Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Our Ugly Truth

Trans Community? What Community?

It's tough enough to out oneself, but to out your "community" is a bit more challenging. Yet, that is what this commentary is about. You probably learned to "put your best foot forward", to "put on a Happy Face", to hide your "dirty linen". But that hides the truth...and for the transgender community an Ugly Truth.

I'm often amused by that phrase anyway "community". When I transitioned, it's not like I got a card welcoming me to this "community" and explaining its rules. And all "communities" have rules. No one gave me the "agenda" that is so often derisively mentioned by naysayers. There is no monolith called Transgenders.

There are actually two Ugly Truths. The first is a self imposed hierarchy of acceptance within the trans community (I'll be polite and drop the quotation marks for awhile). This hierarchy is based upon where one falls on the gender identity spectrum. At the top of the charts is the Post-Op transgender. This is the highest of all trans life forms. Post-Ops are admired for their determination, their courage and their status. There is actually a subset to the Post-Ops caste which is based on who did your surgery...or where, since many travel to Thailand or other places outside North America.

The next rung on the Trans Hierarchy comes the Non-Op. These are people who have not had, and do not plan to have, genital surgery though they live fulltime in their needed gender role. And again there are two subsets. Those who cannot have the surgery due to economic or health reasons. It is easy to sympathize with a "Post-Op" who can't. The undergroup here are those who do not have the surgery by choice. They are happy with who they are regardless of genital appearances. Still, those on the higher rung look at this as a cop-out. After all, why would someone go this far and not "complete" the process? Answer: because it's not our journey, it is theirs.

This brings us to the Crossdresser. When I first started to locate chat rooms in which to find friends - and, yes, flirt a bit - I was frustrated when someone would mention that they were "just a crossdresser". Just? You ARE a crossdresser, nothing wrong with that. Yet, the higher ups view crossdressers as "wannabes" or pretenders or really trans but don't want to admit it. And since crossdressers have no need or impetus for body congruity, its suggested they are only "playing", whereas the Post-Op is Real. Hogwash. Crossdressers have found their peace on the Gender Journey by expressing themselves in this manner. The whole notion of Gender Identity issues is finding one's inner peace - not a peace prescribed or defined by others.

Of course, you can't have a hierarchy without the lowest of the low - the Transvestite, the one who wears frilly stuff for sex. See...even in the Trans Community, we can get all wiggy about someone else's sexual pursuits just like anyone else.

This High/Low status comes in a group that is, perhaps, one of the most marginalized groups in the world. Sad isn't it, that we then marginalize others within our group? And this hierarchy of Transgender has often caused rifts in various support groups, occasionally leading to their demise.

And there's a more recent schism within the "community" (thought I'd put the quotation marks back in for emphasis) - the issue of being Out or being Stealth. Stealth is the term applied to transgenders who try to live in their needed gender without telling anyone. "Passing" in the needed gender is critical to living stealth. Many transpeople struggle with passing. There are those who are Out - or who cannot live Stealth - who feel those living their lives quietly, below the radar, only serve to help foster the myths about transgenders. Afterall, if we are not "seen", how can we combat those misconceptions?

Thus, those who are Out deride those who are Stealth. Those who are Stealth chastise those who are Out - and who advocate for legal and social changes to benefit transgenders - fearing a backlash against all. I was personally amazed when I identified a situation in my home state that I felt should be changed. The change would help especially those in the Real Life Experience (that very vulnerable period in which we must live fulltime in our needed gender without the benefit of surgeries. I had engaged an ally in government who might be able to help facilitate the change. When I mentioned this to the local community, there was more than one who felt doing so might cause undue attention, and thus unwanted removal of the few "rights" we have.

Living stealth is increasingly difficult. Most current day background checks will yield former names used by an individual. Kinda hard to explain how "Ron" came up on "Donna's" background check. And the pending implementation of the Real ID act may actually out some who have been stealth for many years. It may also make life difficult for those who are Out, but still need to align all their personal documentation.

I don't know why we have this need to segregate, to marginalize those within our "community"...we have plenty of those who are from outside the group to do that for us.

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