Cis People: Read This to be a Better Ally

A cartoon image of the Philadelphia Pride Flag and the Transgender Pride Flag crossed over one another. The text reads, “Love. No matter what.”
Image Courtesy of Planned Parenthood.

So many cis people have not taken the time to grapple with and truly sympathize with what the trans experience really means. The concept that it is a choice shields cis people from the reality that it could have been them. I know this because you can watch, in real time, the horror on their faces when they truly, really realize that there was nothing you could do to stop it. When they realize that you are literally living, and have never known anything besides, the content of their nightmares. I could write a whole book about how body-swapping, in horror, or sci fi, etc, is a cis approximation of the trans experience — and it is literally nightmare fuel for them, unimaginable horror.

It is easier for many cis people to simply believe it is a choice, or that trans people aren’t real, than to reconcile with just how tenuous the mind’s perception of reality is, and how involuntary our mental workings are. This is a violent choice.

As someone who has experienced discrimination on the basis of ableism for psychosis, delusions and flashbacks… it is shocking to me how similar the responses are to me being trans. People will do nearly anything to reassure themselves that their minds are in their control alone.

So yeah, we have pride, and we learn to love the selves we are, but I think it is overly generous of us to shield cis people from the absolute, heart wrenching grief and psychological torture of the trans experience. No one would choose this.

I don’t think cis queer people can understand inherently either. Yes, you need to work through internalized issues and societal bigotry. But inherently, in a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong. If society weren’t homophobic, being cisqueer wouldn’t be harmful. I don’t think there’s a way to experience being trans without an inherent wrongness. That comes with near-unimaginable grief, and literal constant psychological distress. Transitioning makes it better, it doesn’t fix it. You will never be right. You have to swallow that every day. Euphoria (when you are validated, and there’s a rush of relief and a feeling of rightness), is functionally just getting unimaginably excited and happy to be experiencing what cis people experience constantly. But being trans is accepting that you will spend your entire life chasing an unattainable version of yourself. Because anything else is torture.

I’m glad I’m still here. Some days I’m glad I’m trans. There’s not a moment I regret transitioning. I’m not going to apologize for cis discomfort with experiencing even a sliver of my existence.

In light of this, I invite every cis ally to think long and hard about this. I want you to think about how that impacts mental health among trans people. I want you to think about how substance abuse issues are often used to numb our own perceptions.

I want you to think of the kids. The kids brave enough to say something and to try to survive this, only for the world to fall down on them.

I need you to think of the trans people in your life. I need you to do better. #TransRightsAreHumanRights

This is a vulnerable time for the trans community. In the US, the Trump administration’s legacy is still powerful, and anti-trans bills are being pushed in many states. Track them here, and speak up for us.

I am a disabled binary trans man who primarily writes about feminism, queer history, trans issues, science communication, healthy masculinity and public health.