Transphobia: Why Does Society Judge a Book by it's Cover?

A good friend, Sherri,  published a piece on Transphobia recently and it brought to light, a darker aspect within the greater bounds of society that I have found disturbing myself.  We are judged NOT by who we are but often by how we are interpreted by others.  We are told and have heard, many times, the saying to "Not judge a book by it's cover", yet this is exactly how we, as transgender individuals, are interpreted in many instances.

I know of a number of transgender individuals who have completed their gender reassignment surgery but have had notable encounters attesting to their being questioned of their gender in public accommodations.  Societal expectations of feminine appearance often dictate whether or not one's gender presentation is questioned, irregardless of legal or plumbing status being congruent with that of their assigned gender.

I've had the opportunity to view this discordance from the opposing end, where no one seems to ascertain me as anything other than natal female when I am out and about.   When anyone discovers or questions quietly within their own mind, a notable variance,  there are quick shock double-takes and then an immediate re-acceptance of me back into the female realm, as if nothing ever occurred...

What it is seemingly coming down to, appears to be in this order....

1) This person notes that I appear to be a woman
2) Anomaly is noted about me in which I was presumed to be a woman initially (moment of shock or double-take)
3) Re-acceptance back into the realm as a woman (or woman/other) based upon presentation, outward appearance. movement and gesticuations.

Sadly but seemingly oft occurring, the same is not incurred by those who are unable to satisfy a majority of topical visual and sensory cues attesting to what constitutes a "woman".   Irregardless of medical notes, hormones, facial and gender reassignment surgeries and even legal documents, there are questioning looks and even queries rudely made as to the gender one is.

For those who "pass" visually (as defined by the greater natal societal realm), we would create more distress to others by using a public accommodation of the legal sex we are, even though our gender attests otherwise, yet we would be at odds if we were "outed" for using a public accommodation of the gender we are presenting as.  Either way it is a gamble and there are no provisions made for those who are legally one sex but pass easily as the opposite gender.

In a similar vein, it is equally horrific as to how those who have legally changed their gender are, or can be, questioned by others in exactly the same situations.  It is a demeaning experience to say the least.

We certainly need to continue to maintain pressure to assure that federal, state and local laws are created which ensure for basic accommodation for those who are transgender.  Many opponents suggest that so-called "Bathroom Bills" pave the way for male sexual predators to gain access to female restrooms under the guise of being "transgender".  I've read enough studies and seen enough reports regarding the outcome of such locations which have enacted such provisions.  In reality, there is no data to support these claims and it is seemingly a fear based reaction to something which does not factually exist.

One of my thoughts to allay these emotionally fueled and irrational fears would be simple.  Although it should not be a necessity, it could go a LONG ways toward getting these provisional bills regarding public accommodations for transgender individuals PASSED!  A recent win in Massachusetts for a “Transgender Rights Bill” has passed and been signed.  It was only possible to get it passed by eliminating the “public accommodations” aspect from it and thus removing the bathroom bill.  It was still seen as a better alternative to letting the bill flounder in a rewrite which could tie it up indefinitely or… forever.  Now that the bill is in, it may be just a step closer to getting the “Bathroom and Public Accommodations” stipulations into a revision next go-around.  Sometimes it is better to get what one can rather than to risk it all and never see any bill passed.  The bill can be reworked and amended later as a “step two”.

Many of us have had or hold "letters" from our therapists indicating that we are being treated for "Gender Identity Disorder".  (I don't agree on on the words disorder or dysphoria here but that is fodder for another blog).  Such letters have been traditionally used as an explanation in situations warranted, where one's gender presentation and one's physical sex do not match.  Since they are not legal documents and not standardized, their scope of use is not guaranteed.

My proposal would be, at a federal level, to have the ability to acquire an identification card which attests to one's "transgender status".  Such an identification could be useful as a standardized means of allaying fears by attesting to one's legitimacy as perceived by the general populace and to "weed out" those "sexual molesters"  from our nation's public accommodations.  Although such a threat does not meaningfully exist, it might be enough to help secure a legal status which could be used toward further upholding of what should have been already, inalienable rights.  The downside of having an officially sanctioned transgender status could be it’s use by government or private corporate parties to unwittingly use a thinly disguised prejudice to marginalize and discriminate by creating stipulations which would deny and crate further barriers.

Interestingly, India has already begun providing for inclusion of a "third gender" within official realms as noted here.   What implications and ramifications this will have are yet to be fully seen.  One of my concerns, however, with having such a legal identification card, is the possibility that such an identifiation could be utilized by such realms as health care providers or by other entities to create demographic markers or... worse yet... to be able to identify what might then be deemed, "high risk" individuals, leading to denial of services based upon those having come forward to be counted as part of the transgender pool.

In thinking about the possibilities, benefits and possible concerns, I find that there is not one answer to this problem that yields a solution without both positive and negative potential consequences... or both.

For the mean time, I can only suggest that we continue to be as active in the community as possible, to be out and proud of who we are, and to continue to present ourselves in such a way as to allay fears as much as possible and to create a realm whereby those we meet on the street will come to say.... "Hey, I think that person is transgender, but you know what?   I met them, talked and interacted with them... and found that they are people, like any one else.... and I was pleasantly surprised to come to know them!"

For those who wish to further their reading on this subject, the blog to which I was initially referring to is here:


  1. I totally love this place and have to visit again this coming December for holiday season with my family.

    Pousadas Em Natal

  2. I just found your blog.
    I will read a bit more when time permits but I did like the logic of this entry.
    I firmly believe that the more frequently we can get out and about and people come to realize that we present no dangers and that we are nice decent folks to engage with and interact with the sooner we will find greater acceptance.

    I do not like the idea of a federal card or any interaction with the federal government regarding my gender or sexuality. I think that some states have started to give duplicate id cards and even duplicate driver licenses to TG folks. This may work but by and large we are who we are and we have rights to present ourselves as we deem fit as long as we break no laws.


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