LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey

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“Baby Trans” – Early Stages of Transition – How and Why Trans People are Behaving so “Strangely” When They Just Come Out

09 Oct

By Matija Stefanović

In a world that still deeply imposes cis-het as the only acceptable norm, most trans people do not have the privilege of coming out early but rather manage to come out as teenagers or young adults or even later in life. This creates an interesting and, in many ways, often challenging position when coming out as trans finally happens and usually means that a person is now somewhat set back to socializing from the beginning in a new gender role. At the same time, their peers, it often appears to many trans people, are way ahead of them, which creates a desire to try so hard to “keep up.” The sense of “wasted time” while living in a different gender role before transitioning often makes trans people feel like they are late compared to their peers, which often results in a desire to fit in as quickly and as much as possible, no matter the price. This period is extremely sensitive for many trans people, as society rarely understands the difficulties a trans person has when they just come out.

On one hand, the previously mentioned sense of “wasted time” is a very common feeling that many trans people are sharing. It is often accompanied by intense feelings of injustice and anger that so many years have been “taken” from them, as they could not fully experience life due to gender dysphoria and the lack of authenticity they had while living in a wrong gender role. This mourning for the “stolen years” can demonstrate itself in interesting behavioral patterns. We will call this “little girl/boy” phase, where the newly out trans person demonstrates behaviors and looks that are typically associated with much younger individuals, almost as if a person desires to “relive” their childhood and teenage years in a new gender role this time. This is seen very often and very much points out how traumatic living in a gender role a person does not identify with can be, as it clearly shows the typical desire to repeat the traumatic experience, hoping that this time it would be right. For many, this phase means a person will purposely behave less mature, more naive, and more dependent after they come out. Although this phase can seem annoying to the person’s surroundings, it is natural given the circumstances and something to be understood rather than judged.

On the other hand, many are battling their environment for a while after they come out, having to work hard with their friends and families to get to the point of being even partially and conditionally accepted, which often puts pressure on a person to be in a constant state of feeling like they have to prove themselves as “trans enough” for everyone to believe them and not to question their decision to transition. This leads to many trying hard to fit into the most stereotypical gender roles to prove their gender to their distrustful surroundings, which often manifests in toxic gender-stereotypical behaviors. For trans men, for example, this will usually mean, and it is observed too often, that they would willingly reject all of their experiences from before transitioning, where many themselves experienced sexism in a variety of ways and would start demonstrating those same patriarchal patterns of toxic behavior to prove themselves “men enough,” such as by objectifying women or displaying aggression. Although this is certainly not something to be encouraged, it is understandable behavior. It should not be discarded as pure rudeness but instead observed within a context where the pressure on young trans men to “prove” their gender is often too hard. The temptation to fall into the trap of toxic masculinity often seems like the easiest way out. This phase is often accompanied by internalized transphobia and a strong desire to appear “normal” and distance oneself from the trans community, which is seen as “abnormal” by most of the population. Such a person will often promote “trans-medical” views, which insist on biological aspects of gender identity and on medical transitioning as the only proof of a person being “truly trans.” Often, it goes hand in hand with claiming that gender is binary and disregarding non-binary identities as “false” and “not trans enough.” All of this is coming from a desire to gain even a little bit of sympathy from one’s transphobic surroundings, even at the price of throwing one’s own people under the bus and blaming other trans people (such as non-binary people) for transphobia, therefore justifying transphobes. The damage this does to the community is undeniable, as such narratives fuel the transphobes and encourage them in their hatred. However, such behavior in trans people is just another consequence of living in a hostile and transphobic society and should be understood as such rather than judged. No matter how hard it is, I believe it is up to the trans community to offer a hand and create a space of acceptance for all members of our community since those toxic behaviors are coming from deep wounds created in a transphobic society and a person often knows no better ways to deal with the constant transphobia. One might argue that everyone is responsible for their actions. However, it is undeniable where such behaviors are coming from and that society is the one to blame, much rather than the individuals.

These are two very different examples of what the “baby trans” phase can look like. There are many more very typical behaviors that trans people demonstrate at the beginning of their transitions, many of which are often judged and looked down upon when, in reality, it is obvious how and why some trans people are behaving so “strangely” when they just come out. Give them time to go through those phases, show some understanding, and be kind when many are not.

Note: This article was written as a part of the “Strengthening the Trans, Non-Binary, and Intersex Caucus in the Western Balkans and Turkey region” project implemented by ERA’s TNBI Caucus.

Topic - Coming Out / Education / Gender Identity / Health / Identity / Psychology / Trans / Transgender / Transphobia / Transwomen / Wellbeing
Country - All Countries
Tags - Internalised Transphobia / Trans Rights / Transitioning / Transphobia /