This year, Smutathon are fundraising for two amazing charities who support trans and non-binary folks. We’re working with Gendered Intelligence in the UK and Trans Lifeline in the US. With less than twelve hours until I hop on a train down to London to join other members of the committee for some in-person smut writing, I want to talk about how much this year’s charities mean to me personally. I want to talk about how I wish trans people didn’t have to be so fucking strong.
In case you’re somehow reading my blog without knowing this, I am trans. I’ve spent the last two years stepping into my gender and it’s been the biggest act of bravery and self-love I’ve ever done. I love my transness; I have found it easier to love myself since claiming my transness. Being trans is amazing. Stepping into my gender has allowed me to experience joy and power in ways I never thought possible.
I hate it when medical professionals ask me if my gender is what I’m struggling with. Being trans is not what makes me mentally ill. My transness isn’t what makes me depressed or anxious or suicidal, and it’s worrying how many people seem to assume it might be. I don’t struggle with my gender any more than I struggle with my sexuality. It is not hard to be trans – it is part of who I am, and it makes me strong.
It is, however, hard to be trans in a deeply transphobic society.
All This Fucking Transphobia
It’s hard when I can’t leave my flat without seeing transphobic stickers on lampposts. They’re a visual reminder that someone I’ve probably walked past on the street hates me and my transness. I peel them off whenever they can, and smile at the trans stickers that are plastered everywhere in response. I manage not to cry when I see that someone has taken a thick black pen and written ‘perverts’ over the trans rights stickers at my bus stop.
This is just the start.
It’s hard moving through the world in a body that people don’t see as a guy’s body, even though it is. It makes me physically sick that people see me and read me as a woman when I’m not one. People misgender me in their heads all the time and I fucking hate it. It makes me want to peel my skin off. It’s hard when every time I use the men’s bathroom I’m half expecting to get stopped and asked what I’m doing. It’s hard when there aren’t bins for period products in the men’s toilets.
Then there are the companies talking about woman’s health who don’t realise that their lack of inclusivity doesn’t “offend” trans men and non-binary people, but means they miss out on essential healthcare. There are the feminist writers and feminist brands and feminist podcasts who don’t realise that not only women experience misogyny. It makes me want to scream when people forget that while nothing about my body is “female”, the world still reads me as a woman. It’s hard when every cat call feels like you’re being misgendered.
And I am incredibly privileged as a thin, white trans guy. It’s hard to know that my partner gets abuse shouted at them for dressing the way they do. For being so visibly trans. It’s hard to know that I can’t help them. I am scared right now. I’m scared for my trans sisters and my trans femme siblings. I’m scared for everyone who fucks with gender in a way that threatens a society built on the gender binary. I don’t know any trans people who are ok right now – I don’t know any trans people who feel safe.
It’s hard knowing that it’s going to be at least five years until I can even talk to someone about having top surgery. It’s hard to live with the fear that I’ll kill myself before I will get the life-saving, gender-affirming care I need. I want testosterone so much that sometimes I can’t breathe with wanting it, but our healthcare system is not set up to support trans people. If I want bottom surgery, I can’t get it on the NHS anymore, and it’s hard that no one seems to care about that.
It’s hard to keep going when the media has launched a hate campaign against you. It’s hard to function normally when a woman who was platformed by the fucking BBC calls for trans women to be lynched – let alone educate other people on why what she said isn’t ok. Even supposedly left-wing news outlets platform transphobes under the guise of feminism, so we wake up every day to article after article painting trans people as predators.
Being trans is incredible, but being trans in a transphobic world is hard – and the world feels really transphobic right now. It’s hard to know what to do about All This Fucking Transphobia. You’re not alone if you’re feeling powerless or overwhelmed.
With All This Fucking Transphobia, it’s hard to remember the good things about being trans. But ahead of Smutathon 2021, we wanted to ask people to share their Trans Joy stories on the Smutathon site. The pervious year we had asked people to write about their struggles with endometriosis, to raise awareness of the condition and explain why our fundraiser for Endometriosis UK was so important. I know it’s purely because this year’s cause is so personal to me, but I didn’t want to do the same thing this time.
You see, I am tired of trans people having to perform our pain to prove we deserve human rights. I didn’t want to ask trans and non-binary people to write about how much they struggle with being trans to promote our fundraisers – even though our fundraisers are for charities dedicated to helping trans people. I wanted to flip the script on all of this, and ask them to talk about their joy. Their gender euphoria. The power of being trans that rarely gets talked about.
It is important to draw attention to trans people’s suffering, because we want to make change so trans people do not have to suffer. We need to tell stories of trans people struggling, because without highlighting that struggle it won’t be taken seriously and transphobic systems won’t be changed. But we do not celebrate trans joy enough. Asking people for their stories and curating them on the Smutathon site has been a reminder of how powerful it is to be trans. How joyous.
And this is why the charities Smutathon is fundraising for this year are so important. Both Gendered Intelligence and Trans Lifeline do vital work to support trans people, advocate for their quality of life, and connect them to the resources they need to survive and thrive. Trans people should get to thrive. And despite all of the adversity we face, despite how fucking hard it is to live in a deeply transphobic society, we do.
Trans people are so fucking strong, but honestly? I wish we didn’t have to be.
I wish we didn’t have to be strong
Every trans person I know is incredibly strong. They are brave and badass and powerful and so, so strong. But why do they have to be? Since stepping into my gender, there are new places inside me that are hard. Places where scars are forming; places where I’ve been hurt so often that I’m all but numb to the pain. There are parts of me that cannot be soft or trusting again. Since claiming my transness, I move through the world differently. Strength isn’t an option anymore, it’s a necessity.
You’re so brave, I hear people say. You’re so strong. I want to shout at them that I’m not brave, I’m not strong. I’m just trying to survive, and trying to survive shouldn’t be this fucking hard. Trans people shouldn’t have to navigate All This Fucking Transphobia. We shouldn’t have to navigate a world that demands our strength while praising us for it, while making it sound like the trans siblings who are not still with us just weren’t strong enough.
I wish we didn’t have to be strong. I wish we could be soft and gentle and tell stories of trans joy. And there is power in strength and survival, but I’m so tired of having to be strong. Trans people should get to be other things than strong. We should get to have joy. We should get to be soft, but we live in a society that demands we stay strong to protect ourselves. There’s only so many times your heart can break before you have to force it to stop beating. You have to let it scar over so the headlines can’t hurt you any more.
Cis people, please don’t just condemn the transphobia in the media right now. Do something that actually helps trans people. Something like donating to our fundraisers, for charities that support trans and non-binary people and are led by trans and non-binary people. Charities doing really important work, where I genuinely believe will make a difference. Your money will help trans people not only survive, but thrive. Your money might even mean a trans person doesn’t have to be strong, because the world is slightly less transphobic.
If you’re feeling helpless right now, this is how you do something practical about All This Fucking Transphobia. This is how you invest in trans joy.
Quinn Rhodes (he/him) is a freelance journalist, sex writer, and professional transsexual. His work focuses on dismantling shame and queering sex.