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I'm Unsure of What to Do

Russ Fenrisson

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I've been thinking about this for a while and I have yet to come to a satisfying conclusion. I don't like to bring up personal matters so as not to be too bothersome to others, but in order to feel better and to get it off my chest, I've decided it's probably best to mention it lest it continue to fester.


In private, I've been open about my identity for about eight years. Some people in my life are fine with it and are quite accepting, while others, without much saying, seem to not be for it. It's been bothering me for a while because I want to be more open and live the life I want to the best I can, but no matter how much I try to ask for respect in regards to my preferred name and pronouns, it always seems to fall flat. Time and time again, when I could, I brought up the fact I don't enjoy being called by my birth name or pronouns that don't suit me, but everytime- maybe some days after- it goes back to how it wa before: the continuation of the wrong name and pronouns. I want these individuals to understand how much it hurts me when I don't feel heard but I haven't been able to find the right words to get them to understand.


Is there a better strategy I could be trying? Should I wait until the time is right and I know for a fact they understand how I feel?


I thank anyone who can provide me with some advice.

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These individuals you speak of, are they people who claim to love you? In other ways, do you feel loved by them? If there's no love (or conditional love), and they haven't taken your requests seriously by now, then they may not ever, and those relationships may wind up not being priorities in your life - you need to associate as much as possible with people who lift you up. Do you actually believe that you could make things any clearer to those individuals? Oftentimes, it takes more than words to change a mind, and frankly this may be beyond your control. 


I'll tell you about an experience with a friend of mine. He and I were instantly close upon meeting - zero getting to know you period, just immediately comfortable, bonded and very affectionate. He and I agree we must have been VERY close in a previous life. He's a gay cis man. Despite 3 intense heart-to-heart conversations with him about my experience of gender, he continues to misgender me and act alarmed when I present at all masc. It's very hurtful and I don't understand it - because I'm too close to him. That is, if I were viewing the facts objectively, I would probably feel much different about it. In fact, when I tell my husband about how I feel hurt by this friend, he quickly, and frankly accurately, summarizes the situation by telling me this friend is kind of a mess (alternately an active alcoholic or dry drunk), is emotionally immature, and is a bit old fashioned in his attitudes and beliefs. To reiterate, when emotions are involved, it's not so easy to accept the "logical" explanation. And I do know what this friend is like. To wit, I've had other conversations with him wherein I've endeavored to explain to him what racism is. Seriously. For example, we had a breakthrough one time when he told me he grew up in a mostly homogenously WASPy environment - there was one Black kid at his school, and no Jews. He told me he'd learned from stereotypes that Jews are undesirable (I'm paraphrasing), but when he moved to an area where there's a large Jewish population, he realized the stereotypes were false and now has many Jewish friends. I suggested that if that was the case for Jewish stereotypes, then couldn't it possibly also be true for Black stereotypes. He did see the clarity in that parallel, at least in that moment. I'm relaying this to provide context for his mindset. 


The 3rd heart-to-heart I had with this friend was the most intense. I told him that I had been feeling myself building a wall between us and that I didn't want that to happen. I told him that I don't expect him to understand, and that one doesn't need to thoroughly understand in order to accept and respect. I explicitly told him that when he says certain things to or about me, that it hurts me, and knowing that, even if he doesn't really understand and even if it's counterintuitive to him, he can choose whether or not to hurt me in those moments. I told him that I don't expect him to change his entire world view or entire gender paradigm just for me, but all I ask for is some consideration. He was very open with me during that conversation and expressed his deep love for me and that he never wants to hurt me, thanked me for telling him, never wants me to feel alienated from him, and encouraged me to tell him any time I felt hurt by him because it's important to him and he wants to know. I told him that if he says something by accident, not to worry, just please acknowledge it, apologize, and we'll move on. Next time I saw him I was standing with a couple of women and he greeted us collectively, "good morning, ladies." Exactly one of the things I explicitly asked him not to do. Some people you just can't get through to. 


Therefore, I think sometimes energy is better spent regulating your personal boundaries with others & working on self-acceptance rather than figuring out how else you might possibly get them to understand. 

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  • Admin

Having a heart-to-heart discussion with those who misgender you has always worked for me, although I haven't had to do it much.  Those also need to be done one-on-one.  But once you do, and they continue to misgender you, and it appears they are doing so intentionally, then you have to make a decision about keeping them in your life.


I had a colleague at work who misgendered me for months after I came out.  Every time he did, he realized his mistake and apologized, sometimes profusely.  I never had the feeling that he was trying to hurt me; his brain just wasn't "wired" to accept and remember me as female.  It embarrassed him to keep doing it, but he couldn't help himself.  I told him not to worry about it, and we remained friends.


But if I had such a friend or colleague that seemed to get his rocks off by misgendering me, he would not be a friend for long.  I wish you luck, hon.


Carolyn Marie

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@VidanjaliThe individuals I'm referring to say they do and care about me and my well-being, but sometimes it doesn't feel like they do at all. Whether it's just me or I don't try hard enough, it feels like I'm not heard or listened to, or that what interests me doesn't matter. I know I'm not a very loud person, but I don't feel considered in certain matters unless they are absolutely important. Perhaps I'm being too extreme, but I haven't exactly felt loved or comfortably loved since I was 11. It's probably an exaggeration and has much to do with issues I experienced at that age, but I just don't feel comfortable with these people anymore. I wish I could go some place where I'm understood and heard but everytime I think of such a place, no adequate one comes to mind.


When I get like this, I have these thoughts of running away and going someplace new where nobody knows me; where I can start anew, meet new people, and hope to find someone I click with. It's just romantization but sometimes I feel no hope in my situation.


I'm sorry you had to go through that with your friend. Your husband, like yourself, sounds quite intuitive. It's always good to have someone like that in your life.


I've thought it over and over again, and sometimes it feels like it isn't worth it but I can't say what is morally right in this situation. One of these individuals isn't always bad: it's just that in regards to my true gender, they appear to be very oppositional about it. They told me it was okay if I were gay but being trans was not quite an option. It hurt when they said so but there's really nothing I can do to change how they feel. And the worst part is I don't think they feel sorry they hurt me with such words and many other things they said over the years.


I've decided I'm not going to put up with this any longer. Definitely, yeah, I need to work on some things. Especially with my cognition and regulating my emotions when my down periods come in. It's just, I don't think people who are supposed to be related should be treating others like this.

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@Carolyn MarieYeah, I need to be better about that. I once wrote a letter explicitly stating how I feel male (this was before I added non-binary to my identity) and I wish to be treated as such and... nothing seems to have changed much. I'm defnitely not being treated the same as was I before (which I'm glad because those were some tough years), but this misgendering seems to be lingering on. I addressed it sometime last month when I got tired of the treatment and I definitely didn't do it right. The person in question laughed as I was explaining it was hurtful to be misgendered and referred by the wrong name. For a few days they seemed to honor my wishses before promptly going back to the same routine.


I wish I could do a one-on-one conversation with them, but it seems like there's never a good time. I want them to take me seriously and stop seeing me as a joke.


Thank you as well. The individual in question is old-fashioned and not very tolerable towards certain things, but I'll try my best. If it doesn't work out, well, at least they'll know how I felt wasn't said in jest.

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A 1-on-1 conversation is sometimes hard to achieve, but is probably the only way to actually get through to these people.  Another way would be a very long, certified letter sent by mail.  Certified mail is used for legal documents, and it confirms they received it, also lets them know you're serious. 


Ultimately, you end up triaging who is worthwhile in your life.  The rest.... hiss loudly and scamper away. 

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@Russ Fenrisson I can relate to your experience of not feeling loved since childhood. It can sound dramatic when you say it, but if that's the way you feel, it's important to acknowledge. I believe I didn't experience genuine love until age 22 when I brought home a puppy I found on the street. Another thing my husband has in common with me is he also asserts that his experience of love from his early life was exclusively with dogs. Thank goodness for pets!


It's a bitter pill to swallow when those related to you are not a source of love and acceptance. We're raised to believe that archetypically our relatives are supposed to be our closest allies. Mine were not, and it's taken years of effort to let go of those expectations and heartbreak. I can offer a bit of insight to chew on.


Sometimes, for example, when desperately trying to get other relatives to understand the level of chaos, abuse & neglect that was happening at home, they would just reply with "well, your mother is just doing the best she can." This would infuriate me because this so-called "best" set the bar very low. Many years later, I began to realize the true implication of such a claim, "doing one's best".


An individual can only function at their own given level of consciousness/emotional development/personal development at any given time. My mother was very immature, a product of a raging father with PTSD from WW2 and an alcoholic mother, extremely fearful, religiously scrupulous, and certainly had PTSD herself. None of that excuses her poor behavior as a mother. But, she was incapable of higher functioning - was literally doing her best - and for that I'm able to find forgiveness. Day is, "best" is relative, whereas we usually equate that word with the highest achievement. 


Now, that's an extreme example. But, the point is, in order to be a fully loving person, one must break through shame, guilt, fear, pride & egoism. I've found that for the majority of people, that's not so easy to do. It takes great courage to examine oneself and one's motives truthfully. None of this is to say that it somehow takes extra effort to love you. It's just that most people do not like their comfort zones tampered with - and "most people" means that our relatives are not exempt. When "loving" someone is "easy" - as in hi, how are you, how's this that and the other thing, okay "I love you", bye - then it's not so noticeable. Introduce any request for greater intimacy or understanding, and many people - relatives included - find it confrontational and they react by clamping up, ridiculing, ignoring, or lashing out. It's up to each individual whether they are willing to work through the present limits of their mindset to open up to new ways of understanding so as to be more empathetic and compassionate. No one can make another person do that work. 


The best thing you can do is to work on not internalizing their reactions to you. Your validity is not dependent on what they think. Indeed, they may not be able to see you for who you are due to their own limitations. I recall you've expressed in the past that you're very introverted. I would challenge you to try to reach out so that you can experience interactions with people who are validating - who will be a mirror of what's best about you. That is good medicine. 

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@awkward-yet-sweet Yeah, I could try writing another letter, just to get my thoughts down. And since I know what the specific issue is, I can better asses it and say what the problem is. I can't tell you how many times I've just wanted to do just that: turn my back and never look back. I think about traveling too much.


@Vidanjali I could try that. Sometimes, I go to a café and the most I do is sit around and draw until I decide to leave. There's a couple of interesting people there but what with the noise and feeling like I should maintain zero contact with strangers, I usually keep to myself. Don't want to bother people who are working diligently on private endeavors or trying to catch a break in the middle of the day. I could try talking with someone and see what happens.


I hate being dramatic but perhaps that's a flaw of mine- over-flating things and perceiving things as worse than they are. I often see things as terrible before actually considering the positive. Definitely need to work on that. With people I don't attach very well to, possibly due to bad experiences I've had in the past, but with animals, I get along well with. Upon meeting an animal for the first time- whether dogs or cats- it's like I become instant friends with them. Adult cats can be harder unless they are of a certain temperament, but kittens are easier because all they want is attention and someone to play with. I guess that's what makes animals endearing to me. They're generally not mean and don't go out of their way to belittle others- they just want companionship.


Well... in the past, one of my relatives had a bad experience with a trans person before, and that's probably one of the reasons they're having a hard time accepting/ understanding my identity. Said person did not go about with things in the best way, and I think this ultimately impacted my relative in a negative way. My relative has only been negatively verbal with me in the past and I'm glad it's only been just that and nothing else.


Most of the time I can take this misgendering but at times when I feel my mood get low, it feels like my shell is gradually being torn away, like a statue, until my vulnerability breaks through the skin. I'll need to find ways to cope when these periods occur or else I may say or react in a way that might hurt my situation.


If nothing at all, I need companions. People I can hang with to at least forget what's going on for a little while.


Thanks again.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just wanted to address a slight change in the situation.


Things are about the same but I was able to come up with a nickname that is pleasing to both me and those around me. The new nickname has been used on and off, but at least I can see an effort to try to make me feel accomodated.


I also wrote down my thoughts in a letter and after getting my feelings out, I felt a lot better. I probably won't need to use it now but if there is a time I feel not understood again, I always have it to use to get my thoughts out in a clearer manner.


I want to thank everyone again for responding and providing me with advice. I really appreciate it.

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Glad that there's been some progress. Hopefully things will continue to improve over time.

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    • VickySGV
      Many Trans activists that I know consider that behavior to be a form of Violence against us.  Accidents do happen and I evaluate them as they come.  Hanging up the phone, if that is how you talk to them would work for a bit.  Sending them an actual U.S.P.S. letter setting YOUR BOUNDARIES would be highly appropriate, but do get ready for some blow back on it.  Your Gender Therapist can be a big help in strategies to deal with this too.
    • MayBea
      So I've come out to my family for about a a year and a half. And I've been on hrt for over a year. And some of my family still struggles with misgendering me and deadnaming me? My sister seems to be trying but she constantly makes mistakes even during my last visit a few weeks ago(and has misgendered me in public without even thinking about it several times). My cousin did fine for a while, until he started randomly deadnaming me and misgendering me the last few months(all on the phone to be clear). Luckily my friends who known me before transition treat me perfectly. I guess my question is, how do I handle this? Being misgendered and deadnamed is painful for me but I try to remember how long they knew me before my transition and try to understand it might be difficult for them to adjust. I do correct them and they seem to realize they messed up and apologize. But it keeps happening. And I'm not sure how to talk to them about it(if I even should). Am I being unreasonable in being hurt by them?
    • Mmindy
      Good questions Mark, and thank you for being a caring enough person to think about and prepare to meet your cousin. I know she will be very proud of you, when you handle the meeting with love and respect.   Mindy🐛🏳️‍⚧️🦋
    • Carolyn Marie
      Mark, you did a good thing in joining this site; it shows you to be an ally and a thoughtful, caring person.   I can't think of a single thing that @Vidanjalididn't cover expertly.  I could not have said it better.  If you think of other questions, or wish to ask anything of anyone off line, once you have five posts you can PM anyone, but you don't have to wait to talk privately to any staff member here.  Good luck to you and your cousin.   Carolyn Marie
    • heatherd
      He will be in for a long time based on his record.Judge is looking at that too.I credit the prosecutor not giving up on me including the police.
    • Vidanjali
      @MarkCT that's kind of you to reach out to this community to ask such questions. Just based on your willingness to learn and be supportive, I am sure you will succeed.    My understanding is that your cousin transitioned male to female. In that case, she's always been "she". Because she was socialized as male, he/him pronouns had been used in the past. But now that she's discovered she's a woman, she should always be referred to as she (unless she tells you otherwise - some individuals use various pronouns for various reasons). If referring to her before transition, still use she/her, but if the context is important to what you're saying, you can specify "before she transitioned" - don't say "when she was he" or "before she became a woman" or "before she turned trans" or anything like that. Think of her as always having been female, but having worn a male mask for several years. Now, she's removed the mask and is her genuine self.    If there's any doubt, just ask her what are her pronouns. She will probably be more appreciative of you asking rather than assuming.   If you slip and say the wrong thing, just apologize and correct yourself, then move on - don't linger on the mistake potentially making it more awkward and putting her in the position of consoling you. If you hear someone else use the wrong pronoun, be a good ally and correct them matter-of-factly. It sometimes takes practice to adapt to a person's new pronouns. There's a learning curve and it requires patience and compassion.    As for her wife, treat that like anyone's ex-partner situation. If it's a given that they're still friends, no harm in mentioning her. If there's obvious tension, don't mention it unless she brings it up. But don't assume to refer to her as her ex's former "husband" as she may or may not be comfortable with that male-gendered title. It's safer to use gender neutral terms like partner or spouse until you know for sure how a person prefers to refer to themself.    Likewise with personal stuff, just use etiquette you'd use with any other person. But, particularly with a trans individual, the details of her transition are her business only. For example, it's not appropriate to ask someone what meds they take, or what surgeries they've had or not had, etc. Don't treat her as exotic. Just chat with her like you would with anyone else. If she wants to share personal stuff, it's her choice.    In big family gatherings, be a good ally and keep an eye on her if you're worried. If you notice she's uncomfortable in a conversation, interject and change the subject or use an excuse to take her away from it. You'll see it's more about common sense.    Again, good on you for caring and asking. I hope you have a beautiful time with your family. 
    • Mmindy
      G'Day @Jamey-Heather I hope all is well with you and yours. I love that this forum has a global reach.   @WillowI've spent time in all of the lower 48 states thanks to Fire Departments, State Police, and Emergency Management. aka Homeland Security. Oh and I can't leave out our Armed Forces, they had us in for Base Management and Hazardous Materials Response to Bulk Deliveries. We always managed to see some local sites while traveling around teaching. Now I'm taking my wife to the most interesting locations. We hope to add Alaska, and Hawaii, completing all 50 states for me. I've also been to several locations in Mexico, and Canada when I was a Safety Manager for a Chemical Tank Truck Company. We're also looking into the British Isles, Dunkirk, and Normandy in France.   Well today's yard 👩‍🌾 work was enough exercise for a couple of days. They're calling for rain and high winds tonight. Saturday we return to normal February Winter Weather.    Hugs,   Mindy🐛🏳️‍⚧️🦋
    • awkward-yet-sweet
      Glad that there's been some progress. Hopefully things will continue to improve over time.
    • Vidanjali
      Great to hear that @Russ Fenrisson . Any progress is a relief and helps to strengthen one's faith that things can be even better. 
    • Willow
      Hi @Jamey-Heather.  Nice to see you.   @Mmindy  that sounds like an interesting trip.  I’ve never been to either state. Actually I’m down to about 10 I haven’t been to yet.  And I don’t mean stopped in an airport but spent at least an hour.  I’ve also been to the majority of the US territories.  Just not American Samoa although I spent several hours in Samoa and in Okinawa and I don’t know that I’ve stepped foot in Guam.  I think we will try to close out Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas, then Minnesota and Wisconsin this summer.  That leaves me with Alaska.  Places in Canada I’d like to go are Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.    Willow
    • Russ Fenrisson
      Just wanted to address a slight change in the situation.   Things are about the same but I was able to come up with a nickname that is pleasing to both me and those around me. The new nickname has been used on and off, but at least I can see an effort to try to make me feel accomodated.   I also wrote down my thoughts in a letter and after getting my feelings out, I felt a lot better. I probably won't need to use it now but if there is a time I feel not understood again, I always have it to use to get my thoughts out in a clearer manner.   I want to thank everyone again for responding and providing me with advice. I really appreciate it.
    • Russ Fenrisson
      I've also wondered about the same thing, especially since a lot of media I see, if they include a trans character at all, is usually transfeminine. I think it really boils down to what @Carolyn Mariesaid: how said individuals are perceived in society and the acceptibility of it. It's a shame transwomen and transfeminine people are made to feel bad for who they are or to be afraid of how they identify or choose to present themselves. This might be why you see more stories concerning them. To spread awareness and to show transwomen are not scary and are people just like everybody else.   In regards to transmen and transmasculine people, I've done much reading and thinking, and have come to the conclusion that perhaps such individuals are not explored or discussed is because of a private, safety factor. I've read more and more individuals have been coming out as FtM compared to recent years, such as in the 90s or early 2000's, and they may not be as transparent or as seen as MtF individuals just because of the fact they could face ridicule or repercussion for coming out or exploring their identity. It appears the expression of women is much more flexible nowadays than it was before, but that doesn't mean it is all inclusive. It probably just depends on where you are and the kind of atmosphere that is present.   What I always think is, whether I know it or not, I've at least run into someone like myself without knowing it. It provides a sense of mystery but it's at least a little bit comforting in these strange times.
    • MarkCT
      Hi All   This is my first, and in many was I hope my last, post on this forum but here goes and apologies in advance if it is a bit long winded but I think you’d need to know the full picture if you are going to give me any tips, which I do hope you will.    Back in 1963 my mum’s family (her mum, dad and numerous much younger siblings) emigrated to Sydney as “£10 Pommes”. I was two years old at the time and we were due to join them the following year but for various reasons we didn’t go. My dad had no family apart from his parents, who died many years ago. So, it has always been important to me, my wife and our (now grown up) children to visit the family regularly.     So now we get to the main point. I’ve always been saddened that, whilst everyone of my Aussie family have been so excited to see us when we visit there has always been one exception; a first cousin who was really nice but always seemed very standoffish and distant. You can imagine my surprise when she announced that she had transitioned! I’m not great at social media but my wife contacted her and they converse on and off, not a lot but as much as before she transitioned.    But now with Covid out of the way 🤞we are planning our next trip so (as my cousin is not on the main family WhatsApp group) I wrote to her. I said we (my wife and I) were going to be in Sydney and Brisbane, where most of the family live, but that Ballarat really was going to be just too much of a stretch- especially as she is the only one who lives there. I was amazed and so happy when she immediately wrote back and said she’d make sure she came to see us (if you look at the map and at the cost of flights you’ll realise that is no small commitment).    Now this may seem obvious to you but it is all totally new territory to me and my wife so we are worried about inadvertently saying something that might be hurtful.  so any tips would be most welcome. I have some particular questions:   In chatting do we always use feminine pronouns or do we use masculine when talking about the time before transition (ie our previous visits etc)?   Do we talk about his/her(? )wife, who has now gone her own way, although I suspect they are still friends?    Do we steer well clear of discussing anything at all personal I’m thinking of both emotional and practical issues)? Or perhaps my wife could whereas I shouldn’t?   What do we do about our normal big family gatherings? We’d love her to be there but don’t obviously want to put any undue pressure. We do see on Facebook that some of the family are very kind and accepting but in the cases of a good many others we just don’t know.  Thats just a few of the questions we have but any other comments or tips would be most welcome before we get on the plane from Heathrow at the end of the month.    Thanks 😊    Mark    
    • MiraF
      I think if anyone will take over the US as führer, it will be DeSantis. Trump is already being removed from his position as head of the republicans, with people like fox news and Breitbart saying DeSantis is the future of the party. Considering Trump's incompetence and Ron's actions so far, he may actually be worse.   Apart from that, I agree with you 100%.
    • Vidanjali
      The persecution of Black Americans is not analogous to the persecution of trans people, but there are intersecting features such as disproportionate levels of violence against and systemic oppression. That is, in particular, violence against both groups is not exclusively individually motivated (de facto), but is abetted by systemic oppression (de jure).  So, to gain some context for thinking about this question, I read two articles, one that argues that the 1951 charge of genocide against Black Americans is compelling:   https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/12/26/black-activists-charge-genocide-united-states-systemic-racism-526045   and another which argues it is not:   https://opiniojuris.org/2021/12/30/is-structural-genocide-legally-genocide-a-response-to-hinton/   This second article discusses another article on settler colonialism (linked in both articles) whose author states that settler colonialism is eliminatory, but not necessarily genocidal. The 2nd article's author further suggests that therefore systematic "crushing of spirit" may be better defined as cultural genocide, which was deliberately excluded from the genocide convention, however.   From what I understand, proof of intent is pivotal in charging genocide. That was the main argument against validifying the charge of genocide against Black Americans.    Anti-trans politicians and policy makers tend to (deliberately) mask their intent by claiming campaigns to save the children.    After reading the 2nd article, I began to read about crime against humanity versus genocide.    UN definition of crimes against humanity (CAH): https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/crimes-against-humanity.shtml   Note the UN definition of CAH refers to gender. Remarkably, the UN definition of gender acknowledges gender as a social construct.    Also note, regarding intent, that "[an] important distinction is that in the case of crimes against humanity, it is not necessary to prove that there is an overall specific intent. It suffices for there to be a simple intent to commit any of the acts listed, with the exception of the act of persecution, which requires additional discriminatory intent. The perpetrator must also act with knowledge of the attack against the civilian population and that his/her action is part of that attack." Do I believe the trans population is under attack? Yes, without a doubt. Do I believe it's genocide? I view this as an academic question, albeit an important one. I don't know the answer. I do think that it's possible that someone/some people in power will succumb to hubris and unequivocally declare intent to eliminate the trans population. I don't hope for that, but tbh, at least if such intent is made clear, then there is a clearer path to bringing a charge of genocide or CAH. However, I think that using the trans population as a scapegoat to galvanize ones voting constituency is ultimately of greater interest to those individuals than actually destroying us. Nonetheless, we suffer the collateral damage.       
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