The Scavenger

Salvaging whats left after the masses have had their feed

VSF-468x60

Sun04232017

Last updateWed, 12 Apr 2017 9am

Menu Style

Cpanel
Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity SGD What transphobia looks like: A primer for family, friends and loved ones

What transphobia looks like: A primer for family, friends and loved ones

A misappropriation of terms and complexity of factors have served to muddy what is quite clearly inappropriate, and sometimes abusive behaviour on the part of some friends, family, lovers and partners of trans people. The following behaviours go beyond mere ignorance of trans issues and land squarely in the category of harming others, writes Xander Sarkisova.

26 December 2011

The following is an unrepresentative sample of some behaviours which can be emotionally harmful to trans (includes but is not limited to transsexual, transgender, transexed) people:

1) Refusing to accept the exploration of trans identity.

Example: You bring up the possibility or curiosity of what it means to be trans and your partner doesn't want to talk about it. They claim they are "overwhelmed," "not ready for it" and that it is unfair to do so.

What's wrong with this?

While it is fair that a partner may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of exploring a change which may reflect back at them a lack of fit for their own identity, or a complication of how they know themselves, or you, shutting down a partner sends the message that there is no space to talk about the possibility of being trans. It effectively sends a message of shame and fear to a potential trans identified person.

What can I do differently?

Address your own transphobia. Explore the resistance you have to talking about your partner's transness with trusted friends, or a counsellor. How can you be supportive while dealing with your own complicated feelings? Why are your feelings complicated? Explore all the facets of fear of loss, change, and assumptions about identity you may have.

Deal with yourself first – do not make being trans the problem. After getting support to process your feelings, don't be a "martyr" and stay with someone you are not into. Trans people don't need people to pity us, we need folks to accept and love us unconditionally, and there are plenty of folks capable of doing this.

2) Refusing to gender/name your partner or loved one as per their request.

Example: You tell your partner/family member/friend you would like to use a new pronoun/name. They may laugh in response. Maybe not.

Sometimes they tell you flat out they won't "be able" to do that.

Sometimes they will complain about how difficult it is to use your new pronoun/name.

Sometimes they agree to use your new pronoun/name and continue to introduce you to anyone and everyone by the old pronoun/name.

Sometimes they apologize. Most of the time they do not even acknowledge their disrespect. They claim you are being unreasonable when you correct them.

What's wrong with this?

Introducing a trans person by their old pronoun or name can be a selfish act of avoidance "cis" people engage in when they aren't brave enough to confront gender norms. It is based in a sense of shame and fear of being "othered" along with the trans person.

What can I do differently?

Take a risk! Stand up for your trans loved one and deal with the consequences accordingly by putting people in their place if they have a shitty response. Standing in solidarity with trans people sends the signal to others that transphobia is not okay.

Quite often, people don't even have a problem with it! Address your own shame around what it means, societally, to be trans.

Get support for this. If you make a mistake, immediately correct yourself and apologize.

3) Talking about how much you love the person's original parts and how you don't believe they should go through with surgery. Characterizing surgery as drastic, too traumatic, unbearable or even some form of mutilation.

What's wrong with this?

Partners or lovers, or even family members, of trans folks may have particular attachment to a trans person's body parts and plenty of imposed meaning on those parts.

Reacting to a trans person's desire to converse about the possibility of surgery with shock, fear, revulsion, or avoidance signals to trans people that a major option for their embodiment and potential release of anxiety and discomfort is unavailable.

Acceptance of the trans person and risk of abandonment become tied to whether or not that person desires surgery as a form of embodiment.

What can I do differently?

Acknowledge your feelings around the potential loss of relationship and particular meaning associated with your significant other's body parts. Commit to spending time with supportive others/a counsellor to properly do this.

Change your language so that acceptance of the trans person is not contingent on their potential embodiment.

Do not project your grief onto your partner as a way to manipulate the steps they may take to come into themselves wholly.

4) Claiming the language used by trans people to own their bodies is offensive.

Example: Trans folks may often use "blended terms" to refer to our junk, as a way of reclaiming the meaning imposed on our bodies.

We may call our parts "man boobs, chesticles, mangina, hole, gurl pussy" etc. etc. In response, others may view these terms as degrading or misogynistic without consideration for the context.

What's wrong with this?

Trans people aren't referring to YOUR bodies, we are reclaiming OUR bodies. Whatever terms you use to describe your junk are your business, and vice versa. Terms for 'sex organs' are loaded with cis normativity and privilege and taking back words or creating new ones can be very powerful ways for trans folk to own and represent our bodies as we see fit.

What can I do differently?

Laugh accordingly, and use the terms we use for our bodies. Trans folks often have a wicked sense of humour which shows our resilience in the face of so much oppression, violence, and degradation.

Many of us adopt a sense of playfulness about our bodies and how people view them. If you are having a reaction to this, check it out.

Maybe your assumptions about body parts need to be reconfigured and your cis normativity and privilege dealt with.

5) Transposing notions of acceptable embodiment onto trans folk.

Example: Your cis partner tells you how much your body frightens them. They disclose a history of assault and equate your musculature or size with their assault, stating they don't know if they can date you because of it.

What's wrong with this?

Trans people have struggled with our embodiment, and transgressing gender norms since our coming into this world. We navigate impositions of what we can and should be every millisecond of our lives. We have struggled hard to attain and live with physiques that provide a modicum of solace and comfort - at great expense, violence, and exclusion from many facets of society.

Equating your abuse history with a trans person's physical embodiment - something which we cannot undo and is essential for our survival - is to say that the embodiment is the source of your trauma.

In fact, size and strength do not determine who an abuser will be. Small/slight statured people can also be seriously abusive, and moreover, emotional abuse has no physical form.

What can I do differently?

Get support for dealing with your trauma history. Process through with someone other than your date or partner why it is you are feeling triggered and do not transpose this onto your date’s body. If you are feeling uncomfortable, end it respectfully, and work on providing yourself the safety you need.

6) Treating a trans person differently once you discover they are on hormones.

Example: A trans guy has been taking T for several months with no noticeable changes. Suddenly, when it becomes apparent physical and vocal changes are present, the same friend(s) ask with suspicion if you are taking T.

Their body language has shifted considerably, clearly suggesting discomfort and hostility. Your behaviour hasn't changed, but your gender markers have. This is immediately equated with what are considered to be the worst aspects of hetero-normative masculinity.

What is wrong with this?

What is wrong is that your assumptions are not in line with the person's actual behaviour. Two seconds ago, when you didn't know your friend was "transitioning" you treated them just fine. Now that you are aware of the changes you treat them based on how you expect them to behave. You assume that their masculinity, not their behaviour, is the problem.

What can I do differently?

Reflect on why it is you are feeling uncomfortable with your friend's shifting presentation. Look at your friend's behaviour, the things they say and do - not their bodies/voices. If they are using their bodies and voices to take up space in misogynistic or paternalistic ways (ways that infringe on you or others), then it is fair game to talk about such behaviours. But, do not assume or predict that this will automatically be the case.

7) Telling a trans person that they are far more attractive as their "original" gender and that they make an unattractive woman.

What is wrong with this?

This is seriously degrading and abusive. Don't ever do it.

What can I do differently?

Get help now. You are not the gatekeeper or barometer of "womanness." Seriously commit yourself to psychotherapy to process and deal with this. Avoid interactions with trans people until you sort this out.

8) Attempting to limit how your partner identifies. Telling your partner they are abandoning "Butch."

What is wrong with this?

Your partner may have very complicated feelings and grief around what it means to be Butch, if they have identified this way. Normative community narratives have made a congruence of butch and trans identities unavailable and shameful, while not recognizing some folks may identify as both, either simultaneously or sequentially.

What can I do differently?

You are not the arbiter or protector of Butch. It is valid to feel protective of Butch identity given the particular struggles of those living this reality... however, it is not your responsibility or place to determine what Butch is and whether folks can be Butch and Trans. Do personal work around expanding your awareness of the many ways trans/masculine people may come into their identities and be supportive of this.

9) Refusing to take a partner's trans/femaleness seriously because they have a beard, or body hair.

What is wrong with this?

Being a trans/woman/female/feminine person is not contingent on amount of body or facial hair. Some really hot trans women have full beards! Furthermore, many women have full beards (if they didn't wax). Projecting this onto trans women is unfair and loaded with transmisogyny/disrespect for their femaleness.

What can I do differently?

Do your own work around deconstructing the gender binary. Respect trans women for who they are, no matter how they present. Do not make validation and affirmation contingent upon normative standards of female beauty.

10) Refusing to date trans women, especially those who identify with having cocks, or who haven't had "bottom surgery" - particularly if you identify as lesbian. Viewing dating a trans woman as some form of accomplishment and indication that you have challenged transphobia.

What is wrong with this?

Tying your refusal to date trans women with your lesbian identity reifies your inability to see trans women for who they truly are. It denigrates their identity and presentation and signals your perception that they are "less than" women.

It is not an accomplishment to see someone for who they truly are (especially related to gender) - it is a basic ability as a human.

Furthermore, if you are into rubber cocks and penetration yet you refuse to date trans women with cocks, penises, or pussies that are different from yours you are arbitrarily discriminating against these women based on their transness or transsexuality (credit to Alaska b. for this point).

What can I do differently?

Don't talk about how rad you are for crushing on or dating trans women. Don't treat or talk about it with friends as some kind of new project for yourself.

Start to deconstruct some of your transmisogyny and how your behaviour is not tied to a lack of desire, but rather your unwillingness to validate transfemale realness.

Do work around unpacking the "cis" male privilege you are incorrectly transposing on trans female bodies, whether they have cocks or not.

Xander (Sly) Sarkisova is a queer and trans person who has been working in mental health and addictions counselling for the past twelve years. He uses writing to explore the intricacies of his trans/male/butch experience, greyness, multiplicity, and the invisibility of mental health issues. Xander blogs at The Space in Between.

Comments   

+8 #1 Dani 2014-08-29 16:27
Number 10.

Sums it up really. You're pissed people won't date you.You thin you're entitled to it and are willing to shame people into fucking you.
Quote

Add comment


Security code
Refresh

Share this post

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Personal Development

personal-development
Be the change.