Being transgender is traumatic on so many levels. This trauma comes with consequences. It kills so many. It’s time to take a stand.

Young man with hands clasped together

T is for transgender.
T is for transition.
T is for trauma.

Trauma From All Sides

Young man with hands clasped together

I wonder if most cisgender people realize how horrifically traumatic it is to be transgender. I don’t think most do.

We transgender people start out in life dealing with gender dysphoria. It is like an invisible force tearing us apart. It is insistent, consistent, and persistent. Our bodies are showing the world a version of ourselves that is diametrically opposed to our hardwired, neurological gender identity. This alone is incredibly traumatic.

Add to the equation the fear that we struggle with prior to our transition. We are terrified that if someone discovers our truth, we will be rejected by our friends, fired from our jobs, and ostracized by our families.

When finally we do come out, more often than not, those fears are realized. I lost my marriage, my family, my home, my job, my church, and all of my friends. It feels as if someone has dropped a nuclear bomb on our lives and we are left wandering this post-apocalyptic wasteland of existence.

But there’s more. There is a society that is violently and systematically transphobic. One that paints us as monsters, child-molesters, rapists, freeloaders, freaks, and crazy people. We are deemed unfit for military service and risk our lives just for using a public toilet.

The Consequences of Trauma

I once read Leonard Gross’ book The Last Jews in Berlin, a heart-wrenching account of several Jews struggling to survive in Nazi-occupied Berlin. Some hid in attics. Others tried to pass themselves off as Gentiles, all the while terrified of being found out. That’s what it feels like.

Facing this trauma every day is terrorizing. We are at a much higher rate of being assaulted or even killed. Murders of trans people, and especially trans women of color, are at an all-time high.

It comes as no surprise that the suicide rate among the transgender community is more that 40%, ten times that of the general population. Substance abuse and PTSD and clinical depression are also much higher in our community because of this.

The trauma nearly killed me on multiple occasions. I am a twice-survivor of attempted suicide. I am a recovering alcoholic. I am a survivor of rape and domestic abuse, both of which can be connected to the trauma from being transgender.

Take a Stand or Get Outta the Way

I was recently kicked off of a Facebook writer’s group because when asked why I continue to write, I said it was because of the fascists. I said that every time Trump and his merry band of neo-Nazis, white-supremacists, and transphobes spews their hate, it makes me want to write more transgender and queer crime fiction.

What inspires me to write

I was told not to get political, that it would hurt sales of my books. And when I scoffed and said that the neo-Nazis weren’t my target market so fuck them, I was accused by the group admin that I was being verbally abusive. I was warned not to be political.

But when you are transgender, your very existence is political. Using a

neo-nazis protesting
Photo credit: Elvert Barnes via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

public restroom is a controversial, revolutionary act. Daring to dress as our true selves in public is considered by many an affront to civil society. But the problem isn’t us. The problem is a society that demonizes what it adamantly refuses to understand.

I live by the Roadhouse rule, a reference to the Patrick Swayze film, Roadhouse. The rule is this: Be nice until it’s time to not be nice.

Photo credit: miguel_discart_photos via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

I bend over backwards to be kind, to lift up the downtrodden, to make the world a kinder, safer, gentler place. And I don’t ask for much in return. This is how I learned to be from people like Fred Rogers.

But when the neo-Nazis show up with torches, don’t you dare castigate me for suggesting that we show up with cans of lighter fluid, especially when the neo-Nazis aren’t coming for you. They and their ilk have been coming after me my whole life. And I’m not afraid to fight fire with fire.

Don’t tell me that being political will hurt my writing career. Privileged white, straight, cisgender people refusing to stand up to the fascists is the reason I have a writing career.

Don’t tell me they have a right to spew their hate. Hate speech is just a form of bullying. So if you’re defending their right to bully people like me who have been traumatized our whole lives, then fuck you! You are part of the problem. You are why I see suicide notes posted every day in transgender Facebook groups.

Photo credit: pasa47 via VisualHunt / CC BY

It’s time to not be nice. Not to the neo-Nazis. Not to the white supremacists. Not to the transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic, racist piece of shit that is Trump and every fucking one of his supporters. It’s time to draw the line. It’s time to push back. And if you stand in our way, we will run you over and build a better world on the bones of your privilege and self-righteous piety.

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4 thoughts on “T is For Trauma”

  1. I grew up like many others not knowing people with any sexual gender problems– I was made to believe there was no such thing. Or people made bad choices. One day my mother had a friend who gave birth to a child with two sex. I hear words like hermaphrodite. I also heard it was because the father had syphilis. There were lots of storylines. One day My mother went to visit her friend with the child with a penis and a vagina. I was with her. A hundred times I was told he was a boy. To me he/she was a cute baby. He was about seventeen years old when Bernard killed himself.

    I never understood the trauma of his life. He came from a good family, good Catholics they were.
    After his death, stories of hermaphrodite, syphilis, alcohol and other drugs were told again and again.

    No one expressed a need to understand. No one expressed compassion. They went to the cathedral to pray for his soul. No one prayed because they were all the sinners who made Bernard’s world a living hell.

    Not much was available to read. No one talked about: how would I handle this it was my child?

    Life went on and one day I met a person called a transgendered individual.

    I learned many things about the workings of cells, chromosomes, DNA, and other quantum happenings etc. The good books did not approach the trauma involved.

    Today because of utter ignorance the lives of those born with perhaps more than one gender continues to be hell.

    We go to large and small churches but, we practice no tolerance, no acceptance.

    I do not claim to understand much. I do practice acceptance. It is however difficult to tolerate those pointing fingers because of their inabilities to accept the things they cannot change.

    1. Thank you for sharing that, Eveline. Just a few notes of clarification.

      The term “hermaphrodite” is considered offensive and traumtizing when referring to humans born with ambiguous genitalia. The proper, respectful term is “intersex”.

      There are several different genetic and developmental conditions that lead to some people being intersex. I am not aware that a parent having syphilis is one of them.

      1. I agree with definition. We both know however, since some believed maladies of fathers created the ‘maladies of the children’ I used the word used when ignorance rules. I should most definitely have clarified and used intersex. Thank you so much for the reminder and also for the word that you do.

        1. For some reason my answer did not go through. So many things do not go as
          Planed. In a few words. I thank Dharma for reminding me of the proper moniker.

          Intersex is so much less toxic that what I used.

          I do hope many will read her important post. Most of all I do hope many will digest it.

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