Category Archives: Trans Theories

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Socially Acceptable Transphobia

I have written and spoke about this topic several times, and I will say it again. To say that you won’t date a transgender person, it is not a preference, it is transphobia. And no, this does not mean I am requiring you to be attracted to me.

A preference is when you look at one characteristic of a person and you gauge how much you like it or not. And then you take that and you compare it with how much you like all the other characteristics of a person and then decide whether you want to date them. When you reduce people down to one characteristic and make a decision whether you want to date them or not based off of that, it is not a preference.

It is not a preference if men won’t date any tall girls. It is not a preference if women won’t date Asian guys. It is not a preference when men say that they won’t date transgender women!!!

Don’t worry though guys. While it is still transphobia it is socially acceptable transphobia.


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Stories of a Transgender Childhood

I wanted to share a few stories of my childhood so that people would be able to know a little bit about the struggles that transgender children go through. I want people to see how damaging it is was to me having to live my childhood without hope of growing up happy. I hope that it would help make the world a place where transgender children can dream.

For as long as I could remember, I have always looked up to my sister. She was smart, pretty, super capable. She could do anything and everything. All of her decisions were correct and she could do no wrong. She was only a year older than me but even as a toddler I wanted to do everything she did. I wanted to be with her, I wanted to follow her and I wanted to be just like her. I remember when we were getting our first Halloween costumes, my sister picked out a Smurfette costume and instinctively I declared that I wanted to be Smurfette also. My mother suggested one of the other more “gender appropriate” costumes but I would have none of it, I wanted to be just like my sister. Eventually my mother relented and got me a Smurfette costume, just like my sister’s. When it came time to wear our costumes was when I realized what I have done. In my blind want to be just like my sister I have broken one of the hard-societal rules of gender. That was my earliest memory of feeling the shame that comes with growing up transgender.

Societal gender roles are deeply embedded in everything we do. Girls are supposed to wear dresses. Boys don’t cry. Girls play with pink toys. Boys play sports. These cues are everywhere in TV, professional sports, music, books.

When I was in grade school, my grandmother was making a dress for my sister. The dress was a light pastel orange with ribbons. My sister was out so my grandmother asked me to put it on so that she could make the final adjustments of the dress as needed. I protested. While I wanted to be a girl and I thought the dress was pretty, I felt a deep sense of shame about wanting to be pretty. My mother and grandmother pleaded with me to put on the dress so they could work on it more.

I dare didn’t express myself femininely. Being a Korean American Immigrant, I was already so different than anyone else at school or in the neighborhood. I was being teased for being different, and I couldn’t give anyone any more reasons to pick on me. I suppressed my feelings and I hid this side of myself.

We eventually struck a compromise and I let my grandmother drape the dress in front of me to get the measurements she needed. I secretly wished that the dress was really for me. It hurt to want… It hurt to hope…

I went to middle school in Korea. The school I went to had separate uniforms for boys and girls. Not only that, they had special hair cut requirements. All the boys were required to have buzzcuts… I was starting to go through puberty. My voice was about to change. I lived between genders as much as I could when I was a child, but now that was over. I remember walking into the barbershop, the sound of the trimmers going through my hair. It was a bit of a relief to get the haircut honestly. Girls don’t have buzz cuts, girls have long pretty hair I told myself. I was trying to purge myself of all hopes of being feminine. I would never be a girl now that I am going through hormones and this would be the end of it and I could give up on my hopes and dreams.

If I could, I would want to go back and tell this version of myself that it is okay to hope, and it is okay to dream. I would want to tell myself that there is nothing wrong with who I am. That I am not alone.

I would show myself that I would grow up to be a beautiful, strong, amazing professional transgender woman.

And I would want to tell myself that I don’t have to suffer and that I would be loved.


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Immigration

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Category : Trans Theories

Growing up as an immigrant is not easy.

I lived for years without my father who supported us from Korea. In the states my college educated mother had to work night shifts in factories. My grandparents worked well into their old age. All just so that we could afford to live 3 generations in a small house in a rapidly declining neighborhood. They worked hard to give me opportunity. And in turn I had to work hard. While I had opportunity that my family gave me, I had no safety net for failure.

As immigrants, in order to keep up, we need to be stronger, smarter, harder working and more resilient than our native born citizen peers.

We have to prove to the rest of the country that we belong.

In this country, we talk about how small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Did you know that a disproportionately large number of these small businesses are started by immigrants?

We also take pride in our amazing large industries that command the world. Did you know that nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies are founded by first or second generation immigrants?

But that is not the full picture here. We as immigrants are first and foremost people. And as people our worth to this country is not our ability to produce goods and services. Our worth is our experiences, cultures, teachings that we bring over to this country. We are rap music. We are sushi. We are Gangnam style. We are the spices that burn your tongue then have you coming back wanting more. We are art. We are teachings. We are languages made up with beautiful sounds that you can only hope to emulate if your only language growing up was English.

With all this richness and culture that we bring to this country, all we ask is for is the same opportunities to live. To grow. And to thrive.

Citizenship is not a zero sum game. Immigrants are not taking away. Immigrants are coming here to contribute, share and give.

Instead of putting up walls, we need to open doors.

 


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Blind AMA

The other day I decided to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Blind.

Blind is an Anonymous social media application for people who work in tech. The anonymity of the app is the biggest draw, as it allows users to speak with0ut consequence and often times many controversial topics of conversation occurs.

My AMA was in regards to being a TransGirl in Microsoft.

I have learned that many people have very strong mislead ideas on transgender people.

I am still processing and unable to write about it but if you feel brave enough to read the thread please feel free to do so.

https://www.teamblind.com/article/I-am-a-TransGirl-AMA-CQDi2xjF


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Coming Out to Parents

I was visiting my sister in Chicago while my mother was in town from Korea. She always went to see my sister as she had a small baby. My sister left and took the baby with her to give us a little bit of privacy. I came out to her a few months back and she knew that I had to come out to our mother. I couldn’t avoid it anymore. I spent countless hours pondering exactly how to say it. Working through in my head how I wanted to phrase it. Going through scenarios and wondering if she would understand what I am saying. How I would bridge the language gap.

My mother was in the bed relaxing. I crawled in next to her. Preparing to turn my and her life upside down… Umma… I am Trans…

I knew my mother was open to gay people as my sister introduced her to many of her gay friends. I never dared talk about my gay friends as it would potentially open the door to talking about my sexuality or my gender identity. Being open to gay people is one thing but trans is asking for so much. To learn your child is transgender?

One of the things that was always a concern for me was being a burden. I always feel like a burden. My parents and my grandparents sacrificed so much for me to be able to grow up in the states. My college educated mother worked night shift jobs in a factory. My father lived alone in Korea to send us money. My grandparents worked well into their old age just so that we could go to school in the states. And I felt that I was being selfish. That I would dare to want something that is just purely for my own happiness. And that I would ask them to go through this journey with me and accept me for who I am really.

그래? 이제까지 힘들었겠다. She said which roughly translates to… Really? It must have been really difficult till now. I wasn’t prepared for her answer. I didn’t expect her to automatically go to an area of such concern. I asked her if she knew what it meant when I said that I was transgender? If she knew what transgender was? She told me it was ok and that she loves me regardless.

Every single person you come out to is different but there is something really special about coming out to a close family member. If you come out to a friend and they end up rejecting you, you could always make more friends. But your mother? There is no replacing her. For me and so many other people, this is the reason why it is so difficult and scary to come out to close family, even if you trust them to love you regardless, that tiny little doubt represents a chance that you have to be ready and prepared for.

As I explained to my mother exactly how bad it is for LGBTQ people and how often they get rejected by their family, my mother held my hand and told me… never…

I would like to say that things went well from that point, but coming out is a long process. In the coming months our relationship would become strained and filled with awkwardness. I knew my mother didn’t know what to say to me anymore and I didn’t want to talk about my life as if it was some report… I knew my mother needed resources, information, and support but I was unable to provide her with any that would bridge the generational, cultural and language gap that lay between us. I have come out to her and she accepted me but we still grew apart. This is not how it is supposed to happen. If your parents accept you after coming out, you are supposed to grow closer to them…

 


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TSA Transgender Guidelines

A while ago the TSA put out a video on guidelines for transgender travelers in the US. Let’s do some analysis of the message that is being said to our community, and how useful it is…

“Ensure that the information on your boarding pass matches your government issued ID.”

This may sound like a simple request but unfortunately getting IDs that match your gender is often a very difficult process for many transgender people. This is often forcing transgender people to out themselves to TSA officers which can lead to dangerous situations for the transgender person. What happens if you have your driver’s license updated but not your passport and you are traveling overseas? Which ID do you have to have your ticket under in that situation?

“The TSA officer will press the button designating a gender based on how you present yourself male or female.”

While the asking for your boarding pass to match your government ID, is to ensure that the TSA have the proper information on whoever is flying, this process has nothing to do with the body scanner and forces transgender people into a second situation they must navigate.

The TSA grants their officers the power to designate a person’s gender without any input from the individual. TSA officers have not always been the most educated in transgender issues and it often shows when these kinds of bad procedures are put in place.

The advanced imaging technology machine has just 2 modes, Male or Female so that the machine can ignore women’s breast areas or men’s genital areas. This is to avoid having to needlessly screen people and to protect their privacy. But many transgender people have private parts that do not match their secondary sex characteristics which most people use to determine what gender a person is. This often times causes the machine to trigger transgender people for additional screening. There is no reason why this technology can’t be extended for transgender people also such that separate upper and lower body scanning options can be selected.

When tagged for additional screening, often times transgender people are subjected to very personal screening of sensitive and private areas. TSA procedures are often not properly followed in these cases of additional screenings and TSA officers have been known to abuse their power of being able to “designate a gender” to force transgender women to be examined by men.

The advanced imaging technology machine is an abysmal failure rate for so many transgender people and despite simple technological and procedural changes that can be done that would protect transgender people without hurting cisgender people, there is no effort on the TSA to do any of these. Even the TSA procedures that are meant to protect everyone is often times ignored for transgender people.

“For your comfort and discretion know that at any time during the screening process you may request to speak with a supervisor or request private screenings.”

Asking for a private screening often times only exacerbates the situation. TSA officers are notorious for abusing transgender people even in full view of the public. Requesting a private screening would give TSA officers more power to abuse the situation without the public around to keep them honest.

This video does not go into any detail about how a transgender person can better navigate TSA security but it only repeats information that is generally available for all people. The video states that “The TSA recognizes members of the transgender community may have concerns during security screening procedures when flying.” But the video does not resolve any concerns at all. All it does is provide a façade to the rest of the world that the TSA cares about transgender people. This is not a video for the transgender community, it is a public relations move for the rest of the world.


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How to Date a Transgender Woman

Category : Trans Theories

Transgender Women; yes, I know we are amazing. I don’t blame anyone one of you guys for wanting to date us. We are strong, confident and smart people. Through our difficult past, we grow this amazing ability to love ourselves and to live our lives genuinely. You have identified that amazing transgender woman of your dreams and you have no clue how to approach her…

Well I am here to help! Here is a basic how to guide on how to date a Transgender Woman!

“Read More”

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Dear Mr REDACTED

This is an unfortunate interaction I have had with the father of a friend of mine from high school. It particularly hurt because I have had interactions with this person before and the friend and I were really close. Also the accusation that I was trying to swindle people out of their money on a “fake issue” even.

My friend and her husband both sent me a private message in telling me how sorry they were for his behavior, in which I replied that they didn’t have to apologize for anything, as he is his own person and they have no responsibility for his actions.

This is how I responded…

Dear Mr REDACTED,
First of all, I want to thank you for the hospitality and opening your home up to me all those years ago.
I don’t know if you remember me but back then I used to go by the name Sean. Linda and I were very close friends in highschool. I have been over to your home often to play super smash brothers, to do homework, to study for our AP tests together. But the one thing that I remember the most of my time there with Linda was how she helped give me an outlet for my need to express my femininity. I was a very effeminate “boy” back then and knowingly or not, Linda was able to see that I was struggling with my identity and she was able to give me one of my only avenues of expressing myself by helping me do my nails. I look fondly upon those days where she would do my nails for me using her amazing creative ways. To me that was an outlet that I needed that would help me express myself in ways that I didn’t understand why I needed. It was one of the things that I needed to start me on my journey of self discovery. And it was your home that gave us the safe space to let me start being myself a little bit.
I tell you this story because I want to thank you for opening your home to me those years ago but also to show you that us transgender people are just people. To show you that we are here.
The comments you have said were very hurtful to me and my community. To say that transgender people are looking for special extra rights is very misleading in the same way that people say that gay people are looking for special gay rights in order to get married. We all have the same rights that all affect us, but unfortunately these rights are not made equal to everyone. Gay people were not looking to get special rights that only apply to them. Gay people were looking for rights to get married to the person they loved in the same way straight people did. To say that gay people wanted special rights to get “gay married” is very misleading. Women didn’t seek special rights to be able to vote, they sought for the same rights to be applied to them. Same for black people.
We are not looking for special rights for transgender people, but we are just looking for the same rights that everyone else has to be able to live their lives genuinely to be applied to transgender people as well.
I would hope that this story would help you learn a little bit about the lives that we lead and more importantly be able to view us as people.

Unfortunately this didn’t help as he responded …

The part that hurt me the most was the fact that he felt the need to tell me that I should thank him for his hateful views. Fortunately due to his privacy settings I was unable to see his post on his own page and I didn’t bother responding because I wanted this all to stop.

I know that my friend is mortified and saddened by her father’s views and antics. I hope that he finds ways to open himself up to feel empathy for the sake of their relationship…

In the meantime I will keep on being visible and proudly being myself as this is the best way to help change the world.


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What’s in a name?

My legal name is not Sophia, it is actually Sangyoon (상윤). I still go by my Korean legal name to people who speak to me in fluent Korean. It was when I moved to the US during high school I was asked if I wanted to be referred as a different name. I thought about it for a short moment and I choose Sean. I was tired of people not pronouncing my name properly, and also I guess I kinda wanted to fit in too.

One day I was talking to a friend and I jokingly told them how my Korean name is Sangyoon while my colonized name was Sophia and it all of a sudden came rushing back to me. The feeling I had when I realized that the water we drank at home was actually tea. Being asked by my friends if I was Japanese or Chinese and them not believing that a place like Korea even existed.  Not knowing if anything in my life that I considered to be normal would be also be normal to my white friends. That one day that I realized that I was not “Normal”…

Is this what black people mean when they talk about their colonized names? The names that we take on to blend into a culture that has oppressed us for generations?

I was tired of being different. I was tired of not seeing people on TV who were Asian. I was tired of living in a world where Asian men were viewed to be less desirable to date. I didn’t want to be exotic. I didn’t want to be an outsider. I just wanted to be “Normal”. I choose my English name, and I willingly turned my back on my own culture.

Over time, I became stronger. I was able to stand up in strength as an individual and transcend my cultural backgrounds. Instead of being the Asian trans girl Sophia who is identified by her backgrounds, I became Sophia, an individual who is known for her accomplishments. I had succeeded in breaking those chains of my backgrounds… Or did I?

As part of my work with the transgender community I have slowly learned to value people not only as individuals but also for the backgrounds that they bring. And I took some time to look at myself. I never really broke free of my backgrounds. I have erased them from my mind, but the rest of the world still viewed me by them.

So now I am working on evolving. I am working to be more than the individual Sophia who is known for her accomplishments. I am working to be Sophia, the immigrant, transgender, Korean-American, woman with all of her accomplishments, who lives proudly while fully embracing all of her identities. (Who also occasionally goes by Sangyoon to those who are fluent in Korean)


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Reaching Out

One of the many issues that I had when I was early on in my transition was finding positive role models in the transgender community. transgender visibility is a real issue these days. I wanted to find young professional transgender women, and all I could see were people struggling to survive. I wanted to see someone who was thriving!

I ran into a few of Andy Marra’s articles she wrote for the Huffington Post.

I am love worthy

My Beautiful Daughter

Andy’s story really resonated with me for multiple reasons, from our cultural economic background, her beautiful writing and the timing of when I encountered her stories. I decided that I had to reach out to her.

I searched for so long looking for an email address that I could use to connect to her. Eventually I did find an email that she didn’t use anymore but I did send her an email in desperation hoping that she will read it…

Andy,

I am here sitting in a coffee shop trying not to cry after reading your articles.
My name is Sophia and I am also a Korean American transgender woman like you.
I am a software developer at Microsoft and I been having difficulties connecting with young professional trans women and my therapist suggested that I try connecting with you, which lead me to read your articles on Huffington Post.
In about a month, I am going to go visit my sister for my nephew’s first birthday. My mother will be there also from Korea and I am planning on coming out to her as trans. Since I have first been able to admit to myself that I am trans, there has been 2 people that I found myself terrified of coming out to. One was my sister, who says she loves me and said that she is prepared to stand by me, defend and protect me from any of my family members who may reject me. The other is my mother who I love with all my heart and I cannot stand the thought of losing.
I have been counting down the days in which I need to talk to my mother and I been seriously dreading the worst case scenario in which she will reject me, but reading your article, I feel for the first time hope that she will be able to accept and love me.
I am still very early in my journey, but reading your articles gives me so much hope that one day I could be happy, loved and accepted too.
Thank you so much for your beautiful articles, and even more so, thank you for living proudly as an intelligent, cultured, strong, beautiful transgender woman and showing the rest of the world what we are capable of.
-Sophia Lee
I have since met Andy, and many other amazing strong transgender women that I surround myself with on a daily basis. I get so much of my strength and support from them.
If you need someone to reach out to, please reach out to me. @GeekGirl1024