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Internalised Oppresion, Transphobia and Internalised Transphobia

I posted this originally in a heated thread on the subject that I myself started on a forum for Crossdressers (with a Transsexual community present there I should note) where a great proportion are married and many do not come out till after marriage and was asked to cross-post it outside that forum. The article I quote at length is of course a great resource regarding all sorts of Internalised Oppressions.

And as i see it rarely used elsewhere I'll mention SO in my text refers to Significant Other. 


This post is huge. But it includes important information pertinant to all discussed thus far and should answer many questions. On top of that it has what may well be important help and advice for those wondering how this can be addressed so I think it's length quite justifiable.

This from,%20Michelene/mason.pdf on Internalised Oppression in Disabled Children is I think a really good way to help us understand what it is and how it works.


“Internalized oppression is not the cause of our
mistreatment, it is the result of our mistreatment. It
would not exist without the real external oppression that
forms the social climate in which we exist.
Once oppression has been internalized, little force is
needed to keep us submissive. We harbour inside
ourselves the pain and the memories, the fears and the
confusions, the negative self-images and the low
expectations, turning them into weapons with which to
re-injure ourselves, every day of our lives”

Now as this next article goes into important details especially on how to overcome internalised oppression I'll quote large portions of this with comments about how I think it applies to our community and issues


Some research results to think about:

A recent study found that African-American students who were asked to identify themselves by race when taking a standardized test consistently scored lower than other black students who were not asked to specify their race.

Theres the proof that Internalised opression does indeed have substantial unconcious effects. There's more examples in both links.


There are two ways that internalized oppression functions:

1. Internalized oppression operates on an individual basis. A person believes that the stereotypes and misinformation that she hears are true about herself. She holds herself back from living life to her full potential or she acts in ways that reinforce the stereotypes and are ultimately self-defeating.

2. Internalized oppression occurs among members of the same cultural group. People in the same group believe (often unconsciously) the misinformation and stereotypes that society communicates about other members of their group. People turn the oppression on one another, instead of addressing larger problems in society. The results are that people treat one another in ways that are less than fully respectful. Often people from the same cultural group hurt, undermine, criticize, mistrust, fight with, or isolate themselves from one another.


It is important to note that internalized oppression is not the fault of people whom it affects. No one should be blamed or blame themselves for having been affected by discrimination. Nevertheless, as community members, we have to face these barriers in order to achieve our goals.

Now as hiding being a CD is caused by Transphobia, either internalised or from fear of others Transphobia, this has a great impact on the hiding of CDing from family especially spouses.


While the stereotypes that people internalize are imposed by society, we all, whether we are members of the favored majority or the oppressed or unfairly treated minority, have a personal responsibility to confront those stereotypes. As members of the majority, we need to help and support those in the minority to see that their personal worth has nothing to do with society’s current or past prejudice. And as members of the minority, we have a responsibility to listen to those among us who challenge the majority view, and to analyze and challenge it ourselves. We may need support and guidance in doing so – that’s what Paulo Freire provided to those he worked with, and what he wrote about.

In our case it'd mean an SO would have a responsibility to overcome their Transphobia and their CDing spouses, while the CD has a responsibility to help overcome their own and their SO's. Not an easy or swift process.

This bit follows on from a long list of examples of the results of internalised oppression left out for brevity


As you can see, internalized oppression can have serious consequences for communities. It holds people back from thinking well of themselves, from living full lives, and from standing up against injustice. It can be the source of physical or mental illness and self-destructive behavior. Internalized oppression can serve to divide people within the same group, so they are not as effective in supporting each other and standing together for change. It can also cause people to be suspicious of those outside their own group, making it difficult to build alliances.


How do you help people heal from and overcome internalized oppression?

There are several different ways that people can work together to overcome internalized oppression. Here are some steps you can take. They are first listed, and then elaborated upon one at a time.

1. Become a close friend, ally, or mentor to individuals who are struggling with internalized oppression.

2. Take pride in and celebrate culture. Learn about and celebrate your own culture, and learn about others as well. Placing your own culture in a world context can help you understand its development and value.

3. Meet in groups with people from similar backgrounds, to heal from the emotional hurts of internalized oppression.

4. Take action against injustice and oppression. Taking positive action on your own behalf is the most powerful cure for internalized, as well as external, discrimination and oppression.

5. When you notice internalized oppression operating in groups, point it out, and help the group change direction.

6. Protect young people from the effects of oppression.


1. Become a close friend, ally, or mentor to individuals who are struggling with internalized oppression.

Friendship and caring are two of the strongest weapons we have in combating internalized oppression. All the oppressions have one message in common – that certain people are not valuable. Friendship provides a strong and effective contradiction to that message. What we communicate in our relationships and commitment to one another is more powerful than the message of oppression.

We care about our friends, family members, co-workers, or other community members. It is painful to watch them treating themselves badly or failing to live up to their capabilities. We can help our friends out when we see them acting self-destructively or being passive about conditions that negatively affect them.

For example, if you befriend a young person and make a commitment to spend time with her regularly in activities that she enjoys, you can make a big difference in how that person is able to handle the injustices that she faces growing up in a tough society. If any person knows that just one person is one her side, she can manage to believe in herself, even when everyone and everything else is telling her she’s not OK.

Now this one is difficult for our community as those closest to us, SO's will be faced with their own Transphobia when dealling with us, and in many cases will in fact be reinforcing the internalised transphobia of CDs rather than countering it!

This is one of many that a CD can still do within the closet by in public acting like a cis-person should, by befreinding and supporting those local TG people who are out.


2. Take pride in and celebrate your culture.

Being a member of cultural group can be a source of strength. Our cultures often give us our values, our sense of ourselves in history, our humor, our identities, and our world views. We depend on our cultures to provide us with a community, a reference point, a home, and a place to get our bearings and remember what is important to us.

Even the discrimination that people have experienced and endured as members of cultural groups gives them strengths. People learn to survive, stand up for themselves, be resourceful, have a sense of humor, and bounce back. People develop a sense of what long-term commitment is all about.

Taking pride in our cultures and celebrating them is essential in combating internalized oppression, because it gives us a more accurate view of our cultures than the one communicated in the media or by the society at large.

What are some ways of taking pride in our cultures?

•Reading and learning more about their cultures helps people gain perspective on how hard their ancestors fought for themselves, often in the face of great odds. Organizing a study group or book club for this purpose can be especially helpful in building community around cultural pride.

•Holding cultural celebrations and practicing rituals gives people a sense of hope, joy, pride, and meaning. It helps to remind people of what their cultures stand for, how rich they are, and what they've accomplished. Cultural arts celebrations can buoy people’s spirits and remind them of their strength, goodness, and creativity.

Note: Inviting people from other cultures to these events can also be useful at times. When people from the outside understand your culture, it is an important first step in developing a group of active allies who are willing to go to stand up for your group

Transgender is extremely rich in culture, as it has existed in all countries through all time, sometimes taboo and hated but often sacred or celebrated. In our case learning about TG culture from around the world is a rich opportunity for better understanding more of history, other cultures and other peoples as well as our own.


3. Meet in groups with people from similar backgrounds, to heal from the emotional hurts of internalized oppression.

Re-valuation Counseling has developed a model in which people of similar backgrounds meet in groups to heal from internalized oppression. In these groups people encourage each other to remember that they are good, worthy, capable, intelligent, beautiful, etc. and that others in their culture are good as well. In these groups, people take turns talking about how their cultural oppression has personally affected them while others listen.

One of the most helpful results of meeting in groups of people with similar backgrounds is that people understand that they are not alone in their experiences of oppression or in the way they feel bad about themselves. Sharing, for example, the experience of growing up around racism, anti-Semitism, or classism, helps people understand they have feelings common to others in their group. This removes the illusion that the experience is somehow inherently their problem alone – and that they are the only source of their own difficulties, rather than problems in the society at large.

Here is the format for a healing from internalized oppression group: (For more information about setting up groups to heal from internalized oppression, see Re-evaluation Counseling in the Organizations listing under “Resources” at the end of this section.)

•Meet in groups of 6-10 people at a regular meeting time.

•It is best to have an agreement of confidentiality.

•Each group should have one main leader, but everyone should see themselves as responsible for making the group go well.

•To start, each person has a turn to talk about what they appreciate about their culture/group and something that is has gone well in their lives since the group last met.

•Each person has a turn each meeting to think/talk/feel while the group pays attention to them. No one interrupts the person during this time. During this turn, the person has a turn to talk about their experiences as a member of this group. It can be helpful to talk about early memories of being targeted or oppressed.

•People may experience emotional feelings as they talk about these experiences. Feeling emotions is part of the healing process. Laughing, crying, trembling all help people heal from the hurts of oppression and reclaim their pride, humanity, and power.

•When these groups meet over an extended period of time people build more safety to talk about important issues.


Support groups can be very helpful, but only if members ultimately turn from discussion of how they were victimized to real support for taking control of their lives and developing strategies for doing so. Good support groups can be tremendously helpful; ineffective ones can be nothing but opportunities to share bad experiences and slide deeper into helplessness. A good leader or facilitator can make all the difference. See Chapter 21, Section 2: Creating and Facilitating Peer Support Groups.

Now this is sort-of the way this forum operates, however large less structured and less directed forums like this can also end up with us reinforcing one anothers internalised oppression too as we may blame each other for the results of our victimisation, be hostile towards other sub-groups, argue in favour of the oppression and oppose attempts such as those listed here to combat and overcome it from a view that the Transphobia is correct and need to be protected.


4. Take action against injustice and oppression.

When people take a stand against injustice and oppression it can be a strong antidote to internalized oppression. Taking charge of an unjust situation and setting it right goes miles in healing people from the oppression and injustice they have endured over time.

In the book The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It: The Memoir of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson (see Resources), Ms. Robinson talks about the sense of pride that she and others felt when determined and committed Blacks joined together for the bus boycott.


Before Monday was half gone, Negroes had made history. Never before had they united in such a manner. There was open respect and admiration in the eyes of many whites who had looked on before, dubious and amused. Even clerks in dime stores, all white, were more cordial. They were heard to add, after a purchase by a black customer, “Y'all come back and see us,” which was a very unusual occurrence. The black customers held their heads higher. They felt reborn, important for the first time. A greater degree of race pride was exhibited. Many were themselves surprised at the response of the masses, and could not explain, if they had wanted to, what had changed them overnight into fearless, courageous, proud people, standing together for human dignity, civil rights, and, yes, self-respect! There was a stick-togetherness that drew them like a magnet. They showed a genuine fondness for one another. They were really free–free inside! They felt it! Acted It! Manifested it in their entire beings! They took great pride in being black.

This is a very rare action in our community at present. One often actively oppossed by members of the community. Yet other peoples with similar experiences (Various Races, Women, Gays etc) have found it extremely effective at both healing Internalised Oppression and reducing External Oppression too.

The following is about groups, but may still be very helpful


5. When you notice internalized oppression operating in groups, point it out, and help the group change direction.

In some organizations people tend to criticize each other, get into fights, lack discipline, and undermine or attack leadership. These problems have a range of causes. Oftentimes, the cause is, to some extent, due to internalized oppression. This is especially true if all or most of members of the group or organization are from a similar cultural background. Unfortunately, the more harshly a group has been treated, the more these dynamics operate. Again, this is not the fault of the group that has been targeted. Nevertheless, in order to make a group successful, this dynamic should be recognized and turned around.

How can you tell when internalized oppression is the source of the a difficulty a group? Although there is no sure formula, you can look for some clues that might help you make an educated guess. Some questions that might provide clues:

•Are people acting towards each other in ways similar to how the larger society mistreats them? For example, if the particular group is stereotyped for not being intelligent, do people act towards each other as if they were less than intelligent?
•Do these problems exist throughout the organization? If the problem shows itself in many different settings, it may be more likely that it is internalized oppression that is the main difficulty, rather than a few individuals’ problems.


Be careful here. Systematic problems in the organization may signal internalized dsicrimination or oppression, or they may be indications of problems with leadership, structure, or the character of the organization itself. Many organizations that don’t involve people who’ve been discrimianted against have systemic problems. It only makes sense that many that do involve marginalized groups also do. Only if the problems seem to mirror the treatment of the group in question by the larger society should you consider that they may stem from that treatment.

•Do individuals in the organization struggle with self-esteem, have difficulties in taking care of themselves, or treating themselves well in other ways?

Even if you don't know for sure if internalized oppression is the main problem, it may at least part of the difficulty. In any case, many of the following recommendations will help any group that suffers from continual arguing, criticizing, undermining, or other related problems.

What can you do when you notice or suspect internalized oppression going on in a group?

•Visibly model how to treat others with respect, and set a good tone. For example, if everyone is criticizing the leader, you can point out his good qualities and accomplishments. If you lead the way in doing this, people will notice. One person can often steer the whole group by stepping outside a negative pattern.

•Take some time in a meeting for people to appreciate each other and notice what the group has accomplished. When people feel discouraged about their progress, they are more prone to treat each other badly.

•Point out the difficulty without blaming anyone: You can say something like, “Let's take a step back and look at how this meeting is going. Do you think if we all made an agreement to not interrupt or criticize each other, we could accomplish more?

•Explain to people about what internalized oppression is, and how you see that it operates in your organization. Explain, as you see it, how people are hurting each other; and point out the similarity to how society hurts the group as a whole.

•If the problem occurs in a meeting, have people break into pairs in which each person gets a turn to vent their feelings while the other person listens. Then have people come back to the business of the meeting.

•Take a stand and be firm. Whenever group members are putting each other down or acting in a way that has negative consequences, you can take a principled stand against what is occurring. Your stand will set a tone that others may be inclined to follow.

•Welcome new members into your group. Often groups with similar backgrounds become cliquish. They can tend to exclude new people much in the same way that their group has been excluded by the larger society. Establish a policy to welcome new members and get them into the center of the organization quickly.


Ground rules can be helpful here as well. The kinds of ground rules that are mentioned above for support groups – no interrupting, listening carefully, disagreeing with ideas rather than people, etc. – can set a tone of respect and acceptance that in itself can do a great deal to change people’s views of themselves and others.

I note many peoples reported experiences here about local support groups mention problems like cliques etc so this could be very helpful stuff for some.


6. Protect young people from the effects of oppression.

Internalized oppression makes its biggest impression on children, because they don't have any context for understanding the injustices of society. It is easy to personalize the negative messages that are coming at you if you don't have a framework for understanding oppression.

There are a few ways to help young people understand oppression and protect them from its effects. First, it helps to explain to children about how and why oppression works so they have a framework for understanding it. This can help a young person make sense of the mistreatment they experience or witness, rather than blaming themselves or others in their own group for it. For example, if you give African-American children a history of slavery in the U.S., they will be able to make more sense of why racism operates today.

Teach young people to be proud of who they are and of their background and culture. Equally important, teach them the value of setting and working toward goals, and of not getting discouraged when things don’t go their way. People who’ve internalized discrimination or oppression may quit when faced with difficult circumstances, seeing themselves as incapable of overcoming setbacks. If children grow up with self-respect and with the understanding that occasional setbacks are a normal part of life, to be overcome by planning and hard work, they’ll keep moving forward in both good times and bad.

We can also set up environments for our children in which they and their cultures are cherished. For example, we can make schools become multicultural institutions. Teachers and administrators should understand the importance of integrating the histories and cultures of many groups into the curriculum. School staff should understand how to treat children equitably and have high expectations of every student.

TG youth are gaining more media attention lately such as the Barbera Walters special, and there have been conflicts over schools supporting them. Theres even childrens books starting to appear about crossdressing, like the book 10,000 Dresses published recently. Meanwhile some like DR Zucker are in fact deliberately instilling deeply Reinforced Internalised Oppression into them as 'treatment'. The recent study on bullying of TG kids makes sobering reading too and the suicide-rate is heartbreaking.

As a community I think we are seriously failing our youth while relying on the headway they are making on their own to solve our problems for us.



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