XVX. Oklahoma. Bisexual. Trans. Also at ok4rj.org
When people use my birth name, it’s like they are talking to a hologram
They are talking to a construction made by their memories and expectations. They are talking to a figure I no longer have any part in creating. They reach into my past and extract who they want to see, and not the person with hands open, palms up, and vulnerable.
Using a name that is not the one I give you is invasive; I no longer feel like I’m a part of this conversation. You’ve edited me out and you are projecting a gender and an experience and a name that is not mine onto the figure standing in front of you.
Getting misgendered feels like I’m rendered a ghost, a wisp of air that you mold into your vision of who you expect me to be, and nothing, not my sensitivities or exposed nerve endings or joy or pain that I offer up in spite of this willful rejection seems to make a difference.
If the bi and pan tags have taught me anything, it’s that cis people need to stop making fucking charts.
Here’s a big reason why plenty of us might not figure out we’re trans until we’re 20, or 30, or 60:
Of all the perspectives on transness that are offered in mainstream society - whether they’re “he or she?” episodes of Maury, gawking documentaries, or cheap “tr*nny” jokes everywhere we turn - not a single one ever suggests that this could actually be you.
People ask us why we didn’t know sooner. Well, maybe there was no way we could have known! The world doesn’t readily grant us access to the information we would need to know what it is we’re experiencing, to put it in the proper context, to understand what it is we are, or to pursue the things we need to help ourselves. The world makes us fight fucking tooth and nail just to find what the goddamn words are for what we are. It discourages us at every turn from even being this, and makes us go through hell to access what we need just to live our lives.
And then the world asks why, in the face of all this, we didn’t do something about it sooner. Why, in a world where everyone is assumed to be cis and transness is some weird thing that’s super rare and only happens somewhere else far away, it would take us decades to realize we’re not cis. Well, what the hell were they expecting? We live in a world that fucking punishes children and then teenagers and then adults, too, when we ever dare to voice that sentiment. And they expect a vulnerable, innocent child to somehow know all that, and to say it out loud, in a world like this?
When I was a kid I didn’t know it was even a possibility for me to be a girl. I didn’t know this was something that could happen. It was positioned so far outside of my reality, I didn’t even reach the point of wanting it but dismissing it as impossible or infeasible. It didn’t even occur to me to want this; it was something so unknown to me it would have been like wanting to be a unit circle or an Einstein-Rosen bridge. Being a girl, of course, is actually possible - but nobody told me that!
My entire life as a kid was so consumed with living up to others’ expectations and doing what everyone told me to do, I didn’t have time to think of who I was, or what I wanted, or even envision myself as a person in my own right with my own goals and image of who I am. I was just this little kid who apparently did really well on IQ tests and got promoted ahead by two whole grades and was expected to ace every class and some day I would go to college and that was the sum total of who I was and there was nothing, nothing else, not a single stand-out feature of who I was as a person beyond what I could do at school to impress a bunch of adults.
It took me until I was 19 and almost died, to realize I might actually just straight-up drop dead at any time, and that I needed to start figuring out what mattered to me and who I was and what I wanted my life to be like.
From that moment, it was maybe 6 months before I started putting on makeup for the first time.
Everyone develops as a person at their own pace, and there can be any number of factors that interact to influence how and when we come to understand who we fundamentally are. The challenges of being trans on top of that are enormous. A therapist - particularly a therapist working with trans people - should be the first to recognize this. They are professionals. It’s their job to know these things.
This is such a fabulous and spot on answer and I can totally relate. I had been taught that transgender people had to be weirdo versions of child molesting drag queens. I buried any thought of gender so deep in shame and fear that it took me until my late 30’s to even start digging myself out of it. I’ve become so buried in hiding myself that I’ve focused on the wants and needs of everyone else, so creative in creating personas for myself that I’ve had to get a running start to break through each one to get to the real me, and so brainwashed into wrong thinking that I have to remind myself to love myself and to stop being mean to myself.
After society leads you to this poisonous pool, it then has the gall to both be surprised and angry that you’ve worked through it all and are ready to be true and it asks why you didn’t come to this realization sooner. Well fuck that and fuck asshole gatekeepers who would treat you that way.
I’ll bet this question generates lots of answers and I hope you find the ones that ring true to your experience. Hugs and love for you along the way!
This speaks to me. Loudly.
I had an inkling I was trans in my early teens, but then my father found my stash of women’s clothing and makeup, and he put the scare to me. I wound up shoving all those feelings deep into the closet, so deep I nearly completely forgot about them. Then in college I discovered IRC, and with it, other trans women. It took about two years, tops, from that moment to me realizing that I was a trans woman myself. But that was two years of sorting through every negative stereotype about trans women, realizing how false or overly simplified they all were, just to stop denying my own truth.
Why didn’t I know sooner? Because of you cis folk, that’s why. Because of crappy comedies that went out of their way to make fun of our existence and to make light of our tragedies—and the ones that laughed at those comedies. Because of talk shows that trot us out for novelty’s sake, and at best hint there might be a lesson to learn from us, without ever stating which lessons the audience should have learned. Because of erotica that objectifies and overly sexualizes us for cis people but doesn’t give any insights into what our sexualities, in all their diversity, are actually like.
Because of how we’re misgendered during life and after death. Because misgendering is violence against identity, and usually accompanied by physical violence.
Because despite knowing there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of us in the United States alone, spotting any of us in a crowd is still painfully rare, because so many of us are stealth, and many more avoid going outside to avoid misgendering and violence. Because even if two trans folk do recognize one another in a crowd, we’re not likely to acknowledge one another lest we draw attention—and misgendering and violence—to ourselves.
Because all these things I mention, and many more, lead to a climate where trans folk are invisible—and where visible, made to pay for it. Because this invisibility means trans folk have few role models and few community ties. Because how could I know sooner if I don’t have some sort of role model or community tie to help me gain the knowledge?
Because pretty much everyone signs on to all these ridiculous ideas of how sex and gender works, without a moment to think critically about any of it until those ideas finally run aground against our sense of self.
Because cis folk rarely have to challenge those ideas of sex and gender to the extent that trans folk do. Because cis folk are happy to keep up the illusion that there are only two sex chromosomes, two sets of genitalia, and two genders—and that they all line up neatly.
Because cis folk would rather feel normal by creating an Other to compare against, than recognize and appreciate the actual variety of sexes and genders in the world.
Because of you cis folk. That’s why.
This resonates for me as well.
I could assert and describe what was wrong as a kid. I was taught it was impossible anyway, and taught to hide it, and that was that, for almost two decades.
I just fucking wish we didn’t relate to each other this way
I’m so mad
And I’ll tell you just how much the first time you give me more than 30 fucking minutes at a time you fucking fuck
This is one of the most important things I’ve ever read on tumblr. Thank you.
CONTENT WARNING: PTSD, trauma
okay so i told ocassis i’d say more on this cuz there’s a lot behind that quote i guess that remains unsaid so far.
but there are a couple things i wanna talk about. first is trauma. there’s a theory in somatics that explains trauma as a particular somatic experience: at its basics, it discusses what was coined at one time the arousal cycle though may have a new name at this point. the theory goes that when an animal sense a threatening stimuli in the environment, they go into an aroused state. this includes hyperawareness of surrounding, hypervigilance to all stimuli, energy building within the body, and subsequent emotional reactions. when the threat is determined to be false, the energy is released and the sensory awareness returns to homeostasis.
at this point, this animal may twitch or shake or shiver a little, which is the release of that energy.
but if the threat is confirmed, the energy that was built up in the body is expelled in a different method: fight or flight. at this point, the animal through gauging the surroundings or through trained instinct will choose one of these paths. through doing this, that energy releases and when safe, the somatic state returns to homeostasis.
this is the arousal cycle. sense danger, tension builds, stimuli source is confirmed, energy is released, and body returns to normal.
there is, however, a third response: freeze. in this case, the danger is real and the animal, for whatever reason, is not able to fight or flee. when this happens, there is a freeze mechanism that occurs. this looks like dissociation between sensation and awareness, numbness to emotion, unawareness of environment, etc. its essentially what it sounds like: everything just stops. this stage helps in that it can allow for a longer survival. if the animal is caught, they may not feel pain or fear and will without struggle be taken - but if the one attacking them turns away for a moment, there is a possibility of snapping out of these freeze stage and escaping.
outside of modern or domestic life or whatever, when an animal enters freeze state, they will either a) find an opportunity to break away and survive or b) die.
with humans, and other domestic animals or animals in captivity, there is a possibility of remaining in that state post-danger without an opportunity to release the energy that was built up in the body. this is when traumatization occurs.
ptsd in this framework is a condition of fluctuating between these two states: hyperawareness, hypervigilance, on-guard and ready, and dissociated, unaware, numb. ptsd is the symptoms of being caught in the freeze vortex without resolution in the arousal cycle.
long-term traumatization is like taking this cycle and enduring it for years. when someone is in an abusive household long term, its a constant process of being retraumatized over and over without relief. that just builds and builds over time.
so how that relates to this is… there’s a theory that one of the ways we subconsciously attempt to break out of that cycle is place ourselves into situations similar to what we’ve been through before. it can be an intense drive to retraumatize without knowing that what we’re doing, is attempting to finish what was started. if you can push yourself into danger, you might be able to make a different choice and release all the energy trapped in your body through action.
in practice, this rarely works. a lot of somatic therapists do guided visualizations and roleplaying and body awareness to help people act out traumatic situations to reverse the outcome and release that energy as a way to release PTSD.
CONTENT WARNING: physical/sexual abuse after effects, PLEASE READ WITH CAUTION. this is really heavy shit for survivors of child abuse and physical/sexual abuse.
the second thing i want to talk about is the psychological affects of severe abuse: trauma bonding. trauma bonding is a condition that comes out of long-term abuse. its what people call “stockholm syndrome,” but more general and less severe. or rather it has a spectrum of intensity.
trauma bonding is the process that happens through living with an abuser. once a power dynamic is in place, or a victim is trapped emotionally or otherwise, victims, in order to survive, will often bond with their abuser and begin to emotionally and physically crave the abuse. its not because they want it of course, but because the abuse is often so strongly tied with approval, love, affection, and other things that in order to have those, they must endure the abuse. so it becomes somatically and psychologically linked.
one key feature to it is intensity. over time, the intensity of living through physical and sexual abuse in terms of physiological sensation becomes a part of the craving. when one have no choice on whether to experience violence in any capacity, and is constantly exposed to it, some people begin to form a desire around it in order to survive it.
so it forms into a positive way of relating to abusive dynamics. if you can find pleasure in it, you can survive. if you can engage with it, you can be worthy, loved, cherished - as an object, yes, but nonetheless.
but it becomes a powerful emotional and physical connection. its one of the other reasons survivors may find themselves in a lot of repeat abusive situations or returning to abusers. because this particular bonding becomes so powerful that people begin to see their worth as only relying on how well they take care of the other, or being an object of sexual desire, etc. etc. it becomes a subconscious pull, and is also deeply related to the above theory on ptsd. the physiological need really can feel like an addiction to a lot of people, a pull towards being hurt, abused, destroyed.
again, i emphasize that this does not mean it is actually what someone wants. it is just an after effect of severe abuse. a survivor’s body was trained to desire these things, and it is just a reaction to wanting to be loved, to be worth something, to feel. it’s just that the only way to feel these things was in such an intense state, a state of constant traumatization, that the body begins to crave intensity and retraumatization because they have become so powerfully connected with self-worth, etc.
an example might be: a survivor who feels like they are only worth anything to someone if they are the passive object during sex unto which their partner can do whatever. if they have a good relationship, they may not immediately connect with it because they aren’t accustomed to relationships where their needs and wants are also valued. they are expecting to be objectified to express love and to have love expressed to them. they may find it extremely hard to relate to good relationships. it may make more sense to be in abusive relationships because it feels normal, it feels like what is supposed to happen to them.
the ways that people often combat this is by unlearning the psychological trappings of worthiness or lovability, relearning trust in a loving way with themselves and others, and discovering self-confidence, self-power, and self-love. this often happens all together, and never has to be a perfect, completed process to stop the trauma bonding cycle.