Let’s Get Real About Celebrity

The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who chooses to remain anonymous. If you, the reader, wishes to know her name, e-mail me (you can do so from the Help & Contact Tab on the menus above. She has given me permission to disclose it to those who ask. She makes her reason for withholding her name clear in the first paragraph.

The Author’s opinion does not reflect that of Chrysalis, or my own opinion. In fact, I hold a quite different ideas, which I recently expressed in the Chrysalis post My Take on the Trans 100 List. My opinion is this: those transpeople who actively use their celebrity status to advance transgender rights are deserving of our admiration and honors. In this category I place, among many others, Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Boylan, and Kristen Beck. Those who choose to do other things– well, I admire some of them for their accomplishments in other fields but don’t think we should honor them merely because they happen to be trans. I also happen to be thankful I was was born transsexual and would choose to be so again if I should be so fortunate as to be given another human life. Those are my opinions. Yours may differ, and probably will.

I’m publishing the essay so it will be visible. If you should wish to express your opinion on the matter, please leave a comment or send me a formal response for posting here.

For reasons which I hope should be obvious, I’ve not included photos of any of the trans celebrities the author has mentioned by name.




Let’s Get Real About Celebrity

By I.M. Trans


I am not in the least interested that you don’t know my name or face. I have no problem with you knowing my identity, but I’m not interested in my transgender status being a cause for celebrity. In fact, I would have to say I am coming to loathe those among our community who use being transgender as a way to fame and fortune.

The majority of us are not beautiful, young, privileged or fashion models. A handful of us write books and some of us become media sensations, and the world thinks what that handful writes and says defines being transgender. In much the same way models distort the world’s view of what real women are supposed to look like, these few media grabbers distort the world’s views about being transgender. After all, how tough can it be if their lives have turned out so well?

You might want to ask the average woman who is frustrated she can’t find a date because she isn’t a size two and doesn’t look picture perfect how tough it is to live up to media-created expectations. You might ask the transman who struggles into a binder each day and each night and deals with the terrible pain it causes, or the transwoman who just had to endure a bus full of teenagers pointing and laughing at her because she did the best she could and didn’t quite manage to pass.

So what about the 99.9 percent of us who have to deal with real life? Do any of you understand what that means? Being transgender is not a gift or a gag or some easily remedied ailment; it is a curse we are born with. We are cursed to be driven to live contrary to who we know we are. We fight an internal battle that kills many of us with suicide, drugs, risky behaviors, or alcohol. We try anything to feel normal, even though we have no idea what that means.

We do know that if we talk about how we feel we are opening ourselves up to being rejected, laughed at, and disowned. We know it can be physically dangerous just to be us, and that many of our brothers and sisters die each year at the hands of those who are ignorant, hateful, or just fearful of what they don’t understand. We, who are transgender, all know too many people who have been abandoned by their families, who have mothers or fathers who won’t speak to them, children who disavow them,  and ex-spouses who interfere with the ability to see offspring.

We don’t go out day after day, living a life of joy and pleasure, fun and parties. In fact, most of us fight depression daily because once we admit who we are—first to ourselves and then to the world—we become pariahs. We are shunned by many who knew us and we struggle through much of life feeling and actually being alone. We long for the close relationships so called normal people take for granted. We go to bed at night wondering if we will always be alone, doomed to struggle through our lives without a comforting shoulder or a special someone to help prop us up. Many of us give up hope altogether and sink into an abyss of sadness and depression.

This is not to say we are not surrounded by wonderful, loving people who wish us well and want to see us succeed. These are friends who want us to have a good life, but they have their own lives and their well wishes are mostly that, verbal support. Rarely do they extend invitations for us to join in their activities, parties, or other events. We know why; we would take away from the event, be a topic of awkward conversation. Others would ask why we were included and they might have to take sides. It would be uncomfortable for them and for us.

Most of you have heard of Chaz Bono, Kristen Beck, and Jennifer Boylan and think of them as role models for those of us who are transgender. You have seen the models who have come out as transgender and think “Wow! I would never have known!” And that is exactly the problem. They are so far from being the typical transgender person that they are almost as much a parody of our lives as is Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

Ru Paul refers to “trannies,” but she is not herself transgender and most of the contestants on her show are not either. In her vocabulary, “trannie” refers specifically to a man who dresses in women’s clothes but has no desire to actually be a woman. It is a fetish and has sexual connotations, but it is not about being transgender.

Transwomen are not gay males who want to wear dresses. Transgender men and women are people who have a mind that belongs to one gender and a body that belongs to the other. They fight an internal battle to understand why that is and who they are and who they are supposed to be. The battles go on until they realize they have no choice but to live the life they have fought against, or until they die—all too often from drugs, alcohol or suicide.

I know Chaz and Jennifer and Kristen have had the same internal struggles we all go through, but how they live their lives is far distant from the many transpeople I know who live lives of survival and pain. They are NOT role models in any sense of the word just because we all know their names. They are curiosities and have made fortunes because of the celebrity their positions in the world have allowed them to enjoy. Fifteen minutes of fame does not make one a role model, and neither does writing a book. The true heroes and role models are the unknowns; the ones amongst us who have struggled through and continue to struggle and survive. They have learned to live their lives true to who they are and they reach out to others in the community to provide the uplifting words, the unqualified support, and share the tears and the isolation.

Would I choose to be transgender? Would I wish for it to be the case for my child or yours? Do I think being transgender is a cause célèbre? Of course not. I think it sucks. It’s a condition I didn’t ask for, didn’t want, and would never wish upon anyone. And therein is the bottom line; I and my fellow transmen and transwomen did not choose to be this way. We were born this way and we have to do the best we can with what we were given. People are uncomfortable with us and wonder why we can’t just spend our lives pretending to be someone we are not. Seriously, would any of those who wish we would stay in our original roles, pretending to be who we are not, chose to live their own lives pretending?

The inner person we are defines us, not the outer presentation. After we accept ourselves we then have to decide what comes next—hide and lie, or have a potentially horrible life with a slim chance that things will be okay. Many chose the former and self-destruct; some chose the latter and still self destruct. A few of the lucky become better, happier people.

Any way you look at it, the media-friendly Bonos and Boylans and Becks are NOT the way being transgender is. They are the exceptions and it demeans and harms all of us who are not the chosen few when a big deal is made about them. The majority of us live in pain, struggling to have enough money and wondering why we have this particular burden to carry. Sure, cheer the conquering heroes, but then forget about them and think about all the rest of us.

Think about what the world is like for all of us who don’t have a publishing deal or the ability to pay for surgery or hormones. Think about those who have little in the way of being able to pay for their day-to-day existence because by living as who we are, we have lost so much. Pray for all the families that fall apart because we reach a point of having to start being who we really are or we will die. And all the while the world would rather we did just that—die, quietly and in obscurity.

We are who we are. It is not a choice. It’s not something we wished for. It is what it is and it’s time for the world to start to recognize we are as much a part of mankind as any other human beings. We deserve the respect, privileges and rights afforded to any human. We should not have to fight for them any more than a cisgender person does—yet that is what we have to do. We fight to be accepted, to have quality healthcare, to find work, to feel safe.

We don’t get to wake up in the morning and think, “Beautiful day. I wonder what accepting, wonderful people I will meet today!” No, we don’t think that at all. We wake up and think, “Am I going to pass today, or will I be read as transgender? What details do I need to handle to look right? Will today be the day someone at work outs me and I lose my job? I need to shop, but I can’t go to the places close by because they’re too dangerous. Will I ever get to live life the way cisgender people do?”

The time has come for others to realize we are walking among them every day, and most of the time they have no idea. That’s because many of us will never allow you to see us as we see ourselves. Just because you don’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not real, and just because you have been ignorant to our circumstance doesn’t make them any less true.

What harm is there in acknowledging that we deserve the same rights as any other? You would decry a community that lets its children starve, yet you ignore us and let us die a slower, more painful death in front of your eyes just because you don’t want to look at us. You want to pretend the three, five, or fifteen transgender people you have heard of are some strange aberrations in the normal order of things. Well guess what? We are millions of people worldwide. MILLIONS!

As of 2011, it was estimated that 0.3 percent of the U.S. population is transgender (those are conservative numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. The actual number is probably much higher due to underreporting on census forms.) That amounted to more than 900,000 in 2011 and that would mean there are more than one million of us in 2014. One million is a lot of people to ignore and devalue. These are not just numbers; these are real people. 0.3 % becomes more than one million people in the United States.

So let’s stop being starstruck by the handful of transgender people who have made the news, those we have heard about because they were deemed mediaworthy. It’s time to start to wonder about all those other millions out there in a world of seven billion. Let’s start to figure out how we can help all twenty-one million worldwide who are transgender live lives that are as full as everyone else’s.

Think about it—if there are twenty-one million of us, how uncommon or different can we really be? Clearly, we are not an insignificant statistic, not in any way, shape or form. Anyone pretending it’s otherwise can’t change the facts: we are a part of a common world.
Author’s Note

Because the author believes media skews the way the world sees the reality of being transgender, no actual name is attached to this piece. The author will gladly provide name and credentials to anyone who is interested in knowing who wrote this, but isn’t seeking to make a name because of it. Suffice it to say the author is transgender and active in the medical community.

By bringing to light the situation transgender peoples face daily, the author hopes to open the minds and hearts of those who truly have no idea what it means to be born transgender, with the further hope that this will lead to and allow dialogue. This would be a dialogue that includes all who have questions or curiosity and who want to know more about who we are and what our lives are like. Bringing about change is never easy, but often it is really quite as simple as starting a conversation.