Guest Blogger

Stuck in Loneliness

Filed By Guest Blogger | April 22, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: LGBT, loneliness, mental health, psychology, rejection, sadness, trans, transgender

Editors' note: Monica F. Helms is the president of the Transgender Americans Veterans Association.

We all know that loneliness does not limit itself to LGB or T people. This feeling probably strikes 100% of the human population at one time of another, many living in perpetual loneliness for most of their lives. A person can feel lonely because they have no one special in their life who loves them. Others can be lonely in a crowd of people who do love them. A majority of people don't choose to be lonely, yet some do. But loneliness does choose us.

Even though the feeling of loneliness does not differ between LGBT people and straight people, the causes can be different. If we can believe the figures for the number of LGBT people in the population, between 5% and 10%, then that means that there would be far less LGBT people in the world to find your special someone from. Of course, bisexual people have more numbers to choose from, as do straight transgender people. If an LGBT person lives in a rural area, their chances become zero in many cases. But numbers alone don't keep people from being lonely.

Loneliness in the lesbian community is such a large issue that it generated a joke. When two lesbians fall in love, one quickly rents a U-Haul so they can move in together. It might seem funny if it didn't have its basis in reality. For gay men, you'll find dozens of cruising bars in large cities to accommodate their need to cure loneliness, even if it's for just one night. Everyone tries cope the best they can, but loneliness keeps its own time.

I find the Religious Right obsession with gay people having sex as such a far-fetched and ridiculous notion. I imagine that these people are so sexually repressed and lonely that they can't stand it when someone else enjoys themselves more than they do. But the truth of the matter happens to be far different in reality, otherwise the term "bed death" would not have been invented. Bed death happens to couples who have been together for a long time but have long since stopped having sex together. I can tell you from my experience as a straight married man, it happens to straight people as much as LGBT people.

In the LGBT community, loneliness causes a higher incidence of smoking and drinking, since the "cure" for loneliness can be found in a bar, or so they think. When a person needs to suppress their loneliness for one night, they could have unprotected sex as the result, which will lead to many other problems. Some have even taken their own lives because of loneliness. I guess with unprotected sex and suicide, we can easily say that loneliness kills.

I want to focus on what causes trans people to become stuck in loneliness. What I have seen and want to address has happened to some trans people, but not all of them. Some have a multitude of reasons to feel lonely. The biggest would be the stigma from society that we are somehow not "real" men or women.

Some straight women and some gay men may not want to date a trans man because he doesn't have a penis, or at least not a functional one. Some straight men and some lesbians would not want to date a pre-op MtF because they still have a penis. And then there are some straight men and lesbians who won't date any transsexual woman, regardless of surgical status, because they still consider them men. The existence of a penis at birth is all that matters to them and the rest of that person's life or personality doesn't. One easily sees that when it comes to romance, many trans people can find themselves facing loneliness.

Loneliness comes in other forms for trans people. Being rejected by family members can be devastating to many trans people, but gay, lesbian and bisexual people can also face this very same loneliness. I experienced it myself. It took seven and half years to become accepted by all of my family members, but my father had to die before that happened. Yet, I'm one of the lucky ones.

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I have observed that many who identify as transgender seem to have little to do with those they claim to identify with. For example, many transgender people who identify as women have little social contact with women. Likewise, most male identified transgender people have little to do with men.

And, of course, they are going to encouter serious problems if they try to associate with members of their birth sex.

Of course, that is not true for those who might be termed "true or classic transsexuals." They often interact with society as their true selves far better than they did in their birth sex.

This all seems to miss, or perhaps avoid, a very simple point...once one has had surgery, then unless one makes an issue of having been born with a penis, it does not enter the equation.

CailleanMcM | April 22, 2009 11:58 PM

The sweeping generalizations in your post are simply astounding. If they are indeed your personal observations rather than a theoretical treatise on the superiority of the lives of post-operative women, then I suggest that you raise your eyes a bit and take in the wider panorama.

And, for my own edification, excactly what consitutes a "true" or "classic" transsexual? I am a psychiatrist and am familiar with the DSM-IVTR's working diagnostics on GID and I simply do not recall those terms. The DSM-IVTR is the current standard for use; anything else is considered to be antiquated and inaccurate, at least in my field.

Loneliness is the biggest "demon" I have been fighting all my life, especially after I started living f/t as Jenny in mid-2007. I fight this every day, and my only saving grace is having a few close friends (and my VBFF) I can count on to be there. My parents and my kids are supportive but I haven't spoken to my only sister since Christmas 2007.

Dating is non-existant for me. Even though I had my GCS in November last year, at times I feel like a 'freak' and wonder who in the hell would ever want someone like me. I am told I need to 'put myself out there' and when I do go out, I am well accepted, BUT... I've tried a few of the online service and gotten exactly ZERO results. That's encouraging - not.

Several of my trans friends have gotten engaged this year, which gives me hope, yet depresses me at the same time. If they can do it, I should be able to as well, but I just don't see it happening for me. Ever.

Somehow I am going to deal with this constant companion we call loneliness. Maybe someday it will go away, but I am not holding my breath. Thank goodness for my friends; I really don't know what I would do without them. Actually I do, but I do NOT want to ever go there again. The last time was too way close for comfort.


Thank you for sharing this. I wrote this for people like you and I, because it could give people a chance to open up. People need to understand that loneliness is blind to race, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, color, age, height, weight and everything else. You cannot remove it with a scalpel, and those who think that way are sadly mistaken.

But, I have to commend you. By opening up here, you are far ahead of those who wish to hold it in. Loneliness may not leave us soon, but we will still enjoy life. I hope to meet you one of these days.

Miss Anonomous | March 8, 2010 9:53 PM

Put an dating ad on Plenty of Run a photo. You will get some responses. Don't put that you're a tranny. As for loneliness, get involved in LGBT activism. There is alot to do, and quality people that will support you. I've been there, and there are options. Take it from someone that has been at this since 1972.

Monica thank you for writing this.
I too am a transgender woman that has suffered loneliness.

Here is how I feel it relates to being trans. It's about being different. About being different in a world that doesn't know what to do with you. Friends and family are there for you for some things in life but other times they just don't get it and so the support you need is not there. I imagine this is true for all sorts of people who are different than the norm in a way that makes society uncomfortable. You become guarded in life about certain things because you know -- or think you know -- that the support you are looking for isn't going to be there. Then because you're not being open, it's harder to make close friendships.

That being said, loneliness comes and goes for me. This month I haven't felt lonely. I'm sure loneliness will come back though. I am lucky to have a partner that loves me and some good friends.

Rejection is hard. Serial rejection is harder. But, for me, the most damaging has been the rejection of my identity.

After working with a group of women for some time - including a lot of volunteering - a new policy explicitly rejecting people like me because we were not "womyn-born wimmin" was very painful. Likewise was being removed from a bowling league and from the "women" area of a computer bulletin board (although they generously offered the "men" area to me". These women who had been my friends now refused to even acknowledge who I was.

Another dimension is neediness. For those who have few candidates for mentors, friends or lovers, people who fit one role can be seen as candidates for other roles. Of course, few people want to be mentor, friend and lover, and that need can be intimidating.

I know I have been needy enough to scare people off, which led to lower self esteem and greater loneliness.

Isolation is not healthy, and we often do not have the tools to break out of isolation without the help of someone else. But to whom do the lonely turn?

ROTFL! Oh, I am certainly not suggesting that SRS can cure being lonely, though it certainly can help. I mean, dating while "pre-op" can be a challenge. You either have to avoid getting too intimate, risk possible physical harm, or date someone who is into "girls with something extra." Now, if you don't really identify as a woman, that may not be that big of an issue.

And for those for whom surgery is truly the right choice, once it is done, one generally has a much better self-image. On the other hand, if one is not a proper candidate...the effect will be the opposite.

No, if you are truly lonely before SRS, i.e. you don't socialize as a woman (or a man for that matter) then yes, you may well be lonely afterwards.

But then again, if you are really that lonely, maybe you need to look at your life and try to decide what might need to change. For some, that change is to transition and have surgery. For others, it might well be to really consider if one is one the right path. (Yes, yes...I know that is heresy, and one should never suggest that transition is not the right choice, but for many, it is not.) The simple fact is, if one is lonely, the reason is often that one is miserable. Remove the reason for being miserable, and you may well find you are not so lonely.

Thanks for sending this in for us to post, Monica.

I agree - LGBT people face extra trials in the loneliness arena. Even those of us with lots of friends, if we aren't out or living our lives as we should, can be surrounded by people and yet have part of ourselves feel lonely. I think being in that state, often for years or decades, can make some people recoil from the world as they practice loneliness.

You are absolutely right. People can indeed live a life where they can recoil from the world. For some people, loneliness becomes a way of life. I honestly feel it has to do with as much with luck as it does with life situations. You can't build or buy loneliness out of your life.

Nerissa Belcher | April 23, 2009 1:29 AM

I've read in several self-help references that if we have a problem we should ask "how" and not "why." As in "how can I eliminate my loneliness?" rather than "why am I so lonely?".

Each person can answer their "how" question for best results. Some answers I've found useful include the following:

1. Stop making such a BIG deal of gender/sexual orientation and focus on issues of interest to people I'm with.

2. Have lots of fun. Ideally in public in a variety of non-LGBT venues.

3. Stop with most activism. Activists are, IMO, nearly the worst possible people to try to befriend. They are prone to be miserable and to have little to no interest in anything but their cause. They also live for the camera/media exposure and are nearly impossible to do anything enjoyable with in private since their personality shuts off once away from the public eye.

4. Eliminate the word, indeed the very concept, of being a victim, from self-definition. Victims are the loneliest people due to being insufferable to be around.

At risk of being politically incorrect I'll also mention that the MTF folks who decide to transition to slovenly looking and acting women their odds of staying lonely are good. Keeping a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, having good hygiene & grooming, developing a great personality and dressing well are better choices. In particular one might wish to wonder if they are using their alternative lifestyle to justify being lazy.

Nerissa, that is all very good advice. I doubt many will object, or at the very least, ignore it. But hey, it is good advice, and it basically works.

It's a funny thing, but somewhere along the way, the simple concept that the whole purpose of transition is to improve someone's life has been lost.

Well, first off, I find it interesting that you respond to this message, but ignore my later one where I elaborate on what I was saying. Second, I make no " sweeping generalizations" about post-op women. It is a simple fact, for many, perhaps most who are post-op a sexual partner is not going to know unless they are told.

As to "true transsexuals"...well, a good place to start would be Harry Benjamin's use of that term. "True transsexuals feel that they belong to the other sex, they want to be and function as members of the opposite sex, not only to appear as such. For them, their sex organs, the primary (testes) as well as the secondary (penis and others) are disgusting deformities that must be changed by the surgeon’s knife. This attitude appears to be the chief differential diagnostic point between the two syndromes (sets of symptoms) - that is, those of transvestism and transsexualism."

Of course, the DSM-IVTR does not define transsexuals at all. It talks about a condition it refers to as "gender identity disorder." And it certainly does not contain the sum of all that is known about transsexualism.

No, surgery is not a panacea for all. For those for whom it is necessary, the true transsexuals that Benjamin speaks of, it does great good. For others, who frankly would have never passed muster in Benjamin's day, it is can be a horrible mistake.

So, based on what you are saying...all one has to do is read the DSM-IVTR and poof, they are as qualified to diagnose as you are. No other information is needed, as it is all "antiquated and inaccurate." And to think...all those poor fools are wasting four years of pre-med, four years of medical school, a year as an intern, and then, if I recall correctly, four years of residency, when they could have just read one book. Granted, it is a big book, and I suppose it might take a while to read, but think of the money you could save on tuition...

Sorry, but that is pretty much what you are implying there...and I think we both know better. You might think the DSM-IVTR is all you need, but I know lots of professionals who would disagree.

CailleanMcM CailleanMcM | April 23, 2009 9:45 AM

DSM-IVTR defines Gender Identity Disorder.
And until a decade or so ago, physicians were not even supposed to provide hormones to patients til they had done a substantial amount of time in the Real Life Test. Under these rules, the RLT was a joke since it did not truly measure how someone functioned as a woman.

Your point on wasting time:
What was taught til recently in medical school about transsxuality and gender identity issues would not fill one half of a side of foolscrap.

Education of psychiatric residents on gender issues was not much better and in many cases, even worse.

But this threat is about loneliness. Monica Helms put part of herself out, self revealed and you used it to push a position that neither psychiatry nor general medicine support.

Benjamin's criteria is dated and obsolete; he remains a giant but his word in no more the last word on this subject any more than Freud's word is the last word on psychosis.

Monica Helms was incredibly gracious and in a very real sense brave to lay fears and frailties out on the line. People, trans-people and all people, have varying social style, Suzanne. Some women that I know prefer the company and friendship of men. Some prefer the friendship of and the company of other women.

Some trans-peple can manage stealth. Others, for varying reasons including a paper trail easily dicoverable on the Internet, cannot.

Ther is prejudice in society, and prejudice in the LGB community, and, very sadly, prejudice and an elitist disdain even within the trans-community.

It is this prejudice, elitism, and fear of "the Other" and fear of being linked with "the Other" that powers much of the loneliness to be found amongst us.

Many LGB's fear "the Other"
You, sadly, who are indeed one of "the Other" fear being linked with the Other; loss of priviledge might ensue, and with it, loneliness.

A great post. Timely, well written, and courageous.


Caillean, let it go. There is an on-line battle between disparate parts o the trans community.

Or, more accurately, an on-line battle between the "trans-community" and others who do not consider themselves to be part of that community. Not everyone identifies as "trans."

The subject was Loneliness. This has to do with loneliness . . . how . . . ?

I get the impression you and your sisters are lonely. Why else would you constantly come to an LGBTQ blog when you keep saying you hate LGBTQ people? Loneliness affects people in different ways. If you want to talk about it, you have my E-mail address. Suzy Cooke, the founder of your movement a few decades ago, and I became friends. I have a lot of respect for her. You're not afraid, are you? I'm not.

By the way, I will not respond to any more of your comments here. You wish to have a dialogue, then take it off line. The subject here, on this posting, is loneliness. Try to keep that in mind.

ROTFL! Sorry, I responded to something someone said. I'm sorry if my statement offends you. I would say it has as much to do with loneliness as anything else in that particular thread.

Sorry, but I will decline your offer to correspond offline. I prefer my privacy.

And again, you make assumptions. But why would anyone come here? Why to present a particular point of view. One, I grant, that is, at times, contrary to that of others.

As to responses, that is up to you. It makes no difference to me.

Well, I know the RLT for hormones was gone 20 years ago, at least effectively. I think the SOC still provides RLT as an alternative to therapy, and of course, Clarke still requires it. Granted, I am not sure what that has to do with anything...

And yes, transsexualism was not a major concern. Granted, it was also relatively rare. But, truth be told, true transsexuals are still relatively rare.

And yes, some cannot seem to manage "stealth." I do hope you are not, however, making the classic error of claiming that the sole, or even the primary reason for maintaining one's privacy is fear. For most who choose to do so the reason is more a matter of simply being done with something they do not wish to continue dealing with.

Lonely in transville? ... well .. get out of transville then!

What did you expect from the gay community?!

Here's a tip for you, you are working backwards.

Guys, that is gay men, are not interested in transpersons as a mate or even a close friend.

Gals, that is lesbians, do a little better but even they are looked down upon by other lesbians if they date a trans woman.

That is why so many of us end up dating each other. It makes sense, heck it even works out well since we are such a unique class we know each other very well. We call ourselves lesbians, yet others that may be in the know, see it as being male-male, albeit male-male that present as female-female.

What a whacky combo, yet it works for many. For others, nothing works because they are ...

....stuck in the LGBT.

And that is the real core of the issue. You may find a friend or two but for the most part your LGBT association will put you in a fringe element of a group that really pay lip service and try to treat them with respect, but really don't want you in their group.

Problem with that is that you have also now alienated yourself from mainstream also, so in reality you have nowhere else to go, do you!

If you're lonely it's because of the friends you keep. Yes, sounds contradictory doesn't it, but think about it for a bit and you might see past the false identity you have as a transperson trying to be faithful to the LGB and worse .. the T.

We all have trans friends, some of us have gay friends, and many of us have all sorts of friends, but if you have no friends at all then it's probably because you are fishing in the wrong pond.

Transsexual women do not, and never have, belonged in the GLB. We think we do because when we transition, thats where many of us first start out. Unfortunatly its where many of us never get past either. We fear that others don't want us, will harm us, dissrespect us, and alienate us, so we stay like a group of fish in a lagoon that is getting dryer by the day.

There is your loneliness, and you cause it yourself, through your own fear, or by choosing to transition without considering the consequences.

You're not stuck in loneliness...
or stuck in transition...
or stuck in binary...

You're stuck in the LGBT ...

and until you face down that monster you are stuck faster than a fly to flypaper.

Okay. That's a really great place to be stuck in. LGBT forever!

:::::dancing with Monica, singing "Stuck in the LGBT with you":::::

May you never be lonely, Monica, for you, my dear have that most precious of commodoties. You have friends...

Monica, can you take Cai under your wing a bit? She is entirely new to virigin, if you will.

I've really too little understanding of the ins and outs of trans-blogging and issues to be of use to her and have put my foot into it far too many times. I'll ask her if she would mine me sending her address to you.

Well, to each their own...but I think I will just graciously decline.

Hi Leigh. That was an excellent post.

Like you say, one can have lots of friends, if one just actually gets on with one's life.

I understand loneliness, because while I do have a partner, I don't really have many friends (maybe two). I'm transgender (but not a transsexual), and it feels isolating at times, because unless you're actively seeking transition surgery, a lot of the trans community just tends to disregard you as "not real", just like the straight or queer communities tend to disregard transpeople as "not real". So it gets a bit lonely in this corner of the universe, not really fitting in with the T, let alone the L,G,B,S,Etc.

Loneliness isn't just for one or the other it attacks everyone. Then there are people out there that look like they are the most popular person on earth and if you asked them about their popularity, they will say yes I'm popular but I don't have any true friends. So, I think that loneliness is in the eye of the beholder. I feel very lonely at times and I can say that all my life has been very lonely. I never fit in with any one group. I would try but I would always be the fifth wheel. I would talk about this with my therapist and she said that many people are just like you. She even said that she feels very lonely at times. So, I don't think loneliness is something special. It does hurt, Being all alone with 10,000 people around. I think that is how the Simon and Garfunkel's tune went, Sounds of Silence. I have friends not good ones but I do have friends. I do have my best friend, who I married. So, look around, how many people do you work with and talk to. How about the coffee shop? Someplace that you frequent. Their are people there.

Thats how it works Boi .. you admit that your transgender and not really transsexual and you are shunned. Then some day you wake up and start going along with the majority, because it sucks to be lonely. I think its cool that you are willing to admit that you're transgendered while not being transsexual. Way too many would choke on their tongue before admitting that.

Hi Suzanne .. Your posts are spot on also ..

Monica Helms says:

"I get the impression you and your sisters are lonely. Why else would you constantly come to an LGBTQ blog when you keep saying you hate LGBTQ people? "

We don't hate LGBT people and nowhere have we said that we do! Heck, I don't even hate you! What's the matter, don't you want to hear any point of view that doesn't agree with yours? Where else would we post our disagreement? This isn't a social club, it's a blog! It's supposed to be a place of debate isn't it? What would be the point of you writing articles if everyone always agreed with you? If thats what you really want then all your doing is writing stuff to feed your ego.

Here's the deal ... I never asked the LGBT to include me in their group, but since the LGBT have included me by association under their umbrella, then I have every right to post my point of view, which probably wont agree with yours. If the LGBT don't like that then remove transsexuals from your umbrella and I wont care what you write.

Fair enough ?

"You're stuck in the LGBT"

Nuff said.

Are you also afraid to contact me off line? Seems common. What are you afraid of? Not having a public forum?

Perhaps open mindedness and trans-advocacy is feared to be contagiuous?

I come back to trans-advocacy after an absense of a few years and the battles continue but the issues have flipped and the names are different.

Why loneliness?
Well, perhaps partly because we are far too busy drawing lines "I am not one of THEM" to look beyond ourselves to the larger parts of our own community that we are spending time and effort trying to disavow...

sorry, hit send instead of preview.
That was an email I received this morning and before I get excoriated for sharing it, I have permission.

When I look more sympathetic, as a Lesbian, to a woman of operative history, than do people with similiar experiences, something is wrong. When someone new is afraid of being seen as a troll or spoiling for a fight when she is new and unsre here, something is wrong.

I've known the author for some 3 years now. I encouraged her to put her talents back into advocacy. My bad, I suppose.

Does every post on any trans issue have to become a battleground for opposing sides to score points off of each other?

The lady who wrote to me fought for herself, alone, sinn fein, in federal court years back. I like her and she is the partner of another close friend.

Can we at least be cohesive on occasion?

Or perhaps, as I already said of myself, she prefers to maintain her privacy. I have seen how this often works. Someone gets a name, starts trying to find some bit of information they can use to attack, etc. Sorry, no thanks.

And hey, I'm not lonely at all. Okay, granted I am also not transgender, so...maybe that explains that.

Thank you...

And like you, I don't hate anyone. I may disagree with their positions, but I don't hate anyone.

But you have a point. Some cannot seem to abide disagreement.

Fine !

then you're stuck with being torpedoed!

Why would I want to contact you offline? I could care less what your private views are, only your public views.


"When I look more sympathetic, as a Lesbian, to a woman of operative history, than do people with similiar experiences, something is wrong"

Do try and get over yourself Maura...

I am well over myself, Leigh.
I am over what residual outmoded beliefs I had as well, Leigh.
Far more open minded, well aware of my blind spots now.

And not lonely; I've friends.

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While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.