hacklikeagirl

Beth 'pidge' Flanagan's blog. Open source queer.

A letter to the next generation of trans women..

“A sure sign that something is seriously missing in a society is a generation gap. If the younger generation does not take pride in becoming like its elders, then the society has lost its own continuum, its own stability, and probably does not have a culture worth calling one, for it will be in a constant state of change from one unsatisfactory set of values to another.

If the younger members of the society feel the older ones are ridiculous, or wrong, or boring, they will have no natural path to follow. They will feel lost, demeaned and cheated and will be angry. The elders, too, will feel cheated and resentful at the loss of continuity in the culture and suffer from a sense of purposelessness along with the young.”

The Continuum Concept: Allowing Human Nature to Work Successfully by Jean Liedloff

This was the sign on the door of the surgery of the first surgical clinic ever run by and for trans women, THI, 2002-2004

Hey,

My name is Beth. You probably don’t know me. I’m substantially older than most of you, transitioned longer ago than you did and frankly, spent the past decade kind of out of trans circles fixing my life up a bit. If you were involved in trans/queer feminism about 12-18 years ago, you’ll probably know who I am. If not, go find someone who was involved in that stuff from that era and ask them about me. They’ll probably know who I am. Don’t worry, I’ll wait right here.

Back? Good. I asked you to do this because I think it’s important to know something about me before you continue reading this. That this letter comes to you not out of anger or malice but out of love. I know the past few weeks have been a bit low on the love side all around, but, please believe me, I’m writing this out of love and respect.

That said, I think I know who some of you are, at least what your tweets and tumblr posts say you are. I’ve even talked to a few of you. But mostly, I’ve sat in the back, mostly quiet for the past decade, watching you and this new community of trans women grow. Sometimes I’ve silently rolled my eyes at you. Sometimes I’ve wanted to twist your ears and sit you down and wag my finger at you. But more times than not, I sat there, proud of you and of what you’ve accomplished.

So, that said, I’m going to ask you to take a seat for a moment. We need to have a talk. A heart to heart. A come to Jesus moment. But before we do that, I have to tell you something.

I’m sorry.

See, this whole fucking mess the past few weeks, with RuPaul, terminology, Andrea, Calpernia, Parker, everything… it all exists, in part, because my generation failed you. Please, don’t think I’m letting you off the hook over what has happened the past few weeks or siding with one side or the other. I’m not. Frankly, the two critiques I somewhat agree with about your part in all of this is that this whole thing smells very privileged and that many of you lack a lot of historical and cultural context of North American trans culture. The former issue is something we all need to own. But the latter? That you lack this history, this context, is, in many ways, not your fault. It’s ours.

It would help if you understood what life looked like for most trans women in the States who came up during the late 80s to late 90s. It was the time of HBIGDA and the DSM-III. It was a time when being an out trans woman wasn’t possible in most cases, outside of the gay and drag communities. If you wanted to survive, it meant being quiet. Hiding. Disappearing. If you were privileged (pick one. White. Middle class, urban, etc), you *might* have some protection, but not a lot. You might have had access to communities outside of the gay and drag communities. Access to #transgen on EFNet or to USENET or the AOL rooms. If you lacked that access you most likely came up through the gay/drag communities or through the gender groups/clinics.

I tell you this because this narrative is in many ways, far different from what many of you experienced. I can’t fully explain what it was like back then in a way that will make you understand, and to be honest, I don’t *want* you to ever have to understand those times. They were horrible and awful times in a lot of ways. We lost a lot of friends. To HIV. To drugs. To depression. To the streets. To insanity. To poverty. To murder. To suicide. That’s not to say this stuff still doesn’t exist. It does. But in many ways, things are better, especially for those of you who are able to access some form of privilege. Many of the women who are your contemporaries, who are working class or trans women of color or rural women, may recognize some of what I’m about to talk about because many of these women still come up through these communities.

I would say that a tragicly large percentage of the women that I knew from the drag/street queen communities back then are dead now. The ones in the internet communities survived. I still look those women up from time to time, living stealth lives, making it through life the best they can. I love them. I love them in their imperfection. I love them for their ability to survive and to make a life, no matter how imperfect it may be to most. But I don’t miss them as much as the women I knew from the drag communities. I miss those women the most. For their courage. For their resiliency. For their carrying on of a culture of trans women that is decades old, that has it’s own in jokes, it’s own customs, hell, it’s own language (fidaga ouyaga eakspaga agaey enthaga ouyey ownaga utwaye iaga eanmaga).

I’m not going to patronize you by spending an entire letter telling you that we had it worse. Things still suck. I think all of us can be honest with each other though and say that each successive generation has had it, generally, a bit easier than the last. We all stand on the shoulders of imperfect, fucked up giants.

I tell you this, at the risk of becoming a bit nostalgic and seeming silly to you, not because I want to tell you about how I had to trudge through 10 feet of snow, up hill, both ways, to visit the hormone doc. I tell you this because I think that it’s important for you to understand the women who transitioned 15-25 years ago. To understand our cultures and histories in context. Understanding this is vital to understanding exactly how we failed you and how we move forward.

I know a lot of you may see us as retrograde dinosaurs, not able to grok “your” theory. As binarist assimilationists. You’re right. A lot of us are. Many of us didn’t have a choice. We became what we needed to become in order to survive. And a lot of times, we get angry at you because a lot of the theory you espouse is stuff we hashed out over a decade ago (seriously, I’ll be more than happy to show you the archives if you don’t believe me).

Our biggest failure is that we failed to give you a culture that you could enter into when you came out. A culture that welcomed you and cherished you and made you feel safe and gave you a sense of history, a sense of place, a sense of being part of a community. That was beyond our ability. I’ve cried about that for years. I don’t know how to make that right and the most I can offer is that I’m sorry.

We left you to fend for yourselves. Instead of raising you up, we allowed some of the crappiest places on the internet to do what we should have been doing. We really can’t complain when you look upon us as silly old trans women, backwards in our thinking, hold overs from a fucked up era. We never gave you a place in what communities we had, so you went off and created your own.

I wouldn’t say we tried very hard to create those communities. We couldn’t. Most of us were too caught up in just trying to survive or too caught up in believing what the shrinks told us we had to be in order to help with that. Or, we became insular, distrustful of this new generation, trying hard to heal our wounds, but at the same time, jealous at what we perceived as your calk walk through transition. It’s bullshit, right. But it’s bullshit that we created because of our damage because we were trying to protect our broken selves.

I know that it’s little consolation. In fairness to us though, the damage done to us by a trans misogynistic society reverberates down through the years. You see it in many of the women who are my contemporaries from time to time. In Andrea. In Calpernia. In me. We’re damaged people, hurt and angry. We spent our 20s, the time when people are supposed to be living their joy, on a constant war footing. We’re mean to each other, we’re mean to you. We lash out. In a lot of ways, it’s not too different than a lot of people who experienced serious oppression. A generational divide that in reality is a chasm created by trauma.

So, now that I’ve fully impaled myself on the sword, it’s time that I twist your collective ears a bit. I do not disagree with you about hurtful language. About the T word. About the S word. I’ve always hated those words, BUT, I will be the first to admit to ingroup use of them. It’s important for you to get where a lot of us came from. I straddled the internet and street queen communities, but, when push came to shove and I lost my biological family, it was the trans drag queens who took me in, fed me, and made sure there was a roof over my head. As imperfect as they are, I will ALWAYS love them. Without them, I would not have survived my 20s.

When I had no place to go, it was my adopted trans mom and her drag queen roommate, Garry, who took me in. When Garry died, it was his old roommate, a trans woman drag queen, Joanne, who gave me the most comfort. We sat upstairs in his room for hours, tossing shade at the ragtag collection of internet trans women downstairs. These people gave me a sense of community, a place to feel safe, love and most of all, they gave me a backbone. And yes, we were fucked up in oh so many ways.

I’m not proud of how I acted back in those days. It’s a bit too easy for me to say “welp, that was the way it was”. In my defense, though, we are all molded by the culture by which we were surrounded. But how do you fight against that when none of us really controlled those cultures. A lot of drag culture was and is run by, or at least heavily influenced by, cis gay men. We were what *they* wanted us to be. Fierce. Bitchy. Mean. With tongues so sharp they could peel the bark off an oak tree. (If you really want to see an excellent movie about that culture, even if it did predate me by two and a half decades, go track down “The Queen” from 1968 )

Or, if we came up through HBIGDA style groups, we were what the medical establishment wanted us to be. 50s housewives. Assimilationists. Hiding in the shadows, cut off from any community in order to at least appear “normal”. Perpetrators of the primary/secondary load of holy horse shit we were fed. And honestly, we had to be. When you do not control your own medical destiny, you jump through the hoops, you get indoctrinated or you don’t get treatment.

When we did have some continuum to prior generations, it was sporadic. Remember, we had just been through a decade where AIDS had killed a large portion of the trans women who could have carried on that continuum. I’d love to quantify that number for you, to give you a sense of what *that* horror looked like, in real numbers, things you could understand, but the fact is, I can’t. Those women were listed as MSM (men who have sex with men) and are lost to us, a data point in CDC statistics. And it’s still happening.

I’m sorry. I knew this letter would ramble a bit, but thinking about what we were back then and seeing you and where you are now, makes me want to get a time machine and fix all of our screw ups or at least bring you back to those years so you can understand why we are what we are, so you don’t make our mistakes or maybe so you understand us better. I guess the point of all this though is a request? Cut us a bit of slack, OK? Be gentle with us. We are wounded and hurt and scarred. Many of us carry anger over situations that fortunately are much rarer these days. (And my dear contemporaries. Don’t think you’re off the hook here either. A preview of my letter to you: Stop acting like a bunch of cruel jerks.)

You may see us as binarist assimilationist dinosaurs who are backwards and screwed up. And you’d be partially right. We are. But we’re also the strong, tough, self-reliant women who fought tooth and nail to make sure you didn’t have to go through what we went through. That fighting, that constant, never ending battle, took its toll on us and because of it, we’re broken in ways I hope you never will be.

We are your history and you are our futures. If I could have one thing out of this entire mess, it’s that we all use this as an opportunity. For you to understand us better and for us to understand you better. To work together to make a healthy community, that includes all of us, from no matter who we are or where we came from.

We need to start this work now. Not for us, but for that little trans girl, who is secretly crying herself to sleep every night, praying to whatever god she believes in, to somehow make this either go away or make it not hurt anymore or make her not wake up at all. When she’s old enough, she will need a space, a healthy community to recover in, a place to feel safe and loved and to know our history. If we all don’t work for that community, right now, I’m afraid that one of you will be writing a letter like this to her in 10 years, begging for her forgiveness.

With love,

-b

This is a two part post. The second post “A letter to my contemporaries” will follow up when I have the time/energy/know exactly what I’m going to say.

18 responses to “A letter to the next generation of trans women..

  1. MariTheTNF April 29, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    Thank you for this. As someone who, as a 31-year old queer trans woman about 2 years into medical transition, falls into the “next generation” in many ways, this is something I needed to hear. I will admit to having extra baggage with this issue, since I was a teenager struggling with her gender identity in the 90s, and having no resources but the internet to help me. Unfortunately, the climate of the trans world then meant the kinds of things I needed to hear to feel less confused just didn’t exist yet- that trans women could be attracted to women, that we didn’t have to be extremely feminine, or have to have known we were girls since early elementary school. For a long time, I felt a deep sense of betrayal, feeling like I had lost so many years of my life lost in doubt because there wasn’t anyone to tell me that what I felt was okay, to provide a counterpoint to the hurtful, harmful autogynephilia garbage that was routinely used to describe someone like me back then.

    I think you really hit the nail on the head about lack of a supportive, nurturing trans culture. As someone who’s always identified as a gay woman, I spent most of my life up to and including transition feeling very, very alone, with little sense of community. I’m not, and have never really been, comfortable amongst gay men because we lack a shared experience and I’m quite profoundly androphobic. There was definitely no place for me among queer women. I finally found my community amongst the rag-tag band of social misfits known as the science-fiction community, which was really the only way I found the strength and support to transition. It wasn’t until I started to write about my experiences with transition and trans life on my blog that I really found any sense of community among other trans people.

    I recognize the long hard fight that those who came before me had just to survive, to endure, to carry on in the climate of years past. And, I thank you for what you’ve done. Just please remember (or more, help other trans women remember) that many of us younger folk came through this hurt, scared, and completely alone, and our online community is something we’ve scratched out and cobbled together to have some sense of place in the world, and for many of us, it’s ALL we have in the way of community, and it literally keeps us alive on some days. Just because it’s online doesn’t make our community any less valid or important. So, when that community comes under fire, we tend to close ranks and fight like hell to defend it.

    • Nika Jewell April 30, 2014 at 7:34 PM

      So much of this! When I was first able to search the internet in 1996 for what was ‘wrong’ with me and look up information about being trans, about all that I could find was stuff like tsroadmap and some West Hollywood Geocities personal pages all telling me that I wasn’t really trans because the accepted trans narrative wasn’t anything like mine. It took decades to work past that garbage. Add to that the fact that some trans women were exploiting trans women by selling assimilationist How-To books and videos and I was pretty damn disgusted with the whole trans community back then and wanted no part of it.

      • alliecat May 3, 2014 at 4:14 PM

        Oh god, that could have been me as recently as 2011 if I didn’t have friends in real life who are trans* to help me through it. The first online resources I found were tsroadmap, Laura’s Playground (which although it has a great community and I am in fact now in a relationship with a member of its crisis team, doesn’t give the greatest impression by its design/theme) and a chatroom called Transmission that seemed to totally conflate trans* identity with crossdressing

  2. A. Person April 30, 2014 at 5:50 AM

    I’m 27, I’ve been trying to feel safe in the online trans community since 2000 in order to have some support for transition that I would never get from the rural, conservative, religious community I grew up with.

    After my latest attempt to transition last year failed at the same time that the Internet community I was relying upon imploded due to call-out culture, I’ve pretty much given up on the Internet as a safe place. Too many times it felt like any community would atomize itself into oblivion from splitting, and I always eventually fall back on my survival strategy of remaining silent during the debates and drifting away.

    I’m not really sure if it’s possible to provide a nurturing environment. I fear that the number of trans people participating is just too small and the diversity of opinions too large to prevent the feelings of isolation and alienation that seem pretty common.

  3. daniburgess April 30, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Wow.
    I’ve always felt alone as a trans woman. I mean, I have some close friends in my liberal college town, and siblings in pocket internet communities. But at the end of the day, it has always felt as though we were the first people to ever struggle through this; that there was no one before us who understood, and that the need to rehash our theories and language were urgent, as there were none that matched our experience. Personally, I know only one older trans woman who genuinely understands the “new” generation’s ideas, and I’ve had more than my share of conflict with women expressing models which I view as oppressive, but community is precious. I know none of us are perfect, but thank you for speaking out about this. It’s good to have family.

  4. Some guy May 1, 2014 at 3:13 PM

    This has been a real interesting read. I will say, even though I am in my late 20′s, I find, in a way, I relate to the older generation more so than I relate to my own. Maybe it is the area where I live (rural northern New England) or being that I am disabled. I can also definitely relate to just trying to survive.

    I do get a lot of harsh criticism from trans people in my generation. Many that give me the criticism live in areas where there is a decent trans and queer community. I live in an area where something like that does not really exist. I still experience discrimination from doctors and therapists. Even though I am “post-transition”, the doctors in my area still won’t prescribe me hormones. I have to drive 70 miles to see someone who will. That is very tough as I drive an old, rusty truck that does not get the best millage. I live on disability, so the gas just to see that doctor takes a substantial amount out of my disability. I guess I am still privileged that I even have a vehicle to drive, though.

    Also, due to being disabled, I had to fight extra hard just to go through my medical transition. Many doctors did not take me seriously due to my disabilities and being unable to work. Plus, I had no clue how I would even be able to afford surgery. However, I was resilient and was able to have chest surgery and a total hysterectomy. So, I am lucky in that regard. Though, due to where I lived, I had to do most of my transition alone. The nearest groups were at least a 90 minute drive, and most were out of state. It was like a different world. Many of the trans people in those groups lived in more accepting areas. They were puzzled why I was not “out and proud”. They were also confused, and thought it was somehow my own fault, why I could not find a trans accepting provider near where I lived.

    I also get a lot of comments form people, saying how I am a “binarist” and it is wrong to say I am a man with transsexualism. For me personally, I honestly do feel I am just a man with medical condition. Though, a part of why I am “stealth” is due to just trying to live my life and survive. Due to being disabled, I have enough problems. It is frustrating when I try to make an appointment with a therapist who is in my town, only to be told “no one here can help you”. I don’t understand that as I am not looking for hormone or surgery letters. I am also pretty much done with my transition, so I don’t need any guidance in that. For my other health problems not even related to having transsexualism, I still have to travel a distance. Many specialists in my area don’t want to help me once they know I am a transsexual man. Though, I will say that I am grateful and lucky that I found surgeons in my state who were willing to perform my surgeries. I know some trans men in my state who need a total hysterectomy. They are in pain physically and are having problems due to those organs. Yet, no surgeon will operate in them, because they are trans. That makes me angry at that injustice. How can someone, who takes an oath to help people, just let someone suffer? This is why I try to stay somewhat active, in at least the online trans communities. If I can help someone get the care they need, then I will try my best to still be involved.

    Though, even some of the trans communities in the general area are not the healthiest. Again, this is why I can relate to older trans people who experience the accusations of the younger generation. I have been painted as someone who has internalized transphobia for not wanting to be “out and proud”. I have been told I am some sort of ts separatist for saying that my transsexualism (to me) is a medical condition. I have been told I am a “binarist” because I say I see myself as just a man. I have been told I am a bad person because I don’t always put the asterisk after the word “trans”. Not everyone is perfect, and many are still learning. Many people just coming in to their transition are very new to the “lingo”. Many honestly don’t mean any harm. I feel as if someone does not tow the “party line” they are shamed and made to feel even more alone. Many of the trans people just starting their transition, have lost friends and family. They need the love and support from other trans people more than ever.

    This is why I try to have a lot of patience for all trans people. Trans people are human. We are not perfect and we make mistakes. One thing I would love to see is a healthy trans community where everyone can feel accepted.

  5. Eve May 1, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    Before I begin, I’ll say this: I’d like to apologize for the hate. Hate is easy, and something I’m all too familiar with. It’s easy to see something I disagree with and just hate it, and it took me some eleven years of using the internet and of growing up to figure out what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Because of that, I’d like to ask that forgive my reactionary internet compatriots and understand that their hate is not deserved. Criticism, certainly, but hate is not acceptable in this situation.

    Like you, I feel that I need to explain a bit beforehand: I gorge myself on history and language. They’re fascinating subjects to me, and because of that, I often understand much about these things that other seem to miss or ignore. I love learning the intricacies of these things and then understanding how the intricacies can build into simple things. I love seeing how they shift and change, and change is something that humans do very well. It’s what makes us and molds us, and it’s how we’ve survived for so very long. Being able to adapt to the situation is what makes humans tough. Change and conflict drive us, and we love it, even if that conflict is just a silly internet debate.

    Change is going to happen. whether we like it, you like it, or anyone likes it, change across generations is inevitable and often painful: even twenty or thirty years humanity starts another twenty or thirty year period of puberty. Because of that, please understand that when I say that, for my generation, yours is not necessarily relevant I don’t mean that yours should be forgotten, ignored, or otherwise. I simply mean that we’re changing the rules to the game.

    I very adamantly believe that the previous generation of trans people started almost everything that led to where we are today. It is you and your generation that laid down the road, and for that, I am extremely grateful. But, as you said, there were flaws. Nobody is perfect, and when almost everyone in the trans community, old and new, is broken in some way, we’re going to produce imperfect and slightly broken results when we get together in any fashion. And sometimes that’s beautiful in it’s own right. And sometimes you get things like the word “tranny”.

    Now, there’s been enough people harping on about this for a long enough time and in such great quantity that I imagine there’s little I can say that’s new about this. I will say, though, that like you said, there wasn’t really any place that we could go to learn about the trans community and culture. We didn’t have references other than each other and horrible places where trans people showed up in television or movies, playing the freaks and comic relief. And we didn’t want to be that. So we figured it out by ourselves. And then we hear words like tranny, a word saved for the freaks and comic relief, a word used as a slur while we get beaten and raped and crushed under the oppressive heel of the people who hate us.

    We never had a positive place for the word “tranny”. We never had that community, that fellowship. Personally, I had the internet and that’s it. I had the APA website and not much else. The groups I found were terrible, and the people around me were generally accepting, but they couldn’t help me. And I’ve heard so many stories that mirror mine that I emphasize: we never found any community to tell us that “tranny” is our word, it’s our slur, it’s our inside joke. So we hated it. We put all out rage, our grief, our bruises, blood, and tears onto words and insults just like tranny. And then the older generation, the one I’d only interacted with twice before in five years of actively seeking other trans people because they were so exclusive of the new generation. Both times were negative and filled with disdain for me, and then they come along and say, “No. It’s okay, it’s our word. It’s just a word that we use, so relax.”

    Fuck that and the train it came in on.

    I understand that, for your generation, it is an okay word. I also understand that, more often than not, freaks and comic relief was an upgrade to how you’d been treated. But for ours, it isn’t. All we have of that is terrible memories. So we’re changing the rules of the game, because it’s a whole lot of horseshit for your generation to tell us to be like you when your generation didn’t have the time of day for us.

    That’s my criticism, and you said it yourself: we had a whole lot of nothing with no idea as to how to get ourselves help. I still see kids that are thirteen or fourteen come on to the /r/asktransgender forum on Reddit, terrified of what they are, desperate for help, alone and afraid their parents are going to hurt them for this. And I can’t do anything but tell them pretty words and try to support them from there.

    And that, in short, is why I think my generation needs your help. Because my generation is still confused, scared, and lost. Your generation at least has its shit together to some degree. We’re all a little bit broken, and because of that we can understand each other. We won’t agree about everything, I’m damn sure of that. But we understand how much we’ve all struggled and the pain of being who we are. And we can work together, we can try and bridge this disconnect and try to make things better. That’s what you’re asking, and that’s what I’m hoping for. I don’t think anyone is going to be absolved from what they’ve done wrong, my generation or yours. But at the very least we can try to set those aside with some understanding and a common goal: make damn sure no one else has to write apology letters for not doing enough for the next generation.

    • pidge May 1, 2014 at 8:57 PM

      This. Like. Everything ^^^^

      One thing though. I’m not entirely sure we have our shit together. I mean, some of us do, but… more on this in my next letter.

  6. chrissy michelle May 1, 2014 at 8:22 PM

    Wow. This was a powerful letter. My dad is transgendered and gender queer. I am accepted by him and his wife with total love and acceptance. I started my transition at age 40! I am still pre-op after 10 years of hormones and spiro. I feel like I have been alone most of my adult life. And during my transition it has been just as bad or worse. I live in Portland, OR. So I shouldn’t have such a hard time getting around. But at my age I feel like I am some sort of pariah. I am loved by my parents who I adopted and who adopted me. I have a husband who accepts me for all who I am.. I am also disabled. But I try to hide that fact from most people. I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder. I volunteer with NAMI.Multnomah as both a Peer Support Specialist and NAMI Connection Facilitator. I help others with mental health issues learn how to cope from day to day. I just live in this world as seamless as I can.

  7. Anna May 2, 2014 at 1:00 AM

    I’m 41 years old, 15 months on HRT, and 3 months “out” as a transwoman. I remember the AIDS die-off. I remember the marches and the protests and the quilt, and the candlelight. And I remember the lynchings, and the beatings, and the hate. I watched it all from the shadows, a coward back then. My first suicide attempt was in 1988 when I was 15, it was not my last. I carried it quietly, alone, until I finally broke down and told a friend in 2009. Even then, even with her beautiful and non-judgmental acceptance, I didn’t start therapy until December of 2011. I was scared. As such, I straddle the two worlds mentioned in the letter, above. I am old enough that I *could* have transitioned in the late 80′s or 90′s, but I am doing it now. I tell people that I couldn’t have imagined transitioning back then, not here in rural Humboldt County, CA. It *is* different now, it seems better and easier than it would have been back then. Thank you to those who blazed the trail I now walk down. Thank you for your letter, thank you to the many women from that generation who wrote the many books I read as I contemplated this eventuality. I am quite happy and even proud to say I have not attempted self harm for several years now. It has cost me my marriage, my house, my financial security, some people I thought were friends. But, I am better.

    It has been worth it.

    • Anna May 2, 2014 at 1:04 AM

      I should mention that I have the same problem with the term “queer” that others have with the T word. For me, queer was something they screamed at you while they beat you and kicked you. Now, the 20-somethings use it quite liberally. Perhaps it is a good thing that they don’t let that word be used against them, but their experience is not mine, and I cannot forget what I have learned and seen. For me, it is different than it is for them.

      • alliecat May 2, 2014 at 3:31 AM

        It’s interesting to hear you say that. As a 25 year old trans woman who self-identifies as queer, I can say that for that reason most (or at least quite a lot) of us would kick off about straight cis people using the word “queer”. But I get the feeling there’s more to it than that for you? How do you feel about LGBTQ+ people using it as an umbrella term for the LGBTQ+ community, and how do you feel about individuals using it as a self-description? Would you rather I stopped? There are other terms I could use, after all

    • chrissy michelle May 2, 2014 at 1:55 AM

      I feel for you, Anna. I too didn’t start my transition till age 40 as well. I started in 2004. The VA wouldn’t give me hormones at that time when I started. They only gave them T-girls who had had the SRS surgery. It was about 5 or 6t years later that that the VA finally relented and started giving girls like me our hormones. I also take spironolactone as my anti-androgen. I had been to prison and lost all but the clothes that I was arrested in. I too have mental health issues. I suffer from Borderline Personalty Disorder and a host of other diagnoses. I volunteer for NAMI Multnomah as a Peer Support Specialist and NAMI Connection Group Facilitator. I really enjoy being able to help others where i didn’t have support. I co-facilitate three NAMI Connection group weekly and go to my home group on Saturdays. I suppose that i am lucky that I had Social Security Disability and medicare to lean on for my hormone support.

  8. Gina White May 2, 2014 at 12:56 PM

    Thank you so much Beth for taking the time to write this!
    I am not quite one year into my transition, but the first trans woman I really got to know was someone who had transitioned years ago. She was a sex worker and had performed in drag shows. She had lost far too many friends to AIDS and to suicide.
    So while most of my current social group are recently-transitioned women, I feel connected to both the new generation and the old generation. And the whole mess of the last few weeks has been really distressing to me. You have taken the time and the risk to try and provide some needed perspective and you deserve much gratitude!

  9. Alice Wilde May 3, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    I am a transgender woman who only starting “coming out” in 2012 and medically transition at the beginning of this year. I was born in the late 70′s so I’m not exactly sure what generation I fall in. My formative years up until age 25 were spent in the 1990′s growing up in a rural bible belt area in east coast Canada. Most of my years since then have been spent in conservative parts of Canada as well and I still live in a rural area because I am my family’s financial support and can’t afford not to. I now live about an hour or so outside of a city with one of the most robust trans communities there is (Vancouver, BC) but when you are eating Mr. Noodles and your car’s muffler is tied on with speaker cables because your child grew and inch in two weeks and needs a whole new set of clothes (and we pretty much only shop at thrift shops) the cost of travel limits my options.
    I guess my point is I am in my mid-thirties and never have been part of any community. I grew up where even gay men were pretty much non-existent. I knew of one person in my graduating class who came out just before graduation and got punched in the face for it. My recollection is that the puncher got almost no punishment. I felt alone and like I had no one. There was no narrative for me to put myself into. I felt “like a girl” as long as I could remember but I wasn’t girly enough so to speak. And well, I liked girls. I knew about drag queens from talk shows on television but I didn’t relate. Still people could tell I was different. At school I think I got called f** more often than my own name even by my friends. And I always received comments about acting so “girly”. Over those years I wanted to kill myself and came close to it. I’m not sure what stopped me but still I retreated into myself and I’m a am still trying to navigate out. I never found a community or place of comfort other than a few friends and girlfriends and eventually a wife who accepted me as damaged, alone, confused and resentful of my gender role and I accepted her though she has a disability that meant I would be the sole financial support in our family. We had a child but still, I was depressed and I knew why and at the same time I didn’t.
    Ironically it was my young child that started me down my path to my true self. From the moment they had ways of expressing themselves to my wife and I we could tell that they were not “typical” in their gender expression. My wife and I tried never to be discouraging but felt pressure from others. As things progressed and we bumped heads with others I researched more. We contacted doctors to express our concerns (not with our child directly but how to deal with how others treat them). My “favorite” was the pediatrician who when we told that she liked and had some dolls said “Aren’t you worried you might make them gay?” *sigh*
    The thing was that as I learned more about gender and gender expression I could feel the answers coming together inside me. I read and heard about stories of gender non-conforming children. I realized this was me. This was my answer. I was transgender. I could “be a girl”. I was a girl…I knew it all along but here it is. I wasn’t alone. Still, I didn’t tell anyone yet.
    Then my daughter told us point blank that she wasn’t a boy. She was a girl. She gave us her new name and said she didn’t want to wears boy’s clothes anymore. We told her that’s fine and that we’d figure out how to make that work. And that’s when I came out to my wife…Me too basically. Still I didn’t tell anyone else. My wife and I had to make some serious decisions and sacrifices and eventually had to move across county to make a happier life for our daughter to live as herself. Meanwhile, I stayed “living as a man” for the next year until I couldn’t take it anymore and told my wife I was transitioning. So far it’s been a lonely road. Most people in my life express positive support but I’ve seemingly lost some friends. Still, I don’t have much of a community. I don’t have close friends with similar experience and I hardly speak to anyone about how I’m feeling in relation to my transition.
    That’s my narrative. I’m damaged too. So when people like RuPaul say what they say and Andrea James and Calpernia Addams seemingly question the validity of my identity that I’ve spent over 30 decades coming to terms with and also nearly killed myself over when I was younger I’m going to get mad.
    I understand we are all damaged and I know the things the community has gone through. It couldn’t have been easy. So many people died and suffered through hardships harsher and much different than mine. I’ve never been homeless. I’ve come out in a world much more accepting than the one I could have come out in years ago. I survived. I don’t want to make enemies of people but as someone on the outside of the main history and community who never found their way there I have to say I’m not the one questioning anyone’s right to exist. I wouldn’t play “no true trans” about Andrea James and Calpernia Addams. I’m not putting conditions on anyone and telling them who they need to shut up to and respect.
    For those who say there is more important things to fight about and we should all just get along I’ll just say that I find this dismissive. This isn’t just infighting. I’m sure there are plenty of others like me and not like me trying to find their place and when they find out there are those who are supposed to be allies essentially setting conditions on whether or not you even belong or have a right to have a voice.

  10. leftytgirl May 23, 2014 at 11:35 PM

    From someone of the angry keyboard warrior generation, thank you. This was so beautiful <3

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