Friday, July 13, 2012

Trans Invisibility

Orangeban asked: "What are your thoughts on trans* invisibility within the LGBT movement?"

Invisiblity within the trans* movement is a topic which could have any one of a few different causes (or at least a combination of them). Some of them are within our control, and others require the LGB of LGBT groups to stand up. And even though some are within our control, it winds up being a lot to ask of those trans people who can affect this.

The first reason is sheer numbers. By and large, we're not a big group. There were only a handful of us, if that, at my local LGBT group (compared to the tons and tons of LG people). The numbers game means that at any LGBT support group, we will be a minority, unless it's specifically targeted at trans* people. There are just more gay and lesbian identified men and women than there are trans women and men. So, even at the outset, we're already fighting an uphill battle.

The next issue is a beef with many of the LGBT organizations out and about. In a lot of cases, the trans related issues, discussion topics, and so on are either few and far between at best, or nonexistent at worst. This stems from problem one, that we're not nearly as large a group as the LGB, so naturally, most LGBT organizations tend to give the T events, topics, etc. proportional to their numbers within the group. Small numbers, few meetings focused on our issues. (I want to give a shout out to the Akron LGBTU group at my college - they break this trend and give trans issues a larger chunk of time).

So even within these groups, we're often pushed aside because we're a minority within the minority. This deserves a mention, because right now, we're FAR behind LGB rights in terms of social acceptance, protections, rights, and so on.  We still have U.S. Senators getting away with promoting violence towards us. The murders of trans women are in many cases not appearing in the media. CeCe McDonald's self-defense resulting in jail. We are YEARS behind LGB rights, and even despite this, many LGBT organizations fail to adequately inform and educate their memberships on trans issues. I've heard many stories of lesbian, gay, and/or bisexual people being just as ignorant of trans issues as heteronormative people. Considering that they are supposed to be our allies, it's not asking much, I think, that they be informed on our issues. Especially considering we're so far behind them. We need them to be educated, and we need their support. These are still dark times to be a trans* person, and if we can't even count on the LGB part of LGBT, then who can we count on? Are we expected to be used as a voting base for gay and lesbian rights while we get thrown under the bus to advance LGB-related legislation at the expense of trans protections? This comic comes to mind. Don't be like this, seriously. If your group is like this, please don't hesitate to bring this up to them. If they worry about losing gay and lesbian membership if trans-related information and activities are increased - ask them if those who would leave were ever really trans allies in the first place. We're years behind, and quite vulnerable, we NEED those who claim to be our allies to be educated and involved.

Okay, back to the main topic. Another reason trans people tend to be invisible, is that many trans people simply cease all action within trans/LGBT circles once they've finished transition, especially if they pass. They no longer need the emotional support group, and are capable of living a normal, fulfilling life without the need for the LGBT organization. As many LGBT groups are very lesbian/gay focused anyway, and tend to serve their interests and needs instead of those of trans people, its no surprise that many decide to just stop going to these groups. Especially since they no longer need most of the support that the few trans-related events offer.

And finally, you have the last, and probably most obvious reason for trans invisibility - "stealth". Stealth of course refers to the practice of a trans person living as a cis person, actively hiding their trans status in an attempt to avoid anti-trans related issues / enjoy cis privilege. While it's obviously understandable why many trans people choose this, it has some consequences. For one, when people think of someone who's transsexual/transgender, they're usually think of drag queens, or the stereotypical late transitioners who's trans* status is apparent. That is because these are the only trans people that they "see". You have your outliers like Jenna Talackova, and Chaz Bono, but that's only recently, and even then they're seen as the exception to the rule. This is because, explicitly, of passing/stealth. It's confirmation bias. The only trans people that 'exist' are those who don't pass. Those who do pass are rendered invisible to the public, and thus don't 'exist', becoming literally invisible. That said, it's hard to ask any of them to stand up and be loud and proud when doing so is likely to result in violent action, discrimination, and other negative consequences. Once more legal protections and rights, and more social progress has been made, it will be safer for those among us who appear cisgender to speak out for trans rights.

All of the above contributes to this. We're a minority already, but many of us pass, and in doing so, we literally become invisible. This means the number of 'visible' trans people is even smaller. It's only recently that we've had much visibility, and even with the somewhat growing acceptance, many would rather hide in stealth.


(Comments are open to anonymous posting! This blog thrives on questions and prompts by the readers. If you have a question or idea you would like me to write about, please share it in the comments section below!)


  1. Sorry for not commenting earlier, I've been trying to think of a question. I'm really not a very imaginative person :(

    But excellent answer to my question, thank you for that.

    Okay, question, what do you think of the emerging trend for parents to raise their children without acknowledging their gender? Cases like that Storm kid who caused quite a bit of news.

    I can only support this trend, mainly for personal reasons, since I feel my life could have been slightly different had I been allowed to develop my own identity, rather than be assigned one.

  2. Scottish trans people (like me), may want to read this:

    Basically, the Scottish NHS just became a whole lot more awesome in dealing with trans people, including, most excitingly for me, letting me be treated as an adult at 16 and letting me self-refer to GIC clinics.

  3. The world will always have bias, and people will always want to hide or run away from their problems. Granted there is a lot of trans hate from regular people, its just because you are abnormal. Abnormalities stir up a lot of natural responses in all animals, such as seeing someone with some extreme physically altering disease, granted that is far and away from being transgendered.

    Though I think everyone should be treated equally I have a hard time sympathizing with your side in modern day society. trans is such a minority compared to other societal problems that I feel its hardly important to fix the way society thinks about trans when racism and sexism is still rampant.

    That being said it would help your cause (to outside parties such as myself) if you stopped throwing around words like cis, or heteronormative, and just say straight or normal... I understand it might not make you feel great but think about the meaning of the word normal and why its a very important thing in society as we know it.

    Also this is a more biased take on some of your previous posts, but you sound like an entitled child in some of your blog posts. Why should I accept you when you aren't willing to accept me? Why should I care about the plight of trans people when you treat regular people like trash? Awefully childish.

    1. When have "regular" people been treated like trash?

    2. Regular people are put down because we think normally. That was primarily evident in the last blog post, about the bar situation. Its normal to assume someone has the physical parts that matches their appearance, making the burden not on the regular person but actually on the irregular person. Regular people are constantly being berrated for being normal, especially if they refuse to cater to every single niche group in society.

      Average male doesn't agree with trans views? Bigot. Average male doesn't want to date a transgendered woman because they are genetically a man? Bigot. (This includes post-op too, I wouldn't date a trans person no matter the "parts" they have. And no, that does not make me a bad person, nor a bigot, nor against your cause)

    3. Okay, why wouldn't you not date a post-op transgender woman? Let's explore your reasoning here. Let's assume they pass perfectly and their bits look perfectly "normal".

    4. I want children. And I want a biological woman. Why is that so wrong?

      P.s. I want my own kids, not adopted

    5. Firstly, a trans woman is just as "biological" as any other woman.

      But why do you want a "biological" woman, what is so attractive about someone having DNA that signifies their sex is female (because that is the only distinguishing feature in this).

      As for the children, can I assume you wouldn't date an infertile woman then?

    6. Its not the only biological difference. Try matching a womans period, and all of the hormones that come with it, or the hormonal differences during pregnancy. How about a womans scent? You can't match that just by taking hormones, its incredibly hard coded. And no I wouldn't as I want children. Seeing as I am allowed to be specific, I'm going to be

    7. So, uh, you're attracted to women based on them having periods? Because certain types of birth control actually stop periods, so I assume you wouldn't date women using those.

      And what is a woman's scent? I assumed they all had different scents, rather than one scent that is common to all. Would you refuse to date a woman who wore perfume on account of her not having the right scent?

    8. You have obviously never enjoyed the true scent of a woman, especially during intercourse. And what's so bad about enjoying a woman in theirnatural entirety? Sure they may not be convienient but they serve a very important purpose

    9. Increase in libido, enhanced mood due to proper hormone distribution, cleanses the vagina and the womb, helps lose weight, makes you live longer, there's lots of good things that a period does where most people equate periods with PMS.

      On the perfume subject, I enjoy perfume, but I enjoy the way women smell in a more natural and primal way. Stop nit picking arguements, and quit being fallacious

    10. Fine, want me to quite being fallacious, let's look at the big picture.

      I'd say your only legitimate reason is that trans women can't have kids. If you would truly not date an infertile woman, then that's fair enough, let's move on.

      However, all your other reasons (seriously, periods and "a woman's scent"? How picky are you, do you dump women when they don't smell quite right?) reveal that I don't think you consider trans women to be "real" women. You describing cis women as "biological" women (I'm just as biological as any woman, FYI) and that you want to enjoy women in "their natural entirety" show that much.

      Which leads to a greater point, you wouldn't date trans women because you still harbour the view that a trans women is really a man, and you don't want to date men. That view is what makes you a bigot.

      And as for why it is the responsibility of the "regular" person to be either open-minded or to reveal that they don't like trans people, rather than the trans person having to say they are trans, it's because it is actually quite dangerous for a trans person to reveal that they are trans. Violence, murder, these reactions are not uncommon, and the "shock" of finding out someone is trans is actually considered to be a legal defence in some places for crimes.

    11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    12. [my comment above was deleted because it would not allow me to make grammatical corrections without outright deleting the post]
      Regarding "female scent" yes, in fact, that's controlled by hormones. You come in here, posting these things, but you clearly don't understand what you're speaking about. And regarding the hormone fluctuations around a woman's period, that's controlled by a hormone "progesterone". The exact same hormone fluctuation can be accomplished in a transgender woman by cycling progesterone. Many opt to not do it, because all it does for us is cause mood swings for no benefit.

      Cisgender is to transgender what straight is to gay. I will not stop using it, because it's the correct word to use. I will not dumb down my language to appeal to a privileged cisgender group.

      And 'normal'? To say that a cisgender person is normal is to say that we as transgender people, are abnormal. We are not abnormal. We are transgender. You are cisgender (assuming). Those are the words to use when you're describing this situation.

      And I will never stop calling people a bigot when they exhibit bigoted behavior. If you read the comments on the dating and bigotry post, you'd see that wanting biological kids is okay; and NOT bigotry, provided you'd be equally rejecting of an infertile cisgender woman.

      I come off as aggressive about trans issues because such bigoted viewpoints are pervasive still, and this needs to be changed. You, for instance, demanding that the trans woman out herself because she's "abnormal". That's disgusting, it's deep-seated cis privilege, and I'll call it where I see it. Bearing in mind, having cis privilege and being unaware of how it colors your viewpoint isn't the same as being a bigot, it's still something that needs to be addressed directly. Being made aware of your privilege, and denying it exists, and/or continually demanding things of trans women that you have no ethical grounds on which to do (such as demanding we out ourselves) is evident of this privilege. Examine it from an ethical point of view, and you quickly find that we do not have ANY obligation to tell you about the fact that we're trans. That you expect we tell you otherwise is cis privilege. Refusing to recognize this when it's brought to light, and wallowing in your incorrect point of view when the truth is staring you in the teeth, THAT'S bigotry.

      Oh, and the difference between me calling someone a bigot and you calling me a "entitled child" is that you (and many) people ARE, in fact, bigots. Whereas I'm not an entitled child, I'm a member of a discriminated against, marginalized minority, and I'm standing up for my trans brothers and sisters and not taking cis privileged actions and bigotry with a smile and a nod. If you don't like that, that's not my problem.

    13. Thank you Lyn, you do this kind of thing far better than I can.

    14. If transgender people think of themselves as normal why then do they feel the need to take hormones that could potentially be dangerous, put their bodies through surgery or even just trying to change their normal voice. To blend in? to be normal?

    15. We're normal in the sense that in a given population, there's an expected quantity of transsexuals per number of people. For those x people, it's completely normal for them to be trans (or gay, or whatever other quality you're checking for).

      Trans people are not happy as their birth gender, either because of depression regarding their body type, the socialization of certain genders, or both. The diagnosis is called "Gender Dysphoria". Transition can and does fix all of these problems - hormones allow us to fix our bodies (depending on how early they're administered, a transgender person could develop to appear just as a cisgender person. This is why they administer puberty blockers to young trans kids, so they can choose for themselves at 16).

      Hormones fix the body - they provide many secondary sex characteristics of the patients identified gender, and relieve some of the body dypshoria.

      As for social interactions - let me explain it a simple way. Trans people are, for all intents and purposes, mentally their identified gender. In order to live up to the expectations of their assigned gender, they have to put on a mask to make everyone around them happy, at the cost of their own happiness. This hiding who you are causes a great deal of stress and depression too.

      Completing transition is about living true to who you are, and having the world recognize that of you inherently.

      And, food for thought - the attempted suicide rate of transgender people is 41%. This is a result of the crippling depression brought on by the dypshoria. The cure for dysphoria is transition, which includes hormones. The dangerous hormones / surgery treatments cure our depression (something which antidepressants fail to do in transsexual people) and in most if not all cases, we would take the side effects of hormones and be happy than live with a crippling desire to end our lives.

  4. Starting with your last point. Don't put yourself in a situation or with company that will react violently. That's a ridiculous comment so stop using it.

    No you are not a biological woman, you are xy, not xx. A woman is defined by: of or being of the sex female. You aren't, I'm sorry for that. Your mental illness does not prove otherwise

    1. Oh and there you go throwing around the word bigot again. I tolerate trans people, I do believe you aren't correct in your thinking though. And I would appreciate it if you didn't completely ignore my comments because they don't agree with you and your bigotous statements.

      In the end I'm done arguing with a brick wall mr orange, quit being an entitled child.

      P.s. lynn keep fighting the good fight for what you believe in. Just remember not everyone will agree with you, but everyone that doesn't agree isn't out to get you (ie me)

    2. It's Ms Orange, and may I say that based on your comments, most trans people probably won't give a toss if you "tolerate" them or not.

    3. The key is that "disagreeing with me" on several points is wrong.

      I try to not argue on anything but facts. That said, if you 'disagree' with facts, you're wrong.

      "The sky is blue"

      There's a horrible blight in the country that "respecting someone's belief or opinion" has come to be a get-out-of-logic-free card. If you want to wallow in your ignorance, all you need to do is adamantly state that something is your opinion, and suddenly the debate stops. If your opinion contradicts fact, it's wrong.

      I aim both to reach people who want to learn, and fence sitters; because though the fence sitters aren't the kind to really do bad things intentionally, they're the ones who tend to perpetuate cis privileged ideas as normal.

    4. It is your opinion that you are a woman. Are your chromosomes xx? Yes? You are a woman. Are your chromosomes xy? Yes? You are a man, stop trying to defend a mental illness as a physical reality. If I suddenly develope a mental illness that makes me think I am a wolf, that doesn't make me one does it? If I get my body to be changed into a wolf like body that doesn't make me a wolf. As soon as you accept that I don't see eye to eye with your OPINION on this subject maybe we can have intelligent debate. Shoving your viewpoints as fact only hurt your cause, just like feminists and misogynists.

    5. Attempting to cite chromosomes as an end-all-be-all is a fallacious argument. See:

      That said, there is no mental illness present. None of us are delusional. Most of us have lived with depression for a large portion of our lives, and we sought treatment. The therapists we visit; it's their job to find the source of our depression. In this case, it's a dissonance with our assigned gender, and the body type / roles that come with it. The root of this is understood to be caused by hormone fluctuations in the mother when you're developing in her body. This can be paired with another condition which causes androgen receptors to be faulty. In either case, the result is a partial or fully feminized brain. It's clear by a modern understanding that it's an intersex condition of the brain (The only reason it's still listed as a "mental disorder" in the newest DSM is because listing it as something else might disqualify it for insurance eligibility, which would harm transwomen seeking treatment.

      As the brain is the part of the body which concerns US as people, our personality, our 'soul' if you're one of those types (Source: literally every school of ethical thought) it makes the most sense to utilize this when determining gender, as opposed to the junk DNA that existed solely to differentiate our natal structures into "distinct" sexes.

      And the only person stating an opinion here is you. An ignorant cisgender male who doesn't understand the first thing about transsexuals, the transition process, the diagnosis, or pretty well anything regarding it. I state my understanding of the MEDICAL SCIENCE behind transition, you baselessly assert it's a mental disorder (WRONG - disproven ages ago, this is an archaic school of thought) then fall back on the pathetic assertion that "We're entitled to different opinions"

      I said it once, I'll say it again. Your uneducated opinion is NOT EQUAL to an educated opinion based on facts. Your viewpoint is rooted in ignorance and baseless assertions, mine is based in the knowledge I've acquired in years of reading every trans-related study I could get on my browser page. You are saying the sky is orange and made of cheese, and that it's wrong for me to correct you when it's in fact blue.

      Either educate yourself then return, or kindly cease posting worthless comments to my comments section. Thank you :)

    6. And your "wolflike" argument holds no merit either. A human brain can fail to properly differentiate sexually and wind up more male-like or more female-like, but it cannot in any way be more "wolf like" if you would actually like to see why this argument fails, in full, please check my blog post from may, "Why relating trans to otherkin is a poor analogy at best"

  5. Random question why are trans people apart of the L.B.G.T. at all? I'm not saying it's a bad thing but the first three letters have to do with who a person is attracted to, while the T. is a body issue. Soooo whats the deal?