If you asked me where the vast majority of my online harassment comes from, you might be surprised to know that it comes from other transgender people.
Ever since I published this article on why body dysphoria is not what makes a person transgender, the pushback on social media by a small but vocal minority has been intense.
The efforts to silence me, all on the basis that I am not “trans enough,” has revealed a really dark side to the trans community that I never knew existed.
This minority has consisted of transmedicalists (also referred to as truscum), who believe that the only valid transgender people are those who experience body dysphoria, desire a “binary” medical transition, and are pursuing hormones and surgery.
All other trans people are not considered “true trans,” and are referred to as traps, imposters, transtrenders, or fakes.
I remember the first time I was ever harassed by a transmedicalist. I had been (desperately) trying to navigate a complicated insurance policy, having been living in Michigan where testosterone was not covered and now being in California with the same insurance but distinctly different laws.
It was an emotionally exhausting time as I tried to figure out what my options were for beginning my medical transition, coming up against legal hoops and road blocks galore.
It was around that same time that a transmedicalist appeared in my Twitter mentions, accusing me of pretending to be trans for attention and tweeting to followers of mine that they should withdraw support from me because I was not yet on testosterone.
Imagine the hell I was already in: I wanted testosterone and I couldn’t access it. I was struggling to figure out how to come out to my family, fearful of rejection. Every day I was trapped in a body that I could not change, sitting on a secret that I was convinced would destroy my family.
And then a transmedicalist – someone in my community – was punishing me for not having the very thing I was trying desperately to get. It was a slap in the face.
I can’t describe the pain to you. After all of my struggles as trans – the self-hatred, the desperation, the dysphoria, the self-harm, the confusion – I was being told that I was faking it.
I hadn’t known up until that point that there were actually trans people that thrived on being violent towards other trans people. I didn’t think a transgender person would ever intentionally misgender, harass, and silence other trans people.
But they’re real. They’re out there. And every so often, they pitch a fit on social media, hurling violent language in my direction. They ask me invasive questions about my body, intentionally misgender me at every opportunity, interrogate my validity as a trans person, and mock my transition.
It can be tempting to say that these folks are simply an exceptional bunch – not really representative of the community, something we should ignore or disregard.
It can be tempting to write them off as a small minority that poses no real threat to the larger community.
But I’m not here to do that.
I’m exposing this harassment publicly – including just a fraction of some of the tweets I received in one day – because the trans community needs to acknowledge that these kinds of toxic ideologies exist in our spaces.
We can’t maintain the attitude that if we keep them out of sight and out of mind, everything is okay.
It’s not okay.
The reality is that our community can’t continue to ignore a harmful, violent minority that actively excludes, attacks, and misgenders people under the guise of “protecting” transness.
Our community can’t continue to ignore the harassment that non-binary people in particular are enduring because we refuse to speak out against toxic and exclusive definitions of transness.
Our community can’t sit on the sidelines while this violent rhetoric continues to silence, shame, and harm trans people everywhere.
If we give other trans people a free pass to attack our integrity and our identities, what do you think will stop cisgender people from doing the same?
Transgender people are not defined on the basis of their bodies. They aren’t the surgeries they may get or the hormones they may (or may not) pursue.
Transness is an identity, a sense of self in relation to culturally constructed ideas about gender. It’s how we identify; it’s the framework that we place ourselves within to better understand who we are. And it’s fucking personal.
Every person should be able to define their gender on their own terms. Otherwise, what the hell are we doing? We fought to reclaim our genders from those imposed on us at birth. So why would we impose it again onto other trans people?
Real talk: “Transgender” is not an exclusive club that we can bar people from because they refuse to conform to cisnormative ideas about bodies and gender.
When we deny transgender people the right to self-identify, that is an act of violence. How can we demand respect as a community when we aren’t willing to respect one another?
There are countless transgender people who either do not want to pursue a medical transition (their prerogative), or are unable to access it due to financial barriers or abusive caretakers.
They are arguably the most vulnerable in our community, and they are subjected to abuse not just from the outside world but from people in our own community.
If we are not denouncing this kind of violence against other trans people – if we sit idly while they spew this kind of hatred – we become complicit in it.
We allow people in our community to be degraded, erased, and attacked when this kind of behavior goes unchecked and unacknowledged. And by extension, we give transphobic people outside the community full permission to engage with us in the exact same way.
Transmedicalists are not unicorns or make-believe. They attack me and countless others on a regular basis, with more fervor than the time before, feeling emboldened by the total lack of accountability.
It’s easy to say they aren’t really a part of our community. It’s easy to ostracize them, block them, dismiss them.
It’s more difficult – and yes, truly necessary – to realize that underneath the violence is a shaken, fragile, and troubled transgender person who is still a part of our community. For that reason alone, we must call them in.
It’s more difficult to say that, as a community, we must act – because if we don’t, the violence will continue.
Yes, it’s our responsibility to hold them accountable, and to stand in solidarity with those who have suffered at the hands of their abuse.
Because if we aren’t taking care of each other, who is going to stand up for us?
Today, I was harassed. But tomorrow, it could be you.