Visibility: Why it is so important for Trans Men

  1. the state of being able to see or be seen.
  2. “a reduction in police presence and visibility on the streets”
    • the distance one can see as determined by light and weather conditions.
    • “visibility was down to 15 yards”
    • the degree to which something has attracted general attention; prominence.
    • “the issue began to lose its visibility”

Visibility for trans masculine individuals can be a double edged sword sometimes on many different levels. On one hand many call it privilege to pass and blend in with the cis world, which for the most part is true but “passing” is not equality, its a mask of equality. On the other hand being invisible or “holding privilege” can cause a myriad of issues such as lack of resources. Trans men lack resources that are readily available to other just as marginalized demographics. These resources can include support groups, research efforts, and medical care. As a trans man I personally have had to to seek a search for medical care in regards to my reproductive system and the issues that come with it. Many of us don’t connect with these parts of our bodies but we still need to keep them healthy. I have yet to find an OB/GYN that is willing to attend to these needs. Even in the emergency room the medical staff is unaware of how to handle me. I once was rushed to the hospital due to a car accident (something non trans related) and I was asked the normal routine questions like “what surgeries have you had and what medications are you on?.” Upon responding to the doctor that I have had a hysterectomy he then argued with me that I didn’t know what a hysterectomy was and where would I have gotten a uterus. When I explained to the doc that I was transgender he informed me that transgender people were women and I didn’t know what I was talking about. This alone is startling on every level, if this is the level of competency in the medical realm how can I be confident that I am getting the medical care  that is necessary to stay healthy?

In the field of research I have found the same lack of effort to include trans men, especially in HIV/STD studies. Very little research is done around trans men and sexual health. Often times we are counted incorrectly, counted as cis men,  as women, or not at all. This sends a very detrimental message to the younger generation that says we are not in danger of contracting HIV or other STDs. In a study done by the CDC (Center for Disease Control)  from 2009 to 2014, 2,351 transgender people were diagnosed with HIV in the United States. Of that 361 were trans men and 211 (58%) were African American trans men. According to the CDC site one of the “prevention challenges” was:

  • Transgender men’s sexual health has not been well studied. Transgender men, particularly those who have sex with cisgender (persons whose sex assigned at birth is the same as their gender identity or expression) men, are at high risk for infection. Over half of transgender men with diagnosed HIV infection had no identified or reported risk. Additional research is needed to understand HIV risk behavior among transgender men, especially those who have sex with other men.

Trans men have a very diverse set of sexual partners. The myth that all trans men upon transition are heterosexual is just that…. a myth! Some are hetero but many are bi, gay as well as pan-sexual. Many chose to date trans men and trans women. The lack of research in this area also creates holes in the way prevention is marketed to trans men. PReP and PEP campaigns are geared toward the gay male and trans women populations, understandably because of the higher rates of new cases, but if this is the demographic some trans men choose to date wouldn’t this warrant research to be done within the trans masculine community? I would think so.

Visibility is also very important, particularly for trans men of color to see their themselves reflected in the world, without representation some may feel that it’s not “normal”. Even with the current representation seen in media it sends the message that trans men MUST LOOK a certain way to be considered trans. The image of trans men in the media impresses that we should look muscle bound and fall into the male looking binary to be considered acceptable and attractive. Passing becomes the goal so guys are hitting the gyms and injuring themselves to be this “optimal male”. Those that don’t fit into this “look” often suffer from depression, low self esteem and suicidal thoughts. Trans men, according to a recent study, have a higher suicide rate than trans women. As a trans man I have experienced all of this and the younger generation needs to know being you is OK, you are attractive, and regardless of how you choose to show up does not determine your “transness” or your state of manhood. Remember your ability to “pass” does not make you any less of a man.

Trans men experience body shaming too, sometimes it comes from our own communities. Anxiety, dysphoria, and judgement based strictly on the parts we have or don’t is very real for trans men. These are all very real struggles for us compiled with our individual struggles thru our transitions being socialized as female bodied people prior  to medical transition. For many, the experiences we had during that period of time informs how we move thru the world in our manhood.

Have a different opinion or perception? Have you experienced this? Join the conversation and comment below and let’s talk about this.

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