Today, I’m writing about something disturbing that many of us see regularly within the transgender community but no one seems to know how to fix. In order to fix it, we first need to identify what it is. After a series of lengthy dialog sessions with my beloved wife, we talked through my many experiences as a trans individual, and together we came to a rather obvious conclusion – there is in fact a caste system currently in place and at work in our community.
The caste system is defined as a social system that establishes a hierarchy based on assigned statuses applied to a population. Various examples of these statuses include race, gender, nationality, body type, and age. It’s seen in pop culture via the faction system presented in the novel and resultant film Divergent.
A caste system ranks people rigidly, so changing from one caste to another can often be difficult, if not impossible, due to non-acceptance from within the specific caste an individual is trying to assimilate into. This non-acceptance stems from the desire from those who already exist within a specific caste to prevent its pollution and to maintain its purity, as those two concepts are considered to be paramount in the preservation of the system.
Caste is, by definition, systemic bigotry.
Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of my spare time frequenting the various transgender and crossdressing forums online. I once found these digital spaces to be inspiring in terms of my own writing projects highlighting trans issues. In that time spent I’ve discovered that it has always been nearly impossible to establish and maintain a simultaneous dialog with the various “groups” found within those online trans communities. In addition, it’s been a rarity to see members communicate freely and openly with others outside of their own chosen group.
Often times, trans-related online spaces are set up to purposefully separate each element of the trans community into tidy groups so everyone “knows their place” and is forced to stay in the group they are “supposed to be in.” No self-identifying crossdressers are permitted to be in the transsexual forums as those are password protected. After all, you do have to keep out the riff-raff…
These online spaces that are touted as safe-havens from the oppressive and judgmental outside world have never once allowed me access to both cross-dressing forums and transsexual forums no matter what the reason for my request. I instead always have to declare my allegiance to my own group based on questions regarding how I self-identify, and once I choose a “faction”, I am indeed stuck there forever.
In all of this self-segregation I’ve witnessed, it has become quite obvious to me that transgender individuals, like many other groups within our society, choose to self-segregate. The dividing line, unfortunately, always seems to be based on where we feel that we land in the “transgender spectrum”, or what we feel our goals with regard to our gender presentation are.
The transgender spectrum is an easy concept to grasp. It’s very much like a timeline, but without the time-elapsed factor. In place of that, you have a large group’s varying gender identity and outward gender presentation. On one end of the transgender spectrum you might have the closeted cross dresser – a part-time indulger in clothing and tangible accessories that are considered to be pretty and feminine. On the opposite end you may have the transsexual – fully transitioned and living full time as the gender that is considered to be opposite the one they were born. In between those two, you would have a lot of gray area where folks who identify as gender-queer, bi-gender, genderless and gender-fluid exist, just to name a few.
In short, that is how I, and many others I’ve had conversations with, see the gender spectrum for the most part.
Let me explain a little of what I see happening…
In my observations of self-segregation within the trans community over the years, I’ve noticed that those who feel they identify as cross dressers usually socialize mainly, or sometimes even exclusively, with others who also identify as cross dressers. Still others who identify as transsexual mainly gravitate towards others who also identify this way. Those who are intersexed often gravitate toward other intersexed individuals (if they are able to locate any), or exclusively toward those from the one binary gender that has belittled them the least.
It’s true it should be stated that we as human beings often find comfort in keeping company with those who understand first-hand our experiences and points-of-view. Bearing this in mind, it shouldn’t surprise us that we as trans individuals would group off and socialize a bit with others who understand us the best, based on comparable life experiences and similar points of view. But, why is there anger, resentment, judgement and loathing coming from within the community toward other members?
The problem I see is that there are individuals within the transgender umbrella who do not see the reality that all of us as transgender individuals will benefit from coming together. They don’t see the need to unify and fight for our rights to exist in society, to express ourselves as however we see fit, and to secure a place to do so without all the degradation and harassment from the haters. It’s probably something they would like, but they will not unify and tackle these challenges together.
Instead, many trans people find their niche in terms of their preferred way of thinking and presenting, they go find like-minded friends, and then gather to stand in judgement of other trans folk who do not think or present similarly. It’s a very selfish way to exist, because it equates to actively discarding the good that could be accomplished for the greater community by showing some solidarity, in favor of the comfort in branching off into a clique so opinions and ideas are not challenged. If this sounds like you then congratulations! You’re now living in a bubble.
I’ve seen transsexuals mock those who identify as cross dressers for not being willing or able to pass as cis-women. I’ve heard it said that crossdressing males are easier to clock than transsexuals, and this preconceived idea somehow invalidates every transsexual who has gone the extra mile to “transition fully” and live as a woman full time. So, transsexuals shouldn’t go out in public and be seen with cross dressers.
Wouldn’t this be an example of keeping the “transsexual caste” pure and unpolluted?
I’ve seen some who identify as crossdressers mock transsexuals for going “way overboard”, and that gender non-conformity should just be a “hobby” to be indulged in “from time to time”.
Wouldn’t this be an example of keeping the “crossdressing caste” pure and unpolluted?
I’ve once was told by an intersexed individual that my friendship was not wanted because I was born male, and all males ever did was hurt this person time and time again. Because of what others did to this person, I was judged as unworthy of friendship on any level.
Wouldn’t this be keeping the “intersexed caste” pure and unpolluted?
Most recently, we’ve all seen the story of Caitlyn Jenner. A self-made celebrity multimillionaire who recently came out as trans in a very public way and has steadily been put through the wringer for “being too privileged to be able to understand the challenges that average transgender folks face in today’s society.”
Wouldn’t this be keeping the “poor trans people” caste pure and unpolluted?
So, how do we fix this?
We need to stop this internal dysfunction and start pulling together as a community of diverse people. The public needs to see this so we don’t appear to them as a divided community. We need to be willing to open up the dialog within our own ranks and set aside the jealousy and pettiness. We need to stop socially separating ourselves from one another so we only hear the version of the truth we want to. Each one of us needs to make a bold move and befriend someone from the trans community who is not like our self. We each need to start a dialog with a trans person whose opinions do not mirror ours. We need to encourage others to do all of these things every single day starting now.
If we continue to self-segregate, we’re destined to become a community consisting of rag-tag bands of clueless enablers – justifying some pretty absurd notions of who we are as individuals, where we are going as a community, and what we are actually accomplishing in our gender non-conformity.
When there are no more opposing opinions in our little world, we at that point, are living in a bubble.
Look at history, folks. Bubbles burst.