HYPER/TEXT: Discourse Dignity

The Snail – Henri Matisse

Discourse Dignity asks:

Being online for more than five minutes means that I’ve come across a lot of discourse. But the truscum debates have become overwhelming for me, especially on Tumblr. I feel like neither group is totally right and the situation has more nuance, but since I run a mildly successful queer blog, people are asking my opinion. How do I dodge this question? Or answer it appropriately without others unfollowing? 


An unfortunate definition for the casual reader:

  • A portmanteau of “true transsexual scum,” truscum believe an individual must experience [physical] dysphoria to identify as transgender. 

I can’t say I’m surprised that the “truscum debates” are in full swing in some corner of the Internet, but damn, am I disappointed. 

Discourse Dignity, I last touched truscum discourse at the ripe old age of 17. Amid other pseudoscientific faire, I believed “transgenderism” was a medical condition caused by an “incorrectly sexed brain.” I remember telling an ex-friend that it was impossible to know if someone was “truly trans” without a brain scan. Bold words from someone who identified as a trans boy without medical approval!

Here’s the thing: no test can determine if someone’s dysphoria or transness is “real” or “valid.” Imagine if one could identify even subtle “transtrenders” through careful study and selection. These truscum teenagers, proudly proclaiming themselves “true transsexuals?” Oh, man, they’d be fucking devastated if their medical or psychological evaluations came back dysphoria-negative! Of course, they’d insist their resulting devastation is the proof, an insurmountable No True Scotsman. 

I do have empathy for truscum. It can be hard to be trans, and it’s reassuring to believe that following the right rules will secure immunity from merciless transphobes. But that’s just not how it works, bubba. I grew out of my truscum phase the same way I grew out of most Internet discourse: growing the fuck up.

Now, lemme hop off my soapbox for a minute and return to your original dilemma. Discourse Dignity, you are never required to post or interact on social media. Seriously! You never have to take a public stance on anything at all. You can, of course, and, at times, you certainly should! But you can also leave philosophical considerations to simmer without affecting your daily life. 

At the end of the day, I’m sure you’ll come to your own conclusions about whether or not someone “needs dysphoria” to “be trans.” (I’m also sure you know what my opinion might be.) But I can tell you now: this “debate” will rage on without your input, and it will only ever pit trans people against one another in service to cisgender interests.


Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet born, raised, and based in Philadelphia. They are one of three co-lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine and one of two co-editors at Delicate Friend. Find them on Twitter @circumgender.

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