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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Gay > Rubrieke | Columns > Christina Engela: Fundamentally Speaking

Challenges of life

Christina Engela - 2011-11-02

Where it is safe to do so, transgender people should be out and proud. And where it isn't safe, they should be proud if not out – and they should still work for equality, dignity and human rights so that they – and the generations that are to come – can be out one day. Nobody cares about people they don't know about, folks. When people don't remind others that they really do exist, the haters, purists and bigots like to believe and pretend that they don't.

Many people say that being transgender or transsexual does not define them as a person, and I agree that being transgender or transsexual is only one small part of who I am – but we trans folk don't get discriminated against specifically for being Christian, or Muslim, or goth or a Twilight fan – we face discrimination for being trans.

If you're post-op, successful and alive, a veteran of the transition and loads of prejudice, there is so much you can do for those who come after you – by such people pretending not to exist, the new generation loses so much and has less access to mentors and people who can stand up and guide them or work for the good of the whole.

So many young trans people make so many mistakes and become victims of bad advice and exploitive medical "experts" and "gatekeepers" in the veritable industry that has grown around our existence – it’s really sad there aren't more of us out there to take control of the direction of our development and identity.

The issue I have with the trans community as a whole is the bitchiness. We compare each other, we act like a bunch of cats in a fight. We shun the members of our community who don't “pass”, or who aren't "beautiful enough" – or who are "too beautiful". We squabble over theories and facetious constructs like "true transsexuals" (TTS) and HBS (“Harry Benjamin Syndrome”), which are really smoke and mirrors and an affront to who we are and want to be.

What happens to our experiences when we fade out and pretend to be heteronormative, cisgender ghosts? Some say that those who are in transition should be put in charge of such centres themselves instead of those who have already transitioned? They don't have our knowledge or experience – they are still learning. They don't know enough to call bullshit on junk science and pure conjecture masquerading as medicine and "treatment". Very often they can't think past that next bottle of HRT or that next bit of painful surgery to be bothered with politics and advocacy.

That is exactly what is wrong with the trans community. We're in this all for ourselves. I want to transition. Who will help meI want ... Mememe.

And then, at the end of the day, when larger collectives of LGBI etc "forget" trans issues, we whine that we were left out – but as a "community" we forget conveniently that we are doing the same thing to one another, and to ourselves. Sad.

‎"There is no ‘Trans-Community’," I've heard said before. Most typically by the haters and deniers among us – those who fall for the lie of "HBS" – a slap in the face of the pioneer himself – and the "TTS" nightmare, which is an insult to transsexual people. Transsexual people who hate themselves for being transsexual,  and who would turn on their brothers and sisters for their own shame and guilt. They disgust me. No community, eh? Yes, more's the pity. Just a conglomerate of people who are targeted by bigots and haters for pretty much the same reasons: their own fear and ignorance and prejudice. And they have quite a lot in common with one another too: similar feelings, similar needs, similar problems – it seems to me the only way we aren't a community is through a refusal by some to not recognise it. Seems to me what we feel, need and have in common is what makes a community.

Whenever I see a trans advocate playing some prominent role in pink community advocacy they are acting alone, without a group – or at least without a group of other trans people behind them. Most typically they are supported not by their own kind – at least not openly – but quite vocally by the L, G, B elements. Why is that?

If you have a lack of a trans identity, why did you feel the need so strongly to transition? Why not just live out the shame and guilt you feel for being you and crawl into a hole and pull it in after you? Eh?

I don't deny anyone the right to define themselves as anything they choose – I am not in authority to do so. But I will still argue my view and debate things which I see as illogical or destructive. What these people forget is this: if we deny our own existence to the world, the world will continue believing that we don't exist, or we are so few in number as to be "unimportant" and not deserving of equality or civil rights – and worse, that we don't have the right to exist. And then they will work to make it true.

How many trans people are there? How many have transitioned since 1952? Anybody know? Hmm. Interesting how right-wing groups make claims that being trans is a "new" thing, and that trans people die young because they have no morals, are promiscuous … blah, blah, blah – and without trans veterans to stand up and show they are alive, productive contributing members of society, with 30-year partnerships, good jobs and excellent brag rights, who would believe otherwise?

For all intents and purposes those who transitioned 40 years ago and vanished into obscurity and anonymity – no matter how successfully – might as well be dead as far as the rest of us are concerned, because they do not provide useful examples to prove to the critics how wrong they are. In short, they are soldiers who have deserted us, watching from the sidelines.

Some like to deny they were ever male or female before; they try to bluff themselves and the world into believing they were always their post-op selves, and are now "far better" than "those freaks". Really? Now that is something you can and should feel ashamed about.

My point is: I had the operation, and therefore I am and always will be a transsexual woman. I can't suddenly rewrite history, delete any and all trace or memory of everything that went before the event. Also, seeing no shame in who and what I am, why should I want to? I am proud of all I am and have accomplished, in both gender roles.

To use an analogy, I was once a born-again Christian and now I am a Pagan. I don't go around denying I was ever a Christian or pretending I never went to church or never sang in the band. But I will explain my feelings on the matter and my experiences to anyone who asks, thereby opening the minds of others, even educating them.

Regardless of the history, or the records, or the outward appearance, or the labels applied – I have always been me, and always will be. That is the part that is true and nobody can redefine that, or take that away from me. I would like to see some gg or other heteronormative person today do the same and cope as I have. Consider that a challenge. ;)