Thoughts Inspired by a NYT Op-Ed

| Aug 24, 2015
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One day earlier this year I was at a local restaurant bar for happy hour. It’s one of my favorite spots as they have half price drinks and appetizers from 5 till 7. I was tastefully attired in one of my “lady out shopping” outfits and enjoying myself fairly well. Except, there was a man across the bar who kept looking at me. There was a television over my head (since bar managers believe that it’s impossible to drink without watching something on a flat screen TV) and I couldn’t decide if he was looking at me or watching a sports program on the television over my head. (Watching a TV or the TV?)

Then I learned that he had been watching me when he came over. He was a slightly odd looking duck. Although he was not that old he had no five ‘o clock shadow. As if his beard had been removed. His eyebrows were trimmed up and femme looking. And he had a very slim build. It all clicked into place when he asked if my name was Angela.

This “man at the bar” was a trans person. She thanked me for TGF and said that she wished she was as brave as I was and could go out in public as her desired gender. I tried to encourage her to give it a try since from my experience no one will do anything to harm you and you will find being out of the closet a much better life than one in which you hide your true self.

I’ve often met people online who never go out as their desired gender. They make problems in many cases that keeps them from expressing what they feel inside. The “man at the bar” would no doubt have looked like any other lady if he was dressed and made up. He was holding himself back with one issue or another and dressing up in the closet. Sometime we’re our own worst enemies but perhaps we can’t help it. Society, particularly the society of years gone by, was not kind to those who displayed gender identity issues. Those who were different were made to feel odd, told they were perverted or evil — picked on and bullied if they showed behaviors that didn’t match their physical sex. Hard to be open when you are afraid it will lead to pain.

The Sunday edition of The New York Times featured an op-ed by Professor Richard A. Friedman which gave a reasonable overview of transgender issues. (Although he mentions the work of some that is not accepted as necessarily valid.) Professor Friedman wrote about the Vienna study that concluded the brains of trans people are different than those of cisgender people. He also went into several other areas of the trans experience, including the statistics that show a large number of transsexuals who have gone through gender reassignment commit suicide. He wonders if this is due to a “complex interaction of mental health factors and experiences of harassment, discrimination and violence.”

Good call, professor.

The person I met at the bar, even myself, were kept prisoner with a secret for many years. We knew that society didn’t look upon us kindly. So we kept our secret. That’s just one of the issues for many trans people, and keeping your nature hidden and never sharing it with anyone can lead to mental problems. Living a “double life” and hiding your crossdressing or your gender identity can mess up your brain. Those closest to you don’t actually know you. You need to be constantly on guard to not get caught. Doing what? Something that is a large part of who you are.

People who come out and live as they want to live face the discrimination and violence that the professor mentions. Those in transition have to put up with insensitive question of a personal nature, often can’t get or hold a job due to harassment from co-workers or bosses who don’t want “someone like that” working at their company. They can end up living at the bottom society.   Not a positive life that will build self esteem, to say the least. When you are poor, picked on, threatened with violence, rejected by family and treated like something perverted or evil is it any wonder that trans people get depressed and commit suicide?

Thanks to the work of trans activists over the past decades things are finally starting to change. Caitlyn Jenner may not represent the lives of the majority of trans people but as a celebrity who was well known as a man, she has gotten people to stop and think about things they never considered before. That’s a good thing. But, for many, many others the fight to be able to live as they want to takes a toll. Often they are so focussed on getting their surgery that they come to think it will solve all of their problems. But it doesn’t. The world does not become a Disney paradise filled with little birds singing happy songs. They still have all the problems they had before they had their surgery and possibly a few more. It may well be that damaged by years of maltreatment from the world, focussed on one thing that they believe will solve their problems, they fall into even greater depression when the happiness they expected does not immediately appear.

In The Time op-ed the professor suggests that more and better mental health care should be made available to transsexuals. It wasn’t there before because the cisgendered world didn’t know there was a problem. Let’s hope that a greater awareness of trans people and the hardships they face will make that care a reality.

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Category: Transgender Opinion


About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Assoc., Inc., former editor of its newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She was the Diva of Dish for TGF in the late 1990s and Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows.

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