Sunday, February 19, 2012

Are Trans-People Selfish?

I came across this article in the Huffington Post and it made me think. Many people think that we are selfish, but I don’t think that they understand that being transgender is not a choice. When I do diversity training one of the questions I ask the audience is “when did you chose your gender?” I never had one person say that they chose their gender but they always knew their gender. Exactly!

The author, Chris Tina Bruce said,
A word often leveled against transgender people is "selfish" -- selfish for desiring to change our appearance through medical means in order to more closely align our physical appearance with our self-identification of gender. Webster's dictionary defines "selfish" as "concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself: seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others." By definition, the transition process is then a selfish act, although being transgender is not inherently selfish. A case could be made that people who smoke, eat fast food, drink alcohol, take recreational drugs, or even lie around the house every day watching television are also being selfish. These actions diminish health and life expectancy, thereby depriving family and friends of a longer, happier, and healthier life with the person indulging in them.
I do not agree with her when she said that “By definition, the transition process is then a selfish act” for many it is literately a choice of life or death. Also should you deny your true self, should you live a life of a lie just to please others? Many of us have spent a lifetime of fighting ourselves; denying our true self until it starts to affect our health. For me, the intern stress was building up to a point where I was having panic attacks 3 or 4 times a year; once I transitioned they went away. The only panic attack that I had since I transitioned back in 2007 was last May when I was written my Capstone paper and worrying about graduation.

Many trans-people fight their trans-ness thinking that they can stop at any time; all it will take is to meet the right person. They think once they get married all this will go away or if I have children I will be become straight. We actually go on purges where we throughout all our clothes and vow never to crossdress again (Never usually lasted for me only a few months.). I grew a beard, but that didn’t stop my desire to be my true self, that felling of wrongness was still there. For those that married, they eventually find out that they still have those feelings and they now have only three choices; they can stay married and lead a life of misery, they can transition or they can end it all. Yes, it is choice to transition, but the alternatives leave little choice, it almost becomes a “Hobson’s Choice.” So are we being selfish?

Also consider that it is really society that put them into this dilemma by the stigma that is tied with being transgender. You feel shame. You feel that you’ll let your family down and that you will lose them if they ever found out that you are trans. You fear the discrimination. You fear the isolation. So you hide in the closet, you deny your feeling, you deny you true self. Your self-esteem and your self-acceptance all go out the window and you start going into the depression spiral. So are we being selfish? Or is it self-preservation?

When I apply to the graduate program at the UConn School of Social Work, I had to write a personal statement, In part I wrote
Before I came out, I lived in fear and shame. I was afraid that someone would find out about my great secret and my self-worth suffered accordingly. In coming out, I leaned self-acceptance and in gaining this acceptance came empowerment. This has become a valuable tool in which to help others. Self-acceptance allows one to not only believe in themselves but that all things are possible – even social change and social justice. I think the Reverend Jesse Jackson said it best in his poem “I am Somebody”-- we are all somebody and we can never forget that.


  1. The way the author puts it, transition sounds selfish indeed. First, use of the term transgender, which can mean almost anything or nothing. At any rate, it is non-specific. Then this: "...desiring to change our appearance through medical means in order to more closely align our physical appearance with our self-identification of gender." That really does sound selfish.

    It's not what I did. First, I was born with the birth defect transsexualism. That means it wasn't about some vague "identity." I had a physiological discrepancy between brain and body that had to be fixed. And so, when I changed sex, I did so because of an imperative -- to fix a birth defect -- not because of a desire to align my appearance with how identified.


  2. I do not feel uncomfortable only because somebody else wants to be him/herself. It would be selfish of me, i think :)

  3. I think SOME transgender people are selfish, but not because they're transgender or transsexual; it's because some humans are just selfish anyway, cis or trans. If a person going through transition expects their family or friends to immediately be okay with it, transitions very quickly with no regard to his/her children's comfort and mental adjustments, etc., then yes, they're selfish - the same way a selfish cisgender person might make big life choices (cosmetic surgery, gambling away family savings, having an affair, abandoning their families, etc.) without concern for those around them.

    In other words, selfish people are just selfish anyway. Doesn't matter what their sex, gender, orientation, or anything else is.

    That said, I can certainly see how relatives (children in particular) would see transition as a selfish act, because to them, this "new" person is taking away the "old" one, and expecting them to accept the new person the same way they accepted the old one. In reality, of course, that old person was an illusion - but when you grow up believing one thing, does it really matter if it was never real to begin with?

    Transitioning takes time to accept from both sides, and there are people who can never accept it (trans people themselves, even, in some case; not just their families).

    I am related to someone who is transgender. I went through an enormous range of emotions when I found of which was, yes, that they were being selfish. I knew logically that wasn't the case - this person is the sweetest, most considerate and empathetic person you'll ever meet, gender be damned. But it was how I felt. Our entire family changed with their transition, but that change was as much a choice via our reactions as that person's actions. I accept them now, but it was extremely difficult, and it took time; thankfully, my relative understood that and gave me that time I needed, so I could eventually give them the support they needed. That's being unselfish.

  4. I was friends with a transgender person. Was.
    I did not think this person was selfish because of the whole process. I think this person was selfish because when this person came out suddenly everything was trans related or a trans issue (even when they were not related at all).This person began invalidating the things that were going on in other people's lives (including mine) like nothing could possibly be as bad as being "in the wrong body". Apparently my illness and it's symptoms were "part of being female".
    The media is no help in changing people's minds on the subject. I mean... Look at "I Am Jazz" for instance. Special snowflack Jazz freeks out because a shirt makes her shoulders look broad and her brothers get neglected because of this.
    I'm sure not all trans people are self obsorbed psychopaths but from personal experience and how trans people are portrayed in the media, it's hard to keep positive.