Dealing with Unwarranted Presumption

Being a transgender girl is something one becomes aware of introspectively.

Others might observe one’s behavior and offer input, but such input is often negative. For example, the other kids in school told me that essentially I’m a girl in a boy’s body (helpful) — and they bullied me as part of that (not helpful).

The typical journey of transgender girl begins with introspective realizations and the conclusions based thereon: “I’m a girl” and soon “I’m different” — eventually leading to “wow, I’m a girl in a boy’s body” with doubts of “can this even be possible?” and often feeling — and often being — outcast, isolated and picked on by those around us.

There’s a fundamental difference between someone thinking that she is a transgender girl vs. that she is the Tooth Fairy or the reincarnation of Cleopatra. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary substantiation. Transgender girls exist as a matter of historical fact. The type of proof required, that a person is one of these transgender girls, is simply introspective.

One (potentially infuriating) type of adversary in this intellectual and emotional battle for independence is the person who presumes to have all the answers, even as to what is going on in someone else’s head.

I have a friend in this category. His manner is bland and pleasant, and he makes a point of prefacing a conversation with the emphasis that he’s very much fallible and often mistaken, and he makes it clear that he’s just expressing opinions. All this is admirable. It’s beyond that point where things go off the rails.

The disclaimers don’t seem to fit the style of a recent conversation, in which my friend was either very much convinced that I’m mistaken as to what’s going on in my head, or was not convinced that I know what’s going on in my own head. In addition, he said that he doesn’t think I am pursuing the path of the most happiness for me. I’m not sure what exactly he meant. I presume he means that me living my life as the transgender girl that I am is somehow a bad idea compared to (it sounds so silly when I put this in writing) being a girl and pretending not to be, or beating the bushes until I find a counselor who has the same approach as my friend does and presumes to know more about my situation than I do myself.

Even though I categorize this gentleman as a friend, it’s a very superficial relationship, with little in-person interaction of any depth — and yet he comes across as very certain that he has a better grasp of transgender issues, and what’s going on in my head. What is more presumptuous yet is that he thinks he knows more as to what will make me the happiest. His opinions in this general category have so far been dead wrong, but he’s still blandly certain in a way that I would probably find infuriating if I attached value to such opinions or felt the need to convince such a person. From what I’ve heard, many transgender girls have such people in their lives. Hence, this article, in the hope that how I deal with the situation might be of value to you too.

Because the relevant type of evidence is fundamentally introspective, the person with the best access to this is the transgender girl herself, and it’s important only that she has reason to be convinced about her own situation.

If others in her social circle require proof that she’s transgender, then at most she can refer to the body of evidence that she’s accumulated over her life, that helped her reach her conclusions.

I have found that, for outsiders who require convincing, it’s pointless to start a “for example” conversation because such people tend to come up with in unlimited number of dismissive responses. Every example that the transgender girl mentions, the skeptic will shoot down. You might notice that there’s rarely even a pause during which the skeptic reflects, to the example a proper evaluation; there’s often an immediate reaction whose theme is best summed up by “everything you mention, I’m happy to shoot down.” If you don’t see any point in being in such a conversation (or perhaps, any conversation) with a person like that, that’s a totally reasonable reaction on your part.

Wary of this, in my most recent conversation with my friend, I referred to the body of accumulated circumstantial evidence as being huge, but I did mention one example: the children at school picking up on me being a transgender girl, and mentioning that to me during the bullying process. My friend saw fit to make a dismissive remark as to that. Because I found that so peculiar, I am dwelling on this in the hope that analyzing this example might help you.

I grew up in southern Africa and it’s been a long time since I was in school. When I heard my friend’s dismissive comment, I tried to evaluate it reasonably. Children tend to also be very perceptive and candid. Yes, children do make up mean things sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that they always do and to just automatically presume that they did so in this case is not valid reasoning. Had I been more eloquent at the drop of a hat, I would have said: “wait, you are talking about things that happened decades ago, over a span of many years, thousands of miles away from where you are, in a place you’ve never been, in a culture to which you have had no exposure. I, on the other hand, grew up in that culture, and I was there in person, every day, for more than a decade, in this situation. Our relative perspectives give me vast access to the relevant data, and your access is tiny. And, yet, you presume to have an opinion even as to whether or not to dismiss what happened in this context, i.e., why the children said what they did. That makes your opinion essentially so meaninglessly unfounded that I’m surprised you even see fit to voice it. That you voice it with such glib certainty is even more peculiar to me.” I needed to stew on this before realizing that this was the proper response, but … there it is.

This is not an isolated example. This sort of mentality will happily convey certainty about things in ways that clashes with the transgender girl’s own life experiences and introspections, things about which she has a solid basis for being certain.

Ironically, the feminized mind tends to be more gentle and cautious, and to consider other points of view. This can turn the transgender girl’s desire to be reasonable into a problem for her, when confronted by a mentality that brazenly leaps to conclusions, even as to what is going on in the life and mind of someone else.

It’s a rare transgender-girl journey that doesn’t have at least one such a person in the girl’s social or family circle. Although it can be helpful to talk to others about one’s thoughts and emotions, it’s pointless and counterproductive to have this sort of conversation (or, arguably, any conversation) with the sort of mindset that is overly certain even when it comes to aspects where the rational answer would simply be “well, I don’t know.” This would certainly include “I don’t know what’s going on in your head; you’re the best judge of that” and “I don’t know how to process all of the evidence you’ve observed; you’re the best judge of that.”

The premise of saying “I’m not qualified to judge that” is a basic problem for this mindset, who seems to feel the need to have an answer and a strong opinion, even if there isn’t nearly enough data. In case this observation helps: I’ve observed that this often has a parallel in how that person deals with religious issues. They might well not be picking on anyone; this is just how they function.

How do I best deal with people like this? Candidly. I feel free to be calmly blunt about their insights and opinions being highly limited in value to me. If these people take offense, that’s OK. As to what’s truly going on, the transgender girl is fundamentally the person whose opinion matters. If anyone has a good basis for being offended, it’s actually the transgender girl who is being second-guessed.

At the risk of stereotyping, I’ll mention that I’ve observed that I’ve most often found this sort of mind-set in middle-aged males.

I have over the years accumulated enough examples of highly authoritarian and opinionated people who happened to be dead wrong on the issue that they were adamant about. It has actually become humorous to me that a person can be so certain and yet so mistaken. There are probably many subtle examples, but the ones that made the biggest impression on me were those where the person was both adamant and also clearly mistaken, in an “earth is flat” sort of way.

In philosophy, it’s important to be clear on who has the burden of proof in an argument. A transgender girl is the best judge of what’s going on in her head. Being a transgender girl is something she comes to realize introspectively, and she doesn’t have to prove it to anyone else. She observes the evidence, reaches her conclusions, proceeds accordingly — and lives with the consequences. More often than not, this means a happier life, even if more complex.

In the rare situations where a male person should somehow be deluded and mistakenly have thought himself to be a transgender girl, then the person will have to deal with the social, medical and professional consequences. Even so, the way to better clarity as to one’s own nature is through more introspection, not arguing with others who have no insight either way.

As to how I deal with people who are unwilling to accept me as the authority as to what’s going on in my own head: I actively reduce that person’s role in my life. Within reason, it’s fine to have an “agree to disagree” attitude, but if the relevant individual isn’t clear that his or her opinions carry vastly less weight than that of the transgender girl, then this person is not a positive factor in my life, and I am better off reducing social time with this person.

This emphatically includes family holidays. It’s important for me to be in a social circle where everyone accepts my transgender nature. All that this basically requires is someone’s willingness to concede that he or she doesn’t know better than I do as to the body of evidence that I have observed over years, and what’s going on in my head.

Were I, as a transgender girl, currently in a sub-culture where such open-mindedness is in short supply, then I would rather enjoy a $3 microwaved turkey dinner all by myself than be at a large family dinner where some people presume to know me better than I do myself. As an example, today is the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, and my mom had invited me to Thanksgiving dinner, and I declined since her acceptance of me as a transgender girl is still in many ways iffy — perhaps best described as “passive resistance.” When she demanded an explanation, I calmly replied that I don’t need to justify not accepting a social invitation. And, that was that.

I have been socially active enough that I ended up having Thanksgiving dinner in the wonderful company of someone whom I love and who loves and accepts me as the transgender girl that I am.

Being in a social circle with someone who doesn’t accept my transgender nature has many implications, such as the person thinking this is all a game or charade with which others are playing along. Even though this person is actually the least logical person in the interaction dynamic, this person might emotionally feel superior. This can come across as an offensive sort of patronizing, or worse — a sort of sneering condescension.

In the mind of such a person, the transgender girl is a guy wearing make-up and wearing a dress. This is already problematic, but often these things also clash with the gender stereotypes that the overly critical person mentally has, so the reactions of such people are often more negative yet.

For me, it was hard enough to come to grips with being a transgender girl. I’m not OK with interacting in social space that is hostile to either transgender girls or to the concept of being transgender. For example, I would not accept an invitation from a hostile-as-such host or hostess.  However, if a hostile-as-such individual is present but the general culture of the social space is not hostile, that’s fine. That way, if the person behaves inappropriately, the host or hostess will deal with it, or I’ll do so personally.

As to the use of my new name, and use of female pronouns: I’m fine with people having a hard time breaking old habits, and I’m forgiving as such — but only if these are innocent mistakes.

For some, the quest for a fresh social circle might require starting afresh socially, perhaps even geographically. If that’s what it would take, then for me, I’d do so. For different reasons, I’ve already done that once in my life. I found new people and made new friends who were fine with how I think and who I am. This wasn’t due to me being a transgender girl, but due to me disliking South African culture and liking American culture, and moving from South Africa to the US. I didn’t know anyone here, but I moved here even so. In the beginning, I felt awkward and everything was weird and new. Even so, I was, and am, happy to be here. I learned how to function in my new situation, and eventually I flourished in it.

This is a fitting analogy for seeking a new life as a transgender girl. It’s OK — more than OK — for a transgender girl to choose a healthy social circle.

This requires excluding from the social circle the individuals who make it unhealthy. If that involves conflict, then in my experience this is a battle that’s best fought early on, and decisively, and with full righteousness of being true to herself.

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