from Wikipedia’s entry on Stockholm syndrome:
“In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is an apparently paradoxical psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and have positive feelings towards their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.”
too often as trans people we mistake a lack of abuse, generally a lack of abuse towards one’s own self, for kindness. the problem, of course, is that a lack of abuse is not kindness, even by the most passive-aggressive measure, and that different people are often in fact treated radically differently. just because Person A felt that there was a lack of abuse in their interactions doesn’t mean that Person B felt an identical lack of abuse in a wholly different situation. what then happens is that when Person B raises their concerns about the problematic (doctor, support group, whatever) then Person A defends the (doctor, support group, whatever) through the lens of solely their experiences rather than listening to the merits of Person B’s complaint or considering that Person B is not the same person they are and may be being treated differently because of various characteristics that have little to nothing to do with their worth as a person.
and that sounded way more academic than i really want to, but the problem is that Person A unwittingly has considered dodging the bullet from the oppressive institution as a sign that the institution is not oppressive and thus furthers the oppression in silencing Person B or claiming that they’re “bitter and angry” or some similar dismissive language designed to paint Person B and not the oppressive institution as the problem. well, at least i hope it’s unwittingly, if someone is knowingly defending an oppressive institution then chances are they’ve already made their deal with the proverbial devil. by engaging in silencing Person B unwittingly (or because they’re too scared to challenge the oppressive institution), person A is embodying the idea of Stockholm syndrome, even if it’s a little less dramatic than a bank robbery and gentleman thief who walks around singing “Killing Me Softly.” (yes, that’s actually what one of the Kreditbanken robbers sang. his sentence was overturned on appeal…)
what’s the cause of this? well, i think it’s usually fear. as i mentioned in my post about transfundamentalism, it can be hard to stand up to a zealous support group if they approve of you enough to let you be there, and i can tell you firsthand how hard it is to stand up to a doctor’s bad behavior if that person is your lifeline for getting hormones. fortunately, the one time i did stand up to such a doctor, who summarily told me i wasn’t going to be getting hormones from him anymore, i had the (fantastic, wonderful) Mazzoni Center right across the bridge. the Mazzoni Center is a fine example of an institution that works as hard as it can to not be oppressive and to center the needs of all queer people, not just some queer people. i suspect it’s just the same with the support group structure in places where the support group holds a lot of social power and keeps all their information close to the vest. i have no clue since despite my being decently accepted by the outside world, no support group has ever let me in, so i’m taking a stab at why people are so fearful. i don’t think Person A really intends to be a tool of the oppressive institution, because i think Person A just doesn’t actually see the nature of the oppression or alternately believes that they have to accept that some trans people are disposable because they’ve been told they have to, not because they actually think that.
erica admits her personal investment herein: i confess that i am frustrated because almost all of the local “trans community”, which i would like to participate and be more active in, uses the support group as its hub, and i don’t really see any way that i’m not going to get shouted out of there since i’m, like, 3 for 3 with that happening and at no time did i start the shouting or even raise my voice. i’m sorry, getting called “it” and told how bog-ugly you are by a facilitator is not okay, and i don’t give a shit what the excuse is supposed to be, because there isn’t a valid one. an attempt to open dialogue with the support group in question’s leaders has failed, since i could supposedly “contact them through Facebook”…i was given three names, two of which didn’t come up with any results when searched and one person with a public Facebook profile never answered a message asking if we could talk about how to make the group more inclusive. conveniently, this woman is the one who called me “it” and went on for two minutes about how ugly i am after i asked her politely to stop. hilariously, the only way i can get called “she” is to show up in boy drag…so this institution’s not broken again how? end personal investment.
let’s talk about how all the community can benefit, though, since the rest of y’all are all way more important than i am really, because if we’re whole maybe behaviors like these will go away. we have become conditioned to accept being treated worse because we are trans people, especially trans women, and we need to stop accepting being treated poorly because of what and who we are. we can do better than this and we ARE better than this, but we have to stand up to our potential first. part of that is questioning why othering and exclusionary behavior has been accepted as okay…but the problem here is that the people being kept out and kept silent can’t be the ones to question that because we’re being ignored and we will be ignored by people who cling like a tree sloth to the idea that they have some right to decide who is and is not “trans enough” in the name of keeping the trans community as monolithic as humanly possible rather than recognizing that we come in all shapes, sorts, colors, and sizes. these people who do actively oppress need to hear it from the people they believe will never question them. if your doctor treats trans men but not trans women, ask why. if your support group is not welcoming to all trans people, not just some trans people who may well be the majority of trans people, ask why.
it’s time, my Stockholmies, to rise up, to start asking questions, to start questioning the uncomfortable things, and to quit believing that we should accept “not being abused” as good enough because we’re trans. we deserve fairness, inclusion, and dignity…you deserve better, i deserve better, and we all deserve better.