The Voice of Self-Hatred
I’d like to relate a story that I’m not terribly proud of.
As I’ve mentioned in other places on this blog, I went through medical transition a while ago. I started taking hormones sixteen years ago, started to “live full time” a year later, and had surgery a year after that. So, I’ve had a while to live with the personal demons that can plague a person after transition.
Even though I passed as a cis woman with great ease, I still had this ugly little voice in the back of my head that whispered, “You look like a freak. You sound like a freak. You have the past of a freak. You’re ugly, awkward, and far too masculine to be a real woman.” I was my own worst critic and consequently, I endured the weight of self-hatred for many years.
The funny thing is, when I looked upon other trans people—trans women in particular—all of that self-doubt and all of those personal demons were projected upon my peers. I didn’t see other women who were struggling with the same issues I was. Most trans women appeared to be impostors to me. Deep down, in my gut, I saw a bunch of annoying men in dresses and garish makeup, pretending to be women. Not surprisingly, after I transitioned, I started to avoid trans women like the plague. They were little more than over-glorified crossdressers on hormones. Oh yes, did I mention that crossdressers kind of freaked me out? They did.
During these years, whenever I encountered another trans person, I’d paste on a smile, pretend that I wasn’t a prejudiced fool, and quietly walk away. The faster I could put distance between myself and others of my kind, the better. If you have a personal weakness that leads to unhealthy, horrible behaviors, what better way to avoid the issue than to avoid the focus of your dysfunction?
Of course, I knew this was unhealthy thinking. I knew that on some level, my behavior was problematic. Even so, I continued to give in to this voice. Seeing the face of another trans person was like peering into a looking glass. It was an image I didn’t want to see. I wanted to run from that image, malignantly glaring back at me. I wanted to lock it behind steel barriers, forged in isolation from those of my kind. These could never be my own eyes staring back at me, for I was different. This distorted visage could never be formed of my own flesh, for I was better than.
In truth, or course, I was always staring into my own eyes.
Denial is the refuge of a fearful mind.
When did this stop? It started to fade only when I learned to distinguish the voice that whispered ugly insults from my own voice. It started to fade only when I recognized that it was the effect of a childhood, beaten and bruised by the abuse of a gender-prejudiced society. When I learned to listen to my heart and accept myself as the woman I am, this hateful voice was quelled. Not surprisingly, as the voice vanished, the prejudice I felt toward other trans people began to fade.
You can only begin to accept the lives of others when you begin to accept your own. Those words may be trite, but they contain a wealth of truth.
You can take this story for what it’s worth, as I’m just one person. However, it seems to me that it’s not uncommon for the people of any marginalized group to have to contend with the effects of self-hatred within its members. In fact, there’s a name for this phenomenon. It’s called internalized oppression. A person can engage in stunningly negative behaviors toward themselves and their peers when they are plagued by this phenomenon. For those who have an interest, here is a webpage which explores the topic at length.