Out of The Closet

Handling the Critical EYE: Take a Lesson from ALLI
By Heather Lee
Copy 1995 Transgender Forum & Heather Lee

You've labored meticulously, perhaps for hours, may be less, may be more, perfecting your art. You have put all you are, and may be even all you think you will ever be into your work. Having toiled with all your heart and soul, you wait for the acceptance and praise warranted by such efforts, and that produced such "beautiful" results. Such is the life of an artist.

The Hard Reality

Alas, the fairy tale is shattered when reality comes crashing down - not everyone thinks your creation is so beautiful, not so inspiring; in fact, some find it revolting and hideous - and do not hesitate to tell you so, in no uncertain terms.

Anyone who has done anything creative (this includes extensive self adornment) and shared their creative product with someone else, has likely experienced this range of emotions and outcomes. Nothing can be more painful than opening yourself to the world, and having the world reject, ridicule, scorn, or criticize you at that most personal level.

For transgendered people this experience, this range of emotions is very real, especially in the early stages of getting out. So how do you handle the criticism, the snide remarks, the put downs and insults?

How to Handle It

First understand that there is no one "right" way to deal with mean people making snide, nasty, or otherwise critical remarks. While there is no right way, there is a way that can work for you. This article provides some suggestions to help you can find a way that works for you.

As with all things, the circumstances surrounding the situation have to be weighed carefully, and common sense employed. With that in mind, below are some guidelines that may help you deal with those situations when they do occur.

Getting Prepared

The first and best way to handle snide remarks and verbal abuse is to have a strong self image. You need to feel confident in who you are. Do not be ashamed of who you are, be proud, and that will shine through to people. Most people who harass or verbally abuse others are bullies. Bullies like to pick on people they perceive as weak, or helpless. They pick on others because of their own insecurity - your sense of insecurity will draw them
to you like a pack of wolves to wounded prey.

The second way to handle criticism is to be prepared for it, expect it. Many of us have unrealistic expectations about being totally accepted by society. While we all have the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," that does not mean others will be happy and accepting of our rights. Plan on and prepare yourself for gawking looks, snide remarks, and critical comments. If you don't think you can handle it, then don't go out. Like an ALLIgator you have to develop a thick skin. If you're prepared, and it doesn't happen, then all the better.

After a thick skin, the best thing you can do for yourself is to cultivate your sense of humor. You can use your sense of humor in two ways. First, you need to be able to laugh at, and make fun of yourself. Do not take yourself too seriously. The use of self deprecating humor can often diffuse a very tense situation, and make you appear totally confident in who you are; be careful, don't allow that to be an invitation to further abuse.

Another way to use humor is to poke fun at your nemesis. Use extreme caution. You may be playing poker with some one who has a very short fuse . . . no amount of verbal abuse is worth getting hurt over . . . enuf said!

Another approach is to consider the source of the verbal abuse. Most often (I am tempted to write always) this type of verbal abuse comes from the type of person . . . well . . . . whose opinion you wouldn't (and most other people if the truth be known) pay a nickels worth of salt for. If that's the case, why let what
they say bother you - just ignore it, let it pass.

Specific Approaches

Three very specifics techniques that could be used if you find the situation appropriate include:

1. give someone else a chance to step up and defend you
2. ask your abuser to repeat the abusive statement, often they
won't have the courage; and,
3. play along with the abuser, humor them.


The good news in all of this is that society, despite the frustrating set backs, has progressed tremendously, and is becoming more tolerant and accepting of the transgender lifestyle. Regardless, use the tips outlined below to get yourself prepared, and to deal with, those difficult people.

Summary of Tips

1. Project a confident self-image. Insecurity identifies you as a target.

2. Prepare for criticism, don't be surprised by it. Develop a thick skin.

3. Cultivate and use your sense of humor. Don't be afraid to make fun of yourself, or your protagonist ->(careful!).

4. Consider the source of the abuse and act appropriately.

5. Give someone else a chance to step up to your defense.

6. Ask the cowardly abuser to repeat, more loudly, what is probably politically incorrect (and increasingly socially unacceptable) speech. Many won't have the guts to, but be selective.

7. Play along, and humor the abuser. Similar to using self deprecating humor. Twists can be added to ->make the joke on the abuser.

8. Be careful and have fun.

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