I recently had a conversation with a transgender individual where they asked me how they could help their wife to become comfortable with them shaving their body hair. My response was to tell them that it is their body and they are free to do with it as they pleased. This straightforward response was not well received. They indicated that their wife was afraid that by shaving their body hair that the cat would be out of the bag. Then everybody around them would know for certain that they were transgender.
Of course, I wanted to tell them that wouldn’t be a problem; that people are generally very accepting. That even if they know you are transgender it most likely wouldn’t be a problem. But then I realized they were suffering from the what I term ‘kill the monster’ syndrome. This is sort of a catch all phrase that I have come up with that describes potential ridicule that one may suffer at the hands of our fellow human beings.
Throughout my life I have often wanted to do things that are not typical for my perceived gender, but I have also restricted myself from doing them. I pictured myself doing whatever: piercing my ears, wearing nail polish, wearing too skinny of a pair of jeans, and my mind came up with horrific images of people circling around me, pointing their fingers, snickering to each other, and generally humiliating me. It has been an almost paralyzing fear where I draw it out to the point that I envision people pulling out torches and pitchforks and screaming kill the monster.
This habit of mine can prove to be quite annoying to my wife, but it actually is quite beneficial to me. Not for the discussions with my wife, with those it tends to just further muddle things, but with the conversations I have within my own head. Taking things out to the absurd level helps me to see the ridiculousness of my own fear. People aren’t carrying around torches and pitchforks, I mean where would they store them? I have yet to see a late night infomercial for the RonCo Pocket Pitchfork where you get the RonCo Pocket Torch for free!
Thus I have been able to see that my fears are things that my brain creates, and not a reflection of real life. I can’t ever remember a time when I have actually seen a mob of people screaming, “kill the monster” at another human being. Oh sure, back when I was in elementary school I remember kids making fun of other kids, and of course middle school with it’s harsh hormone-laden teenage rudeness and high school with its unending cliques, but real life? Life after school? Nope. Never seen it. I have never witnessed anybody getting encircled and pointed at and laughed at, let alone torched and pitchforked.
And yet the fear is still there. Personally I think it is an evolutionary leftover that we are kind of stuck with. We are fearful of the unknown and terrified of not being part of the group. These are things that worked together to help us to live on what can be a brutal planet with vicious animals that could jump out, pounce on us, and eat us as a snack. Thus being afraid of the thing lurking in the bushes and being accepted as part of a group helped us to live.
But now? Now that we don’t have large vicious cats lurking behind every large tree in the forest, now what are we afraid of? Each other. Our largest fears come from other human beings. It is either that other human beings will ostracize us through humiliation or they will physically harm us. If the internet blatherings in various comments sections are to be believed, many humans deserve to be feared. But I don’t really think that the comment sections are reflective of how people live in real life. Sure they are emboldened by their perceived anonymity on the Internet, and bolstered by like-minded comments, but I have personally never encountered someone in real life who actually threatened me in any way. Yes I have received a couple of rude comments over the years, but really overall I have been absolutely amazed at the difference between how I thought people would treat me and how people actually do treat me.
I used to think I was so alone in my fears. I used to think that I must be the only one on the planet who lives their life in fear of showing who they really are, in showing what they really like to do. Through grit and determination, I forced myself to face my fears. To do little things, like show my shaved legs, to share with friends and coworkers my toenails painted in a sparkly red polish, to pierce my right ear at age 30 to match the left one I did at 15. And through this I gained experience that showed me nobody was going to torch and pitchfork me.
Nowadays, I still feel the fear crawling up my back, making me shiver, but I breathe and relax and remind myself that nothing is stalking me, waiting for the right moment to pounce on me and kill me. With my hard-earned life experience, and new-found faith in humanity I try to help my fellow transgender individuals to reach out and see the light of day. I try and tell them that it is okay, they can be themselves, that the world will be a better place when we all come out of the closet.
Alas, I often find that I am unable to budge them in their stance. They fear the mob. They fear their fellow human beings; that people will shun them and ridicule them and banish them from their homes, their lives, their families, their safety. And at times, it has made me cry for I think, what will happen to the transgender community if we don’t stand up and show our true numbers to the world? Will we eventually be banned from every bathroom in the world?
At one time I thought this was a problem that I alone suffered from, and then I thought, “well, maybe anybody with any kind of difference suffers from it.” Just recently I began pondering the idea that this is actually part of the human condition. That we collectively as a species suffer from the kill-the-monster syndrome.
The conversation I mentioned earlier about a transgender individual trying to convince their wife to allow them to shave their body hair took an interesting turn as many genetic women began to chime into the conversation saying that the husband shouldn’t shave their legs. Their reasoning was that they feel as though society requires them to shave their legs and if they have to conform to society’s expectations so should their husbands. They figured that they both need to conform because if they didn’t they would be ridiculed.
It was about then that the light bulb began to go off in my head and I realized that a large percentage of the human population does things, not because they want to, but because they think they are required to do so. Somehow the “society police” will find out that people are doing things to their body hair that they shouldn’t, and will come and circle them and begin to torch and pitchfork them.
I feel fortunate that I have something inside of me that pushed me to face my fears. Through actual real life experience I discovered that my fellow human beings are far kinder than I ever thought they would be. Will someone ever notice that you shaved your legs? Sure. And just tell them that you wanted to shave them, because you like it. You’ll be okay. They won’t hunt you down and torture you. And if you want to not ever shave your legs again, then don’t shave! And if someone asks, tell them that you don’t like to shave. Again, you’ll be okay. No torches, no pitchforks.
Might we encounter some rudeness from ignorant people? Possibly. Can we help to educate the populace that human beings have different likes and dislikes and that as long as they are not harming other human beings, that it is okay to be different? Yes. But we can only do that if we take the risk to expose our true selves, our actual real likes and dislikes.
We are human and we are beautiful in our diversity.
It’s okay. Really it is.
Love you. Love yourself.
Hi, I’m Nadine Spirit and I have been a lifelong gender non-conformer. I have always understood that I am a bit different than most but it was not until sometime in my thirties that I came to understand that I am transgender. While I spend most of my time presenting as a male I am always presenting in a gender non-conforming manner.
I started my blog, Unordinary Style, with the idea of being able to show a stylish side to those who identify as transgender. Since that time my blog has evolved into showing my personal style, discussing a wide variety of transgender topics, as well as posts about my personal life. My personal style continues to evolve as I attempt to continually push myself to pick stuff off of the racks, take it into the dressing room, and try on as much as I can. I am a firm believer in ignoring tag sizes, never paying retail prices, and due to a terrific allergy – that nickel should never be in any jewelry!