Transition is a formative time in a trans woman’s life that often sets the tone for many years after coming out. After entering broader society as herself, cisgender people often display behaviors towards her she may never have encountered before. This field guide is an attempt to classify the main types of cisgender people she will encounter.
Each entry defines the type and any sub-type variants, categorizes the relationship to trans women, identifies the typical genders associated with the type, and provides brief narratives of identifying characteristics, including supportive and hostile behaviors.
Variants: The Friend, The Lover
Relationship: Transphilic to Transphobic
Typical Gender: Female (Friend variant), Male (Lover variant)
Identifying Characteristics: The Collector and its sub-types, Friend and Lover, is initially difficult to identify. A positive identification is often only possible after spending extended time with them, due to their camouflaging behavior of mimicking The Supporter. The Collector is initially supportive, friendly, and generally moves quickly to gain your confidence.
The Friend variant is identified by qualifying statements such as, ‘My trans friend…,’ in mixed company, usually as a way to demonstrate to other cisgender people how liberal and accepting they are.
The Lover variant is identified by a rush to and then dumping you after a sexual encounter with or without statements like, ‘Let’s just be friends’, ‘I only slept with you for the experience,’ or ‘This doesn’t make me gay, does it?’ Their motivation is driven by a sexual thrill generated by the mistaken belief that they are doing something taboo, or to tick off a sexual experience check box.
Supportive Behaviors: The Friend variant will complement your looks, validate your feelings, take you shopping, engage in girly chit-chat, and be a generally sympathetic ear. The Lover variant will tell you how beautiful and sexy you are.
Hostile Behaviors: The Friend variant will continue to engage with you only as long as you are a useful social token for them to display in front of others. Once your utility is diminished, they will become distant and spend dramatically less time with or outright ignore you. Beware of them outing you, intentionally or not. The Lover variant is dangerous due to it morphing into The Hater, Predator sub-type, especially if they are homophobic and it becomes generally known that they slept with you. More begin Lovers won’t return your messages and will vanish out of your life without acknowledgement.
Variants: The Religious, The Scientific, The Predator
Relationship: Transphobic to Extremely Transphobic
Typical Gender: Male, Female (lesser)
Identifying Characteristics: The Hater, and it’s sub-types, The Religious, The Scientific, and The Predator are simultaneously the most dangerous and the easiest to identify due to their usual public and loud denial of your lived experience, often coupled with threats of physical or sexual violence or outright calls for transgender genocide.
The Religious variant will often quote the Bible or Quran to justify your supposed wickedness and sinful nature while proselytizing to you, oblivious to the irony of doing so.
The Scientific variant will offer specious arguments about how your biology, usually your chromosomes and primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics, make you a male no matter what.
The Predator usually speaks to hetero- and gender-normative socio/cultural expectations while calling for your genocide. Extra-dangerous are the silent Predators, who seemingly come out of nowhere to rain down physical violence.
While there are distinct sub-types, hybrid sub-type Haters do exist and are the most dangerous. Also beware Haters who initially camouflage as Invaders.
Supportive Behaviors: None.
Hostile Behaviors: Ranges from statements of abuse and violence to physical violence, up to and including murder. Avoid engaging online and be vigilant when out and about. Run away and seek help from friends if encountered in person.
Due to the high correlation between men and violence towards trans women, be extra-cautious when you’re the only woman in a group of people and extra-doubly cautious around armed men.
Variants: Full, Partial, Confused, Conditional, Faux
Relationship: Transneutral to Transphillic, Transphobic (rarely)
Typical Gender: Female, Male (lesser)
Identifying Characteristics: The Supporter and is variants, with the exception of the Faux variant, are your friends. They’ll generally call you by your name, use the correct pronouns, celebrate your wins and mourn your losses with you, and be there when you need them.
The Confused and Partial variants may hold back or be unwilling to help you in certain areas. Their reasons for doing so range from feeling uncomfortable to ignorance to not having enough emotional capacity to support you when you’re needy. Provide as much positive feedback as possible when they do help. Notably, The Confused may need extra time and education to become Full Supporters.
The Conditional variants are often family members or friends from before transition who are struggling to accept the revealed you. They display mixed behaviors or verbalize mixed messages by either placing conditions around your presentation while in their presence or by only partially acknowledging your femininity.
The Faux Supporter offers only verbal support and never performs any deeds. Often a co-worker.
Supportive Behaviors: They’ll provide emotional and moral support, and will forgive your bad transition behavior. Great ones will never out you, will help take care of you before and after surgeries, will ignore your stubble and tell you you’re beautful, and not mess up your pronouns.
Hostile Behaviors: Few, if any, from Fulls. Confused and Partial may inadvertently out you and hurt your feelings. Conditional and Faux may intentionally out you and hurt your feelings. They may also leave you hanging when you thought you could count on them and not stick up for you when around transphobes.
Relationship: Transphillic to Transneutral
Typical Gender: Male, Female
Identifying Characteristics: The Invader is a close cousin of The Collector in initial behavior, except they will ask you question after question about being trans. Invariably, the questions will turn emotionally intrusive and you’ll be asked about your genitalia, sexual behavior, and plans for surgeries. Often, these questions are asked in public spaces within earshot of others. They will also often not talk to you about anything other than your trans-ness.
Supportive Behaviors: Unless they’re the exceedingly rare cisgender person whose questioning doesn’t violate your privacy and socially accepted norms around what is and isn’t okay to talk about with strangers in public, and you’re in an indulgent, educating mood, none.
Hostile Behaviors: Having someone dig into your life as if you’re a specimen to be examined. Dealing with their misplaced indignation when you assert your right to privacy.
Relationship: Transneutral to Mildly Transphobic
Typical Gender: Male, Female
Identifying Characteristics: They take the news of you being transgender as a non-event to an annoyance. They’ll usually grunt or provide some other noncommittal acknowledgment and then change the subject. Often they’re co-workers and people who get paid to interact with you such as service workers.
Supportive Behaviors: None, unless you count not harassing you.
Hostile Behaviors: Their transphobia is of the omission vs. the commission type. Since they don’t care about you, it means that they won’t stick up for you if others are denigrating you verbally, and they may or may not intervene if you’re being physically attacked.
Variants: Deeply, Emerging
Relationship: Highly Transphillic to Highly Transphobic
Typical Gender: Female, Male
Identifying Characteristics: The Closeted can be very challenging to identify, as their behavior varies wildly depending upon their self-awareness and intersectionality. They may present as any one of or a mixture of the other types. Those with highly attuned trans-dars may spot them, but given The Closeted’s highly camouflaging behaviors, even expert spotters generate many false negatives.
The Deeply Closeted are more likely to present as Haters, Invaders, and Supporters. The Emerging are more likely to present as Invaders, Supporters, and Collectors.
It’s safest to assume someone is cisgender until proven otherwise. Treat self-disclosing Closeters with kindness and gentleness, and guide them to information, support groups, and suicide hotlines.
Supportive Behaviors: Varies wildly. See all above.
Hostile Behaviors: Varies wildly. See all above.
(November 16, 2015 – I fixed some typos and set it as text to allow for easier printing.)