Caged in one’s own identity

Graphic by Irfan Khan

Transphobia is the hatred or irrational fear of transgender and transsexual people, and when a transgender person internalises the hate and irrational fear of themselves and other trans people, it is referred to as internalised transphobia. In simpler words, it is the discomfort a trans person might experience after internalising society’s standards of gender expectations.

The reason behind this internalised hate is the inequality transgender people face in society. Transgender people are discriminated against in their own houses by their families, in their workplaces by their bosses, in their schools by their peers and teachers, and this is not a recent phenomenon. The hatred against transgender people has been going on for ages. Society’s unequal view of transgender people is what adds to the problem. When society forms a view of a community, it is ingrained into the minds of the people and that is the very reason, almost everyone from a child to an adult views transgenders as a third gender with people who involve themselves in lower-class jobs. This explains why there is a real need to educate society on gender-related issues. 

When this is how society views transgenders, how can we expect a transgender person to come out in society and live freely with their identity? With so many images of hatred towards transgender people, it is understandable why they might experience embarrassment or feelings of self-hatred. This internalised hate of oneself causes a lot of harm to the health of transgender people. They are more prone to suffer from mental health problems because of the lack of self-acceptance and acceptance by society. With such attitudes of the society, many transgenders suffer from high levels of anxiety, depression, lower self-esteem, and other mental health issues. Statistically, they also have a high rate of suicidal and self-harming behaviour. When transgenders seek out medical help, they face delays or discrimination. They then face difficulties coming out as trans and seeking gender-affirming care, thus living a low quality of life. 

Apart from having an adverse effect on health, internalised transphobia also affects the personal and romantic relationships of transgender people form inside and outside the community. Transgender people find themselves in situations where they avoid being in relationships and engage themselves in a competitive environment with other transgender people. Trans people who have been socialised to be embarrassed by their gender identities and expressions may defend themselves by projecting their shame onto others in the community. To successfully engage with the awareness that one is living with internalised transphobia, it is critical to try to acquire an understanding of one’s thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It can be extremely liberating to become conscious of these thoughts and feelings, as well as how they manifest psychically or in our behaviour and relationships. 

In order to seek help for internalised transphobia, transgender people can reach out to therapists and people who care about the community and cause. Talking to people who care will help transgender people gain their lost self-esteem back along with a sense of self-acceptance. Overcoming internalised transphobia requires patience, time, and compassion. The change in oneself will not happen in a day. It is a long process, a process which will need transgender people to reflect on themselves and most importantly, accept themselves completely disregarding society’s expectations and viewpoints of the community because when it’s about one’s own identity no one else has the right to question it.

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