be better about accepting others for who they are as well.
Happy Trans visibility day. And remember, you’re all valid.