A reader writes: “When you were first starting transition, how did you get people to take you seriously? To see that you weren’t ‘faking’ it? Because the LGBT group on my campus – they don’t take me seriously. I can tell in how whenever they say my name it sounds fake, how they refuse to use my preferred pronouns – or even any pronouns. It feels like they don’t believe me and it hurts inside. These people were some of my friends and to find that they don’t (or won’t) take me seriously is killing me inside.”
Actually, yes – I did have a hard time getting some people I knew to take me seriously at first, but for a different reason, no doubt. I was very feminine as a female. People simply didn’t understand that someone who looked and acted so “traditionally feminine” could have any kind of gender issues.
But an LGBT-specific group that does not take you seriously is unfortunate – and I would question what kind of leadership is being offered and what kind of information is being provided to this group. The one place that did take me seriously, even in my dress and high-heels, was my local gender center, because the people there knew that trans people have a wide variety of gender expressions.
There are some possibilities here. Your letter does not give me a clue as to your sex and gender, but I am going to make an assumption that you identify as a trans man. If you identify as a trans woman, what I am going to say will possibly still hold true in reverse.
> It’s possible that your friends don’t want you to be trans. If you have a group of lesbian friends, and they have seen you and formed a relationship with you as a lesbian, they might feel threatened by this revelation. They don’t want things to change. They want you to be who they want you to be, not who you really are.
> It’s possible that you have gotten some extra attention by coming out as trans, and this attention has made some others in the group feel slighted, so they feel the need to discredit you.
> It’s also possible that you don’t fit their narrow definition of what a trans person is. This I would blame on a lack of real information being available. Often LGB”T” groups are really just LGB groups with the “T” added on to present a false sense of inclusiveness. They don’t have the knowledge that they need to support you, and it’s easier for them to deny your identity than to try to figure out how to really deal with it and offer support and help.
(And keep in mind that some people might be making an honest mistake. People are usually able to use a new name before they are able to use a new pronoun. So you might find people who are using your name correctly, but are still slipping on the pronoun. If it appears to be an honest mistake, cut them some slack.)
> And if your friends are trans, then they should know better – but, unfortunately, there can exist some one-upmanship within some facets of the trans community (or any community). They are trans – that makes them special, different, unique, more marginalized, more discriminated against, more whatever than you. If you also come out as trans, then they have no title to claim.
Regardless, how can you get them to take you seriously? Depending on the reason why they are not taking you seriously, you might not be able to change that. Unfortunately, that can be very lonely and sad for you.
I don’t know if you have talked to these people about how you feel, but if you haven’t, that is your first step – a sit-down conversation in which you are honest about your feelings. Your friends might not realize that they are hurting you. They might not realize how very serious this is to you.
If there are one or two friends who you really feel close to, start with them and try to enlist their help. If you can get them to support you, to use the correct name and pronoun, and to back you up when others refer to you incorrectly, the others will probably soon follow their lead.
You could also ask for some feedback from them on why they are not taking you seriously or respecting your identity – but you do not need to change your behaviors or who you are to fall in line with who or what they think you should be.
If you have this conversation with your closest friends and they still refuse to respect your identity, then you will need to find some new friends. If there is no trans-specific social or support group on campus, talk to the head of the LGBT student center about starting your own. If you are already attending a trans-specific group and this is happening there, then you might want to look off campus or elsewhere for friends and support.
But, above all, continue to maintain your identity. Perhaps once they see that you will only respond to the name and pronoun that you identify with and that you will not allow your identity to be disrespected or disregarded, they will change their attitude toward you.
The bottom line is that you know who you are. Remember that always.
Now I’ll turn it over to the readers.