Several friends have mentioned that I am the only trans person they know, and that they kind of need me to serve as a teacher so they can learn how to behave around trans people. That got my wheels turning.
Now, keep in mind, there are as many ways to be trans as there are trans people. My suggestions and advice may not be universal. Many things I will say here, are just my own personal bugaboos. I have covered some of these things before but I figure it is good to make a list. Also, my opinions on these things are subject to change over time and with more experience.
Here we go though, a list of things you may wish to consider when dealing with a trans person. Many of these points are specific to me and other male to female trans folk. Female to male transitioners have many of their own issues to deal with.
1. Trans people are just people.
This is kinda’ obvious, I know, but it is also rather profound. We are just people. Boring, normal people. Being trans means others tend to treat me differently than if they just saw me as a man or a woman. “Special” treatment, be it good or bad, just gets old quickly. Do your best to let the novelty of me or any other trans person wear off as quickly as possible. You and I will be much more comfortable once the whole trans thing stops governing your words and actions. If I make you self conscious by simply being trans, then you make me self conscious.
2. Do not ask about our genitals.
I don’t ask about your junk. I know the whole concept of having surgery to make an outie an innie is fascinating to damn near everybody, but it is a really personal question, asking about what is happening inside my pants. Besides, it sexualizes me in a weird way. Being trans is weird enough. Now my junk is an open topic of discussion? Ew. You really think I want to talk about my junk? The surgery?
That surgery is no joke. It is a scary proposition. If anybody considers getting it, that should explain how serious being trans is. Being born male has caused me so much depression, I was suicidal. Do not think trans people consider paying $20,000 to have a doctor make origami out of their family jewels just for shits and giggles.
3. Being trans is not a sexual fetish.
It may seem obvious, or it may come as a shock to be told that being trans is not a sexual fetish. Being included in the LGBT acronym may lead some people to think being trans has to do with sexual orientation. It does not. It has to do with gender identity. Trans folk can be straight, homosexual or bi. The only twist is, the orientation swaps when one transitions. I was a straight male, that means I am a lesbian female. Kinda’ bizarre? Sure. Imagine how my wife must feel. Actually, I am bi, but I really prefer women. But, again, I do not transition for any sexy reasons. There are much simpler ways to get one’s rocks off.
4. Please, do not set your trans friends up, just because they are trans.
This one is kind of nuanced, because every trans person is different. Some, like me, are happy to be out. Others are either ashamed of being trans, or have worked very hard to blend in to society.
So, of course, this rule is not universal. Having a support network of other trans people can be VERY helpful.
But really, being set up with a friend’s trans friend, is more often than not, all kinds of awkward for everyone involved.
“Hey, our mutual friend wanted me to introduce myself, because I am trans and my friend tells me you are trans too.”
We do not have a secret handshake. Also, most trans people have serious trust issues. Is this stranger trying to hit on me? Does our mutual friend want us to, “Hit it off”? Do they not want to discuss their own transition because they have put that awkward part of their life behind them? Am I sounding rude to my friend’s trans friend?
Perhaps, consider this approach. “I have another trans friend, and they are happy to offer support to other transitioners, if you would like me to check with them and see if they want to talk to you, I will be happy to do that.”
That is far better than, “Hey, my friend is also trans. You have to contact them! They are really cool!” That is like being sent on a blind date. And I am not single. Now, I am obligated to contact a stranger, and all I know about them is the very private fact that they are trans. This makes it unlikely for either of us to have a good, ice breaking conversation.
5. Old words and terms are going out of style.
Do not call a trans person a tranny, or a he/she or a shemale if you can help it. If in doubt, ask how a person would like you to refer to them.
For example, I would like you to call me Victoria or Tori, and for you to use female pronouns like she and her. That is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you have known me as a guy named Tommy for any length of time. If you make an effort, I will be very forgiving if you slip up. I still slip up. True.
My wife is slow to adjust to this one, but really, so am I. There is something extra strange about my wife calling me a girl. My father just can’t even bring himself to make the effort, my mother is going full steam ahead, using my female name and female pronouns. All three of these approaches are awkward for us, but in the long run, it will behoove us all if you get used to the idea that I am a woman named Tori… no matter what you actually think about that.
Tone of voice matters, people can call me, “He” or “She” and clearly mean it in the most innocent, or the most incriminating of ways.
6. Trans, transvestite, and drag queen are different things.
I do not transition in order to wear women’s clothing. If that was all there was to it, I would have just worn women’s clothing all these years. Some people cross dress for entertainment purposes, some for fetishistic reasons. I feel like a woman, and I wish to express myself as a woman. My brain actually NEEDS female hormones to stay healthy and happy. There are practical reasons for wearing female clothing, one such reason is I am developing boobs. Another? Dressing as a male actually feels like cross dressing to me, believe it or not. It feels more so, now that I am actively transitioning. We all dress for comfort, even if we choose to wear torture devices. We wear clothes to hide our flaws, to keep warm, to fit in at a fancy restaurant. Sadly, I often feel like a linebacker in a dress, but it does not feel like a lie, not to me, and that comforts me.
7. Transition is a matter of life or death.
I have seen two studies of suicide rates amongst trans people. One said 37% of trans folk attempt suicide. Another said 41%. The really freaky thing about that stat? They can’t poll the ones who succeeded. These stats may actually be lower than reality.
Feeling all kinds of wrong from birth to transition is depressing. Being trans is now commonly called, “Gender dysphoria” and dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria.
Then, a trans person, if they survive long enough may finally transition. Trans folk are frequently impoverished. They are twice as likely to be unemployed, and the likelihood of being raped or attacked is staggeringly high.
Transition can make a person look weird to others. Feeling like a freak is not particularly good for the spirit.
Families, friends, spouses, children frequently abandon a transitioner. Some have good reasons, “I married a man. I am not attracted to women.” and others are just stuck in the past, or motivated by religion or other morality like politics. It is common, for people to fear what others will think of them living with or otherwise associating with a trans person.
Being trans is an unfair and uphill battle, and survival itself is remarkably difficult. People say suicide is selfish. Really? How selfish is it to end your life when society seems to shun you at every turn? We can convince ourselves we are doing everybody a favor by ending our own life.
8. Trans people need to use the bathroom.
True story. Which room should we choose? Oy! I tell you, using the bathroom is extra uncomfortable. I just want to relieve myself in peace, as quickly as possible, and I will likely use the women’s room. Sorry about that. The privacy of stalls, along with the reduced risk of violence kinda’ makes this a no brainer. Trust me though, I understand how icky the whole concept of me going into the women’s room can be for some. I promise I won’t look in your stall. Do me the same favor. Thank you.
This leads me to…
9. We are not horny men.
I am kinda’ embarrassed to have to discuss the nuances of this point because they are quite private, but they do need to be said, so I will swallow my pride. If you do not want TMI, by all means, you can skip this.
End of disclaimer.
Remember when I said, “Do not ask us about our junk”? Well, I am going to freely offer this information. I still have mine. Will I keep it? I do not know. Vaginas are expensive, but like I often say, I only need one.
The biggest erogenous zone of the body is the brain. That said, testosterone is key to sex drive in men and women. I am on a medication known as Spironolactone which prevents my body from using testosterone. Over time, my testosterone levels will drop to practically nothing. That hardly matters though, because this medication prevents my body from using testosterone in the first place so I may as well have none.
Over time, this will cause permanent sterility even if I stop taking the medication. Having children was a major life’s goal, and transition has put an end to that dream. The prospect of children was perhaps the key motivational force in my decision to stay male for as long as I did.
Then, depression and dysphoria got the best of me. I attempted to take my own life. Dead men can not procreate. I also realized I would rather be an odd looking woman than a dead man.
But I kinda’ digress…
It is odd, I am perhaps more sexual now than I was before transition, but my sex drive is practically gone. That may be hard to understand, because it hardly makes sense to me, and I wrote it. I am in control of my sexual urges now, they do not control me. Testosterone is a driving force, estrogen is far more subtle. Testosterone causes urges to be fed primarily by the eyes. My eyes still work, but estrogen can cause emotional connections to be as sexy as physical ones.
I am very attracted to women, and yet, I can be surrounded by women all day and not once feel awkward, or catch myself looking at boobs, legs or a great butt. I have gained control over my wandering eyes.
Back to my previous point about bathrooms. I have heard many people share concerns that a trans person like me, in a woman’s restroom, will take that access as an opportunity to do lewd or otherwise perverted things. These fears border on being irrational, but they are based in the simple misunderstanding that a trans woman like me is still a man, with male urges and male functionality (testosterone is also the key to erections, so… erm, nope, not so much any more, in case you were wondering). We can debate whether I am truly a woman or not, but I am SO far removed from being male at this point, that these fears just strike me as silly. My medication has all but killed my libido.
Hollywood has done trans people a disservice for a long time. Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs” anyone? Probably the most famous trans character ever, was a serial killer. People have learned that trans folk are perverted sex freaks from movies and television, or that trans folk are just trying to trap a man into performing a gay act unknowingly. That stigma truly resonates, and impacts people’s views of folks like me.
10. I do not have a man’s muscles.
Testosterone is literally a steroid. In fact, females transitioning to male, have to jump through more medical hoops to get their hormones than men transitioning into women, because steroids can have harmful side effects and can be abused.
My body is rapidly losing muscle, and muscle mass. It is common for trans folk to shrink an inch or two, and even to go down a shoe size just because the muscles in the feet and spine shrink. Cool, huh?
One reason, I suspect, that there is so much violence against trans folk is the attacker usually thinks they are attacking a man, and therefore, they feel it is a fair fight. This is simply untrue.
I will lose 30-50% of my strength, if I do not compensate with a physical regimen. I, mostly embrace this, because even though I have never been particularly muscular, my muscles are part of me that certainly reads to others as male. I love my softening arms, legs and obviously, boobs (boobs are really cool, but often hurty). Feeling soft, inside and out, is as amazing as I ever hoped.
I do miss my musculature, too, though. Carrying groceries, opening jars, yard work, are all much more difficult. We women must work smarter, not harder, sometimes.
Guys, please, stop giving me the bro hug! I feel like a rag doll, and you are going to smash my chest, which may frighten you as much as it hurts me, because I WILL yelp in pain!
Also, an extra firm handshake kinda’ squishes my hand now. Please, be gentle.
Again, we can debate whether I am female or not, but I am quite clearly, far removed from the man I once was. Transition is no joke. But…
11. Transition is funny.
It is, and I know it. My humor is a fantastic tool and it breaks the ice quickly when people are uncomfortable around me. Laugh, and the world laughs with you.
Have fun around me. Lighten up. Tell jokes. Forgive yourself if you accidentally say, “He”.
The seeming absurdity of my need to transition does not have to be an elephant in the room. I can tell the difference between good humor and malice.
That is enough for now. I will likely make another post like this when I have compiled other things that come to mind.
I don’t want you all to worry too much about these eleven bullet points. Really the most important is the first. I am just a person. Imperfect. Boring. Human. As long as you can understand that, we will have nothing to worry about.