It's Hard Being a Trans Zoo

To the despair of the trans community, there has been a rise in anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent months. As a transgender person being offered a platform, I feel a need to speak out. There are over 20 states with some kind of anti-LGBTQ bill trying to pass during the 2023 legislative session. There is currently a total of more than 120 bills that are anti-LGBTQ in some nature in various state senates. A very decent chunk of them specifically target children.

As a trans person who was lucky enough to come out and transition very early in life (I came out at 13 and started HRT at 15), I feel angry on behalf of these children. I know what it’s like to be a child that has to fight to be taken seriously. It sucks, quite badly.

My state has only in the past few years started to become a decent place to live for trans folks. I remember before 2020 when I had no hope of changing my legal sex. Luckily, time and social pressure can fix some things. Now all of my legal paperwork is updated and I never need to go to the courthouse for transition related matters ever again. I’m now free to live out the rest of my life as who I really am.

Sadly, other states are trying to kill that freedom. Most bills that I’ve read seem to be one of several things. Mostly, they’re dedicated to things like keeping trans kids on the sports team of their biological sex at school, outing trans children to their parents, preventing trans teens from accessing HRT or gender-affirming surgeries or, in several cases, preventing all trans people from changing their gender marker on legal paperwork.

As an example, Arkansas is a particularly bad place to be right now if you’re any flavor of not cis. They’re trying to entirely do away with drag, which may very well be the end of pride in Arkansas, considering that this bill is so intentionally vague that it also targets transgender people and their rights to free expression. If this bill were to go through, it would have an impact on both transgender individuals and cis individuals who like to participate in drag. This would restrict drag to exclusively 18+ venues and would prohibit it from occurring during “public” pride events. It would also target the way trans people present in events like churches, schools and other public events such as theatre, as it would classify all transgendered people and drag performers singing and dancing as “adult entertainment.” This bill specifically is worse than most of the bills I’ve had to read to write this article, hence why I specifically pointed it out.

Under Sb 43, a drag performance is defined in which one or more performers “exhibits a gender identity that is different of that from the performer’s gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup or accessories that are traditionally worn by members of and are meant to exaggerate the gender identity of the performer’s opposite sex; and sings, lip-syncs, dances or otherwise preforms before an audience of at least two persons for entertainment, whether preformed for payment or not; and that is intended to appeal to the prurient interest.”

Not all states are this way, however, and most of these bills aren’t going to be turned into laws. Some of them are advancing, but the likelihood of them turning into law is low based on all the social pressure against them. However, that doesn’t make it less horrifying. Knowing there are so many people in positions of power, and so many more people that support them, and they all have decided that they don’t want you to exist is something that every trans person has to struggle with in their own way.

Unfortunately, this is not the only place where we have seen a rise in transphobia. To my dismay, the zoo community itself has been in a bit of an uproar recently due to several different Twitter zoos deciding to voice their transphobic beliefs. Unfortunately, many people have discovered the use of neopronouns (any pronoun that isn’t he/she/they) within the transgender community and have decided to trash it simply because they don’t understand the complex relationships that some people have with gender.

It disappoints me. As a trans person who tries so hard to be a part of and fight for this community, it really breaks my heart to see parts of it turn on me and people like me at the drop of a hat. I will not lie when I say that this makes me feel unwelcome and unsafe, and it has in fact made me doubt my place within the community. I never knew how many other queers enjoyed hating trans people.

To my despair, I think being anti-trans is part of the norm right now. We are going through a societal revolution like we have never seen before, and people are scared. Sometimes that fear can be justified, but what they are not allowed to do is take out that fear on an entire community. We cannot just sit by and watch our siblings fight by themselves. If we do not fight for them, then one day they will not be here to fight for us.

I wish I knew why it was trans people society chose to hate so violently right now. From every angle we are torn down. But we are still here, trying to lift eachother up. I admire the dedication of my trans peers because I know I am one of the lucky ones. I am lucky to be a white trans man in an American state where I still hold my ability to medically transition firmly in my grasp. Not everyone is so lucky, and for those of you who aren’t: I see you. We see you, and we care.

I feel like I have a very nuanced view on trans issues because I know how it feels to both be privileged and to be under-privileged. I can walk around my house and be openly trans without fear of my family disowning me or worse. I can show someone my ID and have it match how I choose to identify. I can go to the doctor and see that my sex says what I want it to say (with a nice little trans marker next to it). I can hang out with all of my trans friends and their families and feel comfortable, and I don’t feel like I take that for granted.

I live my life well as a trans person on paper. Meaning, I wish my life in terms of being trans was as easy as it sounds on paper. But it isn’t easy. It’s quite hard. I still have to wait for the surgeries I desperately need, I still have to hide that I’m trans in most public places, I struggle not to have a panic attack every time I go to a public bathroom. The list goes on. I am lucky in theory, but not fully in practice.

It feels strange to live in two totally different worlds of trans acceptance at once. I can relate to a lot of trans people, both those who have an easy life and those who do not. Unfortunately, I still cannot deny how easy I have it. But I also want every other trans person to have it as easy as I did.

I just wish the zoo community wasn’t suddenly full of transphobes. It really sucks, especially considering how similar my experiences have been as both a trans person and a zoo. While it is luckily only a small portion of zoos that have decided to share their transphobic beliefs recently, it is a very well respected and central minority. I have to say, even though it does only come out to about a handful of people, that’s still a lot for the trans community. Sadly this handful of people have hundreds of followers each and it kills me to see them have such a platform. Sometimes, I wish the zoo community was bigger. It would make it way easier to drown out all the hate. It’s like the world at large. A small, yet very persistently loud group spreading hate about trans people. Unfortunately, these people always seem to attract a lot of attention.

I didn’t choose to be a trans zoo. Being either one of those things makes my life way harder on its own, but together? My life isn’t exactly always sunshine and rainbows. The thing is, I wouldn’t trade either for the world. I love being trans, and I love being a zoo. Although they undeniably make my life way harder, they also make my life way more fulfilling because I have something to fight for that most other people don’t have.

Being trans and being a zoo are both so connected to me. They’re just so similar. Both zoos and trans people are misunderstood as crazed sex freaks by many, when that’s a far cry from the truth. We are just people, like everyone else. We cannot control who we are, whether that means we’re attracted to animals, don’t identify as the gender we were born as, or both.

I hope that the zoo community wakes up and realizes how precious our trans siblings are, and I hope the world wakes up and realizes that neither zoos nor trans people are bad for the future.

Article written by Jesse (February 2023)

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