#2. There's Not Just One Type of Trans
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Transgender people get to experience the joy of every "queer person" stereotype. I can get the reactions normally reserved for gay men (since homophobes see me as another man who's turning his back on masculinity) and gay women (the same reason, just flip the genders around), in addition to all of the trans-specific hate mentioned earlier. It's like instantly inheriting a pile of stereotypes, some of which are wrong because they're stereotypes and some of which are wrong because they aren't even the right stereotypes.
"Lesbians can too play the fiddle! Also, I'm not lesbian."
One of the more pervasive beliefs out there is that transsexuals are just incredibly gay people -- at a certain point, gayness concentrated can make someone want to be the other gender so they might be more normal. This is very common in films and television, where there is sometimes no distinction between flamboyantly gay characters and cross-dressers, transsexuals, and so forth. Hollywood history is full of screenwriters who haven't cared enough to figure out the distinctions. Why would you, when these people exist in your story only as punchlines or monsters (see: Silence of the Lambs)?
I've met more than one trans man who has told me this same story: A mutual friend tells another friend something along the lines of "Hey, did you know Jim is transgender?" And the next time Jim runs into this person, he's immediately asked, "Why do you want to be a girl?" If you don't see what's wrong with that, well, there you go -- most people hear "transgender" and their brains go no further than "man who wants to be a lady."
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And sometimes their brains create shitty music about it.
In fact, any person who doesn't conform to the broadest stereotypes of "not straight" had better have a lecture ready if they want anyone to understand what they mean by something like "gender-fluid." The relatively simple premise of "feeling different on a weekly basis" has yet to percolate into pop culture. And when you try to explain it, lots of people get really, really angry. Which brings us to the most underappreciated aspect of life as a trans person ...
#1. It's Fucking Dangerous
Trans issues are big in the media right now, and there are so few of us that it's not hard to be the only transgender person a lot of the people in your daily life have ever met. I've got an extra layer of caution in my mind before I go out, with the mortal dread that I will be required to represent "my people." Is it right for the community for me to wear this skirt?
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Hate crimes and fashion crimes so rarely intersect.
In a perfect world, the burden for disabusing people of stereotypes wouldn't fall on the target of the stereotypes. But you don't want to accidentally reinforce one of those stereotypes -- it could hurt someone else and become part of the justification for assholes to act like assholes. Am I fueling stupidity by doing something that might happen to be on their list of "stereotypical trans behaviors"? So add yet another complication to the "Do I come out to this person or not?" decision.
It also means a higher risk of being murdered. The murder rate for transgender people in this hemisphere is 50 percent higher than the murder rate for lesbian and gay people. And just as some shitheads still assume any woman who was raped must have been "asking for it," courts today are happy to give murderers the benefit of the doubt if their victim might have been a flirty transgender person. It's called the "trans panic defense," and it hinges upon the logic that a man, finding penis where he expected to find vagina, cannot be held accountable for his ensuing murderous rampage.
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"Men biologically hate touching penises. That's why none of them ever masturbate."
Sounds insane, right? The good news is that the American Bar Association passed a resolution advising state and local governments to stop listening to this bullshit. The bad news is that it didn't happen until last year.
So, yeah, if you see a trans person who seems like they're not totally upfront about it, or not terribly eager to discuss it, that might be why. There's still a long, long way to go.
Amy P has a Twitter and a blog, both of which you should read. Robert Evans can be reached here if you have a story to tell or a whistle to blow. He has friends struggling to defend their farm from marauding bandits, and if you donate he'll love you forever.
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