As I’ve grown into an adult, two pieces of my dad’s wisdom have continued to ring true:
Everyone is an asshole until they’re 25.
Some women don’t belong on pedestals.
No, he’s not a misogynist. He’s a sixty-something man with over twenty years of marriage under his belt and a survivor of unspeakable trauma. More than any other person, he molded me. Leaning on him for wisdom and advice with regard to the transsexual journey might seem unusual. But doing so continues an important tradition among men: a young man goes before his elder and humbles himself in order to grow.
In countless conversations, I’ve learned more from him about how to become a man than any exclusive trans space. That’s a massive problem—one today’s teen and twenty-something FTMs refuse to confront, and one older trans men are routinely silenced for speaking about.
The silence stops here. If we are to survive and thrive as a community, it must.
Part of the problem can be attributed to population size; more young people are transitioning from female to male than ever before. Another contributing factor is the influence of social media.
But the root of the issue goes deeper, to unmitigated hubris. At their core, FTMs under twenty-five suffer from a disease of hubris and entitlement.
What Aristotle described as “doing and saying things at which the victim incurs shame, not in order that one may achieve anything…but simply to get pleasure from it”, hubris has created the community’s power struggle.
(When using the term “our”, I speak of my experience as part of the homosexual transsexual (HSTS) community.)
I spent six months in a trans support group and noticed several unusual occurrences not captured by Dr. Lisa Littman’s discovery of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD). All are the result of hubris left unchecked, to the detriment of homosexual FTMs.
The “Gay” FTM Surge
Five years ago, the majority of girls choosing transition would have been homosexuals trying to appear heterosexual. Now, the majority present in trans spaces are “gay” FTMs: sometimes bisexual but often heterosexual women transitioning to become gay men. My concerns about such individuals transitioning lie not with their choice of partner, but with the implications of their self-perception. By implying that they are homosexual when they are not, supporting homosexual FTMs—who comprise the majority of the community in both the real world and the clinical sphere—becomes more difficult.
“Gay” FTMs announce themselves to the group in seconds, and before uttering a word. To an observer, the changes from testosterone and surgery do nothing to temper their unconscious and marked femininity. Often, hatred of the men they claim to emulate is a strong pillar of belief. They don’t gravitate toward masculinity, aside from hormones injected and spoken about with a holier-than-thou undercurrent. They form their own clique and often verbally attack other members. Their pseudo-homosexuality is acceptable, while honest homosexuality is not.
For homosexual FTMs the dynamic of the group shifts as soon as a “gay” FTM enters…much like the way the dynamic in a group of men shifts when a woman enters. In the presence of someone pretending to be homosexual, we cannot be honest about issues specific to us. The “gay” member often discredits the vulnerability shared, and our unchangeable sexualities, as transphobic. Nor can we be honest about the nature of the person entering. Someone uninterested in passing effectively and living quietly as male represents an unspoken affront to the two most important tenets of our experience.
For homosexual men, “gay” FTMs represent a question that community hasn’t had to consider: is it worse to reject someone on the basis of sex, or to endure an unhappy relationship and avoid being called transphobic? Despite confidence in their self-perception, “gay” FTMs aren’t welcome in gay male spaces; most are rejected by gay male partners who (shock) aren’t attracted to masculinized females.
In Littman’s study, 153 females (out of 256 teens/young adults) are recorded as bisexual or heterosexual. That’s 60% of the studied population. The overlap between those with ROGD and those expressing pseudo-homosexuality as men is not a coincidence. It’s by design. What would a straight or bi girl gain from trying to assimilate into a homosexual dating pool as a trans man? How would assimilation “queer” her? The answer to both questions is that for the pseudo-homosexual girl, dating women isn’t worth her time. Without meaning to, she sets herself apart from the group even more.
Then her supportive mother decides to contribute.
The Rise of the Advocate-Mother
Unlike their HSTS counterparts, “gay” FTMs most often enter trans spaces as part of a pair. Mom enjoys interceding on her daughter’s behalf. She’ll respond to outside questions with how stunning and brave her child is; after a period of time, many become professional advocates for their children. Beyond the small contributions, advocate-mothers provide something more: money. Ask a pseudo-homosexual who funds their hormones or surgery, especially before the age of majority, and the answer is unanimous.
“My parents paid for my surgery,” more than one would say to me before being taken aback that my parents weren’t doing the same.
What shocked them most was the understanding that not only were my parents not paying for transition, but I didn’t expect or want them to. When the second part of my experience became clear, advocate-mothers would often lead shallow, group expressions of outrage on my behalf.
At first, I wondered why fathers weren’t also advocates for their children. Despite the advocate-mother narrative, fathers weren’t unsupportive of their children. They weren’t absent or uncaring. They simply wanted to challenge their child’s beliefs, as parents do.
In college, I took a course on the sociology of disability. Advocate-mothers aren’t unique to trans spaces. I recognized them because I grew up with one. From birth, my parents have been my biggest advocates; advocate-mothers are the norm in the disabled community. They outrank fathers who advocate for their children, both in the eyes of the family affected and in the eyes of the outside world. More importantly, the way that mothers advocate for their disabled children differs from fathers so markedly that it has been observed and studied by sociologists. Mothers worry about the child’s socialization and relationships. Fathers worry about the child’s involvement in sports and opportunities for employment. Females also have a unique socialization pattern observed by sociologists. In a group, females see themselves as part of a collective. But men in groups still see themselves as individuals. Once I connected the dots, motherly advocacy made sense; those mothers were simply following their socialization pattern. Of course fathers weren’t included, because a father in a group would likely encourage his child to be an individual.
Growing up, I watched my mother struggle to contain her desire to protect me. In elementary school, she worried that playing with the other children would cause harm. In middle and high school, she didn’t want me to go out to social events without her supervision. But my father wanted me to take risks in the pursuit of independence and future success. In other words, mom saw me as a child; dad saw me as a future adult.
The advocate-mother knows that without her contributions, her daughter would not be able to transition. She knows that her child’s feelings matter more than others’ objections. And she knows her child requires protection whenever possible. Once mother and daughter become part of the group, mom extends her hand to the other advocates in the group—the AGPs—in order to ensure more protection.
AGP and AAP Work Really Well Together
The mother, adrift in the new world her daughter has gotten her into, looks for other adults to lean on and learn from. It’s not that she doesn’t support the transition, but she just doesn’t know enough about it. So she turns to the group leaders first, males who transitioned as adults and call themselves lesbians.
These males kneel at the altar of the innate female gender identity, but they have the same problems as the pseudo-homosexuals: not passing, trouble with family or employment, and a fragility reminiscent of children. They are the majority of the West’s male-to-female transgender people, and they see an overwhelmed mother not as someone to help but someone who will validate their self-perception. The word will never be acknowledged, but autogynephilia (AGP)—an exclusively male sexual fetish around the idea of becoming a woman—describes them in the clinical sphere. In modern trans spaces, AGPs dominate group leadership and membership.
Pseudo-homosexual girls are more likely than homosexuals to suffer from autoandrophilia (AAP): an exclusively female sexual fetish around the idea of having gay male sex. In The End of Gender, sex researcher Dr. Debra Soh describes AAP like this:
“With autogynephilia, becoming a lesbian woman is not the focus of transitioning, but a secondary outcome, whereas with [AAP], becoming a gay man is the focus.”
In the teen or young adult who sees herself as a gay man, the AGP finds a kindred spirit—a spirit in which to live out their constructed, homosexual fantasy. Through the transitioning person, an AGP gains a shield against questions about their legitimacy. They can point to the young person and say, “See? I’m just like them. I would’ve transitioned earlier, so leave their transition alone.”
Never mind that their respective etiologies, right down to biological sex, are completely different. Never mind that these males have a history of heterosexual marriage and children. Never mind that AGPs aren’t getting close to girls with AAP in order to help them transition, but to groom them into subservient advocates.
The Princess and the Coup
The girls who were their parents’ spoiled princesses growing up have now demanded to be rewritten as kings. They’re going from teens in indoctrinating “support” groups to adults with a vendetta. Rather than putting in the work to transition, girls are expecting to be considered men on the basis of their self-identification. Rather than proving themselves first, they enter a group believing they already have.
The FTM narratives garnering public attention aren’t about boys like Mack Beggs, a wrestler who medically transitioned in high school while forced to compete against women. They’re not focused on Shane Ortega, the first trans man to openly serve in the military. Both experienced dysphoria as children and date women. Men like them demonstrate masculinity and authenticity too unobtrusive for the public.
Instead, we’re forced to sit through depiction after depiction of “gay” trans men doubling as activists—like pregnant men, posing with their gay male partners yet somehow managing to exclude said partner. In young adult fiction, homosexual FTMs are almost nonexistent; pseudo-homosexuals are the norm and cause for celebration. Viewers of The L Word: Generation Q, a spinoff of a groundbreaking show about lesbians, were treated to an FTM main character with a boyfriend. In the original show, writers infamously introduced Max, an FTM who—you guessed it—ended the show gay and pregnant.
Surrounded by so much affirmation and encouragement from all sides, is it any wonder that these girls are trying to rewrite the narrative around them? Any slight insinuation that they might not be legitimate is met with rage. Emboldened, they point fingers at homosexual FTMs and call them interlopers.
In transmale spaces now, it’s passé to be homosexual. It’s boring to live stealth, or to pursue meaningful employment and family relationships. Why do those things when you could “unlearn genital preferences” and become an activist? Don’t worry about trying to maintain a relationship with your parents either; they’re transphobic for questioning you anyway.
It’s not a coincidence that so many of the under-25 set are pseudo-homosexual. Elders are unapologetic about time spent as lesbians, and how testosterone changed their sexuality. Men like Buck Angel and Jamison Green acknowledge how their sex and original orientation shaped their lives, something considered deeply offensive to today’s trans men.
The Hail Mary Pass
I don’t hate bisexual trans men. I don’t hate trans men who choose to carry children, or trans men who choose not to medically transition. And I could care less about the femininity observed in younger trans men.
What I despise, and what I will not stand for, is the bastardization and appropriation of homosexuality. Girls who chose their gender on Tumblr or Reddit do not have the power to redefine sexual orientation. Girls who did not suffer with gender dysphoria until someone else helped them “realize” it do not suffer in the same way that I and my trans brothers do. Yes, I am misgendering a group of people. Yes, I am disregarding lived experience. I’ve had enough of being disrespected. So-called trans peers disregarded my experience first. They saw my pain and made it about them.
The most egregious example of disrespect came after a conversation about double mastectomy, often called “top surgery.” I asked where to find a specific doctor’s results. E*, the pseudo-homosexual child of one of the group’s board members, said he was a patient and proceeded to lift his shirt and flash his scars at me. After that, I left. It hurt too much to witness the flippant attitude toward major surgery, one I can’t afford on my own without years of saving, from someone whose transition was paid for and supported by his parents.
Unlike many “gay” FTMs, I grew up with amazing male role models. My father and brothers, my uncles and cousin, represent the best qualities men have to offer. As a little girl I idolized them. It’s not a stretch to say that, aside from the lifelong, brutal sex dysphoria, to become a man means becoming what I love. Perhaps that is why I struggle to understand the hatred my peers have for the male sex they claim to want to be.
I am compelled to write not due to hatred, but love. I love my gay brothers and sisters, my transsexual brothers and sisters, and want the best for all involved. Everyone who chooses transition deserves access to an accurate, healthy, realistic understanding of their lifetime commitment.
Another piece of wisdom my father passed down is that to be a man, prepare to go unacknowledged and unappreciated. Prepare to be blamed for the faults of your sex by default. Prepare to put your emotions aside, because the women and children in your life require a calm protector. Much of the suffering I’ve experienced since transitioning is rooted in being a man, not a transsexual—a foreign concept to most trans groups but not to the men around me. Something’s wrong with that picture.
What needs to be done to fix the hubris and entitlement of young trans men?
Stop putting young FTMs on pedestals; those should be reserved for elders who have earned our respect. You’ve got supportive parents and were able to transition early? Great—you’re still not at the level of the men who paved the way for you.
Parents need to step back and let their kids work to transition. Paying for transition in order to prevent suffering doesn’t help; going through suffering and coming out on the other side builds necessary resilience and character.
The gift of transition is a privilege made possible by compassionate, biological men and that should be acknowledged. Biological men (and women) are not the enemy. They care about trans people enough to try and improve transition; alienating them helps no one.
Perhaps by changing our perspective on transition, we can return to Earth and ensure those transitioning to male are prepared for it. Perhaps we can land a Hail Mary pass.
But I turn 25 next year—so what do I know?
*Names have been changed.