The Cause of Anger in the Transgender Community

August 4th, 2008

by Monica F. Helms Monica’s Picture

Recently, there has been a heated discussion on The Bilerico Project about the emotion of Anger.  I have written articles on love and being in love and finding love, but I have never tackled the very misunderstood emotion of anger.  I felt that this could be a challenge to spark my meager writing talents.  Here goes.


I will be the first to admit I can get angry at times.  (I can hear the audience now, “F-in’-A, Monica!”)  I have no delusion about this one bit.  I don’t deny it like others try to do.  It has been made apparent several times that I am one of the biggest mixer of feces on blogs, in articles and on Yahoo lists.  Yep, I even bought a huge wooden spoon at Target to make the mixing easier.  Sometime, it’s real anger, while others is more like faux anger, or even “anger lite.”  Less filling.




I decided that I would approach the idea of discussing anger in the transgender community by looking at the causes.  Regardless of how I approached this subject, I could end up angering some people with this article.  Open discourse is highly welcomed.  I will also not ignore the comments after this article, because I hope to provide more input as questions and comments come up.


Let’s start with the definition of “anger:”


Noun – a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.

esentment, exasperation; choler, bile, spleen. Anger, fury, indignation, rage imply deep and strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice, wrong, etc. Anger is the general term for a sudden violent displeasure: a burst of anger. Indignation implies deep and justified anger: indignation at cruelty or against corruption. Rage is vehement anger: rage at being frustrated. Fury is rage so great that it resembles insanity: the fury of an outraged lover.  Displease, vex, irritate, exasperate, infuriate, enrage, incense, madden.


How much of that describes the experiences and feelings of the majority of the transgender community?  Quite a bit, if you ask me.  Noticed the words, “Strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice, wrong, etc.”  Have transgender people ever been “injured?”  Have they faced “injustice?”  Have they been “wronged?”  And people wonder why we’re angry.  Some transgender people of wealth and privilege also seem to wonder why the rest of us become angry so easily, because they have rarely ever faced any of the above mentioned experiences.


Now that we have shown the definition of the word “anger,” let’s explore how it specifically relates to the transgender community.  “Why would any transgender person become angry?”  Most of us are painfully aware that once we start our transition, we could loseWeight Exercise everything.  I lost my parents, my family, my children and all of my friends.  However, I am one of the lucky ones because I didn’t loseWeight Exercise my job.  I have been working for the same company for 18.5 years, spending 11 of those years as Monica.


Over the years, I gained back my children and the rest of the family.  I had to loseWeight Exercise my father before I my mother accepted me back.  I still don’t have any contact with my pre-Monica friends, but I have made more friends in the past eleven years then I ever made in the previous 46.


As I said, I am one of the lucky ones.  Others are not so lucky.  Job discrimination has spiraled out of control in this community.  Being fired for being trans, then not getting hired after applying for hundreds of jobs can make a person angry.  No wonder people become upset with a non-inclusive ENDA and the people who created it and supported it.  For all practical purposes the supporters of that bill are saying to the unemployed trans person that their situation doesn’t matter.  Trans people are getting the message that only the gender-conforming, queer people deserve their rights first, so they become angry because of that perception.  This makes the unemployed transgender person feel even more isolated.  Some LGB people who have the money and the time to fight for equal rights seem not want to help the transgender community.  Their message is that those who cannot spend time or money to speak up for themselves don’t deserve their attention.  It does nothing but increase the anger.


What about “injustice?”  The courts appeared to have been stacked against us for a very long time.  Just a simple divorce proceeding can turn into the Spanish Inquisition, complete with rack.  Every bit of the trans person’s intimate secrets get plastered all over the court records, making them look like the worst human since Genghis Khan.  All of their assets end up being given over to the spouse, as well as the custody of the children.  The trans person becomes saddled with all the bills and child support.  And, if they have a decent job, they still live paycheck to paycheck.  This one form of injustice can make a person very angry, and usually does.


Other court proceedings have had more devastating results.  Just read over court cases of Christie Lee Littleton and J’Noel Gardiner and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about.  Michael Kantaras’ custody case in Florida in 2002 was no picnic for him, even though he won the case.  Peter Oiler lost his discrimination case against Winn Dixie in 2003 and I personally saw how angry he became from that.  The job discrimination case against the Library of Congress involving Diane Schroer still awaits future results.  Hopefully those results won’t increase our anger.  There have been many more court cases where transgender people went to court for discrimination reasons, custody battles and other rights, only to be shown the door for their troubles.  Did they become angry?  Sure they did.  Oh yes, there have been some wins, but the percentage seems very low, making the anger very high.


Various forms of discrimination and injustice can make transgender people angry.  Violence is another.  In 1998, the Remembering Our Dead list came into existence with about 100 names.  Today, the list contains over 400 names.  You can find the updated list and all of the associated information with the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on this new site.  Those are the most drastic examples of violence against transgender people.


In the recent survey done by the Transgender American Veterans Association, we asked, “Have you ever been a victim of violence?”  Out of 821 transgender veterans who answered that question, 211 said “Yes.”  That comes to 25.7%.  When asked, “Have you ever been raped?” 128 out of 813 said “Yes.”  We also asked, “Have you ever been physically assaulted at a VA facility?” and seven out of 313 said “Yes.”  That comes to 2.2%.  All of this shows that one out of every four transgender people have faced some form of violence.  Not only do these numbers anger the people who have faced the violence, but it also angers the entire community.


Others things seem to anger transgender people.  I will name three things that have been the focus of many transgender people’s anger for nearly a year now.  HRC, ENDA and Barney Frank.  Need I say more?  Barney Frank began the process of splitting up the LGBT community, and even caused a rift within the transgender community when he substituted a fully inclusive ENDA with a non-inclusive one.  Joe Solmonese promised that HRC would only support a fully inclusive ENDA and HRC went back on his word two weeks later.


After that, trans people who worked with HRC jumped ship and others, sensing a vacuum or a chance to “get ahead,” filled their places.  Just saying nice things about HRC or trying to quell the anger of others can get you hate mail.  I lost a friend because of this anger.  Of course, I cannot condense all of the events and all of the feelings of the last year into two paragraphs.  Suffices to say, anger has played a huge part of the feelings by the transgender community when it comes to what some may characterize as our “Axis of Evil.”


When I wrote articles of love and me finding love, I felt extreme joy and happiness.  Writing this article about anger has not been a pleasant task.  Several of the examples I used have caused me to become angry, both in the past and today.  No one can quantify anger, or to really define it.  I just hope that when people read this, they may have a little better understanding on why you see transgender people get angry.  Just remember this.  What you hear them say or write just might be the tip of their anger.  Many different things could cause a transgender person to become angry.  Many things.

8 Responses to “The Cause of Anger in the Transgender Community”

  1. Polar Says:

    Anger is often entirely justified. It is right to be angry at the Religious Reich. It is very right to be angry at the GOP, and at George Bush and the corporatists around him. HRC deserves our anger, as does Barney Frank. Those who commit hate crimes, and the judges who let them off the hook with non-capital sentences, should feel our rage. Rage and anger are natural emotions that, if not vented, spill out in other ways, but another trait of the times we live in is the fact that, with all the rage-provoking factors out there, we’re also told that we can’t get good n’ pissed off. It’s unnatural and unreasonable to expect that. Yet the venting of said anger must be done without damaging others.

    That stated, I’ve seen online exchanges described lately as “flame wars”. I haven’t really seen a good old-fashioned online flame war since the 1990s. Usually those describing these are people who don’t agree with the positions expoused, and use the term “flame war” to stifle discussion.

    We just live in tough times, and times where PR rules and vanilla is the chosen flavor.

  2. Giselda Says:

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on anger. It seems to me we’re living in a time (and maybe it’s been this way forever, I don’t know) where the entire movement of social justice and minorities are asked to abondon anger and redress in the name of slow (and, I believe, non-existant) progress. We saw what happened when Obama’s reverend came out and said what most African-Americans in his generation, and in mine, quite frankly, rightly believe about the history of this country. We saw the criticism from even “liberals”. We see that happen with local politicians like Mckinney – nothing more unappealing than an angry black woman. And straights ask gays not to be angry or even vocalize or protest issues in the name of overall progress and regaining The White House, and this year saw non-trans gay people saying similiar things to transgendered people, in the name of slow progress. Yup, you’re right – many many things to be angry about. And, really, I’m be scared if we weren’t.

  3. Angela Brightfeather Says:

    Finally, someone has said that we have a right to be angry. It’s about time!!

    I am so tired of hearing the “give them love” attitude of privileged, well placed, white and rewarded Transpeople who that it makes me feel like, Grrrrrrrrrr.

    When transpeople start telling me to love they neighbor and that neighbor happens to be HRC, Barney Frank, the justice system in America today, etc. it makes me livid. But I try to bite my tongue to often for my own good, because the next thing they will be telling the first timer that walks in the door is “Angela is one of those”. An activist, a rebel, someone who wants to run the show, an angry person. That fear instilled in that new person is almost palpable when you finally get to talk to them and some actually say, “gee, your not like they painted you at all.” It’s very difficult to have two grown children and seven grandchildren and still stay angry with things in your life, but that is exactly what Transgender issues does to me as a person. It changes you from a conservative to a raving radical in a matter of seconds, because in any measure of what might be a conservative life for many others, you are immediately confronted with the bigotry, discrimination, injustice and cruelty that you find perpetrated on Transgender people and in any society those acts in dealing with other human beings, come as close as you can to describing “cultural genocide” as you can get. And that turns any responsible person’s stomach in what is publicized as a free nation, supposedly attentive to a Bill of Rights that makes us all equal.

    A few other things that you left out Monica.

    The blatant ignoring by Americans of the rest of the world when it comes to Transgender rights is inescapable.

    The World Court in Brussels has declared that members of the European Union Nations should observe the fact that if they are not willing to stop the transitioning of a person from one gender to the other by creating laws to stop them, then they have the moral obligation to recognize that those same people have every right to the exact same treatment and equal rights of all other people. Simple point, but very valid. It’s almost like listening to someone explain to another person, Newton’s theory of gravity, or that all horses have four legs. It should be basic common sense to anyone that if they aren’t willing to step up and try to stop something, then they are going to have to find a way to accept and live with it, even if they think it may be wrong. Of course they also have the option of becoming angry and doing something about it, inside the confines of the law, but they don’t, and the reason why is because like Roe vs Wade, it’s none of their friggin business what I want to do or how I want to live so long as it is not hurting anyone else. It’s my body and I will do what I want with it and adorn it any way that I so choose to do so.

    Another point that you missed Monica is that our anger doesn’t just start when we grow up and people don’t like what we are doing. It impacts us as children when we first realize that we are different from the way others would like us to be, and we become angry that someone wants us to be something that we don’t think we should. They stop us from being ourselves……the end result of which is rebellion in children, refusal to take advice about other things, alienation at a young age, fear to be able to talk about problems and concerns even with your parents or teachers, obfuscation of your true feelings for fear of punishment or abusive treatment and in essence child abuse to such a degree that any similar treatment would require the child to be taken away from their parents or at least justify family therapy. How many of us were threatened by our parents when they found that first catch of girls clothes? How many of us were denigrated for playing girls games and on the FtoM side playing boys games? How many of us were felt to feel less as humans and less loved because there was something “strange” about us.

    Transgender people have learned how to deal with anger on a professional level since they were children. The only shocking thing about it is that more of us have not grown up to become anti-social, isolated hermits and social misfits who take out their anger on others in more anarchistic and rebellious ways. That anger is channeled by many of us into action at another level though. It is called activism and not because of what happened to us, but because of what we know it is still doing and being done to children today who are the adults of tomorrow. This is what truly justifies our anger at people like HRC and Barney Frank who should know and understand what we are feeling because in many instances they faced the exact same thing as us, until they finally were removed from the DSM and the sodomy laws were found not applicable to their behavior any longer.

    All we are looking for with our channeled anger, called activism, is the same thing that they already have, removal from the DSM as an illness and the right to have our lives defended by our government in the face of open hostility, bullying, degradation, humiliation, injustice and discrimination in the workplace.
    Anyone who does not agree with that, are the ones who should be punished, not Transgender people.

    Lastly, as Polar Bear alluded to. Who are these lily white, Transgender, proponents of non-activism that throw around the fear of flame wars and have sold out to more generations and decades of abuse? Well, I think they are people who are just thinking about themselves and have their own personal agendas. If they were around during the American Revolution we would all still be talking the Queens English. They are traitors to their heritage of discrimination and abuse. And you know something? I have not found one Transgender person of color, even one, over the last 42 years who is not really pissed of at HRC and Barney Frank about ENDA, and the reason for that is obvious. They understand the true nature of discrimination from the time that they are children and take their first steps in the world. They are activists on many levels of human conscience and they know what the risk of being nice and quiet leads to, more discrimination and more child abuses.

    I’d like to see some of these people who get on line and argue their “love” and “being nice” theories, face some of those fierce and experienced Transgender Black Americans and see how long they would last with their arguments.

    Anger is a tool that needs to be brought out of the closet it is confined in and used much more often. But the real crime lies with those in our own community who relegate it to the classification of “unjustified, confrontational and disunifying or harmful” behavior on the part of others, when they should be the first to say that it is most assuredly justified in a society that refuses to change and continues to discriminate with people who only want their human rights.

  4. Amy Says:

    I’m more angry about the state of the TS/TG movement then hrc, Barney Frank and the religious right.We are a divided lot and division welcomes conquered.Probably right now the single thing that has me peeved the most is how Brandi Parker a representative of Virginia Equality commented about Angie Zapatas death at bilerico.Blaming her for not disclosing her status and several other things. I just last week was telling you about a bad experience with a Doctor that I disclosed to.There is no magic bullet for our safety we are viewed as easy pickens by those who would seek to harm us.Playing the blame game from one of what should be one of our own is pretty damn disgusting.I do tend to sympathize with the HBS crowd as I believe transsexual rights should be fought for on the medical front first then in Congress with modern medicines opinion and science on our side.That said I shouldn’t have to belittle TG identified people to get my point across or come up with excuses as to why they were murdered or are less deserving than transsexuals.I value human life and no one deserves to die or be shunned because they hold a position opposite to mine seems un American to me.AS I’ve stated elsewhere by not addressing these issues the leaders have dropped the ball.Good leadership can bring unity where others thought it impossible.With unity comes strength something the TS/TG rights movement is sorely in need of.

  5. Monica Helms Says:

    Yes, I left out some things. Monica Roberts has given her angle to why African American trans peeps are angry. Yes, there are plenty things for our community to be angry about. It could fill a book.

  6. Regina Says:

    Boy, have you hit why i am angry dead center! In two paragraphs You covered a lot! Thank You!
    Polar Thank you
    Angela Brightfeather AMEN -Thank YOU
    Now can these MSG get across to HRC, Barney Frank, and do not forget Nancy Pelosi she made part of the decision to Drop T from ENDA!

  7. lynda Says:

    please e-mail me on above e-mail as I WOULD LIKE TO WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT GID/TRANSGENDER IN THE

    Lynda Sheridan.

  8. lynda Says:

    Lynda AT

    AS i want to write something about us gid/transgender in Ireland, please contact me.

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