Speech for the IDAHIT

I am a woman. A woman who is trans. A woman who is in a relationship with a transmasculine person. It is beautiful to be a woman. It’s nice to be trans. It is nice to be me. It is nice to be with my partner. I am happy and proud of myself for having made my way to this point.

When I go back in my biography and when I look at all the experiences of my everyday life, I also get sad, angry and worried. I often ask myself:
“Why have I been let down so many times when people have attacked me simply because of my existence?”
“Why do I often feel the need to perform better than others in order to be accepted?”
“Why do I often have the feeling of irritating some people just with my appearance, why do I have the feeling of being hated by some people for no reason?”
“Why were and are there more obstacles on my life path than on the life paths of others?”.

When I was 16, I kissed a man. He was very beautiful. His eyes were shining blue. The kiss was a test of courage. It would not have been possible otherwise. The bystanders found it disgusting. They laughed at us. Affection was not allowed to turn into love. Just the kiss required courage. That was in 2007.

That was not the first time I felt that I was different. And that being different can hurt. Very much so.

Two years earlier, I already experienced rejection from my mother because of my sexual orientation (I liked women and men) and because of my feminine behaviors. This scared me. Nevertheless, I did not lack the courage to be brave.

In kindergarten I was beaten and had my hair pulled because I didn’t want to play with the boys but with the other girls.

And I wondered again: What do you use as orientation when the search for orientation leads to mental pain? When you’re laughed at and picked on because you show up the way you are?

Back when I was a kid, I had seen people on TV who were cis men but were supposed to portray the roles of trans women, or in other words, I saw cisgender fantasies about trans women. The portrayal was exoticizing, fetishizing, sometimes vulgar, problematizing and criminalizing. In the series, movies and talk shows they were laughed at and portrayed like freaks. These fantasy representations are what people still think of today when they hear the word trans women.

Today, trans women mostly are no longer represented by cis male actors. However, the damage has been done. The apologies are lacking. A few weeks ago, Thea Ehre (an Austrian actress), won the Golden Bear. That was good. There are so many successful trans people, but it is hard for us to become visible in a world where there are people who deny our existence and where people who are actually friendly do not rush to our aid. We provide visibility but also need protection.

In 2022, after I had been antagonized in an academic teaching hospital by the nursing staff of the ward in which I worked, because they were not entirely comfortable with a woman who had formerly been assigned to the wrong gender, I spoke to two head physicians on the phone. Both showed a lot of understanding for the people discriminating. The senior physician also found it difficult to address me as a woman and stated that it was the same as with the handicapped, the demented, schizophrenics and foreigners: they were treated like dirt. Meanwhile, he did not reveal what he wanted to do about it.

The other senior physician revealed that she herself was not sure whether the patients would understand the matter of gender transition. Overall, I was told, that I was too emotional about the topic.

What was really bad was that both of them were very supportive prior to the incident, but later they didn’t step in front of me to protect me, they just wanted to protect themselves first and foremost.

What hurt the most was the lack of support when it came down to it in this labor dispute. I broke off from my friends in the clinic at that time. The relationships broke down because of the fear of my friends that they would also be attacked if they supported me.

Before the trial, I called the court, and the clerk accidentally addressed me as “Mr.”, but with a smug undertone. She apologized after I corrected her. Despite knowing my identity, the person took it upon herself to act as she saw fit. Who cares how I feel about that? It’s also the little undertones, mishaps, sometimes unabashed remarks, questions and statements that hurt because they accumulate over time like the dirt in a dorm room kitchen where they never sweep and if they do, they sweep it under the rug.

The other day I was walking down the stairs in the house. I ended up running into a young cis man who told me, unprompted, that I had turned out well (for a trans woman) and was really good looking. And again I asked myself, where does this arrogance of an obviously average young white man, who lives in an East German city, come from?

Probably he can’t help it, he is probably not even aware of the absurdity of his behavior, because he just thinks he is part of a group that claims to be allowed to judge when a transition is to be considered “good”.

A friend of mine held her girlfriend’s hand on a sidewalk and was verbally and loudly insulted by a cis man. When she yelled back, it was conveyed to her that she was overreacting.

When I kissed my partner on the sidewalk, we were loudly cheered and applauded by cis male strangers. Apparently they thought we were two cis women. I don’t even want to know what was going on in their heads.

Why do members of the LGBTQIA+ community experience these reactions? Is it because we live the way we want to? Is it because we are more attractive than queer-hostile people would like us to be? Is it because we are comfortable with ourselves? Is it because hostile people can’t find an outlet for their self-hatred or their own pain? Or is it simply because we are not what the heteronormative mainstream society imagines us to be?

In recent years, some things have changed for the better. We are in a process of positive social, legal and political change. However, this is exactly what is causing misanthropic and old-fashioned naysayers to appear in the scene. I am talking about Terfs (trans exclusionary radical pseudo-feminists), right-wing radicals, misogynists, homophobes and other queer-hostile people who want to restrict our rights and undermine our dignity. They start their agitation with the supposedly most vulnerable, with trans gender women. We as the LGBTQIA+ community will not be divided, because we know that other members of our community have had to fight for their rights, and for the most part still do. Together we stand strong for the dignity of all people!

With all the examples of hurtful situations, the painful experience of not having received support from uninvolved people remains. Yet there is a simple wish as an answer to many of these questions.

Therefore I wish from all decent people:

Please be brave, stand up for your friends who are lesbian, gay, bi, pan or asexual, trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary, agender or inter and queer. In the workplace, in the media, in conversations with the ignorant – not just in private. Especially when you stand to lose something. When you make yourselves vulnerable for us. We stand up for ourselves every day. Often all alone. That takes strength and hurts. Sometimes so much that at the end of the day we have no left at all. It is the strength with which people who belong to the majority society raise their children and master their jobs. It is this strength that we often have to muster in defense of our very existence. To belong to the privileged majority society and not fight for minorities is cowardly and selfish. IDAHIT is not only today but every day, and is not only queer people’s business, but much more members of the majority society, because it is parts of societys majority and their lack of support that we have to defend and protect ourselves from again and again.