Why trans girls separate themselves from the trans community is a growing phenomenon and not a positive one. This subject was discussed in a recent thread on the Pretty T-Girls Yahoo group. With permission from the author, Dee Ann, we bring you this insightful discussion of the subject.
From Dee Ann on the separation of trans girls
“I am a Board Member for the transgender group in my area, the Transgender Community Coalition of the Coachella Valley. Usually we are known just by TCC. The Valley includes 9 contiguous towns, including Palm Springs, Cathedral City (where I live), Rancho Mirage, La Quinta, etc. Our constituency consists of trans men and women and a few intersex people. We do the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Trans Pride Day (to be rolled into Palm Springs Pride this year). We march in the parade during Palm Springs Pride and I am told the we have the largest Transgender Pride Flag in the world.
From what I’ve seen, the sad truth is that even within our transgender community we remain splintered and separated. So not only are we marginalized by society, we seem to be comfortable with hanging on to our internalized transphobia. One of the things that leads us to separate ourselves by claiming that someone isn’t trans enough. We cast aspersions on people who dress in a nice and unambiguously feminine way. We tell folks that they are “just” a crossdresser. Many crossdressers don’t want to have anything to do with anything even remotely labeled transgender. Those of us who are firmly in the middle, such as gender non-conforming (me) or genderqueer, that seem to be thought of as charlatans. According to what you hear, we are either afraid to transition or we are “just” a crossdresser. However, those of us who occupy this middle ground know that this is patently BS.
The truth is that we all fit under the umbrella of Transgender. We all cross the line of societally accepted gender identity and gender presentation and that is the common thread. It doesn’t make any difference that we cross that boundary once and permanently or back and forth many times. As far as society is concerned, we have crossed that boundary.
It is unfortunate that so many choose to separate themselves from the community after they transition. I’ve been told 8-10 different reasons why people have done this and some do make a modicum of sense. However, I often pose the question: “If you don’t participate, how do you expect that things will get better?”. So far, no one has had an answer. In this current political climate, the rescinding of Title IX transgender protections is just the beginning. The next biggie will likely be some sort of Religious Freedoms Restoraction Act. Think about that for a moment and the range of services that that could affect.
We, all Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgender people, are under siege here. The sooner we understand that and begin to close ranks, the better. For me, personally, what this means is that in addition to working within the transgender community, I am also volunteering for the HRC. My thought is that we need to work internally AND externally. Transgender people need to be out and visible, lest someone think that we don’t exist.
Hopefully I can come somewhere close to 8 orn10 reasons why people separate themselves. It’s a hot button for me and I’ll admit to being a bit pissed as I was writing that passage. Anyway…
What I’ve heard and in no particular order…
1) People are worn out after the transition process (and whatever personal upheavals they had) and want to rest.
2) There is a desire to have a real life without support groups, counseling, fewer doctor’s appointments, etc. See Rhonda’s comments below.
3) People don’t want to be activists any more
4) Being seen with trans people may out you.
5) As applied to trans women, they want to be seen as just regular women.
6) Some feel that being known as a trans person makes it more difficult to find dating partners and to develop romantic relationships.
7) There is a desire to just fit in and not be viewed as some freak of nature.
8) There is the thought that finding a job is made more difficult as a trans person or that it might hurt your chances for professional development and advancement.
I think the problem for crossdressers may have more to do with semantics and expectations. The underlying problem is how the word transgender has morphed into being synonymous with transsexual. Remembering that crossdressers (MtF) are basically straight men who dress, they don’t want anyone to think that they are anything but heterosexual, cis-gender males. If they have families, they don’t want anyone to get ruffled and think that a transition is in their future. Being thought of as transgender brings all of this into question, given what society at large thinks.
I think not being trans enough has various interpretations. For example, there’s a group of former drag queens here who have transitioned. To them, anything less than full transition including confirmation surgery is grounds for being thought of as a guy in a dress. There is also what you might call the Caitlyn Jenner Syndrome where, almost regardless of what you do, it will likely never be enough in the eyes of some. Part of it is being socially and economically privileged. Another part has to do with her difficulty in understanding white male privilege in today’s social and political climate. Personally I don’t believe these are insurmountable, but it does require a lot of thought and introspection to realize what’s going on. The hard part is then to act on what you have realized. For others, if you dress too girlie, you’re not trans enough. I suspect this this comes from trans people who are still significantly rooted in their former male identities.
Regarding the HRC, I think they are showing signs of coming to life. A couple of years ago (?) the current president made a public apology to the trans community. He wasn’t in office when the trans community got sacrificed, but I do think he realizes the mistake. Back in the day, I think it was probably a pretty easy decision to sacrifice the trans community. We were a small, quite constituency. Who knows? Maybe if we had been more visible and more vocal, it might have been a more difficult decision. For me, so far, so good. I’ve attended a couple of Steering Committee meetings of about 15 people each and have been received without any issues. I think that they realize that to keep the fires stoked, you need to bring in different people. The Steering Committee has gay and straight men and women. I am one of 2 trans people. There are whites, Latinos and I’m one of 2 Black people. Life is better when you cast a broad net.
On a personal note, the HRC put together a rally after the Title IX transgender protections were rescinded. It was done in conjunction with the Transgender Community Coalition and one or two other organizations. I was asked to speak, but I declined. My daughter, her husband and the grand kids were visiting that week. As the granddaughters are 7 and 2, I told my daughter when they arrived that the door to the bedroom where Dee Ann’s wardrobe is kept will remain closed. I felt that it was too early to have the discussion about why granddad dresses in women’s clothes and my daughter agreed.The person who asked me is one of the leaders of the Steering Committee and I told him essentially what I wrote above. However, I said I would be willing to discuss the issue in more detail if he liked. So, we met this past Monday over a 2-hour cup of coffee. The funny thing was that he has a very distinctive last name and I knew it, but I just couldn’t place it. Turns out his father was the department chair for the Chemical Engineering Department when I was a mechanical engineering student. He graduated as a Chem. E. about 12 years after I graduated. It has been probably 20+ years since I ran across anyone who went to the University of Toledo, let alone from the College of Engineering. The Universe has a way of putting you right where you need to be and surrounded by people that you need to be with.
And finally, internalized transphobia…
Internalized oppression occurs when, in effect, you agree with those who oppress you. To illustrate, suppose you are female and you are experiencing sexism being directed at you. If you have internalized sexism, you are agreeing with the perpetrators; that yes, you are just a lowly female and if people are oppressing you, it must be because you are actually inferior.
For transgender people, many things happen to weaken or often fragile sense of self. Society tells us that we must be mentally unstable. Our families throw us out of the house. Friends shun us or bully and taunt us. Employers want to fire us and the list goes on and on. When people of authority and stature continually tell us that we are defective and worthless, for many it is easy to come to the conclusion that they must be right.
To me, the only way out from under this stuff is counseling or at least a good support group. Those are the only ways that I know how to deal with this monster that saps our strength and often leads us to bad decisions.
From Rhonda on support groups:
“I think part of the issue is that many folks join support groups to receive support more than to give it. Doing both is natural as long as there is a give and take. Once they have what they personally need to move forward with their own lives, absent that continued support, there is less incentive to offer it to others. It is, after all, hard work, with little return other than the joy of giving to others. That takes a lot of sacrifice, time, and dedication.I think similar arguments apply to explain why most focus on their personal causes which they best understand and champion, and making the effort to ally with others of different mindset is so difficult.”
From Molly P on the generational divide
“I have seen/experienced the moving on part of being a transitioned transwoman. And I understand it, especially if you are younger and fit into cisnormative physical criteria (height/weight/voice etc) and therefore have a higher degree of passing privilege. They just want to live their life without an extra label. Woman works for them.
All your observations are relevant. But I also think that there is a clear generational divide. Those of us who transitioned later in life and have no passing privilege seem to stay more involved. And Millennial transfolk seem to have a larger than expected group of activists who will rattle the cage and shake things up. I think this is in part because so many of them feel they are gender queer, or have a connection to social media which keeps their “transness” front and center. Now, they may move on and fade into the background but as their peers are more accepting of their uniqueness, they may not feel the need.
I have a very wait and see attitude about HRC. At its core it has always been for and about advocating for its gay and lesbian membership. Gays and lesbians just look like regular people unless they choose to express themselves in a unique style. But people see them as men and women. Not so much with trans. We are to many people freaks of nature. And we have to change how we look/present to get people to understand who we are. Nobody can see inside our heads, sometimes not even ourselves. And because presentation as cis-normative is often imperfect, cisfolk feel uneasy. Gays and lesbians eventually won the field in large part because over 80% of Americans had some personal connection with someone who was gay or lesbian. This made it harder to demonize them anymore. We lack the numbers and many live happily (or very sadly) in the closet so those of us who are out make a much smaller impact. Depending on where you live as few as 9% and as many as 25% of adult Americans have that same sort of personal connection to someone trans. And then there is our self imposed guilt trip and fear. Things are improving but until we accept ourselves and are willing to put it out there we won’t make the same kind of progress that gays and lesbians have. Look to the Millennials. That is the generation that will eventually make it happen but that is likely decades away.
As for crossdressers, I have some pretty strong opinions on this one that I have expressed in the past. If there is an element of gender identity (even if it isn’t the dominant element) in your motivation for presenting female then you get to use the term transgender. Otherwise, you don’t. And if you hide in the closet you can be an ally but if nobody sees you then you are just another guy. I readily accept that why your do what you do and how you feel about yourself can change over time. It did for me. But until it does I see no place under the transgender umbrella for people who are not motivated by some level of gender identity/dysphoria or who dress publically in ways that only embarrasses themselves and reinforces stereotypes of transwomen as freaks. It is hard enough when you try to present as a rational, normal woman but you always get the look or the comment because of the hand testosterone has dealt you. But at least we are trying to influence the public by deed and word. But like I said, today’s crossdresser could be tomorrow’s transwoman and that is great.
I’ll leave the self loathing part for another post. Sometimes it is just so difficult to see and believe the women in our head and hearts when the face in the mirror screams male and we get misgendered more often than not.
Thanks for your insightful comments. Molly P”
We would love to hear your opinions too in the Comments Section.