“I am what I am”, Transgender and Narcissism

I am what I am
I don’t want praise I don’t want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it’s noise I think it’s pretty
And so what if I love each sparkle and each bangle
Why not try to see things from a different angle
Your life is a shame
Till you can shout out: “I am what I am”

La cage Aux Folles

I had a distant cousin who died to young at 58. We had lost touch, but because he died young, without any immediate family I was contacted by those who were trying to sort out his estate. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help as we had never been close but I then felt an obligation to find out more about him and what I assumed, wrongly, was a lonely existence. When younger he had been obsessed by cars, electronics and had a mousy wife, who to everyone’s surprise just ran away and left him for a guy at work.

Full of guilt for my neglect I visited his village and found out a neighbour who told me in the blunt terms that people use without malice, that my cousin had been transgendered went under the name of Cathy or Cat. She (Cat) had amassed a beautiful collection of dresses, hats, shoes and jewellery and when not at work, would become Cat and live a double life which in our culture was still moderately risky and would definitely have earned disapprobation in the traditional village where he/she had lived.

The full story, of her life though I found out is written out appended to hundreds of images he has shared publicly on the internet via Flicker. There Cathy stands in all her six feet of blonde, blue-eyed slightly dame-ish beauty. Brave to a point and gloried in column inches from her “trans” community. Apparently, that’s what trans girls do, it’s a community thing, a therapeutic release if you like, of lives they cannot live because we live in a narrow and bigoted world that values the shallow rather than seeks to understand the complex.

But Flickr isn’t just about images it provides a forum for self- disclosure and commentary. Cat’s profile and commentary was simultaneously self-effacing and full of cruel statements about genetic women. She wasn’t alone, following links within the T-girl community, led me to loads of similar blasts at non-T women. T girls appear to have an exaggerated understanding of femininity, but it doesn’t stop with the clothes, underneath all I felt that there was a certain, almost theatrical bitchiness worthy of Albin from “La Cage Aux Folles”. Within the bounds of their community it appeared there was a tendency to feel superior and to denigrate other women. There also appears to be a burgeoning commentary in the media where it is becoming a dangerous thing for feminist commentators to exclude transgender issues from mainstream feminist analysis. A sociologist friend of mine suggested to me that transgendered women are taking over the feminist debate with all the sensitivity of an alpha male!

I became interested in the relationship between Transgender self-esteem and possible narcissism as an explanation for this interesting phenomenon.

I am what I am

High self-esteem is generally held up to be “a good thing” though some suggest it can be associated with aggression, grandstanding and excess assertiveness. Dr Sheldon Solomon suggests that some are confusing high self-esteem with defensive narcissism. Lisa Firestone builds on these ideas and in her writing  provides a point by point comparison of narcissism and high self-esteem where she suggests the former seeks to dominate, pull down others, reject criticism and wants to be recognised above others. Self-esteem values equality, shared success, takes criticism as feedback and sees the value in others.

Tendency To Narcissism?

Why then is there a tendency for narcissism in trans people ? Like many aspects of narcissism, the origins of this phenomenon are not chosen, but made in early childhood. A child who is praised for being something which they know they have not achieved or perhaps even wanted will develop an insecurity. Insecurity in affection and one’s self is one of the contributing factors in the development of narcissism. So, imagine being a young child who knows that in their head they are female, but they are praised for displaying any characteristics which equate with the opposite gender “That’s my boy!” or “he’s a typical boy…” This can cause insecurity for some and rob the young transgendered person of any hope of high self-esteem. Erik Erikson suggested as long ago as the 1950’s that the games children play are an attempt to synchronise body, social processes and the sense of self, so little boys are bought guns, weapons and tools; girls on the other hand are encouraged into domesticity, childcare and craft. So, for a transgendered mind there can be no synchrony. Without synchrony there can be no high self-esteem and therefore in this context a tendency to observe narcissistic behaviour becomes a viable alternative.

The answer to this conundrum lies in the options now becoming available to transgendered people in that surgery, hormones can in part create a healthy narcissistic regard. Covert narcissism is unhealthy and carries a cost to the individual – a feeling of arrogance, superiority and being hypersensitive. Overt narcissism according to Freudians at least, is about enjoying one’s whole identity is a peaceful state. So why were the columns of my cousin’s transgendered friends filled with so much vitriol even from women who have transitioned?

Acceptation

Perhaps this can be explained by looking at the issues not from the point of view of individuals but of wider society. Here are still problems, since although we have a few brave role models in the form of well-known figures such as the celebrity Caitlyn Jenner; singer Adele Anderson; human rights activist Chelsea Manning and gender re-assignment surgeon Dr Marci Bowers, the wider acceptance of transgender people in society without stigma remains problematic. Narcissism with therefore remain an issue for many transgendered people until, like Albin they can shout without fear of ridicule “Hey world I am what I am!”

About Alexander Burgemeester

12 Responses to ““I am what I am”, Transgender and Narcissism”

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  1. miq3x says:

    >

    Dr Sheldon Solomon suggests that some are confusing high self-esteem with defensive narcissism.

    I heard a sociologist say one time that “there is no such thing as passive aggressiveness — that it’s ALL aggression”. In the same way I don’t see how narcissism can ever be described as self defensiveness unless they are referring to the much larger idea that narcissism stems from their need to find a coping mechanism to deal with intense shame.

    But even then, calling it defensive mode is more similar to the people who claim that a man who beats up on his wife is “defending himself from her words”. As long as you’re harming someone else then you’re attacking. Self defense only mitigates the wrongfulness when they attacked first and… you can’t get away.

    The intense shame which creates narcissism, happens in childhood. Dear Mr Narcissist, you don’t get to beat up people in a town hall meeting just because twenty years ago someone made you feel bad. Learn to deal with past feelings of hurt like a freaking grown-up, the way everybody else does.

    > Like many aspects of narcissism, the origins of this phenomenon are not chosen, but made in early childhood. A child who is praised for being something which they know they have not achieved or perhaps even wanted will develop an insecurity. Insecurity in affection and one’s self is one of the contributing factors in the development of narcissism. So, imagine being a young child who knows that in their head they are female, but they are praised for displaying any characteristics which equate with the opposite gender “That’s my boy!” or “he’s a typical boy…” This can cause insecurity for some and rob the young transgendered person of any hope of high self-esteem.

    Oh please. There is no such thing as brain sex — unless you’d also like to make the argument that there is a “negro brain”. You’ve finally noticed that there exists an extraordinarily high correlation between narcissism and transgender women, so now you’re in spin control mode, still trying to put forth the idea of brain sex without ever once noticing how incredibly sexist and unscientific that actually is.

    I’m human and like most humans, I enjoy a wide variety of activities. Some of those preferences would have been coded masculine a hundred years ago while some of them coded feminine. But just because a boy prefers pink is the not the reason which means he has a “female brain” any more than a white person preferring rap music means that he has a “negro brain”. Sexist and racist stereotypes are still stereotypes no matter how you spin it.

  2. Lynn Massey-Davis says:

    Oh please. There is no such thing as brain sex — unless you’d also like to make the argument that there is a ..

    The article doesn’t claim “brain sex” but is referring to “mind” and feelings. Secondly I suggest you read up on the David Reimer case

  3. Purple says:

    Unfortunately too common. You can’t simultaneously hate women and say they have no right to talk about their body parts and deny them automonomy and insist your non uterus body should have more say in abortion rights and menstruation than us with these organs do and then insist a spot at the table.

    If you’re going to act like a man and deny our right to say v****a and talk over us and about his stupid and gross we are, we don’t have to listen. Dressing like a woman and then acting like a man does not give you insight into any of our struggles or a right to make their agenda more important than ours, simply by denying our right to positive body image.

    Being a ‘cis’ woman does not mean that my life is easy. This world is still misogynistic and unsafe for us, too.

    This opinion did not come easily to me. I have had relationships with these people. And I I’ve been harassed endlessly, insulted and finally stalked by one, and I got kicked out of the womens group because ‘she deserves a chance’ even though she was following me, begging others to get my number after I said no and literally repeating everything I said, word for word during shares

    So, now I can’t have the resources of a woman’s group. This man dressed as a woman got me kicked out because I wouldn’t do as he want and go out with HIM.

    Women don’t usually act this way, it is unfeminine and unbecoming on anyone. I can just imagine thekind of hell he’s putting others through.

    Most trans are fake as f***. They do not want to be women. They want control. It is not alright. They need to get out reproductive organs issues. Their opinions are useless here. And if they think menstruation is gross, they are not women. Period.

    • Missy says:

      Had a close relationship with a Trans person whom I supported in their life struggles,but when it came to me and my struggle with domestic violence and recovering from a terrible attack,to the point I was almost suicidal,this person not only wasn’t there for me,but spread horrible lies about me and actually had some of my so called Allies,block me. I really needed this article,I’ve caught so many lies from said person…and about that last part,yea I had a person who has no uterus tell me their cramps were as bad as mine-one month=WTF. I support people who want to be themselves, but not at the expense of tearing others apart. I am now leary as Hell about “Allies”

      • Blueberry says:

        I too had a relationship with a Trans. It was the most emotionally abusive relationship I ever experienced and though I loved him “her” enough to encourage and support, any thing not focused on him was complete neglect…to say the least. The insults, accusations, blackmail or claims of abandonment were brutal. I pray everyday and I see “she” is on the her path she wants to be but can barley forgive the abuse I endured. I found this article I’m searching for healing by understanding her. Thank you so much.

  4. Purple says:

    V****a is not a bad word.. Is p***s similarly edited? How horribly sexist. We should not be denied the right of our bodies organs. This isn’t sexual.

  5. Jaden says:

    Transgender is a DNA thing and has nothing to do with the psycho and childhood thing!!

    • Jaden says:

      We get discriminated and hate-attacked – we take a lot!!
      How you for yourself protect yourself before close minded peoples who attack you because for who you are?
      We are wounded by haters and other tpeoples or hings. Cptsd/ptsd, traumatic experience, becsause of who we are has a huge impact and effect on our psycho. Yess and it seem like we’re are narcisstic, we are not.
      Google cptsd, ptsd, this disorder seems like to be narcisstic but it isn’t!!
      I know it, because I had 3 narcissist as partners and I am a transgender. This is a huge differents!!

  6. Jaden says:

    Maybe this thing here, what is written here is from a close minded person, a transphobic person, shrugs who knows?!! There exist sooo many of them!!

  7. Summer Wilson says:

    My husband has recently gotten into cross dressing. I searched this article because he is also very narcissistic and has often times demeaned women. He really does not have much interest in my feelings or fears about this. I am very much pro gay rights and believe any people can love each other. I even support polyamory. However, I have never felt comfortable with the transgender thing. I don’t care if someone wants to live as the opposite sex to feel more accepted for having traits more often assigned to the opposite sex, but I also don’t understand why people care so much about what society thinks to the point of using hormones and going through surgery. I guess I’ve just always felt comfortable being me. I’m a woman, but I can cut my hair short or wear whatever I want. I don’t feel the need to buy into any stereotype of what being a woman means. To me, it seems like a man trying to be a woman involves stereo typing what a woman should be. My husband has always pushed me to wear makeup and wear heels when I didn’t want to because that’s what he thinks it means to be a woman. I’m kind of offended that he is now trying to upstage me.

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