The Spectrum Logo

Creating a more trans-understanding environment

What you should know about the trans experience


/ The Spectrum The Spectrum

Transgenderism: When a person’s self-identification doesn’t reflect the biological sex in which they were born and the gender norms that are commonly associated with that sex.

We’ve seen the big faces on our TV screens, like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, and we’ve heard their stories. But how much do we know about the trans-experience of the greater majority who don’t have the luxury of being a celebrity?

You can only learn so much from what the media exudes, and even then what the media perpetuates is not always common, factual or ethical.

The trans experience is one that only a transgendered individual can fully grasp, but through thoroughly educating yourself and being more open-minded, your whole perspective could change for the better.

The safest and most essential topic to begin with is pronouns.

I have a rather liberal and open mindset; I’d like to think that this part should be the most understandable. On the contrary, I’ve witnessed people continually mess this up.

Regardless of what gender someone is transitioning into, if they have their legal paperwork or not, or of how “passible” for whatever gender a person may be, you need to have respect for someone and call them the pronoun that they wish to be addressed as.

I have witnessed some seriously insensitive people who will completely disrespect a person’s gender. When I worked at Dunkin Donuts, one of my coworkers was a transgendered male – a female who transitioned to a male – and our boss still referred to him as “she”.

I see it this way – if you can hold back profanity in front of your parents or in a professional setting, then you should be able to simply switch a pronoun to address someone the right way.

Let us also learn to separate gender from sexual preference. There are cisgendered women – someone born anatomically female who identifies as a female – who are lesbian, just like there are cisgendered men – someone born anatomically male who identifies as male – who are gay. There can also be transgendered men or women who can be gay or lesbian. It may sound confusing, but just think of the example I just gave when you are lost.

Further, there is the very frequent mistake of heterosexual transgendered individuals being called gay. For example, if someone identifies as a man and likes women, they are heterosexual. Being biologically female doesn’t make them lesbian. Their gender identification is male, thus making them heterosexual.

Along these lines come some of the technicalities and terminologies of trans-experience.

Being “clocked” is the act of a transgendered person being noticed in public for the gender in which they were assigned at birth and somehow being victimized for it.

“FTM” means female to male transgender and “MTF” means male to female.

Hormones are the medications transgendered individuals can be prescribed in order to physically look more like the gender that they identify with. Transgendered women will usually take estrogen and men will take testosterone.

The slang term for a person who is currently taking hormones is “moaning.” Someone transitioning on estrogen might tell their friends they are “moaning.”

Now, I can explain many common misconceptions with hormones.

Hormones are not easy to obtain for everyone because not everyone has insurance to get them. Many transgendered individuals of lower socioeconomic statuses resort to black market hormone therapy, which can be detrimental to their overall health.

So before you wonder why someone doesn’t look as “manly” or as “feminine” with the gender in which they are identifying with, keep in mind transitioning can be a long and difficult process.

The complications of surgery are just another issue with the physicality of transgenderism. Many transgendered individuals, especially MTFs, have trouble being approved for surgeries because of discrimination from private practices. Many also simply just cannot afford the cosmetic surgeries.

This leads many MTF transgendered women in the direction of receiving inexpensive, black market surgery known as “silicone” or “pumping.” Essentially, as gruesome as it sounds, it is the lethal injection of non-bagged industrial or medical silicone into the skin.

Typically MTF women will have the silicone “pumped” into their cheeks, buttocks, hips, and chest.

Many are quick to judge these acts and label them as heinous, but truthfully, we don’t know what it feels like to be living in an outer-body experience without the means or civil rights to get us what we deserve.

Along the lines of discrimination comes the issue of maintaining a job in a heteronormative society.

I have had many trans-identifying friends who have even been denied fast food jobs. This leads many transgendered individuals to start selling their bodies for money, or escorting. This is yet another profession that is frowned upon by society, but one that people will never understand as being a transgendered minority in this country.

You frequently see transgendered people also resorting to escorting not only because of discrimination, but because their families disowned them.

Before you judge the next transgendered person that you see, imagine being in their shoes. Imagine being stared at, or mistreated for something that they have no control over. Be friendly to them just like you would to any other cisgendered individual, because we are all human.

Ty Adams is a features staff writer. Features desk can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com.


Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Spectrum.