The VICE Guide to Being Trans
We've had a gay guide and a lesbian guide already, so in an effort to include the entire LGBT spectrum, we got our friend Paris (pictured above) to write a transgender guide. Bisexuals, you're just gonna have to read the gay guide and the lesbian guide and combine them in your head. Sorry.
“Transgender” is like a really extreme form of gay. I turned gay back in 2003 just to be different, and although it upset my family, it wasn’t quite different enough, so I thought I’d get some surgery and shit to really fuck with everyone. Most people have absolutely no idea what they are talking about when it comes to transgender issues, but that doesn't stop them from talking about them, so I figured I'd weigh in and compile a list too. Oh, and this came after VICE’s gay and lesbian guides because trans people are an insignificant and embarrassing addition to the LGBT community and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
I'm a trans girl, BTW. So this is a guide to being a trans girl, really. Sorry trans boys, you'll have to make your own guide. I can't carry us all.
A - Androgyny
You know how when girls wear blouses that are clearly designed for girls but look a teeny tiny little bit boyish and the privileged twats at Vogue call it androgyny? It’s not that. Only trans people, Teletubbies, and about four 80s pop stars can really pull off androgyny. Androgyny can be a mix of male and female markers, or a lack of both. Tits and a dick? Androgyny! Referring to transsexual models like Givenchy hottie Lea T, who is now a woman, as androgynous? Not androgyny!
Honorable mentions: April Ashley (Google her); acid (the drug—it eases the pain); attention seeking; acid (like the kind in batteries that sometimes gets thrown in our faces).
B - Butt Sex
Seriously, who needs a vagina when you can just leave the back door open?
Honorable mentions: Chaz Bono; blow jobs; Birdo from Mario.
C - Cock and Cunt
Would make a great bar name. You probably wouldn’t be able to call a bar that though because it’s rude. Rude like the way people ask trans people about our cocks and our cunts as though they were fitted kitchens, or conservatories. (“Sue, tell me, have you had yours done yet?”) Though genital surgery is an important part of many people’s transitions, it’s really just a private medical matter. I wouldn't ask you if you're circumcized, or if your vagina is an innie or an outie. If you ask someone about their cock, you’re a cock.
Honorable mentions: Changing your outfit 20 times before you leave the house and twice outside the house; camp.
D - Drag
Drag is a gateway drug, kids. So be careful when you’re planning your next hilarious shenanigans. One minute you’re having the time of your life, dancing around in a cheap party wig—the next your snorting estrogen off the back of a toilet seat. Seriously, it happened to me.
Honorable mentions: Dicks, daddy issues, drama, Dana International.
E - Everything Is So Fucking Hard, Even Buying Milk and Snickers Bars and Chewing Gum
Let’s face it, life is tough. And everything’s worse when you’re trans. EVERYTHING. If you don't believe me, fellas, try cross-dressing and heading out to work. On the subway. Followed by dinner. If you're lucky, you'll just get laughed at all day. If you're unlucky, maybe you'll get raped or beaten or murdered. Maybe all three, as is way, WAY too common for those of us who don't "pass." Statistically, trans-folk are way likelier to be homeless, sex workers, mentally ill, and to commit suicide, too. Which is a pretty big bummer.
There’s one thing worse than being a transsexual, and that’s being an old transsexual. Avoid it. Many trans people transition in their 40s, 50s, and even 60s and beyond after a lifetime of trying to conform. These people are legends and deserve Really Sticking with it When You Really Don’t Want to Awards. Which should definitely be a thing.
Honorable mentions: Es, ear piercings.
F - Faking It
As we tend to have a few tricks up our sleeves when it comes to making our bodies appear how we feel inside (ie jelly boobs), trans ladies are seen as deceptive. Which is kind of harsh, considering the lies that are told about us. It seems the majority of the general population thinks of trans people as being monsters. No smiling at kids on buses for you, trans lady. The idea that all trans people are perverts gets us banned from top jobs like rape counselling or working with children, but really it’s US who should be afraid of YOU, non-trans people! Seriously, stop harassing us by lifting our skirts up in public, pulling our tops down, grabbing our crotches, and trying to find out what bits we’ve got.
And if you feel uncomfortable around us, the stats show that we’re way, way more likely to be killed by you than you are by us. So let’s not get it twisted.
Honorable mentions: Fannies; foofs; fuck-holes; family; fear of aging.
G - Gossip
You’re in a bar. One minute you’re chatting to the man of your dreams (Man A), and the next he’s got some guy (Man B) whispering in his ear: “Man, you know that girl? She used to be a guy!” I have seen two responses to this; the first is Man A telling Man B to fuck off and that it’s none of his business (unlikely). This leaves you feeling irked, but all-in-all, triumphant. The second is when Man A thanks Man B profusely (even if he knew anyway, cunt) and joins him for a drink to jointly laugh at you from the other side of the bar. Which leaves you feeling, all-in-all, like a speck of shit (way more likely).
Honorable mentions: gays, gal pals.
H - Harry Benjamin Disorder Sufferers
Transsexualism was first classified as a medical condition by a surgeon called Harry Benjamin. Today, rather than calling it plain old transsexualism, some trans women like to tell people that they are suffering from Harry Benjamin Disorder. These “classic” transsexuals see themselves as special; better and more female than other trans women, and more female than anyone, actually. They will kill you if you try to shelter them under your cozy transgender umbrella. So make sure to leave them out in the rain.
Honorable mentions: Hope; hermaphrodites; Honor Blackman; hormone therapy.
I - Instagram
Trans people love Instagram because it helps us look less like trans people and more like lovely non-trans people. That’s a good thing, because looking trans is bad because being trans is bad and we should probably all stop it right away. JK (I think). Honorable mentions: Incapacity benefits; Isis King; intersex; insecurities.
J - Joy
I know I’ve been a bit neg so far, but you know, when you emerge from the dark tunnel there’s actually this huge world of happiness waiting for you! It has you crying tears of pure feel-good factor over how great your panini tastes, or how nice the weather is, or how wonderful it is that Carol Vorderman won Rear of the Year again. Maybe it’s just the hormones. Either way, there are few things better than overcoming one’s struggles and being true to oneself and, when you do and you are, the world is all fluffy and whooshy, like the ecstasy in the 90s that old people talk about.
Honorable mentions: Jazz hands; Julia Serano; Justin V Bond; jacking off and feeling extra guilty about it because you’ve got the wrong stuff down there.
K - Ketamine
Whatever you do, don’t do ketamine and look in the mirror if you’re a trans woman. The Man in the Mirror will be there. And we don't like him.
Honorable mentions: Katie Price; knowing since like, forever…
L - Loneliness
It’s the loneliness that’s the killer. Luckily there are some nice people out there and trans gals are sometimes allowed to be chums/bum chums with them so we don’t, like, go totally insane through isolation. Real salt of the earth, go-to-the-shop-and-get-you-a-Snickers-bar-and-some-chewing-gum-because-everything-seems-too-much kind of peeps. Very important. Trans ladies tend to bunch together and pool resources (makeup, clothes, men) but this is both sweet and DANGEROUS, as white-hot envy of our gal-pals frequently leads to severe tranny-fits (see "T"). Sadly, due to all the crap we have to put up with during our transitions, many trans women become absolutely vile company for approximately 30 years.
Friends aside, we also struggle on the dating market, which is probably why so many of us turn lesbo, thus freeing us to date other sad and desperate trans women. Like when fat people date each other.
This apparent sexual fluidity might be due to the fact that we see past gender and straight into the soul. Any soul’s a goal, so to speak. Or maybe we just don’t like men. Insider knowledge has that effect.
Honorable mentions: "Lady Marmalade," which all trans women love; locker rooms (which all trans women hate).
M - Mother Issues
All transvestites (ie cross-dressers) have their mother’s dead bodies locked up in a wardrobe right next to all their fancy skirts and blouses. FACT. If transvestites can’t face talking to mother that day, they just murder some women and make clothes out of the skin, like Silence of the Lambs. They also eat dead babies, which they snatch from cradles with their big man hands and witch claws.
Honorable mentions: Madonna-worship; Mother Monster-worship; Mother-worship, Marilyn; "Man! I Feel Like a Woman."
N - Neurosis
Many trans people hate the fact that transsexualism is classed as a mental illness, but I have no beef with this because ALL TRANS PEOPLE ARE COMPLETELY CRAZY. Why else would we put up with other people’s constant bullshit?
Honorable mentions: Nina Arsenault; Nanny from Count Duckula (yes, really); not really looking like the other women in your family.
O - Obsession
It’s not true to say that no one cares about trans women, though, because trans women care about trans women. A lot. All trans women are totally self-obsessed, including wonderful me. I’m actually in love with myself. I even get off sometimes while looking at pictures of myself, or into a mirror, which either makes me a) an autogynephile or b) really, really fucking hot. Either way, 98 percent of trans women are totally into themselves and, as a consequence, are also totally frickin’ dull. OK, you transitioned. Get over it.
Honorable mentions: Oral sex as excellent replacement for penis-in-vagina sex; orifices; office clothing (and looking like shit in it); overtly sexual clothing (and looking fairly hot in it); estrogen.
P - Patronizing comments
So, you’re at a house party and some girl with shitty legs is excitedly telling you, “Ooh, you’ve got better legs than ME!” And you’re thinking, Well duh, most people do, but you don’t say that because, you know, it’s a house party and, you know, you just wanna get laid. So you head into the kitchen and some other girl goes, “Oh, I’ve heard ALL about YOU!” And you’re thinking, Really, have you? Because I haven’t heard anything about you, bitch. And what exactly have you heard? Did you hear that I have a first class degree? That I speak three languages? That I’m a sex symbol in my field? Or did you hear some squalid details about my medical history? But, of course, you don’t say these things because, you know, you don’t wanna be a party pooper, so you head home and the next day your “friend” calls to say “Oh, everyone LOVED you last night, they all found it SO much easier to be around you than they thought it would be… you’re really not what they imagined at all!” And you think, You know what, fuck it, I’m actually going to shit in your mouth next time I see you.
Honorable mentions: Pat Califia; pissing sitting down; pronouns; people using the wrong pronouns; protheses; pissing standing up; pissing your pants because you don't dare use public toilets.
Q - Queer Theory
Trans people love this! Our favorite way to use queer theory is in dry, esoteric debates with other trans people. We’ll apply queer theory to absolutely anything, but only if it’s utterly inaccessible to all but, say, five people, as it’s one of the few ways for us to feel superior about, well, anything. This also helps improve real life, because when some meat-head punches you in your head for being a tranny, all you have to do is quote Judith Butler, and cupcakes will appear.
Honorable mentions: Queeny gays (come on, make the leap!); questions, constantly (see Calpernia Addams’ "Bad Questions to Ask a Transsexual" on YouTube).
R - Really, Really Paranoid All the Time
You can usually spot a trans person because they generally tend to look quite harassed in public spaces. Particularly parks, public bathrooms, bars, buses, trains, supermarkets, colleges, universities, adult learning centers, beaches, alleyways, libraries, water fountains, house parties, raves, prisons, and day cares. Freedom to live a peaceful life as a trans person largely depends on how well we conform to a particular look. If you don’t hit the mark, even popping out to get some cigarettes can be a torturous experience. It’s OK though, because we are clever things and have developed various coping strategies including taking lots of drugs until we forget who we are, spending thousands of pounds on radical cosmetic surgery (this isn’t fool-proof, though, as we can still get called a "plastic surgery nightmare." It’s a chance you take), and never leaving the house. I opted for surgery because it’s glamorous and celebs do it.
Honorable mentions: Ru Paul; representation; radical feminists who’d rather we just didn’t exist so they can claim the monopoly on gender.
S - Sucking dick
We’re always giving head, us trans girls. And it was probably the best blow job you’ve ever had. We’re more likely to get paid for our troubles too, because we’re not popular candidates on the employment market and often have a detached relationship with our bodies and desperate need for cash. Some of us, though, just like sucking cock.
Honorable mentions: Sex workers; “shemale”—seriously, wtf?!
T - Tranny Fits
Just to be clear: you’re not allowed to use that word, but I am, and I am using it because it perfectly describes a certain type of fit I have only seen trans women have involving lots of shouting, dramatic eye movements, and (usually) throwing. Items thrown generally include: makeup compacts, high heels, and—as this normally takes place in a bar—drinks/glasses/broken glass. I’m not sure if it’s the hormones or years of pent up anger at the system, but you do not want to cross an angry trans woman. Maybe I should just stop trying to chat people’s boyfriends up when they go to the bathroom.
Honorable mentions: “Trapped in the wrong body”—(for example, I’m a gay man trapped inside the body of a beautiful woman); transvestite; transsexual; transgendered (really—would you say “lesbianed” or “gayed”?); testosterone; painfully tucking your dick between your legs for hours on end to avoid a (less) painful punch in the face; telling your mom "I knew all along!"
U - Unbelievable Stupidity, Everywhere
As most people get most of their information about trans people from the media, and the media mostly knows jack shit about trans people, most people mostly know jack shit about trans people. Including those you’d really expect better from, like doctors and nurses. My nurse, for example, asked me what the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual is (and if you don’t know that, you’re stupid, too). People have died because medical staff refused to treat them after discovering they were trans. Because, really, apart from trans women, who cares?
Honorable mentions: Underwear that fits (spoiler alert: it doesn't exist).
V - Vamp
All trans women are vamps and, if they’re not, they can access a vamp place deep within them in times of need. There’s just something about us that comes to life when a cabaret tune starts… or a Cher song… or a show number… and the vamp is released—legs, eyelashes and all. We strut, mime, and flirt like Ryan Gosling when he's home alone with all the curtains drawn.
Honorable mentions: Voice therapy; vampire-identification.
W - We’re All In It Together (Just Kidding!)
If you’re black, or Muslim, or Chinese, and you get loads of shit from society, you can probably go back home and expect to not be racially abused by the people in your family. Perhaps Mommy and Daddy even prepared you for the big bad world as you were growing up. If you’re gay, your family may in fact be your primary source of anxiety, causing you to find a new family, made up of leather daddies and lesbian aunties. If you’re trans, you’ve probably been shat on by society, your actual family and your new gay family too. Suck it up, honey.
Honorable mentions: Women-only spaces; willies; what do you do?
X - X-Rated
One area that amply endowed trans women are amply represented (perhaps the only area) is porn. Some of us have pretty faces and pork swords and this can be really confusing and kind of hot depending on how far into your masturbatory session you are. Still, despite the fact that trillions of you are clearly attracted to trans women, we’re kind of shunned on the dating scene, which is a pity as we make grateful dates (see S). Most of what the public knows about us seems to come from porn, hence the plethora of rude names (shemale/tranny/ladyboy) we sometimes get called if we dare to walk down the street or something. But, anyway, we know what it means when you use those words—you have jerked off to us.
Honorable mentions: X-Chromosone; xenophobia.
Y - You Remind Me Of…
Trans people make great entertainers, don’t we? As a trans person, you are constantly compared to these entertainers, as your friends struggle to pin your identity onto something they understand because it’s been on TV. Thus you are routinely told that you look like/remind everyone of Boy George and/or Pete Burns and/or Eddie Izzard. As a refreshing change, I was once told I look like Ru Paul, which was interesting because I am white.
Honorable mentions: Y-Chromosone.
Z - Zealous Documentary Makers
Every trans person ever has been approached by a documentary maker at least thrice. They’re obsessed with us. Ground-breaking, they say, that’s what it will be. Innovative. Sympathetic. Then they follow you around for six months, filming you doing genuinely interesting stuff (like putting on your first exhibition, or starting up your own magazine, or receiving an MBE and meeting the Queen of England) and churn out the same pile of shit that everyone else has for the last 35 years—the one where a trans woman puts on lipstick at a dressing room table before having her cock chopped off and recycled into a fancy new foof. Pretty soon I am going to make a documentary about these documentary makers and ask them questions like, “When did you first realize you wanted to make films about transgender people?” and “How did your family react to your decision?”