S. Bear Bergman, “The Field Guide to Transmasculine Creatures”
The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
I once was “dfab”
I exist in and impact the world in certain ways (some of them potentially negative, to be sure) because of this slight
and we can talk about that
I am not now nor have I ever been “a dfab”
If you reference me as “a dfab” and center entire conversations around this then I have nothing to say to you
In which I shrug at “trans” & certain definitions of “community” & ways of discussing gender…..
(…..and in which I talk at length about myself in order to discuss how I do not like to talk about myself)
I’m rewriting/re-posting this from my old blog. I wanted to break it up & publish it in separate, easier-to-read chunks, but they kind of all go together in the end, so here you go.
On “Shitty analysis is shitty” and toxic internet cultures
Long time readers will notice that I tend to get exasperated and sigh about how “shitty analysis is shitty.”
Now, I’m not super smart, I didn’t go to school, and I get stuff wrong. What I mean by “shitty analysis” isn’t “I hate stuff I don’t agree with” or “everything I say is good and perfect and right and I never change my mind and everyone else is shitty.” No, what I mean is that good messages propped up by harmful nonsense ultimately aren’t helpful to anyone. They’re going to do more damage to your views, your argument, and anyone you’re trying to reach. (Although if your ACTUAL goal is to “win” a conversation no matter what, and everyone else is just an opponent, I suppose it doesn’t matter.)
Examples: if someone has a good point to make about gender but they use horrible, simplistic, vaguely racist/transphobic rhetoric to make the point, it’s shitty analysis. If some white person calls something out for being racist but then their explanation of why it’s racist….contains more racism, that’s shitty analysis. (Totally been guilty of that one, btw.) If your righteous ire against transmisogyny contains gross generalization about gender and leaves intersectionality out of it completely, it’s shitty analysis.
And if someone says to you, “Hey, the way you’re trying to get across really important information is actually upholding cissexism/binarism/racism/(whatever),” maybe, just maybe, they aren’t actually trying to stop you from getting your important information across.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen people shouted down & shit on as though they were disagreeing with the whole, when what they actually said was “hey…I agree with what you’re saying, but this part right here is a messed up/false/harmful way to uphold your point.”
The refusal to acknowledge nuanced fuck-ups in one owns argument and the insistence on ignoring actual lives & communications for the sake of “winning” tumblr conversations leaves me suspecting that you don’t actually give a shit about the reality of your own message as much as stoking your own tumblr “community” ego.
In fact, I think my own blog would be a lot more popular if I made more grand bombastic statements backed up with biting remarks that might fit on a bumper sticker. I mean, yes, sometimes things really are that simple. Sometimes you just need to tell someone to fuck off because you don’t owe them an explanation. “Trans men are men”, for instance. That doesn’t require a whole lot of elaboration unless you’re an asshole. “Reverse racism LOL.” Need I say more? “Die cis scum.” That one has got a whole lot behind it, but by it’s very nature, doesn’t owe you a explanation.
Other things, however, are not so simple, even if it feels satisfying and righteous to think of them that way. So if you’re going to distill them into a sentence or two, you better damn well be on point. And actually on point, not just “winning a conversation against an anon when I’m the smartest one in the room” on point. Otherwise, what’s the fucking point?
On Birth Assignment Systems of Reference
There are serious arguments to be made against the constant, almost casual/automatic focus on birth assignment- of all things!- in some trans discourse. It’s such boring shit (and as it’s been pointed out by a few trans POC’s, some boring white shit. More about that in a second). The people I see constantly doing it are the same people I see fostering weird latent transphobia (because yes, trans people do that too.)
Now clearly, if a critique of focus on birth designation sounds like this: “don’t focus so much on those details, we’re all just trans, ok?” it’s standard privilege denial, probably from a white trans man who is trying to weasel out of acknowledging the violence faced by trans women, trans POC’s, and especially trans WOC. In other words, probably an ignorant racist transmisogynist who wants to silence people and needs to jump in a lake of fire. I want to make sure that is clear.
Bringing up people who were assigned female at birth in regards to their dominance of trans spaces: yes.
Pointing out that this privilege exists, where on the other hand dmab trans people tend to face violence/marginalization/transmisogyny on a whole other scale, every day, ranging from deadly force to microaggressions: Yes.
Other than that I’m not sure because A. I’m white and B. I can’t possibly imagine every single conversation in which birth designation is necessary or not. It’s a case by case thing. I wish that other people thought of it that way too. You know, critically.
- Buuuuut they clearly do not
The thing is, even though I’m friends with/relate to/want to hang with all kinds of people, I don’t deeply automatically identify with people who were assigned female at birth. Stop lumping me in with people who were assigned female at birth when it isn’t necessary, or assuming we automatically share any experiences at all.
I identify in part with non-binary people and with men. Not “dfabs” or “dfab trans people” or “transmasculine people” or “trans men” but M-E-N. That’s kind of what me being trans is. I identify with sissy, femmey, faggy men, cis or trans. If you showed me a photo that happened to include women (cis and trans, I’m not making a distinction here because A. they’re both women and B. I don’t identify as a woman) and a “transmasculine” man and an effeminate cis man in eyeshadow, I’d be like:
-I wonder what they all have to say
-Depending on the topic at hand, I’d probably learn the most from the women
-Overall I’d rather stay at home and eat candy & not talk to anybody
-but as far as who I have the most in common with? Who I “identify” with and ought to be lumped in with if you insist on reducing identities?
-the man in makeup
-the femme man
-the one who is “dmab”
So let’s review:
This isn’t simple. I’m not saying “nobody bring up birth assignment ever ever!” (I know tumblr/the internet/humans like simple rules that can be “called out” when someone breaks them, but sorry, life isn’t always like that.) One can side-eye the hell out of unnecessary CASAB focus without necessarily being a privilege denying dickhead. And if your response to a non-binary person is to try to figure out their birth assignment, guess who you’re acting like.
(If you don’t get this, read more here from the person who got me thinking about all this, Toni D’Orsay: On the “at birth” and “born” systems of reference. This thread, “Non-binary complaints with CASAB stuff” is a good place to get started too.
On Even Identifying as “Trans” At All
Which brings us to the part I would have felt totally irritated/confused by a matter of months ago. I would have read it and been like “OH COME ON NOW SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE” but yeah…..
I feeling pretty alienated from Things, like, from Trans Things, and most specifically, Tumblr Trans Things. I hear about “the trans community” and “dsab” and so on and it bears little resemblance to the daily lives of myself & the people of various races/backgrounds/genders that I care about.
- Cisgender and transgender are useful terms
- I’m not interested in being “stealth” or whatever
- I’m on hormones and I bind and I like to be read as male
- but being “visibly trans” is okay with me too
- especially since I am of a group that risks the least amount of violence in such a situation
- social identity and personal identity aren’t the same
- socially I use certain terms and I have certain desires that aren’t 100% of who I am
- Who am I?
- I am 100% not a woman
- I am 100% not cisgender
- but those are just things I am not
- What am I?
- Obviously I’m not going to deny that I’m transgender or stop using terminology that’s useful to me. I have to navigate the medical system as best I can, and when I see someone on the bus or street who I think is trans I feel a lot of affection and all that. I have to have certain conversations, I have certain politics, it’s shorthand, it makes sense. I don’t want to distance myself from anyone in history who has done so much for transgender/genderqueer/trans*/gender-variant etc. people. They’re my heroes. This is not me saying “I’m stepping out of this” or “that’s not me” or anything like that.
- BUT that’s all more social stuff
- I feel like I fought for 30 years to get out of a box
- and now I’m being put in more boxes.
- That is not an attempt to side-step male privilege. I’m mostly binary identified-ish, I guess, or whatever, and I’m not one of those assholes who benefits from that but then suddenly my non-binary ID jumps out when it’s convenient (ie conversation “winning” time.) I will own my own male privilege while despising the society that heaps it on me and wanting to burn it all to the ground. So it aint about that (and I do feel compelled to keep pointing out white/male privilege by the way, in general and my own, because It’s A Thing and I don’t want anyone to twist this information around to deny their own privilege or thinking I support that because NOPE)
- Before all this, I was a woman by default because I didn’t know any better.
- I was delighted to find out that I didn’t have to pick one or the other (M/F) in an early-DSM, bottom surgery wanting, masculine identifying etc kind of way.
- But then I was presented with a bunch of other stuff I supposedly had to pick.
- so I was trans….by default. Because I sure as hell aren’t cis.
- and idk, non-binary? I guess….by default? Do I really want to say I *identify* as something that makes me react with a shrug? I like male pronouns, being recognized as male. I just said up there that I identify most with men. I am male….ish.
- This is not really a problem, it’s only a problem when people don’t understand that while I have to use certain language to communicate/signify, I’m not particularly invested in Identifying As Trans.
- and that “genderfluid male” actually makes sense to me. And I don’t care if it’s a contradiction to you, or if you think I should identify Officially as non-binary or trans or 100% binary male or whatever, I don’t care.
- I don’t care to have anyone elses trans narrative imposed on me.
- And btw “trans-masculine” does not make any sense for me. At. All.
- Oh! Please note: If you think this is all silly, or that I’m nitpicking, or that OF COURSE I’m ACTUALLY trans and should identify as such, please note: that’s not only shitty but inherently racist. I’m white and have no desire to appropriate anyone elses identity/culture/experience, but the fact remains that what I am doing here is questioning the “of course you’re either cis or trans” assumption. Which, as it turns out, happens to be a very white/colonialist assumption. Honestly, I’m not at all surprised that I thought this was a Fundamental Truth or the Only Experience that I had to accept regardless of my own thoughts and feelings and experience, because that’s kind of how the dominant culture imposes itself on people, even people who exist as privileged within that culture.
- Speaking of definitions and terms: I’m really tired of being expected to put things in my tumblr description, as if I owe anyone a description. Like, I don’t feel like it. I would never write anything about myself in my tumblr description that wouldn’t sound halfway decent in an artists or authors statement.
- A-N-Y-W-A-Y, I feel hella alienated. When I hear “the trans community,” it’s not that it doesn’t mean anything to me, but I sure as hell wonder what the it means to whoever is saying it.
- Even though I’d undoubtedly be welcomed into most trans communities/spaces/scenes/whatever at first because of my looks/age/race/gender, all of which put me in a place way privileged over others.
- Why would I want to be in a space like that though? Lol
- (At least, I’d be welcome at first until it was revealed that I wont STFU about sexism/misogyny/transmisogyny/race/appropriation and being a huge faggo that wants to burn everything down, snubs the vast majority of reformist liberal ideology, wants to stay home, hates your party, hates your face, doesn’t smoke weed, hates men, is not sexually available, and wants to watch birds at the lake and paint pictures and eat garbage and not bathe or answer your calls because I foiled all the windows over and I’m recording a song and I made it with the sounds of the freeway so yeah go away and leave me alone I’m not a man I’m a fucking SPACE ALIEN, I’M AN ASTRONAUT AND I WANT TO GO BACK HOME)
- when someone says “trans community,” I assume that 99% of the time what they really mean is
- or drinking friends
- or some general feeling they gleaned from about a dozen people online about what “community” is
- or some local youth culture that’s probably got the same racism/sexism/rape culturey bs as the rest
- so yeah your “community” probably isn’t my community
- No, really.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
This is really long, but also definitely worth reading. It touches on a lot of my discomfort with the way trans stuff is discussed and organized, online and off.
This essay is where our url came from.
14 Reasons Why It’s Not Okay to Out Someone as Trans – A Public Service Announcement From Your Friendly, Neighborhood Trans Person
Recently, a well-meaning friend of mine disclosed my trans status to a friend of his, someone I hadn’t known previously. I don’t know that I ever would have found out that he had done so if his friend hadn’t slipped up and referred to me as “she” in front of a group of people.
He quickly corrected himself and moved on with whatever he had been saying, but for me, the damage had been done.
That one little pronoun ripped away my confidence and left me stunned and confused. Although it still happens once in a while, being seen as female has been a rare occurrence for me over the past six months, so I asked myself why this person whom I had just met would confuse me with a woman? Was it obvious that I was trans? Was I kidding myself, walking around in the world thinking that I no longer appeared female to most people?
Unsure as to whether the guy had read me as female/trans all on his own or whether someone had told him, I took my friend aside and asked him. He seemed genuinely confused as to why I would have an issue with his disclosure of my trans status when he has been one of my most thoughtful, supportive friends and he was trying to be helpful.
This situation has me thinking that just because a person might be a relative, friend or ally of the trans community, or even a trans person themselves, that doesn’t mean that they know and understand the possible consequences that could result from disclosing someone’s trans status, so I am offering some information here that I hope will be helpful regarding this topic.
I thought I would start with a page from The Gender Booklet at thegenderbook.com(which I actually found at the transbeautiful blog) because it gives a handy summation of issues to consider when being an ally (or even friend or relative) of people in the trans community.
A number of blog posts could be written about the statements on this simple yet informative document page (and probably already have been by others), but today we’ll just focus on, “Please don’t out me as trans without my permission.”
In listing the reasons behind this statement, I am presenting them in no particular order or priority and I am writing them as though directed toward readers who might not understand why it’s problematic to out people as trans.
When I refer to trans folks in this post, I basically stay within the man/woman binary, but there are trans people who do not identify within the gender binary. I think that what I have written here would, in principal, still apply, with the exception of some of the references I make to people identifying as men or women.
I should also mention that pretty much everything you’ll read here is my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
1. Safety first
In April of 2010, Colle Carpenter, a 27-year-old trans man, was physically assaulted in a men’s room at Cal State University Long Beach, the attacker using a knife to carve the word “it” into his chest. Two months later, a man attacked trans man Lance Reyna in a Houston Community College men’s room, putting a knife to his throat, then beating and robbing him and giving him a concussion by kicking him in the head. In April of 2011,Chrissy Lee Polis, a 22-year-old transgender woman, was brutally attacked by two women in a Baltimore-suburb McDonald’s while employees stood by and watched, one of them filming a video of the assault that went viral after being posted on-line. The attackers beat Chrissy so severely, she went into an epileptic seizure on the floor of the restaurant.
I provide these examples here to highlight the threat of violence that trans people face simply for being themselves, and to illustrate that outing someone as trans compromises their safety. Granted, these are high-profile incidents, but don’t think that these are isolated cases. Aggressions against trans people occur at various levels of severity on a fairly regular basis. I know a number of trans men and women who have been harassed and/or physically assaulted by people they had come out to or by people, including complete strangers, who had somehow learned of their trans status. Trust me on this one;you cannot predict how anyone will react to this information, so it’s best not to disclose it.
2. It’s private, medical information
Steps that a trans person may take to transition are recognized by the American Medical Association, other health-care organizations, the U.S. Tax Court and by many trans people as medical treatments for the misalignment of their physical sex and gender identity. Information about a trans person’s status and/or transition should therefore be held in confidence just like any other person’s private medical issues and treatments and should not be disclosed.
3. Not all trans people are activists and those who are might not want to be all the time
Some trans people don’t mind being in the public eye. Trans people involved in activism may be fully and publicly out as trans, such as community activists and educators Matt Kailey, Jamison Green, Kate Bornstein or Donna Rose. However, not all trans folks want to be involved in activism – they just want to live their lives with a level of anonymity that’s no different from that of non-trans people – and those who are involved as activists might not wish to wear that hat all the time. Maybe in the corner of their world where you happen to be, a trans activist might want to be incognito. It’s best to leave it up to the trans person as to when and where they care to disclose their trans status, if they care to do so at all.
4. Match making or un-making
Let’s say that a non-trans person you know has met your trans friend/relative, finds them attractive and would like to get to know them better. Your first knee-jerk reaction might be to inform the individual about the trans status of your friend/relative, but please consider why you might be having that reaction.
Perhaps you think that the trans person’s body might not be what the other person expects, but unless you have seen the trans person naked, you do not know what their body looks like, and even if you have, how can you know with certainty that the potential suitor won’t find their body appealing?
Or maybe you decide that you will out your trans friend/relative so you can spare them the negative reaction that you’re sure they’ll receive once they disclose their trans status to the interested party. That’s your own opinion, however. In other words, what you might consider to be a deal breaker (i.e. someone’s trans status) might not be an issue for another person. People are rejected in the dating scene for all sorts of reasons and these two potential love birds might not ever make it past the first date for reasons that have nothing to do with the trans status of one of them.
Ultimately, whether a trans person and a non-trans person are a match for each other should be left for them to discover. Don’t be a match un-maker by disclosing someone’s trans status.
5. Admirers, chasers and other people attracted to trans folks
In point number 4 above, I talk about people who might become attracted to a trans person they have just met but are unaware of their trans status. For the issue I discuss here, I refer to certain people, non-trans men and women, who have a significant attraction to trans people in general. Sometimes these individuals can be easily spotted vying for the attention of (or maybe even harassing or groping) trans people at transgender conferences or at public community functions, and some of them post ads on Craigslist looking for sexual hook ups and/or dates with trans men and women.
These particular folks might be classified as “chasers” or “admirers.” While some of them objectify, sexualize and fetishize trans people, some do not. Personally, I sometimes find it hard to tell the difference. (Matt Kailey has written a couple of posts about people with trans attractions and the fine line between preference versus fetish, where trans people can be either sexualized or considered sexy.)
And so if someone tells you that they are attracted to trans people and/or would like to meet a trans person for dating and/or sex, the proper response would not be to tell them about any trans people whom you might know personally. Some trans people don’t want anything to do with a person who has trans attractions, whether that individual happens to be an admirer/chaser or not. If you feel that you must do anything at all, it’s best to ask the trans person(s) you know whether they would be interested in being introduced to such a person.
6. When trans people don’t look male or female “enough” (to you)
If you know a transitioning trans person, the sex they were assigned at birth might be imprinted in your mind, especially if you’ve known them since an early point in their process or before they started transitioning. Consequently, you might not have really noticed their slow physical transformation and/or you might think that despite their physical changes, they don’t really look like their true gender. And so when you introduce the trans person to others, you might think that you have to out them as trans as a way to provide an explanation for their androgynous or gender-variant appearance. You might think that outing them would be helpful, so people don’t get confused.
However, you’re making an assumption that everyone else sees the trans person the same way that you do and you might be wrong. You might actually create confusion if you out the trans person to people who already see the trans person as their true self.
And even if someone is confused about a trans person’s gender, so what? A person’s confusion should not supersede a trans person’s privacy. Personally, I can’t imagine an individual suffering harm from their confusion over the appearance of someone else, but outing a trans person can be harmful to them, so let the confused person muddle through. More than likely they’ll manage just fine.
7. Because being trans is not necessarily who we are
Many trans people simply see themselves as men and women. Being trans is not who they are – being a man or a woman is who they are. The trans piece is a medical condition and not a definition of them as a person, so they shouldn’t be identified by it.
8. Education, enlightenment, diversity training and the “poster child excuse”
Very early in my process a (former) friend of mine outed me to her college-aged children without my permission and then tried to justify it by making me the poster boy for her kids’ diversity training. Since then, I have been surprised at the number of people who have wanted to do the same after I have come out to them (but at least they asked me first).
So if you have an urge to teach someone about diversity and you want to enlighten and educate them in order to help them be a better citizen and a more accepting human being, and to do it, you are going to tell them all about the trans person you know, stifle that thought. Unless you have asked the trans person involved whether they would mind being the subject of someone’s education on humanity, it would be best to leave the trans person out of the lesson.
9. It doesn’t matter that a trans person is out to some people
A trans person you know might seem to be out to a lot of people, and that might lead you topresume that they don’t mind being out as trans, and so that might let you assume that it would be okay to disclose their trans status to someone else, but as with other assumptions, it’s best not to make this one because you might be wrong.
10. Outing a trans person to another trans person
On the surface, it might seem okay to tell one trans person about another trans person you know, but that would be another assumption that might be incorrect. Each trans person should be asked whether they wish to be a subject of discussion between you and another trans person or whether they want to be introduced to the other as trans. Believe it or not, some trans folks don’t even want other trans folks to know that they’re trans.
11. Outing a trans person sets them up for discrimination
I don’t think that I have to convince anyone reading this blog about the existence of rampant discrimination against trans people in jobs, housing, education, health care, social services, etc. It stands to reason, then, that outing a trans person can set them up for discrimination. I can think of several trans men I know who lost their jobs when their trans status was revealed to the wrong people. Once you release that information, you lose control of it and you can’t track where it goes, which might be to someone who can discriminate against the outed trans person. Keeping their personal information safe and discreet helps the trans people you know avoid becoming the victims of discrimination.
12. Outing a trans person can erase who they are in the eyes of others
If you disclose a trans person’s status, you can render them invisible. It’s like magic. One minute, the trans person is no different than any other man or woman, then they’re outed and poof, in the minds of some people, they’re immediately transformed into the gender they were assigned as birth, or they may be seen as a non-person or a fake person or someone who’s trying to fool everyone around them. The trans person’s true self disappears and they become, in the eyes of others, someone who doesn’t even really exist. Speaking from experience, that feels like crap. Please don’t put people in that position by outing them as trans.
13. Disclosing the birth names of trans people
This point is a bit different from the others because it’s about outing one thing about a trans person, but it fits into the topic of disclosure. I have decided to add it here because a number of non-trans people over the past few years have nonchalantly disclosed to me the birth names of other trans people that they know.
What they likely did not realize was that some trans people fiercely guard the name they were given at birth and would consider its disclosure to be embarrassing, hurtful and/or offensive. For some trans folks, their birth name represents a person who they are not and a period of their life they would like to leave behind them.
All that aside, what is the point of revealing a trans person’s birth name anyway? A trans person’s real name is the one they have chosen that matches their gender and true self and that’s the only name that people need to know.
Therefore, unless a trans person has specifically and directly asked you to please disperse their birth name about with wild abandon, the polite and respectful thing to do would be to keep it to yourself if you happen to know it.
14. Whose business is it anyway?
Ultimately, the bottom line is that a person’s trans status is their personal information,their history, their story, their life, and it’s not anyone else’s place to disclose it.
The only instances I can think of when it would be okay to out someone as trans would be if the trans person specifically requested it, say, for example, during their coming out process and they asked a trusted friend or relative to help inform people, or if they were involved in some sort of medical emergency and couldn’t speak for themselves, and for the latter I’d still be hesitant.
And with that, we come to the end of 14 reasons why outing a trans person is not okay. I hope that this little public service announcement has helped to shed some light on this topic for readers who previously might not have realized these issues. Some readers might disagree with some of my points or might have points of their own to add. I invite everyone to join the discussion.
Adding a note (since race seems to be absent in the statement of violence risk about outing a trans person) that outing a trans person of color (especially a trans woman of color) is significantly more likely to end in lethal violence than it does for white trans people (where harassment and less extreme violence is the more likely result).