This is an open letter to transmedicalists.
I’m being direct this time, because I don’t want to talk about you as if you are some faraway, distant other. I don’t think that helps anything. You’re real people, and no matter where we differ, I don’t want to forget your humanity.
I’ve talked in the past about harassment that I’d experienced years ago from trans folks who identify as “truscum” (so, for outsiders, transgender people who believe gender dysphoria and medical transition are necessary to identify as trans — otherwise known as transmedicalists).
Most recently, I took to Twitter to vent about it. And, not surprisingly, a lot of you weren’t super happy with me about it.
Your responses got me wondering if I could’ve done things a little differently. Because I’ll be honest — I don’t know that it ever occurred to me before then to speak to you directly.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m not angry or hurt. But I don’t hate you, as some of you suggested. I just really, really want you to stop hurting other trans people.
Based on your responses, though, I wonder if you even realize that you’re harming anyone. I think you’re caught up in some of your own pain, too, and that doesn’t make this conversation easy for anyone.
So I’m taking a deep breath and doing what I should’ve done in the first place — unpacking, very carefully, exactly what I’m struggling with. I’m going to explain as best I can why this “truscum” thing is upsetting for me as a trans person.
And I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, because even if you don’t see me as part of your community, I still believe that you’re part of mine.
Relentless optimist that I am, I like to think that someday trans folks might join hands around a campfire singing “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac (I swear this song is a transgender anthem — just a personal, unrelated opinion of mine).
But I’d be pleased if we were just nicer to each other as a whole.
This is the longest blog I’ve ever written by far (sorry in advance). But if you’re wondering if I’m coming from a genuine place? Rest assured, I wouldn’t expend this much energy if I didn’t care about this very deeply.
If you’re rolling your eyes about how exhaustingly long it is, you can also bookmark it at any point and come back to it. It’ll still be here. And I’m breaking it up with headers, so hopefully it’ll be easy to find your place again.
So why am I even talking to you in the first place? That’s a valid question.
To understand why, you’ll need to know a little bit of my history.
The first thing you need to know is that I work in digital media. It’s important to mention this upfront, because it’s my public work as a transgender writer that got the attention of transmedicalists in the first place.
Back in 2015, I started receiving emails and tweets from self-identified “truscum” for a blog that I wrote about how much I hated the word “transtrender.”
I didn’t believe that the stance I took was especially controversial — but it drew a lot of attention to me as a trans person, and led to some targeted harassment, which continued for a while throughout my career.
The fact that I hadn’t yet medically transitioned led these folks to start asking invasive questions about my body. They were barging into unrelated conversations on social media to tell folks I was an imposter, contacting my followers with conspiracy theories about my transition (I’d made it all up apparently), and otherwise trying to discredit my work.
And of course, I was misgendered. Just to add a little salt to the wound, I guess.
The reality is, at that point, I’d never said I didn’t want to medically transition. It was that I couldn’t.
Initially, in 2014, I’d had issues with my insurance because I’d moved across the country. After that, it was my mental health status that led clinicians to deny me access to transition-related care (if you’re curious about how this nightmare happens, I interviewed other trans folks with similar experiences, and I wrote about it here).
So while this harassment campaign was happening, I was privately struggling with dysphoria that I could do literally nothing about. You’d hope that other trans people would see this as a rallying cry to demand better access to care. But these folks didn’t.
Instead, transmedicalists told me my lack of medical interventions made me invalid.
In a word? It was traumatic. I felt betrayed by my own community; I thought if anyone was going to understand my struggle, it would be other trans people.
It didn’t stop when I finally accessed hormones, either. Instead, transmedicalists had decided I was lying about that. When I posted a photo of me holding my testosterone gel, they suggested it wasn’t my prescription, and then they decided that because I hadn’t had surgery, I still couldn’t be believed either way.
Never mind the fact that I was desperately trying to access care the entire time.
These were my very first experiences with “truscum.”
I’ll be honest — never in my wildest dreams did I think that the folks harassing me would be other transgender people.
And it wasn’t just me, either. I watched this happen many times to others as well, including some of the advocates that I deeply respect and young trans folks who had only recently come out.
So I’ll just be upfront and say… you all didn’t exactly make the best first impression.
And I know, I know. You might be thinking, “But that wasn’t ME! I didn’t harass you! What has this got to do with me?”
I understand why the generalization might bug you.
But when you tell someone that they have the ability to determine who is and isn’t transgender, some people will use that mentality to justify some really abhorrent behavior. Whether you’re passively advocating for that or actively doing so, the ultimate result is that people then feel emboldened to play “gender police.”
They feel emboldened to decide who is and isn’t “trans enough.” And that means people get hurt.
That’s the crux of the issue for me. Regardless of what you’re intending, people are getting hurt.
And I have yet to see folks who identify as transmedicalists acknowledge that this is happening, and that there are valid concerns here.
If you’re still with me here — and if you are, I appreciate it — I want to explain to you exactly why transmedicalism as a concept is so troubling to me, with the hopes you can better understand the pain that I’m talking about.
Not because I want to lecture you or that I think you’re incapable of googling this. It’s just that I recognize it’s possible that folks just didn’t take the time to unpack it in a way you could hear it, and instead they became reactive in a way that felt dehumanizing to you.
So let’s establish my starting place (or bias, whatever) here: It’s true that I don’t believe the presence of dysphoria is necessary to identify as transgender.
I understand that from the get-go, that can touch a few nerves. But I want to explain why I think that’s an important place to start from, regardless of how it makes either of us feel.
I stand by those points in part because I don’t think dysphoria is a helpful measure in the first place — which I’ll explain in a moment.
I don’t say this because I don’t understand the knee-jerk reaction that can happen when someone says they haven’t been dysphoric. Because yeah, dysphoria is painful. It sucks. When I got my first rejection while trying to access top surgery, I began abusing alcohol to cope — it was not a fun time for me. The pain nearly killed me.
I know it’s hard to imagine someone as trans when they don’t understand that kind of pain, especially when it’s a pain you’ve known acutely for a very long time. I’m with you there.
I’ve reacted that way before, too. I’m human. Sometimes my first reaction to something isn’t always my kindest one.
In a perfect world, we would have some reliable indicator or litmus test for helping folks to figure out if they were trans or not — some singular measurement that erases all doubt. As a fan of simplicity myself, I get the appeal.
But the reality isn’t so simple — many trans people suppress those feelings of dysphoria, or they misinterpret them and struggle to connect them to their gender.
This can make it impossible to discern — especially as an outsider — if dysphoria is present. Requiring dysphoria to identify as transgender, for that reason alone, has way too much room for error.
A personal example: I’ve actually experienced some level of dysphoria for my entire life… I just didn’t know initially what it was.
I don’t want to do a deep dive into my history here, but suffice to say, the background that I came from made it very difficult to question my own gender safely.
So I experienced dysphoria, instead, as feeling profoundly self-hating and “ugly” (I wrote about this previously in this article, if you’re wondering). No one else saw me as ugly or ever said I was, but it was a feeling I couldn’t shake. I felt like, no matter what I did, nothing made that feeling go away.
I just thought it was a stupid teenager thing. Except that “stupid teenager thing” didn’t go away and I became a self-hating, uncomfortable, gross-feeling adult.
If you had met me when I came out in 2012, you would’ve said that there was no freaking way I was transgender. I knew I was miserable and I knew I hated how I looked, but “dysphoria” wasn’t a part of my vocabulary yet. While it had always been there on some level, I didn’t have any way to interpret what it meant.
And this isn’t an uncommon experience, trust me. Plenty of trans people come out and are still learning how to describe their experiences. For those folks, it’s sometimes much, much later on that they realize there was some dysphoria happening for them. Sometimes the label comes first — and that’s valid.
I didn’t grasp how severe it was for me until after surgery. Only when my dysphoria was considerably diminished did I understand just how heavy it was to begin with.
It was a kind of misery I was accustomed to, to the point where I was the fish in the bowl that couldn’t really see the water. You know what I mean? But now that I’m post-op, it’s like I’ve experienced a kind of joy and ease that I didn’t know was possible.
There’s also folks for whom their feelings of dysphoria progressively appear or worsen overtime.
I think of this as a kind of “hibernation.” People suppress all kinds of emotions, and dysphoric ones aren’t some magical exception. But as they start to experiment with language, and explore their identity and expression, those feelings start to surface. As the outside world begins to reject them, that can trigger those feelings they’ve managed to push down as well.
Some people also experience dysphoria only in the form of dissociation, or a state of unreality, numbness, or disconnection. They might not connect this to their gender at all, because it’s not an emotional state they can necessarily identify so quickly in the first place.
For trans people with other mental health challenges, trauma and mental illness might interfere with their understanding of their gender, and dysphoria becomes attributed to other causes (I also wrote about that here).
In other words, our brains work extra hard to try to protect us, which can make self-perception as a trans person a little wonky.
That’s what brains do with any kind of trauma. And this can show up as a total break from our own sense of dysphoric feelings, or misunderstanding the source or nature of those feelings. It’s more common than you’d think.
So when a trans person says they don’t experience dysphoria? It might be their truth at that particular stage in transition. But that doesn’t mean it always will be. Those feelings could surface in the future, become better understood and recognized overtime, or progressively appear as it becomes safer to process them.
But if we accuse trans folks of being imposters from the start, we might closet them before they ever figure any of that out.
So for me? One of the big problems with transmedicalism as a concept is its potential for “friendly fire.” When you use dysphoria as this “infallible” meter stick, you actually end up excluding a lot of trans people who are traumatized or vulnerable, and arguably most in need of support, especially if they’re emerging from denial or dissociation.
Transmedicalists are more likely to harm someone who is trans than successfully cast out an “imposter.” Because in actuality, more of us are traumatized than faking it.
When I first came out, I said that I didn’t want hormones and I wasn’t sure I wanted surgery. I am definitely the kind of “transtrender” that you would’ve rallied against (and, well, you did for a while).
Looking back, I have to laugh out loud. I can’t imagine not having medically transitioned.
With proper mental health care and, yes, incredible community support, I was able to get to a place where I could identify this resistance as a fear of rejection by society and my family especially. I was in deep denial because I was afraid of what would happen if I transitioned.
I didn’t want to lose my family. So instead, I lost myself. It took a long time (and a lot of support) to really come to terms with that.
That’s the thing, though: I needed space, support, time, and compassion to be able to figure out my path.
As of 2018, I’ve been on testosterone for a few years now, which drastically improved my life and my mental health. And I’ve had top surgery, which was the single best decision I’ve ever made. I am so much healthier and happier now.
But when you use a singular measure like dysphoria to decide if someone is worthy of those things, you run the risk of doing a lot of harm to folks who aren’t “faking” anything — folks like me who needed to process things before they could make the right choice.
And there are plenty of reasons why medical transition isn’t an easy decision, too.
Some people can’t access it for financial reasons or are denied access by clinicians. Some folks have chronic illnesses that would make medical transition risky or undesirable. Some folks might consider it safer to remain closeted. Some folks are in abusive environments where they can’t even begin to contemplate something like this.
And for some folks, right here and right now? They just don’t want to or aren’t ready to.
Maybe they’re questioning, maybe they’re afraid, maybe they’re overwhelmed, or maybe they’re just fucking tired. That could change and that may not… but it’s not up to us.
It’s not our business why and it’s definitely not our place to interrogate them, especially because we run the risk of doing serious harm for folks who might be going through some shit — shit that maybe they don’t even understand yet and can’t articulate.
You just. Never. Know.
It’s kind of like that quote, about how everyone is fighting their own battle. Even if it’s a battle you can’t see — because with trans folks especially, it’s the battles we can’t see that most often define our experiences.
So listen, I’ll give you this: Some disagreement over how we define “transgender” is bound to happen. It’s not the disagreement part that I necessarily take issue with.
It’s miraculous (and incredibly rare) that anyone agrees unanimously about anything. There are some people, for example, who don’t like Nutella, and that I will literally never understand. The difference here is that when someone tells me they don’t like Nutella, no one is actually being harmed in the process.
I acknowledge that there are going to be growing pains for our community, and I think this is part of that. These aren’t the first pains, and they won’t be the last. Historically, in every community ever, there have been divisions and disputes.
What I’m questioning here isn’t the definition of transgender. It’s what actually happens in the real world when we rely on your definition specifically.
Using dysphoria or medical transition as the way to define transness results in gatekeeping — and gatekeeping doesn’t work, because it’s too easy to get it wrong. And when we get it wrong? Trans people get hurt. Period.
The people who end up hurt most often (like, overwhelmingly so) aren’t actually faking anything and just wouldn’t benefit from doing so.
I was one of those trans people when transmedicalists harassed me in 2015. I was struggling to identify and understand my own dysphoria. I was being denied access to gender-affirming care by clinicians. I was struggling with PTSD and mental illness.
It was a battle you couldn’t see, and instead of offering empathy, I was harmed by folks who should’ve stood by me.
Are there trans people who haven’t experienced dysphoria and never, ever will? There could be.
Regardless of what you think, I’m not convinced that the existence of trans folks who don’t presently experience dysphoria is justification for disbelieving people who come out of the closet.
Those folks might want to access transition-related care in the future anyway, because it could make them happier or healthier. They might uncover that they have been dysphoric as they learn more and gain more hindsight.
Which means that either way you slice it, you can’t know for sure if someone is transgender or isn’t, even by your own definition — because people change and grow all the time.
Otherwise, I apparently wasn’t transgender in 2012 but I was in 2014. I wasn’t transgender when I was too traumatized to grasp it, but I was when I was able to access and process my emotions. Which… doesn’t make any sense.
Personally? I think gender identity is a diverse and complex thing — which to me is pretty exciting — but we might never agree there, I realize.
But you don’t have to understand their experience to respect their process.
Folks need to be able to explore their gender identity without hostility, because we simply don’t know their internal reality and we never will. The paradoxical reality is that the more fiercely you try to keep “outsiders” out of the trans community, the more likely you are to hurt trans people.
It’s not effective. It’s not helpful. It serves no other purpose than to hurt people.
So if someone says they’re transgender? You should believe them (or at least leave them alone, okay?), no matter how you choose to define “transgender” at the end of the day. The risk of driving a trans person deeper into the closet is simply too great.
It’s far more important to make sure that anyone who is questioning their gender has options and support, and that those options are protected no matter what, than trying to suss out who does or doesn’t “belong.”
So the moment they say “I’m transgender,” I congratulate them and I move on. What the hell do I know? That’s between them, their support network, their therapist, and whoever else they choose to involve.
Otherwise, there’s too good a chance that a transgender person who needs support will be denied it, just because of a misguided assumption about how they’re presenting in a particular moment.
We already get that from cis people constantly. Let’s not be like them, okay?
That’s why, when I define transgender as “identifying as a gender other than the one you were assigned at birth,” I do so with very intentional openness.
I want to be inclusive of folks who are questioning, and I want to give folks permission to evolve or change their minds, because that’s the only way to ensure that trans people can make the choices that are best for them.
The reality is, very few trans people emerge from the womb with an immediate and full understanding of their identity.
But people don’t make awesome choices when they’re being shouted at or put on the defense. Or in my case, harassed. Transitioning within a community that feels like a pressure cooker, demanding a particular kind of conformity, is never going to lead to the best possible outcomes.
And honestly? Asking trans people to put the horse before the cart — to know what they need and who they are before they can entertain a label — isn’t how a lot of folks actually operate.
The label is often what connects folks to more information, support, and self-discovery. It helps them uncover what they’ve suppressed and who they might become. So being possessive over the label actually winds up failing a lot of folks in the community, because they need the language before they can find a framework to operate from.
I want to say, too, that I understand it might be hard to let go of that impulse to judge.
When we identify with our struggles, it can feel insulting when someone who hasn’t struggled in the same exact way takes on a label that has so much meaning to us — a label that you feel you’ve earned, while others seem to just be sauntering right up and grabbing it.
Even so, I think we need to all agree — at the very, very least — that this is much more complicated than simply walking up to a label and dropping it into your identity shopping cart.
We’re talking about psychology, culture, language, trauma, biology, intimacy, sexuality, even spirituality — what aspect of the human experience is gender NOT touching on? And that’s ultimately why I think reductionist definitions fail us as a community.
Gender is messy and abstract. If it weren’t, we wouldn’t be debating it literally all the damn time. The very fact that we don’t agree on this is simply proof that this is a complex thing we’re dealing with here.
And for that reason alone, I recognize that we will probably never agree 100% on what it means to be transgender. But I don’t think we have to — we just need to agree on how to treat one another.
You know, with respect.
So what do we do, then? For me, I’m just trying to do the least amount of harm. I’m asking you to consider doing the same.
There are so many different paths that people take to arrive at an understanding of themselves.
But if we close the door too swiftly on people who aren’t exactly like us, we run the risk of shutting the door on someone who needs us — someone with whom we might share a lot more in common with than we’d expect.
Personally, I don’t think people choose to be trans in a world that isn’t terribly kind towards trans people. And even if they did put on some kind of weird act, I’ve accepted that I can never know that for sure, nor can I really do anything about it.
But I can be kind and gracious with the hopes that, wherever folks end up, they find the path that’s right for them. Extending that kindness to them doesn’t harm me in any way, shape, or form.
At the end of the day, it’s more important (to me, anyway) to create a community that allows trans folks to thrive. Gatekeeping doesn’t allow for that — it makes us suspicious of each other, callous, and combative.
If we want trans people to be able to come out, we have to make our community a safe enough place for them to do so.
When I came out in 2012, I had so many incredible trans folks to look to, and I owe so much of my happiness and health to them now. If I hadn’t had their support, I would still be closeted, if I’d even be alive today.
Every person deserves the chance to question their gender and explore it freely, without pressure, harassment, or gaslighting. This isn’t just a “be nice” issue — this is about the mental health and resilience of this community.
And I so badly want to believe that the majority of transmedicalists don’t actually approve of the harassment that folks like me have experienced, and don’t want to see what happened to me happen to anyone else.
I want to believe that if they knew the full story and really thought it through, they would’ve been there for me, as a trans person who knows how hard it is to be trans.
But the only way to guarantee that we aren’t caught in the snares of gatekeeping, and harming one another, is if we end this culture of interrogation altogether.
When in doubt, we need to do the kind thing instead, and let people live. You may not understand where they are in their journey right now, but they deserve the freedom and dignity to walk that path and see where it leads them. They deserve all the time and space they need to figure it out.
They may or may not continue on that path — but it’s not for us to decide.
I’ve given you all the benefit of the doubt here, because I believe every one of us deserves it.
Will you please extend the same to other folks in this community?
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Sam, I didn’t know this was an issue in the Trans community. As usual, you cover the subject so well.
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Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
Sam Dylan French discusses an issue they have encountered in the Trans community, very thoroughly and thoughtfully.
I really appreciated this one, Sam. Thanks for putting it all out there, as usual. Or what seems to be all out there. And I’m totally with ya on the Nutella deal! 🙂
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YOUR ARTICLES ARE GIVING ME LIFE
YOU HAVE PUT SO NICELY INTO WORDS EVERYTHING THAT GOES ON IN MY MIND THAT I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO EXPRESS FOR SO LONG
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
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Hahaha, you are so so welcome!!
This really gave me some more insight on this. The people who harassed you shouldnt have, that was 100% wrong of them. A lot of this was really interesting to read, and a lot more mature than a lot of other posts against trusums and transmed people that ive seen, and the only understanding one. I’m a trans guy, and like, I think people “need” dysphoria to be (medically/scientifically at least) trans. But my definition of dysphoria is very loose. For me its a matter of feeling the need to pass as the gender you want to pass as. More of a social dysphoria, i think, is needed. Wanting to pass, being uncomfortable getting misgendered. I dont think medical changes or wanting medical changes are necessary to be trans.
I guess for one, I’m pretty loose on saying “people need dysphoria” since its just social/public dysphoria for me, but for two, when i see people telling me and others that they’re ftm, go by male pronouns, but they dress overly feminine and dont seem to care about passing (before i was out i just dressed in a way that at least made me feel more masculine, even tho i didnt pass or bind or anything). Cause thats kinda the whole transgender thing, feeling a disconnect between your bodys gender and your brain’s. But people who feel that and just cant define it yet are still valid. Just imho. Lots of respect for you.
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Er, sorry for the correction, but you have the definition of truscum/transmed wrong. They don’t believe you need to medically transition to be trans, just that you need gender dysphoria of some kind in even a miniscule manner. Like preach whatever you want, I don’t care lol, I just want to make sure you actually know what you’re fighting against, know what I mean?
I have a hard time believing that you read this article. I address this in the piece.
Yes, they believe you need gender dysphoria. AND, even if you tell these folks that you have dysphoria, they still view the medical system — including medical transition — as the only valid proof that you have said dysphoria.
I know exactly what I’m fighting FOR — not against, as I describe in the piece — because for years, I had harassment campaigns launched against me by these exact folks. And despite continually asserting that I had gender dysphoria, I was not believed until it was evident that I had medically transitioned.
Please read the entire article before you comment. Or don’t comment at all if you “don’t care.”
But it seems like you are trying to place everyone who believes that dysphoria is a necessity in order to be trans(which it is) in the same category as the people who harassed you and claimed you were invalid. YOU HAVE DYSPHORIA, therefor you are trans. Saying that all truscum need to “try to understand” is just wrong because anyone can harass someone cause they haven’t transitioned yet and claim their invalidity. Trying to call out all truscum on this issue just undermines your point
If your whole takeaway from a really thorough, compassionate article is that I shouldn’t have mentioned why I felt motivated to write this, you were never going to care about what I had to say anyway. I’m not sure why you feel the need to comment on something you clearly didn’t read.
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Thank you for this. Right now I struggle deeply with identifying as Trans because of all the gatekeeping from all sides. So right now I have settled for being ‘non binary’ as I don’t feel the need to transition but I have had a disconnect with being my original sex. I feel ok being my original sex most times I guess because I have been this my whole life. I’m in my 30’s and I feel it’s too late for me to transition physically. But there have been times I’ve attempted suicide over how I feel. And people still want to tell me I am a liar, I’m a poser “trender” whatever…
This blog really posits what I have been trying to express my whole life. You did it so eloquently. I appreciated reading this and it has brought me a lot of relief!
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I feel like I’m too old and too poor to attempt a binary transition despite intense dysphoria since childhood. I feel culturally safer being able to pass as my born gender when I need to so I’m compromising with a non-binary presentation that most people don’t recognize as anything trans. from what I’ve experienced with the community, I have no reason to believe I’d be accepted and I guess at this point I don’t think I want to. it’s like trading one set of ridged standards for another. I really appreciate your article Sam, you have a really good way of expressing your opinions and it’s good to hear more positivity around this subject.
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I’m still unconvinced that dysphoria isn’t a part of being trans. The reason that there are truscum in the first place is because if you don’t have dysphoria and you decide to transition, you could just end up getting it in your new body. I do understand that the gatekeeping aspect of it is toxic and harmful to everyone involved, but unless you’re just experimenting with gender to find if you are dysphoric, dysphoria is required. The article confused me in the way that you kept saying that if you didn’t identify as dysphoric, you didn’t have it which simply isn’t true. If you have it and are supressing it to the point where you can’t tell what it is, you still have it. If you don’t have dysphoria and use trans as a label just to be different, it harms the community as a whole (why transtrending is bad).
TL;DR: I think dysphoria is vital to being trans and that if you don’t know if you have dysphoria, it’s ok to experiment.
I hear you on this. What I mean is that you may very well discover that you do have dysphoria, but not until much later, and you might not initially identify it that way. And as such, if we gatekeep to the point where people aren’t able to get to that point of realization, it’s harmful. So I would much rather play it safe and say it’s not a requirement, and trust that people will figure it out, than create stringent rules that end up pushing people out. Beyond that, dysphoria is a construct — and people may have different relationships to that concept, and I don’t feel like forcing that concept on someone if it doesn’t align with how they understand themselves. I just think it’s useless to split hairs in this way if it keeps trans folks closeted.
Just wanted to say thank you- in my own introduction to all this “gender stuff” all I saw were YouTube videos like “so and so reacts to REALLY BAD transtrender” and some pretty hurtful stuff. A lot of posts about needing dysphoria to be trans and “disproving” certain people’s transness etc. made me scared out of my socks to even think about how I might not identify with the gender I was assigned at birth and caused me a lot of anxiety for a while. But lately I’ve come across more articles and posts like this; advocacy for inclusivity in the trans community instead of exclusion. These kinds of things have helped me better understand my own gender – and I strongly relate to the part where you mention that “disconnectedness” hiding itself- maybe even for years – and presenting itself in ways we might not even realise has to do with our gender identity. Sorry this was pretty poorly articulated I think but whatever- thank you💕
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I am one of those confused people who is new to all of this, and I appreciate this message a lot.
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I thought I should let you know, there are cis people out there who also carry a complete resistance to gender dysphoria (such that you know if they ad been born trans instead they would not experience dysphoria either). My mom is one of those cis people – she has talked about experiencing dreams in which she was occupying a (cis) man’s body during some intimate acts, and she’s pretty blasé about the whole thing, she says she felt no discomfort at the thought and it was simply a curious thing. Whereas me – even if I hadn’t been a sex-repulsed ace, I know that if someone inserted me into a man’s body I would feel all squicky inside (and yes, I’m cis too, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know that I would not want to occupy an XY body).
So unless these truscum folks are willing to claim that a cisgender person isn’t “cis enough” because the hypothetical prospect of them being in the body that doesn’t match their gender doesn’t make them feel all squicky, or because the cis person in question had a dream in which they occupied the other sex’s body and are totally okay with it – well, then they’ve got no business claiming a trans person who likewise is resistant to dysphoria isn’t “trans enough” either.
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I am a 60 year old trans lady.
I identify as a hippie from California because I am an old hippie. I look like one dress like one act like one was one in the 70’s and still am.
I finally was able to transition 5 years ago.
I have been on hormones for all that time but no surgery as am poor and do not work anymore because of a back injury so I live on SSDI.
I am also intersexed.
I have chromosomes of both sexes.
Born and categorized as male due to albeit very small male plumbing.
I never developed secondary male sex characteristics.
I never developed a brow ridge or male mastoid process or large Adams apple or deep voice or even leg or armpit or body hair. Weird huh?
I did develop breasts and have small feminine features like a heart shaped face and small upturned nose and thick puffy lips. Size 8 women’s shoe and stand 5’6”
I knew something was wrong very early in life. I used to dress in my sisters clothes as early as 5 years old and continued until old enough to buy my own.
This is in the 60’s and 70’s.
There was no such thing as transgender.
We were called transvestites or transsexuals or just freaks and perverts.
I grew very long hair in the 70’s and was often mistaken for a girl which secretly made me very happy!
I knew I was really female despite the birth defect of having the wrong plumbing.
I didnt know I was intersexed until blood work was done on me in the mid 80’s to get approval fir breast reduction surgery to help me fit in a male world.
But they grew back to the D cups they were before when I got on hormones in 2014.
I love your post. I have the exact same opinions and attitudes as you.
Very well said.
Lets just be accepting and kind and supportive to all because being a human is a tough deal as it is and figuring out who you are or as we used to say finding yourself can take a lifetime.
Being different isn’t easy.
Especially if your differences are looked down upon by most of society.
Lets not be so judgmental and err on the side of being supportive. Isn’t this what we wanted?
Now I live my life like any other woman.
Yes Im 100% passable in look and voice so no one knows Im transgender unless I tell them and really what does it matter?
Live and let live!
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This was a truly outstanding, well-spoken, compassionate piece!
First of all, I am so happy to hear that you have gotten the medical attention you need. I hope that your mental health will continue to improve.
I am cis and, around the time you wrote this, had unknowingly followed some transmedicalists who were posting quite nasty stuff on social media. The people posting saw trans* folks who did not experience dysphoria as a threat to the trans* community. Non-dysphoric individuals were called ”trenders” who were ”making the cis hate us even more” (paraphrased). Now I took these social media accounts’ word for it, as I will never truly get what trans* individuals go through and thus, what it means to be transgender. But I did not understand why their words gave me such a heavy feeling in my heart. I’m usually all for the ”f*ck bigots” posts because it is a relatively safe way for minorities to blow off some steam in an understanding community. A year or so later I learned the definition of truscum, and stumbled upon your article. I now see that this situation is vastly different from what I thought. Thank you so much for educating me and many others. I will be sure to show this to my friends. And I will continue to do my best to treat others kindly.
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Wow, this is a beautiful piece!
I came out at the end of 2014 and was able to transition fairly quickly. Although under 18, I was able to get the resources I needed because of my mother and my whole family. They supported me and never questioned my validity. I think it was due to this support that I ran into so little trouble. I had no reason to seek help from social media influencers (although I found and love Alex Bertie) and didn’t feel the need to tell society “fuck you!” by exaggerating everything. My transition was quick and as quiet as could be, given the whole “what-the-fuck-is-this?” attitude many people had/have about gender. At the time, I was also transitioning along the binary (FtM).
My home region is pretty conservative and so my mother and I decided that we would begin advocacy in the area. While I met a lot of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, I didn’t actually make any long-term non-cis friends. Thinking about it now, I still don’t have any non-cis friends but as I’ve learned, gender is NOT a personality trait. In ways of advocacy, I mostly talked to education faculties and parents of transgender children about ways to be inclusive and to show them that being transgender made me no different from anyone else. I was and am not really steeped in the community and while I’ve heard some of the new “trending ideas” within the community, I do not keep up with most of them (but I probably should).
I only heard of TRUSCUM about a year-and-a-half ago. It was mostly in passing and after looking up a quick definition, I mostly forgot about it. I wasn’t able to immediately identify with the term or not and so I figured I would come back to it eventually. Now, I am writing an essay and have chosen the topic of transgender health rights in US history. Reading up on the requirements for surgery and DSM-V diagnostics, I somehow remembered the idea of TRUSCUM. Many sites that popped up were very ‘for’ or ‘against’ right off the bat and did not explain a whole lot. They more-or-less slandered certain sub-communities within the greater transgender community. I want to thank you for writing this thoughtful and inclusive piece on the effects of the TRUSCUM mindset as well as thank you for being open and honest about yourself.
Another reason I am commenting is to add my own opinion. Like I said, when I first transitioned, I went along the binary. Since then, I’ve realized that I have no desire to be “A MAN” but I would hate to be “A WOMAN.” Now I identify myself as trans-masculine; I view myself as non-binary but presenting more masculine and preferring masculine or neutral pronouns. But I also recently revisited Sam Killermann’s Genderbread Person and gender/sex spectrums. And I realized that my gender identity and gender expression change constantly. Not a whole lot and I would not identify as gender fluid, but it is not a fixed thing. I had dysphoria but it wasn’t as a lot of people say it is: “I hate my body so much.” It was much as you say yours was – just that I felt ugly. I knew that in society’s standards, I was far from ugly. And I didn’t really hate my body, per se. It just wasn’t right and that is why it took my so long for me to identify differently. It could’ve just been a ‘normal’ teenage thing. In the end, it wasn’t. To backtrack – I truly identified as male when I initially transitioned. I think I truly identified as female when I was young. I think that gender isn’t fixed in stone, that gender is very flexible. That might be the issue among the transgender community in terms of TRUSCUM. People view gender as a fixed thing that an individual needs to pursue (medically transition). If they do not choose to pursue a different gender, they do not identify with a different gender. But if a person’s gender changes overtime, their dysphoria will also change. At what point does the dysphoria “qualify” a person to be transgender?
Note: for me, I’m not sure if I would medically transition had I identified non-binary all those years ago. Sure, I’m glad I did it, but I was able to pass and had very little discomfort when I did. And even now, I do not want to undergo phalloplasty because the outcome doesn’t seem the effort for me (too many complication risks). I am actually happy with my body and feel that it accurately reflects my current gender identity. Because I no longer seek medical intervention, am I no longer transgender? Technically, my body is in an “in-between” state due to one surgery without the other.
*these questions are rhetorical. Also, I know I did not mention gender non-conformity in relation to the TRUSCUM mindset — mostly because I can’t tell if they ‘believe’ in it or not
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I ran across your blog, which is such a marvelous find, because I was looking up truscum.
I only became aware of this term today after encountering a person who identified as transgender who was upset about the youtube censorship policies. This person’s concern was that free speech was being impeded where outside the norm views of LGBTQ+ politics would be censored, like Blair White.
In response to someone else, I guess I stepped on land mine when I pointed out that trans people can be transphobic by gatekeeping.
Then I got involved in a long back and forth facebook debate about how gender dysphoria is needed to be transgender despite contradictory information provided by the APA and TransEquality.org where both sites say that gender dysphoria is not present in all transgender people.
And I also brought up the issue of economic injustice where it is not a reality for those wanting transition treatments to even access it. Also, I tried to explain that gender dysphoria is not an identity or a qualifier for an identity but a medical term to assess distress about one’s gender. My understanding of this medical disorder is, it is a symptom of internal and external stressors for those who identify as transgender because as the APA has stated, not all transgender people experience dysphoria or may experience the disorder to a low extent.
They constantly brought up the issue that you need gender dysphoria to identify as transgender, that transition is what it means to be transgender. That if a person doesn’t have dysphoria, they wouldn’t want to transition so why would they be transgender?
To me, there were confusing a medical disorder with an identity, and that pathology as a measurement or a way to validate someone’s gender identity was the right way.
They felt by including people who have no desire to seek treatment was, in my interpretation, was devaluing the term transgender and they use the term transsexual for themselves to separate them from the rest of the community.
They also briefly said how non-binary people should not have a say in transgender perspectives.
Then I wrote that I am a cisgender woman and that was used to immediately disqualify me from having any say on transgender issues, like that of non-binary people. I pointed out that they are engaging in non-binary erasure but that too fell on deaf ears.
I agreed with her that yes, as a cisgender woman my perspective is often unwelcome. She continued to use this to mock me at how “woke” I was to be educating her, a transgender woman, and being trans.
It was really sad that my effort to advocate for transgender people who would be effectively gatekeeped out of the community was immediately thrown out because of my gender identity.
Anyways, thank you for writing this article and sharing your personal history with your audience for context. This is a significant issue that I’m witnessing in the LGBTQ+ community.
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This was an amazing article. Enlightening.
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Really interesting and definitely gave me some additional perspective for which I’ve been looking. Just a point of clarification – it seems you’re saying that these people being denied the trans label do actually have dysphoria, but just may not be experiencing it as such, eg if it’s too traumatic at that moment. That would seem like a reaffirmation if the idea that dysphoria is necessary to trans, just be aware the person in question as it were may not even be aware of it? That would also sound like a good reason to insist on a lot of counseling prior to medical transition and potentially a reason to disallow the medical transitioning of adolescents?
This is so important. Ever since I learned about the LGBT community I’d questioned being AFAB. I’d never felt like I was a man, but I knew something was definitely wrong, and that this wasn’t how I wanted to identify myself. When I first came out as nonbinary, it was the beginning of the spread of “flop accounts” on Instagram, which are often run by truscum. These accounts made me question myself, and if I was “trans enough.” I called myself cis and faced extreme emotional discomfort because of how these accounts affected me; they were my introduction to most things related to the actual trans community and sowed so much doubt and pain in my mind. If “actual trans people” thought nonbinary people weren’t real and were inherently transphobic, only doing it for attention, then what did I know? I didn’t feel like I had the right to argue.
Nowadays, I’m back to identifying as enby and it makes me so happy. I have no interest in medically transitioning as I think looking more male would just make me more dysphoric but other than that it’s been such an eye-opening experience. I’m so much happier this way, even if most people in my life either don’t know or just don’t use the right pronouns for me (they/them). My point is that if I’d listened to the so-called truscum then I never would have been happy. I would have spent my whole life repressing the dysphoria I felt because it didn’t fit into the binary. Thank you so much for this article as it sums up all the anger and pain I’ve experienced over the years really well! I’ll definitely be sharing it around.
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This is exactly why I wrote this article! I’m so glad you were able to find some happiness. ❤ I think a lot of folks don't realize that being non-binary can feel like an impossible choice, because there's not necessarily any outcome where you won't end up feeling a little conflicted because of how inescapable the binary can feel. I still medically transitioned some, but I do wrestle with what I've lost in the process. I'm very happy but that doesn't mean there isn't some amount of grief associated with the choice I had to make!
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Thank you for writing this. It gave me deeper insight on people who can’t exactly label their dysphoria, who might feel it but don’t know it. I’d always wondered why a person who didn’t experience dysphoria would want to transition, I also knew this was some kind of transphobia I was dealing with myself and this really helped me understand the other side.
Thanks for writing this ^^ Four years have passed since this blog but I got recommended this blog by a mod after getting banned from an “inclusive” trans-sub-Redditt. I hear your concerns and I agree with a good amount of things you’re saying.
I will have to say, A LOT has changed within the truscum community. We have tidied ourselves up would I say and definitely more reasonable and moderate than you say we are. We are actually a much more respectful community and although we are a little critical on the trans and gender topic but we keep that stuff mainly within our own community. Also yes, trolls and haters do exist and they do within all communities. It really isn’t fair though to call us the same as those who are abusing our beliefs for their own agenda and no one condones that.
Personally, I just want to be able to rationalize the world in a way that makes sense and being a part of truscum has helped me do so. In fact, I’ve become more supportive of trans and now accept NB after discussing it with transmed NB. I’m also a firm believer in keeping trans medical or at least splitting the medical problem from the social one so those who are experiencing gender dysphoria get the proper medical treatment and support they need.
Also, tbh I would love to just be able to agree to disagree with the other part of the community but everyone likes to see us as exclusionary gatekeeping monsters and we don’t have a voice to try to stop this misinformation and demonisation. In fact, I got banned from two of the main trans sub-reddits, not for a comment or post I made but because I associate with truscum. We are now the ones being hated on, we are the ones excluded, attacked and gatekeeped even just because we don’t meet eye to eye.
Anyways if you want more information about us modern truscum, have a look in r/truscum and you will find lots of info on us ^^