“”Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage. Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.
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|Spectra and binaries|
Transmedicalism is a term for a wide range of beliefs in the transgender community that are critical of transgender people who haven't medically transitioned and/or don't experience major dysphoria. Many transmedicalists (or "transmeds" for short) focus on gatekeeping.
According to a self-definition by the subreddit /r/transmedicalism, the term describes
- trans people and allies who believe that only those who experience gender dysphoria are transsexual / transgender, and that gender dysphoria (transsexualism) is a medical condition.
Although the debate has been going since the '60s, it has gained more notoriety in the Internet age, particularly on Tumblr. Transmedicalists may be called "transmeds" or "truscum," while anti-transmedicalists may be called "tucutes" or (often erroneously) "transtrenders."
Perhaps the reason why truscum exist is because their transgender experience is so wrapped around gender dysphoria they cannot comprehend the notion of a transgender person without it. Immersed in their own pain, they attack people who appear not to be suffering.
Transmeds believe, fundamentally, that there is nothing positive about being transgender. According to a transmedicalist viewpoint, being transgender is a medical condition that causes great suffering. Transmedicalists may see gender transition as a necessary evil and the only way out of an already-cruel existence, other than suicide.
So transmeds feel contemptuous of people who identify as trans but don't seem to lead horrible lives. They see transtrenders as relatively privileged cis people who are appropriating the trans identity. "I feel sort of petty and awful but I wonder if I am sort of jealous of some transtrenders. They always seem to have super accepting families and get started on horomones/therapy right away," confessed one transmedicalist.
Gender dysphoria and trans identity
Many transmeds believe that gender dysphoria is necessary in order to be transgender. Some say that mild discomfort counts as dysphoria, whereas others have stricter criteria.
Experts have disagreed for over a decade. As early as the year 2000, researchers have noted that distress is associated with being transgender, but the evidence doesn't show that trans people always experience distress. The American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Canadian Paedeatric Society, World Medical Association, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and other groups and experts explicitly state that not all transgender people experience dysphoria. The World Health Organization also notes that distress is common but not necessary. "Social factors are often key in the experience of gender dysphoria," notes the Gender Identity Clinic.
Transgender identity as a medical condition
Transmedicalists believe that trans identity is a biological condition that falls under the banner of intersex. Trans people, they believe, are people born with the brains of one of the major sexes, but all (or most) of the external characteristics of the other major sex. This causes extreme gender dysphoria, a sense of disconnection and disgust towards the body. On top of this, trans people are pushed into the wrong gender roles and stigmatized, making life harder. Transmeds believe the only way to cure this condition is through cosmetic surgery, reshaping the body to look like the individual's "true sex", and by rejecting much of the incorrect gender role that had been forced on them. This view of transsexualism is supported by empirical evidence.
The existence of a medical condition known variously as transsexualism, gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria is not medically or scientifically controversial, although it is widely opposed by various religious groups, trans-exclusionary radical feminists, and the anti-psychiatry movement. Rather, the controversy in this case is a social debate rooted in identity politics over the equivalence (or lack thereof) between people who have such a condition and people who have no such condition but still identify as transgender.
Targeting of "transtrenders"
“”It's as if we’re already past the whole thing about transness literally getting you murdered and we've made it to "trendy social standing" and I didn't even get the memo.
Transmeds carefully police the trans community for any sign of someone being a "transtrender" (i.e., faker). In practice, this can include transgender people who don't "pass" as cisgender, transgender people who haven't gotten hormones yet, and any trans people who don't conform to the stereotypical gender binary.
Targeting "transtrenders" is often about respectability politics. Transmeds fear that quirky trans people will harm the reputation of trans people in general, and thus they push people to either assimilate into the gender binary or stop identifying as trans.
Transmedicalists may also blame "transtrenders" for any barriers in health care, claiming that fake transgender people are taking away all the resources from real transgender people.
Bullying and harassment
“”Truscum know these fears [about being a faker]. They know them better than any other person could. And rather than step in to help other kids through that no man's land of terror, they weaponize that idea of fake, they turn it into a nuke.
- Interrogation about their genitals
- Intentional misgendering
- Name calling, such as "f*ggot"
- Attacks on their reputation
- Suicide baiting
Vicious attacks by truscum can be devastating, especially to young or mentally ill trans people who already have enough problems in their lives.
“”"Transgender" is not an exclusive club that we can bar people from because they refuse to conform to cisnormative ideas about bodies and gender.
|—Sam Dylan Finch, a trans man who was bullied by transmedicalists|
"Tucutes" (or anti-transmeds) believe in including everyone who identifies as transgender, regardless of dysphoria. They believe that gender euphoria (joy experienced when someone is referred to by their preferred gender) and/or a disconnect between one's assigned sex and gender are enough reason for someone to transition if they so choose. They also believe that gender dysphoria can manifest itself in different ways, not all of which are debilitating. Tucutes don't worry too much about "transtrenders," and don't see any real harm in people questioning their identity or briefly using the wrong label as they try to figure it all out.
Another fear of anti-transmeds is the fact that defining trans identity in terms of dysphoria pathologizes trans identity and trans people. Treating transgender identity as a problem can be insulting or derogatory towards trans people. Viewing dysphoria (not trans identity itself) as a disorder is seen as more supportive and affirming of trans people. Transgender identity is now recognized not to be a mental illness, and advocating for a world under which the criteria for being transgender is having a mental illness undoes decades of positive transgender activism.
Tucutes also worry about the bullying and abuse of gender non-conforming transgender people. Transmedicalists have bullied people they see as "transtrenders." And if cisgender transphobes see transgender people mocking gender-nonconforming people, then they may feel emboldened to do it themselves.
Unfortunately, a few tucutes decide to fight fire with fire and use bullying tactics against the bullies. Bullying is wrong, even if the other person started doing it first.[citation NOT needed]
Many transmeds are accused of invaliding non-binary identities. However a survey of 100 Internet users, carried out by an anti-transmedicalist activist, potentially shows this notion to be false as transmeds will accept a non-binary person's gender if they have gender dysphoria. However this still invalidates many non-binary identities as not all non-binary people have gender dysphoria.
According to the same survey of 100 people on SurveyMonkey, the majority of transmedicalists are female to male transsexuals, young adults, and white Americans.
A note for trans kids
“”Self loathing isn't an innate part of us
Despite what you might hear, being trans isn't a sentence to lifelong suffering. Gender dysphoria can ease or even disappear in time, especially with a supportive community and/or a proper transition. If your gender dysphoria starts fading away, this doesn't mean you are or were "faking," it means you're learning how to live a happy and functional life. This is a good thing.
Don't let people fool you about suffering being an automatic part of being trans. It's not. If you're miserable, it's not because this is what life is always like for trans people, it's because something is wrong in your life and you need help. You don't have to face this alone. Talk to a therapist or trusted adult about what you're going through. It can get easier.
Stay away from bullies, even if they say they are your friends.
- "Truscum": Why Do They Hate The Way They Do? - Medium
- Checking Our Privilege, Working Together: Notes on Virtual Trans* Communities, Truscum Blogs, and the Politics of Transgender Health Care - The Feminist Wire
- Ex-truscum vs ex-tucutes - Feminism and Media on Tumblr
- Is Gender Identity Disorder in Children a Mental Disorder? (PDF)
- Expert Q & A: Gender Dysphoria - American Psychiatric Association
- What does transgender mean? - APA (See "Is being transgender a mental disorder?")
- Pediatricians are key in supporting transgender, gender-diverse youths - AAP (See paragraph 4)
- Gender identity - Canadian Paedeatric Society
- WMA Statement on Transgender People - World Medical Association (see recommendation #2)
- Position Statement on Medical Necessity of Treatment, Sex Reassignment, and Insurance Coverage in the U.S.A. - WPATH
- FAQ: Equal access to health care - Lambda Legal
- Gender Dysphoria - Health Link British Columbia
- Surgical Management of the Transgender Patient - via Science Direct
- ICD-10 Version: 2016 - World Health Organization
- Gender dysphoria - Gender Identity Clinic
- DSM-III, ICD-10
- Why aren't more trans people denouncing truscum? - Let's Queer Things Up!
- What's a transtrender? - VERED Counseling
- Truscum - The Rogue Feminist on Tumblr
- Comic by a gender-nonconforming trans boy who has been bullied by truscum