Interview : SALGA’s Transgender Outreach Coordinator, Deen (Part 2)

We continue our conversation with Deen in the 2nd of a multi-part series [Link] on SALGA’s new trans/ally page[Link].

DeenA lot of times trans folks own internalization leads to some marginally phobic attitude within the community. Do you think a resource like this in addition to instilling a message to cis folks will also help the trans folks take pride in who they are? For example, dating within the trans community or hanging out with other trans folks for fear of passing.

Yes, I hope so. I think having a place — literally having a tab on the SALGA website that says “Transgender/Ally” — sends a message. I hope it’s a message that inspires confidence and pride and a sense of belonging. But I don’t think it’s that easy, either. Internalized transphobia can be a subtle beast. I think it will take time for there to be large scale attitude shift in the general queer population so that trans people are seen as not just a separate-but-equal segment of the queer community, but truly as an integrated part of the community.

A Gender Queer identifying person I met recently said the greatest fear they faced was the BIG “Pee” question that all trans folks face? They went on to say the greatest thing their friends helped them with was to be their “bathroom buddy”. Any comments?
This question made me smile as I remembered my own journey. I used to have bathroom buddies before I transitioned. I was constantly challenged as a butch in women’s bathrooms — my partner would come with me and give people the evil eye if they looked like they were going to give me a hard time. When I had to switch bathrooms I was terrified! I was fully expecting to be discovered as an imposter and assaulted as soon as a I set foot in a public men’s bathroom. In fact, I found the opposite to be true. Men don’t police their bathrooms in the same way; in fact they try their hardest not to make any eye contact at all. Over time, I began to see myself as less of an imposter, and more as someone who belonged in the men’s room. There are still uncomfortable situations when I need to use a men’s room, but the stall door doesn’t latch, or once someone walked in on me — but my attitude has changed, and that makes all the difference. Before, I wasn’t sure if I had a right to be there. Now I know that I do, and so I feel confident and in control. It’s the other person that has to explain themself, not me.
I’m aware, though, that as a transgender man I probably have a different experience than many gender queer or trans women.
We all have our cis friends who help us through our transition. But i always think of this as ‘our’ journey rather than ‘my’ journey because in this process our friends grow along with us and they discover about themselves like we do about ourselves. Would you like to comment on this?
I can only speak for myself here. I think of my transition as beginning the decade prior to my coming out as transgender and going all the way up to the social and physical transitions I undertook. So the way I look at it, as my journey was ending, the journey my parents and partner would take was just beginning. My friends have been incredibly supportive, and I think just knowing me before and after must affect the way they see gender int his world. But if they’ve had any epiphanies or discovered anything about themselves as a result of my transition, I’m not aware of it.
Trans folks like the rest of the world come in all colors, shapes, sexuality and varied other traits. But in spite of all this and any other cultural or social factors, there seems to be a common experience of despair, struggle and coming out to oneself and others. What would you tell all the trans folks out there?
Take heart, you’re not alone. Be gentle with yourself and patient with others (this doesn’t mean don’t get mad, but just know that most people will come around in the end). We are pioneers, building bridges that have not yet been built. Already it is so much easier for us than it was fifty years ago.
Ask for help when you need it. Find good friends and be good to them. But most of all, love yourself. You are infinitely loveable. It’s not about whether your Mom loves you or even if your partner loves you — it’s about whether you love yourself. And buy yourself an ice cream come every now and then because you deserve it.
Salga-NYCWhat would you say to cis folks – the family, friends, members of the community, coworkers, onlookers, who are out there filled with phobia or they are accepting and would want to support but just don’t know what to say? How would you deal with “its ok with me as long as it is not someone I know”, or “it is ok with me but…” statements?
I would say: It’s okay to be confused, to feel fearful about what this might mean, to worry about this person that you love. But the fear and confusion and despair that your loved one feels is a hundred times more intense than what you’re feeling now, and they need your support. Ask questions, use the numerous online resources to educate yourself, ask for reading material. If you need to talk to a therapist to talk about the myriad feelings you’re having, do that.
If some were to say to me, “It’s okay with me as long as it’s not someone I know…” then I would say in response, “What are you afraid of?” There’s no shame in being afraid. But then when you choose to act, ask yourself, having a choice between who you love and what you fear, can you be brave enough to choose love?
Phobia of any kind is a disease. And like rape and murder, it is a societal problem not an individual. Would you include medical practitioners, law enforcers, mental health professionals, our teachers, bosses, the President, the UN, NGOs all have a stake in it?
Deen: (Why Rashmi, I do believe you’re leading the witness!)
I believe we are a better society, a better community of human beings when we choose to act out of love instead of fear. Not just because we make the world more livable for other people, but because we ourselves become changed by our actions. This applies to everyone, to doctors and lawyers and law enforcement and mental health professionals, etc.
Note: SALGA would love to hear from Transgender desis in the NYC area [Link]
Coming Soon: Interview with SALGA’s Board Member, Shawn.
Photo Credit: Joseph Moran
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Rashmi grew up in India and now she enjoys her time living in one of the queerest places in the world. She started transitioning a while back and is gradually coming out to people she thinks are cool enough for her. She enjoys discussing any topic under the sun and has an opinion about anything and everything. She thinks of herself as someone who can only hold intelligent conversations with people, when in reality she is totally insane and crazy, not to mention she has been highly hormonal recently. *GRIN*

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