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Oct 27 2012

Trans-On-Trans Oppression Is Still A Cis Problem

The Trans Community is not a healthy thing.

I’ve taken to capitalizing it as such, because there isn’t, exactly, one single monolithic trans community. There are many, many trans communities, some as small as just circles of friends who happen to share that particular aspect of gender together. But The Trans Community is something else. The Trans Community is the dominant culture that has emerged from the shared identity “trans”. It is the support groups, the published memoirs available at big-box bookstores, the “how-to” websites that pop up when someone young and confused first googles what “getting a sex change” actually entails, the most prominent web forums, the most visible branches of trans activism, the vocal “leaders” who are consulted and interviewed by the mainstream media, the organizations to which people are referred by their doctors for help and information when first exploring medical transition, the organizations to which doctors are referred for information, the people who put together Transgender Day of Remembrance events, the consultants for Hollywood, the people who issue the press releases that state how “the trans community” feels about any given issue, the people who control the publishing, the websites, the organizations, the media, the books, who control the information and discourse, the people who, more or less, get to define what “trans” means for the mainstream culture, the people who get to speak for us, collectively… and all of us caught up in this, and our relationship to it. That’s The Trans Community.

And it’s a broken thing.

Few trans women I know have positive recollections of support groups, and of their early experiences being around other trans women. It’s sickeningly common for trans women to be told what about their bodies and faces and presentation they need to “fix”… and what the price tag is going to be. It’s common for trans women to claim a disturbing sense of proprietary to other trans women’s bodies, up to and including acts of sexual assault, such as feeling another’s breasts without consent as some kind of act of “comparson” (“That’s not sexual assault! We’re all girls here!”). It’s common for trans women to say incredibly cruel and undermining things about one another’s appearance, typically under the pretense of “passing advice”. It’s common for trans women to police who does and doesn’t count as “really” a woman, all the way up to actively barring some people from being able to access groups, meetings, supports and resources if they don’t fit whatever their arbitrary criteria (usually only exactly the amount of tolerance required to accept their own gender as legitimate, nothing more) happen to be. The standards within the trans community of who is “really” a woman, what constitutes beauty and femininity and “passing”, who “should” be permitted access and resources, who doesn’t threaten the “safety” of their “safe space”, and for whom gatekeeping and denial of medical treatment is “understandable” or “justified”, are far more often than not heavily intertwined with ableist, racist, homophobic, classist, and indeed cissexist normativities and concepts of gender and identity.

And to be brutally honest, this is only scratching the surface of how much toxicity, kyrarchy, oppression and internalized cissexism and transphobia flourishes within The Trans Community, and even amongst the basic relationships that exist between trans women, and trans people in a general sense (I’ll restrict this post to trans women and AMAB trans for the sake of brevity and personal familiarity with the topic, but trans men and AFAB trans are absolutely not exempt from the toxicity I’m describing, and many of the most prominent and intense kinds of internal sexism, oppression, kyrarchy and cissexism within The Trans Community occur in regards to the relative privileging of trans men and other AFAB trans at the expense of trans women and AMAB trans, as well as their complicity in the trans-misogyny of the broader Queer Community). This is also to say nothing of the most extreme fringe examples of oppressive, kyrarchal behaviour by trans people, such as those who rally under the banner of “Harry Benjamin Syndrome“. Nor to say anything of the actual acts of violence committed towards trans women at the hands of other trans people. Nor to say anything of “Call Out Culture”, doxxing, the tumblr “let’s send death threats to Laci Green” type of so-called trans-feminists, the misogynistic attacks against rad-fems, the exploitations of trans women of colour and violence towards them, the overarching ableism common to trans discourse and “remove gender dysphoria from the DSM!” petitions, the prevalence of overt MRA sympathies and beliefs amongst trans women, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

To put it short, amongst being overtly participants in a variety of other forms of oppression (and being a reminder of the sadly all-too-obvious truth that experiencing oppression along one axis won’t make you any less likely to be oppressive along another), trans people are often the front-line agents of cissexism and the structures that police trans genders: what we can be, what we can do with our bodies, what that means, what is or is not “legitimate” or “acceptable” or “real”, who is permitted access to what resources (medical or otherwise) and who is not, and what the conditions are for access or perceived legitimacy. This, more often than representatives of our rights and our realities and our humanity, is what The Trans Community functions as.

It’s a broken thing.

These issues need to be addressed. And increasingly, they have been. A lot of trans-feminist voices are emerging that are directly challenging the assumptions, biases and heirarchies of The Community, trying to give voice back to those erased by The Narrative, trying to find ways to broaden who is able to access needed resources, and working on countless other fronts for the sake of improving our internal communities and relationships. This is a long and challenging fight, but it’s painfully necessary, and ours will never be a trans movement worth having if we don’t deal with this. We also are uniquely poised to learn from the mistakes and failures of movements that have come before us, like the Gay Rights movement, which ultimately collapsed to a near total focus on the priorities of middle-class or wealthy white, urban, “first world” gay men, alongside an implosion of its activism to the point that the only issues that seemed to count were marriage equality and DADT (in other words: the right to have your relationship privileged above other relationships by God and The State, and the right to participate in the military-industrial and colonial enterprises). It’s very clear that the position of trans people in the wider cultural landscape is changing rapidly, and us trans people with the awful/wonderful luck of occupying this moment have an ethical and political responsibility to ensure that it isn’t only the most privileged and most “normal” amongst us who benefit.

There’s a lot about this conversation that’s potentially dangerous, however. A lot of mistakes that can be made even in the process of attempting to curtail our mistakes. As our cultural position shifts, so too does the degree of attention paid to us and what we’re saying about ourselves. That outside perspective is never going to be a nuanced one. By nature, it will come to the easiest and simplest explanations for what it’s seeing amongst such a “foreign” and “other” community, and more so, the explanations that are most comfortable, that assign it the least responsibility and guilt. If the cis world ends up observing a trans community that principally speaks of gender-policing, gatekeeping and the limitation of access to resources as being acts of oppression trans people perpetrate on other trans people, they will come to the conclusion that these are exclusively trans problems. That trans people have only trans people to blame for all their dischord and strife. That if only trans people got their act together, then everything would be fine. That trans people have to sort their own shit out first. That kinda thing.

It’s far too easy, far too comforting, far too absolving a conclusion for it not to inevitably become a problem.

But the oppression that trans people experience, even when enacted through trans people ourselves and through “our” organizations and communities, still lies at the feet of cis people. It is cissexism, and the systemic privileging of cis people, cis genders, cis lives, cis perspectives, cis experiences and cis bodies over trans ones, that is still the progenitor of these oppressions (at least where they’re not a product of other axises of privilege/oppression intersecting with trans-ness, such as in a white trans person still being white and still having white privilege and white biases, or an able-bodied trans person still being able-bodied and having able-bodied privileges and biases). The responsibility for cissexism, internalized or not, still lies with cis people and their institutions and assumptions.

The Trans Community does not exist in a vacuum. It did not emerge fully formed out of nowhere. It exists in relationship to the society that exists around it, which is in turn a society directly hostile to that which is trans. The support groups emerge from other organizations, cis-controlled. The resources that are guarded and conditionally, selectively provided are scarce, and that scarcity in turn feeds the feelings amongst trans people that they need to be guarded and doled out carefully. There is a dangling fear surrounding all “official” trans organizations, that almost universally exist in some relationship to cis organizations or by the grace of cis dollars, that at any moment the funding could be cut, the groups and meetings shut down, the resources no longer accessible to anyone. Long before any trans person is turned away for not being the “right” kind of trans, someone was told that those were the “rules”. Rules that exist alongside a fear of enforcement. Although it all interplays with intersectional bias and other kinds of social and cultural anxieties, some obvious, some nuanced, the trans agents of limited-access are still largely acting out of fear that access or funding or resources may be revoked entirely, or that they will lose their own access… or simply in fear of scarcity. A scarcity that is manufactured at the higher level of cis-controlled institutions, and perpetuated by the attitude amongst larger, cis-privileging systems that trans needs are a relatively minor, unimportant concern. An afterthought. Long before any trans woman bars another from access to the informed consent clinic, there was a cis person deciding how much funding that clinic was going to get, and what the “purpose” of that money was.

These same patterns occur outside of official organizations, and in the immediate relationships that exist between trans women. Long before any trans woman doles out insulting “passing advice”, conditioned by narrow and racially-coded standards of beauty and womanhood, she herself was taught that passing is paramount and that those are the standards by which it is judged. Maybe it was a trans woman that taught her, and maybe a trans woman that taught that trans woman, but it was in extremely recent history that “passing” was a condition of access to medicine and surgery. A condition directly enforced by cis people. Long before any trans woman gropes another’s chest and excuses it by claiming “we’re all girls here!”, she was taught some absurd, misogynistic and patriarchal vision of how women relate to one another, how women’s bodies are to be treated, and what aspects of a woman’s body determine her worth. She would likely have been taught this by cis men. Long before any trans woman makes a statement about who is “really” a woman, she subjected herself to shame predicated on the belief that she herself wasn’t “real”. Long before any trans woman polices someone else’s gender, she had her own gender policed. Long before any trans woman hates another, she was taught to hate herself. In every action of oppression, transphobia, cissexism, trans-misogyny or patriarchy by a trans person, we are seeing, refracted, an oppression conducted by cis-patriarchy first.

That doesn’t excuse individual accountability for individual actions. I am not making a plea in defense of the horrid actions of trans people to one another, nor would I say that these issues aren’t very real and very much necessary to address, with intensity and unforgiving honesty. But neither should we excuse the systemic cissexism, done by cis people for cis people’s benefit, that produces this. We need to look at these oppressions as part of the systemic pattern, and not allow accountability to be shrugged off the primary oppressor onto those oppressed who’ve internalized it.

It’s also important to recognize that the formalized systems of cissexism, and its enforcement, are still in place. Gatekeeping re: medical access is still enforced. The messages most trans people receive are not feminist or trans-positive messages. Cis people are still limiting access, even amongst those trans people privileged enough to make it past the forward-guard gender police of The Trans Community itself. Until we address the manufactured scarcity, we can’t convince people to stop hoarding.

We also need those resources to be there. Many trans people, especially those very early in the process of living trans lives and attempting to access treatment, are in desperate need of information, doctors, support groups, counselors, informed-consent clinics, books, concepts, language, terminologies, etc. Everything that defines The Trans Community. Those of us who are no longer in that position can often forget just how essential the structures that define The Trans Community, however toxic and broken they may be, are. We can’t indiscriminately attack the established Trans Community lest we risk collapsing what few resources DO exist… and risk lives in the process. Vancouver’s drop-in support group was nearly shut down entirely as a result of local trans people raising their concerns about it (the drop-in support group, however flawed, has on numerous occasions been the one thing that kept many struggling trans people from taking their own lives, the one piece of openly available help and information that could be easily, directly accessed), and Vancouver Coastal Health’s Transgender Health Program was in risk of having its funding and charter revoked when its committee of community members (who were meant to serve not only as a means for the community to voice their needs but also as an oversight committee to ensure accountability) raised serious concerns about missing money, a lack of transparency in the budget and internal conduct, and the overall way the program was being managed by its current (cis) manager. Because the resources are ultimately under cis control, only “tentatively” granted to us out of the “generosity” of larger cis institutions, they can threaten to pull the plug entirely whenever we begin to vocalize our concerns about the manner in which those resources are offered. And they can let accountability roll downhill to the trans people at the direct, street level rather than rest where it belongs, with the cis institutions that didn’t give them a genuine chance to succeed in meeting the needs of trans people. All trans people.

This structure by which cis institutions have all the power but their trans subordinates have all the accountability creates a very dangerous and precarious position, and makes it incredibly dangerous to structure our critique of The Trans Community as a critique of trans people, of how trans people manage whatever resources we’ve been “allowed” to have by cis society. Incredibly dangerous to engage this discourse without constant attention to the wider pattern, the stakes, and who is actually responsible. Dangerous to engage this discourse in such a way that cis insitutions, and cis patriarchy in a broader sense, can say that the problems faced by trans people are self-generated. That trans oppression is a trans problem.

It’s a cis problem. It’s always been a cis problem. No matter what face it happens to be wearing.

52 comments

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  1. 1
    Abbey

    There isn’t just one trans drop-in here in Vancouver, you know. The Qmunity one on Monday nights is still active.

    1. 1.1
      Natalie Reed

      It wasn’t active during the time period I was referring to. There was a smaller Monday-night “social group” that may or may not have been going on at the time, but it was unaffiliated with VGH or Qmunity, and itself was known for attracting some rather infamously… unpleasant… people, including people who’d been barred from the VGH group for the kinds of things people SHOULD be barred over, like chaser-stuff and sexual harassment.

  2. 2
    Julie-Ann Richmond

    That was awesome you made some great points.!

  3. 3
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    I had no idea this was as common as I interpret it to be from your article. I never cease to be surprised at how some groups take external oppressions and redistribute these internally, even while fighting against them. Certainly, there is always the “me-factor” when competing for artificially limited resources. People do this all the time. But the transmitted oppression which is not based on competition is what surprises me more when it is common.

    I hope the Trans Community, writ large, is evolving more thinkers like you.

    1. 3.1
      im

      And for naturally limited ones as well…

      It ends up being that you can’t trust ANYbody, it sometimes seems like.

  4. 4
    anna

    I very much agree with everything in this piece.

    I found it hard to deal with the trans community because of all those factors you talk about above. I really wanted it to be a community but it just isn’t. I have been able to find my own community within it, but there is parts of the trans community that are really toxic to deal with. Being called out and belittled made me want to go away and just hide (honestly I don’t know how to handle all the negativity you get)

    You are right though, its primarily related to cissexism. So much of the language comes from people in authority and I can hear it fed back to me. These are not the words anyone trans would likely come up with on their own, they are clearly learning it passed down the long chain from the CAMHs and the worst of gatekeepers.

    So I am trying to ignore it but its hard. I also realize on some level that there is so much hurt and anger and frustration that it is only natural for trans woman to want to lash out. I just wish we wouldnt lash at each other. All I know is im done with call outs, I am done with fighting with my own community (although I will try to explain myself if attacked at least once before giving up) and I am going to make sure I attack the cis controlled system before I fight my own community.

    Thank you very much for this post.

  5. 5
    Michael Brew

    Reminds me of the colorism within the black community. It was – perhaps unintentionally – encouraged by the white slave owners who gave lighter skinned slaves easier jobs (probably in part because many of them were the slave owners’ own kin), and continues to be encouraged by everything from affirmative action to who gets hired as the lead in a movie.

    1. 5.1
      Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

      It was entirely intentional by the slave owners. Remember who in all likelihood fathered said lighter slaves.

      The racial theory at the time held explicitly that greater degree of white ancestry = more intelligent, more trainable, more tractable, more capable of being “civilized.”

      1. jakc

        Much of the anthropological literature from the early 20th Century is stunning in its acceptance and promotion of racist ideas; it was bad science then, but in an odd way, something that undergrads ought to look at just to understand what Franz Boas and others faced in fighting that kind of thinking and research. Of course, The Bell Curve is only a slightly more modern restatement of the same nonsense, but perhaps lacking the honesty of its more overt predecessors.

  6. 6
    karmakin

    What you said is pretty much universal…but it shouldn’t be surprising. It is, all to often for people concerned about these things, but it shouldn’t be, and I do think that’s a major roadblock.

    It means we’re looking at these issues in terms of direct group conflict…cis vs. trans, black vs. white, men vs. women, etc, instead of seeing them as a much larger series of cultural tropes, patterns and memes that we act upon…sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously.

    Not that I’m defending those things..far from it..it’s just that generally speaking they require entirely different approaches for change. For example, I do think that in the US, as an example, required a culture war stance for political agitation in order to deal with ingrained institutional (I.E. legally mandated) racism. That requires a culture/political war stance.

    Dealing with tropes, patterns and memes is a different story. What’s needed is soft power. Positive examples, getting people used to it and breaking those patterns on an individualistic basis. Positive examples in the media…people having friends with those different traits, etc. That’s what leads to progress in this way.

    It’s not black and white…of course…some mixture of those two problems and the different approaches are always needed, to some degree. But that we often find the wider cultural position to be surprising or counter-intuitive, I think is a very real bias to our thinking and as such is problematic. (Or at least I think it is because I think that a majority of social justice right now is about wider cultural positions, and that outright privilege seeking and tribal warfare is more limited)

    1. 6.1
      im

      The culture wars about memes can be a mess. Especially because a lot of the time I just want to ignore some of them, but I can’t really do that.

  7. 7
    Jadzia626

    Meh, I can only take the (online) trans community in small doses. I refuse to have anything to do with the local trans community because our only trans organisation around here is deeply into HBS bullshit territory (to the extent that my therapist got kicked out for being too liberal).

    Instead, online, I find that the community I’m active in is getting smaller and smaller as new subgroups form within the current group, which is again a subgroup of yet a larger group. There is less and less people, and a higher density of people you get along with. It’s starting to boil down to quite a small group now. So aside from keeping in touch with some great online trans friends (I miss you Natalie, we never talk any more), I have pretty much absorbed the information and gotten the help I needed and am ready to just move on with my life. I try to drop by and give something back every now and then, but don’t much have the emotional energy for it …

    1. 7.1
      Crissa

      I want to argue.

      What line in the HBSOC are you objecting to? Please point it out.

      If you don’t have a specific objection, stop conflating one solution for a completely different problem as a problem itself.

      1. Jadzia626

        I am objecting to the qualifying criteria for trans care in MY country, which are based on HBSOC. They have a very narrow definition of transsexualism, a traditional trans narrative is expected. Strictly adherence to the gender binary is my main objection though as I am not entirely binary identified. There’s also an expectation of gender normativity and RLE as well as the requirement of effective sterilisation in order to get a legal sex change. You’re denied this unless you have SRS and you are denied storing sperm. Effectively denying you reproduction post-diagnosis.

  8. 8
    busterggi

    Trans on Trans opression?

    Proof positive that trans folks can be as normal as cis folks – not a compliment.

    1. 8.1
      Michael Shand

      “Proof positive that trans folks can be as normal as cis folks – not a compliment.”

      Imagine that you said that black folk can be as normal as white folk – not a compliment

      You would be insinuating that white folk are commonly trash and that sometimes blacks can be jst as bad as whites

      Your comment seems to imply that cis folk are all trash….and that sometimes trans folk can be just as bad

      Its kind of, I dont know, sexist, heterophobic, bigotted, I dont know what the word is but its not a healthy way to view people.

      1. Natalie Reed

        LOL U MAD?

    2. 8.2
      im

      It’s an unpleasant truth. Sort of like the existence of Nuwabianism. Or, for that matter, the existence of severely racist and sexist atheists.

  9. 9
    Michael Shand

    Good article, I think many many groups suffer these same problems whether it be

    “Church on Church oppression is still the devils work”

    or

    “Women slut shaming other women is still a white man problem”

    You are just trying to justify your own bad behaviour by blaming an external source/party

    I think you raise some good points, and maybe a lot of cases of trans on trans opresion comes from what they learnt growing up.

    It seems like weak sauce to attribute this trans on trans oprresion to cis folk

    1. 9.1
      Natalie Reed

      LOL

    2. 9.2
      Natalie Reed

      (p.s. women slut shaming other women IS still a men’s problem, a product of patriarchy)

    3. 9.3
      LykeX

      I think you raise some good points, and maybe a lot of cases of trans on trans opresion comes from what they learnt growing up.

      It seems like weak sauce to attribute this trans on trans oprresion to cis folk

      Really? If they learned this behavior growing up, who did they learn it from? Are trans support groups roaming the lands teaching children how to discriminate against trans people? Or do the kids learn it from the larger, cis-dominated society?

    4. 9.4
      SallyStrange

      Yeah, seriously, this is such a basic logic fail. But then people seem to fall down on that a lot when it comes to culture and values. Hard to step outside, I guess.

      Think about it for one second: trans* people are a tiny minority. Only in the past decade or two have they been safe enough to develop any sort of visibility. They have had neither the time nor the numbers to invent any sort of culture that’s sufficiently branched off from cis culture to be independent in any way. To the extent that there is a trans* culture, it is heavily influenced by, and sometimes defined by (whether in opposition or otherwise) straight culture.

      I mean really, just, fucking DUH.

    5. 9.5
      im

      Yeah, and I don’t think it really can.

      Although I agree with you, Natalie Reed, it does just give me this slight ‘this is almost wrong’ apprehension though.

  10. 10
    Paige Queer

    You should check out the South Bay Trans women group at the Bill DeFrank center in San Jose, California. Anyone, and everyone regardless of who or what they are are always welcome and all sorts of people, but not too many usually, wind up showing up. And we only try to keep the meeting transgendered related for most of the hour and a half. We always ask people why they came to the meeting. The usual answers are to learn, to help others, to get help, to see old friends, to make friends, feeling suicidal, personal updates, curiosity, support, don’t like the other meetings, like the energy, politics, to see how people progress and change, what’s new, etc…

  11. 11
    Peter the Mediocre

    Is there, and has there ever been, a community that didn’t eventually turn toxic? I’ve certainly seen the same general type of toxicity in every organization or movement I’ve ever been deeply involved with. It’s intensely painful when it happens, and the feeling of having been betrayed can be sickening.
    I think it speaks poorly of humans in general.

  12. 12
    Crissa

    I really wish you wouldn’t tar the HBSOC with the gunk from the asshole who coined gynophilia. Sexual preference is not, and hasn’t been for decades, part of the diagnosis and standards of care. Treatment for transsexuals, non-op, and other transgendered and intersexed really is different, and your words seem to conflate the needed differences in diagnosis.

    But up until that point, I’d agree with you, as I’ve seen every single thing you’ve mentioned. Meat markets as support circles; knitting circles where the barbs mostly avoided the yarn, etc.

    1. 12.1
      im

      What’s gynophilia? Does it mean something beyond ‘having women in your desire space’ as do heterosexual men , bi everybody, and homosexual women?

      1. Natalie Reed

        Gynephilia is sexual attraction to women, yeah. So heterosexual, bisexual and pansexual men (either cis or trans), amongst many other men, can all be described as gynephilic, as can homosexual, bisexual, pansexual and certain otherwise queer women (cis or trans), and any non-binary people who are attracted to women, either exclusively or not. A related term is “androphilia”, which is sexual attraction to men. These terms are really, really useful because they don’t demand that one describe the subject’s gender within the binary (though they do demand that the object of desire be identifiable within the binary), and can also provide a way for describing sexual attraction without having to involve the complicated cultural dynamics of gay/lesbian/bi terminologies. The way they’re limited however is, in addition to the aforementioned fact that it still demands binary-identifiability of the object of desire, the question of how we work out what does and doesn’t qualify as “man”/”woman” within the scope of the attraction (presentation? secondary sexual characteristics, and which ones? primary sexual hormones? genital anatomy? some combination of varous sexualized traits but not others? “gender identity”?).

  13. 13
    jose

    Transwomen sexually assaulting other transwomen is a cis problem?

    1. 13.1
      Natalie Reed

      In a sense, yes. Cis men don’t get to shrug off accountability for the consequences of a cis-patriarchy that privileges them and in which they are complicit just because those consequences sometimes occur through channels that aren’t themselves cis or male.

      1. jose

        I’m sorry are you saying that if a transwoman beats the shit out of other transwoman, you would not present charges and take it to court and if it goes to court, she should not be declared guilty because it’s patriarchy’s fault?

        1. jose

          Oh, alright. Same as ghetto violence (the powerful created the ghetto in the first place). Difference between individual cases and systemic violence. Never mind the comment above, got it.

          1. Natalie Reed

            Yeah.

            If a trans woman attacked another OF COURSE she should be held be accountable and prosecuted. But it wouldn’t be something that cis people should just wash their hands of and say “those crazy t—–s”, as though they aren’t complicit in a system that leads to such situations. Very much like how women sniping eachother’s appearance isn’t because “women are so catty” but instead relates to patriarchy, and inner city gang violence isn’t because “PoC are naturally more disposed towards violence and criminal behaviour” but is instead nearly entirely a product of the systems of race and class that entrench them in poverty.

    2. 13.2
      SallyStrange

      Didn’t read the OP, huh?

  14. 14
    Sinéad

    So much has changed since I was struggling in the pre-world wide web accessof the mid/late 90s. I was in college in Oklahoma and didn’t have a trans organization. Hell, for the most part, the only support group I had was with other Goths who were genderbenders and crossdressers. I felt dismissed by the local LGB group because I was still operating as a “straight male” gender bender. I didn’t have access to narratives that didn’t appear on Donohue or Jerry Springer or Geraldo.

    But the internet opened that up. Suddenly, there was an entire search category on Yahoo! Suddenly, I found a lot more people to speak to. It was still a fairly limited pool of narratives. And I couldn’t find a group that fit me.

    Even though things changed much during the late 90s for me, it was still the fact that I was in Oklahoma that kept me distant from having the support I needed. I was struggling so bad because I knew that I was transsexual but I was scared to admit that because it was hard enough to be a gender bending young adult. I was afraid that my lifelong feelings were as people would say “you just need to get laid” or “you’re just internalizing your desires because blah blah blah.” Basically autogynophilia before that was invented as a term, or before I had heard of it.

    The real kicker was when I did find support groups later when I moved to California. But there, the narrative was dominated by older trans women who were privileged enough to have had the financial resources in life to have their surgeries, insisting that I wasn’t trans because I wasn’t willing to do everything to have the surgery, that if that wasn’t my first and only priority then I was just a fetishist. Or there were straight trans* women who were so insecure about themselves that my being attracted to girls was not trans enough. That if i was sucking a dick at every waking moment, then I was just a straight crossdressing dude. Or there were those who felt the need to. Belittle me for my makeup, too gothic, or my boots, docs are not high heels! Seriously, I felt more assaulted by those women than by the cis straight bigots who would yell insults from their cars or who would physically assault me. There was something so much more existentially poisoning in the hatred from people who were suppsed to represent what I was than from the literal violence from those who were not.

    Now that I am 38, I just don’t even want to go to groups in real life or online. I feel so dysphoric from so many toxic trans* discussions on even tumblr when there is so much reveling in anger, constant yelling and all that. I have lived too long through too many things to feed the hatred that lurks in my heart. I am so emotionally broken that it leads me to suicidal ideation and vomiting. I understand that younger folks who are anger want to change things, but I’ve spent myself on that so long ago. Just like the Laci Green death threats, that is not the back-patting encouragement I will ever support. I don’t care how much oppression someone has experienced, that does not excuse such a response.

    I am a cynical atheist, but I have learned much on my path through life, and I acknowledge that Buddhism has had a lot of influence. And with that the one lesson I remind myself is that “hate does not destroy hate, only love can.” And even when I fail to live up to that, I should not punish myself.

    1. 14.1
      Boldly

      “There was something so much more existentially poisoning in the hatred from people who were suppsed to represent what I was than from the literal violence from those who were not.”

      Can I just say that this feels so accurate? It’s like it hurts more.

  15. 15
    Great American Satan

    My boyfriend had to stop following trans boards (susan’s place) and trans tumblrs because they were full of body snarking and triggering comments.

    Does anyone know of an actual safe place for trans people, fuckin’ anywhere?

    1. 15.1
      Emily Aoife Somers

      Although I am extremely grateful for the support I received pre-transition — trans people are always nice to you pre-transition — the absolute hornet’s nest of vicious jibes, auto-corrections, and stinging rebukes has pretty much caused me to break off connection from almost any and all trans* forums/sites/blogs/hangouts/etc. I couldn’t even begin to unpack the sociopathology of trans v trans antagonism, which is never ending escalation of hurt feelings often arising from the most trivial of triggers: “What? You think ‘wrong body’ aptly described your adolescent perceptions of your mind/matter relationship? Fuck you, crypto-cissexist.” It’s not quite that bad, but close: my back is a crater field of stiletto stabs from people in the community. It shouldn’t be like this. Yet somehow it always is.

      I have not experienced such tendencies in anorexia recovery communities, which also have the kinds of petty bickering one would expect in a group of survivors who have damaged self-images and a lot of pain and frustration in their lives — but nothing that even beings to approximate the cancerous cruelty of the trans cabal. I second the comments above: for all of the random comments from snarling thugs, cheezy half-grin mispronouning by colleageus at work, or stare downs in bathrooms . . . nothing has slashed so deep like a trans woman’s scorn.

      I gave up: because while I may commiserate and share the deeply experience trauma of other trans women, at the end of the day I found them to make for very erratic friendships. I’ve learned a f’ of a lot about what it means to have a friend since my transition, and the inevitable social ostracization from family and acquaintances that has come with it.

      Sorry. But I’ve been caught in the cross-fire too many times to pretend that it’s not going on. And I hate so much that what passes as ‘trans feminism’ are twitter based skirmishes (usually between other trans people), which are little more than notes and explanations through abstruse vocabulary on finer points of barely practical relevance. Word games for the isolated. In my experience as an educator, I can say that such an approach might sound dazzling to those in the choir, but the audience isn’t paying attention. It certainly has not done much to improve our lot.

      Resentment is a strange finger-trap of feelings.

      But fair play to you, however you roam.

      1. Natalie Reed

        FFS. Don’t bring the passive-aggressive jabs here. First, last, only request.

        1. Great American Satan

          By FFS did you mean me or Emily? I’m not up on my internet lingo.

          If I seem passive-aggressive-jabby, it’s not my intention. I’d honestly like to know if anyone knows a relatively kind place for trans people to feel comfortable online. For my partner, who is a very sad guy in need of better help than I can provide.

          Thanks, yo.

          1. Natalie Reed

            It wasn’t directed at you.

            Regarding your question, I don’t think there are any trans spaces online that are free from all the various kinds of internal toxicity. That said, some are worse than others, and both tumblr and Susan’s can be particularly awful.

            Sadly, though, I don’t really have recommendations I’d feel comfortable making. Sorry.

  16. 16
    Great American Satan

    OK, here’s the comic:

    http://www.borfy.com/Kingfisher/

    It’s not a good page to com in on – it’s a joke comic I made for the comic’s second anniversary, and may be too dependent on knowing the story to land right.

    But if you have the patience to read through it, the comic is super hella dope. I say with absolutely zero objectivity.

  17. 17
    Great American Satan

    oops, last post was in the wrong thread! delete at will!

  18. 18
    Great American Satan

    That list of trans on trans oppression, as you said, almost every item on it happens in the transmale “community” as well – the gender policing, femphobia, racism, & of course deciding who is “meant to be” or “really” trans. Hence my dude’s problem. Well, whatcha gonna do? Not everyone has the juice for this fight, so my poor guy is basically turning into a shut-in.

  19. 19
    Great American Satan

    Oh, and thanks for answering my question, even if it was bad news!

  20. 20
    todd bstevens

    Well the idea of a trans community is lovely if you live in a large costal city. It is kind of laughable in Tulsa, OK, I empathize with commenter Sinead, growing up in OK.

    There is a good local LGBT group, but it seems more LGB. There is not support for a trans girl who is passing, and much discomfort with me as a cis fiancee.

    So there is a call to arms implied in this thread that confuses me. I am not sure what you see happening, Natalie. There are not many trans people. And I can say, most cis people have no opinion of trans people at all. Now nature does abhor a vacuum, and thus tropes from movies. Etc creep in.

    There are many trans people who disappear, It is a legitimate goal, it is ours. We want to just be a cis couple.

    Your thesis seems to be that the cis world causes trans people to become abusive to reflect passing? And this is a cis not a trans problem.

    I would suggest these personal interactions are bad, and while they may be informed by a hostile environment, the solution is to solve the problems.

    If you could solve cis-trans relations, of course, it may help. From the examples you gave people were being jerks.

    You might be fortunate to have a trans community large enough to have problems. Around here I worry about R walking to her car when she works late.

    Best,
    TBS

    1. 20.1
      Bia

      It seems there are a number of folks here from Oklahoma. It sucks here but I recently found out about a support group in Norman that has received high praise. I realize that doesn’t help anyone in Tulsa, and may not be viable outside the Metro area but I’m going to check it out soon and once I do I’ll gladly pass on the time and location to anyone interested. However it may be a couple of weeks before I can deliver on this, but in the mean time if you’re in Oklahoma feel free to message me.

  21. 21
    Jessica

    I was thinking about this topic, from a different angle, the other day. Thank you for writing it.

    I believe Natalie is attempting to make an argument for the cause, not the solution to, trans on trans oppression.

    Here’s an article (which I dislike) which shows a woman doing exactly what Natalie was saying – blaming trans invisibility on trans people, not on the cis structures which cause it. http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/silent-t-are-trans-people-blame-our-own-invisibility241012 It’s the same problem.

    People need to realize that, while there are some really toxic trans communities out there, the reason they are toxic isn’t because trans people are toxic – it’s because we’re forced to work within a toxic system that produces toxic people.

  22. 22
    Bill Openthalt

    Could part of the problem not be the manufacturing of “communities” based on characteristics such as gender, or skin colour, or sexual orientation? Classifying comes naturally to humans, but a third party putting a bunch of people in a particular category does not a community make.

  23. 23
    Nika Jewell

    The confusion engendered by gender police involved in online trans resources had me incredibly confused for a long time and was part of the reason that my transition had been delayed for so long. I wasn’t female enough.

    When I finally decided to stop hiding behind a beard, three different cisgender therapists told me that, essentially, I wasn’t female enough. I wasn’t trans enough. I didn’t know that I should have lied to them to gain access to medical resources such as hormones.

    I agree with what you’ve said here completely. We need to be more of a community and less of a police state.

  24. 24
    Carto

    All that’s left for me to say is that the concept “trans” itself is a problem.

    It’s a label born out of cissexist oppression. The only common ground across people labelled as trans is cissexist oppression. I hope I live to see the day we all, whatever way we’re labelled as, can talk about the oppression instead of the oppressed.

    I transitioned years and years ago, and at this point I’d mostly like to forget (because I’m one lucky privileged broad, me: I could afford to), but cissexist oppression won’t allow me to.

    It’s just endless, ciscentric interest around people labelled as trans, and even the label changes to mean whatever cissexism requires it to: it can mean “someone who wants to change their sex”, but mystically enough, such a person is still trans even after the said “sex change”, and in the end all it designates is someone who hasn’t been happy about the sex assigned to them at birth. Note the “sex assigned at birth”: it’s hung onto the said person’s neck like a yellow star lest they forget they’re subhumans. “Trans” carries with itself the very thing we’re rebelling against.

    This is so depressing. This is why I try to keep away from anything labelled as “trans”. And because the fucking (pardon my French) world won’t let me to, I ended up posting once again something about this fucking millstone the world has hung onto my neck.

  1. 25
    Around FtB | Pharyngula

    [...] Natalie Reed finds that the trans community is broken. Every community is broken in its own special way; can we fix them? [...]

  2. 26
    Complicity Vs. Cause In Trans-Misogyny And Violence » Sincerely, Natalie Reed

    [...] out to oppression at the hands of men (even where that oppression has been internalized). Just like trans-on-trans oppression is still a cis problem, woman-on-woman oppression is still a patriarchy problem (even when it’s cis women oppressing [...]

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