On Caring For Our Transsexual Friends

Here’s an article with helpful reminders about the dangers of outing transsexual men and women without their consent and the misleading linguistic pitfalls by which people commonly, either wittingly or unwittingly, perpetuate misconceptions about them. For those unfamiliar with the discourse related to trans issues, by “cis” she is referring to non-trans people:

So here’s the deal: if you out us, you can do more damage than you can possibly imagine.

You can expose trans people to violence. You could get them fired. You could make it impossible for them to find work–word of mouth travels quickly in small towns or closeknit industries. They could be harassed so much they need to quit their job, or to need to move, or all kinds of things. You don’t know, because you’ve never had to live with the consequences. Just because you know and trust someone, doesn’t mean that I can. It doesn’t mean that they won’t be hateful to me, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they will be respectful of my confidentiality.

For most people, “trans” erases the bit that comes after. This is why you never ever see a headline that says “transsexual woman” [blah blah blah]. No, it just says “transsexual” and is used as a noun rather than the adjective it is. It conjures the ever present “really a man” transphobic trope (quick mental test: see if you can describe a trans person without using it). For women like me, living our lives as a woman is constituted as untruthful. When most cis people become aware that I’m trans, they start treating me different. I can see the change immediately – when pronoun “slips” start “accidentally” happening, when I stop being counted with the right group. Because it’s ingrained, isn’t it? In a cissexist culture, only cissexuality (or a trans person’s ability to appear cissexual) is truly real, and any hint of anything else invalidates the whole.

Further on, she describes how her 17-18 year old students descended into disrespect and transphobia upon accidentally becoming aware of her trans status. That portion’s worth reading.

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