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Discrimination Within the Transgender Community


Liz-Liz

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To begin, this is an account of my personal experiences from my perspective. I don't intend to paint with broad strokes and claim any of my experiences are universal, or in some cases, even "true".

 

In the past year I've struggled with all sorts of discrimination or invalidation. It's caused complications with coworkers, friends, family members and the general public. None of that is insurmountable, unpleasant as it may be. That much was expected. What I didn't expect was the invalidation I've received from members of the trans community (not here to clarify). Being an autistic, disabled person with limited income means some of the things we typically do, like hair removal, don't exactly fit in my budget. Not only has it led to internal "imposter syndrome", but I've also noticed some of the more "successful" trans women will distance themselves. At first it made me feel hopeless, knowing that such results may forever be out of my grasp and I'm doomed to live in a limbo shunned even by my own peers. At first.

In time I've learned acceptance. Am I limited by my environment? Absolutely. Is that a sufficient reason to stop trying? Definitely not. So I persist.

And then one day something strange happened. I met another trans woman, early in transition, and was immediately and involuntarily repulsed. It was a reminder of everything I fear, everything I was, everything I might still be. I didn't recognize this hypocrisy until hours later and once I did it nearly brought me to tears. My ego, my own fragile self-image, was threatened. So rather than reach out and do for her what I wish others would have done for me, I reacted with contempt. Thankfully now I can see the error of my ways. The last thing I want to do is perpetuate a toxic cycle of elitist behavior. I'd rather promote an uplifting community of love and acceptance.  We go though enough especially in our early days. I'm still just a baby myself.

I know that was a lot. It's a revelation that hit hard, and I wanted to get that off my chest. Unlike my still-developing bosom, it was really weighing on me. 😆

 

Thanks. 😊

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  • Admin

Just to reassure you, even though I have been OUT and Transitioned for 15+ years, I still meet people who are in their first stages of Transitioning that fill me with horror and disgust as well, so it does happen to all of us.  For me, it helps the situation if BOTH of us are in the same safe place at the time where "outing" is possible and recognition of our true statuses can be given. When we are in that environment, then I can calm my stomach and be welcoming to the other person if not able to really give them much more than the safe space, which in their moment may be all that is needed.

 

Only on rare occasion though do I feel an urge to scream at some of them "What do you think you are doing, and what do you think you are doing to the negative image of the Trans Community?" 

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  • Admin

I've had similar things happen with me.  One time a cross dresser came to the place I do my volunteer work.  They were dressed in female attire but had a thick beard.  It really turned me off, but they had this sunny, "I don't care what you think, I'm being myself" attitude and it made me see that the problem was me, not them.  The "transgender umbrella" doesn't keep all the rain out, but it's still a nice place of refuge.

 

Carolyn Marie

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Just a thought, an inquiry. And thank you to those above for your candidness. I appreciate the safe space to discuss these things.

 

Do you think there's a common repulsion towards nonbinary appearance? I'm referring to nonbinary appearance in very broad terms, as opposed to, say, androgynous appearance. 

 

Do you suspect that sort of experience of repulsion is most often directed at appearances which somehow brings up fears about ourselves?

 

Speaking of my own experience as an afab nonbinary person, before I began to understand myself as nonbinary I used to feel troubled by a variety of emotional reactions to the appearance of presumably cis women. If they were "plain" I felt annoyed they weren't putting effort into optimizing their "attractiveness". I found butch women simultaneously fabulous and horrible; I felt ashamed of my partial aesthetic attraction to them as well as confused because I didn't quite relate. I felt victimized by and ashamed and monstrous in comparison to "pretty" women. I felt devastatedly heartbroken at the appearance of "pretty" men, and mistook it for sexual attraction. 

 

Retrospectively, I realize this has to do with my own struggle with my appearance and identity. Truly it was envy I felt for all of them, being themselves. "Plain" women who didn't feel pressured to conform to media-driven ideals of beauty. Butch women who didn't seem to give a hoot about what you thought about their appearance. "Pretty" or highly femme presenting women who feel affirmed by that aesthetic. Pretty men whom I might could look like, but felt forbidden to do so.

 

Interestingly, I always felt some kinship with any not quite passing trans women or crossdressers I'd come across. I found them highly relatable because I didn't look "right" either. I found them very courageous. 

 

I realize as I write this that early stages of my self acceptance journey started with cultivating acceptance for others. I had to quiet that voice that was constantly and instinctively finding flaws in others and eventually understood that voice was only ever attacking me - projecting all my insecurities outward because I was in too much pain and didn't know how to deal with it.

 

Thanks for the illuminating discussion. 

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Thank you for sharing your story @Liz-Liz!
What you experienced (from both sides of the coin) is a natural part of our human condition.  Discrimination (of any type, even within a small community - whether race, gender, culture, etc ... ) is inherent in our shared humanity.  We cannot escape it totally, but we can start to both identify it (first, in ourselves) and choose to make a fundamental change.

I think that is truly the great part of your story (and what others have shared here) - that while you regret your initial reaction, you were able to empathize via a shared experience, and look seriously at self-correcting.  This is how we grow as human beings, and hopefully as a society. 

 

I really liked @Vidanjali's clarity on this issue .. so I will repeat here again -

18 minutes ago, Vidanjali said:

I had to quiet that voice that was constantly and instinctively finding flaws in others and eventually understood that voice was only ever attacking me - projecting all my insecurities outward because I was in too much pain and didn't know how to deal with it.

 

 

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Me too on this.

 

I know I don't really pass and I've learned to live with this.  But I do feel envy when I see a trans woman with a full head of hair.

And someone with a full beard in a dress makes me cringe.  And I did this myself when I was first starting to come out.  And when I think back on that there's more cringe.  

 

It's a hard thing when we start comparing ourselves to others.  I don't plan on any surgery, but sometimes I wonder if this means I'm "not trans enough."  And then I turn around and wonder about those who don't want HRT.  Am I judging them?  Yeah, you better be careful girl.   

 

When I was still living as a guy there were things I enjoyed about that.  What does that mean about me now?  Am I just faking everything?  Sometimes I feel guilty about those days.  I have been accused of living a lie back then.

 

These days I just accept that I'm a mess.  I don't want to judge anyone else's journey.

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  • 2 weeks later...

@Liz-LizI would have discomfort around AMAB gender nonconforming people earlier in my life, but I have come to realize that was my internalized transphobia/etc and fear of being me. Now I find nonbinary AMAB people interesting, magnetic, and their free expression liberating. I was more comfortable with AFAB gender nonconforming people, which actually speaks to how deeply transmisogyny gets embedded into our psyches by society.

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Hi @Liz-Liz, nice to meet you. For the past year or so I have been going to a local queer night once a month, and would often see a bearded person in a dress from whom, at first, I kept my distance. Of all gender presentations, it is that one -- the bearded transfemme -- that confuses me the most. For me, hair removal, especially from my face, was the very first step in affirming my gender, and for a long time I suspected that transfemmes with beards were either crossdressers poking fun at femininity or just not of sound mind. Whatever they were, I didn't want to be associated with them, for fear that people would bracket me with them, would see us as of the same category. (Drag queens make me feel similarly.)

 

Anyway, one night the bearded transfemme performed a poem, and my view of her changed. In the poem, she said that, as a child, she had always wanted a beard, and that her adult self could not bear to let go of the beard as a consequence -- that the beard was an effort to be true to her child self. But at the same time she knew that, in other people's eyes, the beard negated or undermined her womanhood. I was very touched, and from then on I was kinder to this person. (I had never been mean, but had not made an effort to get to know her, despite that very few transfemmes frequent this space, which is mostly inhabited by cis lesbians and transmascs.)

 

A month or two later, I found myself in a side room talking to the bearded transfemme about transition-related topics. To my astonishment, I learned that she had been on HRT for (I think) seven years and is planning to have bottom surgery in 2024. She is also a lesbian, and knows full well that her beard generally turns queer women off. It became clear to me that her gender presentation is thoroughly authentic, and that she is as feminine as I am (as if such a thing could be measured!). I also resolved at that moment never to care more about what cis people think of me or how they categorise me than about the well-being of other trans people.

 

I applaud your self-knowledge and ability to face these unpleasant feelings in yourself. We all suffer internalised transphobia and no gender presentation is more legitimate than any other. Thank you for bringing up this important topic.

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On 9/30/2023 at 11:46 PM, Liz-Liz said:

hair removal, don't exactly fit in my budget

One of the things I did during the first few years of my transition was removal of facial hair.... yup, its usually very expensive, however there is often a way around this.
Research your local area, and try to find any places that TRAIN electrolysis operators. Put yourself forward as someone that the students can "practice" on.

The above is what I did when I ended up unemployed because of my transition, I could no longer afford the $100 / hour that I was paying for electrolysis. I found that most of the students that are learning electrolysis are actually quite good at it. The main thing to watch for is that the student has settings on the machine correctly adjusted so it has enough power to kill the hair follicle, but not so much that it is causing burning as this can lead to scars.
Make sure you are reasonably familiar with how "properly done" electrolysis FEELS on your face. If the machine isn't adjusted correctly, you can usually FEEL the difference between it working as desired, being too intense, or not enough energy for it to be effective.

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@Liz-Liz I completely agree with the hair removal not being in the budget. Most don't have two growing boys, a mortgage, and the list goes on. 

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10 hours ago, Betty K said:

Hi @Liz-Liz, nice to meet you. For the past year or so I have been going to a local queer night once a month, and would often see a bearded person in a dress from whom, at first, I kept my distance. Of all gender presentations, it is that one -- the bearded transfemme -- that confuses me the most. For me, hair removal, especially from my face, was the very first step in affirming my gender, and for a long time I suspected that transfemmes with beards were either crossdressers poking fun at femininity or just not of sound mind. Whatever they were, I didn't want to be associated with them, for fear that people would bracket me with them, would see us as of the same category. (Drag queens make me feel similarly.)

 

Anyway, one night the bearded transfemme performed a poem, and my view of her changed. In the poem, she said that, as a child, she had always wanted a beard, and that her adult self could not bear to let go of the beard as a consequence -- that the beard was an effort to be true to her child self. But at the same time she knew that, in other people's eyes, the beard negated or undermined her womanhood. I was very touched, and from then on I was kinder to this person. (I had never been mean, but had not made an effort to get to know her, despite that very few transfemmes frequent this space, which is mostly inhabited by cis lesbians and transmascs.)

 

A month or two later, I found myself in a side room talking to the bearded transfemme about transition-related topics. To my astonishment, I learned that she had been on HRT for (I think) seven years and is planning to have bottom surgery in 2024. She is also a lesbian, and knows full well that her beard generally turns queer women off. It became clear to me that her gender presentation is thoroughly authentic, and that she is as feminine as I am (as if such a thing could be measured!). I also resolved at that moment never to care more about what cis people think of me or how they categorise me than about the well-being of other trans people.

 

I applaud your self-knowledge and ability to face these unpleasant feelings in yourself. We all suffer internalised transphobia and no gender presentation is more legitimate than any other. Thank you for bringing up this important topic.

Thank you for sharing your story, Betty. It was a very nice and insightful read.

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16 minutes ago, emeraldmountain said:

Thank you for sharing your story, Betty. It was a very nice and insightful read.

 

You're welcome. Thanks for reading.

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I don't know any trans people at the moment, wish I did.  I have seen a couple of suspected trans women in the local supermarket but I doubt my transdar enough to hesitate in approaching them.  Oh god what if I am wrong about them.

 

I dated a transwoman in the past and had a trans woman best friend and a transman housemate, but lost touch with both since moving away.

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On 9/30/2023 at 7:46 AM, Liz-Liz said:

To begin, this is an account of my personal experiences from my perspective. I don't intend to paint with broad strokes and claim any of my experiences are universal, or in some cases, even "true".

 

In the past year I've struggled with all sorts of discrimination or invalidation. It's caused complications with coworkers, friends, family members and the general public. None of that is insurmountable, unpleasant as it may be. That much was expected. What I didn't expect was the invalidation I've received from members of the trans community (not here to clarify). Being an autistic, disabled person with limited income means some of the things we typically do, like hair removal, don't exactly fit in my budget. Not only has it led to internal "imposter syndrome", but I've also noticed some of the more "successful" trans women will distance themselves. At first it made me feel hopeless, knowing that such results may forever be out of my grasp and I'm doomed to live in a limbo shunned even by my own peers. At first.

In time I've learned acceptance. Am I limited by my environment? Absolutely. Is that a sufficient reason to stop trying? Definitely not. So I persist.

And then one day something strange happened. I met another trans woman, early in transition, and was immediately and involuntarily repulsed. It was a reminder of everything I fear, everything I was, everything I might still be. I didn't recognize this hypocrisy until hours later and once I did it nearly brought me to tears. My ego, my own fragile self-image, was threatened. So rather than reach out and do for her what I wish others would have done for me, I reacted with contempt. Thankfully now I can see the error of my ways. The last thing I want to do is perpetuate a toxic cycle of elitist behavior. I'd rather promote an uplifting community of love and acceptance.  We go though enough especially in our early days. I'm still just a baby myself.

I know that was a lot. It's a revelation that hit hard, and I wanted to get that off my chest. Unlike my still-developing bosom, it was really weighing on me. 😆

 

Thanks. 😊

Hey @Liz-Liz

I can definitely relate to this.

 

I met another trans man early into my transition, and felt like crying on the spot. He was nearly my exact body type and composition, and didn't pass at all. I didn't know how to react. My own goals are to pass as much as possible. I want to be seen as cis, and I choose to never tell people I am trans. But seeing someone who looked so much like me, and was so "un-passable" made me want to give up. He'd been on T for a while, and did everything "correctly," but I could tell. 

 

After this initial reaction, I had another epiphany/breakdown, that I was judging him just like my cis mates judge me. Unfortunately, I think we all deal with internalised transphobia to some extent, some more than others. When we see what we very often hate on the outside, it makes us feel disgusted on the inside.  Much like you, I had such a fragile self-image that it was shattered by something so simple. 

 

It's great that you're trying to break this cycle of toxicity. Now when I see people like that, I joyfully greet them, because it's not everyone's goal to pass, and passing isn't possible for a lot of people. Everyone should still be treated with respect, and also importantly, everyone is trying. Who are we to judge people's progress?

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I think a lot of this disgust comes from the fact that trans people in general are very concerned about appearance. We know how others can see us. When we're constantly afraid that someone will see us as the wrong gender, or at worst, a predator, we kind of have to be aware of how we appear to others. We also know that people like to group people together, especially bigoted people, but anyone can do it. When you see a trans woman who doesn't pass, you feel like all your work to pass has been invalidated. Like no one will ever see trans women as women when some of them don't pass. Like no one will ever see you as a woman, even if you do pass.

Another part could be you projecting your negative feelings about yourself onto someone else. You've felt shame about your body, and now here's someone who has that kind of body.

This is something I've dealt with a lot, too. Before I knew I was trans, I thought I just "wasn't like other girls." I looked down on girls and women who embraced their femininity. "Why would you dress that way? Why would you wear makeup?" because I thought everyone else felt the way I did, and they just presented feminine because of the patriarchy or something. It's still something I struggle with, it's hard for me to imagine why anyone would want to be a woman. Once I realized I was trans, those feelings started to spread to other groups as well. When I see butch women, I feel like I'll be lumped in with them. When I hear stories of teenage "girls" transition rates going up, I get nervous because that means less people will take me seriously.

The problem with getting rid of these fears is that, unfortunately, they're kind of true. People do lump us all together instead of looking at the individual. They see false versions of us and think they know better than we do. Hearing things about passing in the trans community is especially hard.

I think first of all, it's important to find the right trans communities for you. This website is one of the least judgemental places I've found, so you should be good here. Also, it's important to realize your thoughts don't always line up with your feelings. I read somewhere once that our first thought is what society tells us to think, and our second is what we really think. I think it can go the other way around, as well. We make snap judgements to protect ourselves. Subconsciously or not, we can see non-passing trans people as a threat, because they can influence how people see us. But everyone has a right to be happy in their skin. Trans people are outliers too, and we have to stick together. Lastly, I highly recommend watching the Contrapoints YouTube channel if you've never checked it out. She's talked about what you're feeling quite a few times.

Remember what you're feeling is normal. You posting here means you want to make a change, and that's a good thing. Good luck!

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