Transsexual complications and snippets from the life of transsexual women.
-CROSSING THE THRESHOLD-
Upon arriving at the decision to live out in the world, we must first step out the front door. Prior to taking the leap, many trans women turn to crossdressing. For many it starts with a single item of feminine clothing, in time some amass a closet full. Leaving the privacy and safety of the home is absolutely frightening. Before fully embracing our desire to transition, wondering out into the light carries with it extreme anxiety and fear. As our courage and confidence increases, so too does the frequency and reach of our outings. In some instances, ‘Boy Zones’ and ‘Girl Zones’ are established. During this stage, stepping out your front door in ‘en femme’ is preceded by peering outside to ensure you won’t be seen. Others establish safe areas away from the home to dress. One of the first liberating acts carried out by nearly every transsexual woman who decides to live full-time, is the disposal of her masculine clothing. Some put it into storage, give it away, donate, my favorite… Purging by fire. There is something soothing about watching symbols of suffering and oppression go up in smoke. Finally… Without hesitation, without reservation, without the bondage of our assigned genders, we step across the chasm…
-WASHING OUR HANDS-
Imagine being in fear of walking into the restroom. Consider what it would be like to be unsure of which door to swing open, boys or girls? Ponder for a moment being forced to use the restroom, meant for the opposite gender. transsexuals have no problem relating to this thought experiment. For us, it is not hypothetical, it is reality. Starting at a young age we are aware that we don’t belong in the boys restrooms or locker rooms. Against are very nature, we are expected to make use of these facilities. Sometimes hiding our bodies in the locker rooms out of embarrassment fear. Whether you are capable of relating to this or not, it can be confusing and traumatic. This befuddled state continues through our lives, even after living full-time as women. For sure at this point, using the men’s is out of the question. The issues that would arise from a transwoman in the men’s, regardless of whether or not she is known to be trans, include harassment and violence among others. As transsexual women we, like a cissexual women, feel uncomfortable and unsafe in male only spaces. In consideration towards using the ladies, we only seek to do what every other female is doing, using the facilities. We are not there to lear, flirt, harass, or rape women’s bodies. Like frightened animals, we are more likely to be more afraid of you then you are of us. To the trans girls out there who still face a sense of dread when entering female only spaces, remember to walk with your head up and with a purpose. If you feel like you don’t belong and walk like you don’t belong you will look out-of-place even to the other females in there. Stay safe lovelies!
-BLOKE IN A DRESS-
Within the queer community, ‘passing’ is the ability to blend in with hetero normative culture. In this sense, to ‘pass’ is negative in modern queer language. However, in the context of transsexual living, ‘passing’ is often desirable. For instance, trans women want to ‘pass’ in society as women. For the cissexual public, no other aspect of our culture is more fascinating than a ‘passing’ transsexual woman. The transsexual women seen in the media, consists mostly of those who ‘pass’. It is what leads most interviews with trans people to focus on our transitions. They marvel at this ‘bloke in a dress’. Because they tend to find us attractive, the attention paid to our physical transitions is a constant reminder that we only ‘look like girls’. The biggest omission here are the many transsexual women who don’t ‘pass’. They’re not unattractive, they exhibit physical and social characteristics normally associated with their assigned gender. Puberty is to blame for most of the physical cues we use to assume gender. In today’s changing social climate, transsexuals are starting their journeys before puberty mutates the body in unwanted ways. Even though they will be a generation of trans women and men who ‘pass’, current trends indicate that they will nonetheless stand proud as transsexuals in their communities, and continue to advocate for change.
-A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME-
In general, the public makes very few distinctions between transsexuals and other gender nonconforming classifications. Nearly every transsexual has needed to educate someone on the differences in each grouping. As far as the average person on the street is concerned, one is indistinguishable from the other. We are even thrown under the same ‘transgender’ umbrella. The problem however with umbrella terms is at the simplify, ignore, and blur the unique qualities inherent within each group. While the similarities we share our real and important, it otherwise paints us with too wide a brush. transsexual women for instance, are assigned male at birth, self identify as female, and live full-time as women. By definition a transsexual woman identifies within the traditional gender binary. By grouping us all within the same subset it confuses the differences in groups such as: cross dressers, transvestites, drag queens, drag kings, feminine men, masculine women, effeminate homosexuals, gender questioning, genderqueer, gender fluid, gender non-binary, etc… Each and every one of these groups deserves understanding, self-determination, and a voice of their own. Though we are not the same, we share common interests, and we are few, so we proudly stand together as family.
Only recently have people begun to have an understanding of homosexual attraction. They comprehend the concept that men can love men and women can love women. What happens though, when a ‘man’ who lives as a woman, still prefers the company of women? That would make ‘him’ straight… right? How about a ‘man’ living as a woman, that sleeps with a man? For sure ‘he’s’ got to be gay… right? These scenarios confound the small thinking hetero mind. Cissexuals are limited by the assumption that gender dissonance is a myth and that transsexualism is a choice. The end result being that we are continued to be regarded in terms of our assigned gender. Transsexual women for instance are still viewed as ‘men’ by most for cissexuals. This is made even more evident by the confusion exhibited when you explain that a trans woman who likes men, is straight. If they thought of us as women, they would automatically view a trans woman’s predilection towards men, as nothing more than an average heterosexual attraction. The same could be said of men who date trans women, yet worry about whether or not to make some gay. It should be noted that transsexual individuals, like cissexuals, come in many different varieties…even ‘Gay Fish’.
-STRONGER THAN A LOCOMOTIVE-
Among the multiple assumptions laid upon transsexual women, is the idea that even after hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery, we retain our ‘superior’ physical male characteristics such as strength and bone density. Again this fallacious statement about trans women is made to emphasize the concept that no amount of medical intervention can transform a ‘man’ into a woman. That regardless of the procedures we endure, we retain the ‘Strength of a Man ‘. Now, since most of these advantages develop during puberty, we will for now ignore trans women who start HRT before such time. What the actual scientific studies in this arena have concluded is, that because physical characteristics such as bone density and muscle density (strength) are reliant on testosterone production, pre-op transsexual women experience a loss in both areas to levels below that of the average genetic males, but above those found in genetic females. Furthermore, post-op transsexual women with at least two years of hormone replacement therapy after surgery, exhibit muscle and bone density levels equal to that of genetic females of the same height and activity level. Major sports organizations such as the International Olympic Committee had done a long-term study on transsexual athletes. The findings led them to determine that a transsexual woman for instance who is post op with two years of hormone replacement therapy, is eligible to compete against genetic females, without any physiological advantages from having gone through male puberty. The NCAA made the determination that transsexual women who have been on a hormone replacement therapy for at least a few years tend to fall within the expected natural diversity of body types found within genetic women. The preponderance of evidence against the idea that transsexual women retain the ‘Strength of a Man’, in this author’s opinion has already been sufficient enough to disregard such an assumption.
-DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY-
Growing up, we are taught how to interact with others. For instance, how boys should treat girls, talk to them, and respect them. In the spirit of these lessons, we have as a society decided to prohibit any form of harassment or discrimination based on the sex of the individual. Then after much public debate, sexual orientation was added. Nowadays most people understand what constitutes harassment towards gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Eventually gender identity and gender expression became protected under the same laws. However, even though people tend to be aware of this protection, when asked ” what could be considered harassment towards a transwoman”? Aside from mentioning that we are afforded to the same rights as genetic women, they fail to recognize the most significant form of harassment a transsexual woman faces…mis-gendering. To the uninitiated cissexual, the very idea that referring to a transsexual woman using masculine pronouns and language could be offensive, degrading, dehumanizing, depressing, must seem utterly ridiculous. However, in spite of how meaningless these incidents might seem, to transsexual women, it is traumatic. It is the most common, most prevalent form of harassment faced by trans women. The part that makes it worse, is that most of the people who miss gender transsexual women don’t even know how much it hurts. They could say ‘oops’ or ‘sorry’ and move on. For us, we’re left question ourselves, that doubt ourselves. Each and every misstep eats away at her own self-worth, and creates within us self-doubt. What may seem to be the most trivial, is in fact just about everything.
-LADIES AND GENTLEMEN-
Another smaller yet pressing issue faced by transsexual women , is un-gendering. As an example, when sitting in a restaurant with a couple of trans women,the waiter comes around to your table “How you folks doing tonight”? Now on the surface, this may seem like a perfectly normal exchange between wait staff and restaurant guests. However, as we continue to observe our waiter, we begin to notice that upon arriving at another table of presumably cissexual women “How are you ladies doing tonight”? What has just occurred may pass by the notice I’ve even most trans women, I was not mis-gendered, what did a occur however is un-gendering. Many cissexual people when is faced with transsexual women content toward indifference, and as a result gender you neither as male or female. While arguably not anywhere near as damaging to the trans identity, it still adds a sense of insecurity and anxiety. Similar to being mis-gendered , it leaves us frustrated and can cause us to bring into question whether or not we can truly ever be recognized as women. My other trans friends and I will often remind staff at restaurants, after the meal is already over of course, that should they gender trans women correctly during the meal possibly several times, likely to get a nice large tip.
-IN HER SHOES-
The most sobering issue which transgender people deal with is two-fold, violence and suicide. While violence is an affliction of the masses, it’s preponderance amongst the LGBT community far outweighs the rate of incidence found in heterosexual society. However, even though Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual people deal with much higher rates of violence compared with other groups, Transsexuals face levels at just over 50% higher. Assault, Lynching, Rape, Murder. In nearly every category, reports of such incidents against transsexuals and gender non-conforming individuals is not only staggeringly high, but continues to increase even amongst developed countries. Within these numbers lay another morose fact, the majority of trans violence is perpetrated against trans women of color. From the fate others have chosen for us to the fate we choose for ourselves, we move onto suicide. The average rate of suicide in the United States is approximately 2 to 3 percent. Again the Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual community maintains a 25% to 30% rate of suicide attempts, obviously far higher. Though, Transgender and gender non-conforming suicide rates are from 40% to 45%. Reports of those contemplating suicide sits somewhere around 85%. While all pain and suffering is real, the fact that the trans community deals with more bigotry, more harassment, more abandonment, more prejudice, more violence, and more suicide than any other minority group, says that our sense of right and wrong is broken, flawed, and in desperate need of a strong voice and a strong leader. For those of you out there who have experienced violence and bigotry, thoughts or attempts of suicide, you are never alone, not anymore!
In the pantheon of civil rights, of which the social revolution of the 1960s occupies but a fraction, the fight for transgender rights has always been an afterthought of the gay and lesbian movement. In part this is due to the fact that even though we share a few concerns, in general our needs differ greatly. It is the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, or who you going to bed with, versus who you going to bed as. Transsexuals especially face way too many issues to ever cover in a format such as Instagram or Facebook. Every experience slightly unique, extremely important, and very serious. From all that we have faced as a community, has been built a new movement which threatens to, promises to overturn the status quo of modern society and bigotry. To all of the trans women out there, things will get better, but not without a few more sad endings. Stay safe, stay out and proud, and stay hopeful…