This post sounds rather po-faced, but for all that the term “internalised transphobia” has an aura of radical activism about it, I believe it’s a real phenomenon. I’m a part-timer and some of the issues that I face are different from those faced by folks who’ve transitioned. But I think this experience of being our own biggest hater is common to many of us. When things go wrong, it’s because we’re trans. We’ve lived with guilt and shame for so long that we’re used to thinking of ourselves as shameful even when we can find no objective justification to draw that conclusion. Bad time at work? Well maybe if I didn’t spend so much time on the Hobbs web site I’d be more productive. And so on.
Perhaps one of the most curious manifestations of this is as follows. When I’m working hard, and can find no time for an outing en femme, I get so I really miss it. “I haven’t been out for ages….” So I’ll make a plan to have an outing. And then as the day draws nearer I find myself saying things like, “look, you’ve got so much work to do; maybe you’ll be happier if you just stay in and get on with that backlog”. Before long I find myself wondering why I’m so obsessed with going out; maybe I’ve scratched the itch – maybe I just don’t need to do it.
Monday was a day like this. I planned weeks ago to have an outing, as it was my birthday a few days before. I was looking forward with eager anticipation to lunch out, trying on a few dresses, browsing my favourite stores. But by the time the weekend came the same stuff was running through my brain: “do you really have to? aren’t there more useful things to do?”.
I’ve been through this often enough now to know when not to listen to myself. By the time I stood on the front path for this photo, such thoughts were forgotten. I walked for hours in the gorgeous spring sunshine, simply glad to be alive. I tried on lots of dresses, but none quite worked. I tried on some really cute nighties I’d seen online in the White Company, but they didn’t work either. I returned home six hours later having spent no more than the price of a sandwich and a cup of coffee. But all smoothed out inside, all the knots untangled for a short while. It was obvious why I do this, why I have to do it.
So all those crazy objections – just an over-active conscience? No, I think its much deeper. It stems from those awful years in childhood when I was alone with this peculiarity of mine, this thing that society frowned on. All the hiding, all the self-deception (“I’ll never do that again…”). I can now rejoice in being Karen; I can walk the streets, head held high and heedless of what anybody says. But that scared confused little boy, carefully putting his mother’s clothes back in place before she returned home, has left an indelible mark on my psyche. It manifests itself as this internalised transphobia – a voice that calls out from deep inside and blames me for being weird and different. My conscious mind rejects it but the emotional pull of the inner voice of condemnation is surprising at times. Its grip is weaker than it used to be but it’s still there.