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The Acceptance Meter: How well are trans persons accepted?

In preparation for a workshop I will be giving in January, I took a survey of transgender persons to quantify how well they have been accepted. The results were sobering, but not entirely surprising.

The reality seems to be that we humans adapt much easier to strangers than to those with whom we have a history. As the saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. Even Jesus experienced this when He tried to minister among his own family and neighbors.

In a recent survey that I took I asked trans persons to rate how well they had been accepted/affirmed by three groups: family, old friends and acquaintances, and new friends and acquaintances. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 was outright rejection and 10 was unconditional acceptance, the results were, well, disappointing. 

Families scored 5.7 (the ratings were spread across the spectrum), Old Friends/Acquaintances were rated at 4.9 and new F/A rated the highest, at 8. This helps explain why so many trans persons have found it easier to relocate and start life in a new place, where their history as the other gender does not get in the way.

What is not obvious from these averages is how many respondents were outright rejected by families and old friends, while almost zero outright rejections among new friends.   

Knowing this does not make it less painful and it also helps explain why a deep sense of loneliness is so pervasive among trans persons I have come to know. No matter what, we are all wired for emotional attachment, especially with our families. How tragic that it is those we are closest to who have the hardest time accepting and affirming, it seems counter intuitive, doesn't it?

This was a small survey with only 22 respondents; ten responded via a Facebook Survey and the rest were persons I emailed. In many ways, I expected results like these based on my gut feelings from the many conversations I have had and stories I have heard from other transgender persons. I did not ask any more than for them to rate how these three groups have either rejected or accepted them after they came out as transgender. I could have asked more questions, such as whether they were pre or post-op, their age, profession, whether they lived in a small or large city/town. etc., but i did not for expediency as well as privacy concerns. Nor did I ask for comments. All I wanted to do was to somehow quantify my own suspicions, if possible I'm planning a more comprehensive version of this because my sense is that younger transgender persons are finding more acceptance from their families and friends today. The survey also needs to reflect what the marital status of the person was when they came out and or transitioned. It does get more complicated when one is married and has children.

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