We get hammered about who we are our entire lives, from the bullies who made our lives a hell in primary through high school period of life to the right wing religious fanatics who want to deny us equality in the eyes of the law. Some of us were thrown out by our families as pervert children and left to make our lives on the streets under the care and tutelage of older and wiser wolves. Others lost the families they tried to build much later in life, the results of divorce and denial of parental rights. All because of having been born transsexual.
Religions consider us to be an abomination. The police all too often consider us to be criminal even where laws are meant to protect us rather than laws criminalizing us. Real actual violent crimes committed against us go uninvestigated or (in the absence of specific hate crimes law) in the case of the arrest of the offender are under prosecuted with acceptance of the all too common trans-panic defense.
Since 1980 transsexual and transgender people have had psychiatry stigmatize them with every thing from GID to AP/AGP.
Is it any wonder that we have low self esteem and feel shitty about ourselves?
Is it any wonder that people try to repress and deny being transsexual, going so far as to marry and become parents hoping that will cure them, only coming out when life becomes so unbearable that suicide looks like the only alternative? Often those who come out young do so not because of some superior level of consciousness or real difference, but rather because their physical appearance is such that it makes living without constant abuse virtually impossible.
Beaten down from birth, told we are inferior because we are too feminine or too masculine, as the case may be, it is hard to not internalize that sense of inferiority.
People talk about internalized transphobia but few really describe it, more often it is used as a label that fails to help us understand the dynamics.
I think part of it comes from a place of: “When I was a child, I was the only one.” Being the only one with little information one of the first conclusions many of us form is that we are somewhere in-between. Of course since we are the only one, when we grow up and hear that there are others, lots of others, that felt the same thing, many of us go into a form of denial.
That is the, “Oh no! You too could not have possibly felt the same thing or at least not to the same intensity that I did” reaction. That reaction is pretty freaking immature given how many of us have actually had an operation as treatment for transsexualism.
But we live in this Ayn Rand, John Galt admiring society that totally individualizes transsexualism to the point that many of us have a hard time with the realization that we as a large number of individuals actually constitute a class. A different class from people with transgenderism because our need for sex change surgery, but a class nonetheless. One defined by the simple (or not so simple) act of having had SRS.
To paraphrase the queen in Paris is Burning, you can’t really point a finger at another WBT and say, “You, you sex change, you!” Well you can but you look pretty stupid in the process.
So we look for ways of dealing with that internalized self hatred that has been fed by every mean statement, every vicious slur, every beating we have ever experienced for being the queer little freak. Fear of being the queer little freak. Because the translation of phobia from its Greek root isn’t hatred but rather fear.
One way is to disassociate ourselves from others who have gone through the same process as we have, to denigrate the very idea of close friendships with other WBTs as “remaining in ghetto”. Then there is a denigration of those who work for political goals such as equal rights for both transgender and transsexual people, or for something as positive as removing the mental illness stigma of GID from the DSM. Since these WBTs are willing to work with transgendered people on mutually beneficial goals they can’t possibly be real transsexuals and must be “transgender identified”.
Too often “The Last Real Woman Syndrome” seems to be class related as well as heterosexist. The only real women are transsexuals who are heterosexual after their sex reassignment operations. But even that is tricky because lumpen prole sisters who are sex workers and get their operations with the money earned by tricking are regularly denied legitimacy. Indeed a big part of the motivation to use Harry Benjamin Syndrome instead of transsexualism is based on disassociating those in the upper class from the lumpen “trannie hookers” who use “transsexual” as a descriptor in their sex ads.
But even eliminating the lower classes, the sex workers, still leaves all those other trannies that are of the same basic socio-economic class. How can one who has gone from being the only one in the world to being a member of a class made up of millions of people world wide maintain that cherished Ayn Randian sense of rugged individualism?
One way is through denial. All those claims of obscure and often contradictory forms of intersex are a way of disassociating oneself from the class of people who all had one variation or another on the same sex change operation you had. “I’m not like you. I’m not some trannie freak, I’m intersex.” As though someone who is intersex and decides to change the sex they were assigned at birth is not transsexual.
I realize that some of the doctors set up this artificial distinction. Yet, too many who have embraced it are garden variety WBTs who want to be special and not trannie freaks like the rest of those people in the class comprised of women who were born with transsexualism.
“Classic Transsexualism” is an even more elite club. One has to consider themselves stealth even when they are all over blogs and mailing lists hiding behind aliases. Too often the people embracing this label seem to think that one must be heterosexual after SRS and gays and lesbians are sort of icky as well as undeserving of the same rights as heterosexuals.
There is that embrace of exceptionalism, a sense of privilege that says, “Because I am accepted in an environment rift with hatred of transsexual people as well as transgender, lesbian and gay folks then I am not like those icky people. If I have to join the gang of bigots in denying equality to LGBT/T folks in order to maintain my exceptionalism and privilege then becoming one with the bigots is a small price to pay.”
The problem with exceptionalism based on stealth is that no matter how much one believes oneself to be different from all those icky people one is still vulnerable to the transbashing that is all too commonly accepted as legitimate. After all transsexual and transgender people are mentally ill.
Another major problem for those loudly proclaiming their “Classic Transsexualism” and stealth existence is that they do it loudly and proudly on line. One might be able to maintain stealth if one were totally off the grid as being transsexual or transgender. Posting and proclaiming makes your location available to anyone with the knowledge of how ISP addresses work.
At best anyone who goes on line and discusses their having been transsexual or for that matter “HBS” is basically out. Perhaps one depends on the disinterest of the straight people as a method of information control, a risky concept at best in an age of not only high end information collection but a proliferation of non-governmental data collection and investigative services, not to mention Google.
In the end all the name calling and claiming of special status turns into reading each other in a scene straight from Paris is Burning.
It is pretty much a waste of time and energy that does little to improve the status of anyone including the person claiming the special position. The common denominator is that if you have an operation to change your sex that you sought out then you are transsexual. The richest and whitest heterosexual after surgery shares that common denominator of having been transsexual with the sex working lesbian woman of color who had the same operation.
One is no less “real” than the other. Realness is a matter of personal authenticity not some imagined and loudly proclaimed status.