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An Open Letter, Part 4: Transphobia’s Impact on Trans+ Folks

Content Warning: This article discusses transphobia and arguments used by transphobic people to invalidate the existence of folks with trans and gender expansive identities. If you are affected by this type of content, please feel free to click away. Additionally, The Trevor Project is an organization aimed toward LGBTQ+ folks aged 25 and under and has support hotlines in the form of calling, texting or online chatting. Please look through their resources and consider their hotlines if you are LGBTQ+ and need support.


Claire McCulloch/Her Campus

Welcome back to this series of open letters proving transphobic arguments wrong with facts and evidence! This week’s letter is about the impacts transphobia and responding to it has on trans and gender expansive people.

I recommend reading the Open Letter, Part 0.5: An Introduction to Trans+ Identities and Language if you haven’t already, as I define many vocabulary terms that are used when discussing trans+ identities and concepts of gender and sex that I will be using here. If you missed last week’s open letter discussing myths about trans+ medical care, I definitely recommend reading it after you finish this article! 

The topic of this week’s open letter seems to be pretty intuitive. Of course transphobia has a negative impact on trans people. But a lot of transphobic people will claim that they are just acting out of the interest of the well being of trans people, the assumption being that transness is inherently unhealthy. The fact of the matter is, though, if transphobic people truly had the best interest of trans and gender expansive folks in mind, they would be open to learn and listen from us rather than tell us what we need to “fix” about ourselves and that our identities aren’t valid.

Living in a cisnormative society, or a society that views cisgender identity as normal and trans and gender expansive ones as “other,” can create negative mental health affects in trans and gender expansive folks, according to the Minority Stress Theory. It can also lead to internalized transphobia, which is when trans folks absorb societal messages, anti-trans messages and rhetoric which cause them to view themselves and their feelings of gender dysphoria and/or transness as “wrong” and something to suppress. 

I also want to address representation burnout, which exists for many marginalized people, including BIPOC individuals, but also exists within the LGBTQ+ community. Representation burnout is the feeling of exhaustion a person feels when they are constantly the only person that represents a specific identity in a group of people. For example, Martha Tesma describes her feelings of representation burnout by being the only Black person at her school and in her workplaces. Trans and gender expansive people often feel representation burnout from being the only gender non-conforming person in their classroom, workplace or family. Trans people also often have to teach their healthcare providers about trans health issues, which can also trigger representation burnout through explaining to a professional something that they should already have an awareness of. 

Thank you so much for following me through this entire open letter series to debunk transphobic arguments. This series has been cathartic for me to write, as it was sparked by the transphobic comments made on Instagram by a fellow Geneseo student and my desire to put forth positive transgender content online. I hope this series helps someone out there feel more heard, or helps educate someone who has made transphobic comments and held transphobic views in the past. This series has also caused some representation burnout within myself, but I saw this series as an important endeavor to pursue. Overall, I’ve found that writing this series has been worth all of the exhausting work and research, and has helped me cope with recent transphobia in my life. 

 

Read More of the Open Letter Series

An Open Letter, Part 0.5: An Introduction to Trans+ Identities and Language

An Open Letter, Part 1: Gender is Not the Same as Sex 

An Open Letter, Part 2: Expansive Gender Identities Across History and Culture

An Open Letter, Part 3: Myths about Trans+ Medical Care 

An Open Letter Part 4: Transphobia’s Impact on Trans+ People (this article)

Margaux (they/them) is a senior Women and Gender Studies major at SUNY Geneseo. Outside of Her Campus, they work at Geneseo's Office of Diversity and Equity, is on the executive board of Pride Alliance, and is an active Safe Zone trainer. They love to write about diversity, mental health, and environmentalism, with the occasional goofy topic or two (or five). Margaux hopes to someday be the coolest gender studies professor you will ever have.
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