The Morality of Coming Out Transgender

The Morality of Coming Out Transgender

Salome Beyer, Editor in Chief

I’m sorry for lying,” claimed Nikkie de Jager in her Youtube series that followed her life as a transgender woman in the beauty industry. Her original coming out video was followed by an immediate outpouring of love from her followers and peers, and if anything, her influence grew. However, her revelation after passing as cisgender for years, or someone whose gender identity corresponds with their sex assigned at birth, encouraged critical comments about the transgender community. While Nikkie had been releasing videos on Youtube for more than a decade and had always presented as female, she had never shared details of her gender identity with her more than 12 million subscribers. Nonetheless, she shouldn’t have felt pressured at the slightest to come out; being transgender is part of someone’s persinal life, and cisgender-passing individuals shouldn’t have to tell their life story to the world and to whoever demands it. 


While being transgender is usually presented as altering someone’s body to embrace the preferred gender, the only actual requirement to be transgender is to identify as something different from the gender assigned at birth. According to the Human Rights Campaign Coming Out Project, transgender is an umbrella term that describes many people who experience or express their gender in different ways than the traditional ways of the gender they were assigned at birth. Similarly, the campaign also clarifies that gender is a “rich, broad spectrum that comes in many forms as there are people.” As such, being transgender is self-defining, and highlights people’s individuality. Hence, it doesn’t rely on gender reaffirming surgery or anything outside of the simple desire to not conform with one’s sex assigned at birth. However, many still argue about the “contradictions” within the transgender community. “Somehow (the gender binary) both does and does not exist, according to transgender activists. If the categories of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are objective enough that people can identify as, and be, men and women, how can gender also be a spectrum…?” What Dr. Ryan T. Anderson isn’t considering is that the concepts of masculinity and femininity have morphed over time and that transgender activists and allies argue that although there is a gender binary, it isn’t set in stone, thus evidenced by the changing concepts of ‘man’ and ‘woman’ throughout history. Also, while some argue that it isn’t “natural” to be transgender because sex shouldn’t be defined differently “in humans than in other mammals,” it is evident that humans are intellectually and cognitively more advanced than other mammals, thus giving us independence and more ownership over ourselves than animals have. In turn, it is absurd to think of transgender people as anything other than entirely whole and truthful human beings. And as such, why should they be subject to more pressure from society than other humans to reveal personal details about their lives and backgrounds? 


While other members of the LGBTQ+ community still face prejudice, they don’t face the same invasive questions and expectations from their peers and other members of society. “People are very nosy. When I tell people I’m trans, they start asking questions like ‘what about your sexual relationships?’ and ‘have you gotten your surgery done?’” Emilio Patiño, transgender activist and university student, said. He also elaborated on how truly invasive these questions are by explaining that transgender people’s bodies are sacred to them “because it’s very hard for us to accept it, and because you have scars.” Hence, although transgender people’s gender identity is deeply personal, because of who they are, they become subjects to their privacy being continuously invaded, and society punishing them through shame and questioning attitudes if they don’t share their private and personal life with everyone. As a cisgender and straight person, I have never felt pressured to share details of my past or background with anyone other than my doctors and find it deeply disturbing that transgender people face this daily. On the other hand, however, many are quick to point out how transgender people have a moral responsibility to disclose their gender identity and transition with their partners. However, this is something that is implied within a romantic relationship. Don’t all people share intimate details about their lives with their partners? As for why people are so worried about transgender people’s partners, Patiño explained that it’s mostly because “people are ignorant… and haven’t been taught,” about the diversity in romantic and sexual interactions that people can engage in. And so, although it isn’t people’s fault for being curious and asking about transgender individuals’ lives, this still doesn’t give them a right to know everything they want and demand information that they wouldn’t ask from anyone else. This distinction between what people expect from transgender individuals and other members of society should be considered discrimination in and of itself. 


With transgender crimes surging and discrimination being rampant worldwide, becoming actively anti-transphobic and broadening our socialized ideals has never been more pertinent. In 2019, anti-transgender hate crimes soared 20% higher than in 2018 in the United States, and in 2020, 350 transgender individuals were murdered worldwide compared to 2019’s 331. However, this number is likely higher because according to the Human Rights Campaign, “too often, these stories go unreported- or misreported.” 2020 was the most violent year for the transgender community since the Human Rights Campaign began recordingthese fatal and unfortunate instances. As such, the prominence of hate crimes against the transgender community has risen steadily over the last three years, and 2021 is no different, with five transgender individuals having been murdered in the United States alone by February 8th. The time has come to take a step back into a non-binary and collective humanity, where all individuals cannot possibly fit into the two-way narrative that binary thinking implies. Masculinity and femininity are not mutually exclusive, meaning that they can both exist in different ways within the same individual. As evidenced by the paradigm shift of gender roles and prejudice through time, these concepts are not set in stone. Nonetheless, there is a big gap and step to walk between not understanding transgender individuals or making transphobic remarks, and murdering another human being. However, the socialization of violent attitudes and comments about transgender individuals ends up normalizing such attitudes and making us think that they are inalterable. Thus, although not all transphobic people will commit hate crimes, the environment they create through language and exclusive actions makes it so that people who are capable of doing such things have the motivation and room to do so. Hence, it has never been more imperative to reexamine our implicit biases, blind spots, and perceptions of transgender individuals. Now, when hate is rampant, we must not only become not transphobic but also actively work within our social circles to consciously encourage more inclusion and acceptance.  


The recognition of blind spots and the subsequent fight against our own bias isn’t easy, especially when we’re not part of the community we’re advocating for. As a cisgender and white ally of the transgender community, and through an intersectional approach where the background of individuals is considered when objectively looking at the injustice they’ve suffered, I could never possibly speak for transgender people. However, what I can do, is reexamine my blindspots, or my “ingrained habits of thought that lead to errors in how we perceive, remember and reason,” the world around me, and change them. It took me longer than it should have in my five years as an active ally of the LGBTQ+ community, to realize that communication truly is everything, and at the end of the day, it’s also the only way to fight internalized bias. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking people for their pronouns or asking them their preferred names. Similarly, the best way to approach the topic of whether someone is transgender or not is simply to think about whether you’d ask a cisgender person about their gender identity. If you wouldn’t, then why would you ask a transgender person? This was my way of becoming the best possible ally to the transgender community that I can be. And so when I watched Nikkie de Jager’s video where she apologized for lying to her fans, I didn’t feel like I had been lied to at all. Actually, I felt grateful that she had decided to share something so profoundly personal with 12 million people, and this didn’t change my opinion about her as a woman in the slightest. 


All in all, because everyone has a right to explore their gender identity in the way they see fit, regardless of the current binary structure, being transgender or not is part of someone’s private life and background. Individuals who are part of this community should never feel pressured in any way to reveal their transition or details about their past, just as cisgender people are entitled to have privacy. And as allies of the trans community, or simply fellow human beings, we must put in the work to normalize diversity within gender identity to the point where being transgender isn’t something that raises eyebrows but rather something that people have no opinions about.