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Friday, January 12, 2018

To Trans Boys Fielding Off Truscum

In the trans community there's this concept called "truscum" or trans-medicalists.  These are trans folks on a spectrum of belief regarding what a valid trans person is, with some sort of medical standard.  The baseline criteria for most truscum is "needs to have experienced dysphoria," with extreme truscum believing you need to desire bottom surgery in addition to hormones.  The very first time I encountered this in trans men was a long time ago, before the term "truscum" was really in common use (if it even existed as a term yet).  It was a winding rant from somebody who was pleading with us young trans newbies (back when I was a newbie!) to understand the gravity of transition, implying that there were droves of sad women out there transitioning to men because it was trendy without understanding the consequences of their actions.

I nodded, intent that I was not in this category anyway.  And since then my experience has been kind of buffered.  My transition--outside of the last couple years--has been remarkably traditional.  I started transitioning back when the Harry Benjamin Standards were still in wide use, I was masculine from a very young age, and although sometimes my presentation veers more feminine than my usual, I typically look like a mix between "backwoods country boy" and "hobby farm hipster" and I blend in with cis men really easily.  That said, I see truscum from afar, but rarely actually have to deal with them, both because I pass well and because curate the spaces I occupy very thoroughly.  So I have next to no problem talking about going off hormones.  If I did, this blog wouldn't exist.

This changed yesterday, and I want to tell that story, both to blow off steam and as a reassurance to other trans people who I assume get way more crap from truscum than I do.

I have a huge love of my beard.  Like I've said more than once, if there was a significant chance I'd lose my beard, I wouldn't have gone off hormones.  So I frequent quite a few spaces for trans men growing beards to show off pictures and talk about products and stuff.  I decided recently to post a timeline photo, because I'm stereotypical like that, and since I started making this timeline way back when I was still planning on always being on T, well, I just kept labeling them like I always did.

That says "1.5 years off hormones," not 15, but you probably knew that.
I'd posted pictures in this forum before to generally positive comments, but as soon as I posted something that disclosed my post-hormonal status?  The truscum started crawling out of the woodwork to vomit their trash opinions.  One of them told me I should have "put on a stick-on beard and gone to a therapist about my voice" instead of going on hormones and then blathered on about how I make "real" trans men look bad.  Another insisted he "could tell" that I went off of them and asked a pointed question about why I would stop testosterone, which as pharmaceutical testosterone is apparently "what makes you a man."

To be clear, it was a minority of people; only two compared to a couple dozen likes and multiple positive comments.  But just as is the case with all internet harassment, a super insensitive comment has the weight of a dozen positive ones sometimes.  I eventually deleted the post, then felt indignant because I shouldn't have needed to do that, so I reposted it with the caveat that I was not going to deal with commentary on my hormonal status.  Since I disclosed in the post that the reason I'd deleted and re-posted was heckling, the admins took care of it, but because I know from private messages there were other post-hormonal trans men who felt unsafe posting afterward, I wanted to address some of the nasty comments that were made and why they're crap, just in case these blights on society get to any more of you.

1. Remember that trans people are way better at reading you than cis people.

Being told "you don't pass" (which is the end goal of telling somebody you can tell they aren't on hormones or whatever else they're telling you) by a trans person can be crushing, because I think we expect each other to have expertise on what we need to do to blend in better.  It's also easily weaponized because so many of us are self-conscious about it.

The thing is, though, we really suck at it.  As somebody who lives in a city that is a minor trans social hub, I see a lot of trans people, many of whom have been on hormones for over a decade, and can read many of them as trans.  This is because when you are a trans person who has gone on hormones, and when you've seen other trans people who have gone on hormones, you get a very good sense of what changes and what doesn't that cis people never really experience.

One time I was going stealth in an LGBT club (I really wanted to see a little of what it felt like to be treated like a cis queer person in a queer space).  I'd been stealth for maybe four months, and there was a guy I'd immediately read as trans due to things like hand and foot size and variations in his facial structure.  I just got a vibe.  We both attended a sensitivity training and, when the only people "disclosing" their identity labels were cishets, I finally got sick of it and stood to disclose I was queer and trans.  The other guy then also disclosed, both of us to shocked gasps from the primarily-cis audience.  These are people who knew us for months, and they'd had absolutely no idea about either of us, even as we totally read each other.

I tell you that to tell you this:  If some truscum is telling you you aren't man enough (or woman enough, if you are a trans woman) because they "can tell," they are peddling hot garbage.  It's OK to feel bad when people are garbage to you, but always keep in mind that they really don't know what they're talking about.  And bonus:  I bet that you probably can find all sorts of things about them that scream "trans" to you, and the most persistent of these fools I would have read as trans in like ten seconds if he walked by.

2. Dysphoria does not mean what truscum think it means.

I already mentioned in a different post, but there are a lot of people who are dysphoric who don't think that they are dysphoric, because other trans people (and not just truscum) are very bad at expressing what that term means.

Dysphoria does not mean "I need bottom surgery or I will be suicidal."  The trans experience has never meant that, not since Harry Benjamin's first rudimentary categorization of trans people, which made plenty of room for trans folks who didn't need hormonal or surgical intervention.  Dysphoria is best described as a sense of being mismatched... which can include extreme depression until the entire body is changed, but can also mean merely feeling more comfortable looking one way than another ("I don't actively hate my chest but would be more comfortable and at peace if it were flat").

Dysphoria is also often contingent on more than just your personal feelings about your body.  Truscum like to believe that being trans is a fully biological condition (they like trash terminology like "brain sex") and that without any social conditioning whatsoever, "real" trans people will still feel the same level of dysphoria they would feel if they had grown up somewhere trans people were viewed differently.  This is, however, entirely untestable as there are no trans people who grow up without this kind of social conditioning.

3. The above is kind of a moot point, though, because truscum rarely actually care about dysphoria to begin with, they just care about compliance.

Here's the thing about going off or staying off hormones:  A lot of folks who do this are not doing it voluntarily.  I've met a couple dozen trans men who went off hormones, and very few are doing it for voluntary, hippie-dippy reasons like I did.  Instead, they ran into financial difficulty and had to stop, were forced off of it by incompetent doctors, couldn't go on it because there were too many social barriers in their way, or couldn't go on it because they had medical contraindications that meant nobody would prescribe it to them.  There are even those who don't start T because they're terrified of it, partially because truscum make it seem like a terrifying thing.

And the trans men who really get harassed by truscum?  They're often in this category.  If it were really about dysphoria or preserving the fantasy that transgender status is a biological disorder, truscum as a whole would be advocating for better hormone access.  But they literally do the opposite... they behave as though the "real" trans people are a rare phenomenon and that we need a high number of checks and balances to prevent anybody but the "real" trans people from accessing medical care.

A side effect of this is a disgusting "bootstraps" effect where people who get tripped up by the obstacles put in place are defined as "not real."  Because if you were a real trans person you'd let nothing stand in your way.

It's garbage.  Don't listen to it.

4.  If somebody is having a hard time being taken seriously (by the medical establishment, by their therapist, etc.) it's cis people's fault, not yours.

I think it's important to recognize that truscum--like all trans people--often do face a lot of struggle trying to get the care they need.  One of the truscum above was going on and on about how my going off hormones (something most cis people don't even know about me) "makes it hard for people to take us seriously."

Here's a little secret that is not a secret:  Cis people already don't take us seriously.  There has never been a time when cis people as a general rule were like "oh, yeah, this is a legitimate medical condition that has an agreed-upon treatment that is definitely not controversial" that was sabotaged by other trans people.  If everybody who transitioned exactly the way truscum want, they would still have the same issues from the same people making the same arguments.

This is especially obvious when looking at the way truscum try sucking up to TERF ideologies.  There is absolutely no way to spin anything a TERF says as being accepting of truscum, and yet they still fabricate this idea that if we all would just do it their way the radfems would leave them alone.  This is preposterous, considering the seeds of TERF dogma were sewn back when people generally did transition more like truscum logic would dictate.

5.  Always remember that these people are a minority.

Like I mentioned above, the exchange I had with two people was enough to ruin part of my day because of the negativity of it, but people who were positive about it outnumbered them a good twenty to one if not more.  The reality is that times have changed a lot since these people were hatched and transitioning differently is not a controversial thing that everybody only talks about in hushed tones.  It's common knowledge in trans communities.

Anyway, that's all for now.  Happy trails,
-- Jackson