Internalized Transphobia

2021/5/10 Update

Being trans is awesome!

Original Entry

In the transgender community, sometimes people talk about "internalized transphobia". All of us were raised in a cultural environment where trans people were seen as weird and different. In the media, they were generally portrayed in a negative light. There are tropes that we've all seen echo in various forms. For example, there's the reoccurring story of the predatory man who pretends to be a woman so he can get closer to his prey. Or, maybe you've seen a sitcom episode where a guy gets really drunk and goes home with a woman… only to wake up in the morning and find that she's actually a man. He slept with a woman with a penis! Cue the laugh track!

Those cultural memes seep into your subconscious and shape how you see the world. You don't even realize you've been influenced by them. I've never had anything against trans people, but I didn't accept them, either. I didn't see them as men or women. They were something else – something weird!

When I was struggling with accepting that I was trans, those feelings were out in full force. I didn't want to be one of those people. I didn't recognize it as transphobia at the time. It wasn't until a few years later that I really understood what internalized transphobia looked like. I had accepted that I was trans, and decided I needed to find support in the trans community. So, found a trans meetup group. It was just a casual get-together at a restaurant. As I walked through the door and saw the group, I felt a brief tinge of shame. I'm part of this group, now. For a moment, I wished that we had met somewhere less public. I think I felt embarrassed to be seen with them. It was an eye opening moment for me. I saw how my subconscious saw trans people and how I saw myself.

Every time I write something for this site I worry that I'll say something that normalizes transphobia. I don't think I can really help it. By writing about my own experience and feelings, I am inherently revealing some of my own internalized transphobia. For example, you can read Boy Mode as an expression of my fear of being seen as anything other than a boy or a girl. I'm perpetuating the idea that you need to be one or the other. I'm implicitly saying that being in the middle is something you should avoid. Being in the middle is a part of the trans experience! I shouldn't be ashamed of it, but I think I am. Sure, I wasn't being as bad as the media I was exposed to as a child, but in a small way I think I normalized transphobia.

I'm sure that won't be the last time I unintentionally normalize something I consciously disagree with. I'm trying to examine myself and learn from these moments when they occur. How can I really accept myself if, deep down, I have something against trans people?