As many know, I read the essays and speeches of civil rights leaders. One I’ve been recently been reading recently is Riki Anne Wilchins, and one essay I recently read of hers is A Shopping List of Transexual Shame.

So with Riki Wilchins shopping list in mind, I’d like to similar create a shopping list of shame trans women who transition — one that incorporates some of the same shames she included in her 1993 shopping list, as well as some added shames that apply to trans folk of a variety of transsexual experience.

I’m sure the list isn’t complete and can be added to. And, I’m equally sure that every item on the list doesn’t apply to every trans woman who transitions — the list is a shopping list where some items apply and some items don’t apply to every trans woman who transitions.

So here’s the list I assembled:

  1. When someone says to us they’d no idea that we’re trans, we feel complimented.
  2. When someone says to us they’d guessed we’re trans, we’re heartbroken.
  3. When we look in the mirror after beginning our transitions and see “male,” we cry.
  4. When children read us as trans and ask us whether we’re boys or girls, we experience pain in knowing that many adults can often read us as trans — and those adults will never say a word about reading us as trans to our faces.
  5. When nontranssexual adults read us as trans and then denigrate us to our faces, we feel weak and humiliated.
  6. When we see people pointing and laughing at us from a distance, we feel disheartened and despondent.
  7. We avoid discussing our dicks.
  8. We avoid discussing taking hormones with nontranssexual people.
  9. We avoid discussing our operative status with nontranssexual people because we don’t want to be thought of as men — no matter what our operative status.
  10. If we haven’t had a vaginoplasty at this snapshot in time, we avoid discussing our operative status with our post-operative trans peers because we feel obligated to justify why we haven’t had a vaginoplasty.
  11. If we have had a vaginoplasty, we grade the shape of our genitalia by how “normal” and nontranssexual these look.
  12. If we’ve had a vaginoplasty, we don’t discuss dilating and surgery with nontranssexual people.
  13. We convince ourselves after our vaginoplasties that we no longer have dicks.
  14. We convince ourselves after vaginoplasties that we’re “normal” women — even though our vaginas have no possibility of lubricating like nontranssexual women’s vaginas do.
  15. We convince ourselves after vaginoplasties we’re “normal” women — even though our vaginas have to be stretched with dilator to make the depth as close to nontranssexual women’s vaginas as possible.
  16. We convince ourselves after vaginoplasties we’re “normal” women — even though our vaginas will never be capable of passing a newborn through them.
  17. When we see nontranssexual women who are pregnant, we feel defective.
  18. We use “normal” to describe ourselves.
  19. If we have no children prior to surgery, we refuse to bank sperm prior to the genital surgeries that sterilize us.
  20. If we get breast implants, we make sure to get our implants a size or two too large for our frames.
  21. When nontranssexual people we’re talking with begin discussing trans people we try to change the subject because we don’t want to out ourselves.
  22. We feel legitimate when we’re in a relationship; we feel inferior when we aren’t.
  23. We avoid thinking about how many men who find trans women attractive think of us as flesh-and-blood blow-up dolls.
  24. We avoid thinking about how many men who find trans women attractive don’t think of us as fully human.
  25. We avoid thinking about how many men get turned on by transsexual porn.
  26. We avoid thinking about that everything many men know about trans women comes from watching transsexual porn.
  27. We avoid thinking about how sexualized we are by people in broader society.
  28. We publicly embrace transsexual as a term that applies to us, even if it sexualizes us to broader society, because we want to have our trans experience medicalized.
  29. We debate telling potential lovers before we date them that we’re trans.
  30. We settle for sex to validate our gender identity when what we really want is intimacy.
  31. We let many men and women treat us badly because we feel we deserve it for being trans.
  32. We tear other trans women down in an effort to build ourselves up.
  33. We don’t feel we deserve happiness.
  34. We avoid thinking about how, regardless of our surgical status, that many nontranssexual women don’t want to be in the same bathroom as us.
  35. We feel internal pain because what we’re putting our mothers through.
  36. We agree not to tell certain family members that we’re trans because we have embarrassed family members that ask us to say silent.
  37. We choose not to tell certain family members that we’re trans because we’re embarrassed.
  38. We agree to not come dressed as our true selves to family gatherings.
  39. When we answer phones, we raise the pitch of our voices.
  40. When someone calls us “sir,” we feel like failures.
  41. When someone calls us “ma’am,” we feel proud.
  42. If we have cleavage, we show it — just to make sure we “pass.”
  43. We avoid being seen in public with other trans women.
  44. We tell ourselves that lots of nontranssexual women have deep voices, large hands, and large feet.
  45. We avoid thinking about how many nontranssexual women have high voices, tiny hands, and tiny feet.
  46. We choose to be stealth so that we personally don’t experience employment and housing discrimination.
  47. We recoil in fear we’ll be outed as trans.
  48. We choose to be stealth, even knowing trans people who come after us will experience the same discrimination we did early in our transitions — and we do nothing to make their transitions easier than our own transitions were.
  49. We denigrate crossdressers, drag queens, and genderqueer people, saying we have nothing in common with them. We do this even though we know that many trans people intermediately identify as crossdressers, drag queens, and genderqueer people on their personal path to identifying with their true gender identities.
  50. We denigrate gay men, crossdressers, drag queens, and genderqueer people, saying we have nothing in common with them. We do this even though we know that broader society can’t tell transsexual women, gay men who are perceived to be too feminine, crossdressers, drag queens, and many genderqueer people apart — in fact we do it in some measure because they can’t tell us apart.
  51. We denigrate crossdressers, drag queens, and genderqueer people, saying we have nothing in common with them. We do this even though we know that they are human as we are.
  52. We treat our own trans experiences as universal trans experiences. We do this because we believe that if we acknowledge that there is a diversity of trans experiences we may be invalidating our personal trans experience.
  53. We denigrate gay men because we don’t want to be thought of as gay.
  54. We accept the medical diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) if being considered disordered will get us hormones and the medical, psychiatric, and psychological letters we need to have genital surgeries.
  55. We use other terms other than GID to tell others what our medical condition is because we don’t want to be considered disordered.
  56. We spend so much time and energy responding to the voices outside, and the voices inside, that we never see qualities that make us incredible people — including courage, strength, creativity, humanity, and beauty.