Some of you may remember I came out transgender a while ago, and while I’ve shied away from the label elsewhere (instead just calling myself a woman because that’s the role I fit best), I thought I’d talk about some very hurtful and untrue myths I have encountered.
1. Transgender women are selfish people who are never satisfied- It’s easy to write someone off as a grumbling malcontent, isn’t it? Makes it a lot easier to understand extreme behavior. And yes, even I will admit that SRS is an extreme measure for what is essentially a condition of the mind. But unless you’ve experienced what it’s actually like, you can’t fathom the kind of inner torment that goes into a decision like that. I certainly didn’t want to be transgender, in fact I spent two years of my life trying to weasel out of it.
2. Transgender women are gay men with internalized homophobia- I have heard this accusation leveled from both people with Freudian outlooks on psychology, and from radical feminists. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, internalized homophobia is a disqualifying factor from any doctor who follows the standards of care. In my case, I had plenty of friends, the acceptance of my family, and a lot of respect as a gay man. I didn’t want to give it up.
3. Gender dysphoria is just a sign of underlying mental illness; it’s not a real condition- Now, first I must say that I did have some psych issues- mostly anxiety, depression, and anger- for most of my life. But only when I started an androgen blocker did I really see how much of my problems came from my female-structured brain reacting badly to testosterone. I spent 21 years of my life- from Kindergarten to this past January- constantly on the verge of rage or tears. I could rarely think, I was anxious, my mind raced, and I became defensive and paranoid. At this point, 23 days after starting spironolactone, my body is starting to resemble that of a eunuch, but my mind and soul have been at peace. This is a common story! I’d heard it from other girls but only when I experienced it myself did I really believe it. If a change in brain chemistry that alleviates psych symptoms results from simply removing androgens, that’s proof that this is a biological incompatibility with one’s natal sex, isn’t it? It should be considered a physical condition.
4. Transwomen are promiscuous sex addicts who like to fool straight men- The origin of this myth is the sad fact that for many transwomen, prostitution has been the full extent of the careers they could actually hope to keep. It’s certainly not as bad now as it was a decade ago, but it’s still pretty bad and a lot of transwomen are sucked into the sex trade and forced to compete with natal women. It’s a harsh truth that seems to get glossed over in the media, or turned into the punch line of crude frat boy jokes. The fact is, most transwomen who have the freedom from having to work the sex trade don’t want to sleep around, for their safety and for the fact that HRT really does lower the libido. Straight guys, you really have no reason to worry… Unless you’re soliciting prostitutes. But really, you shouldn’t be doing that anyway, should you?
5. Transwomen are easy to spot because they always dress like old women and wear too much makeup- I think the origin of this myth isn’t so much that a lot of transwomen dress like old ladies; I think it’s the fact that a good many are old ladies. Many transwomen delay their transition for many years due to social pressures, and a good swath of the community waits until they’ve retired or become widowed or the kids are all grown up before they start their transition. Sadly, for those who wait that long, the results of hormone therapy and surgery are minimally effective, and they often have the hardest time passing. But the social pressure to put off major lifestyle changes until retirement or near-retirement is tremendous, and a trap many women fall into. An increasing number of us are transitioning before 30 because transitioning early gives you the best chance of becoming fully integrated as your identified gender; those who start early enough could be standing right next to you and you would never know.
6. Doctors and counselors don’t screen very well and are giving hormones and surgery to those who shouldn’t have them- Truth is, most doctors and counselors are so strict about how they follow the guidelines that very few of us can even get approved for these things if we go through the proper procedures. There will always be those who know how to lie their way through to surgery and then end up regretting it, but they don’t represent the whole group by a long shot. Most of those who transition and then end up regretting it are those who self-medicate and who go around the complicated approval processes and the cost by going to a cheap doctor overseas (note that not all overseas doctors are bad; Dr. Suporn in Thailand gets good reviews). But the rest of us? It’s waiting, and answering questions, and dealing with doctors who aren’t sure if you’re dysphoric or psychotic. It’s hell, and that’s why so many women go around it, but I decided to do it the right way.
Maybe if I can think of some others I’ll bring them up. Just wanted to get this off my chest because I feel like a lot of the obstacles to transitioning are just the stupid myths surrounding the process.