FtMs and internalized homophobia

This post discusses the internalized homophobia that is apparent in a YouTube video called How I knew I was Transgender- FTM.

This video is supposed to be about how she knew she was trans, except during most of the video what she’s actually talking about is being ashamed of being a lesbian. Judging by what she says here, it appears that she “knew she was trans” due to internalized homophobia.

If you are new here, you may be wondering why I’m calling this person a lesbian instead of a trans man. I’ll give you two reasons:

  1. She is female and exclusively attracted to females, and that’s what a lesbian is.
  2. She calls herself a lesbian several times during this video and she also reveals that she sees herself as female during her talk (a point which I will explain below.)

She begins thusly:

“When I was a small kid, around 4 or 5, I definitely knew I was different, of course I didn’t know how, what that meant, I just knew I was different. I was a big tomboy, very much the mindset of a little boy, attitude of a little boy, hated wearing girl clothes, I hated having long hair, and things started getting really confusing for me when I noticed around the same age that I liked girls. I was very afraid because I was in religious school, ‘cause that’s the schools that my mom and dad always had me in. So I knew liking the same sex was frowned upon, so I kept it a secret for a very long time. I didn’t even know why I felt like a little boy and I was very confused and I wasn’t educated, and I didn’t have the resources to educate myself. When I noticed I started liking girls, I was very afraid, I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I didn’t know what to do because I wasn’t attracted to any of the boys in my school or outside of school either, I just wasn’t attracted to guys at all. And I was afraid, because that meant I wasn’t normal. At least, I thought that meant I wasn’t normal just ‘cause that’s what I was always told. That was the environment I was in, I was very confused as a kid.”

Notice that in the opening of her video, the entire reason for her distress as a kid is that she was a girl who liked girls, and that she didn’t feel like a normal girl. The feelings she’s describing are totally normal for lesbians. A little girl who hates wearing dresses, likes wearing boys’ clothes, is a tomboy, and likes other girls, is a normal lesbian. Being a tomboy who likes girls should not be a source of distress, but it is because of homophobia and the enforcement of gender roles.

The following sentence is straight up internalized homophobia:

“When I noticed I started liking girls, I was very afraid, I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, I didn’t know what to do because I wasn’t attracted to any of the boys in my school or outside of school either, I just wasn’t attracted to guys at all. And I was afraid, because that meant I wasn’t normal.”

This is what happens when a lesbian growing up in a homophobic environment realizes her sexual orientation. She feels ashamed and embarrassed because she knows she is not considered normal.

I made a comment up above that she sees herself as female. She says that “liking the same sex was frowned upon.” If she were male, then girls wouldn’t be the same sex as her, they’d be the opposite sex. She wouldn’t call her attraction to girls a same-sex attraction if she believed she was of the male sex. She may be masculine in terms of the appearance and mannerisms she performs, but she is not male.

She says she had the mindset and attitude of a little boy, and that she felt like a little boy. This comment requires an explanation. There is no such thing as a “male mindset” or “male attitude” because men are all individuals and have a variety of mindsets and attitudes. Further, Aidan actually was a little girl. A girl is a young human female. At no point was she ever a young human male. A female cannot know what it feels like to be male. Because she is female, her mindset and attitude are those of a female. She may very well have had a different attitude than her female classmates, but she was a girl and so any attitude she may have had was a female attitude. One of the reasons she felt that her mindset was different is likely because she was the only lesbian in a classroom full of straight girls. We LGB folks commonly do feel different from our straight peers. The comment “I always felt different…” is something that you will hear any LGB say about their childhood. (And of course, straight people can feel different too, because, guess what, humans are not all the same!)

It is likely that what she means when she says she felt like a boy is that her personality is similar to the personalities people expect from boys. This is due to sexism. Girls can actually have any type of personality, and there is no such thing as having the wrong personality for your sex. Anyone who claims to have the personality, brain, mind, or attitude of the opposite sex needs to explain what that means.

Moving right along, she says:

“When I started going through puberty it was really hard, terribly hard, I was very depressed. I immediately knew I was disconnected from my body. I remember I used to be a basketball star so I remember taking my basketballs at night and I would lay in bed at night and I would take my basketball and I would as hard as I can hug it and press it against my breasts, because I was trying to get rid of them because I couldn’t handle the pressure of growing breasts and not identifying as a girl. I really didn’t know what I was, I thought I was a freak because I didn’t identify as a girl, but yet I liked girls, and I didn’t know what any of this meant because I wasn’t educated, and I was too afraid and too ashamed to ask my parents, and this is something I always told myself I would take to my grave because no one needed to know, and I didn’t know there were others out there in the world that were like me until I was a little bit older and I saw a 20/20 episode on transsexuals, and my parents were watching it, and I just so happened to be in the room too so I was watching it, and it finally clicked—I knew I was a transsexual, or transgender is the new preferred term nowadays. I knew what I was but that scared the hell out of me because I saw what life was for that transgender woman on the 20/20 episode, and I didn’t want to be considered a freak or an outcast and be bullied every day and just live a horrible life because everyone is so mean to you, and I didn’t want to do that, and I was ashamed.”

She was a girl who felt her mindset and attitude were those of a boy and therefore her growing female body made her distressed. She talks about being in religious school, and judging by her level of shame about having her personality while being in a girl’s body it’s reasonable to assume she was surrounded by strict gender roles. In fact, she does have a video on YouTube that specifically talks about how she was bullied by family members throughout her childhood because they wanted her to be more feminine. Some would label that transphobic bullying; I call it sexism and homophobia. The reason families want their little girls to be feminine is because they want them to be heterosexual and attractive to the opposite sex. This certainly is bullying and no matter what you call it, it’s hurtful and unacceptable.

That day she saw a transgender person on TV was a significant moment. What if, instead of seeing a transgender person, she had seen a woman like herself, with a personality like hers and who was proud to be a gender-defiant lesbian? What are the chances that she ever saw a lesbian on TV? Maybe Ellen, but probably not a masculine lesbian. There’s a blanket ban on butch lesbians appearing on television, because straight society considers them unacceptable.

“I tried very hard to be a girl, I had to fake my personality, fake who I was, just pretty much everything about me was an absolute lie. I mean, I had to put so much effort into being a girl just to fit in so no one knew I was anything different, because I was very ashamed after I learned I was a transgender person. I think that word put a lot of fear into me, and I was just, I don’t know, I just ran away. Ran away from the word and ran away from being transgender I was like no, I am not, I can’t, this is not, I was freaking out inside, I was panicking, I was really depressed and anxious, and confused still. So I just pretty much just said I was a lesbian. But of course I didn’t really come out as a lesbian until I was almost out of high school because like I said I was in religious school for most of my life, and I didn’t want anyone at my school to know I even liked girls, or I didn’t really need them or want them to know anything about my personal life because I was too ashamed and too embarrassed and I didn’t want anyone to know, which is very understandable.”

She says some really interesting things here about “trying to be a girl.” Girls don’t have to “try” to be girls, they just are. A girl is a young human female. All human females who are young are called “girls,” regardless of their personalities. When they grow up they’ll be called women, because then they’ll be adult human females. A female doesn’t have to “try” to be female—she is born female and is always female, no matter what she is doing or wearing. A female is a living being that produces ova and can bear young. We females do not have to “try” to have bodies that produce ova—this is a biological process that happens without our control or input. Just like we don’t have to “try” to breathe, digest food, or pump blood through our veins.

I expect that what she was actually “trying to do” is behave the way females are expected to behave. She was trying to perform a different personality than her own. Anyone who tries to perform a different personality than her own will feel like she is faking, and she’ll feel erased and invisible as a person. I am quite confident that the personality she was trying to perform is the personality that was expected of heterosexual, gender-compliant females in her social group. She was trying to fit in with the girls around her and not let on that she was different.

It doesn’t sound like there was anyone in her life who could have told her that she was being subjected to sexism and homophobia when she was expected to act like a gender-compliant heterosexual instead of the girl she really was. So I’ll be the one to say it! Expecting lesbians to act like gender-compliant heterosexuals is sexist and homophobic, and it constitutes emotional abuse.

When a homosexual girl has internalized the idea that she has to behave like a gender-compliant heterosexual, and when she starts enforcing those standards on herself, she has internalized homophobia. The cure for internalized homophobia is realizing that her lesbian personality is perfect as it is, her same-sex attraction is a beautiful gift for her to treasure, and she doesn’t have to live up to the expectations of the sexist homophobes who want her to be like them.

“And I identified as a lesbian for a few years. I met my girlfriend Heather and we’ve been together for almost four years. It wasn’t until after my mom had passed, it was like five months after that, and my father passed when I was 17, so he wasn’t around. So it wasn’t until my mom passed that I started doing research again, I wanted to educate myself, there was really nothing holding me back, I didn’t have parents anymore, I wasn’t in school, I was an adult in the real world, and I only had to worry about me and my girlfriend Heather. So I started doing research one day at work, I was on YouTube watching videos and I think it was, who was it, I want to say it was Ty, if you all know who Ty is, Tyler, he’s also an FtM, he does YouTube channels, I watched one of his videos for the first time and it really opened up my eyes, and I knew for sure that I am a man and I’ve been hiding it my entire life, I think I was so embarrassed I just subconsciously put it behind me and I was like I’m a lesbian I don’t even want to deal with that, that’s just beyond anything I can even handle. After I watched his video and it sank in, a million pounds were just put back on my shoulders and I was like, man it was so heavy, to like finally as an adult, accept yourself and to go home and look in the mirror, I am a guy. It clicked when I was younger because I watched the 20/20 episode so I kinda knew I was transgender but I was so afraid of it that I was like no, no, I’m a lesbian, I’m not a guy, I had so much shame, and I don’t even know what I was so ashamed about, you know? I am transgender. I am a guy with female sex organs and that’s just who I am.”

For four years she was in a lesbian relationship, and then she watched some FtM videos and decided for sure that she was a “guy with female sex organs.” This is where I get back around to that first question I want to ask of FtMs: what is a man? what is a woman? Because outside transgenderland, having female sex organs is in fact what makes someone female, and having male sex organs is in fact what makes someone male. Saying that a man can have female sex organs is like saying that a cat can have feathers and wings. I predict that you’ll find it impossible to define a woman as anything other than an adult human female, because any other definition ends up being vague and circular.

The only way the phrase “man with female sex organs” can make sense is if “man” is a social category of people who have certain expectations placed on them regarding their appearance, behavior, speech patterns and mannerisms, and if belonging to this social category has nothing to do with sex organs. However, this is not the case. The reason society expects men and women to behave in certain ways is exactly because of their sex organs. Men are expected to be domineering, strong, and protective because they’re expected to be fathers of families, and women are expected to be nurturing, kind, and giving because we are expected to be wives and mothers. These roles grow directly from our reproductive capacity. There are plenty of straight people who don’t find that these roles suit them, but homosexuals are far more likely to find that these roles don’t suit them, since we are often not interested in our role in reproduction or the behaviors that are expected to go along with it. In fact, lots of us can’t perform the expected behaviors no matter how hard we may try, because they are completely foreign to us. There is a long history of lesbians whose personalities mirror the expectations society places on men, and for several decades now lesbians have been calling this personality butch. This personality type is a normal way for a lesbian to be, it’s not a problem and it doesn’t require any treatment. (And if you ask me, it’s a particularly awesome way for a woman to be.)

Aidan has made more recent videos, and she has now had top surgery and her body is looking more masculine due to testosterone. She appears happy with these changes.

As is usual when I watch FtM videos, I have been inspired to offer some TERFy advice! I call my advice “TERFy” because it doesn’t involve validating a woman’s identity as a man, it involves validating lesbians that they are perfect the way they are. (These days, of course, it’s hateful, bigoted and phobic to support lesbians as lesbians.) This should be considered general advice for lesbians who have internalized homophobia and believe they are not real women.

  • Go to a therapist who will take the time to explore what you’re feeling and why, and who will help you to identify the underlying beliefs that you have absorbed that lead you to feel that you are not a proper woman.
  • Really take the time to explore what you mean when you say you feel like a man or have a male brain.
  • Recognize that you have been subjected to sexism and homophobia and that this is emotional abuse and you need to deal with the effects of that abuse. Preferably explore this with a feminist therapist who understands the effects of patriarchy on women.
  • If you are a survivor of physical or sexual abuse, also deal constructively with the effects of that abuse.
  • Identify the negative thoughts and beliefs that you have toward your sexual orientation and your personality. Recognize this as internalized homophobia and take steps to reverse it.
  • If there are people in your life who are still directing sexism and homophobia at you, take steps to distance yourself from those people, even if they’re your family. Many gays and lesbians will adopt a “chosen family” of gay-positive friends if their biological family rejects them.
  • Take lots of time to get to know other lesbians, to read about lesbian history and to consume lesbian culture (books, films, etc.) Talk to lesbian friends about your feelings.
  • Do the usual affirmations that come with cognitive therapy: telling yourself every day that you are beautiful and lovable the way you are, that your sexual orientation is a gift and nothing to be ashamed of, that loving women is wonderful and life-affirming, and that your personality is just right for you.
  • If you feel disconnected from your body, find activities that bring you back into your body, such as exercise, yoga, meditation and trauma therapy.

I’m still not buying into the idea that any woman’s personality is a wrong personality for her sex, and as long as the trans cult is convincing lesbians they are men, I will be labelling the trans cult as sexist and homophobic. Lesbians are just right the way they were born, in body and mind.

Please note I expect commenters to be respectful.

18 thoughts on “FtMs and internalized homophobia

  1. The Medical Complex is systematically ‘killing’ my people, eradicating the strongest of our ‘Tribe’ by transitioning them away from being butch lesbians. The TV and Media Conglomerate is just as guilty by never allowing a butch woman to be shown in any way but as a tragedy waiting to happen. Young butches have no role models to look to except the butches who came before them and are now on YouTube videos talking their peers into submitting to surgical and medical interventions that will ravage their bodies over time, with no discussion about how the euphoric effects they’re feeling now will dissipate over the course of their treatment.

    There is nothing ‘wrong’ with being butch.

    And this just breaks my heart.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Purple Sage, I deeply appreciate your blog and writings. In regard to lesbiaphobia and the trans cult, you are dead on. Over the years I’ve watched videos of ftms/ lesbians proudly aping the aspects of male behavior and find it highly dispiriting. Had I been born within the last 3 decades, I’m certain I would have ended up in transland myself. Thankfully I had a strong dose of radical feminism and dykes around who validated my beingness. Still, I was deeply lesbiphobic through the years, finding butch women an embarrassment while one myself. There will be more and more ftms coming out from the trans illusion, and we must guide our sisters out of the darkness. In the meantime, media and blogs such as yourself can act as guideposts, perhaps even circumventing the injustice and the tom foolery of the ftm solution.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Its so fucking scary , this could be my daughter.

    Also the thing about lack of butch lesbians on TV. As far as I can tell Lesbians are allowed provided they are a bit bi and shag the male lead at some point. Full on homosexual lesbians are always baddies to some degree. Butch Lesbians are background or red-shirts.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Have you been following Wentworth (the remake of Prisoner, Cell Block H)? In some ways, it’s a great show, and it does get away from *some* of the lesbophobic stereotypes of the original. However…there’s a direct correspondence between how conventionally feminine the main lesbian characters are, and how sympathetic/well-adjusted they are.

      Here they are, ranked from 1 (almost completely good) to 5 (pure evil)

      1. Bridget, the prison psychologist. She has human weaknesses, but is the only prison staff member with a consistently functioning moral compass. COULD PASS FOR STRAIGHT

      2. Allie, with whom the otherwise straight Bea falls in love in Season 4. Selflessly devoted to Bea; she has a drug problem, but it’s a coping method rather than a sign of bad character. COULD PASS FOR STRAIGHT

      3. Frankie, the prisoner with an anger problem but a good heart. Does bad things, but capable of redemption. EDGY ROCKER TYPE, VISUALLY CODED AS LESBIAN (the white tank top, etc.) Probably supposed to remind you of Joan Jett. Longish hair, lots of makeup. The writers of the show probably think of her as a butch character.

      4. Lucy, the predatory butch dyke. An unapologetic rapist. CARTOON BUTCH STEREOTYPE (overweight, badly done lesbian themed tattoo, lewd and crude).

      5. Ferguson, the warden (and a prisoner herself in Season 4). Psychopath, sexual sadist. 1950s-TYPE MANNISH LESBIAN. Physical outlier — played by the unusually tall and broad shouldered Pamela Raabe, she towers over all the other female characters. The minor feminine touches in her grooming (light makeup, old-fashioned bun) only call more attention to how completely she fails at conventional femininity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t been watching Wentworth. I watched the first couple of episodes one time and found it violent and disturbing so I stopped watching. Your analysis is very interesting—it sounds like they are putting harmful lesbian stereotypes in their show. Because obviously we need more of those! Ugh.

        Liked by 1 person

        • There’s some very disturbing, exploitative stuff on Wentworth. My tolerance for that kind of thing varies. Sometimes I just can’t stand anything of that nature; other times, I can overlook it if the show/film has something else that does appeal to me. At the moment, I’m in “can overlook” mode, so the plot drew me in. Some of the characters are also very well drawn, in spite of all the objectionable stuff I’ve mentioned.

          Harmful lesbian stereotypes — the writers are definitely perpetuating them to some extent. That seems to be the price for having likeable lesbian characters as well, not just on this show, but in general. In the case of Wentworth, some of it has to do with it’s being a remake — if Ferguson’s not a monster, all resemblance to the original is gone. One the bright side, he positive lesbian characters are unusually three-dimensional, despite the writers’ falling into the old, destructive “the nice ones are look more feminine” cliché. What they did with Frankie is interesting — in the original series, she’s dumb, violent, and illiterate. In the remake, she’s highly intelligent, and finds a way to work through her violence issues, which are shown as clearly due to trauma. Even more interestingly, they show the married, heterosexual warden who precedes Ferguson developing a creepy, fetishistic interest in Frankie. The straight warden is portrayed as having an unhealthy obsession with kinky sex (which also make her husband miserable). It’s as close to an anti-BDSM statement as I’ve seen on mainstream TV. However, the writers also make a point of showing a lot of sadomasochistic crap on that particular episode, so that viewers who just want to be titillated by it and ignore the subtext can do so.

          The entire show’s a really mixed bag.

          Also, great blog, in case I’ve never said so.

          Liked by 1 person

    • And leading lesbian presenters on mainstream TV like Sandi Toksvig and Clare Balding are required always to be femme-ified with make-up and immaculately artificial hair-styling, blah blah.

      I nearly cried with gratitude at seeing whip-smart, funny Anna Ptaszynski on No Such Thing As The News (QI Elves) this summer, because NO MAKE-UP, and actual Human-Looking Hair – not blow-dried, dyed, sprayed into unnatural submission, as the hair of TV Females always is. She was allowed to appear on telly as a Real Female of the Human Species, the only one I can remember seeing recently.

      I don’t know her sexuality; my point is yes, lesbian erasure or demonising butch lesbians as in Wentworth, but also that real femaleness of any sexuality is actually considered completely unacceptable, so is made invisible under paint and spray (and of course shaving…. even seen a female leg hair on telly?).

      Our daughters never get to see real representations their sex. Incredible.


  4. It’s so sad how she fell victim to this destructive trend instead of coming to terms with her lesbianism and going from shame to pride. I suppose she never read any classic lesbian literature or watched any good lesbian films, let alone had many interactions with older lesbians who could help her with these feelings of confusion and uncertainty.

    If the Tyler on YouTube she’s referring to is the one I think it is, she used to be named Lexi, and had a rather stereotypically female presentation (judging from the slideshow of old pictures she did awhile ago, before I unsubscribed). Tyler claims she has to be trans for reasons including a love of superheroes instead of Disney princesses in kindergarten, as though having a Spiderman Halloween costume and school folders with action figures has anything to do with biological sex. She’s also suffered some health scares from her testosterone injections in recent months.


  5. I’m also honestly not that surprised she adopted a trendy name like Aidan. So many of these twentysomething and teen FTMs adopt trendy Top 100 names, like Tyler, Aidan, Caden, Braden, Jaden, and Liam, even though odds are good no one that age would have such a name from birth. (I’m a name nerd, and one of my top pet peeves is predating naming trends in books, movies, and TV shows!) While I’m very happy to live the rest of my life in the body I’ve had since birth, and have never had any desire to try to become a man, I think the names that would fit me best had I been born male would be Arthur, Wolfram, or Adrian. I don’t see any young FTMs picking names like those, just currently trendy names.


  6. It can’t be a coincidence that the person in the video was so drawn to transition in the aftermath of her mother’s death. I’ve seen people who are overwhelmed by grief fly to religion like moths to a flame, and this strikes me as a similar situation. Losing someone can feel like a void of meaninglessness has opened up inside you, and it can be comforting to fill that void with a rigid, reality-denying worldview that lets you avoid confronting your pain. Reading this brings to mind the writing of some detransitioners who described the process of becoming “men” as a sort of death of their former/true selves.
    There’s also that whole love-bomb thing that goes on in the trans community that can be very affirming for those who never had a lot of affection and validation.
    I am sad that this person will never have the chance to find closure over her parents’ homophobia. I feel like that has been an important milestone for a lot of lesbians, myself included: to either make amends with your parents, or to finally make peace with the fact that they will never accept you. Seeing this loss described as a sort of freedom to finally be herself /”himself” is honestly tragic.

    Thanks for another great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Pingback: Layers of meaning: A Jungian analyst questions the identity model for trans-identified youth | 4thWaveNow

  8. Pingback: Why are more girls than boys presenting to gender clinics? | 4thWaveNow

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