“You Don’t Look Trans”

Dear Cis Women,

If a trans woman trusts you enough to self-disclose, don’t say “You don’t look trans!” That’s not a compliment, it’s an insult to our trans sisters who apparently don’t meet with your approval.

Actually, we *do* look like trans women! Because we are trans women and this is what we look like. There is nothing wrong about looking like a trans woman unless you believe cis women to be superior. I’m sorry transmisogynist media has given you a very narrow idea of who we are, and I can understand that and try to be patient because it’s something even trans women have to unlearn. But rest assured, we’re just as varied in appearance as you are.

There’s actually no way to “clock” us based on appearance that doesn’t involve invalidating the gender of some cis women in the process. Cis women have Adam’s Apples (um, actually, everyone does) and some of them are prominent. Cis women can and do have large hands. Cis women can and do grow facial hair. Cis women can be and are tall. Cis women can and do have broad shoulders. Cis women can and do have square jaws. Cis women can and do have narrow hips. Cis women can and do have small breasts or surgically-enhanced breasts…

Conservative estimates would suggest for every 200 people you see on the street, at least one of them is a trans woman, so you actually see us all the time and just don’t notice. Hormones are powerful little devils, and genetics doesn’t care whether they come from within or from pills or injections. Hormones don’t care what chromosomes you have or what genitals you have now or were born with. Hormones shape our bodies based on what our genes tell them to do, same as yours.

(And what might really freak you out is some trans women, like me, already produced high amounts of estrogen and low amounts of testosterone before we ever even started hormone therapy. But we can talk about Partial Androgen Insensitivity another day.)

Bottom line, when a trans woman self-discloses to you it’s because she loves you and trusts you and wants you to understand the ways your lives are different so you can fully support and affirm one another. That means she thinks you’re one of the good ones, so don’t give her a back-handed compliment, give her a hug and say, “Thank you for trusting me.”


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Dori Mooneyham

Dori Mooneyham is a psychology student at Texas Woman's University specializing in queer youth and their families. As a feminist, trans woman, and lesbian, she offers many unique insights and perspectives not often seen in the academic world.

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