In another life, I was a cis lesbian. It was a hard-fought identity label for me. I spent the majority of my life dating guys and I was pretty feminine for quite some time before longing to demonstrate my queerness more visibly. Other queer women dismissed me and questioned if I was even attracted to women. During this time, I read blogs and articles that centered queer women, and I inevitably came across the concept of trans women and transfeminine people.
And I was mad.
It was hard for me to fathom having some internal knowledge of one’s gender identity that wasn’t predicated on sex characteristics. Some trans women described their experience as feeling like they shared an indescribable energy or camaraderie with other women that clued them in to their identity.
What are they talking about? I thought with frustration. I don’t feel some sort of shared energy with other women. In fact, I always felt like another species. The only thing that tells me I’m a woman is my genitals! If I woke up tomorrow with another set of genitals, I would be a man just fine.
Enter future transmasculine me: Dude. How did you equate not understanding the idea of “feeling” like a woman with a reason to invalidate the existence of all trans women and transfeminine people? Doesn’t that say a lot more about you than anyone else?
The answer to that, of course, is yes. Unfortunately, too many people react to trans people and their narratives with disgust, anger, frustration, and even rage. This is particularly dangerous to the countless Black and brown trans women and transfemmes that are murdered each year with impunity. Some trans theorists have ascribed these reactions to insecurity. In my case, that couldn’t be more true. What did it mean about me if my gender wasn’t tied to my genitals? Why was I so ambivalent?
Of course, this isn’t to say that hateful cis people are all closeted trans folks. I wouldn’t claim J.K. Rowling without some serious penance and commitment to righting her wrongs, and even then it would take a while. To me, it does say that they feel threatened and confused by their own experiences.
Why was I so frustrated about trans women that I would talk about it on a regular basis, sit in front of my computer fuming, and shout angrily in my head at their stories?
Simply put, I was a transphobe. I was confused, I was scared, and so I was hateful.
It took meeting a transfeminine person and falling in love with them before I could pull my head out of my own ass. And once I did, I could look at myself a little more closely.
That girlfriend told me about friends who were nonbinary. The more I read about it on the internet, the sicker I felt. I knew I was approaching something that would be difficult to shake off once I realized it. And that made me even more scared. I was already estranged from nearly my entire family, and I had been ridiculed by queer women for years. I was overly sexualized by cis men who thought queer women were some sort of real life pornography for them to enjoy. I had been a girl who felt that constant need to prove I was not inferior. Could I go through this and survive?
Thankfully, I could, and I did. Embracing my gender identity and true self was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Of course, it can be difficult and isolating, but the family I’ve built and the authenticity I enjoy is far more preferable to hating on trans women for being true to themselves just because I couldn’t.
If you don’t accept trans people as a whole, you don’t accept trans people. You don’t get to pick and choose the “well behaved” trans people who validate your insistence to separate them from “real” men and women while rejecting the rest of us. You don’t get to say how unreasonable we are for wanting to be respected without fitting into the restrictive box that you’ve lived in for your whole life. Not all of us can fit in there, and we don’t want to.
Do you find yourself getting pissed at the mere suggestion that trans people exist? I implore you to spend some time asking yourself why that is, rather than deciding that we are all subhuman. Or if you won’t put that effort in, just leave us alone. We aren’t hurting you.
I took the path of feeling spiteful and venomous to get to where I am now. I knew back then that what I was feeling was unfair and hateful, and it took me a while to change course. You can pursue another way toward acceptance. Don’t do it the hard way, like I did. Connect with the humanity within yourself and that all of us embody. Trust me, it’s much more pleasant.
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