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Lateral Hostility and the Transgender Woman

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Lateral Hostility and the Transgender Woman

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      Are you a transgender women who has experienced hostility from the transgender community? I would dare to say that a lot of transgender women have been the victim of bullying and pigeonholing into the brutally enforced “hierarchy” of transgender women through cyber-bullying, ostrification and deadly gossip. I use the word deadly because I believe that this behavior is directly related to the skyrocketing transgender suicide rate. We don't we just add to the suffering and feeling of isolation that most of us feel. Some of us take their own lives; could this hostility among trans women be a factor? Perhaps something to think about the next time someone is being persecuted by our very own. We are doing it too ourselves people! It has to stop if we are going to get anywhere in society as a group of oppressed people. I asked my doctor about this phenomenon and he simply relied “it's called lateral violence”; he continued “when a group of people are singled out and ridiculed in society and have no place to put the anger and frustration they feel so they put it on the closest people to them who are on the same social rung as themselves".

     It kind of makes sense to me but it does not explain the competition over hormones, surgery and boob size, etc. Do trans women bring the competitive nature of men with them when they transition? It would appear so. A pecking order does exist and in my experience with trans groups is that most of the time is spent attacking each other. And why no cross talk in trans support groups? Perhaps that would help. There is a rather offensive joke that I have heard about trans women; "you're not trans unless your insulted five times a day". I was offended, for the fifth time that day. But then I thought about it I realized that sometimes jokes point out things about ourselves that we don't like. We are offended, and often. We form little "cliques" and attack other trans women, forcing them out of support groups and ostracizing them even further from any kind of support we may offer as fellow trans women. Its so sad, can you imagine what we could accomplish if we worked together?

     Lateral Hostility or violence is a term describing physical, verbal, or emotional abuse of an individual by a person or persons with the intend of doing emotional and mental harm. Backstabbing, scapegoating,verbal attacks or non verbal attacks like rolling your eyes or sopping or spreading unfounded rumours. This happens constantly on the internet and it is a crime called cyber-bullying! How many transgender women have experienced this? Not only lateral hostility in the support groups but over the internet as well.

      Why do we do this? Why do we internally proclaim I am "trannier than thou", and I am going to make you aware of it at all costs. This does not go far enough to explain why so many good heart-ed people end up in brutal fights; e-hair pulling, e-scratching and biting! Forming groups of "she is my friend so go away", no "she is MY friend so you go AWAY!", simply by having a difference of opinion over anything even mildly controversial. Everything IS a personal attack. the words "I disagree" is an act of WAR!!. Does the dysphoria make us closed to new ideas and points of view? Does it make it an imperative to be right no matter what the cost in terms of friendships and heartbreak? Could it be the dysphoria which causes us to put each other down over size of body parts and size of shoe? I dress more like a woman than you do, are you on hormones? Are you ..post-op? It's not a race, it's not a competition to out transition every other transgender woman you come in contact with. But this seems to be the attitude you run into.

 There are some key characteristics of lateral hostility that you can watch out for:

  •  We repeat our oppression by oppressing those around us. Often being harsher on ourselves than our oppressors ever were.
  •  We intensely focus on the negative in another person or group. Pieces of information about you can be twisted into some negative, fear based, conclusions. Once you have been labelled “bad”, “wrong” or even better “your actually trans-phobic!” then the attack can begin.
  •  Collective cooperation is a key element in lateral violence. A number of transgender people will work together to attack and undermine another person or group.

 There are also stages to the violence:

  • The Build up
  • The attack
  • the retreat
  • the denial
  • the quiet period
  • the cycle begins again

 Some of the many forms of lateral violence:

  • Gossip
  • Revenge
  • Jealousy
  • Judging and Blaming
  • Shaming or Guilting
  • Ridiculing
  • Shunning or Ignoring
  • Verbal or Spiritual Attacks
  • Attacking associates of the target
  • Threatening to harm and yes, murder

Tools to stop it:

  • Let all hurtful stories or gossip end with you
  • Get clear and accurate information, not just rumour and innuendo
  • Be accountable for your own actions
  • Learn healthy ways to relate to each other
  • When speaking about harm, focus on the behaviour, not the person.
  • Be the change you want others to be!

     We don’t have to go on this way, we can get along if we just let go of these things and come together as a group of people facing the same oppression everywhere we go. Can you imagine what we can accomplish if we all stand together? We have enormous talent, skills and education to offer society and it is about time we got together and let them know it! So please do not fall into the lateral hostility trap. Do not perpetuate it and avoid the people who try to make you a victim. If we all work together on this we will be miles ahead of the game!

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May 28, 2013 10:57am
By now I have attended enough TDOR's--really, we ALL have--to know that to the thugs and gangs that kill transgender people how "trannier than" you are on the food chain makes no difference at all. What lateral hostility is is a CIVIL WAR plain and simple, and you know how devastating they are. And we all remember what Ben Franklin said about hanging separately.
May 29, 2013 1:44pm
Totally agree.
I have recieved more discrimination from the Transgender community then any other sector of society out there. And it was in part responsible for my attempted suicide some time back.People within the TG community are not prepared to accept others may have differing views. Learning to tolerate is key.

Alas even your article to me seems to single out a sector.
"Are you ..post-op? It's not a race, it's not a competition to out transition every other transgender woman you come in contact with. But this seems to be the attitude you run into."

Yes I am a post-op, I prefer sex change but others dont like me having an opinion on what I like. I am also a proud Tranny, but others tell me I am not allowed to use that.
I have been labeled a separatist, elitist, transphobic and homophobic. Booted from Transgender groups and seen other sex change Transsexuals booted for the same reasons.
Because we expressed our opinions. We stood up and spoke up, usually while others sat in their little shelter. We put ourselves out in public life and answered question and educated society.

I am not an elitist, its not a race to be post-op but we have been the whole journey and have experienced more than a pre op. Thats reality. Fact. Not elitist. But when we seek to pass on this info/knowledge to help those who follow, we are condemed and excluded, denigrated and put down. We are discriminated against.

I dont deny that there are some 'holier than thou' out there just as there are some jumped up knowit all newbies who know nothing. But we aren't all like that.
I stand up and speak out for knowledge. To try to end discrimination. Those who went before me, made my journey easier and I try to make the journey easier for those who follow.
Some of us old girls have knowledge and experience and some jumped up little knowit alls need to consider the damage they do, we they demand their theories and their way.

Look at your TG group and ask where are all the old girls? The sexchanges who have been there. There will be a few, but look back in the minutes at the names and ask what happened to them, where they are and why they have moved on.
Because I will bet they got driven away, so gave up and went to live their life.

Yes, the worst discrimination to Transgender folk comes from within their own group. Not the most violent but the most discrimination.
The gossip, twisting of what was actually said, the vindictive blog attacks, the pettiness, the grandstanding. Oh and its not only the young either. Some older, supposedly wiser, learned pre ops who havent been there need to consider better the damage they do.
Jun 7, 2013 12:38pm
I have mixed views about the article. Sure in a number of instances those in one's own community can be much more challenging then others. For instance growing up I found myself not being black enough for my black community and too black for the white community. In the greater trans* communities there are all sorts of strange dynamics going on. And yes I can sure remember the days when where one was spoke to some sort of hidden rung of a ladder. Those who didn't have surgical support (for whatever reason) were not considered transexual.
I doubt, for the women, this has anything to do with them bringing "the competitive nature of men with them when they transition". Women are competitive creatures all by themselves. If anything this type of personality trait probably has more to do with going through a second puberty. Ever watch pre teen and teenage girls interacting with each other in groups? Picking on others is how some mask their own vulnerabilities. And it's not a good way to go about it and it can get real intense in this day and age of instant information via texting/web posting etc. I think the doctor was pretty right that people along the same power lines/going through similar life experiences sometimes will strike out at each other. In some ways I think it takes less time for women in the greater trans* communities to get through that ugly stage(if they get into it) then the pre teen /teenager girls. Most likely because they are older and common sense does come back to them. I think what one person posted in their response was sort of right. It's not the physical violence but emotional violence one must deal with and I'm not so sure that this only happens within it's own community but many times it's highlighted and instigated by the greater gay communities, when you hear nonsense about men not having vagina or women not having penises as a way to exclude them. Or even the famous Mich Fest one of "not being born a woman" . Much like young girls go through attempting to live up to stereo typical ideals of what they should look like, so do the women from the greater trans* communities.
Aug 21, 2014 6:49am
Yes..I too had faced hostility from my facebook counterparts. But still I am not resolve the issue and am unable to find out the exact reason for the hostility
Aug 8, 2016 9:41am
During my transition, I had no problem with the "normal" people I came in contact with, none at all. As to my"sisters", that was a different matter. Back then it was "Primaries" against "Secondaries" and HBS types along with the push for facial surgery and "stealth". The trio of James, McCloskey, and Conway seemed to delight in attacking any transwoman who disagreed with them - or any neutral reporter or commentator as well and like Trump today, lowered the bar for intolerance. Tired of the constant attacks,I withdrew from any trans community involvement which immediately made my life much better. I simply divested myself of almost all trans connections and went on with my life. I shall never forget the vile and nasty comments made by TS who were total strangers, at one point even causing me to leave a "support group" due to the nastiness I encounter. Frankly, the behaviour of many TS towards their sisters is abominable.
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