Thursday, 19 March 2015

Walking on thin ice

Once again, making a comment on someone else's thought-provoking post has furnished me with the foundation for a post of my own.

The lady whose post had got me commenting - featured very recently on T-Central - was discussing the criticisms levelled at some trans people by other trans people. Yes, sister biting sister. It was about hurtful remarks and put-downs made by the ones who had got on and had their surgery, and were now inclined look down haughtily on those who had not pushed ahead, who seemed content with only a partial transition - and therefore, in the view of the superior ones, 'couldn't' be real transsexuals, and ought to be considered as no more than mere crossdressers. As if having the need to crossdress were nothing at all.

I for one find such an attitude explicable but offensive. If you are compelled to crossdress, it signifies that you have an issue to explore and do something about. It's serious. It may point to undiagnosed transsexuality. That's a medical condition that might require urgent attention to avoid mental deterioration. But even diagnosed transsexuals don't all have to be rampantly full-on. Some have it mildly, others more strongly, and the need for full treatment - meaning surgery - isn't always pressing. The situation is much subtler than the black-and-whiters would have it.

So I felt I should say the following:

There's certainly truth in this [the complaint that 'advanced' transsexual persons look down on the rest]. Some trans people I know do seem to have the precise status of other trans people very much on their minds - generally saying that 'they can't be serious, they (if MTF) are not making the right effort to be feminine, they are not pushing for surgery, so they can't really be trans at all, just crossdressing' - and so on. The same people commonly want to distance themselves from any trans person who doesn't pass well because of appearance or voice problems.

Personally I think this is understandable but very cruel, and not very perceptive. The last thing a trans person wants is to be undermined by another trans person, especially if there are reasons for being content with a slow progression, such as wanting to keep a cherished relationship together, or a need to build up funds, reasons that may be hard to discuss.

Who indeed is the more vulnerable? The person who doesn't yet pass properly, but somehow lives with it; or the one who passes very well when on their own, but is fearful of exposure by association whenever in trans company? Two different, but related, kinds of hell. They ought to be helping each other, not shunning each other.

Many consider that you can't do 'stealth' and mix with other trans persons unless they, like yourself, are undetectable. Surely this isn't quite right. Ordinary (i.e. natal) women often involve themselves in official groups that cater for the needs of local trans people, perhaps as counsellors, or as facilitators offering a welcome to newcomers and some practical assistance; to say nothing of female carers who accompany trans people with special needs around, or push them in wheelchairs. So if ordinary women CAN be publicly seen with trans persons, why can't 'advanced' trans women, commonly post-op, do the same? No doubt they might get taken for care workers or helpers, but does that matter? It would not, if they truly had acquired a full sense of being naturally female. I suspect that for all their snootiness, the harpies who criticise have wobbly self-confidence, and may have more work to do on themselves. And indeed I know one or two persons who are quick to purse their lips at less-accomplished sisters, but could themselves do with a bit more polishing. They have reached a high plateau, but have become complacent when they should never let up in the quest for perfection. An impossible quest, of course, but the striving needs to go on, and a time for speaking loftily never comes, not if you are honest.


The 'bad post-op attitude' is prevalent enough in the real world. I can't speak for the reported vitriol on social networking websites, because I don't belong to any and therefore see none of it. But it's commonplace to hear negative opinions in across-the-table discussion about persons who, for one reason or another, seem stuck in an 'unrealistic' and limited niche existence, and never do anything extra to improve their look, voice, and behaviour. I will frankly confess that I have myself passed such judgements. But I know that I'm wrong to think that way. It's certainly wrong to feel smug about one's accomplishments and ability to integrate with the ordinary world.

In my own case, I can't help wondering whether my apparently 'perfect' passing isn't really down to a very thick skin and very blunt perceptions, so that I entirely fail to detect the nods and winks and titters and smirks that may, for all I know, break out in my wake. I'd be humiliated and depressed if in reaity I was a walking joke. Surely it isn't like that? And yet the suspicion persists that I'm constantly read, constantly pointed out, and get a polite and helpful reception only because people grudgingly admire my self-confidence and react positively to my obvious ability to pay.

Perhaps I am being too cynical and too paranoid! On the surface, everything seems great in the passing department. But I can never feel completely convinced, however much I push my luck and apparently get away with it. And so, for that reason, it's difficult to feel hugely superior to any other person. Bear these words in mind if you have been dipping into this blog, and have got the impression that I consider myself untouchable, bulletproof, a leading role model, and possibly hoity-toity when it comes to unvarnished beginners. Think again. I still walk on thin ice.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post Lucy. A caring attitude, the ability to put yourself into the shoes of others and in general, be tolerant as you are is sadly uncommon in the general population.
    I have always felt though that one who has lived with transsexualism would likely be in that group known as most highly tolerant, as you clearly are.

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  2. I have mixed feelings on this one, Lucy. I would never, never, ever criticise a trans person for the way they dress, sound or behave, but that may not mean that I wish to be seen in public with them. For instance, I once joined a very friendly group of cross-dressers for a meal. The fact that they dressed in short skirts, fishnet tights and high heals, and made no effort to disguise their male voices, clearer bothered them not a bit. "Good for them," I say... but I felt uneasy walking through the streets with them. I freely accept that it was I who was the problem, but I can't help how I felt. So rather than try to modify my attitudes, I prefer simply to seek different company.

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  3. Which is absolutely understandable, Angie, and I too would feel similarly embarrassed by a party of MTF persons whose behaviour was not matching my own. Just as I might react if attending, say, a wedding, and was allocated a seat at the reception that placed me among a group of loud and drunken natal women.

    Choosing one's preferred company is surely fine - a basic right, in fact. But sneering at people for not being like oneself, and vilifying them, is definitely bad behaviour.

    Lucy

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Lucy Melford