I think about Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times They Are A-Changing” a lot. The line “don’t criticize what you can’t understand” will always ring true and I think resonates with anyone who isn’t cisgender or heterosexual.
A few years ago a friend of mine, who had recently come out as gay, said they had always been frustrated when they are told that it’s okay to be gay.
They said they KNEW it was okay. They said that most queer people KNEW it was okay to be queer. They said that they want straight people to know this as well.
I could relate. I knew it was okay to be who I was, but one of the reasons for not being out was the fear (and the reality) that many people wouldn’t understand or accept who I was. But even worse than that, I knew there are people who would, ah, disapprove and even oppose who I was.
I don’t need anyone to understand who I am. At he very least, I just need the world to not CARE who I am.
There are people in my family and my career that would instantly cut me out of their life if they knew. If I were out, sure, they would see me in a different light, but I would still be the same person as I was before the revelation but for some people on this planet my gender identity is the deciding factor as to how they choose to treat me.
It does work both my ways, if I am being honest. I have a colleague that called something she didn’t like “gay”. Up until then I was friendly towards her and chatted with her when I bumped into her. I gave her the benefit of the doubt but when she was called out on it she doubled down on her words and it was pretty clear what her perspective was.
Sooooo I don’t talk to her anymore. I really don’t need or want to interact with people who use certain words in certain ways.
My perspective is that MOST of us LOVE who we are. We love that lingerie makes us happy, that spending the day en femme is better than most vacations. I think if there is any part of us that would prefer to NOT be who we are it’s likely fueled by the outright hate and violence that some people have towards people like us.
When people are so committed to sharing their opinion that “transpeople are bad” it’s not unlikely that their “message” impacts us.
I could relate to my friend. I also wished that cisgender people knew it was okay to be trans/non-binary/etc. Or, at the very least, I wish they knew that being transgender doesn’t mean that we deserve to be hurt or abused or harassed. You don’t have to like me, you don’t have to “agree” with my gender identity or lifestyle (whatever that means), but at least stop going out of your way to hurt me.
I think I’ve quoted the poem “Tired” by Leonard Cohen before, but I think it would be appropriate to share some of it here:
We’re going to be voices now
Disembodied voices in the blue sky
Pleasant harmonies in the cavities of your distress
And we’re going to stay this way until you straighten up
Until your suffering makes you calm
And you can believe the word of God
Who has told you so many times
And in so many ways
To love onе another
Or at least not to torture and murdеr
In the name of some stupid vomit-making human idea
That makes God turn away from you
And darken the cosmos with inconceivable sorrow
Based on the emails I receive and the comments posted on my website, I think that over the years my writings have helped others like myself. It could be a practical skill or, even more importantly, someone accepting themselves.
I suppose that is the hill I will die on: that is it okay to be transgender.
You don’t have to understand someone’s gender identity, you don’t even have to understand your own, but please, stop hurting other people because you don’t “get” it, or “agree” with it.
Again, I believe that most of us know that it’s okay to be who we are and that gender identity is very simple and very complex at the same time. We know this because we think about this alllll the time and we have been thinking about this for decades.
But cisgender people don’t think about gender as much as we do. I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that most cisgender people don’t associate their identity with their gender as much as a non-binary person does.
When I talk with people that (presumably) identity as cisgender, it kind of blows their mind how, again, simple and complex gender can be. It can be a surprise to some when I tell people that not every person who identities as transgender isn’t or hasn’t transitioned. That many crossdressers are straight. I like to think I dispel a lot of myths, fears, and stereotypes.
I like to think that I… ah, humanize who we are. I can talk about how I feel or what I think about in a way that someone else can relate it. Once humans can relate and empathize with other humans, acceptance, or at the very least, tolerance begins.
If I am chatting with a cisgender girl and she asks why men crossdress I might ask her why she wears leggings. She will likely tell me it’s because they’re comfortable. I tell her that I agree, that they are comfortable. She has legs, I also have legs. With any luck she might start to understand that people wear clothes, and that people CAN wear clothes for the same reason, even if we have different genitalia or different legal genders.
My wife started to understand who I was because she could also relate to wanting to look and feel beautiful.
The comfort of clothes, the feeling of wanting to look a certain way… these are things everyone can relate to. These are relatable things. This is where two people with different gender identities, different experiences can start to see similarities in each other. This is when allyship (or, again, tolerance) can start.
These conversations are typically surprisingly short. I don’t think it usually takes very long to find a commonality between people when it comes to how clothes make one feel, whether it’s clothes that you are comfy in or clothes that make you feel AMAZING.
Sure, a person might not be an ally right away, but I hope that this is when someone might start to see a gender non-conforming person in a different way. That maybe the fear-mongering isn’t quite accurate.
I am encouraged when a cisgender person starts to see transpeople as, well, people. Not as weirdos or perverts or as confused individuals. That we are just normal people… with wardrobes that that either very different than their own OR with one that is VERY similar to theirs.
I think many cisgender people have honest questions about all of this. I think these questions come from wanting to understand why we do what we do.
And why not? We’re fascinating, lol.
Although explaining the whys and hows of who we are take forrrrrrever it usually doesn’t take too long to make a relatable connection with someone who is cisgender.
It’s like, oh you like to wear pretty clothes? Me too! Bam! Relatable connection.
Of course this is an over simplification but I think you know where I am coming from.
I think these relatable connections are pretty effective when it comes to someone that isn’t trans starting to “get” us, or at least beginning to question the harmful stereotypes that they have been told about us.
So yes, transpeople (probably and hopefully) know it’s okay to be transgender. We tell each other this all the time. We know this. I don’t need to tell you again. But I will if you need me to.
But sometimes I want to take on the mainstream world.
Which sounds very arrogant. But let me explain.
What I mean is that over the years I have, through stumbles and luck, become a small voice in our community. I think I write relatable content and share perspectives that many of us can identify with.
I think the hate and fear that some people have towards the transgender community will start to erode once we make meaningful connections and others realize that we are not scary or harmful and that we have a lot in common… if we take the time to try to know others.
This doesn’t necessarily take sitting down with someone for an hour over a coffee. Sometimes all it takes is just a moment to see someone in a different light.
Perhaps that’s ambitious, perhaps that’s naïve. But I really think that’s how it will work. Of course, I don’t expect any change to happen quickly or easily. Accomplishing something, anything, isn’t a straight path without it’s setbacks and mistakes and frustrations.
Over the last year or so I’ve been considering submitting some of my rambling writings to different publications, be it Cosmopolitan or Buzzfeed or something along those lines. Something outside of LGBTQ+ circles. I think an article about crossdressing and marriage on a mainstream website or in a mainstream magazine would be helpful. I mean, I know it would be. Blog posts about relationships and crossdressing are the most read articles on my website.
It’s all about having material that is accessible. I mean, yes, someone can google “crossdressing” in an effort to understand someone like us but I don’t think a lot of of the initial search results are necessarily always helpful. If someone’s wife is afraid that her husband is, well, a pervert because he wears lingerie, search results that portray this side of us as a kinky fetish don’t do anything to quell her fears.
I know that Google didn’t do anything to help my wife when I came out to her.
Buuuuuut I am super hesitant to put this kind of, ah, spotlight on me. What I mean is that there are a lot of insane and unhinged people in this world and the reality that transpeople simply exist is enough for some people to completely lose their shit.
Whether it’s a group on insecure men who bring assault rifles to libraries to “protest” drag queen story time or deranged psychopaths smashing bottles of beer at grocery stores because a transgirl was in a commercial, there are way too many people who resort to destruction and intimidation when “one of us” does, well, anything.
It would be nice if these tactics weren’t, well, effective, but it’s not unusual for a company to change their marketing if a group of people express their displeasure when a business promotes tolerance, acceptance, and inclusivity, putting it mildly.
I am not sure if it’s, well, safe to branch out. It’s not unrealistic to suppose that someone stumbles across something I wrote that was posted on a non-trans website and decides that I deserve to be harmed. I try to keep my, ah, identity a secret but if someone really wanted to find out where I lived they probably could.
Since I started doing videos for En Femme, I am starting to see a spike in my webtraffic and I think there’s a connection. People are sharing the videos and the like and then visiting my website. I am noticing traffic from websites that link to mine that I am not familiar with. Some of them come from different forums or chatrooms, for example. I can visit the website that linked to mine in some cases buuuut if the original website was a chatroom that requires a password or a membership I am usually not able to see the context of the linking.
What I mean is that someone could be discovering my site from a chatroom talking about trans issues in a positive and supportive way… OR it could be a thread where people are, well, targeting people like us.
I don’t know. In the interest of personal safety it’s not unwise to assume that there are people out there who would love to dox me.
And yes, some people reading this might be rolling their eyes and thinking that I am not “famous” enough to be hated. I assure you that any transperson in real life or online can be a target.
I mean, how many of us are terrified of going out en femme? There are too, too many reports of transpeople being attacked in public.
Buuuut on the other hand, I am a stubborn bitch and I don’t want hate to win. If transaphobes want me to not do something, it makes me want to do it even more.
Hate against a group of people isn’t going to simply die out. Acceptance of people different from oneself begins with a connection, an understanding, a realization that we all are different and we all deserve basic rights, respect, and kindness. We deserve representation.
I’d like to wrap this up (finally, lol) with another thing Dylan said. Shortly after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 he said “What it means is that they are trying to tell you ‘Don’t even hope to change things’.” I think what he meant was there will always be people who will intimidate others who try to make the world a better place. There will always be people who want to stop inclusivity, diversity, and change. And goodness that’s true. It was true sixty years ago. It was true before 1963 and will likely always be true.
But it doesn’t HAVE to be.