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Being a middle aged transman
There are many issues still facing transgender individuals today. Many of these are certainly very influential in a trans person's life and some of these are dire. I however do not believe that things are as horrible as they are portrayed everywhere, particularly on social media.
I don't want to sound like the old man who tells the young whippersnappers how he had to walk barefoot in a snowstorm to go to school. But, however much i don't want this, I am going to risk being perceived as such in order to place these matters in perspective.
In the following paragraphs I will explain some of the reasons why I view things as I do. But first what are these radical perspectives on trans reality I hold?
Well first and foremost, as I began to mention earlier, things are not as bad as they are portrayed. Trans folk in the US now have numerous support mechanisms available to them. There are so many online and real time, groups dealing with just about every trans related issue imaginable. The Mental health professionals today are educated about gender related issues. There is an awareness at the grade school level in regards to the issues facing transgender students. I could go on far more along this line of thought: there is a lot of help available. Transgender individuals are not alone in their struggle unless they want to be.
I do not intend to be dismissive of the myriad of problems each individual has to face on a daily basis just because they are trans. I live these issues. Some are mere hassles others can be life threatening. However things are easier now than they ever have been.
Transgender people are not invisible anymore. We are not, by our mere existence, considered perverts or mentally ill. Are there bigots out there who still believe nonsense about us? Of course there are ;but their voices are becoming less and less influential.
Wee are living in a wonderful time for trans people. Our rights are being openly fought for when just a couple of decades ago we were considered mentally ill and considered freaks by the general public. I choose to see the proverbial glass as half full. Because it is. I have been subjected to many forms of harassment and injury because I am trans but I at least know that now I will be supported in my efforts to fight back.
I know we still have work to do but the road to travel is a much shorter one now. The goal is in sight. I do not condone any form of bullying or disrespectful interactions however I feel that we, as a group, are becoming way too sensitive. Not every use of the wrong pronoun is harassment. We should be a bit thicker skinned. No it is not right for bigots to call a young trans kid derogatory names but it also is not life altering: sticks and stones. Yes words hurt. I agree. I have been subject to them. What the point is; is that if we, as a group try to make a national incident every time a transgender person gets called a derogatory name then the impact of hearing the news that a trans person was harassed to the point of suicide is lost. If we cry foul every time someone honestly makes a mistake and calls us by the wrong name or pronoun then the impact of the people deliberately doing so in a hurtful manner is lost.
Moderation is the key. While no one should tolerate being hurt or demeaned we must be tolerant of ignorance and disdain to react to small acts of malice.
A little about me and how can I hold these opinions will become apparent. I was born in 1963. When I was young "gender dysphoria" was not addressed by mental health professionals. I was born into a female body and my insistence that I was a boy was met with everything except for understanding. I had nobody I could talk to about my feelings. I thought I was the only one in the world like this. There were no support groups, no activism supporting my rights, no compassion for the hell I was going through.
I learned to keep my "abnormal" feelings to myself. I lived in my head. I pretended to be a girl when I was forced to and lived my little boy life in my dreams. I was counselled, treated, medicated and diagnosed with everything under the sun because of the despondent attitude and behaviors I displayed. These treatments did nothing but push me further into myself.
The mental Health System
By the time I was a young adult I was severely depressed and, having moved away from home, my depression took control and I attempted suicide.
Fortunately I failed, maybe I wanted to fail, maybe the branch I hung from broke because I subconsciously chose a weak one. I will never know, nor do I care at this point. The important thing about this event is that I was trapped in the mental health system. This was the point in my life that truly effected every aspect of my journey. This was the moment my future was narrowed, my options were limited. Though I managed to survive with minimal physical injury my future did not.
Through the many years I was trapped in the system my life spiraled down. I became a pathetic institutionalized mental patient. I was dependent upon a system that did nothing to help me: a system that denied the true origins of my problems and sought to treat just the symptoms.
I spent three years as an inpatient in a psychiatric institution. I entered the institution a young, intelligent college student with a promising future and became a loser. I entered the system depressed because of the years of dealing with gender dysphoria. That system helped me become mentally ill.
I believed, initially, that, maybe, this was the place where I would be understood. Maybe I would be helped to transition. I didn't know the term "transition" yet but I knew what I wanted. I had, by then, heard of the term "transsexual" and felt hope at the mere existence of other people who felt as I did about my body. Whenever I brought this topic up in treatment though, I was told "we don't address those issues here". Years went by and my life crumbled. I went from dreams of being a Navy Officer to dreaming about having "grounds" privileges. I was 160 lbs and on no medication by the time I left I was 270lbs and on several, unnecessary medications.
Had just one person helped me navigate the then obscure road to transitioning, or at least helped me start on my way, my life would have been quite different. I would have saved many wasted years. I am not, by any means, feeling sorry for myself. I have overcome many obstacles all of which have combined to make me into the man I am today. I like that man. I needed to travel that detour in order to know the things I do today. I expound these troubles in my life to show where my different perspective comes from. I am afraid that, while intending well, we, as a society are weakening our young. While we should not allow our children to come to serious harm, is living through a swirly or a playground fight really all that traumatic? I think most men my agree would say no. Bullies have always existed. By dealing with them on our own we became stronger. As with disease, if we inoculate against every possible disease we will never develop an immunity. The truth is things are much easier today. We are just getting weaker. I am not saying that the extremes should be tolerated. By no means. But growing up if we never learn to fight a battle, deal with defeat, cope with hurt or struggle through difficulty, when these obstacles come along later in life we will be devastated. Moderation is the key.
Well I realize I went off on a tangent, but this tangent is evident in the attitudes of younger trans people. Their expectations are high, many times unrealistic. When they aren't met the effects are rougher than they should be. I would love to have society accept me and give me all I need to transition but I know that it will not. Nor do I have the right to expect it. I was 50 years old by the time I was finally able to afford my top surgery. I wasn't able to get hormones until I was well into my late 30's. All of this while being called a he-she, an it or "Pat" ( Thank you SNL). In comparison being accidentally called by the wrong pronoun is insignificant. So yeah I disagree vehemently with the pronoun and terminology correctness police. "Go fight a battle worth fighting," I say! Fight against those who are actively trying to hurt us or deny our rights both in legal and illegal ways Get outraged by the transgirl beaten to death because of who she is. Don't flip out over someone mistaking you for the wrong gender. People make mistakes. Don't tolerate someone deliberately demeaning you for who you are but respond proportionately: "sticks and stones" my friends. Are they wrong to insult us? of course they are but we have bigger fish to fry as they say. We have to choose our battles.
There are many old sayings extolling the greater value of a prize won through great strife. This is the kernel of my perspective on being transgender in today's society. This is why I sometimes differ greatly in opinion with my peers, particularly the younger ones, on trans issues.