Five Things: Stuff to Know about Trans* People

Trans*forming Mom did a similar post on her blog, so I asked if I could do a “Five Things” post too and she said “Sure!,” so here I am.  Also, trigger warnings for transphobia and transphobic violence.  (Karen, you probs shouldn’t let your son read this unless he’s in a very stable mental state today.)

  1. We are human.  Ergo, we can sometimes act like assholes, and this is in no way related to our gender identities.  (Or if it is, it’s because we’re extremely dysphoric that day or you don’t understand the importance of respecting our pronouns.)  We have school and jobs and families and people to deal with, and that causes as much or more stress as it does to a cis person, with proportional results.  Our trans* status does not excuse us, but it also doesn’t make us even more culpable.  (Except possibly in the case of internalized transphobia or homophobia, or [to a lesser extent] ignorance about trans* issues and terminology.  And then it’s just like “wtf man?”)  On a related note, it’s never okay to ask about our genitals or sex lives, and we will “act like assholes to cis allies”/flip out and be justifiably insulted if you do so.  We know you’re curious about “how do trans ppl have hte sex,” but effing google it.  We don’t ask you “how do cis ppl have hte sex,” after all.  That’s what RedTube is for.
  2. “Cis” is not a slur.  It’s an abbreviation of a technical term meaning “not transgender.”  And if you try to say “why do I have to be called ‘cis’ doesn’t that just mean normal,” we will give you the stink eye.  Being trans* is not “abnormal.”  It’s unusual, yes, but it is just one of the rarer of the normal variations of human existence.  And if we’re in a nice mood, we’ll tell you that instead of just flipping you the bird or quickly leaving your general vicinity.  Also, the “die cis scum” thing was made up by transphobes to justify not having to show us basic human respect.  If you actually search it, you won’t find anything but made-up caricatures of trans* people.
  3. No one transitions to “stop being gay.”  In fact, according to data from the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, only 23% of trans* people actually identify as straight.  Perhaps another 10% might count as straight under the highly problematic definitions of “attracted to the binary gender opposite to the binary gender closest to their identity” or “asexual but heteroromantic.”  23% are gay, 25% are bisexual, 2% are “other,” and 23% identify as “queer,” a response whose meanings can range from “hell if I know” to “I mostly like girls but OMG John Barrowman’s chin” to “basing attraction on binary sex/gender is pretty effed up anyway” to “I’m nonbinary so it’s technically impossible for me to be either gay or straight.”
  4. We’re extremely underrepresented.  According to some estimates, transgender people may be as prevalent as 1 in 250.  So why, outside of porn, are the only widely-known living trans* people (that I can think of) Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, Lana Wachowski, Andrea Gibson, and (and this is highly stretching it) RuPaul?  Who outside the queer community even knows of Sylvia Rivera, Leslie Feinberg, and Kate Bornstein?  Do they know more about Matthew Shepard than about Brandon Teena, or the thousands of TWOC who have fallen victim to transphobic rapes or murders?  We need our own media, but we don’t have it.  HuffPost Gay Voices is supposedly the #1 US LGBT newspage, but its “transgender” subpage is a glorified tag search which turns up about 3 substantive articles per month.  Our lack of media representation, plus high levels of familial and societal transphobia, can make us feel very alone.  In real life, I only know 2 trans* people who are out of college, and one of them I met before they graduated; online, about half a dozen, and few of them very well.  We have no fathers or mothers to talk to; it’s like being orphaned just before puberty.
  5. The only place we are better represented is in hate crimes statistics, where trans* people are murdered at a 50% higher rate than the rest of the queer community, despite being about one-eighth its size.  I will count myself extremely lucky if I live past 40 and die a natural death.  This despite having white and (trans)masculine privilege, and living in a liberal area.  Perhaps this is also part of why it’s so hard to find trans* mentors.  A large number of potential ones are directly or indirectly killed first.

So this is a highly emic perspective, and it’s not a pretty one.  We’re scared all the time; our language usually doesn’t even acknowledge our existence; laws are structured, sometimes out of malice but most often out of negligence, so that it’s almost impossible for us to exist without committing crimes.  I almost don’t want to publish this; it’s that grim.  But if nobody knows, how will it ever change?

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Posted in Politics, Queer Life, Queer Stuff
4 comments on “Five Things: Stuff to Know about Trans* People
  1. Kate O'Brien says:

    I love it that you are articulate, straightforward, and pissed off all at the same time. So happy to be in this world with you.

  2. This makes me so sad. Thank you for writing this and for publishing it. We do need to know. It does need to change.
    Much love.

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