Wipe Out Transphobia - Myth BusterThe Wipe Out Transphobia Myth Buster, is our way of setting straight the record in relation to trans people and the myths that are regularly perpetuated about us. The myths we are busting on this page were the ones suggested by our own membership as the issues that caused them the greatest concern.

“Cis is a slur”

Nope… no it isn’t. Below we have included a definition about why, in technical terms the word cis when applied to people who are not trans is not a slur, but there’s also another aspect. To insist on the word cis not being used when referring to you because you did not label yourself this is a direct attempt at the continued ‘othering’ of trans and gender diverse people. Cis, again as seen in the definition below means the opposite to trans and therefore if you are not trans, you have to be cis. The usage of the word means that you are accepting that by not being trans, you are not the default ‘normal’ and by that trans people effectively then not being the default ‘abnormal’. By understanding the use of cis is to understand that a trans woman for example, as opposed to a cis woman, is still a women. Yes we come from different origins, but a trans woman is a woman non-the-less. In the more complete context of everyone in the trans community, it is a way of accepting trans people as exisiting as people equal to you, not other than you.

In addition the word Cis cannot be a slur, because by not being trans and subsequently cis, you are understanding that you do not have to face systemic oppression and discrimination because you’re cis. You acknowledge that by being cis, you are not in a position where you may have to worry about your job, healthcare, relationship, social circle and anythng else breaking down and you don’t have to worry about being mudered just for being cis. Acknowledging this acknowledges the struggle that trans people face for being trans on a daily basis.

The definitions:

Cisgender has its origin in the Latin-derived prefix cis-, meaning “on this side of”, which is an antonym for the Latin-derived prefix trans-, meaning “across from” or “on the other side of”. This usage can be seen in the cis–trans distinction in chemistry, the cis–trans or complementation test in genetics, in Ciscaucasia (from the Russian perspective) and in the ancient Roman term Cisalpine Gaul (i.e., “Gaul on this side of the Alps”). In the case of gender, cis- is used to refer to the alignment of gender identity with assigned sex.

“You’re trans, oh so you’re gay then?”

This is a common, if not the most common misconception that trans people face when coming out or discussing their situation with other people. The quick answer to this is, well yes, some trans people are gay, but they are not gay because they are trans! In actual fact, just like the rest of the population, sexuality varies a lot and has nothing to do with a person’s Gender Identity. Trans people can be lesbian, gay, bisexual, agender et al,.  or of course, straight!

We would like to stress this again, sexuality; that is your sexual attraction, has nothing to do with whether a person is trans or not. The two are entirely separate and it’s really very easy to see and work out. Trans people who date someone of their same identified sex would be gay or lesbian and trans people who date people opposite to their identified gender are straight. It stands to reason then from this then, that trans people who are attracted to both binary genders are bisexual, all genders, pansexual and they may be asexual. Being trans is not the definition of being gay. Sexuality is a different part of who we are.

“Being trans is a myth in itself, right?”

Actually no, people who suffer with Gender Dysphoria are not mythological creatures, but rather human beings with an internationally recognised medical situation; one that needs treating just like any other. Contrary to popular belief, being trans is not just a phase or something people who’ve been diagnosed will grow out of/forget about; it’s actually a full time, ongoing nightmare for those involved, usually with the only viable treatment being to transition.

“Okay, so if it’s not a myth, it is a mental illness?”

Not, it isn’t. While many trans people are diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID), or the more accurate Gender Dysphoria (GD), being transgender/transexual, bi-gender, non-binary etc is not a mental illness in itself. Being trans and having an identity that is not congruent with your assigned sex at birth is more accurately for some categorised as a physical medical issue, rather than a mental health one and this is becoming more widely understood as time progresses (especially in the medical field). Many trans people are only diagnosed with a ‘disorder’, because there are little to no other options for treatment otherwise.

Trans people do however often suffer from other mental health conditions due to their environment. Losing your home, your job and family, as well as being bullied, tormented and harassed, often with a risk of serious injury or death through violence aimed towards you can and does induce stress, anxiety and depression. These are some of the reasons that trans people have an extraordinarily high attempted suicide rate.

“If you transition, you’ll never be happy”

Again, this is a pretty scary assumption as it perpetuates the idea that to be trans is a lost cause and that even after a successful transition, a trans person couldn’t possibly be happy. The truth of the matter is that of those who do transition to a place they are comfortable, can and do live normal healthy lives, both within work, socially and sexually. Being trans is not something new, there are in fact already many trans people living out and about within your communities, most of them doing exactly the same things you do every day. Just because you cannot visibly see and notice trans people, doesn’t mean we aren’t there.

“But, you’re never going to find love and get married”

Well, yes we just might! This again has nothing to do with whether a person is trans or not, it actually affects everyone the same way. Meeting the right person to spend your life with doesn’t revolve around being trans or not. Many, many trans people find partners both pre and post transition and live very happy, loving lives.

“Isn’t this all about genitals, you know, when we get down to it”

Nope. Genitals and surgery are but a small part of a few trans people’s transition, but it’s not essential. Trans folk who transition can do this quite successfully without seeking genital surgery and this can be for many reasons, usually very personal to the person involved. It is not appropriate and in fact would be seen as being quite rude to ask about a trans person’s genitalia when discussing trans issues with them. Think about it, when was the last time you asked your friends, family or coworkers about theirs? Exactly, well it’s no more appropriate just because a person is trans. In short, genital surgery may be the course some people aim for, however this is not compulsory and however a person identifies, genitals should never be seen as a defining characteristic of any person and should never be used to invalidate them.

“No genital surgery, well you’re not a full Man/Woman/Person then!”

Again, this is very rude and assumes a lot of things, not least that being a man or woman is only related to a person’s private parts. Gender is a social construct/idea and involves how a person acts and relates to themselves and other people within society. Physical sexual characteristics are entirely separate from this (genitals), meaning that if someone identifies and presents as a particular gender within society, this is exactly who they are and how they should be treated. It’s that simple!

“Trans people are just Drag Queens/Kings?”

The two are in fact entirely unrelated. Trans people, however we identify are not Drag Queens / Kings because we’re trans, just as we’re not more likely to buy a particular kind of clothing just because we’re trans. Drag is an art form and particularly concerned with the entertainment of others through the over impersonation of the opposite binary gender. This is definitely not what being trans is. Being trans is about personal identity and about how you feel comfortable, it is not an entertainment platform. This again though, does not mean that some trans people don’t perform, however it has nothing to do with them being trans in the first place.

“But you made the choice to be trans!”

Hmmmn, well again, no. Trans people can no more choose to be trans than we can choose how tall we are. Trans people have been scientifically proven to be born the way they are, with physical issues at birth contributing towards the error between gender identity and physical sex. Some people manage to live their lives and suppress their feelings, but some people cannot and then transition either physically, socially or both. Some trans people will say that they were born trans and then chose to transition, while others will say they had no choice in either and that transition was the only way they could survive. Other people agree that we are transitioning a social construct of who we are supposed to be based on our genitals at birth and how we actually feel.

None of these are wrong, because it really does just depend on the person and how they feel, however this still doesn’t mean that people choose to be trans. Saying that someone chooses to go through a lot of the stigma we receive, to possibly lose our families and friends and have a tough time until we rebuild our lives, risking possible depression and violence because of a sudden choice, is absolute nonsense.

“Trans people always regret going through transition!”

A rather odd myth we think, but one that exists anyway. As a treatment, transition is one of the only ways a trans person who has a dysphoria related to their body can be helped to recover and to be able to rebuild their lives again. Of course, we go through a lot of evaluations and tests to make sure what we do is the right choice for us, but this means that ultimately very few trans people ever regret going through a phyisical transition and aligning their physical body with how they feel inside.

However, many people do not transition physically, but do so socially. A person may choose not to go through a physical alignment for many reasons, which can stem from money issues right through to it being a risk to their life and even because they just feel fine without doing so. It makes no difference either way and we should always treat them as theyidentify. However transitioning socially is often something that is more than adequate and people will transition at different rates and to different stages as is comfortable. What makes the biggest difference to a successful transition, is a support network around you at home, work, school and in life generally, however even when that support is lacking, it is very rare to find someone regretting being themselves.

It can also be argued that those who undergo medical transition and then de-transition were never trans to begin with and so therefore the statement that trans people regret transitioning is even less a thing.

“It’s all about the sex/fetish, right?”

So many of the myths we have been sent have related to the mix-up between gender identity and sex/sexuality. This one again perpetuates the view that people who transition or cross-dress are all some kind of deviant looking for sexual gratification in some way. We can say with a high degree of certainty that this is not the case and that those who do, do this for many other reasons, all excluding however, sex and fetish. Gender identity is exactly that, it’s how you identify, which means whether you transition from one physical binary sex to another to match your internal identity, live without any defining gender, or dress at weekends, it’s to do with feeling comfortable and bringing oneself into line internally and externally. We are all people.

“Trans people can’t get jobs, they’ll end up as prostitutes!”

Well, yes they can, actually and no, that doesn’t have to be the case. Many trans folk find successful employment in a myriad of different employment situations and lots of people keep the old jobs they had prior to transition. It’s not easy as discrimination and misinformation, along with employers’ misconceptions about trans people integrating into their workforce still exist, however many trans folk have rewarding and fulfilling careers, with the fact they’re trans having no bearing on that at all. In the UK for instance, trans people are specifically protected from workplace discrimination.

It is true however that some trans people suffer so much discrimination that sex work is often the only way to survive. This myth, as well as being somewhat inaccurate, also directs a huge amount of stigma towards those who do need to engage in sex work to survive and this is reprehensible. Unfortunately, many of the trans women we lose to murder in these situations are Trans Women of Colour and we should be doing more to help and support these women to enable them to actually have a choice to not engage in sex work. Currently many don’t and this myth does nothing to help and support these people who, out of our whole community, have the hardest time.

“Trans women are just men trying to invade women’s space”

Also known as the Bigot’s Bathroom Issue.

Unfortunately, this is something we hear quite regularly from the more TERF section of the feminist movement. Feminism is great and we obviously support equality, however this assertion that trans women trying to use the toilet (for instance) are just men trying to invade women’s space is absolutely ludicrous. Transition is an incredibly difficult process, one which is undertaken with great care and determination, however this determination is for nothing other than to be ourselves. With that comes the desire to be able to pee in safety! Unfortunately TERFism creates some of the most abundant transphobia we have seen this century.

This myth is also often perpetuated by religious extremists, often in America, where campaigns are run and bills are drawn up to suggest that men are dressing up to be next to your daughters. Apart from the fact that should someone want to abuse someone in a restroom/toilet, they would do it despite the sign on the door and without dressing in a disguise, this is a factually flawed myth, a true fallacy on so many more levels. In essence, this is a way of trying to legitamise one’s bigotry through religion and to try and use that to then target an oppressed minority. These attacks then create some of the second most abundant transphobia we have seen this century.

It’s a simple fact that trans people, however they identify, want to use a toilet in peace. Shocking, right?

“I’m attracted to a Trans Man/Woman, am I gay?”

This is related to a myth further up the page and again we would like to stress that gender identity and sexuality are separate. If you’re a straight guy who finds a trans woman attractive, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you. That would be heterosexual attraction. If you’re a straight woman who’s attracted to a trans guy, then this again is heterosexual attraction. You would be straight before you thought they were cute, and you’ll still be straight afterwards! It obviously depends who you are. If you are attracted to a trans woman and you’re a woman… brilliant, yes you’re gay and we wish you the best!

“You’re not a ‘true’ trans person, because……”

This is the myth that there’s a particular kind of stereotype that all trans people fit into and so when you don’t fit, you just cannot possibly be trans. Well again, we’re sorry to burst people’s bubbles, but trans people are as varied as every other type of person, minority, majority, community etc. Quite often, the only thing that people in our community have in common is that we’re dealing with some kind of internal gender identity that doesn’t match us physically, and that really is it. Trans people all have different life experiences, hobbies, jobs, family, qualifications, religions or faiths or any other variation you can think of. Elitism sucks!

 “Gramatical Gender is the same as Gendered Pronouns”

Grammatical gender is independent of gendered pronouns. English has gendered pronouns but no grammatical gender; French has both grammatical gender (la chaise – the chair is feminine, le Quebec – Quebec is masculine) and gendered pronouns; Hungarian has neither grammatical gender nor gendered pronouns (there is only one 3rd person pronoun that refers to anyone regardless of gender).

Some languages even have six ‘genders’.

Grammatical gender isn’t in any way gender-based; the concept came about as an easy way to categorise words by their behaviour in terms of declension, e.g. words that behave grammatically like the word for ‘woman’ came to be called ‘feminine’, those that behave like the word for ‘man’ came to be called ‘masculine’. This was originally applied to Latin and its descendants, and then, since it is linguistically a useful tool for describing the behaviour of words, came to be used more generally.

The existence of gendered pronouns, however, has nothing to do with grammatical gender, except insofar as they might behave the same way as masculine or feminine (or neuter). But English is conveniently an excellent example of the independence of gendered pronouns from grammatical gender, in that all nouns are non-gendered, but gendered pronouns do exist to differentiate in speech between a man (he) or a woman (she) or someone with unknown or uncertain or undefined gender (singular they) or an inanimate object or non-sentient animate object (it).

The point of this is that gendered pronouns *can* be created as needed (see: Swedish), and it still leaves grammatical ‘gender’ unaffected. Therefore the argument that ‘They’, cannot be a valid pronoun for non-binary people is factually incorrect. Contribution by, Xenia Coutière


If you have any myths to bust, please contact us directly to include them here!
Last edited  27th April 2015