Walking on Eggshells: How Trans People are Gaslighted and Denied Their Anger

Anger. It’s an emotion. People get angry all of the time and, like every other emotion, anger is valid, right? You are free to feel what you feel, vent about things, be mad about the shitty stuff going on, and rant on social media about your favorite sports team losing last night.

Unless you’re trans, or a member of any other vulnerable and oppressed group, of course. You see, there is literally no socially acceptable way for trans or gender diverse people to express anger about anything; especially when it comes to expressing you emotions about the oppression, abuse, discrimination, and/or violence that you face.

Seriously. Try to. Chances are that nearly every single time that you do, in any semi-public way, somebody is going to be there to tell you to “calm down”, dismiss your concerns, minimize your emotions, or outright gaslight you.

Any trans person who has ever written criticism of ignorant or transphobic content on TV, who has made a status post about how pissed they are about being misgendered or deadnamed, or who has expressed frustration in the comments section under any post on Facebook about trans people, will know this. Aside from your insulated circle of friends (this isn’t about those who truly understand and support you), should you say anything about how shitty you feel dealing with the constantly suffocating, ignorant, demeaning, dismissive, invalidating, and dehumanizing crap surrounding you every hour of the day, both online and offline, be prepared for practically nobody having any understanding or empathy for you.

Unfortunately, more often than not you will be swarmed with comments from defensive cisgender people, even ignorant gay and lesbian community members, who simply cannot help but go out of their way to tell you all about how off-putting your emotions and issues are to them; even though those emotions are totally valid in this decidedly anti-trans social climate.

Here’s a pretty great summary of how it tends to go much of the time [from Jessica U, creator of Manic Pixie Nightmare Girl]:

Manic Pixie 01

Express your frustration in any tone whatsoever and you’re told to “calm down”, “stop focusing on the negative”, “just ignore it”… EVEN THOUGH this shit is everywhere, in nearly every environment, and is literally impossible to ignore.

Call out harmful information, ignorance, or transphobia in any form of pop culture (including movies or television), to any degree at all, and you will immediately find people making excuses for it. People telling you that “you’re reaching”, “reading into it too much”, “getting worked up over nothing”, “always so negative”, and just “making everything about you and trans people all the time” (even when that content is EXPLICITLY about trans people and is also blatantly disparaging).

So, you’re just expected to take it all. All the uneducated comments, the demeaning remarks, the microaggressions, the misgendering, the deadnaming, the blatantly transphobic remarks, and, of course, the “allies” complaining about you, or trans people in general, complaining about trans issues. Should you dare to get mad, feel anything remotely like anger, or tell somebody how shitty it is that they took the time to rant about how tired they are of trans people speaking up about things… well then. Rest assured that they will have no qualms pointing out how you are  “crazy”, “psychotic”, a “bitch”, “giving trans people a bad name”.

Because, of course, your expression of anger is obviously reprehensible, right? It’s undignified. Even other trans advocates say so:

“Pointing out that there are a vocal minority who are dead-set on disrespecting transgender people, [Brynn Tannehills] asked her audience to remember the silent majority of cisgender (non-trans) people who have undecided or open minds, but may only ever meet one out trans person in their lives. Though it may not be fair, many such people base their impressions of the entire transgender community on a single interaction — and Tannehill urges fellow trans people to make sure it’s not an angry one, despite the many things trans people can feel rightfully hurt about.

‘As long as we stay calm,’ Tanehill told her audience, ‘we retain our dignity.'”

Fuuuuuuuuuuck that noise.

Meanwhile, Dudebro McGee is swearing up a storm about about how pissed he is that the season finale of Walking Dead isn’t showing who got killed by Negan until NEXT season and everybody is all “Yeah! Fuck the Walking Dead! This is bullshit! RAWR!” In a completely unrelated thread elsewhere on Facebook, Broseph Bro is flipping out about how appalled he is with the performance of the Edmonton Oilers and sure enough in comes the unified outrage of “Yeah! Fuck the Oilers! What douchebags! This is bullshit!”

Then you get to an LGBTQ page, with a post calling out the painfully misguided and actually pretty transphobic Powerpuff Girls’ episode about Donny the *Unicorn (fixed), and the outrage is there too… but not in an unified way standing against the obvious bullshit of this episode. No no. There you will find the masses of outraged people who are tired of trans people talking about issues. There you will find the chorus of  “Ugh, shut up already! Stop whining! There’s more important things so stop bitching about everything!”

Should you be trans and make any effort to call out the invalidating, demeaning, dismissive crap going on then brace yourself… for the ire of fake allies and even members of the greater LGBTQ community are coming and they are not with you. You will find very little in the way of any empathy for you, other trans people, and the hurt trans people experience from the ways they are depicted in news media and popular culture. Instead, you often find very specific and high expectations for how you should speak, feel, and respond to things around everyone else.

It’s textbook tone policing.

tone-policing1.png

 

You have to walk on egg shells. You have to be constantly mindful about not angering, frustrating, confusing, or annoying cis people through expressing your own emotions. You have to bottle it all up.

You know, kinda like in an abusive relationship. Because that’s what all this is.

Abuse.

Daily abuse from society, news media, social media, radio, television, film, politicians, public figures, religious leaders, celebrities, coworkers, strangers, maybe even friends and family in your life right now who consistently hurt you; but you are too afraid to say anything about it because any time that you do they flip it all and paint you as the villain. The unreasonable one. The overly-sensitive one.

You DON’T have to take any of it. If you want to vent about all the deadnaming, harassment, and misgendering that is pissing you off, then fucking go for it. Your anger is justified. If you want to scream and yell about the transphobic shit thrown out to the masses by major television shows or movies, do it. Your anger is justified. If you are tired of everybody excusing bigotry and ignorance and you want to call that behavior out for the bullshit that it is, then let loose the rage. Your anger is justified.

Don’t keep it in, letting it fester and eat at your mental wellness. Learn about abusive behaviors, such as gaslighting, to recognize when it’s happening to you in your daily interactions. Don’t deny yourself any more agency than everybody else has already taken from you.

And if people don’t like your valid, justifiable expression of anger over any one of the countless, overwhelming instances of transphobia, cisnormativity, disrespect, gaslighting and social abuse that you have to deal with every goddamn day?

Too. Fucking. Bad.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *