Trans Pride vs Gay Pride

I am not at all a poster child for trans pride.  I take no joy in the fact that I am trans, at best I consider it a kind of annoying condition that allows me a different view of the world than most people.

However, I have an incredible amount of gay pride.  My selection of gay pride t-shirts is ridiculous enough to need a rotation because they don’t all fit in my closet, damned near everything I own has a rainbow sticker or button on it, and I spend quite a bit of my free time working with *gay youth.

What’s the difference?  I think it’s a combination of things.  First off, there has never been a time in my life where being trans has felt like a positive thing.  I don’t subscribe to the gender binary smashing ideology so for me being trans is most often a pain in the ass.  Being gay isn’t always a picnic, but the bad times are at least balanced out by the good.  Yes, I may be assaulted for no reason other than my rainbow scarf.  I also get to experience that kind of giddy feeling when I’m first interested in a guy and all of the fun that is going to a truck stop diner with fifty other gay men in various levels of drag.

Which leads into the second reason: community.  I don’t feel any connection to the trans community.  I interact with it because I want other guys to know that there is more than one way to be a man, but if I were to stop tomorrow I wouldn’t miss it.  Part of this is due to ideological differences, but most of it is because I honestly don’t view being trans as an important part of my identity.  Clearly this is not the case with my sexuality.  I can’t really say for sure why other than that being gay plays into my day to day life far more than being trans.

People don’t know I’m trans.  I’ve reached a point where the things that used to scream “look, you’re different!” at me (bathrooms, packing, swimming, etc.) are so instinctive that I don’t think about them unless I’m having a particularly bad day.  Everyone knows I’m gay.  The woman working the register at the grocery store at least assumes I’m gay even if she doesn’t know for sure.  I could try to mask it, but I’d only be hurting myself.  So I get daily reminders of my sexuality in the form of whispers and odd looks and the occasional yelled taunt.  I also get the “family” looks and knowing smiles and sometimes a flirtatious gesture or two.

It helps that I choose to express my sexuality in a certain way.  I don’t have to be effeminate.  I don’t have to get involved with gay organisations.  I don’t even have to go to gay clubs.  If it really bothered me I could change.  The thing is, I don’t want to.  I did straight drag for a while when I first came out.  It sucked.  I made the conscious decision to say fuck what people think, I’m going to be who I want.

I didn’t get that option with trans.  It was either transition or kill myself.  People say “oh, you don’t have to physically transition, you can learn to live with your body,” but they don’t know what it’s like to wake up every day and wonder who that person in the mirror is.  I didn’t choose to start T because I wanted the changes, I chose to start T because my brain already viewed myself as having those changes and not having the visual image match up with the mental one was driving me slowly insane.  I never once got a choice in the matter.  Not if I wanted to continue being alive (which, admittedly, is not always as clear as it should be).

That’s not to say I’m not proud of what I’ve accomplished since coming out.  I am incredibly proud of what I’ve done and the person I’ve become while also dealing with depression and dysphoria.  However, that is pride in myself, not pride in the conditions.

*I also work with trans youth, but that’s more rare.

20 Replies to “Trans Pride vs Gay Pride”

  1. Like you, my being trans has little to do with how I live my life today, 15 years after my transition. My being a lesbian is more significant, especially when I introduce someone to my wife.

    And yet, even my being gay occupies little of my daily focus. It’s more about marketing my web design business, taking care of my elderly mother-in-law, and riding my motorcycle.

    It’s great that we can all choose for ourselves the significance and meaning our histories and experiences have for us as individuals.

  2. Personally, I have a hard time understanding how someone can have pride in something over which they have no control. I didn’t choose to be gay or trans, therefore, it’s not an issue of pride, but one of acceptance for me. I’m proud that I’ve worked hard on accepting myself and I’m proud that I took risks (transitioning) without any support and despite other peoples’ repeated attempts to suppress my identity. Other than that, I feel no pride regarding my gender and sexuality.

  3. I think it makes sense that there is a real gay community but not a very close trans community. When you’re gay you need to meet others like you to have sex. Sex is the glue that binds communities together. The only real trans communities I know are formed by those who prefer to sleep with each other.

    As the trans community is much younger than the gay community, I still think that things might change in the future, though. We haven’t reached a point where people can be out as trans in a similar way as people are out as gay. As long as most people go stealth or live with constant discrimination, the conditions suck. When we can’t be out properly as trans, how can we demonstrate pride?

  4. For me, transition is about creating a body I am comfortable in (which is a male body) and once I’m there I don’t see much reason to not live like any other male. If the body is right I won’t be recognised as vastly different and I don’t have any desire to mark myself as different (outside of personal things). I don’t see any way to do that short of wearing a shirt that says “btw, transman here” and I have no reason to want that recognition (most reasons “seperate” me from my goal of being a normal male not significantly different from other males)… sexuality is slightly different, while being gay is being an “invisible minority” more so than being female or a POC there’s still far more visibility to it than “being a man who used to have a physically female body but is now partialy or mostly visibly male” w/ sexuality you’re visible if you want to go any place public with a partner, you’re visible if your manner subtly or not-so-subtly pings folk’s “gaydar”, also being recognised helps one find sexual partners (a good reason for wearing some marker if presentation won’t tip people off)… I suppose, my being trans is currently an obnoxious barrier to my goal of being a “man no different from other men” and it always will be (because being trans will always be different from being a natal male) sort of how being ADD is barrier to my goal of “being able to focus even on simple things like conversation”… being gay is not a barrier to anything I personally desire that can’t be blamed on society rather than the orientation itself (i.e. I would like to express interest in males w/o harrasment, I have no personal issue w/ expressing interest in males but society takes issue w/ it (and that in turn may have given me issues w/ it)).

    • I love the ADD comparison. It’s similar for me, being trans is bloody irritating just like having ADHD. Being gay can be irritating at times, but also comes with benefits. Trans and ADHD don’t. They’re just annoying conditions that fuck with the life I want to live.

  5. Being gay is not a barrier *anymore* because people have fought long and hard and have come out despite the fact that their life would be shit after that. Sorry but I still remember the time when being gay was *very much* like being trans, in that nobody was out, and life sucked when people found out. There is no argument about being stealth that I haven’t heard about being in the closet before, f.e. people have compared being gay to some private thing like an illness to me, too.
    I totally believe in the right to be stealth, the way the world is today. But I don’t believe the reasons. Sorry for the crankiness, guys, too long work hours.

  6. That was *society* that was creating the barrier and that societal barrier is very much in place in my hometown. However, there is nothing in being gay itself that is problematic (sort of, but that’s a different topic)… even if society was fully accepting of a transsexual man’s status as a man it would not change the fact that it forces me to lead a different life than the one I would want to have lead. Those differences are inherent in the condition, not in society’s perception of it.. i.e. having had to live years and perhaps the rest of my life with incorrect lower anatomy, no matter what society thinks of that it’s not something I can be happy with, like having ADD it’s something I’ve learned to put up with and navigate to the best of my ability. Society could decide tomorrow that “man vaginas” are the greatest thing and top of the social rung and I still would not want one and would probably not want to be counted amongst people who had them. Just want a penis, thanks.

    I understand having issues w/ a gay identity, really, but ultimately when considered they’re issues stemming from society (not that it makes them easier to accept).

    Having female anatomy *is* the issue when it comes to transsexuality. It’s an irritation (to say the least). I don’t celebrate what irritates me.

    Also, once passing, I don’t see the point as even if I didn’t regard my female anatomy as an irritation, “I have a vagina” is difficult to slip into casual conversation I’m sure.

  7. I suppose, to clarify, I am not transitioning for social reasons *at all*… I’ve never been hugely bothered by being called “she” or wearing female articles of clothing etc.

    I’m personally transitioning because I dislike my female anatomy and I havea sense of being male. I don’t have “pride” in what I dislike. I’m not ashamed of being trans anymore than I am of being ADD, it’s just not a topic of pride and I don’t see any *reason* to identify myself as such.

  8. That still doesn’t explain why people are stealth. While being trans might not be a reason for pride it is still a part of our lifes. And being stealth forces many of us to lead a complicated life (how do I talk about my childhood, how do explain certain things, should I disclose to my doctor/tutor etc, esp in cases where my being trans plays a role). I’m thinking of a friend of mine right now- I think it’s just a great injustice that people have to fear disclosing. There’s a difference between not wanting to disclose and wanting to disclose and not daring. And I think it’s more often the latter that we admit. I certainly don’t disclose many times out of sheer fear of repercussions. As long as that’s the case, there is need for change. This is not about mentioning genitals. It’s about being able to mention things that might reveal our trans status in a normal conversation, and not having to fear that people will change their behaviour towards us immediately. *that* is something that can be changed by activism.

    • I’m stealth for the same reason most people don’t know I have chronic illnesses: it doesn’t come up. I would have to make a concentrated effort to be out to my friends because at this point in my life it’s just not an issue. I don’t have easy segues into being trans, that’s actually part of why disclosure is so difficult. No Girl Scout stories, no hidden tampons, nothing. Someone has to ask me point blank about my genitalia for me to think about it in the course of normal conversation.

  9. I’ll agree with that… though, I’m not sure how to achieve that “activism” per se. I don’t feel compelled to come out in situations where people don’t know about my past (or even aspects of my present) or really felt a conversation to be awkward because of my unknown past… but maybe that will be the case at some later date and I will change my mind. So far, it’s not been an issue.

    The point of most of my posts were from the beginning, though, that having more gay pride than trans pride makes sense to me.

    • I’ve never felt uncomfortable talking about my past either. I’m always a bit confused when people are. Even ignoring the largely socially transitioned by accident issue, I feel like my childhood was pretty gender neutral. Nothing gendered about playing with Lego or obsessing over Star Wars.

  10. I have more gay pride than trans pride too, but it somehow irks me. It feels a bit like lack of self respect.
    The activism that is needed to the change general attitude will take some decades. And many people will have to sacrifice their own happiness or comfort for it. That’s the way activism works. I totally get that you don’t want to do it. I often don’t want to do it too, and the older I get, the more I’m tired of it. But I’m sure it will be done.
    It’s (relatively) easy to have gay pride and do gay activism today. It wasn’t so 20 or 30 years ago. And that’s where we stand with trans activism today.
    I’m sorry if I came off cranky. I didn’t mean to attack anyone personally. I know this is a difficult topic.

    • I think part of it is that you’re still looking at the societal aspect. Haberdasher and I seem to be looking at the personal aspect.

      If society changed tomorrow and being trans was 100% acceptable I still wouldn’t be out. Why? Because being trans isn’t part of my identity. It would make disclosure easier, but I still wouldn’t tell my friends. I still wouldn’t wear trans pride t-shirts or buttons. Why? Because I’d still have to deal with the internal conflict of being a man with a vagina. That’s not something I’m thrilled about.

      • I understand that on a personal level. I’m probably too much of a political animal to focus on the personal. In day to day life my decisions are personal, obviously, but “pride” is a political term to me and on a social level I still think that we need more trans pride.
        I have known many older and some younger gay cis guys who felt tremendous shame/pain about being “not normal”. They felt that being gay was a physical defect, an illness, something that they didn’t chose, and nothing to be proud of. I can’t help connecting this to some aspects of being trans. I might be making a logical mistake here, but because of my history that coneection comes to my mind immediately.

  11. “It was either transition or kill myself. People say “oh, you don’t have to physically transition, you can learn to live with your body,” but they don’t know what it’s like to wake up every day and wonder who that person in the mirror is. I didn’t choose to start T because I wanted the changes, I chose to start T because my brain already viewed myself as having those changes and not having the visual image match up with the mental one was driving me slowly insane. I never once got a choice in the matter. Not if I wanted to continue being alive (which, admittedly, is not always as clear as it should be).”

    I think I’ll eliminate anything suicidal from the above paragraph (not because I haven’t experienced it but because I have no desire to discuss those feelings with my mother)and articulate this to my mother, who asked me on Friday why I can’t be comfortable the way I am. I was at a loss as to how to describe it.

    • Haberdasher hit the nail right on the head with what he said. The problems that gay people have to face in society is all down to one thing: Prejudice, and homophobia. The fact that these things exist, is also why some gay people try to fight their sexuality and wish they weren’t gay. But if one day inherent homophobia was no longer existent, then no gay person would hate themselves for being gay, and living a normal life would be no problem at all.

      Being trans is totally different, as society’s bigoted attitude towards transpeople is merely one negative aspect of living with the trans condition. Even if tomorrow the world suddenly changed, and everyone had no prejudice towards transpeople, there is still a lot of unsavoury, and unwanted aspects of being trans. Having to live a certain number of years being brought up as the wrong gender, knowing that your body is not really your own, always feeling a deep sense of loss of a normal childhood and life that you feel you have been denied, all these things and more, are negative aspects of being trans that will not suddenly disappear if society decided it had no problem with transpeople.

      I can have no pride in being trans, because not only do I not see anything at all positive about being trans, I also would change it in a second if I could, and just be a ordinary, cisgendered woman. I did not choose to be trans, therefore I can take no pride in something I didnt choose, and would change in a second if I could.

      • A big loss of the first 3-6 years of your life that you don’t remember, provided society still assumes that a given child will be cis and doesn’t raise them as gender unknown until they can express their actual identity.

        The only negative thing that wouldn’t go away is the need for medical treatment for having the wrong sorts of genitals/hormones.

        The childhood social dysphoria and puberty related physical dysphoria would not be things in a world where trans kids were allowed to be themselves and taken seriously.

  12. Thanks for all these posts. I have been trying to tease this issue out for myself. I had a conversation sometime last year and I was trying to articulate why, despite being FTM, I did not feel like I fit with the GBLTQ community. All I could say is that I’m straight and have no reason to have pride in the gay community (aside from merely appreciating someone else’s journey). I just can’t articulate the difference of WHY I don’t feel like the T belongs in the GBLTQ community. On a very basic level of course one has significant “immutable” physical aspects to it, while the other has no such implication. I just don’t see the relation between being Trans and being straight, queer, or anything in-between as having any kind of common ground except under the broad umbrella of some kind of gender non-conformity.
    If anyone can articulate it I would be grateful.

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