You probably don’t remember me. There’s a reason for that, and it’s basically about power. Not, like, “oh, dude, you’re so powerful!”, but just the sort of basic, day to day power-differentials that exist, between all of us, in accordance with things completely beyond our control, that have nothing whatsoever really to do with us. Despite the extreme reaction you had to my momentary presence (or would you think “intrusion”?) in your day, and the fact that without this reaction I likely wouldn’t have noticed you at all, you had a lot more power to affect me than I ever had to affect you, no matter how expressive your response.
I was walking down West Broadway earlier this week, I think near the corner of Blenheim, on my way back home from running some errand or other. Although given who and what I am I never quite have the luxury of feeling unguarded, I wasn’t really feeling especially apprehensive about my surroundings, this being mid-afternoon in Kits on a sunny day, and there’s only so much attention a person can maintain in being prepared for harassment. You were walking towards me in the typical lazily-confident stride of entitled young men like yourself that seems precisely calibrated to say “I don’t give a fuck” but mostly just says “I really desperately give a fuck about giving the impression that I don’t give a fuck”, and were dressed in the typical shapeless t-shirt-and-cargo-shorts uniform that suggests exactly the same.
We were passing on the sidewalk, and you presumably read me for trans. You sneered, spat at me in contempt, and then after passing by and not having to deal with anything uncomfortable like “eye contact” or whatever, shouted a single word, twice, with increased volume and emphasis the second time.
That word was “disgusting”.
I wish I could shrug it off. I really, really wish I could. I wish I could laugh at you, or go for the easy reversal and just say “yeah, your casual bigotry is disgusting”. But that wouldn’t even be using the same meaning of the word, would it?
And I wish I could simply distance myself from it. Why, after all, should I particularly care about you and your shitty opinions, and how you react to me? But it’s not about just you, or your shitty opinions. You’re not even reading this. The fact that you felt it, the fact that felt entitled to say it, the fact that it hurt… all of that is about much more than you or I. And really, you aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last, to make a similar effort to let me know exactly how you, and so many people like you, see me.
And I wish I could let it not mean anything. I wish I could just see it as some random, pointless, basically nonsensical expression of a similarly random, nonsensical and arbitrary hatred.
But let’s not kid ourselves: you meant it.
In terms of the basic affect on me, the immediate feeling of shame, insecurity, self-hatred, resignation and pain that went with it, that instant desire to simply vanish off the face of the Earth (and the accompanying terror at the realization that I couldn’t, and still had nine more blocks of eyes left to walk before reaching the security of my apartment), being reminded of my status in our culture as not only Other, but as something sub-human and horrible to be spat at… all of that wasn’t dependent much on what exactly you said. There were a lot of words you could have substituted that would have had the exact same impact.
But I keep finding myself coming back to that particular word. Not because I think you really put a whole lot of thought into choosing it, or because it’s any more or less hateful than the dozens of substitutions you might have made, but because I can’t shake the awareness that you meant it. That was exactly what you felt, and exactly what you said. I disgusted you.
Not in anything I was doing, or had done. It was what I was that you found disgusting, the simple, basic fact of my existence. I’m a human being, with a transsexual body, and that repulsed you.
This is who I am, though. This is the fact of my existence, and this is the body I inhabit. As much as people like you are all too easily capable of making me want to vanish, I can’t do that. I could kill myself, sure, and certainly a frighteningly large number of us do, and if enough of you said this to me enough times, I’m sure I eventually would. I’m sure that’s not your goal, exactly, but I doubt you’d much care if one day you happened to notice there weren’t any of us around anymore. But as long as there’s a me to encounter a you, this is what I am. This is my body. I am a transsexual woman.
I wonder about why that disgusts you, though. Maybe it’s to be found in the whole paradoxical relationship of disgust to desire, as annoyingly academic as that may sound. Maybe you saw me and you couldn’t help but perceive me in a sexual sense, in a sexual context, and therefore as a sexual threat. Maybe you worried about the fact that my existence suggests the possibility of my sexuality, and had anxieties about your own feelings towards that. That if “male” bodies can possess what you cling to in your passionately desperate masculinity as the traits of desirability, then the creaky, fragile system by which you hold together your sexual identity- masculine straight dude, the antithesis of “fag” (all too reliant on that opposition)- starts to fall apart. The cracks start showing. Or maybe you just couldn’t help but sexualize me the way you sexualize many young women, and immediately your mind started imagining what sex with me might be like, what might be in my pants and then OH NOES MAYBE A PENIS! Banish the faggy thought! Or maybe it was as simple as a basic revulsion built around fear that a transsexual body could have a sexuality at all, fear that there might be sexual possibilities outside what you’ve allowed yourself to understand.
Maybe it has to do with your own gender. It was more than obvious from the way you presented and carried yourself that a tremendous amount of your self-worth was built on understanding yourself as masculine and male. Maybe I hinted, just a little too much, at the fact that something you consider so important really isn’t necessary. Maybe my intrusion into your world suggested the terrifying prospect that you yourself could be like me. Or even if not completely like me, that it was at least possible to live a life outside the rigid roles you’ve used to define yourself and your value as a human being, that there are other ways to understand and value oneself and live and be happy (banish the faggy thought). Maybe, reading me as “male”, you identified yourself with me, and were suddenly horrified by the thought of castration, or growing breasts, or being otherwise feminized (if this were a better world, or you were a better person, or we were a better species, that may have been a source of empathy for my own alienation from inhabiting a male body). Maybe it’s a misogyny thing… that you devalue women so much, perceive them as so much lower than yourself, that the tiniest reminder that your maleness isn’t completely carved in stone, that it could even hypothetically be taken away, is enough to repulse you.
Maybe it wasn’t about sexuality or gender at all. Maybe it was just how foreign and other I seemed to you. Maybe even monstrous. Surgeries, scars and pills. Strange configurations of the body beyond your knowledge or understanding. A contemporary Frankenstein. Maybe you read me as a product of scientific and medical artifice, something unnatural that shouldn’t really exist, instead of recognizing that my body is entirely natural, entirely human like your own, and that the abomination was constructed only in your perceptions and fears, not of my flesh.
Maybe it was something else. Maybe it was all of those things. Maybe it was more. I guess it doesn’t matter too much, but I’ll never stop wondering about it, because I’ll never really be able to forget about it. Even if someday I forget about this particular incident, someone, somewhere, on some sunny afternoon in the future, will come along to remind me: I disgust them.
And that’s true. The fact of me and my body is repulsive to many people. That probably won’t ever change within my lifetime. In a way, I could try to trick myself into imagining that that in fact gives me power over you, that I’m the one who has the power to cause such the feelings of those with such views towards me. But as I’ve said, you’ve probably forgotten, while I get to remember. Always.
Your feelings of disgust and contempt are fleeting. As soon as me, or some other trans person, is out of your sight, we vanish from your world. The whole existence of transsexuality might as well not exist for you except when you’re directly confronted with it. You’re afforded the luxury of living as though there isn’t such a thing, that the world is neatly divided into men and women, who have certain kinds of respective bodies, and inhabit certain kinds of roles. Your enjoyment of that luxury probably contributed to how much I disturbed you. But me? I never, ever get to ignore this. This is the gender and body I live with every single moment of every single day. And every time I leave my home, I have to try to remember, and emotionally prepare for, the fact that you, and your countless interchangeable proxies, are outside.
And while that disgust you felt suddenly being confronted with a brief, fleeting reminder that bodies such as mine happen to exist is fleeting, the feelings of worthlessness, shame, self-hatred, fear and insecurity inflicted on me by you and the culture that allows, supports and trains you, that lingers. That’s something I have to live with all the time. The reminders aren’t brief or fleeting, and they’re anything but rare.
We’re told not to be so over-sensitive. To not take things so seriously. To laugh it off. To distance ourselves from it. To not care about the random opinions of some random bigot. To grow a thicker skin. To stay in the safe neighbourhoods. To invest in the right clothes and right make-up and right lasers and right surgeries for the right face in order to “pass” and be invisible to your disgustable eyes.
If only it were that easy. But I can’t imagine what kind of callousness, or disconnection from reality, or massive amounts of money, I could ever have that could allow that. And even so, all I’d accomplish is insulating myself from a few of the more immediate reminders of what’s thought of me and what I am. But even if no one ever knew I was trans, or even if I could laugh off every instance of that hatred made manifest, nothing could ever erase the knowledge of what I am and how that is regarded. I would still be transsexual, and would still know what that means.
And I’m not so sure emotional isolation would be worth that mild level of security any more than physical isolation would. Cultural agoraphobia? No thanks. I’m a human being, and trans or not, I live amongst other human beings, connected to their feelings and perceptions. That makes me vulnerable, but that is part what living a life is. We live through and in relation to one another.
It hurts to be treated with disgust and contempt by people like you, but that’s because I’m invested in you, in others, as human beings. I don’t want to be the kind of person who stops caring what other people think and feel, no matter how much it hurts.
I only wish that you might have seen me as similarly human.
*headshake* *offers hugs*
I can’t say I’ve been an angel when faced with similar situations. Not much more than a year ago I threw a cup of iced coffee in the face of someone who called me an antitrans epithet.
Having thought long and hard about that incident, should I face such a thing again I’ve decided to turn around and say to to that person “God love you and bless you [sir/ma’am]; may your life be filled with peace.” I’ve decided to let those who express hate to me face a soft answer in return that’s rooted in love.
It’s easy to love those who love me; it’s not so easy to love those who hate me — and God knows how much hate I’m on the receiving end of…even from many of our own peers. But their hate is their problem: how I respond is mine. I know I can’t drive out darkness with more darkness, so if I want to drive away the darkness I have to respond by being a light of kindness and love.
Which is hard to do when I feel demeaned and hurt by their words that are dripping with hate.
I so understand the hate you faced, and I’m so sorry you experienced it. My warmest thoughts are with you.
Autumnsandeen, I think you’re a stronger person than I am, and perhaps that’s because you’ve had to be. As a white, cis, female, (and possibly most important to jackasses like the guy in Natalie’s post, I’m attractive) I don’t get this type of harassment. My first response would have been to fling an insult right back, but my fight-or-flight response has always been rather heavily weighted toward “fight”.
If you can shine when the people around you are being so ugly, you’re truly the type of person the rest of us should emulate. But if it’s ever required, I want you to know that there are those of us that would stand beside you and help you battle through the ugliness, because no one should have to face this alone.
I know it’s not what you’re aiming for, but I personally like this response. : )
Sheila Crosby says
I’d take a wild guess that the young man is insecure because his girlfriend just dumped him or because he has secret gay leanings or because he has a tiny penis. It says a lot more about him than you.
But I suspect that that doesn’t help much. I’m really sorry you have to put up with this sort of thing.
No Light says
No, just no. Not cool.
Sheila Crosby says
Actually I didn’t mean that these were good reasons for feeling insecure, just common ones. But clearly that’s not what I said.
Natalie Reed says
Thanks for the apology.
I think Sheila understands the problem there, so let’s appreciate that and let this be. Not saying anyone has been overly hostile, but I’ve had some bad experiences with call-out culture lately and just kinda want to do my part to prevent that kind of thing here, so people feel safe commenting, and feel like it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes.
Sally Strange says
Yes. Thank you. Using latent homosexuality or genitalia size as insults are just not cool and definitely isn’t helping.
As I was reading I kept thinking “This.” I know this all too well, especially from my early awkward days of full-time. As much as I try to be philosophical about it and as much as the brain tries to tell me “you’re not the problem” and “don’t apologize for existing,” it doesn’t stop it from cutting to the quick when this kind of thing happened, or the once in a blue moon occasions when it still does.
I’m not sure just how I feel about people like this guy: if it’s contempt for that kind of mindset, anger for projecting his insecurities, rage at judging someone only on how well they meet his superficial personal aesthetic or sense of propriety, or sorrow that the way he feels secure is to elevate himself by bringing down others. Or all of those and more. What makes it even worse is that there’s a lot more out there than just this guy, and it’s a mindset that causes a lot of problems for us in a lot of spheres.
Besides, anybody who finds Natalie Reed disgusting, I’ve got a serious problem with.
I think you’re on to something here… I’m talking based on my memories of being a kid, memories of getting in trouble for saying evil shit.
I think that, in addition to the insecurities that you bring up, there’s an element of thinking that you’re somehow mandated and ordered by an invisible authority to bully certain people. There’s a perverse sense that you would somehow betray your duty as a boy (or perhaps in the case of this particular asshole his duty as a grown man) and paint yourself as a naive weakling if you didn’t, as someone to be bullied under the same mandate by the same invisible authority.
I’m projecting here, but I always suspect that adults who still say evil shit to and about other people are stuck in a schoolyard mindset that should have been thoroughly taught and punished out of them by age 13 at the very latest.
I don’t trust people when they say that they are repulsed by gay men, or by trans women. I suspect they’re lying. There’s nothing inherently repulsive about people who have an appearance that is a little outside the mainstream norm. Or I don’t know, perhaps they’ve managed to indoctrinate themselves far enough down the road of bigotry and white-male-cis-straight supremacy that they actually begin to physically feel the repulsion that they think they’re suppose to feel.
A few years before my transition-this would have been about 20 years ago-I used to hang out with a bunch of fellow computer geeks, all male. One day at breakfast the subject of daytime talk shows came up. One of the guys said, “There was one I saw the other day. There was this gorgeous woman on there and it turned out she used to be a man!” Somebody said, “They should make that kind of operation illegal” and several around the table agreed. I kept my mouth shut (I felt awkward enough, for obvious reasons, without starting a row about it).
What was so interesting was the way the comment was made: the guy who made the comment had clearly been attracted to her and thought she was gorgeous until he found out, and he sounded as disgusted with himself for letting himself feel that way as he was with the woman he had seen on television.
On bullying, I remember not only being the target of bullies in school, but dealing verbal crap to a couple of undeserving classmates myself, telling homophobic jokes, and a few other things I’m not proud of. It was never violent and I didn’t run afoul of the authorities, but nonetheless reprehensible and I have trouble forgiving myself for it. If you dug down, part of it was self-loathing, part of it was being a misfit who desperately wanted to fit in, and part of it was this misguided idea that if I had to be a man, I had to do that kind of thing. It took me years to realize just how much it didn’t work, and that I wasn’t being true to myself.
I wrote a piece entitled A Shopping List Of Trans Women’s Shame recently, and here are a few on the list:
Many of us have to deal with shame and internalized transphobia.
Somehow I never stop being astounded at how cruel people can be. At my age you’d think I’d have learned and stopped being gobsmacked, but no. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this. Our sorry species.
He is a badly educated, poorly raised, ill-mannered whelp of a variety to shame his parents and offend his grandparents.
That being said, I appreciate and rejoice that you understand that the best way to deal with enemity is to treat them politely, as though they were humans. It really pisses them off.
Basically any time you do or be anything anyone doesn’t like, they have the power to disrupt your life. Even something as stupid as a person shouting from a car when you’re walking. I wish we could go on as if it didn’t happen, but we have emotions and those jerks know that and they love to use that fact to mess with us. Maybe it just amuses them or maybe they like that feeling of power.
Maybe it was a personality assessment. I’d say he nailed it.
Natalie Reed says
Trisha Allison says
Feel better? Is there a reason for your nastiness or are you just miserable all the time.
Natalie Reed says
I get a lot of these comments lately. I usually don’t approve them. I think it’s just internet being internet, and the inevitable trolling one attracts when you reach a certain point of visibility.
LOL, this is what I initially assumed the comment meant. I didn’t realise it was trolling until everyone started reacting to it as a troll.
Obviously I have never had a blog.
I talked myself into beliving what alot of other trans people told me; alll I had to do was look right, act right, be feminine, carry myself with confidence and I would be rewarded with the the amazing prize of “passing”. So I tried, got my makeup right, wore the best clothes I could to pass, got the laser and went out into the world. I did seem to “pass” most of the time.
The price? I was paranoid constantly that my looks were perfect. I was hyper vigilant. I was afraid I would run into trans friends in public because I am not the type of person to ignore my friends but then I would be vulnerable by association. I was spending money I couldnt afford on cosmetics and clothing to look right. My securty increased somewhat but my self esteem plummetted.
What happened next? I went to a new class at school and no matter how perfect I thought I was I got outed anyway by the teacher and spent 4 weeks in a room I couldn’t escape being mocked. In a way im glad it happened. I couldn’t fool myself anymore that the world was welcoming to me; nor could I lie to myself and say that I was proud of who I am when I was hiding who I am.
I am trans. I will always be trans. Lots of people are always going to remind me especially myself. I could have SRS and look like Jenna T and I will still be trans and still reminded. I have decided that I want to be proud and trans and not hide it anymore. I am going to live out as trans, loudly out, at least I can be proud of myself and learn to love myself even if guys like the one in your post spit on me. We shouldn’t as a community have to fade to invisibility, there is nothing at all wrong or shameful about us.
Ms. Daisy Cutter, Vile Human Being says
I realize that as a cis woman I am expressing privilege by asking this, but is there some way you can indicate to the school’s administration that the teacher’s behavior was not only vile but potentially dangerous to you?
It was reported, he kept misgendering me. The class also kept harrassing me and he made no effort to stop it.
However I live in Ontario so this is now a formal complaint to the school board and he will likely face disciplinary action. UNfortunately that is a bit late for my mental health and self esteem
HUGGS Anna. You KNOW you have an amazing community of transpeople supported by an equally amazing group of LGB and STR8 supporters beside; not behind you. You know who to turn to if you need advocacy, activism, or just a shoulder to cry on.
Each of us loves you because you are such an important part of a phenomenal community and YOU make all of our lives richer just by your presence.
Lotsa huggs and loves,
Might help the next trans person to be in one of his classes, though. Or in the classes of someone who hears about the case and is moved to think about the issue. Bigotry can die of a thousand cuts, too. Take comfort in that thought.
*love* To you. You’re brave as hell for reporting that asshole, and you’re helping to make it safer for those who follow.
You should be proud of yourself.
*hugs* if you want them.
I’ll never be able to wrap my mind around the concept of being disgusted by another human being’s mere existence. I mean, I understand – in an abstract sense – the cultural and psychological processes that lead to it, but I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend it.
I know nothing will make you forget what you have to deal with every day, Natalie, but may you forever be surrounded by wonderful people who can at least distract you.
The person who was “disgusting” in the encounter you described certainly was NOT you! HIS hate, ignorance and audacity is what is the most disgusting and pathetic of all. So, as Mr. T would say, “Pity the fool.”
Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says
This sort of thing makes me so angry I can’t breathe.
Who the fuck asked that scum for his opinion?
Why do scum thing anyone CARES about their opinion?
By way of contrast, that bigot pig only managed a single word. This post is, quite simply, amazing and powerful. Such a coward like that scum couldn’t manage anything close.
You are certainly not disgusting. You are amazing! Bigotry is disgusting.
Never forget that you are loved, respected, cherished. I would not be so presumptive as to discount you pain. In my opinion this is the emotional equivalent of stepping in dogshit. I am not sure how well I could hold that opinion if this happened to me, I know that I would be hurt too. However, that does not change the truth of it, dogshit it is. Some randomly excreted bit of odious and disgusting crap that you had the misfortune to step in. I would be honored to actually know you.
would you feel better if he whistled at you and made rape threats?
Because this kind of individuals have only these two categories in their brains, and the problem, you caught it well, is that they feel entitled to press their opinion on others.
Everything else, all the little facts that combine to make you “you”, or me “me”, are somehow there in such an individual´s perception, but mean little – such a brain is too limited to differentiate, and he is searching for somebody/anybody to spit his self-hate on all the time.
The two categories his brain is able to distinguish would much better be discribed as “easy rape victim” and “not-so-easy rape victim”.
Explanation: I have had exactly the same experiences you did (on average a dozen per year) since I fought my mother successfully to allow me to wear trousers at age 14!!!
whether I do or do not put camouflage on my scars does not change this.
I am a 5-foot-short fat limping cis-female, who would get operations if it would be possible to make me 6 feet tall, muscular and quick in reactions, but do not see any reason for the treatments possible nowadays – exactly for these, and physically worse situations.
As long as I am not able to decide whether to beat EACH AND ALL those spitters to pulp, I feel like a victim far too often, to get the category “male” in the passport would not help me.
But I often get some consolation out of your blog, somehow the world seems to be a better place because you see something positive in being a woman.
No Light says
What the FUCK?
Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says
Seconded. What the fuck?
Yeah, thirded. WTF?? Why would a rape threat make ANYone feel better? Ever??
As a 52 year old, fat, not particularly attractive cis woman, let me suggest that there is definitely a third category: Those of us who should be ignored completely.
And yes, I totally realize that this beats being harassed in the privilege sweepstakes for sure, but being certain that there are only two categories in the brains of the privilege sweeps winners is a bit blinkered itself.
What the fuck is wrong with you?
Natalie Reed says
HS, I like you, I like where you’re usually coming from, but I’m getting really tired of having to repeatedly ask you to tone down your hostility. That kind of response doesn’t help anyone with anything. The question she opened her comment with is messed up for all the reasons, and there were lots of other problematic things in her comment (like saying that she’s had to deal with the same kinds of things I’ve dealt with since she “started wearing trousers”), but it seems clear she’s not trolling or trying to fuck with anyone or saying anything nasty on purpose or from a position of arrogance, she’s just working through how she relates to the post. You don’t have to like her perspective, you don’t have to leave what she’s said unquestioned, and you don’t have to treat her with kid gloves, but on my blog, you DO have to refrain from tearing into people with that level of unrestrained, unproductive anger and hostility.
At a certain point, I’m going to have to stop asking you to knock it off and will have to just ban you or put you on permanent moderation. Please don’t put me in that position, because I do value your contributions.
Sorry. I’ll just read henceforth.
Ms. Daisy Cutter, Vile Human Being says
You know, Natalie, your response to Happiestsadist is fucking bullshit. You scold them for leaving a perfectly reasonable response — not much different from the previous responses — to someone who derailed the discussion grossly, but you have no words for the derailer yourself.
Then again, you really do enjoy playing favorites in comments, don’t you? I’m surprised Anders isn’t still around making his creepy-ass comments, which you didn’t seem to have a problem with.
I don’t really give a fuck if you ban me, if that’s the kind of policing you do in these comments.
Natalie Reed says
I absolutely had a problem with Anders, and made similar efforts. Please don’t bring him up again.
Also please explain how “what the fuck is wrong with you?” is a “perfectly reasonable response”. Go on. Please.
As for now words for that person herself… um… you know how many comments there were yesterday? What kind of time do you think I have for this blog? I’m not going to apologize for not expressing EXACTLY the opinions you want me too. Yeesh.
*hugs* are on offer, if you’d like them. I told I give good ones, though perhaps a little long.
Is there anything allies can do, or say, in these moments, that would be supportive? I know that I’m not familiar enough with a trans universe that I’d probably send out some indication of surprise upon coming to believe that someone was trans—roughly equivalent to realizing that I’d misgendered a man with long hair and tight jeans, but to a vigilant trans person I suppose that face might be hurtful, or worrisome (especially attached, as it is, to my large and non-apparently-allied body).
Even if that’s not the case, I’d like to at least—if possible, only if possible—indicate that I’ve realized someone’s trans and I respect that, that they’re welcome in my public sphere, that they aren’t my other. It’s tricky, and I accept that there may not be an answer. Vileness is easier in a lot of ways. But if you (or anyone) has a suggestion (and the spoons to offer it, ofc), I’d love to hear.
Alyson Miers says
You know what? You shouldn’t have to act like you don’t give a shit what this asshat thinks, or that the slurs and insults don’t bother you. You’d be lying if you pretended it didn’t bother you. Every time some grue does something like this, it carries the threat of violence. This is the kind of shit you need to worry about, because no one else is going to take care of it for you. So…no. No, it is not your responsibility to behave like this shit doesn’t affect you. It is not your responsibility to protect the rest of us from mental discomfort by “ignoring” the harassment you have to endure, any more than it’s your responsibility to make those hateful grues comfortable by building your life around passing for a ciswoman.
Yeah, far too many people are all too dismissive of emotional violence, I find, and the effects that it can have.
Agreed. In fact I have started to repeat myself, saying something I’d like to word better: “when someone attacks you, you get hurt, and you may have to run away or quickly defend yourself so you don’t get hurt worse. If that goes for physical violence, why should it be different for verbal violence?” (rewording suggestions welcome.)
Alyson Miers says
I would contribute an addendum: You can’t ignore something that refuses to leave you alone. (Substitute “someone” for “something” much of the time.)
Erista (aka Eris) says
I wish that people understood better the effects of many little hurtful events. So often people act like any given little hurtful event happens in a vacuum, and that it should be responded to as if it was an incident that was not connected to any other incident. This leads people to say profoundly stupid things like, “Hey, he’s just some jerk/it’s just words/no one can make you feel inferior without your consent*/blah blah, so just let it roll of your back!”
But that’s not true; little hurtful events like this are connected to all the other little hurtful events because they’re all connected to the same person. Paper cuts may be little, too, but even one is bothersome, and they can bleed you to death if you receive enough of them.
So in situations like this, it isn’t “I have one paper cut” it’s “I have a thousand paper and one paper cuts and I’m starting to get dizzy due to blood loss.”
The ability of humans to bear these kinds of wounds is not endless.
So, inclosing, I’m so sorry, Natalie.
*God I hate that saying.
All of this.
It pains me beyond words that people can think that treating other fellow human beings like this is okay, or that someone should just be able to shrug it off, as if being hurt in increments is the fault of the recipient and their burden to carry, as if it doesn’t pile up exponentally and wear them down, as if its possible to simply go on feeling safe under the spotlight of emotionally violent rejection.
I am so sorry.
Ms. Daisy Cutter, Vile Human Being says
So do I.
Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says
So do I. I can’t decide if its the perfect distllation of a statement from privilege, or if its disempowering new-agey nonsense in the same vein as “turn the other cheek”.
When I was a kid being harassed and bullied in school well-meaning adults would try to advise me “just let it roll off your back.” I never could make it clear to them, “But it’s not that easy. You’re not facing the fear I’m forced to face. You’re not having to live this. I am.”
Being told “let it roll off your back” isn’t much help when you get called names or picked on or harassed – or, worse, as you’re reeling from the classroom bully kicking you in the crotch. (Don’t ask me how I know.)
This exactly. I don’t have a lot of time for people who say “don’t let it bother you”, “just ignore it”, because in saying that they’ve demonstrated that they have no idea what they’re talking about. They’re also, in my opinion, not trying very hard. You don’t have to be the most empathetic person, surely, to realise that this shit isn’t so easy to ignore when you have to live with it every fucking day.
mx. punk says
i’ve had grues try to convince me to just let them misgender me in order to not “play the victim.” i think this kind of thinking must come from a very privileged/entitled place.
Dear Natalie, I have never posted on a blog before. I’m older and not very computer competent and I don’t consider myself a good writer, but I had to figure out how to set up an account and reply to your post. As you wrote “we live through and in relation to one another” and I feel a need to reach out from thousands of miles away and let you know that even if some people react to you with disgust, I think you are beautiful and intelligent. I have been reading your blog since January and it has helped me to live with the pain in my own life tremendously. In this post you sound so very, very sad. Please know that there are people out here who feel very positively about you, people who feel enriched by your existence. This may not be the type of post that gets put up for others to read, it’s kind of just a personal cyber hug from an older woman and a mother to a sweet, young girl. Take care of yourself, Natalie.
Damn. That’s so awful. I’m so sorry.
I’m not trans, but this post struck a chord; being verbally abused for my appearance by strangers in the street is an experience I have had, years ago, and it hurts. It really does. It’s a really shitty thing to do to someone.
And it’s happened to me only a handful of times. As a (privileged) cis person, I can’t even begin to imagine what many trans people have to endure.
Natalie, I’d like to start with this:
That had me laughing out loud, it really did. That is brilliant writing, and it’s why FTB readers are lucky to have you around.
Beyond that… I’m just sorry. Sorry that this happens and above all sorry that, as you say, it’s such a casual thing to say, but something that can’t (and shouldn’t) just be laughed off. It’s horrible and there’s nothing I feel I can do except offer support via this comment.
Audley Z. Darkheart (liar and scoundrel) says
This broke my heart and I can’t even fully articulate why. It’s just so not fair.
When I began transition I really wanted the full Dr. O-type facial surgery and everything else I could get to help me blend in. Then one day I realized it’s not something I would be able to see unless I had a mirror. I’d be making serious changes to myself in the name of meeting others’ expectations of what a woman should look like.
I stuck with the face I have, flaws and everything, and have lived happily since. In part it’s because I’d rather spend that money on a lot of other things, in part it’s because I don’t want to go through the rigors of plastic surgery. But there’s also defiance in my reasoning. I like being me, and I’m me on my own terms.
(Please note, this isn’t meant to disrespect or discourage anyone who seeks facial surgery. I’m speaking only for myself and my own experiences.)
Out of curiosity, I entered your name into Google images.
1. You are certainly not ‘disgusting.’ Based on the pictures I saw, you’re cute. I’m not sure whether I would notice that you are a transsexual if I passed you on the street. But I would, on the street, definitely be thinking either, ‘There goes a cute girl.’ or ‘There goes a cute girl, who I think might be transsexual.’
2. I might, walking down the street past you, briefly notice you. I might even form a judgement about you based on the way you look, namely, that you are cute. But I don’t really have any right to form judgements about strangers on the street, because they’re just strangers, going where they’re going, and I don’t actually know you. So I’d maybe meet your eye, smile briefly and nod, because I’m in the Midwest and that’s what we do when we pass a stranger here. But I would not talk to you, because I don’t know you.
3. Anyone who says negative things to a stranger is, by definition, an asshole. I’ll bet this man is an asshole in many aspects of his personal life. I’ll bet he would also say, ‘Disgusting’ when passing a gay couple, or a fat person, or a woman with a big nose. I’ll bet he is mean to his girlfriend, who is going to leave him soon, because no one wants to date an asshole. I hope she leaves him for a transsexual person, though, because that would serve him right.
Michael Halila says
I’m sorry my demographic, youngish white men, are such complete assholes who actively make the world a terrible place for everyone else to live in. It’s mind-boggling how many of us still think we own the world and can behave any way we like towards others. I think a day after you tweeted about this incident, another young white man, a friend of a friend, casually posted on Facebook about just shooting all those asylum-seeking African subhumans. If that’s on a whole different scale, it’s still the same casual, thoughtless total dehumanization of anyone who’s branded “different” that makes them able to spit at you. It’s almost overwhelmingly depressing to be reminded of what kind of people my peers are.
How can people tell? I’ve never been able to tell. Then, I don’t look for it because it doesn’t make a difference to me.
I find it disgusting that there are people in the world who think it’s appropriate to voice their idiotic opinions to strangers on the street. It always makes me wonder if his mother knows what a jerk he is? Or maybe she approves? perish the thought. Sorry you have to deal with this shit.
How are people like that? Why are they so hateful?
I wish I could empathize in some way, but I’ve never had these experiences. Even so you are a beacon of amazing to me a strong transwoman who speaks her mind and copes with such horrible people every day.
I am so sorry. There’s more, but the extra hate this douche has poured into the world is making me ache.
I wish some progressive minded company would come out with the trans-equivalent of Rainbow Oreo’s. So I could have them visible behind my store counter the whole night, so that on the odd chance I ever see a guy like that he’d know I like everything he hates and am more than happy admit it.
Please don’t disappear Natalie, we need more people like you and less people like him, if people like you disappeared there’d me more people like him, and the world already has enough of him!
Can I just say that you’re an awesome writer? Every single post you make, including this one, is incredibly well written.
I’d imagine this translates to you being a pretty great person to talk to, but that chucklefuck will never know about it. That’s his loss.
An idiot like that is not insulting just you; he’s insulting many who don’t match or live up to his ideals and perceptions of “who we should be.” A person like that is a psychological neanderthal (or earlier humanoid species) because he hasn’t evolved enough mentally, socially & culturally to realize who we are as a species and how we should be helping ourselves to move forward. I think we are snail’s-pace moving toward acceptance & appreciation of who you are and what you bring to the societal/cultural table, though not nearly fast enough.
It’s not just young white males who exhibit this behavior. Although YWMs carry their privilege like a coat of arms, males in every ethnicity carry some form of privilege, in particular that privilege of being male in a patriarchal society. Sh-yt, we ALL need to evolve out of that mindset!
Michael H. says
As a straight male and wearer of the shapeless t-shirt-and-cargo-shorts uniform, I apologize for this Neanderthal’s behavior.
Jason B says
Sweet zombie jesus, this is terrible.
I have no way to relate, non. and i can’t think of anything worth saying.
All i’m got is i’m so very sorry and a offer of internet hugs.
Good luck and thank you for sharing,
Sticks and stones will break your bones but words will fucking kill you.
Please don’t let them, Natalie. Some of those assholes be… well, assholes, but you are also loved and valued by many.
I don’t understand people sometimes.
Best. Enjoy GGC this weekend.
This post is honestly a lot more about you than it is about the random person who passed you in the street the other day. Why care what some person you don’t know and will probably never know or see again says or thinks?
Most of us have some insecurities about ourselves. We all either learn to deal with it and get past it, or… let it consume us. I’d rather you not do the latter.
Why spend time speculating on what exactly made him say disgusting? Who cares, honestly! If I am walking down the street and see someone I find unappealing or “disgusting”, be it man or woman, fat or thin, or whatever strikes me as unappealing or disgusting, I simply keep it to myself. Most people with normal social sensibilities will do this.
If he had kept it to himself, would have still thought him an “entitled young man”? Would you even remember him right now? Why give such weight to something a random stranger said?
Natalie Reed says
I’m pretty sure I actually answered every single question you just asked somewhere in the post.
“It hurts to be treated with disgust and contempt by people like you, but that’s because I’m invested in you, in others, as human beings. I don’t want to be the kind of person who stops caring what other people think and feel, no matter how much it hurts.”
No one is asking you do this, or suggesting you should. But there will always be “a person” rather than “people” who will think this way. You simply cannot give weight to the reaction of each individual person you encounter. This doesn’t make you callous or unfeeling. This makes you normal. We’ve all been antagonized for one reason or another(I understand that it is different for you). But if everyone gave substantial weight to what a cruel person said to them, no one would make it far in this world.
Natalie Reed says
The problem is that it’s NOT “giving weight” to an individual person or individual encounter.
They CAN’T be isolated into individual instances.
That’s exactly what this is about. In case it wasn’t obvious: this post isn’t really about me, that particular guy, or this particular encounter. It’s no more a post about the particular individual event than it is an actual letter to that guy.
Do you not feel that overall, there has been a lot of progress on the LGBT rights issues over the last several years? Admittedly transgender issues/acceptance has lagged behind gay ones, but do you not feel that things are going in the right direction? All LGBT issues poll much, much better with the younger generation than the older ones. Within the older generations one of the biggest things that has changed their minds is being able to personalize it. Making less about the “idea” of two individuals of the same sex getting married and making it about their neighbor, or their nephew, or someone else they know personally. As a lot more people have been coming out, they have gained support.
It is one of the biggest reasons I think LBGT issues lag behind is because there are less of you. Less connections with individuals makes it much easier to abstract it away and not see you as real people. Isn’t that the main point of the article really? That you just want to be seen as a human being, same as everyone else? Then yes, you do have to put yourself out there, and you are going to get hurt doing so, but you already know you are not going to change everyone’s mind. Making connections with people is what progresses it, but that takes a lot of time. The other thing is to ensure that people are held accountable for harrassment/discrimination/abuse, and that bigotry is ridiculed. Racism is ridiculed by most people I know, so is homophobia, Trans related bigotry is just so much less common I am not sure most think about it as often.
I think you know all these things already. So why psychoanalyze this stranger based on 20 seconds of interaction, I think it muddles the message you are trying to get at.
Natalie Reed says
Kinda beside the point, kbohn.
mx. punk says
um, i think this post is about the weight of societal oppression behind that asshat’s behavior.
it’s not that some stranger called natalie “disgusting–” it’s that society stood behind some stranger and said, “yeah! you tell her!” while that stranger hurled hatred at a trans* woman. there’s, like, a shit-ton of clout behind transmisogyny. i don’t think any incident of transmisogyny is ever just an incident; it’s part of a societal pattern.
Let me answer your questions with a question:
Why does Natalie owe you specifically any explanation or justification for the effects that another person’s cruelty had upon her?
Also, like she said, all the answers to your questions are addressed in the OP. Do make the effort to read for comprehension and try to understand that ignoring bullies or pretending they can’t hurt you doesn’t make them go away.
No one owes me anything. I thought I would ask Natalie some questions because I assume the purpose of having comments enabled is to allow some sort of feedback/discussion.
Also, just because she has an answer to the questions i asked doesn’t mean I think they are good answers or even legitimate ones. But good on you to assume I can’t read or understand.
When did I say “pretend” it doesn’t bother you? As people become more comfortable with themselves or more secure about certain issues with themselves, these things don’t actually bother you. No pretending required. This is why I said that the post is more about Natalie than the stranger.
I don’t think bullies should be tolerated. But lets be honest here, this stranger didn’t follow Natalie down the street harassing her. (Quick question Natalie, did he spit on you or at the ground towards you?) He said two words, or more accurately, the same word twice. Perhaps he was genuinely shocked, Natalie might be the first transgender person he’s ever knowingly seen.
He had an honest reaction to it. Regrettably, it was a negative one, and further, a somewhat hostile one (though I can’t say how Natalie felt exactly, but it seems a bit hostile to me). Maybe this person is someone who would harass/bully Natalie if they were not stranger and were instead co-workers or something. We don’t know any of these things. As I said before, this is more a lack of manners and tact.
I guess my issue with this article, it that is presumes a lot on behalf of this random stranger, as to why he had the reaction he did. Both to insecurities in his own manliness, or possibly having “faggy” thoughts. It could just be the “otherness” as was said later in the article.
Natalie, be who you are, and be proud of who you are. If you are going to let the fact that some people will have a negative reaction to you based on who you are tear you down, then I do not know what to tell you. For every type of people, there are others who hate them or are disgusted by them. No matter how tolerant or enlightened our society gets as a whole, individuals will always be like this. I don’t expect to see an article every time someone treats you politely. You can never change everyone’s mind or gain acceptance from everyone, no one gets that.
Hang in there though, things are moving in the right direction.
Natalie Reed says
This is exactly the kind of victim blaming that does exactly nothing to make anything better, understands exactly nothing about the larger social forces involved, and understands exactly nothing about what it is to experience this.
Good on you that YOU’RE capable of not feeling hurt when people spit at you in contempt and call you disgusting, in the context of a culture that supports and enables that mentality, and constantly reinforces it through subtler mechanisms. How often does that happen, if you don’t mind my asking?
I am not claiming to have equivalent experiences to yours. But please do not take my post as “blaming you”. I don’t blame you for anything that happened, what he said, or anything like that. I certainly don’t think you deserved what happened either.
Not being transgender doesn’t make me immune from mean people. I happen to care very much about LGBT rights and the issues that they face. Just because the ignorance and bigotry regarding these issues isn’t directed at me specifically doesn’t mean I don’t see the effects of it on people I love and care about.
So for all the understanding you are claiming to want from others, please do not make snap judgments about me, who I am, and what I am capable of understanding.
Natalie Reed says
I’m not judging you. You seem like a more or less nice person who didn’t mean to piss anyone off here.
But your contributions to this comment thread haven’t been productive. You’re coming across as very condescending and that’s really bothering a lot of people.
Can you please just give it a rest? Your points have been made. We understand what you’re saying. Alright?
Alyson Miers says
Can we please focus on protecting the less-privileged from harassment, threats and violence before we go and give the benefit of the doubt to the privileged bullies and harassers?
I am with you. Yet, I am not sure how helpful it is to presume to understand or guess at why the stranger had the reaction he did. I want to make sure everyone here understands that I am not condoning at all what he did.
Just because you think it’s pointless, or a waste of time, to talk about what could’ve been in that guy’s mind, doesn’t mean you should try and shut down the conversation. Unless you’re going to argue that it’s a bad idea to try and understand one’s enemies.
(In that case I would disagree strongly: if you understand the root of someone’s behavior, you are better equipped to change it–and by “you” I mean you, me, Natalie, anyone.)
mx. punk says
please, yes. co-signed.
natalie is entitled to her feelings; basically telling her to get over it or that her feeling upset is due to her own insecurities is blatant victim-blaming. it places blame on natalie for feeling upset/unsettled rather than on the asshat who verbally assaulted her.
i don’t get why kbonn has a problem with natalie writing about her experience on her blog– sharing her experience with us seems pretty constructive, to me.
I’m speaking from a place of privilege relative to Natalie, as I am a white cis-gendered (queer) woman. Despite that, I have had hateful comments hurled at me before, and they cut deep.
They are a verbal reminder of the specter of violence that hangs over me every day. They keep me from blocking the knowledge that there are men out there who would rape me, who think they can rape me straight, that there are people who think that I am inferior and do not count, who think that I just need a good beating to set me straight.
They remind me that for no other reason than my self-identity, there are people out there who will treat me as inferior and there are furthermore people who will commit acts of violence for that reason.
Those words are hateful and horrifying because there is a very real possibility that they will be followed with violence. They are not just words, they are threats.
I am truly sorry for you Cris and where you live seems awful. I know many gay and lesbian individuals quite well and they have never felt threatened in the way you have and certainly not in the constant manner you describe. It is hard for me to imagine a place being like that. Do you mind me asking where it is that you live?
It’s not something that I’m constantly experiencing, or even something that I run against all that often where I currently live. I did grow up in the deep South, however, which is where I experienced most of the worst shit.
Comments on the level of “you should be beaten/raped” directed at me: twice in my life.
Comments on that level directed at others in person: maybe thirty times, mostly prior to moving out of the South.
Comments on that level on the internet: at least once a month.
Comments on the level of “you just haven’t fucked the right man, that’s why you’re queer” directed at me: maybe yearly, maybe more, depending on whether I’m going out to bars much.
Comments on that level directed at others in person: perhaps a few times a year.
Comments on that level on the internet: every fucking week, more if I’m active on dating sites.
Most of the time, I feel pretty safe and not threatened by people. But then a comment comes up, particularly a comment in person, and it takes me back to “those” interactions: being spit on, being threatened with bodily harm, being manhandled.
Those comments pull my guard up, way up, because if somebody hates me enough to say something like that, they may hate me enough to hurt me. And I’m not always in a space where I feel safe calling the person out for their comments, so I essentially get chased out – if I stayed, I would be too angry and/or scared to have a good time. Again, this has only happened a handful of times in the last decade, but that almost makes it fuck with me more, now, because I’m not in constant filter-out-the-assholes mode.
I don’t live in some horrible constant state of fear, but “those” comments and interactions can make me afraid for a little while. In this, I doubt that I’m all that different from your other queer friends.
What do you mean by “he had an honest reaction”? How do we tell the honest bigots from the dishonest ones?
I’ve got the feeling you’re digging yourself a hole.
Being ignorant and a bigot are not the same thing. Natalie might be the first person he had seen that is transgender. It might have freaked him out and he reacted with a gut reaction. It is regrettable that he acted the way he did. But what if he had just had a weird look on his face and stared instead? Most people are not inconsiderate/rude enough to actually do what he did.
I suppose it is not the easiest thing to tell honest from dishonest ones. But I find it problematic to presume exactly what makes other do what they do.
I agree that we can’t decide with total certainty that this particular case was a part of a broader structure of oppression and supremacy. I don’t know what was going on in the head of this person, but I suspect that most of the people who blurt out cruel shit are not experiencing an overwhelming feeling of repulsion.
Your “honest reaction” hypothesis seems to suppose that he first lost control over his feelings and then lost control over his mouth. How likely is that? Like, if he met a really scary guy in the street, like a big guy in a Hell’s Angels jacket, do you think he would turn towards him and blurt out “fucking scary, fucking scary!”?
Even if this guy really had an uncontrollable feeling of disgust he could still almost certainly have chosen to keep his mouth shut. Why didn’t he chose keep his mouth shut? Well, probably because he thought that he was entitled to speak his mind to a trans woman, because she is a trans woman.
If an adult shouts something hateful based in race, sexual orientation, sexual identity, religion, lack of religion, etc, it’s safe to assume that it’s bigotry.
mx. punk says
maybe the honest bigots just spit on you and call you “disgusting” and the dishonest bigots attack you physically?
kbonn’s hole is like, deep enough to bury a spacecraft in. ???how deep will it get??? DUN DUN DUUUUUN!
Erista (aka Eris) says
Your post makes me very angry. If I calm down later today, I may try to respond with some degree of detail.
Until then, fuck that shit that you just said.
I will try to make sure I check back in the AM tomorrow then. I am sorry for upsetting you as much as I did. It was not my intent. I’ll ignore the last part of your post for now. Hopefully we can discuss what it is that upset you. (It’s also possible I may not have come across as I meant to, I am hardly a public speaker.)
I do hope to hear from you.
Erista (aka Eris) says
Alright! Here we go. I don’t have a lot of time (got off work at 8:30pm today, trying to get to work at 8am tomorrow), but I’ll see what I can dredge up.
Humans are social animals. That’s how we’re hard wired. This means that we care what other people think about us, and the need to be accepted is so ridiculously important that I can’t properly convey the intensity of the influence that it has on us. Many people devote their lives to seeking the accolade of other people. Athletes seek to win gold metals, authors seek to be best sellers, actors seek to be super stars, Walmart employees want to be employee of the month, millionaires donate their fortune to build libraries and universities and more that will bear their name, and people dream of being remembered after they die.
It is almost impossible to overstate humanity’s drive to be accepted and approved of, for all that we also have a drive to deny this need.
So, when people say, “You shouldn’t care what people think,” they are in fact saying, “You shouldn’t possess one of the most powerful drives in human nature.” That will not happen.
Of course, some will say, “Oh, but I don’t care what [insert group of people] think, so clearly you can choose not to care, too!”
No. If you don’t care what people think, it is almost certainly because you have been granted enough approval to offset the amount of disapproval they receive. It’s much easier to “not care” when you aren’t regularly on the receiving end of scorn and mistreatment but are regularly on the receiving end of acceptance and approval.
Trans people are rejected by the overwhelming majority of the world. The amount of scorn, mistreatment, and disapproval they receive is almost impossible to overstate. Trans people are butchered in public and people hem and haw about none of this would have happened if the trans person didn’t exist in the first place. That’s how our world reacts to the oppression of trans people.
To trans people, “You’re disgusting” caries a different weight than it does to someone who is not oppressed to such a severe degree. To a trans person, it means “I will beat you, I will kill you, I will laugh at you when you are killed, I will fire you from your job, I will evict you from your home, I will deny your very identity and assign to you whatever identity I choose, I will declare you unworthy of love and affection, I will insist that violence is an appropriate response your existence as a sexual being, I will deny you medical care, I will expose your existence as a trans person so that others may harm and reject you, I will deny your humanity, I will categorize you as a filthy abomination, I will insist that you have no place in human society,” and much, much more.
Our world does not offer a positive message that opposes the negative message I just described to you. This isn’t some oddball moron shooting out a negative statement that will quickly be overwhelmed by positive messages. To trans people, “You’re disgusting” and all that this phrase entails is it, the sum total of what is offered to trans people.
Yes, trans people often (not always) have friends and family members who will offer some measure of positive support, but no matter how wonderful this support may be, it cannot possibly blot out having the world’s collective message being “You’re disgusting.”
So, what you’re doing when you say that Natalee should not care is like saying Natalee should jump over the Grand Canyon. She, as a human being, doesn’t have the option of not caring about this level of hostility.
If you can explain to me how spitting on another human being and calling them disgusting is an “honest reaction” to the mere presence of a trans woman in the world, I might be willing to lend an ear to your other victim blaming commentary. Can’t promise anything, though.
Nobody should have to justify their pain to you just because you, yourself have not shared in their experience, or because you feel realtively safe and sheltered from comparable threat.
Who are you to decide for her whether her answers to your questions are legitimate when she is telling you about her personal experiences? Seriously? WTF? You may as well have said that your JAQing is of more value to you than her painful, personal experiences and her resulting emotional state. This isn’t a figurative mental exercise that’s being discussed here, this is a person’s frikkin’ life.
I am not sure why you take issue to me calling his reaction honest. From the post, it seemed like he was stunned seeing her and then just reacted. Natalie said it herself, he meant it, right? Isn’t that the same thing as it being honest? Also, where did I blame Natalie for anything? I was merely making suggestions, attempting to have a discussion. In any case, I was trying to be helpful, not confrontational.
I am not asking her to justify her pain or her feelings. I had some issue with the characterization of the stranger is all.
I responded as I did in regards to people asking me why I was asking questions, as if I did not have the right to do so. I took that are rather offensive and perhaps my response to it had more of an aggressive tone than I intended.
“…a lack of manners and tact”?
Tell me that after frat boys, both wearing watches, make a big show of asking you for the time as you walk across campus.
Tell me that after a younger student ostentatiously says, “And how are you today, SIR?” as you pass him in the hallway.
Tell me that after you seeing servers stand at the other end of the restaurant gossiping like schoolgirls, the subject obvious, about you and a friend when you meet for dinner.
Tell me that after a department store clerk says “You don’t look like a woman,” and then shrugs and says “whatever” when you adamantly correct her.
Tell me that after a DMV clerk loudly, and in front of other customers, humiliates and berates you for asking her to change the gender marker on your license.
Tell me…oh, hell, how about just don’t, okay? Because all those things happened to me, and every one of them ruined my day and left me in a funk when they did. Some of them still make me angry even though many years have passed.
Better still, don’t presume to tell me that because someone else insists on being an asshole, I’m the one who needs to change. I had to put up with enough of that bullshit growing up, and I refuse to bear the burden for someone else’s character deficiencies.
If you refuse to change (and to be clear: I don’t mean change your appearance or anything like that). What is going to change? You certainly can’t count on ignorant people to change.
And yes, people can be cruel, and yes, it is their deficiency and not yours. How does this help you exactly? Tell me, did you attempt at all to engage any of these people about their behavior? Did you report any of them to their supervisors? Suffering in silence is never an answers, and that is one of the biggest benefits of a site like this. If you are a customer in a place of business and are mistreated by employees of said business, you can (and should) report them to their supervisors. Not that every middle management individual is any more enlightened then their employees, but there is a chance they might be. It is also important to make sure these people learn and understand that their actions are not acceptable. It is like kids teasing other kids on the playground. If nothing is ever done how do they learn?
You can’t always change how people think, but you have a much better chance at changing how they behave. They can be an ignorant fuck in their heads if they really, really want to. But that doesn’t give them the right to treat others like shit.
I at least learned growing up to treat everyone with respect, regardless of what I think of them.
Natalie Reed says
Okay… look… I know you’re trying to help with giving all this advice, but do you really think this is some unique insight that hasn’t occurred to those of us dealing with this kind of thing? That none of us have ever considered any of these possibilities, or weighed them against the complexity of the overall situation? That, unlike those of us who live in that complexity, you’re appraisal covers everything and has found the answer we missed? That you’re NOT missing anything… like the fact that reporting things to supervisors is a gigantic risk, given how this isn’t a problem of INDIVIDUALS, but a problem of our entire society?
It isn’t nearly as simple as you seem to think it is. And please do us the courtesy of assuming we understand the situation we’re in at least as well as you do, and that you’re not really bringing any new insights to the table here.
@kbonn: What Natalie said. Please, please don’t presume your theoretical standpoint is more valid, carries more wisdom or gives you more insight than what I actually lived through. Go through what I have. Maybe then you’d start to understand why I don’t care for the implication that the burden is on me.
And with that, I’m done with this thread.
Society is going to change. Natalie and others are raising awareness. More people are going to stand with her. One day the ignorant person’s friends will tell them, “that’s not cool”. One day people of this kind of ignorance will find themselves isolated. And they’ll have to change to keep their friends.
Not being transgender doesn’t make you immune to mean people, but it DOES make you immune to being targeted simply for being transgender by definition.
It’s like the parable of the dog and the gecko (look it up). You’re simply never going to experience that kind of encounter, so maybe – just MAYBE you shouldn’t pretend to have the answer on how to respond to it.
Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says
Hmmm. are you a straight, white, cis-dude, (or any combination thereof) by any chance?
I have had several problems/issues while becoming who I am today. For me, none of them had to do with my sexual orientation or gender identity. I didn’t realize that meant my opinion is less valid. I could offer anecdotal evidence regarding what I’ve had to go through, but it doesn’t seem appropriate to me to do so here, for the sole reason that they(to me) haven’t been as central to who I am, as what Natalie is going through.
I am not part of a group that is discriminated against in the same way or to the same extent as the LGBT community and I do not pretend to completely understand the scope of what Natalie and others have to go through. My point was for her to focus on herself, as a lot more solution are there, rather than with an ignorant, unknown, stranger.
Alyson Miers says
Why does Natalie have to focus on herself as a solution? Do you think she hasn’t had to focus on herself enough already? Do you really think you understand what she has to go through every day any better than she does?
Natalie doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to, I merely suggested what I think is productive. I don’t claim to have secret insight into anything. I am sorry if I came off as a know it all, certainly wasn’t what was intended.
We all need to focus on ourselves (I don’t mean blame ourselves either), before we can focus on others.
Natalie Reed says
No. Ourselves and others are intertwined. Neither can be “focused on” in isolation from the other.
“Human beings live through and in relation to one another.”
Who or what you are has no bearing on the validity of your opinion EXCEPT that it dictates the kind of experiences you are exposed to.
As a cisgender, hetero, white male, there are certain experience I will never have, and as such, while I form opinions on those experience, I tend to defer to those who have more expertise in the subject matter at hand, just like I would for any other subject, be it science, art, or hamster training.
Who and what you are means that your experience is necessarily limited, and so, if you wish to be taken seriously, the subjects on which you speak “with authority” should ALSO be limited, especially when talking to those with more experience than yourself.
My experience blacksmithing does not qualify me to tell an engineer how to do her work, and my experience as a cis-hetero-white-male means that while I have more experience in THAT field than Natalie, I would not presume to tell her how to behave given that I have not ever, and will not ever experience what she had to experience.
I can give my opinion, but I wouldn’t dream of telling somebody how to do something better when I will never, EVER have to come CLOSE to standing in their shoes.
That’s just being a douche.
mx. punk says
focus on herself? so what you’re saying is that people spitting on trans* women and calling them disgusting isn’t the problem– trans* women having FEELINGS is the problem. is that right? cuz that’s what i got from your comment.
know what? this isn’t my space and i don’t have the right to tell you to leave– but i hope you leave. cuz you’re making this space feel rather unsafe.
I came on here planning to write nothing more than an offer of my support and admiration to Natalie. I still intend to do so, but I needed to comment to you.
It may not be my place, though I worry not about insulting you but about the possibility that I am stepping on Natalie’s toes.
You ask why worry, and follow up with the idea that normal people would keep their thoughts to themselves. I would challenge you to consider why he didn’t? The fact is that our society still lends its support and strength to people who think as this man does, than it does to the recipient of his insults.
If someone were to respond to him, and if the situation were to escalate to violence, who do you think would bear the blame. Would our society consider the deep impact that his words might have had, or would the first-responders be those “civilized” persons who are hiding the same thoughts of disgust? Would blame for the incident be placed on her for her mere existence? You may scoff at such a possibility, but what about the many trans men and/or women serving prison sentences because they dared defend themselves against violence?
Words like this are violent in and of themselves. They may not leave physical wounds, but they can and do leave emotional ones. You have the privilege of knowing that even if some isolated people might find some aspect of your being “disgusting” that that attitude is an isolated one, and that should it come to violence, most likely the support will be with you and not those discriminating against you.
I have that privilege too. I am a cis white female. Does that mean I have never felt the sting of discrimination or violence? NO. But is does mean that when I did, I had a society of support that made up a greater population than did those who were hurting me. Trans people do not have that luxury! At any given moment, they can’t guarantee that the people in authority, who are supposed to help safeguard their safety, don’t actively belong to the same groups that are hurting them, and do so without the condemnation of the majority of society. Moreover, the very serious issues they face are often lost in the much for vocal and much more visible LGB movement. Being lumped together moreover with the LGB movement also reduces their concerns to a matter of sexual orientation, ignoring the fact that a trans person may not be gay and that the issue is much deeper than that.
Although I realize that these comments were made in a later post of yours, I want to address them in my response as well.
The idea that incidents of discrimination should be ignored because “we are headed in the right direction” is one that is extremely off the mark. These are the same people who argue that we should ignore sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination because the women’s movement is really headed in the right direction.
What these people are usually trying to do is justify their own acts of bigotry and discriminatory thoughts by trying to explain them away in a culture of tolerance. ‘This isolated act doesn’t matter because we’ve had such big leaps forward and it’s all moving in the right direction.’They don’t want to live with the guilt that their own acts just show the underlying problems still so prevalent in our society.
Every time an act of discrimination is ignored, even in the context of a tolerant society, that act and the thoughts behind it, are reinforced as being acceptable. The more people condemn victims for speaking out and “making trouble in a world that is already on their side” the more the bigots see support for their causes. It creates a backlash against positive change, much like what we are seeing right now with MRA’s.
I don’t know that it was my place to say any of this. I may have had a sordid relationship with my own gender identity, but ultimately I remain cis. I can never fully understand what it must be like and all I can do is offer my support.
Natalie, I am sorry if I am out of line in what I am saying. Virtual hugs to you and true admiration from me of your strength in everything you do. I hope that you will let me buy you a drink when you come to Ottawa, if only as a thank you for how much what you write here on this blog helps those of us who want to be allies gain some measure of understanding.
Part of what I can’t get non-trans friends to completely understand is the feeling I have anytime I go in somewhere, or when I pass someone on the street, or any transaction involving someone I don’t know. It doesn’t matter that 90% of the time I’m appropriately read as female; it’s that 10% of the time that I get static that leads to the feeling I’m being sized up, wondering in the back of my mind how they will read me, and how that will affect any interaction they have with me or if they’re going to give me crap of the sort Natalie encountered.
This is not a fear that keeps me from going out in social situations, most of which pass with no problem. But it is a consideration. Being trans is not something I can slip out of like a suit. It’s etched in my body and is with me everywhere I go, and sometimes it leads me to avoid doing certain things at certain times.
Some people see this as a sign I’m insecure or that I care too much what others say to me. But to me it’s a survival skill, mostly for social purposes but occasionally for my physical safety. I do not enjoy the subconscious threat assessment anytime I go anywhere, but I’m also aware of what could happen if my guard is down at the wrong time. I’ve been stung before.
That, as much as anything, is why my responses above were as passionate as they were.
“Why spend time speculating on what exactly made him say disgusting? ”
Oh! I know this one! Because it’s symptomatic of a societal problem that is extremely deserving of speculation!
Natalie Reed says
As someone completely new to LGBTQ issues, I’ve got to say this post completely devastated me. I’m depressed right now. Perhaps I’m not yet as jaded and cynical as others in the Freethought community.
I’d like to thank Natalie Reed for such an eye opener. I see I can’t yet see all the depth of the human species. Such complexity.
I wish I could interact more with all kinds of different people and learn from it.
Damn but I wish I could give you a hug to feel better.
And in Vancouver, no less! It amazes me how the mere existence of trans people seems to offend… And to SPIT! How base can you get?
Hope to see you around Vancouver! Thanks for having the courage to share and remind all us cis folks of our privilege.
I’m pretty sure it is true, but even if it is just a mental exercise to help you deal, chances are he wouldn’t have said anything unless he found you, as a woman, sexually attractive. Or he’s gay and doesn’t want to admit it to himself so he finds himself attracted to trans. Either way, his exclamation was one of self-loathing: he was ‘disgusted’ by his own reaction to you. How could he be disgusted by you? You’re just a person walking down the street. He’s an ape with a problem.
I hope you’re not saying that a guy has to be gay to be attracted to a trans woman. :/
I second that confusion, Lena.
Let me first say that I am sorry this is an experience you should ever have to endure. While I’m sure we’ve never met and I’m definitely not the fellow you passed on the street, I have been guilty of contributing to a culture that passively endorses actions such as his.
I was raised in a christian family, liberal by christian standards, but still christian. I was taught that there are “normal” and “natural” ways for people to be and that people outside those parameters are weird or sick or, for some reason, are choosing to be different and such things shouldn’t be encouraged.
I’m fairly shy and non-confrontational so I would never have boldly shouted and displayed my bigotry for all to see but the thoughts would run through my mind and possibly shared among my friends. For this I am sorry, I was furthering a culture that devalues, dehumanizes and dismisses you. Happily, I am in recovery now.
I still have trouble understanding a lot of the LGBT communities but this stems from my personal limitations. I really have no personal experience that I can draw upon to try and relate to many of the issues you may face on a day to day basis. I’m white, straight and male. In this sense I won the genetic lottery but my disadvantage may be that it makes me predisposed to be a shittier person than average. I’m working to overcome that.
Thanks to the courage of yourself and others brave enough to openly be yourselves in such a vicious culture I now count myself among the atheists, skeptics and humanist of this world. I’m not perfect, I still have to fight off thought processes that were so thoroughly instilled in me as a child…and I think I’m starting to ramble a bit because I’m struggling to say something meaningful.
Let me close by saying this — you make the world a better place. Stay strong, I’m living proof that at least some narrow minded bigots can be reached and redeemed.
Must have been a christian who felt persecuted because the throwing of stones is no longer encouraged. As a cis male, I have hugged a trans woman, both before and after surgery. I have often considered how privileged I am that the decisions that you have had to make in life have been but thoughts in my mind. Thoughts that were exposed by the reality of discovering that someone I worked with had lived a secret life, kept secret because of people like the protagonist. I can but imagine the courage needed to come out as trans knowing that there are individuals out there who not only display disgust but wish you real harm.
*sigh*. I’m so sorry, Natalie.
The thing is, IMHO: he didn’t actually see you. That, to my mind, is one of the fucked up things about it. If he’d seen you, he would have seen what you actually are, which is (among other things) a beautiful, intelligent, funny woman, who writes incredibly well and has a thing for My Little Pony.
All he actually saw was his small, hateful, fearful, insecure world. And I’m sorry you happened to walk into it. By inflicting his world on you, he made your world – and my world, the real world- a worse place.
*hugs* if you want them. Thank you for continuing to share your world with us. It is making me a better, less ignorant person, and it is making the world a better place.
gragra, something clever after the comma says
I was going to say the same thing as tmaxPA @ #42. This kind of thing always makes me think of “Confessions of Felix Krull” where the protagonist (male) recounts a look of disgust he gets from an older man, who he assumes was reacting to an unbidden desire the older man felt for him.
I’m not trying to blow smoke up your ass, but I think that often accounts for visceral-ness of this kind of hatred – people feel betrayed by their own feelings. They can’t handle it.
Internet hugs to you Natalie.
This is so cruel.
I admit, I discriminate ‘against’ gay and trans* people in that it makes me happy everytime I encounter one who’s out and about and it takes me some restraint not to give them a thumbs-up while grinning like an idiot.
Maybe I should change that and start just showing people that I find them awesome? I don’t know. It still means to single someone out for their sexuality/sexual identity.
What I do know is that this story makes me angry and that, had I been with you that day, I had confronted that jackass with an epic, embarrassing temper tantrum.
No Light says
I’m so sorry Natalie. The world is too full of people who believe that their flame will burn more brightly, if only they can blow out everyone elsep.
Your flame is bright and beautiful, long may it burn
I’ve run into the idea that a lot of people really really like the world to be divided into fixed categories: boys have chest hair and kiss girls, girls play with dolls and like to kiss boys; fish live in water and have fins, birds have nests and feathers, mammals have fur, insects are gross. That sort of thing.
To this sort of mind, anything that crosses or blurs the boundaries between categories, such as a girl who likes to kiss other girls, is a violation of the fundamental order of nature and shouldn’t exist.
I’ve seen it argued that a lot of the dietary restrictions in the Old Testament are based on this sort of thinking: crabs live in the sea, but don’t have fins like bass or sharks, and are therefore disgusting.
Al Stefanelli says
Mean people suck
I think lots of people who have passed you by in the street thought you look fine when they saw you. You probably know that, but it’s worth repeating since you probably rarely get people who come up to you and yell “attractive!” at you…
By the way I’m glad none of your commenters so far have pulled the “but what about nice guys who wear t-shirts, cargo shorts and walk casually?!” line.
Feats of Cats says
In my experience, being told you’re attractive by strangers is pretty dehumanizing too.
What about a thumbs-up? Or a smile and a nod? A discreet message of support.
Yeah, that’s kind of my point. I think most young women assume (fairly if you ask me) that a lot of people find them attractive.
I found your writing here to be powerful and moving. You done something I try to develop within myself: You refused to dehumanize someone who’s dehumanized you.
Thank you so much.
Emily Aoife Somers says
Brilliant. Not that even the most humiliating second of degradation would automatically be worth the most glorious moment of art — but that you converted this experience into such a powerful piece of literature is a remarkable testament to what a beautiful women you genuinely are.
One thing that I’ve noticed about a lot of young men of the swaggering bro variety is that they only consider the attractiveness/fuckability of a woman when judging her worth. When I’m dressing down and not made up, I tend to be invisible to them. When I’m in femme drag*, I’m suddenly both a potential lay and a potential threat. I’m so sorry that young man was so easily threatened, and I’m so sorry that he took it out on you.
*(I’m approximately cis-gendered, but my gender performance varies from androgynous to high femme depending on my mood. I tend to revert to androgyne when there’s nothing pushing me in another direction, and go full femme drag when I’m feeling girly or when I’m in need of some mental armor. This means that putting on girly clothes often feels like doing drag to me, a performance.)
That a stranger, a vicious and insecure person who was nothing to you, was able to make you feel so awful is not a mark of weakness. It’s a sign that you haven’t given up on being part of society, despite how awful people can be; it’s a sign that you still have entirely justified fears about how people will treat you; it means that you don’t have full mental battle armor, and that’s totally OK. It’s also OK to have some serious mental chain mail, but that’s so so hard to develop and maintain. I haven’t figured out the trick of it yet.
Thank you for being out, for being brave, for being yourself. It’s harder than I can imagine, but I believe that the radical act of being a trans person does lasting good for society. I am no longer worried that my children will be gay, because by the time I have kids and they’re old enough to figure out their sexuality, it won’t be a big deal anywhere that I want to live. By the time they’re old enough to get married, I believe that they’ll be able to get married, no matter their orientation. But I still worry that they will identify as trans, because they will have to struggle so much against bigotry and hatred. Do I believe that it will be better in a decade when my hypothetical kids are old enough to understand gender? Yes. Will it still be hard? Probably. And that breaks my heart.
But people like you are helping just by being visible and being good people.
I wish that I could wave a magic wand and make it so that bigots like that man could never hurt you again. I wish that I could give you magical mental armor and an endless stream of witty comebacks. But you already have the biggest thing that I could wish for you – you are brave and you know yourself.
Dalillama, Schmott Guy says
As with others, there’s very little I can say to t6his, but *hugs* and sympathies. You’re an amazing person, and people like that asshole live in a much poorer world for their rejection of you.
Bill Door says
I think you nailed it with this one; classic Existential Angst.
Bravo, Natalie. Keep up the great work. *We* think you’re awesome!
Nice to know the idjut was so obsessed with difference he had to reinforce his position in the dominance tier by publically yelling at strangers, apparently presuming it was a safe space for his drive-by opinion to be known by all.
The sadder thing is, others hearing him would never know wtf he was talking about the way he’s reported to have done it, so, it sounds like he knew this was the safest way to attack and not garner blowback from target and witnesses.
Is a drive-by sneer an incremental societal improvement over making it a stopped confrontation? Or does the moving burpbark quality of it make it worse?
Trisha Allison says
Natalie, had you been obese, disfigured, exhibiting a mental illness, a small person, wearing a burqa, or skipping along in a pink tutu, neon green bustier & carrying a giant anteater on your back, you may have had much the same reaction. I don’t mean to minimize your feelings in any way, but people are sensitive about many things & often hurt by rude and insensitive people. There is no way to understand the people who say or do ugly things, we must find ways to desensitize from the hurt. Not an easy thing to do, and many of us never learn. I hope that you can find a way to love your positive, wonderful qualities and not give a damn what ignorant beasts happen to think or say.
Those of us who are overly sensitive, drive ourselves crazy. I am beginning to think that we should carry giant stamps around with us. When someone does or says something rude or mean-spirited, out comes the giant stamp, bop them on the forehead & they sport an idiot or dickhead label for the rest of the day. Doesn’t change their insensitivity or hatred, but it sure would feel good.
Wile I rather enjoyed the visual of mentally rubber stamping rude and cruel people with the tag of asshole, I have to take issue with your framing of being hurt by hurtful behavior as over sensitivity. Over sensitive is maybe an accurate description of having your day ruined because someone didn’t like your new hair cut as much as you hoped they would. Feeling threatened by threatening behavior, feeling overwhelmed by patterns of cruel behavior directed toward oneself, recognizing it happens and that it affects one’s mental health, none of that is over reaction or over sensitivity. Calling it as such minimizes the very real and valid effect that cruel, threatening, emotionally violent behavior has on the recipient. If there is a continuing pattern of such behavior, all the more so.
It is not oversensitivity which causes people to feel hurt or threatened by hurtful, threatening behavior. “Don’t let them get to you” is some of the most useless advice I have ever gotten, personally, not that I know what it is like to be a trans woman, but I do have some experience with persistent bullying and threats being directed at me. Mostly it is useless because it places the blame for the pain a person feels onto them just for feeling it, rather than onto the one who inflicted that pain upon them in the first place.
The guy who spit on Natalie made her feel unsafe. That’s not her fault, it’s his.
Trisha Allison says
I completely agree with you. My point is mostly that it’s unlikely we will stop some people from thinking and voicing their opinions, and they can be vicious and destructive. It actually feels to me that the divide between liberal/open-minded thinking people and conservative/rigid thinkers is increasing, and the rhetoric more confrontational and personal.
The sad reality is that there are many people who deal with their hatred, ignorance and fear, by lashing out at those they see as different and threatening. It’s intolerable, unacceptable and unfair and we must continue to work at changing it, but the best way to deal with it in the meantime is to learn how to build your own self-esteem and self-worth to the point where it doesn’t matter what other people do, say or think. I do not mean to sound trite, because I have not learned how to do it in my 50 plus years on this earth, but I am still trying. They key somehow is to realize that it is not just you that this jerk spewed his hatred at. People of all colours, sizes, shapes, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientation, have this kind of ugliness spewed at them all the time. The absolute, best way to deal with it, is to somehow find the way to know yourself, love yourself and hold yourself in such high esteem that it does not matter. I wish this for everyone, and for myself.
My 21 yo daughter is female transG. She sends me your posts periodically, says what you write really is what she cannot, will not say for herself. Thank you for blogging your truth, for being who you are. Your voice saddens me deeply, I am moved and disturbed knowing you speak for her and so many others. As a mother my heart breaks at every read.
In this post you talk about changing the body to reflect what people say will make you invisible, passable, safer, under the radar etc. I know that safety is a basic human need, without which we cannot grow or flourish. I wonder how to manage this process so that you can express your own brand of the feminine, true to yourself and still be comfortable in the world. I’m not transG and I have wondered this for myself for 48 years. How to be safe, yet in my own feminine. I cannot even imagine how it is for trans women. I’ve come to the conclusion that the world simply isn’t a safe place yet for any women, no matter how we look or feel. I wish I didn’t believe this.
Something else I’ve learned, which is not likely to be helpful, but is nonetheless true in my experience: Whatever one projects onto another, they feel about themselves. Your verbal attacker internalizes ‘disgust’, so he has to fling it about into the world to keep it from landing on himself, from looking at it himself and dismantling the lie. It’s really all about him and his shadow. It lands on fertile ground when a receiver has the same ‘disgust’ energy. If I still haven’t shaken the last insult or my internal dialogue from childhood is still vibrating in disgust mode, then I’m going to soak up that poison like a sponge. This is the origin of suffering.
There are ways to process this shadow away. Our own darkess, and that of others who project it upon us. Leslie Temple-Thurston’s book The Marriage of Spirit describes this in detail and it does work. As a writer I find it helps my head to work with words and concepts that are painful. I processed this post for myself because of how much it hurt to read.
Example: Find opposites: make a square to process them
Disgust= hate, alienation, malice, loathing, repel, unloved, rejected, repulsive, nauseate, unsavory, offensive, insufferable, repellent, provoking, burden, shock, pain…
(interesting that ‘disgust’ is listed just below ‘disguise’, which is a whole other opposite to process )
disgust vs. ___________ (pick opposite that most rings true for you)
delight, savory, sweet, love, attraction, desire, blessed, amusement, pleasure, applause, wonder, cheer, rejoice, celebrate, enjoy, receive, relish, happy, enchanted, fascinated, agreeable, inviting, seductive, charm, indulge, interest, intrigue, engage…
DISGUST vs DELIGHT: Now I will brainstorm on what arises in my head on these phrases. Not concerned with right or wrong, true or untrue, I’ll just spit them out.
Desire for DISGUST:
Fear of DISGUST
Desire for DELIGHT
Fear of DELIGHT
Desire for DISGUST: I deserve it, self hatred, disgust myself, guilt from mother, guilty for living and taking up space, guilty for being different, guilty for being woman, guilt for sexuality, guilt for not being the boy my father wanted, nausea or menopause & pms, nausea at my female genitals, fear of pleasure, desire for pain & suffering, fear of success, not fitting in, not being enough, no talent, laziness, ‘i’m ugly’, self-fulfilling prophesy, at least it’s something to feel besides numb, desire for death, desire for punishment, fear of intimacy…
Fear of DISGUST: fear of hatred, fear of pain, death, shame, fear of alienation, fear of rejection, fear of being alone, crucifictiphobia, fear of punishment, being outcast, misunderstood, being wrong, loosing myself, suffering endlessly, desire & fear of fitting in, fear of crowd mentality, being made example of, fear of public, fear of privacy loss, fear of being victim, fear/desire for intimacy, afraid I deserve it, oh no it’s true!, the endless pit of despair, depression, black swirling hole of darkness, desire to disappear…
Desire for DELIGHT: i deserve it,(or do I?) desire to be whole, desire for love, intimacy, desire for god, desire to be OK, accepted, desire to live, desire to thrive, potential, desire to share, fear of ‘the fall’ or avoidance tactic, desire to join, desire for peace, desire for healing, desire to share…
Fear of DELIGHT: I’m not worthy, deathwish, fear of change, laziness, fear of shining, fer of being seen, fear of love, fear of loss, fear of success, can’t handle it, overwhelm, fear of intimacy, fear of being exposed, fear of happiness, desire to suffer, desire for being victim, denial of myself, fear of truth, desire for martyrdom, desire to be separate, it’s always for others but not for me, can’t imagine what delight looks like? feels like?…
I visualize my emotional experiences of DELIGHT vs DISGUST being trans-formed or resolved into a balanced and stable state of:
TOLERANCE, ACCEPTANCE, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, COMPASSION
and maybe, if I stretch a little, FORGIVENESS
Thank you to all who even consider this change is possible.
Exercises from The Marriage of Spirit by Leslie Temple-Thurston
Gregory Greenwood says
I keep trying to convince myself that we are seeing the tail end of this kind of bigotry – that our society is surely going to grow to the point where that kind of transphobia will be met with passersby stopping and looking with revulsion at the bigot. A world where transphobia is a socially unacceptable as racism.
But it never seems to happen. And even those bigotries that are supposed to be socially unacceptable never really go away, but simply find more oblique expression.
For whatever it is worth – there are cisgendered people like yours truly who value you for your humanity and embrace the reality; that you are and always have been a woman, whatever genitalia you were born with.
Admittedly, it hasn’t always been that way with me. To my shame, I must admit that for the bulk of my teenage years, I found it very difficult to deal with anthing outside my narrow, inadequate understanding of gender and sexuality. While I like to think that I was never as bad as the bigot you describe in the OP (and I certainly never shouted such vile hatred in the streets) the fact remains that I was deeply uncomfortable with, and irrationally fearful around, anyone who didn’t perform gender in the fashion that I found comfortingly familiar. I saw expressions of open homophobia and other forms of bigotry, and while they troubled me more and more as my social awareness grew, I lacked the courage and strength of conviction back then to speak up against it, and thus enabled it by my silence.
I make no excuse for that behaviour – I was part of the problem, and I contributed to the toxic intolerance of society. It was only when I reached my very late teens/early twenties and went to university, where I met a far broader cross section of society, including several wonderful individuals who challenged me to reexamine my attitudes with regards to sexuality and gender, that I had the maturity to examine why I responded this way to people who had never done me any kind of injury. I took a long, hard look at myself, and I did not like what I saw.
Since those days, I have tried to be more aware of my behaviour – to examine my actions and motivations and root out any aspects of discriminatory or bigoted behaviour or attitudes as soon as I become aware of them. I am far from perfect, and I still find myself slipping back into making toxic assumptions about people from time to time, but I strive to be a better person than I was.
It was people of courage and integrity – good people like you – who helped me change for the better. That is why blogs like this one are so important; they show the world that the reality of transexuality is light years away from the version our toxic, judgemental culture paints. I would like to express my admiration for you and those like you who brave the intolerance of society to make their voices heard.
Sorry for blathering on about myself at such length.
Yep, I can totally read this as if I wrote it just yesterday.
Gosh…I wish I had been there since this is my ‘hood if only to prove to myself that I stand up to bullies.
I wish I could change Kitsilano for you but you seem to be changing the world into a better place all by yourself. Kudos to you for writing something really heartfelt (albeit heart wrenching) and I wish you every success in educating all of us.
Have a good day today, Natalie. Maybe I’ll see you around!
Hammer of dog says
First time reader here. Such personal honesty is such a pleasure to read.
The letter sums up what I think is the most pressing issue of our times … all humans need to start accepting all other humans as human.
“There is a very interesting debate raging at the moment on the nature of sin, for example.”
“And what do they think? Against it, are they?”
“It is not as simple as that. It’s not a black and white issue. There are so many shades of gray.”
“There’s no grays, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”
“It’s a lot more complicated than that–”
“No it ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes-”
“But they starts with thinking about people as things.”
– Terry Pratchett, “Carpe Jugulum”
Isy Aweigh says
Pratchett nails it. As usual.
Natalie, this article does a fantastic job of laying out the internal battle for self-respect in the face of recurring abuse. It’s easy to talk about having a thicker skin but hard to grow one when you keep getting flayed.
Passing is delightful but it has always been a bit of a trap, and has a whiff of blaming-the-victim about it. Humans are hardwired to reject those who are odd, and what we reject depends on what we consider odd.
It’s also true that the most homophobic men got the biggest erections over gay porn in a recent study. If I’m allowed to post a link, here’s the study abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8772014
I’d love to think there’s an answer, but some things are unanswerable. I feel myself slipping into the horrible trap of offering something to try, not because I imagine that you haven’t tried everything already, but because I’m human and the “trying to be helpful” reflex is too deep… 😉
Oddly, although I’m most likely to withdraw when I’ve been feeling attacked, I’ve found that increasing my awareness and attentiveness to life has had the best results — which I did not respect. I started doing it when I was dying (I got better), so I no longer cared about withdrawing.
I just noticed the feel of air on my skin, the noises around, the way the pavement sings under my shoes, the voice of whoever I was talking to, everything big or small, bad or good. The good took on depth and the bad shrank, when I paid attention to it; I hadn’t expected that. I found myself getting a lot more juice out of the day, even though I couldn’t do any more than before.
It also let me know when a threat was approaching, letting me move out of the way of someone with the wrong kind of air about them — the pavement sings under their feet in a different key. The more aware I am, the more I enjoy things, and the better I get treated and the more I can avoid the assholes. It’s a positive feedback loop, of which there are not enough in this world.
It’s no guarantee, of course, and assholes still abound — and occasionally sneak up. I’m better equipped to handle them with poise, and even humor, though. Sometimes they walk away laughing at themselves.
I should probably be more aware of this (given a lifetime of skidding around the continuum of sexuality and bending every gender I could get my hands on) but I’d be really interested in seeing how awareness/mindfulness plays out in the sometimes VERY layered body-awareness issues for trans people. It could be either heaven or hell. I have no idea which…
Your eloquence and nerve impress the hell out of me. I’m sorry you get this crap, and it is so wrong. But I’m encouraged by your example of human integrity. You’re so much bigger than what happens to you.
…Would it help to remember that everyone who treats you that way, does so because they’re ignorant, and/or have serious issues with women/difference/gender; and not because of any actual flaws on your part? He’s worse off than you are; his mind’s stuck in a deep hole and he may never dig his way out. And yeah, there’s a lot of it about.
I don’t think this sounds like I’m speaking from privilege, but I apologize in advance if it does. I’ve barely started transitioning (due to great lack of clarity where I want to go), and I’ve never gotten reactions like this, just some stares. I have no idea what it’s like to get this over and over and over.
A very similar (but less intense) thing happened to me this morning – the guy didn’t spit, he just stared at me with an expression of horrified disgust.
And so I must bid a fond adieu to what little self-esteem I’d managed to scrape together… and then spend the day at work among a horde of mostly-attractive entirely-cis people.
I’m sorry you had to put up with this, you deserve better. And that goes for pretty much everyone ever.
I don’t seem to be able to respond to certain posts here, is there a limit to how far comments can nest on this site?
Anyhow, I am new to this site in general, and certainly to Natalie’s blog. I tried to ask some honest questions and tried to make some honest suggestions. I do not think that I know better than any specific person, nor do I think I understand the plight expressed in this article better than any specific person.
I also refuse to accept that the color of my skin, my gender, my sexual orientation, or any other individual detail about me makes my opinion or experiences in this world less valid than anyone else’s. I would certainly appreciate that you all treat me with the same respect you would want to be treated with. I try to give everyone on the internet the benefit of the doubt as tone sometimes does not translate well to text. I would ask the same from you.
I experienced some hostility here based on some presumptions made about me and/or my intentions based on my disagreement with some of what Natalie posted. I think that most of us here(obvious trolls excluded) want the same thing. I don’t expect us all to agree on exactly how to achieve this, but if my opinions are going to be discounted based only on me being not transgender and strait. Then I will leave.
I am sorry that you feel attacked. This topic is a huge issue for a lot of us, and for me, at least, when I see somebody that I think is mansplaining* or victim-blaming, it makes me pretty damn angry. I still need to work on taking a break and a few breaths before I reply.
*mansplaining: kind of ridiculous term that refers to this phenomenon:
-Person A is of a minority group (Y) and has had some bad experience related to privilege at the hands of a member of a majority group or privileged group (Z).
-Person B is a member of group Z, and proceeds to tell person A how they got things wrong – victim-blaming, apologetics, explanations of how the whole thing is being misconstrued, tangential discussions of how this aspect of privilege also harms members of group Z, etc.
Then, the following usually happens:
-Person A gets angry/indignant/enraged
-Person B feels attacked (and probably is being verbally attacked), and to them it feels like it’s coming out of nowhere.
OK, so why did I react in the way that I did?
The “why does it bother you? it shouldn’t bother you that some asshole does this” misses the point that this post is not about that one asshole, it is about a culture where what that asshole did is OK or at least isn’t bad enough to censure. It also implies, at least to me, that Natalie’s reaction is bad/weak/stupid.
From this, and from your follow-up comments, I feel like you just don’t get that this is not something isolated, it is a symptom of “something rotten in the state of Denmark.” As in, that isn’t one funny mole, it’s a metastasis of a cancer.
You sound like a thoughtful and well-educated person. You sound like you really care, and I think you do. I’m certain that you are horrified by bigotry and hate, and you would not tolerate it in your friends. Since bigoted strangers don’t usually direct their hate at you (as you are not trans, female, obviously funny-looking, whatever), you could walk past a different one of these assholes every day and not know it. Natalie, however, knows whenever she encounters one of them, because she is the target of their disgust. In your experience, there is far less bigotry, because many of that variety of asshole that you may meet in your life will be “stealth bigots” to you.
Because of that, I doubt that you experience the daily grind of dealing with this kind of treatment. I can go weeks without people treating me badly due to my gender or sexuality, as I live in a fairly liberal place; it still happens, though, and it still hurts. For trans people, my understanding is that transphobia is sort of like the background hum of the universe – unless you’re tuned in, you don’t notice that it’s always there.
So, long story short, I don’t think your opinion is less valid. It is your opinion, and while I may disagree, it’s still your opinion and you are free to express it. I was reacting in anger because I thought that you were discounting the opinions and experiences of people who do have to deal with this bigotry. I don’t think you need to leave.
However, please remember that in things like the experience of transphobia, your experience does not apply. I don’t know if you actually did this, as I haven’t re-read your comments alone, but leaning on the experience of a non-trans person to discuss the experience of transphobia isn’t really relevant to the argument in most cases. It’s a valid experience, absolutely, but it’s not what we’re talking about.
Basically, if I make an assumption about what Natalie’s experience is like based on my own and she tells me that my assumption is incorrect, I can’t really do anything but admit that my assumption is wrong/my experience is different and move on. My experience doesn’t change her experience or invalidate it.
I hope that this clarifies things for you a little bit. And I’m sorry if I snapped at you.
Natalie Reed says
It’s not about your identity, it’s about how your identity informs your experiences. Please try to move past that initial defensiveness that goes with your opinions not being treated as necessarily “objective” and “neutral”, as being affected by your subject position and background. That’s something that the rest of deal with all the time. My perspectives are constantly interpreted in the context of my gender. If you can’t move past the feeling of being personally attacked, and if you can’t understand that yes, your gender and sexual orientation and stuff do have bearing on your understanding of these issues, and do create a context of unequal power dynamics in which your comments occur and are interpreted, that these things are contextual, that one’s experiences matter, then yeah… it might be better if you do leave, because few people here are going to be willing to offer the expected, privileged treatment of white, cis, straight, male perspectives as “neutral” and inherently deserving of attention and respect.
If your being white, cis, straight and male affects your ability to understand a given issue, if those aspects of identity and privilege are relevant to a conversation, then yes, it is does impact the validity of your opinions. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it works. Just like I don’t presume to understand the pathology of pancreatic cancer as well as a trained and experienced oncologist, I don’t presume to understand the experience of racism as well as a person of colour, and you shouldn’t presume to understand the experience of sexism and transphobia as well as trans people and women.
Sometimes, most of the time actually, it’s better to stay silent in a cultural or social situation you are unfamiliar with. Especially if your first impulse is one of fixing the problem from the victim’s side rather than sympathy or fixing the problem from the macro, societal/bully’s side.
Ah, so you can request of others that they not “attack you,” but Natalie should just shrug off a similar attack directed at her?
I went back and read the thread you started, it was pretty ridiculous. I think people treated you more than fairly give the quality of your posts.
It’s quite insulting, in general, to tell people how they should feel towards insults directed at them. It becomes absurd when your life experience differs so greatly from the target of your “advice” that it’s obviously useless.
You should be aware enough of the world you live to recognize that, say, a white guy like me giving advice to a black person about how they should interact with police officers would be awesomely silly, “I don’t know what you’re complaining about. If they become rude, just kindly ask for their badge number and file a complaint…”
One sign of maturity is understanding that different people have different experiences of the world, and sometimes that difference is meaningful.
I missed the bit about complaining about attacks after telling somebody to shrug off attacks 😛
Having read all of your comments in this thread, I was going to respond to every single comment you made to point out where you went wrong, but doing that took over two thousand words. PZ’s recent new rules for Pharyngula would call this being a motormouth, derailing the discussion by using a megaphone to blare over everyone else, so I decided to post the bulk of it over on my blog. You’re getting the précis version here.
You’ve confessed you’re not transgender, and that you’re a newbie to the blog. From an old hand here – I was on board SNR from Day 1, though of late I’ve been rather slack in commenting, entirely my fault – if you’re new to a place and unfamiliar with the culture, you will get a much better response by lurking for a while and listening to what people talk about before jumping in.
You complained in this most recent comment that ‘I also refuse to accept that the color of my skin, my gender, my sexual orientation, or any other individual detail about me makes my opinion or experiences in this world less valid than anyone else’s.’ True. Except, none of those facts are actually relevant to the case at hand. You have not been disrespected on the basis of your skin color, gender or sexual orientation. On this topic, which is a transgender topic, your opinion is not less valid (you’re entitled to offer it, of course), but it is far less relevant because you have neither the life experiences nor the expertise that would better inform you on the subject. In other words, you are the amateur here, the people you are talking to are the experts.
Assuming for a moment that you’re not an evolutionary biologist, would you go over to Pharyngula and dare to lecture to PZ Myers about your understanding of biology? So don’t come here and lecture to transgender people about transgender issues that they know inside and out, when you are not transgender yourself.
Commenters other than you were having a mature discussion of the issues at the graduate level. Your contributions demonstrated that you hadn’t even turned up to enough of the pre-Trans 101 lectures to be able to pass the entrance exam.
When you don’t listen to the people with the relevant experience and speak dismissively from a position of comparative ignorance, it is therefore understandable that there is a reaction of hostility towards you. If you think you have been mistreated in this thread, I really suggest you don’t frequent Pharyngula. By comparison with what your comments perhaps might deserve had you attempted to offer them at a far less friendly blog than this one, you’ve not been very badly treated at all when compared with the obvious offence that you’ve given to the trans* commenters here, and given very little in return by way of apology.
mx. punk says
Hey kbonn, this comment sounds like a cry for help, so I’m going to take it as that. Crommunist has a great post, about his own experiences commenting on a blog with a lot of people immediately disagreeing, and what he learned from that. It’s called “so you think you might be a troll” but actually means “so you’re having trouble engaging on a blog…” I hope it helps. I tend to comment a lot, so it took me a couple years before I learned the stuff he advises here.
Antonov An-225 says
I think I know who the disgusting one is, and it’s certainly not you, Natalie. I’m sorry you had to experience that, and I’m trebly sorry that this is what trans people are expected to put up with on a regular basis (if some of the point-missing comments in this thread are any indication).
Oh Natalie, I wish there was something meaningful I could say that would be helpful for you. Sometimes, as a species, humans really suck.
Niki M says
Holy smeeshus, people suck a lot. It’s a damned shame that jerk didn’t realize the only thing disgusting in that exchange was his shitty attitude.
*hugs if you will have them, Natalie*
Well, that’s depressing.
All I can offer in the way of solace and optimism is the fact that less than a century ago that jackass would have directed his comment at a black person. Certainly there are still some places where that happens, but it’s fairly rare. I’m hoping we’re less than a generation from sharing that same degree of basic civility with all people.
Well, we can all try to be optimistic about that when it comes to changing society, but (to me) that doesn’t seem directly comforting. Natalie and other trans women have to live in these times, not the next ones.
Natalie: I like choruses, so I’m going to join one. It’s the small chorus of commenters saying that it is good to have such awful things discussed with such graceful writing. (Your writing style is also comfortingly familiar even as it evolves and improves–lately it’s got to where I expect to want to read whatever you write, blog or fiction or comics or whatever).
Natalie Reed says
I’unno. I actually would be a lot more cool with dealing with all this if some, like, wizard or something were to make the promise that no trans women after me would ever have to deal with it again.
I can see that, my only point is that improvement is possible. A black person born in the 40’s lived to see a very different world than they were born into. I tried to minimize the optimism with caveats–all I can offer–because that story is really sad, and I doubt a pep-talk consisting of some combination of stiff-upper-lip and turn-that-frown-upsidedown would be unwelcome.
It’s a shitty thing some people do to others. I hope we can improve on that.
Long-time lurking admirer here. I just wanted to say this post brought me tears. I think that you’re an amazing person for taking something so horrible and writing something so beautiful about it. In particular, those two paragraphs describing the pathetic, insecure thought processes of that little shit were SO satisfying to read. If only the little turdwad could see how epically you pwned him; of course, this post would probably go right over his head if he ever read it. Anyway, *super-huuuugs* if you want them.
Also, kbonn, shut the FUCK up. Seriously, is this your first time on a social justice-related site? That whole “Just stop being so sensitive and caring what other people think” tripe has been rebutted a thousand times over. It’s like, Social Justice 101. Do some fucking research.
I’m so sorry. I hope in some way that you can learn that while human, some people have not learned the love and appreciation of others, just for the fact that they are different from themselves.
Take a deep breath, be yourself, and let those that love you, love you.
dogeared, spotted and foxed says
Oh christ. That was a horrible thing to do! Natalie, you don’t deserve that.
I have this recurring fantasy where all the twits are suddenly treated to a blinding flash of the obvious. Their whole life unfolded before them with a sane narrator who illuminates with crystal clarity every hateful, bigoted, horrible word and deed. So clear that they actually understand what they’ve done and get a lifetime of revelation jammed in 30 seconds. And then, after a day or so of walking around saying “I’m sorry, I’m so very, very sorry.” they live a normal, productive and empathetic life.
Like I said, a fantasy.
If you haven’t encountered T.A. Pratt’s “Terrible Ones,” I think that you would enjoy it very much.
It’s well-written and a wonderful bit of wish-fulfillment for me. If only such things were real. Or maybe not – the Greek Chorus would get annoying quickly.
A great fantasy tho. If only that could happen. Sigh.
Kevin K says
So, I’m mainly a lurker here, but feel like this anecdote might be helpful.
I’m a privileged, cis, white male. You know. One of “them”.
I was in San Francisco recently on business, and went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
The hostess was most definitely trans. Also, tall, buxom, done-up just so, and absolutely fabulous looking. Really, really tall. Really, really fabulous. As in the ‘little man’ saying “hello” fabulous.
And the only thing in my mind when she greeted me was “You go, girl.” Not ‘disgusting’, not ‘that’s weird’, not ‘no way I could be attracted to ‘that‘. Oh no, au contraire. She was incredible looking, and I noticed.
Thing is, maybe 20 years ago, my reaction wouldn’t have been that. Cuz I was just — well — not that educated or aware.
Now I am. Plus … well … you know. Really. She was fabulous. My guess is that you’re fabulous to someone. Hang on to that. For a minute, an hour, forever…whatever.
Keep on keeping on, as they say. Please don’t let small bigotry make your life any smaller. Your life can be every bit as big as you want it to be — and screw the assholes who say differently.
Luc De Roy says
Please don’t vanish of the face of the Earth. We’ll be left with only the disgusting ones.
Natalie Reed says
Thanks, but I’m PRETTY SURE there are cool people other than me.
Nope. You are the only one. The burden of all coolness in the world lies upon the same shoulders that already bear the weight of such a brilliant mind.
Don’t ever go away, or we’ll be cast back into a dark age of coolness that will last for a thousand years of douchebaggery.
The fate of the world rests with you, Milady. Do not fail us.
(sorry, had to run with it. It’s a compulsion)
mx. punk says
well, there might be a few other cool people in the world, but your articles make up the bulk of my “trans* 101” resource list i send to people who want to learn stuff about trans* issues. you’re educating all the bigots in my vicinity. you transformed my immediate family from people who made rude jokes about trans* people into people who support/respect/celebrate trans* people.
so, yeah. the burden of awesome pretty much rests on you. thank you!
So, as I’ve said one or twelve times, I’m a cisgender, white, heterosexual male.
I’ve had to deal with people telling me I’m disgusting, though not since high school, and I think that there is a way in which many people have an inclination in that direction, specifically when talking about sexual relations. There are many people who, if put in the context of getting sweaty and physical, disgust me, but are dear friends.
I think there are a couple problems at the root of this. One is the notion that I run into repeatedly that relations between people and the “group” of people they find attractive must always, of necessity, be sexual in nature. This seems absurd to me, since most of my closest friends are attractive women with whom I will never have sexual relations, and with whom I do not WANT sexual relations. I want their friendship, and nothing more.
The knowledge that there are people – male, female, and other, who think that sex is the only option in those cases, really worries me.
So, there are people who, in very specific situations, I would find disgusting, at least if they were in that situation with ME. It’s nothing to do with who or what they are, and it’s everything to do with what I’m interested in.
I would never, EVER even THINK of treating them as you were treated, Natalie, and I have to say that people like the Douchebag In Question seem more revolting to me than the least attractive (to my eyes) body I can think of. I’d rather sleep with Admiral Ackbar than Ann Coulter, and even SHE wouldn’t get a “disgusting” and a lougie in passing.
I can’t make it better Natalie, and I can’t change society in this post, but you have my support, and my respect, and as an earlier poster mentioned antonyms, I find you to be delightful, and I’m so very glad that you exist, that you write, and that I found your writing.
There is absolutely nothing wrong about how you feel or your reaction to it.
That said, seriously lol @ someone wearing cargo shorts passing judgement on anyone else’s appearance.
Natalie Reed says
Atheist Powerlifter says
I’ve been lurking here for awhile. This post touched me. I value you, and I am sorry this happened.
For what it’s worth…
Standard disclaimer: I’m a cis, straight guy.
Been lurking here for a few weeks. I’ve been truly moved by a number of your posts, but this is the one that motivated me to comment.
I REALLY want to say something profoundly encouraging to counteract your experience with that…gentleman…and any similar experiences in your past or future. Unfortunately I lack your skill for emotionally powerful writing, so I’ll just have to ask you to pretend that I wrote something wonderful.
However, I do want to specify these things:
I’m a more humane person for having read your work (I never gave much thought to transgender issues before coming here.)
I believe your existence make the world a better place.
And also, you’re beautiful, and I mean that in any way you might choose to take it.
I teared up quite a bit reading this. I feel compelled to comment but know I don’t really have anything to say that could possibly help. This is the first post of yours I’ve read though (PZ sent me here) and I’ll absolutely be following your blog in future.
People like the man you describe deserve A giant ‘fuck you’.
I am sad that we live in a world where idiots like that feel free to voice their ugly little opinions.
I really wish I could send a hug from overseas.
Having to face this type of shit just to be yourself is so, so wrong.
Seriously. I admire and respect everyone who has the courage to take the leap and face the world and its prejudices, choosing to be themselves. I send all the strength and love in the world to you.
Please remember this and put this on the other side of the scale.
I thank you, Natalie, for having the courage to be yourself. Unfortunately, we all have to have “courage” to be ourselves…LGBT or straight. I’m an introvert and have a very thin-skin. I’m biracial and endured many years of people telling me I “act white”. It never was an act and I always knew that, but it hurt no less. Sometimes I wouldn’t even hear the things they said (like, my friend or boyfriend would point it out- Did you hear what she said?- No! I’m glad I didn’t!). I have always chalked it up to jealousy and fear. Jealousy that I’m a beautiful (now 40 year old) woman and fear that I’m “different”. For some very immature people just being different is enough to cause fear. Their words hurt but I’ve learned to feel compassion and empathy for these people because what HAPPY person tries to make someone feel bad? It’s not possible. I forgive them and move on. I hope they grow and become self actualized people but not everyone can have that life….I feel bad for them. I really do. So, embrace the ones in your life who respect you and themselves and keep on being you. Thank you for sharing your story.
Hey Guys/Gals, Thanks for responding to my other post. I would respond to you each individually, but I don’t want to put like 8 more posts down to clutter everything else up, So I am just going to put my general thoughts down. I appreciate most of the responses I got.
Again, just want to be clear. I am totally fine with being wrong and totally open to changing my opinion. What I took issue with(in the replies, not the initial post.) was the attitude/tone of dismissive-ness based on my perceived gender, race, and sexual orientation. I understand that I will probably never be able to truly understand what it is like for Natalie, I didn’t try to. Most people are poorly treated at some point in their lives for some reason. However, I can fully appreciate that in my case, these instances happen far less often and have far less to do with who I am as a person. It is easier for me to shrug these things off than it is for Natalie. But that doesn’t change the fact that Natalie, and all transgender people have to be a lot stronger than most. No matter how much better things get, it will always be harder for people like her, than for people like me. I’ve seen what constant abuse/bullying has done to people I’ve known well. None of them are transgender, but some of them were/are gay.
@jay. I suppose this is more of an issue of direction, I am always more of a mind to change what you can control first.
@Natalie, Thanks for responding, I suppose I just didn’t get the referencing of what was going through the random strangers head and not how I would have done it, but this could just be due to my own ignorance on the matter.
@hall of rage, Thanks, that was a helpful article to read!
@cris, Thanks for responding, I didn’t particularly feel attacked, but felt that there wasn’t much of a reason for me to bother checking back again based on the tone of some of the posts, which I thought would be a shame!
I think Heterosexual men are disgusted by us because we have gladly and casualty given up something they consider precious, their manhood.
Men have such fragile egos, I feel sorry for them really. They spend their whole lives worrying that someone will think of them as not manly enough.
Straight men scare me, their insecurity will often be expressed as violence. With us on the receiving end.
I think heterosexual men are disgusted by us because we have gladly and casualty,they think, given up something they consider precious, their manhood.
Men have such fragile egos, I feel sorry for them really. They spend their whole lives worrying that someone will think of them as somehow less of a man.
Straight men scare me, their insecurities are often expressed in acts of violence toward whoever they feel is making them feel insecure.
They may have fragile egos but they are bigger and stronger then us and they know the best way to demonstrate their manliness is through anger and violence.
Broad generalizations like that really aren’t useful. There’s a huge gap between societal values surrounding maleness and how actual men act.
Fortuna Veritas says
Further, how men act and think is currently in flux and naturally is going to be as long as there’s no outside forces at work causing stagnation of society or preventing the free flow of ideas.
It is often said that this generation’s grandchildren will be as embarrassed of our homophobia as this generation is embarrassed by its grandparents’ racism, and this is not said without reason.
It is a fight and has always been a fight to advance, but advance we must because human dignity is too important to allow to be trampled. This is why I object to the people who profess to be working for letting men be weak too both because of the statement giving credence to both the idea that women are weaker than men in some morally substantive way, or at least that feminine traits are weaker, and because no one should be voiceless when evil walks amongst us.
Fortuna Veritas says
Some are, some aren’t. There are evil men and evil women of all stripes and professing all creeds. This is simply one of the unfortunate realities of humanity at present. It remains to be seen if science and progress truly can eliminate such things from us.
However, as people become more educated they generally take on more progress-positive views because once you get in the habit of using your brain it becomes less attractive to have to turn it off to act in lock-step with people who want to dictate how you think.
The men who are violent towards LGBT individuals are cut from the same cloth men who committed horrible injustices against African-Americans in the Jim Crow South. They are those who are uneducated, ruled by religion rather than by their own reason, and without affluence so that all they have is their privilege as a member of the in-group that makes them better than the outgroup by default despite being disenfranchised in actuality as well due to being taken advantage by their religious/political leaders for the gain of the leaders and the detriment of the followers. And it will always be profitable for unscrupulous and wicked men to direct their followers at the weak and vulnerable so they do not question why the rich and powerful are taking advantage of them as well until the nature of the game is changed.
Yes, I’m boiling down hatred to ignorance, politics, and socio-economics and glossing over the role of miseducation, propaganda, and inborn evil, but that’s mostly because I generally reject the idea of inborn evil and I don’t want to write an entire essay for you. Also because to assign inborn evil to (White) Straight Heteronormative Cismale Men means taking up the same kinds of rhetoric as racists and other hate groups, which is just sort of unpalatable to me upon consideration.
It’s just kind of funny-sad-rage-inducing that the way the world works is to make these horrible chains of victimization.
tl;dr: Defend ethics and education to the death if you do no other activism, it does good in every way for you and society.
Not to upset you or anything, but you’re kinda reinforcing the patriarchy there.
One of the parts of a patriarchal system is the ways in which men are viewed. This is not to say that men don’t hold the privilege and the power, but stereotypes generated by this kind of society are harmful to men as well.
I’m not even talking about the old “pay attention to ME now” pattern of hetero men saying “but I’M not like that so now you’re being mean to ME but ignoring all my hard work at being a decent human being”.
The notions that all hetero men are disgusted by transgender people, that they all have fragile egos and spend their lives worrying about being manly enough, that they all deal with their problems through violence against the perceived source, and “demonstrate their manliness through anger and violence” – while all of those are legitimate concerns, the universal assumption that THAT is what “real hetero men” are like creates a permissive space where men can’t be blamed for rape, or assault, or harassment, because “that’s how hetero men are”. That’s where victim-blaming comes from.
That’s where we got the notion that women have to cover their hair because it will incite men to impure thoughts because we all know men can’t control themselves anymore than a dog chasing a squirrel. That’s where we got the pattern of women being downtrodden for centuries on the flimsy pretext that it was EVE’S fault that Adam chose to eat the non-existant fruit, and therefor WOMEN are responsible for all worldly woes because men just can’t help themselves, it’s the way they are.
The razor cuts both ways. By all means, assign blame where blame is due. Hell, if you really feel that it’s necessary, go ahead and talk about what dogs all men are, but in doing so, you’re perpetuating the same damned excuse that’s led to courtroom slut-shaming for centuries.
Holding people accountable means that you accept that they have the ability to choose their own actions, otherwise you might as well be talking about a dangerous predator, in which case the onus is on YOU to avoid an encounter, not on MEN to avoid being horrible people.
P.S. Full disclosure, I’m a white, cis-, hetero male. Not sure if that makes a difference, but I wouldn’t want to pretend to be other than I am.
N. Perlt says
White, cis, hetero, European female here.
Every time someone says “All men are…” and “all females are…” they’re reinforcing the gender stereotypes.
I think it’d be better for the world in general, if nonstereotypic gender expressions were more widely spread.
If there were more “boyish girls” and “girlish boys” (in the lack of better expressions in a foreign language).
If all humans were more free to explore the gender continuum instead of having to commit to one of two categories.
I’m not saying, transgendered people “shouldn’t” commit to one of two categories. I’m saying we’d hopefully get less bigots in cargo shorts and shapeless t-shirts if there were more legitimate gender expression choices.
Rabbi Brian says
Shari, a friend of mine, forwarded me your posting. I read it and am so sorry.
I wish in my heart of hearts that I would be able to apologize for another human being. I wish I could apologize to you on that person’s behalf. I wish I could say, “I am truly sorry” for what that person said, did, and how you felt afterwards. I wish I could vicariously apologize.
I wish I could.
I really wish I could.
You never ought to have been treated this way. You never ought to be in the future.
With much love,
Ace of Sevens says
Sorry for weighing in a day late. It’s awful you had to go through this, but the people making excuses bug me more.
We’ve all dealt with guys like this. They are the same ones who need to tell every woman passing them on the sidewalk whether they are fuckable (this was an outgrowth of that behavior) or yell “fag” at guys for having funny hair cuts, riding bicycles or driving Priuses. (Prii?) Trans women have to deal with them way more because they are easy targets for bullshit social reasons, but the same guys harass you from time to time. Do you really want to send the message we are supposed to put up with it?
Anna Newton says
Jeez, what an ass. But we all know that. When can it stop? It’s bad enough when privileged cis-gendered sports/television personalities make idiotic comments (step forward Alec Stewart) on air that have not a not of relevance to the event they, by way of that privilege, are allowed to earn big money talking about it. But I digress, soz.
When occurrences like this do happen, and most if not every transgendered person has experience of it somewhere in the range between mean comments to outright violence (may Gaia forbid). Everything hurts and stays in the mind for a very, very long time.
I wouldn’t say that a situation where the young man would have his position in the world criticised by strangers is ideal but so many people need to take a good hard look at themselves about why they think they feel the need to express themselves with hatred.
Yours was a perfect, dignified and elegent open letter in response, Natalie. I fear that my response would have not been quite so well put.
If you’re referring to the cricketer, please clarify? I always thought he was an arse, and I’m in the mood for a little prejudice-reinforcement. 😉
And in other news, Natalie, you are a beautiful person inside and out, and I can only pity the fool who can look at a complete stranger and the first thing that comes to his febrile, testosterone-shrivelled little mind is to shout an epithet. What a limited and hateful life he must lead.
Kay Dee says
There is a solid 10-20% of jerks in the world… They can insult you for being anything that doesn’t fit their little world view : trans, woman, race, etc. I learned with time (and quite a few cries) to not let those bottom feeders get a power over me.
Most of the harassment I’ve had to deal with (99%) has been from people that knew me before transition and because I’ve never moved since then, knew I transitioned. It was pretty bad initially, with people writing things on my door, throwing tomato at me, yelling very rude things on the street, a guy even came to my door and propositioned me for gay sex a few times(no joke!! Had to lock my doors as soon as I came home because of him) etc.
Initially, I was shocked at those f***… Even made me cry and feel bad about myself; I didn’t want to have to move from the neighborhood I’ve lived all my life. So, I used a few different tactics depending on the persons doing the harassment.
I totally ignored most and sicked the police on the worst few stalkers (including opening police files on 2 or 3 of them including the guy who came to my door). I was able to get them totally off my back. Some got bored and the other mega assholes got scared of me.
Its “funny”, even though I pass very well, for them, just knowing (from knowing me before) that I was a “icky trans” allowed them to treat me like total dirt (or lower than dirt). I can’t imagine how they’d treat a trans that doesn’t correspond to their idea of what a woman should look like? Though, I am not sure how worse they could be; but I’m sure they could try to be bigger jerks.
mx. punk says
when i have some sort of run-in with a grue, i usually get upset about it– and sometimes, i stay upset for a couple days. this usually makes me feel guilty for “letting them get to me” or whatever– something society tells me i’m not supposed to do.
i think society totally tries to shame us into accepting responsibility for the shitty actions of privileged folks. why should we feel guilty for being upset when privileged people, sanctioned by society, use their privilege against us? our feelings are valid, damnit!
basically what i’m saying is that this post resonates with me. you articulated a lot of things i’ve been thinking about– thank you. it makes me feel less alone and it will probably help me talk about my experiences.
also, internet hugs if you want them. you’re an awesome person and we’ve got your back, natalie! <3
as a cis-bisexual woman who is raising a transgender girl, and a friend to many adult trans-women, your post raised all the issues i fear for my daughter, have seen in the lives of my trans-women friends, and experienced, to a lesser degree, as a genderqueer, non-monogamist bi cis-gendered woman.
i applaud you for this, i believe, well-written post. i would like to write a post someday to the man who thought that all someone like me really needed was to be raped. to the countless beasts who eyed me like i was a piece of meat to wrap around their next masturbatory fantasy, it would be healing for me i think.
of course, the disgusting ones are the perpetrators of these lewd affronts to human decency…
I. Love. This. Post.
Not, you know, what that jackass did to you, but your response here. I mean, I wish nobody went through this kind of [radio edit] from their fellow human beings, but given that you did, thank you for putting these thoughts into words and thank you again for putting those words in a public place.
The MadPanda, FCD says
There is no excuse, no apology, that can be made for such behavior. None at all. This is one of those things that inspires me to leap the gap between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ with ruthless efficiency…because nobody, ever, should have to face this sort of crap. (Is my privilege showing? Probably. But I cannot help but imagine how it must feel to face this constantly…and I cringe at even that pale imitation of the real thing.)
Please permit me to second joda’s comments @80 in full: your writing has touched more people than you can know (because some of us only lurk most of the time). Thank you for everything.
The MadPanda, FCD
Well, late to the game here. posts in the nineties, which, Natalie, shows mostly that people read your blog and *like* you. Heck, I do too. I’m not going to give you internet hugs just as I wouldn’t hug you in person. I don’t really hug. But Something Awful happened to you, and as I like you, I extend socially acceptable empathy and commiseration.
But the nut is, and I still have your last post in mind, can I really ever do that? I mean commiseration is easy, I’m wondering about true empathy.
I was in Russia in the 90’s and looked down at because I was an American. I’ve lived in a micro-ghetto of hatian immigrants in PA, because I couldn’t at the time afford Rent any other place, and been yelled at, derided, ostracized. But I was never called disgusting.
I have been degraded, pigeonholed, looked poorly at, for what I represent, what I say, and who I associate with. It has never, though, been about who I am.
But my fiancee R, and it seems you, need to deal with this.
The first time R told me about a situation like this, I wanted to find the SOB and beat him up. Very cis male reaction, eh? To be honest every time I hear about this, I feel the same. I really can’t beat up the world, though. There is a part of me that really wants to give it a good try.
I’m not going to pull the long bow, I have it easy, I’m in a privileged class, however being a significant other of a trans girl is sometimes difficult, just because of the impotence.
I, naturally, think R is beautiful at all times, and only walks on water because she hates wet shoes. I think we are a bit beyond the idea of passing.
But that ugly concept rears its ugly head. I as her fiancee worry not just at the hurt to her, but how I might, and do react. When we started dating I had an imaginary image of perfect passing, R is beautiful, this will be seen by all! Has to be moderated to R is beautiful to me always, and sometimes, well.
And there is rather nothing I can do. It grates, my friends, grates hard.
Well, if it makes me feel better Natalie, can I imagine giving the person that called you disgusting a ginormous wedgie? And maybe an indian burn and stealing his lunch money.
Darwin Harmless says
I keep hoping that this kind of encounter could be a teachable moment. That jerk is also a human being. Wouldn’t it be great to have a magic reaction that would let him see himself, and cause shame to wash over him. I don’t have any idea what these magic words, that perfect reaction, might be. And of course for it to be effective you would have to engage with him on a human level, and that could be dangerous.
Years ago, when I was in university, there was a man I disliked. One day he looked at me and simply said “You don’t like me. Could you tell me why?”. The more I thout about his question, the more shame I felt. I couldn’t fabricate a reason, really had no reason to dislike him. And that made me realize that I didn’t dislike him, that I was simply fucked up and reacting to his style..
A previous commenter, Matt, mentioned being in recovery from his bigotry. I’m sure he was never as extreme a case as the guy in your post, but maybe someplace deep down inside this young man there is a tiny kernel of decency. The only way we can end this kind of thing is by finding that kernel and calling it forth. Easier said than done, of course.
Natalie, my wife and I love your writing, and by extension love you. I’m so sorry you have to endure this crap. Maybe someday a person who does this will simply be seen as mentally I’ll. Until that unlikely day, big hugs.
I don’t know about this guy, but you can certainly influence people who are predisposed to listen to you.
I think that even something as little and seemingly trivial as a couple of words in passing from someone who you respect or look up to can have a tremendous effect on the way you see things from there on.
Darwin Harmless says
Fucking autocorrect – ill not I’ll.
Poor baby ._.
Sending good vibes your way.
I read this, and I know it too well. Just like he had interchangeable proxies, you do also. It’s been a while since I heard an insensitive remark for being trans, or for being considered “jock butch” so everyday I think I am due.
I can take solace that for the most part, I only get clocked in context now but that doesn’t erase the scars which are both physical and emotional that I have. They all have thing in common; no matter how distant in time, if it was snickering or if it was physically attempting to end my existence: They are very painful.
I feel extremely guilty because your post made me feel a whole lot better about my past and I simply don’t have anything but platitudes in return. However there is one thing that you are doing to help the situation and that is that you are speaking about it. I am glad you were able to put this into words.
I just discovered your blog not that long ago, and I am glad I did.
Take care of yourself,
Usernames are smart says
I’ve been in a similar situation with respect to being the target of bigotry — in my case it was being the accidental target of racism (the perp didn’t know he was insulting me with his garbage).
Long ago, perhaps I would’ve fought back with my fists, but that doesn’t work.
One of my (for lack of a better word) spiritual teachers gave me a gift: “UAS,” she said, “Whenever someone opens his or her pie hole, remember it is about that person.”
On my better days, I can do it. I can keep my boundaries strong, mentally deflect what the person says, and love him/her (love as in, feel compassion). Autumnsandeen #2 quoted Dr. King – this is exactly what I’m talking about!
On my not-so-better days, I still want to smash face. But I don’t. And then later I come back to a good place.
I’m really sorry you were exposed to this troubled person and his garbage. It really was about him, not you. I hope you can believe that.
I do not know you, but I like meeting people of good heart.
I wish I could give you a big hug.
*written using google translate
Natalie, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this shit, but thank you for writing about it. My heart broke a little when I read it, but I’m glad I did because I know now that there is definitely no way I could hear something like that and not say something. Just enough to let him know that he was the disgusting one. Maybe iced coffee in the face I haven’t decided yet. I almost always have some but I think I like it too much to throw on jerks. Also I don’t run very fast.
I don’t really know what I would I do, but no one should have to hear that and face it alone ever, but especially when they are in public.
No one should have to deal with this.
So sorry it happened – you’re a great, thoughtful writer and thinker, and it’s a pity that the knucklehead that did this to you is too narrow to see that.
(Cis white male here, but trying to listen and learn and not marginalize)
Soli Deo Gloria says
I guess you are not very convincing. You lie when you say you kicked the Y chromosome’s *ss. Every 46th chromosomal pair in every cell in your body testifies that you are living a sham. That doesn’t excuse people from being obnoxious to you, but you have been duped. Please read this article by Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins University: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/02/surgical-sex–35
Natalie Reed says
Take things literally much?
I LOVE when cis people assume trans women just have no idea how sexual biology works. Hilarious every single time.
You say the guy who insulted Natalie had no excuse for doing it, yet you manage to insult her (and by extension all trans people) in your comment. Then you urge her to read an article in a religiously-oriented publication by Paul McHugh, a man well-known for having a serious problem with trans people and whose articles, when they’re boiled down, are just a long-form means of saying trans people disgust him. Hmmm.
Paul McHugh’s claims about trans people seem to be based on his anecdotal experiences from the 1970’s and as such can’t be taken seriously, especially not 40 years later when a lot of the people he’s talking about are probably dead and unable to speak.
Maybe he really did meet a gay man in 1975 who saw no other option than to transition. Maybe not. Who knows. Society is a lot more accepting of gay men now than it was then and gay communities and gay sub-communities are ubiquitous in major metro areas.
McHugh’s advice about infants seem to be based on research from the 2000’s, and he’s probably right that the practice of sexually reassigning infants with genital birth defects is bad and ought to be changed. After all, infants with unusual genital configurations are not distressed by the fact that they don’t look like other infants. It’s the parents who are in distress! The reassignment an infant’s genitals could be described as a way to treat two individual’s psycho-social problems by performing surgery on the genitals of a third individual. If that’s not seriously fucked up then I don’t know what is…
That was a reply to the god-fearing man(?) above.
That would be bad enough, but people like McHugh are also cited as authorities by those who have an axe to grind against trans people, and those who wish to justify or codify discrimination against us – which causes even more damage, and makes our lives even more difficult.
Yet they’re also quick to say “wow, trans people are depressed and unhappy and have trouble functioning in society, therefore transition is not the answer.” Gee, those folks ever think their attitudes about trans people could be part of the problem? (sigh)
Aha, yeah I’m not surprised. That article reeks of personal opinion and personal antipathy.
Maybe he let his job get to him. The trans women who a psychiatrist works with are not representative of trans women in general. A psychiatrist or psychologist should expect that most of his work with trans women is going to be with trans women who have a lot of worse issues than trans women in general. That’s just selection bias.
The same would have been true of the cis people that he worked with, of course… I don’t hear him saying that we cis people are faking our gender-body coherence.
Yeah, McHugh’s got a long history regarding the trans community and there are several essays out there critical of his work. I don’t have the links handy, but if you go on Lynn Conway’s website, you’ll find links to some nice pieces that counter/debunk McHugh.
Superbly well written as always Natalie Reed , well put, three cheers }} if you want them.
That was [[“hugs”]] there if you want them.