I have to admit that I am somewhat addicted to Tumblr. True, I love it because I’m as likely to see a great Dr. Who .gifset as I am to find anything substantive, but it’s also a great hub of queer community. It feels to me (who grew up on such things) like something of a successor to LiveJournal, although a bit less personal, and with a lot more fingernail art. At any rate, because I currently work in a field that has nothing to do with queerness, and sadly have had less and less occasion since leaving school to engage in lengthy discussions on such matters, Tumblr helps keep me up to date on the haps in the community.
A while ago, while falling down some rabbit hole or another on the site, I encountered a Tumblr (an individual page on Tumblr is, of course called… a Tumblr) that allowed readers to submit their opinions on various subjects relating to the queer community that they felt might be shouted down in other, more “PC” forums. I was intrigued, because whenever the phrase “too PC” is invoked, you know the hideous underbelly of humanity is about to emerge. For other examples, see: all of Reddit.
One of the first things that I encountered, and one which turned out to be a recurring theme, was the idea of “transtrenders.” The term sort of implies its own insidious definition, but I’ll give one anyway. According to Urban Dictionary (the font of all knowledge) a “transtrender” is an ftm trans* person who is transitioning because it’s trendy. Let us pause to allow that definition sink in.
Once you have digested that definition after having vomited up whatever it is you last ate, you might wander on over to Tumblr and type “transtrender” in the search bar (warning: don’t do this), and soon after doing so might realize that it is a term not only applied to FTM folks, but also almost exclusively used by FTM folks, who get a nickname entirely their own — “truscum” (a clearly derogatory term which they, apparently, have reclaimed). Clearly this is the old “not trans enough” accusation, which trans* men have lobbed at each other for years, in new wrapping. But I have to say that I think that it’s a particularly poopy new wrapping.
Accusations of “transtrendiness” often focus on young folks who are relatively femme, may or may not want to medically transition using hormones and surgeries, and generally have no interest in becoming the hairy macho-man that trans* (and, you know, all) men are supposed to want to become.
Some of the “concerns” about “trenders” stem from the complicated relationship trans* folks have with the medical community. In many places, people who want to go on hormones have to undergo therapy in order to get a letter that certifies that they are indeed transgender. Folks of the truscum persuasion express a general concern that these “trenders” will start hormones, hate it, go off of them, scare the therapists and doctors with lawsuits, and then no one will ever be able to transition again. Ever. All because some people thought being trans* would be trendy and fun.
Let’s begin unpacking this by stating this very clearly, as it is a right that is essential to every trans* person: a person should be allowed to decide exactly what to do with their body, including de-transitioning (something that really, really doesn’t happen all that often, but is deployed as an argument as if it’s something that happens every day) because, hey, guess what? It’s their body, life, and decision. Even if de-transitioning were something that happened often (again, isn’t), and because of this doctors/therapists began to be scared of treating trans folks, that fear would STILL not be the fault of the person receiving treatment. Refusing medical treatment to trans* people is a result of transphobia, and it is something that requires education, better medical definitions, and informed consent treatment models to combat. Not the eradication of others’ identities.
The fact is that “truscum” are as deeply invested in maintaining the patriarchal status quo as many cis men. They are seeking their legitimacy as men from a system that will always deny them of it, and selling out their trans* and genderqueer siblings in the process. The misogyny and transphobia of many of the posts on this topic are cutting: they accuse people of being “trenders” for no other reason than that they like to wear girls’ clothing, or enjoy the color pink. They purposely misgender them and create communities dedicated to mocking them. They generally act exactly like every transphobic cis person I’ve ever encountered. They employ the tools of their own oppression against those who are more vulnerable than them. In short, they earn their nickname.
The saddest part of all of this is that “truscum” don’t even realize that they are working against themselves. Finding more ways to define being a man means that there is less chance that society is going to deny them their identity. If there is no one way to look, act, or feel like any gender, then you are free to be exactly who you need to be (except a misogynist piece of shit. You can fuck right off with that mess). You can go right along getting any surgery or hormone treatment you need, and they can go right along being a fabulous femme fag without altering their body at all, and everyone can be happy and no less of a man because of it. See how that works? Doesn’t that sound better?
The only way any of this works, however is if we as trans* folks can stop working against each other and everyone else by continually recreating the systems of oppression that we are trying to escape. Otherwise we’re just going to be stuck exactly where we are, forever.