The Burden Of Trans Grief: Finding Solace Through Spite

By Anonymous

This is a chapter about trans grief by an anonymous trans woman from TransLash Zine Vol. 6: Anti-Trans Hate Machine (April 2023).

CW: discussions of depression, child abuse, suicide, transphobia, ableism, and misogyny

Ugly by Lee for The Burden of Trans Grief: Finding Solace Through Spite
‘Ugly’ by Lee (s/he, him/her and his/hers)

Grief is a universal experience. As time passes, eventually everyone loses someone they care deeply about, forced to reconcile with the finitude of life. After being disowned by my family, I’ve had a lot of time to think about grief, particularly as it relates to transgender people.

Object of Grief

My trans grief is a reaction to loss, and in that regard, it puzzles me that the mere act of claiming my autonomy causes grief in others.

In the eyes of our family and friends, the prospect of someone they know transitioning can often be the same as them dying. Maybe it is for this reason that our screams, cries, and pleas for help are ignored or met with indifference; our living bodies are put on display in an open but soundproof casket, anything that happens to us after no longer mattering.

Dead bodies decompose, and so it should follow that living trans bodies do as well. To cis society, the mandate of our suffering needs not be stated. Instead, it is assumed to be a natural consequence of our transition, for we have already submitted ourselves to death through the desecration of our sex.

I don’t quite know how best to describe the strange, deeply uncomfortable experience of being alive while simultaneously the object of grief.

I remember with intense clarity the trembling voice of my mother, desperately pleading for me to bring her baby boy back, trying to claw a nonexistent spirit from my body.

Even today, I am still haunted by the disappointed, deadened and distanced expression worn by my father in all of our interactions after coming out.

My parents had never left the denial stage, doing whatever they possibly could to maintain a semblance of control.

At 15, after having come out to friends at school and online, I was forced to detransition and was then institutionalized.

Strict limits were put on my friendships, connections were forcefully severed, and I was made to change schools multiple times. My parents had openly declared that their love was conditional upon my compliance to their rigid expectations.

It’s hard not to contemplate suicide when your autonomy is constrained, being reminded daily of the contempt your creators hold against you.

I had always been loud and outspoken before my subjugation, before being forced to detransition, but with every attempt of self-advocacy thereafter came ever-heavier shackles.

Through the dozens of social workers, school counselors, therapists, the demand that I follow the expectations of my parents was repeated ad nauseam, no matter how unjust.

My naive hope of support progressively dwindled with each encounter, accompanied by the knowledge of the abundance of the ocean. When I thought I couldn’t possibly sink any further, the light from the surface became more and more faint.

When I thought I couldn’t lose anything else, I did.

Over and over and over and over again; with each passing day, my parents became more and more emboldened, encouraged by men and women in suits and lab coats who couldn’t give less of a fuck about my wellbeing, a mentally ill faggot child.

Though the water appeared increasingly boundless, my ability to traverse through it was not.

In some sense, I do think I experienced a death; a death in my emotions as I feared yet more loss and clamored in an act of self-preservation.

During that period of time I lost some of my ability to love, accept love, and form close bonds with other people. The immense dissociation I was forced to utilize to avoid suicide cannot be understated.

It is only recently after two odd years of separation that I have begun to emerge from the haze clouding my every feeling.

I often find myself now referring to my parents in the past tense.

I think that just as much as they view me as having died, maybe I also view them as having passed away on some level.

After I came out, they forgot to be my parents; instead insisting on becoming my savior, releasing me from the gripping hold of the “transgender cult” I unwittingly walked into.

However, it was never me that was in the cult, it was them.

When I became a teenager, we moved from a diverse small town in the southwest to an evangelical rural suburb in the Deep South. Despite my agnostic parent’s conservatism, they didn’t quite fit in with our neighbors. They chose to assimilate into evangelism and become born-again Christians, increasingly motivated by their discomfort with my coming out.

They chose the convenience created by blindly accepting the hate, transphobia, homophobia, and racism of our community, heightening their distaste towards what they viewed as their ever-increasingly immoral son.

My begging them to open their eyes, ears, and heart—to recognize not only my humanity but that of my friends—only inspired further contempt against me, against the evil ghost that they were convinced had stolen their son from them.

To my parents, none of my words could possibly be my own, for I was an easily manipulatable child, incapable of making any decisions for myself.

The only plausible explanation for my desire to transition was that I must have been overtaken by a spirit or social contagion.

Trans Grief: I killed their son and was their son, and thus became the simultaneous object of both their grief and hatred.

My own grief at the loss of my parents was rendered invisible to them through their own grief over my constructed death.

They repeatedly chose to ignore the pain they were inflicting against me and instead constructed their own false narrative of my life.

As their child, I was their property, and any act of self-actualization was to be interpreted as a punishment against them.

As far as they were concerned, not only had I taken their son from them, but I was a threat to their social status; a belligerent challenge to the values imposed on them by their parents, and their parent’s parents, and so on.

My refusal to accept their beliefs and bend to their will meant I was doomed to become the black sheep of our family.

I hope by doing so, I have begun to break the sickening cycle of harrowing dysfunction, senseless hatred, and irrational fear.

Unfortunately, my story is not unique.

Nearly 13.5% of trans youth experience conversion therapy nationwide, with the rate being as high as 25% in states like Wyoming. Among the trans friends I have, parental rejection is the norm, acceptance is the exception to the rule.

Transitioning often means having to pick between constant dissociation and having a family, shelter, and food to eat. I would have become homeless were it not for my queer friends up north.

Even people who are usually otherwise indifferent or even somewhat supportive of trans people frequently become bitter and hateful upon having one of their family members transition.

The burden of grief we bear is often invisible.

We are rarely afforded the luxury of being able to express it, and this is institutional. When we grieve our trans siblings, killed by murder or suicide, or when our rights and autonomy are taken away, our anger and grief are consistently interpreted in the worst way possible.

Sympathetic portrayals of our plight remain scarce in corporate media, with many of these companies seemingly in a competition to see who can kill the most of us.

Much of the mediascape primarily depicts trans adults as rapists and predators, or trans children as the victims of “grooming” by outside forces (often trans adults); nevermind that with each trans adult preceded a trans child.

This grooming narrative serves as the perfect fascist apparatus: if any exposure to transgender people is “grooming,” then lawmakers are justified in censoring textbooks.

If teachers are “grooming” trans children by not ostracizing them, then lawmakers are justified in cutting funds and undermining our educational system.

If trans children are the product of “grooming,” then the term “grooming” loses all purpose and power for child victims of sexual abuse.

These conservatives believe themselves to be free from bias, their opinions informed by only the most objective of evidence. They position themselves in sharp contrast to hystericism, to progressivism, mocking any pro-social positions as utopian.

One of their catchphrases, “facts don’t care about your feelings,” has become something of a meme for them; a masturbatory celebration of their supposed commitment to “hard truth.”

However, those who utter this phrase are, ironically, also subjugated by their own intense feelings towards us, fueled by disgust and fear. They rely on highly emotional, manufactured narratives of our lives that serve to support their bigotry. Every accusation by these politicians and pundits is a confession.

Even worse, while attention is increasingly drawn towards transgender children, many of the states imposing the harshest trans laws are the ones most lenient on child marriages.

If proponents of the groomer narrative genuinely cared about children, they would not continue to allow them to be groomed into marriage with adults. They also wouldn’t ignore the role of institutions in child sex abuse, like the SBC and Catholic church.

The fallacious linking between trans women and sex offenders is a very intentional deflection from the real-world harm they enable. Unfortunately, this baseless fear mongering is as deadly to us as it is financially lucrative to them.

With the media reinforcement of the public’s worst biases against us has come hate crimes, increased stigma and suicidality, further perpetuating the systemic and interpersonal violence that cause us so much of our grief.

Unfortunately, indifference to our humanity, to our feelings, to our grief is the default.

It is imperceivable to our cissexist, ableist society that we could possibly be the bearers of true emotions, for we are supposedly wrapped up in delusions.

We are told that we are delusional about ourselves and our bodies, while being denied the right to tell our own stories. Our words are lies unless proven otherwise. Our lives are detailed in only the most grotesque language, with every aspect of our existence pathologized.

Lifesaving surgeries and treatments are described as mutilation; our transitions framed as acts of self-hate. The idea that transitioning could be an act of self-love is inconceivable, for “transsexuals” are not deserving of love.

Our trans grief, our stories, are ignored; we are much too unreliable narrators.

For trans women, our validity (if any is afforded to us at all) is determined by our fuckability and availability to cis men as sexual objects.

Either we are depraved, dangerous perverts getting off to the idea of being feminized, days away from victimizing a cis woman in a restroom, or a man so effeminate and beautiful that our caricature is just substantial enough to approximate “real” womanhood.

Inherent in our feigned acceptance is misogyny — our beauty becomes the necessary threshold upon which we are accepted into womanhood; our legitimacy based upon our availability for cis hetero men’s consumption (and disposal).

Never mind our feelings, our thoughts, or our love; for our love cannot be anything other than twisted and self-serving, fulfilling a sick fetish.

We are expected to be grateful for any minuscule amount of affection given to us by cis men cheating on their cis wives and girlfriends, for we are not even deserving of that.

I am of the opinion that if we are denied even the most universal of emotions, grief, love, belongingness, maybe we ought to turn to spite.

After several failed suicide attempts, I began to find solace in this feeling.

Spite is often seen as a negative emotion, but I reject this; I believe it has been a powerful motivator for me.

My desire to spite our corrupt society, to spite everyone who has ever made me feel like my existence is wrong and unwelcome, has done much to keep me alive in the moments I felt closest to a coffin.

I knew that if I killed myself, I would be displayed in an open casket, my lifeless corpse assaulted by scissors and suit, incapable of defending itself. It would be more tragic than my death itself, painfully ironic and humiliating.

The same systems and people who would have driven me to such a death in the first place would be the same ones able to construct their own narrative, absolving themselves entirely of blame.

The story of my murder as a trans woman would have been erased.

The blame would inevitably be placed onto my queer and trans siblings for my supposed indoctrination. With that infuriating realization came the ladder of spite, daring me to climb it.

When I felt like nothing mattered, like my life was meaningless (as I had been told so many times both implicitly and explicitly), I had spite.

Spite was there.

Spite and anger over the injustices thrown at me, at my trans siblings, and every other wicked oppression in the world have been a constant, unrelenting force that energizes me, bringing me life and purpose.

As such, I had no other option than to declare that I would make every effort to become the best person I can, claiming my liberation and happiness despite societal pleas that I end my own life and cede my narrative.

Trans joy, trans love, and trans empowerment are a threat to our manufactured traditionalism, to patriarchal power. It is for that reason that society attacks us so aggressively.

If a man can become a woman, a woman can become a man, and men and women can both transcend the gender binary, what does that say about the validity of our social constructs?

What does that mean for the delegation of gender roles and the nuclear family, created to empower cis white men, maximize capital, and create generational wealth for the ruling class?

Inherent to our existence is proof of the fictitious nature of our fragile gender norms.

Within each of us lies a beam of light, not one that we ever asked to wield, but that is inherent in our composition nonetheless.

Through our mere presence alone as trans people, our collective glow shines brightly in the eyes of patriarchy, blinding it and making evident its decrepitness.

We terrify these “traditionalists” because our joy, liberation and empowerment expose cracks in the structure that forms the base and justification of its power.

Transphobia is based just as much in ignorance and hatred as it is in fear; fear of difference, fear of change, and fear of our strength.

I was born in 2002. My generation, Gen Z, was promised a better future.

Six years before my birth, HIV, an illness that had long been ignored by those in power and was responsible for the hundreds of thousands of deaths of queer people, became a manageable condition with access to the right medication.

Under a year after my birth, sodomy laws, which criminalized same-sex intercourse, were made invalid through Lawrence v. Texas. Twelve years later, gay marriage was finally made legal through Obergefell v. Hodges. Two years after that, the World Health Organization declassified “gender incongruence” as a mental illness.

All of this was only made possible from the tireless work of queer and trans people before us.

Unfortunately, only eight years after marriage equality, states nationwide are now passing laws that ban the public existence of trans people.

Queer youth like me are still being subjected to dehumanizing conversion therapy, and as states criminalize transition, victims of the practice are likely to increase.

It would be an understatement to call the rapid erosion of our rights infuriating and cruel. But just as those before us have done, it is now our duty to bear the weight of the mantle. We cannot afford to lay docile and permit the degradation of the hard-earned rights by our queer and trans elders.

If we acknowledge our history, it is evident that if we continue being bold in the face of adversity, we can one day shed the invisible, overbearing grief that seems to cloud our community.

I know it is tempting to give up and end it all.

I have become well acquainted with that temptation; unfortunately; it’s as alluring as it is vain.

That being said, death is an inevitability and rushing it is fruitless.

If we are ever to improve our conditions and achieve true liberation, we must not give credence to the lie that this fight is futile.

Trans people are worth fighting for, as is the next generation of queer and trans people who will come after us. The political pendulum may be swinging further and further to the right, but we can come out triumphant, empowered by righteous spite and anger.


I’m a 20-year-old trans woman from the southern US. My pronouns are she/her. I hope you enjoy this piece on trans grief. If you did, you can find me on medium under the moniker “TransFem Essays” where I will likely be posting more of my non-fiction and faux-academic writing/rants in the future.


Lee is a trans Jewish health liberation advocate with a focus on blending trans liberation and disability justice. During a mental health crisis in the early stages of his/her gender journey, Lee used digital art and creative writing to process trauma, discrimination, and surviving domestic violence as a trans person.

Ugly, originally made in 2010, was about my struggles with severe feelings of dysphoria and dysmorphia while my transition was on hold. After I started transitioning in 2017 those feelings started to go away, but came back with fierce vengeance the more I read TERF propaganda about gender affirming care and trauma.

What I used to see in myself in 2010 was there again: every time I looked in the mirror my mind would twist itself into knots, thinking that the changes from T was me carving my trauma into my flesh and becoming something unloveable. This wasn’t true.

It took several more years but through my partner, embracing the beauty of T4T and retransitioning, I learned to see the beauty in my inner experiences and how testosterone helped me heal.


TransLash Zine Vol. 6, released on April 24, 2023, is a companion to our #AntiTransHateMachine campaign & the launch of Season 2 of our podcast series, The Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality

Day by day, the attacks on trans kids grow louder, and more anti-trans bills keep moving through state legislatures. In this season of the #AntiTransHateMachine, we illuminate how the right wing has fueled these bills by generating a breathtaking and wide-ranging disinformation campaign. Listen to #AntiTransHateMachine S2 on Spotify Podcasts and purchase the print edition of Vol. 6 right here

Since 2019, TransLash Zine has been an independent publication by TransLash Media that supports our mission of telling trans stories to save trans lives. We feature uncensored art, writing, and photography by TGNC people––and we pay contributors. Our first six issues were developed and produced in collaboration with POC Zine Project, and POCZP founder Daniela “Dani” Capistrano continues to support our content and partnerships strategy as editor-in-chief and creative director of TransLash Zine. Learn more:

Did you find this resource helpful? Consider supporting TransLash today with a tax-deductible donation. 

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.



TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.


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We’ve been working behind the scenes to launch a new brand for TransLash—one that honors our roots, reflects our growth, and leaves room for what’s to come. Over the next few months, you’ll notice fresh visuals and content as we bring our “glow up” to life across our digital channels. This summer, we’ll celebrate the culmination of that work: our brand new website! We’re building a new home for the journalism you love and trust, grounded in our deep commitment to the trans community.

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