Suffering? Not what I said …

by Justin Tanis

A high school paper article, published online  on Friday, misquoted me as saying that “Many people suffer from being transgender but no one knows exactly how many transgender people there are in the United States.” This is similar to other quotes  I have made in other publications (which is, I assume, where the student reporter got the basis of the quote to begin with) in response to a frequently asked question about how many trans people there are. There is, however,  one significant difference: I would never use the word “suffer” about transgender people in this way. Being transgender does not cause suffering. I don’t suffer from being transgender, even though occasionally in my life I have been subject to other people’s prejudice about it.

It’s one of the challenges we face while trying to explain to policy makers and the public about the impacts of transphobia. Sometimes we have to paint a clear picture of the challenges and, yes, suffering that transgender people face as a result of discrimination in the workplace, violence on the streets and prejudice even within our own families, but we do so in order to impact policies and attitudes that can change those circumstances. It can be a depressing picture. But we also must show that the reality of the lives of transgender people  includes stories of acceptance, safety, affirmation and joy in the places we live and work. Many of us have experienced changed hearts, minds, policies and laws as people–people like our families, neighbors, co-workers and even members of Congress–come to know us.

For me, identifying as transgender has been a profoundly liberating experience, which is part of what has motivated me to work hard to end the prejudice that inflicts suffering on our community.  But suffering from being transgender … never.

6 Responses to Suffering? Not what I said …

  1. okwhateverdude says:

    I can’t even fathom you today…
    Being transgender has brought me enough angst to put in into a nervous breakdown. Spend years in depression and has made forging long term relations nigh impossible.
    Being transgender has been more pain than enlightenment. Although I will admit that there are certain mental advantages that haveing both sides of the brain available. The ability (if we allow it) to go into male or female mind set with a little mental prep.
    But what does that get me? That and a buck will get a burger at the fastfood joint down the street.

  2. Kimberly says:

    Be transsexual has liberated me from the working world for the last 23 months. Not by choice. And I “pass” reasonably well.
    Here in Washington State we have employment non-discrimination laws which means employers say “you’re not a good fit” instead of saying “you’re trans”. Bitch, when you have 30 yrs experience in a field and can’t make the cut.

  3. Kimberly says:

    sorry, ‘Being’. But you knew that.

  4. Justin Tanis says:

    I agree with both of you that transgender people experience suffering … my point is that the suffering comes from the prejudice we face, not inherently just from being transgender. I think the cause of the suffering we experience should rest squarely on the shoulders of those who are at it’s source: those who act out of prejudice, ignorance and fear against us.

    • Kimberly says:

      I know Justin, just my chronic cynicism and frustration coming to the surface. I agree, we are not responsible for the ignorance shown against us, we merely pay the price for it. Wake me up in 50 years.

  5. Anne says:

    Being trans does cause suffering. Living in a body that does not fit my sense of self causes me much pain and depression every day. Not because the culture does not approve, or because of prejudice…those are extras that get piled on top of the original pain.

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