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Opinion: Internalized Transphobia

FTM, masculine of center, tagg magazine

Transphobia is something that all transgender people face on a daily basis. A few examples of transphobia can range from looks of disgust, being denied appropriate healthcare, workplace discrimination, or violent to deadly attacks. Of course, being trans and having intersecting identities: being feminine or women identified, poor, and being a person of color greatly increases a person’s risk for violence.

In the midst of this constant hatred and violence that the trans community faces, it is extremely important that trans people learn how to support one another and show up for those who are most vulnerable and in need. This does happen, yet unfortunately privilege can get in the way, and the saying “hurt people hurt people” (Sandra D. Wilson) also rings true.

While there are many ways that the trans community needs to grow, we are focusing on internalized transphobia. (As two trans men, our experience comes from the trans-masculine community).

With the cisgender world telling us that we need to be “trans enough” to survive or to be seen as the gender we identify as, some trans men see it as a threat when there is a feminine trans man around. Our presence can be threatening to a person who feels that we are undermining their masculinity. This might be partially due to self-hatred, but partially to self-preservation. However, this mentality makes spaces unwelcoming for people who do not fit into the mold of masculine trans men. As times are changing, an increasing number of people are coming out as trans and want to embrace more freedom from confining gender roles than these ideals allow.

Some people replicate their own abuse. Telling another trans man that they are not “trans enough” is the same as telling someone that they are not man enough. When people are told they are not enough they want to set up standards so that they can prove that they qualify to be a man; qualify to be trans. When someone does not match their definition, it challenges the legitimacy of their story. In the end, both systems of legitimizing and qualifying someone else’s gender are abusive and controlling. Both systems of thinking come from the people who have always had power instead of coming up with a new way of thinking.

We believe that we should start to think in new ways that allow people to express themselves in ways that make them feel whole and complete.

In addition to transphobia, we have seen that there is a healthy dose of femmephobia that all masculine of center people need to address—not just trans men. It comes from institutionalized misogyny that unfortunately ties into proving masculinity. We have seen masculine of center people be extremely dismissive of cis and trans femmes (this is increased with white masculine of center folks talking to femmes of color) to promote their own sense of masculinity. We need to be careful not to promote our own identities by tearing down the identities of others. There is a lot of work to do as a community and addressing internalized transphobia and femmephobia is key. One can’t possibly hope to change the world if they first cannot change themselves.