“Trans” is much in the news these days, and trans people have as much self-hatred to deal with as homosexuals.
I recently had an illuminating experience at a fundraiser for Portland’s Q Center. It was held at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront and as I went to find the restroom, I was confronted with two signs that read “Gender Neutral Restroom.” I paused. “I’m not a transgender person,” I thought. “There might be women or lesbians or trans women in there. Surely they don’t want a gay man in the bathroom with them.”
I was reminded of an animated short film I’d seen years earlier depicting a trans person standing in a hallway looking from the door marked “Women” to the door marked “Men” and whimpering softly trying to decide which door to choose. My experience interpreting the “Gender Neutral Restroom” signs put me in a similar position.
While I don’t pretend to fully understand the many complex experiences that trans people face in daily life, this experience certainly opened my eyes. I ended up going into a bathroom that had urinals and as I used one of them, I thought, “Isn’t this a lesson. Everybody pees, everybody poops. As human beings, we all have this in common. Shouldn’t this unite us rather than divide us?” Later on I used the other “Gender Neutral Restroom” (the one without urinals) with a feeling of liberation and solidarity.
I have recently begun to see the term “TERF” on the web, so I had to do some browsing to find out what it meant. “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists.”
First I found Cristan Williams’ blog “TERF: what it means and where it came from” and Julian Serano’s “Transgender People and ‘Biological Sex’ Myths.”
Then I ran across this, “I Was a Trans TERF” by Kit Malone.
Kit Malone gives a chronological list of her changing feelings about being trans. This list reminds me a lot of the process I went through in accepting myself as a gay man, and this is the process that I try to show my character Jimmy Harper, the jazz piano player, working through in my historical LGBT novel trilogy Medicine for the Blues.
Kit Malone speaks of self-hatred and that is one issue we all need to focus on. I first started to become aware of my own self-hatred when I saw the 1984 movie A Soldier’s Story by Norman Jewison, from the play and screenplay by Charles Fuller. The mostly black cast acts out the story of “An African American officer [who] investigates a murder in a racially charged situation in World War II.”
As I saw it, at the core of the film’s story was an African American soldier who hates his own skin color. That helped opened my eyes to my own self-hatred at being gay.
Throughout Medicine for the Blues, I have tried to point out that, as Julian Serano writes, “While there are a number of sexually dimorphic traits — such as chromosomes, gonads, external genitals, other reproductive organs, ratio of sex hormones, and secondary sex characteristics — many times these traits do not all align (i.e., all male, or all female) within the same person, as is the case for intersex and many transgender people.”
She goes on to say, “Sex and gender are complicated phenomena, and language is imperfect.”
I say, “Hear, hear.”
Kit Malone has confronted and turned around her self-hatred. I have come to terms with my self-hatred. You’ll have to read my novels to see if Jimmy Harper did, too.
A couple of books related to this subject, for those who wish to dive deeper into these issues:
Evolution’s Rainbow, Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People, by Joan Roughgarden, a trans woman, U CA Press, 2004.
Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, by Alice Domurat Dreger, Harvard U Press, 1998.
Read more about LBTQ history in my novel Acquaintance. Buy the book HERE.
“TERF: what it means and where it came from” by Cristan Williams.
“Transgender People and ‘Biological Sex’ Myths” by Julian Serano (author of Whipping Girl (now in 2nd edition!), Outspoken (her latest book!), & Excluded)
“I Was a Trans TERF” by Kit Malone
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088146/?ref_=nv_sr_1 A Soldier’s Story (movie, 1984) by Norman Jewison
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender#/media/File:Transgender_Pride_flag.svg –from Wikipedia re Trans flag:
The Transgender Pride flag was designed by Monica Helms, and was first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA in 2000. The flag represents the transgender community and consists of five horizontal stripes, two light blue, two pink, with a white stripe in the center. Monica describes the meaning of the flag as follows: “The light blue is the traditional color for baby boys, pink is for girls, and the white in the middle is for those who are transitioning, those who feel they have a neutral gender or no gender, and those who are intersexed. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it will always be correct. This symbolizes us trying to find correctness in our own lives”.
Thank you, Jeff! Even though I did not go to the links (yet), you have caused me to think about my own self-hatred – as a girl, a woman, a “female.”
First thought is that it comes with the cultural territory…
Pam, I’m glad this piece caused you to think. In my novels I hope to encourage readers to shift their frame of reference and see things from a new perspective. Like Einstein did. –Jeff
Jeff, thanks for the ref to my blog and for telling your story here.
Minor correction of vocab, we don’t refer to transgender people as “transgenders” or “transgendered.”
Thank you for your comment, Kit.
I appreciate the vocabulary correction.
If as you say, ‘we don’t refer to transgender people as “transgenders” or “ transgendered,”’ then what terminology would you use/suggest/perfer? I wish to use correct and respectful nomenclature.
Thanks for the response! These work:
“woman who is trans”
Are all examples of current, standard usage. GLAAD has a great media guide with more detail: https://www.glaad.org/reference/covering-trans-community