Tag: trans life

How to Answer Weird Questions About Transition: A Cheat Sheet

This is fine comic of dog drinking coffee in a burning house. This is how questions about transition can feel.
Talking to intrusive cis people

People can have all kind of reactions to finding out you’re trans. Because of this fact, I have often found myself in need of a scripted answer to offer when confronted with a question that makes me uncomfortable or is just unexpected. It is in this spirit that I humbly offer the table below. In it, I attempt to provide some scripts for common (and a few uncommon) questions and comments that people have asked regarding transition. This list is by no means exhaustive, and I would love to hear the weirdest question or comment you’ve heard regarding transition, or trans people. Simply shoot me a DM on Instagram, and while you’re there you can follow the TransJoy Media account to stay up to date on all the latest happenings.

Question/CommentAnswer ScriptAuthor’s Comments
What was their/your name before transition?

That’s not relevant.Unless the situation specifically calls for using the name that is on an ID no one should ask this about anyone.
Is it rude to ask about someone’s deadname?Yes, it’s irrelevant.
What’s in your pants?Your mom. What’s in yours? Or as above, that’s irrelevant.If someone has the audacity to ask you this, I would seriously consider leaving the situation immediately and avoiding this person as much as possible. This is an incredibly aggressive approach, and is likely indicative of a general disregard for your bodily autonomy.
When did you know?My go to response is: “That doesn’t really matter; this is something that has always been a part of me whether I knew about it or not.”How much to reveal when answering this question is a personal preference, so consider your level of comfort around explaining your relationship to your gender before answering.
Aren’t you too young/old?People are never too young or too old to know who they are.Please do not buy into the whole “Your brain isn’t developed until 25/26 years old” bullshit. This is a manipulation tactic commonly used to deny young trans people access to life saving care. You are NEVER too young or too old to know yourself.
Are you sure you’re trans?/How do you know?Are you sure you’re cis? How do you know? Being trans is not a phase or trend. I am who I am right now in the moment, take it or leave it. I do not owe you an explanation.This question assumes that cis people are the default type of human, when there is no such thing. Trans people are just a slightly different type of person.
Have you had THE surgery?If you want to be a smartass you can ask them which one? Or otherwise, you could say: “That is a personal question I am not comfortable answering. Please don’t ask anyone questions about their private medical history.”
Are you planning on taking hormones/having surgery?“That is a personal question I am not comfortable answering. Please don’t ask anyone about their private medical history.”If you feel comfortable, and would like to discuss this topic then by all means, have at it. But I would like to point out that (in the U.S.) medical information is private. You have the right to keep the details of your medical transition between yourself and your medical providers.
How should you refer to someone when talking about them pretransition?As a rule of thumb, please use the name and pronouns that people currently use to refer to them at any stage of their life. Only if you know that they prefer to be referred to differently, should you then call them anything other than the name and pronouns they currently use. If you don’t know, ask the person how they would like to be referred to in any given situation.If they are a genderfluid person, be sure you are asking them how they wish to be referred to at regular intervals, some people prefer to be asked as often as daily.
Do you feel more masculine/feminine now?I have always been myself. I will continue to be myself, whoever that may be.
How long are you going to be doing that for?Forever.Seriously, the fuck kind of question is this?
Do they use stem cells for bottom surgery?No, it is unlikely that this will ever be possible.Don’t believe everything you read online.
You only came out as trans because it’s trendy.Being trans is not a trend. I am who I am, and only now am I making other people aware of that.
Testosterone will make you aggressive.There is more to it than simply ‘Taking testosterone makes someone more aggressive’. Taking hormones is an act of self-care regardless of what changes may or may not result from taking them. It is wrong to suggest that trans people who take testosterone will automatically be any more aggressive than your average cis person of a similar age.This is a possibility. Please read this information regarding side effects of T. For me personally, I saw an increase in reactivity when I first started. Things pissed me off easier. But since I have adjusted my dose slightly higher this has improved significantly. Inadequate T levels in any man can cause aggression. Also, this “T makes you aggressive” narrative is often used by parents to control their teenage trans masculine children because they couldn’t possibly control themselves while on testosterone. You know, the normal human hormone that everyone has in varying amounts. Ridiculous.

Complement this guide with an exquisite article about lessons we can learn from our queer ancestors! If you have more questions about transition, check out the TransJoy Media guide to researching the trans experience.

On doing what you have to (or why I’m stealth now)

I have not made it a habit in my day-to-day life to be out and proud about being trans. In fact, just recently I felt it necessary to completely disavow my transness, in an attempt to get someone to gender me correctly. The misgendering isn’t any fault of mine, and I didn’t necessarily have to approach the issue this way. But this is the route I chose. I don’t know all my reasons for this, but I have distilled it down to a sense of safety.

I currently work in a construction subcontractor’s office. When I first started, the man who is both my direct supervisor and the Vice President of the company routinely misgendered me, for some reason. I sat both him and his wife, the President of the company, down and had a brief discussion about my pronouns. Though they never asked outright, I denied being trans. Since this conversation, my supervisor has improved. The President has been overall really consistent in addressing me properly, but just a week ago from writing this, she misgendered me when speaking to another employee. I didn’t, and still don’t understand why this keeps happening. The “why” doesn’t matter, ultimately. I am now extremely anxious to come into work, because I am continually trying to brace myself for the inevitable. They have improved significantly over this last week, but my boss fucked up again today. Suffice it to say, I’m looking for another job.

My boss did offer to let me punch him as a means of apology. Maybe one of these days I should take him up on the offer.

I know that I am not obligated to disclose my trans status, and I am perfectly within my rights to go as stealth as possible. I have dealt with a lot of harassment, and systemic transphobia just to get to the point of being stealth. Even accepting all this, the fact that I felt the need to go to these lengths to remain stealth doesn’t sit well with me. To me, this is proof that the world is not for me, as a trans person. In order to protect my sanity and my safety, it felt safest to distance myself from my own identity, even here in sunny San Diego, California.

This is unacceptable. If I, a gigantic, white, “cis passing” trans guy doesn’t feel safe, who the fuck could? This world has been violently, and irreparably shaped to promote white, cis passing men’s welfare as much as possible. I point this out in order to offer something of a counterpoint to the ridiculous idea that “we’ve come so far” with accepting gender expansive people. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard something along the lines of “We’re so progressive here in California, you’re in a good spot!” or “We’ve come so far in accepting this gender stuff.”, I’d be a rich man. People are really out here thinking we solved transphobia. Lord, help them.

It’s exhausting to have the struggles that define your day-to-day life completely invalidated and ignored. This reminds me of the arguments my fiancee and me got into over the length of time I took to come out to one of her parents. Her parents have recently divorced so, I came out to most of my fiancee’s family all at once, and then came out to this particular parent months later. The reason for this is simple, I didn’t think they would get it, and I was right. My fiancee hated seeing how stressed and angry I got when this parent would refer to me with feminine terms, and literally said to me more than once, “If you would just come out…”. She was under the impression that it would help because her other parent had already mistakenly outed me as trans to this person. For some reason, this gave my fiancee the impression that all I needed to do was come out, and this parent would suddenly start gendering me correctly. I knew it would actually make things worse, and after I was able to calm down, I repeatedly explained as much to my fiancee. Yet, she still pushed me to come out. Eventually she dropped it, and I stuck to my own timeline. I am proud of that.

Unfortunately, I was exactly correct. The first time we visited after I came out, this parent didn’t change at all. During this holiday trip, this parent never once referred to me correctly, rarely corrected themselves, and even had the gall to leave a holiday decoration featuring my deadname on display in their home. I ended up taking this decoration down myself the night before we left.

My fiancee and me ended up getting in one of the worst arguments we have ever had over this parent’s behavior. The specifics of this fight are not important but suffice it to say neither of us are proud of the things we said. My point in addressing this argument at all is to highlight that there are always very real reasons someone is concealing aspects of their identity from people that are otherwise “close” to them. I knew I would be unable to safely cope with her parent repeatedly, and knowingly misgendering me. I have known that misgendering would be the biggest problem for me since before I even admitted that I am trans. The real fear of what emotions misgendering could bring up kept me from coming out for a very long time. I knew transitioning publicly would take a massive amount of emotional labor, and masking when I am feeling intense emotions, neither of which I have ever been very good at. So, I stayed in the closet until I just couldn’t stand it anymore. This is not a tactic I would recommend. However, it was definitely the safest option for me and my circumstances. I did what I had to, and now I am living with the consequences.

I will say I am definitely more emotionally mature and capable than I was at 20-22 years old. I was living with my mother back then, which caused a lot of problems. That situation demanded so much of me emotionally that I did not have the bandwidth to look inward. I was working 14-hour days for a laughable amount of money. I wasn’t even brushing my teeth regularly, I barely had access to laundry facilities, and wasn’t getting adequate nutrition. I was relying on caffeine and the occasional diet pill to mitigate my hunger. I was also drinking pretty heavily until the pandemic hit. Then I had no choice but to quit drinking for months on end. I also had space, and time alone to reflect on myself and my life choices up to that point. I knew then that it was do or die, literally. The minute I could, I started applying for jobs with he/him pronouns, and I came out to my fiancee.

Then came the reconciliation. I couldn’t quite square up my reasons for waiting so damn long. I resented myself a lot. I hated the world for what it is. I was scared. So scared, even though I’ve known this was inevitable since I was teenager. I’ve spent a lot of time and brain power on this question of waiting, and the best I’ve come up with is, again, safety. I was out of control. I couldn’t have handled the things that come with moving through the world as a trans person. I would have completely self-destructed or irreparably harmed someone around me or both. I’m glad I dealt with my issues in the order that I did. I guess I just wish the world had made it easier. Maybe I wouldn’t have needed to wait so long.

Turns out, the whole thing is the middle

Photo by Ryan Song

I do not think there needs to be a specific “endpoint” to transition nor a “beginning”. Of course, people define their transition in all manner of ways, each of which is almost entirely unique to the individual. A lot of people do feel there to have been a definitive turning point where they began to transition. But I am not one of these people. For me, it turns out, the whole thing is the middle.

How it began

When I first understood that I am trans I thought I needed to wait until I was comfortable asserting myself as a man to tell anyone outside of myself, or (eventually) my girlfriend. This idea is wrong. This is classic internalized transphobia, which was simply a self imposed continuation of the violent need to categorize and classify every person one meets or feeling one has. This white imperialist culture in which we find ourselves has always had a problem with people just existing the way they would like to exist.

Tuck: How do we stop deferring happiness to [the future] and start just figuring out how to exist in this weird middle time and like find joy in that?

River: When you kind of realize that like the whole thing is the middle time.

gender reveal podcast, Ep. 116 53:00

How it’s going

I have since come to regret delaying my medical transition because even this feels like the whole thing is the middle.

While I don’t think there was a definitive beginning to my transition, I do feel I should have pursued medical steps much earlier. This stems from thinking back to all of the reasons I had for delaying my appointment. And unfortunately, all of those worst case scenarios came true. Albeit, in not quite so permanent a fashion as I had initially feared.


I was most worried about getting deadnamed and misgendered, and my biggest fear was starting HRT, then being forced to stop because of a job loss or lack of health coverage. Well, you can probably put together what happened when I finally did get my prescription.

Even though my name had been changed legally, my health insurance was an absolute nightmare to get in contact with. I was only ever able to change it with my local county Medi-cal office; the contractor that actually provided my coverage still has yet to correct it. This caused a lot of confusion and multiple instances of misgendering and deadnaming at the local CVS pharmacy.

I no longer have this health insurance so it isn’t an issue anymore. Luckily, I was able to weather losing insurance without a financial interruption but I did have to reduce the amount of money I save each month to pay for my meds, appointments, and blood work.

An unexpected intermission

I did end up having to deal with an interruption to my HRT, as well. Not because of anything that was my fault, nor anything I could have prevented, or forseen. No, I went a week without a shot because my pharmacy at the time rarely had my syringes in stock. I couldn’t find another pharmacy in the area that had them.

After waiting a week, the pharmacy claimed they had filled the script. They technically did, but the gauge on the needle was way too small. This made using them very difficult to use because testosterone cypionate is a very viscous suspension.

When the script was due for refill, I transferred it to a Walgreens recommended by a friend that is a 15 minute drive from my house. Which doesn’t sound bad by U.S. standards until you know that I didn’t have a reliable vehicle at the time. This meant I was using Lyft to get around and I don’t think anybody wants to pay an extra $20+ just for the privilege of paying $40 for a prescription. Conveniently, I was able to purchase a vehicle before my prescription was due for pickup.

Photo by Luke van Zyl

Wrapping it all up

I was lucky and in a position of relative privilege; I’m definitely grateful for this fact. But, these legal and medical systems have so consumed my life these past few months that I have all but given up on everything else that gives my life pleasure, or would actually further the administrative side of my transition. I feel so stretched that taking the time to remember the fact that, sometimes, transition unfolds in its own way, on its own timeline helps me. It can be a comfort to know that your transition won’t necessarily end even if you lose your job, or health coverage, or your access to HRT, or if you are forced back in the closet. It only ends when you feel like it does, or it turns out the whole thing’s the middle.

Complement this with an exploration of trans survival in a cis world.

You aren’t required to love your body: understanding body neutrality

body neutrality transjoy
Photo by Diane Alkier on Unsplash

Content Warning: In depth discussion of eating disorders, and self harming behaviors

People love to tell you to love yourself. I don’t believe this to be necessary. One shouldn’t be required to love one’s body. However, in the interest of one’s long-term health, one should apply their energies toward not actively hating oneself or their body. This stance is generally called body neutrality. This can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. A neutral stance towards your body could mean:

1. Focusing less on food/calories:

Depending on your particular mental health situation, taking some time off of focusing on one’s food intake can be beneficial. I have struggled with both weight and food control issues for my entire life. I have had symptoms of an eating disorder since I was about 5 years old. Food consumed my life. So, I decided that I needed to do something radically different. I told myself I wouldn’t weigh myself, count calories, or focus on the perceived “quality” of my diet for a period of time. I think I said 1 month initially. This did nothing for my weight, but it has changed my relationship to my food habits.

I have found that after not focusing on my diet for what turned into a few months, I have been able to reduce occurrences of obsessive thoughts around food. When these thoughts do crop up, I am better able to acknowledge them and let them go. This is radically different than the days long rabbit hole of obsession and control that I used to fall down. I have also found that I am better able to psychologically recover from the number on the scale. My brain used to obsess over that number every time I put a piece of food in my mouth, but now I have done a lot of work, and can more readily let those thoughts pass without much distress on the extremely rare occasion I do get on a scale.

But don’t get it twisted, body neutrality is not a “cure”. I will be in recovery from an eating disorder for the rest of my life, and thus will have to maintain daily practices that keep me mentally healthy. This includes not tracking my food or weighing myself, probably ever again. I have tried to resume these practices several times since taking my first break from them. Every time I try, I find my brain falls back into similar, if slightly less intense, obsessive thought patterns. I have sworn off both of these “healthy” behaviors in the interest of healing, and this healing does not have to include learning to love my body.

2. Body neutrality can help in identifying and reducing harmful behavior patterns:

It wasn’t until I took a hard look at all of the ways in which my eating disorders were affecting my life that I realized I have an issue with body checking. Which can manifest in many ways, but for me, comes in the form of pulling, pinching, squeezing, pressing on, or punching parts of my body that I see as undesirable, sometimes to the point of pain or bruising. For example, every time I looked in the mirror to brush my teeth my eyes lasered in on the pockets of fat and skin that have collected around my hips. For years, I would grab and squeeze and pull at this part of my body all while my head was calling my body the worst things. It wasn’t until I consciously decided to call these thoughts out that I realized how messed up they were. So what if that’s what your hips look like right now? They looked different in the past, and will look even more different in the future. Nothing is forever, so why obsess? For me, body checking is a habit that my brain has convinced me does something good. It doesn’t. It stems from severe childhood trauma that I have yet to process. I only know this because I finally took a step back from the mirror, and the scale, and the calorie counter.

3. Using certain Buddhist meditation techniques can support body neutrality:

I improve my ability to more fully inhabit my body by practicing breath control and passive observance of my thoughts. Breath control is simply focusing on your breathing and only your breathing. I usually try to breathe in a specific pattern such as 5 seconds in – 5 sec hold – 5 sec out – 5 sec hold. This is known in the military as “box breathing” and I have found that alternating this pattern with some regular, controlled in – out breaths can help when my nervous system is fried.

Passive observance of thoughts has been more challenging to implement than breath control techniques. Passive observance is exactly what it sounds like. While sitting quietly one simply tries to fully bring their conscious attention to nothing but the present moment. But at the same time, one should not try to control any thoughts that may arise. One should simply observe that one is having a thought or feeling and return their attention to the present. This means not exploring any lines of inquiry or delving deeper into any feeling that one may be having. Instead, you simply let them exist around you like water around a boulder. On the first few attempts, passive observance can be incredibly difficult to maintain for more than a few minutes at a time. But with practice you will likely see an improvement in your ability to feel present in your body, without positive or negative judgement, which is known as body neutrality.

This practice can also help introduce your brain to the concept that not every thought or feeling deserves a reaction. Simply remembering this can help a nervous system that has been primed by trauma to remain hypervigilant, and thus always ready to produce some kind of reaction.

Nothing presented here is new, or my original idea. Each one of the above is simply a technique or tip that helps me with my personal mental wellness. And don’t take this article to mean that I have an infallible recipe that guarantees this wellness. I grapple with insecurity, doubt, and downright hurtful thoughts on the daily. I don’t like my current weight, but I am working on not actively hating myself for that. Body neutrality has helped me learn to let good enough be good enough. And I guess that will have to be good enough!

If you are interested in some quality tips on how to actively love your body, complement this with an article by guest author Emory Oakley, or with an exploration of the myriad ways love reveals itself to us in our day-to-day lives.

What Happens When Schools Overreact? Vulnerable Students Suffer.

school is not a safe space

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, school is not a safe space. I am referring to the pervasive sense that if I spoke about my real issues (suicidality, depression, my gender), I would get reported to the school administration and possibly the police. Keep in mind that I am white, and I cannot speak directly to black experiences, but I know that some black kids I grew up with felt this pressure tenfold.

The government has established that while students are on or using school property they have little expectation of privacy from the school. Students have very few rights because the government considers itself responsible for students when they are on or using school property. So essentially the government is the worlds worst parent and we all are just lying to our students if we tell them they can trust any type of school official with any type of personal or sensitive information. The school will use the information against the student in the name of “safety”, and if not for safety’s sake, then they will invent some other reason.

“School districts have been clear students shouldn’t have an expectation of privacy but they haven’t been as clear about what they are tracking, how they are tracking it, how long they keep that information. They really should be doing that.”

74 article, Laird

They already tape students while they are on school grounds and schools rarely, if ever, disclose what those cameras record, and how long the footage is stored. I imagine that school administrations see little to no difference between this practice and monitoring their students computer activity.

It is because of this attitude that I never trusted school officials with sensitive information, and I always tried to impress upon other students that school is not a safe space. I know that this is a really controversial stance to take, but as a former troubled teen myself, I feel I can speak on this.

My own experiences with opening up at school traumatized the heck out of me. I had the school police officer corner me in a private section of the library and question me after I approached the school nurse asking to go home and was honest about how I didn’t care for a teacher because her voice regularly gave me a headache. For some reason, the nurse decided that was cause enough to warrant a police officer’s involvement, so she sent me out of her office into the back portion of the library. The next thing I know, I have the school police officer approach me, direct me to a private alcove, block my ability to physically leave the conversation by putting me in a corner and standing directly in front of me, and then proceed to question me about any “violent thoughts or tendencies” I may be experiencing. I was 14. The whole interaction lasted less than 10 minutes but it made me incredibly distressed and I never opened up at school again.

I’m not alone. This type of overreaction is still a major part of public schooling, and the adoption of technology in schools is making this easier. A transgender eighth-grader mentioned his recovery from an attempt to die by suicide in a school assignment. The assignment was subsequently flagged by the assignment monitoring program Gaggle, and a school administrator was notified that a student had used the word “suicide” in an assignment, without providing the greater context of the assignment. The student’s parent was notified without telling the student that they would be. The student learned this lesson the hard way, he felt betrayed, and rightfully so. No one had ever told him that school is not a safe space, in fact, it seems like the teacher encouraged vulnerability with the assignment (a part of which can be seen here in the article by the 74 million).

school is not a safe space
Photo by Tamanna Rumee on Unsplash

“I was trying to be vulnerable with this teacher and be like, ‘Hey, here’s a thing that’s important to me because you asked,”

the student was quoted as saying.

This is how schools handle sensitive student issues. Thinking a school is equipped to handle things like this is similar to an adult thinking that HR is on their side. HR serves the interests of the company, and school officials serve the interests of the school, regardless if they have convinced themselves otherwise. I want to think that teachers who encourage students to be open are not motivated by malice or ill intent. I think they genuinely believe that they are there to help. They are bought in to the school system. But when push comes to shove, and the school administration requires the teacher to report something, it is out of the teacher’s hands. Many teachers do not consider this before encouraging openness. Many believe that if something is escalated then it will truly be in the best interest of the student, despite all evidence to the contrary. And the teacher doesn’t want to lose their job, so perhaps they need to believe that the manner in which they are legally bound to handle sensitive situations ultimately serves the students interests. Otherwise, how could they sleep at night?

This is an understandable and human rationale. What we can understand from this unfortunate reality of the system is that we need to educate our parents and students on the true nature of public school. I will say it again, for the people in the back, school is not a safe space.

Everyone should go into a school environment with the full knowledge that there is no expectation of privacy for information that is disclosed in school. Personal issues should not be discussed with school officials if the student is uncomfortable discussing the issue with the parents present. That is the standard for the information that students should feel comfortable disclosing to any school employee, or more recently, on any school computer. If this makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to look further into how our public school system is not designed to support students, but is designed to support the salaries of the people who work within the system. This is simply the reality of running a public school system in a hyper-capitalist society, and we shouldn’t be deluding our students into thinking that the system is for them when it clearly is not. This will only jeopardize the safety of our most vulnerable students.

If you, as a parent or other adult with a connection to a public school student, are concerned about your student, I encourage you to research your school district’s privacy policies, and speak to your school’s administration regarding how they handle students’ personal data. If you are able to, attend a school board meeting to voice your thoughts and opinions, respectfully.

And what do I propose as an alternative avenue of helping the students who need it most? It is very simple, but that does not mean it will be easy. We have to start by making mental health services free, and available to all people, but especially people under the age of 18. (It still poses something of a problem that providers have to notify parents if the minor is seeking assistance on their own, but that’s a different fight.) We have to make information on mental health resources such as hotlines, online avenues to licensed mental health practitioners, and support groups as available as schools make information on colleges. We need to make sure there is a licensed mental health professional on staff before we make sure there is a police officer. At the very least, we need to train all staff on both trauma and LGBT+ issues and how to handle topics like this in a manner that doesn’t jeopardize the mental and physical health of students. But until this happens, school is not a safe space.

Complement this with a look into some actionable tips on how to learn to love your body.

Everyday Trans Joy: Trans love is still resistance

Trans people can experience love. Trans people can experience joy because they are trans. And yes, cis people can love trans people.

I never thought I would find more to say on these ideas than the above. To me, they are self-evident. But apparently, many, many cisgender people do not understand these concepts. There have been so many transgender people that have pointed this out over the years, and it seems that the greater culture still isn’t hearing us. In an interview with journalist Tuck Woodstock, author Jeffrey Marsh tells us about a time when another interviewer asked them if they hoped to find love.

Jeffrey: It’s so funny because I think I know the clip you’re talking about. I think the interviewer even was like, “you know I hate to have such a traditional mindset but do you hope to have a partner?” It’s like what are you talking about? We’re human beings. Anyway.

Tuck: I’m very traditional, but do you hope to experience love (laughing)?

Jeffrey Marsh, Gender Reveal Ep. 93 25:30

And this same question has been asked of every part of the LGBTQ+ community for as long as we have been publicly visible. One of my favorite quotes of all time is Harvey Fierstein’s response to a really ridiculous question by Barbara Walters.

“Those are not heterosexual experiences and those are not heterosexual words. Those are human words. Love, commitment, family, belong to all people.”

Harvey Fierstein, Interview with Barbara Walters 1983

I only recommend you watch the full interview if you want a sense of where the public perception of gay people was back then, how far it has come since 1983, and how many of these same questions are being asked about trans people today.

I am not the first person to say that trans people love. We will be saying this as long as we love. Because as long as some cisgender people continue this rhetoric that all queerness leads to is pain and suffering, we will continue to shout it from the rooftops that we love and are lovable.

“I am transgender and this doesn’t mean that I am unlovable.”

Lana Wachowski

I credit the deliberate campaign of some people who feel threatened by our very existence as the reason that this ridiculous idea continues to permeate the zeitgeist to this day. I feel extremely strange to be addressing this specific issue. I am old enough, and from a conservative enough area, to remember when society at large was asking these same questions about gay people.

“Perhaps the most important contribution of queer by choice people to the fight against homophobia is that when we say that we chose to be queer, we force people to realize that it’s possible to want to be queer. For too long homophobes have painted us as one-sided creatures who experience nonstop pain. To paint us this way is to paint us as something less than full and well-rounded human beings, and they paint us this way specifically to scare others into repressing their own potential queerness. The reality is that there’s much to enjoy about being a member of the queer community and we who are queer by choice want homophobes to realize and acknowledge that.”

Gayle Madwin, queerbychoice.com

But what’s worse is that the people who call us “unlovable” are likely some of the very same people who claim we have gone too far in accepting transgender people. How could we have gotten this far without love? People who love trans people, trans people who love themselves, how would societal acceptance of trans people have been possible at all if trans people were inherently unable to love and be loved?

I am not writing this for people who think we are unlovable. I am not even writing this for those of us who are comfortable with ourselves. I write this for the people who have lived in an entirely cis world, until they started to question their internal dialogue. I am declaring, once again, that trans people are inherently lovable because I was fed the lie that transition is all pain and suffering. I was fed the lie that there is no joy, love, and light in being trans. That trans people are killed, by suicide and murder. That trans people are discriminated against. Sometimes, all of this is true, much more than it should be. However, there is a side of transness that people who call us unlovable don’t want you to see.

The very existence of the great many self-assured, confident, joyous trans people in this world is a form of direct resistance to this narrative.

Trans joy is resistance, trans love is resistance, trans existence is resistance.

But it shouldn’t have to be. Consider why these people, and ideas have been removed from the view of the majority of cis discourse. There are systems, well-funded and hidden from the view of greater society, that actively work to muffle and silence the voices of the trans community because they see it as their Biblical duty to do so. Don’t just take my word for it, take look at the deeply researched series that Imara Jones, and the team at Translash Media, put together on the anti-trans hate machine.

Even in the face of all of this, still there is trans joy. Still there is trans love. Still there are trans people. And still we persist.

Complement these musings on trans love with an exploration of why “passing” doesn’t define your transition.

Everday Trans Joy: Make trans friends!

trans friends

When I was teenager, I came across some advice for dealing with other people’s perceptions of you. The general idea was to assess the person that you are concerned about by asking yourself a series of questions such as “Who is this person to me?”, “Are they the kind of person that I would like to be?”, “Do they share my personally held values, beliefs, and standards of behavior?”, “Do they have some kind of material power over me (i.e. a parent, teacher, or boss)?”, etc.

Based on your answers to these questions, you can evaluate the utility of their opinion. This method is often used to get people to disconnect from the comments on social media. By asking the above questions about the random person on Instagram, you can pretty quickly figure out that you probably shouldn’t concern yourself with that person’s perception of you. But what about when a trans person asks themself these questions about the people they actually care about in their life? What happens when they find that they don’t have many people that pass this test, even among their family and friends? Well, my answer is make trans friends (where and when you can)!

I grew up in and around cultures that firmly believe that instruction from your elders, and ancestors is vital to one’s social, moral, and philosophical development. However this focus on instruction is often used as a means of social control and manipulation, rather than in the interest of true personal development. For example, I was constantly instructed to “act like a lady” and close my legs, and cross my hands in my lap, and keep silent when adults were speaking. I see the appeal. An entire list of exhortations, and behavioral instructions wrapped up in a single admonition. Personally, I chafed against this method of enforcing social order. I would purposefully splay my entire body across multiple chairs when left alone, and then immediately snap back into place when confronted by an adult, even in public.

But as I aged, mild rebellion just wouldn’t do anymore, and I sought out a framework for moral and social development that would actually resonate with my sensibilities and outlook on the world. I found one of the biggest men’s interests magazines on the web and took the lessons on morality, virtue, and the development of personal standards of behavior available there and generalized them to “include me”. Little did I know that I resonated so much with this white/cis/het/Western canon focused philosophy of masculinity because it was extolling all of the positive virtues of the oppressive structure under which I spent my childhood, while completely ignoring the reality of this oppression. I genuinely thought that I could take the good without the bad.

This isn’t to say that there is absolutely nothing we can learn from writings like these. I credit that particular magazine with introducing me to the wisdom of the ancient Stoics and their philosophy. I also credit these types of publications for opening my mind to the interrogation of gender as an idea, and a concept within our human nature.

I liked analyzing the relationship that our society has to gender, and how that relates to the individual and their development as a person. But I was always stymied because I didn’t agree with some crucial aspects of the arguments being made.

I didn’t personally believe that gender was a binary. I knew that I definitely didn’t fit into most people’s ideas of gender. Yet, because I identified so strongly with a lot of what else they were saying, I didn’t realize that the people having these intellectual discussions on masculinity would object to the nature of my own relationship to masculinity [being trans]. So I felt lost, and disillusioned with men as a concept. There are so many websites dedicated to the understanding of one particular type of gender [i.e. white-cis] and yet I struggled to find an aspirational model of trans masculinity that spoke to me.

And I still haven’t. Even my own writing is not necessarily designed to serve the same function as the “mainstream men’s interest mag”, which are generally designed to serve as a part of a massive, uber-capitalist media conglomerate. I am simply on a path that, while definitely well trod, has markers that have been hidden, obscured, erased, and buried. I would like to explore this ancient path, and possibly highlight some of these guide posts.

Ultimately, I am left thinking about a line from an episode of the Gender Reveal podcast I recently listened to. There was a moment in Episode 94 with Kirby Conrod that extolled the virtues of making trans and otherwise gender non-conforming friends. At minute marker 36:30, Kirby asserts that the transition from friends that misgender you (or otherwise “other” you) to ones that correctly gender you is a natural process and one that may happen throughout the course of your transition. By surrounding yourself with people who get you, you insulate yourself from some of the social trauma that your initial transition inevitably causes. With the psychological safety that having friends that respect you affords, you can have a more accurate self-perception. This is what I mean when I say make trans friends. I mean make friends that are people you can look up to, and who live their stated values and beliefs. People who are thinking deeply about their own relationship to gender. People with whom you can share ideas without fear for your safety. It might sound basic on its face, but I encourage you to consciously try it sometime. It might be an informative exercise, regardless of outcome!

After you resolve to make more trans friends, I encourage you to learn more about interrogating your relationship to masculinity, and why “passing” doesn’t define your transition.

About this site

Hi there! My name is J.D., and the spark for what would become TransJoy Media was lit by a particularly bad day. I got to the place where I literally just Googled the phrase “trans joy” because I needed some. I couldn’t find what I was looking for, so I decided to write myself into some trans joy. The results of this endeavor became one of the cornerstones of this site, which you can read here.

Before my public transition I was unaware of the concept of trans joy, so you could say the name TransJoy Media is really more of an aspiration than a dedication. Through my writing I hope to record some conversations I have with myself and others about growing and maturing as an intellectual, as a creative, and as a trans person in a (sometimes overwhelmingly) cis oriented world.

If you’re interested in having your work featured on the site, please fill out the form on this page.

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