FAQ about transgender people
(This section is condensed and reproduced with permission from Wipe Out Transphobia. )
“You’re trans, oh so you’re gay then?”
This is a common, if not the most common misconception that trans people face when coming out or discussing their situation with other people. The quick answer to this is, well yes, some trans people are gay, but they are not gay because they are trans! In actual fact, just like the rest of the population, sexuality varies a lot and has nothing to do with a person’s Gender Identity. Trans people can be lesbian, gay, bisexual or of course, straight!
We would like to stress this again, sexuality, that is who you are attracted to sexually, has nothing to do with whether a person is trans or not.
“Is being trans just a phase?”
Contrary to popular belief, being trans is not just a phase or something people who’ve been diagnosed will grow out of/forget about; it’s actually a full time, ongoing nightmare for those affected, usually with the only viable treatment being to transition.
“If you transition, you’ll never be happy”
Again, this is a pretty scary assumption as it perpetuates the idea that to be trans is a lost cause and that even after a successful transition, a trans person couldn’t possibly be happy. The truth of the matter is that of those who do transition to a place they are comfortable, can and do live normal healthy lives, both within work, socially and sexually. Being trans is not something new, there are in fact already many trans people living out and about within your communities, most of them doing exactly the same things you do every day. Just because you cannot visibly see and notice trans people, doesn’t mean we aren’t there.
“But, you’re never going to find love and get married”
Well, yes we just might! This again has nothing to do with whether a person is trans or not, it actually affects everyone the same way. Meeting the right person to spend your life with doesn’t revolve around being trans or not. Many, many trans people find partners both pre and post transition and live very happy, loving lives.
“Isn’t this all about genitals, you know, when we get down to it”
Nope. Genitals and surgery are but a small part of a few trans people’s transition, but it’s not essential. Trans folk who transition can do this quite successfully without seeking genital surgery and this can be for many reasons, usually very personal to the person involved. It is not appropriate and in fact would be seen as quite rude to ask about a trans person’s genitalia when discussing trans issues with them. Think about it, when was the last time you asked your friends, family or coworkers about theirs? Exactly, well it’s no more appropriate just because a person is trans.
“No genital surgery, well you’re not a full Man/Woman then!”
Again, this is very rude and assumes a lot of things, not least that being a man or woman is only related to a person’s private parts. Gender is a social construct/idea and involves how a person acts and relates to themselves and other people within society. Physical sexual characteristics are entirely separate from this (genitals), meaning that if someone identifies and presents as a particular gender within society, this is exactly who they are and how they should be treated.
“Trans people are just Drag Queens/Kings?”
The two are in fact entirely unrelated. Trans people, however we identify are not Drag Queens / Kings because we’re trans, just as we’re not more likely to buy a particular kind of clothing just because we’re trans. Drag is an art form and particularly concerned with the entertainment of others through the over impersonation of the opposite gender. This is definitely not what being trans is. Being trans is about personal identity and about how you feel comfortable, it is not an entertainment platform. This again though, does not mean that some trans people don’t perform, however it has nothing to do with them being trans in the first place.
“But you made the choice to be trans!”
Hmmmn, well again, no. Trans people can no more choose to be trans than we can choose how tall we are. Trans people have been scientifically proven to be born the way they are, with physical conditions at birth contributing towards the error between gender identity and physical sex. Some people manage to live their lives and suppress their feelings, but some people cannot and then transition. Some trans people will say that they were born trans and then chose to transition, while others will say they had no choice in either and that transition was the only way they could survive. Neither of these is wrong, it really does just depend on the person, however this still doesn’t mean that people choose to be trans.
“Trans people always regret going through transition!”
A rather odd myth we think, but one that exists anyway. As a treatment, transition is one of the only ways a trans person who has GID can be helped to recover and to be able to rebuild their lives again. Of course, we go through a lot of evaluations and tests to make sure what we do is the right choice for us, but this means that ultimately very few trans people ever regret going through transition and aligning their physical body with how they feel inside.
“It’s all about the sex/fetish, right?”
So many of the myths we have been sent have related to the mix-up between gender identity and sex/sexuality. This one again perpetuates the view that people who transition or cross-dress are all some kind of deviant looking for sexual gratification in some way. We can say with a high degree of certainty that this is not the case and that those who do, do this for many other reasons, all excluding however, sex and fetish. Gender identity is exactly that, it’s how you identify, which means whether you transition from one physical sex to another to match your internal identity, live androgynous, or dress at weekends, it’s to do with feeling comfortable and bringing oneself into line internally and externally.
“Trans people can’t get jobs, they’ll end up as prostitutes!”
Well, yes they can actually and no, they won’t. Many trans folk find successful employment in a myriad of different employment situations and lots keep the old jobs they had prior to transition. It’s not easy as discrimination and misinformation, along with employers’ misconceptions about trans people integrating into their workforce still exist, however many trans folk have rewarding and fulfilling careers, with the fact they’re trans having no bearing on that at all. In the UK [and the United States] for instance, trans people are specifically protected from workplace discrimination.
“Trans women are just men trying to invade women’s space”
Unfortunately, this is something we hear quite regularly from the more radical section of the feminist movement. Feminism is great and we obviously support equality, however this assertion that trans women trying to use the toilet (for instance) are just men trying to invade women’s space is absolutely ludicrous. Transition is an incredibly difficult process, one which is undertaken with great care and determination, however this determination is for nothing other than to feel like ourselves. Unfortunately Radical Feminism creates some of the most abundant transphobia this century.
“I’m attracted to a trans Man/Woman, am I gay?”
This is related to a myth further up the page and again we would like to stress that gender identity and sexuality are separate. If you’re a straight guy who finds a trans woman attractive, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you. That would be heterosexual attraction. If you’re a straight woman who’s attracted to a trans guy, then this again is heterosexual attraction. You would be straight before you thought they were cute, and you’ll still be straight afterwards!
“You’re not a ‘true’ trans person, because……”
This is the myth that there’s a particular kind of stereotype that all trans people fit into and so when you don’t fit, you just cannot possibly be trans. Well again, we’re sorry to burst people’s bubbles, but trans people are as varied as every other type of person, minority, majority, community etc. Quite often, the only thing that people in our community have in common is that we’re dealing with some kind of internal gender identity that doesn’t match us physically, and that really is it. Trans people all have different life experiences, hobbies, jobs, family, qualifications, religions or faiths or any other variation you can think of.
My thanks to Emma Bailey, founder of Wipe Out Transphobia.
(This section is condensed and reproduced with permission from Wipe Out Transphobia. )