The late-onset transsexual, transphobia, and passing…

by Transcend Everything on June 1, 2013

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Trans-gender media features a small handful of male to female transsexuals who succsesfully pass as cis-women. A classic example of this is Geena Rocero – who worked as a high flying fashion model for more than a decade. These noble women have chosen to out themselves as transgender and they should receive all the respect that such action deserves.

We all love Geena... and rightly so...but her experience is markedly different from her middle or old aged counterparts.

We all love Geena… and rightly so…but her experience is markedly different from her middle or old aged counterparts.

However, the experience that these women have had – both in their trajectory as transsexuals and in their coming out – is markedly different to that of the comunal garden late onset transsexual. The reason is the same reason why some women are immediately courted and favoured over others: beauty. Whether a human is transsexual or not… if he or she is flawlessly beautiful at the moment of presenting themselves to the world… acceptance is forthcoming.

I recently saw a perfect example of this on a British chat show when an eighteen year old male to female transsexual came on set. The crowd applauded for a long time and I’m quite sure that the reason was because she was extremely pretty. Had the show’s guest been an ugly late onset transsexual I’m quite sure the applause wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic.

The difference in passability is, of course, because the early onset transsexual has managed to fend off many of the inconvenient secondary sexual characteristics, by taking hormones early in life. Also, youth is an obvious factor… as men grow older certain parts of their anatomy continue growing, their hair falls out and their skin grows coarser.

The overtly male body is of course the central problem for a late onset MtF transsexual when coming out, and the basis of much transphobia. It is a ‘visual discord.’ Some simply don’t look like women and the problem is that there is something deeply held in the human mind which notices it: – our facial recognition software.

There is an entire part of the human brain dedicated excatly to the register of minute differences between faces, and when a man has makeup on or is trying to pass as a woman, it sets of a system alarm that allows us to easily recognise it. If that’s not bad enough for the trans-woman – the mind lateches on to it. If you see what you percieve as a man dressed as a woman it does not pass seamlessly through your mind like water on a duck’s back… it jarrs… it does not compute.

In some cases the transsexual is blissfully unaware of this visual discord. While transsexuals are aware of transsphobia, some have a problem of self perception in their transsexual psychology: they see themselves as more feminine than they are. With the cards stacked against them –– the transsexual latches on to the tiniest feminine detail of their appearance and inflates its importance, thinking that this feature somehow makes up for the others. Small details – like eyebrows – or even major parts of the anatomy – like a great pair of legs – have a talismanic effect on their mind making them belief that they are not so masculine.

To me it’s clear, the reality of transition and coming out for a late onset transsexual has little in common with that of their high profile, younger peers, just as their coming out has few paralleles with that other sectors of the LGBT community – lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

When a gay comes out nothing really changes. The gay announces to his family he’s gay and that’s it. When the transsexual comes out all hell breaks loose: they’re changing their name, their body, they start dressing as their identified gender. While the gay ‘comes out’ of the closet… the transsexual ‘bursts out’ with a 20 megaton bomb, grabbing a dress and high heels from the closet just for good measure.

So, yes… these beautiful transgender spokespersons like Geena Rocero are game changers and valiant souls, but let’s face it… it’s pretty easy for a man in the street to accept them. The true test for transphobia are those transgender people who do not pass at all. When the man in the street stops staring, or muttering comments to his friend, and in fact – thinks nothing of it – that is when society will have started to truly accept transgender people.

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