Gender Prison: On Spreading Love...for Valentine's Week

I'd like people to read an Op-ed by Lucian Clark that was published in the Advocate this morning: Why Are Narratives Around Transgender People Always So Negative?

Clark has his own website, called Gender Terror.

People like me are terrors to people who hate trans* people. My very existence shatters many of their beliefs. I literally terrorize their definitions.

Similarly, my own Tuesday column, which I label Gender Prison is not about any prison I am locked in. It is about the prison you allow yourself to be incarcerated in...which I attempt to point out...because your imprisonment always works to our detriment.

I hope people have noticed that I search for positive news stories about us to mix in with the usual stories of us being assaulted and/or murdered. I mean, we can't ignore what happens to people like Islan Nettles and Cece McDonald and the others who have gotten less coverage…but whose lives are nonetheless deserving of having their existence acknowledged. But it is necessary to also share the lives of those who are…or could be…role models for the transpeople who are struggling to build meaningful lives.

I'm proud to be a transsexual mathematics professor. And I'm not the only one. One of my fellow graduate students at the University of Oregon in the late 70s and early 80s also turned out to be a transwoman. How rare must that have been? Did we know about each other at the time? Definitely not.

Clark acknowledges that we bring some of the negativity on ourselves.

And it's not only limited to media either. Many trans* people use words like “trapped in the wrong body” to describe our experience. Words like "wrong," "incorrect," and "painful" are prevalent in how we describe ourselves. Depression and suffering are not only things we have come to expect, but also ways we define ourselves and our experiences. Too many people do not believe that someone cannot be trans* without enduring the suffering and mental anguish that comes with feeling there is something inherently wrong about who you are and the body you were given.

Clark points out that this characterization of us all too easily is internalized. We can quickly start believing and living it, feeling that we are only worthy if we are hyperfeminine women or hypermasculine men.

Positivity is not portrayed often, if at all. Even stories of triumph are tainted. They are portrayed as the one, the few, the unique circumstance of a trans* person actually making something of themselves. They are the rarity, the oddity. If a trans* person's partner does not leave them after transition, for example, the story focuses on the strife, the struggle. The story focuses on how it is uncommon. What does this tell the generation of trans* people just growing up or just coming out? That we are unworthy of love? That love will be a hard find for us? The most recent strain of articles about how there are cis people who even consider us as partners as someone worth dating, loving, and even having sex with, only further emphasizes this point. With this type of narrative, it is no wonder that trans* people feel so hopeless, unloved, and unwanted by society.

This needs to stop. Being trans* is not synonymous with self-hatred. It needs to be synonymous with self-love and self-care. Trans* people love themselves so much that they do whatever it takes to become themselves. We love ourselves so much that we sometimes risk life and limb to simply exist. Our transitions are necessity, done out of love for self and love for life.

We need to let those of us know who are stumbling and struggling that we are worth all the world has to offer everyone else. We are worthy of acceptance. We are worthy of existing in this world, just like anyone else. We matter. Our stories matter.

Loving us is not some burden. Our transitions are not done due to self-hatred. We are not reserved to pain, suffering, and a life of being pitied. We deserve basic human respect and dignity because we are human.

The negative stories will still be shared. This society does not accept us as worthy sentients. The transphobia and transmisogyny is rampant. That cannot be ignored.

It would be foolish to say anything else. To do so would be to paint the world with rainbows and unicorns, glitz, glam, and sunshine.

Trans people are more likely to be the targets of violence, joblessness, homelessness, and poor health care, both mental and physical. Trans women of color suffer this to an even greater extent than the rest of us. ut that is not all we should be sharing.

These are the stories we are telling trans* people who are just finding themselves. These are the stories we are giving our children to look forward to. We are telling those who will come after us that they only have pain to look forward to. This is unacceptable.

While there will be pain, there will also be happiness. There is the possibility for success. There is the possibility for a life well lived. We need these stories alongside the stories of the negative. There needs to be a balance. There needs to be sun, at least even occasionally, through the rain clouds.

Understandably, without rain there cannot be a rainbow, but we need at least a little sun for that to be possible.

On this week of Valentine's Day, we need to think about sharing and spreading the the love…even as the storm approaches. It is the love we can generate and the love we can provide that will help to protect us from that storm.

Our lives are worth so much more than pain. Our stories are filled with so much more than suffering. Our trans* identities are so much more varying and unique than the harsh and shrill cry we are giving them. There is so much more depth to our existences. So much more depth to the lives we lead. We need to start doing ourselves the love we deserve.




Nurture the Love








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Musical accompaniment:

Robyn's picture

John Kilzer's Love and Happiness:


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Happy V Week!

aigeanta's picture

Here's to loving and being loved.

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