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Aidan D. speaks to the Objectification of Trans Identity

The Objectification of Transgender People

Written by: Kesley Aidan Davis

As a transgender individual, I have noticed and encountered many instances of objectification towards me and other trans friends. It’s a tough situation to be in and most of the time, you’re basically forced to either invalidate your identity or let the other person get away with their statement. Which is never okay.

A mistake I’ve seen many people make is reading the discomfort and dysphoria one has with their own body as complete apathy to their figure. This insecurity is preyed upon and used against trans people in a way that is sometimes hard to respond to or combat. I’ve encountered this personally from a so-called friend.

I remember having a conversation with him and out of the blue, he asked, “So, you’re a guy now, right?” I agreed and he then asked, “So, I can touch your chest then.” and I told him, no, that was definitely not allowed. He countered with, “But you’re a guy. And you don’t want them, so why does it matter?” I shouldn’t have had to answer his question. But at the time, I felt like I did. He rendered me speechless. Just like that, he had backed me into a metaphorical corner that I couldn’t get out of.

Sometimes, trans people are forced into situations like this. Whether it’s being asked to allow people to touch them inappropriately or explain ‘how that works’. It’s almost never done in a comfortable way. I especially fear this kind of treatment for younger transgender individuals, because it could happen. In an instant, you or someone around you could be put on the spot like this and be forced to justify their thoughts and feelings for their own body and mind. It isn’t fair and it’s a serious problem that we as a people must face daily.

Most studies reveal that around 50% of transgender or transsexual individuals experience sexual violence at some point in their life while another states that one in ten trans people have been sexually assaulted in a healthcare setting. So, on top of general discrimination, we have to also be more aware of things like this.

With this being said, I believe there is a way we can fight it. We can band together and stop the objectification that people like us have to endure. So, what I would like to discuss are ways to do this. How do you think we should combat this? How can we teach others that treating someone like a toy is wrong and disrespectful no matter what they identify as? What can we say or do to get out of this situation and not have to negate or completely complicate the things we’ve said about our identity before? How can we stop this and create a better future for younger generations of trans and non-gender conforming people? This needs to stop and I know that if we work hard enough we can get rid of it or even just greatly reduce the numbers.

This is a changing time and I know that if we work together, we can accomplish great things.




Working with teenagers, I  encounter a myriad of emotions throughout the days and weeks that I share my life with them. Exhilaration, frustration, exasperation, and the deepest level of satisfaction that I have ever felt in my life, all rolled up into a fair amount of exhaustion.

I am forever trying to manage the emotional rollercoaster of adolescent angst with the right balance of sincerity and the appropriate amount of encouragement without tipping my hat that I am completely depleted of words or wisdom that will put their restless souls at peace. Add into the mix that the young people that I work with identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and /or transgender then all of the feelings and emotions are compounded exponentially. Adolescence is tough enough but with the added anxiety of identifying within the LGBT spectrum, everything begins to rise to the boiling point – very quickly.

I try really hard to be present with the young people that I serve every day. Listening to their highs and their lows as well as helping them peel away the protective layers that serve as insulation from the negative energy that they receive from family and peers. I do what I can for them during the short amount of time that they are in my life, before they graduate from high school and begin the next chapter of their lives. Often times, I never hear from them again, but sometimes I am lucky enough to reconnect with some of them after they have moved on.

On one very special occasion, I was given the gift of seeing the harvest of seeds planted in one of my young people. I heard a voice behind me as I worked at my desk and as I swiveled around to see who was there, I was face to face with the most brilliant smile. It was LeMarcus! One of my former student leaders had stopped by Oasis Center to see me. I was delighted and surprised, because he was supposed to be attending college out of state. I asked him if everything was ok and he smiled again and said everything was wonderful. I inquired if his school was on break and he said no, school was in session. I looked questioningly at him and he said he was going to school in Nashville – fashion design school. Tears immediately filled my eyes. The emotions welled up inside me that I can only image must be the same that well up in a mother’s eyes when their child has grown up and made extraordinary strides toward creating their own path to success.

Earlier in the year, LeMarcus confided in me that he wanted to major in fashion design but that his parents really wanted him to major in psychology and one day become a psychologist. He felt a tremendous amount of pressure to please his parents because being gay had been such a huge disappointment to them. His father, especially, was having a very difficult time accepting LeMarcus and constantly pressured him to conform. LeMarcus was torn and felt like he had no other choice than to go to college and become what his parents wanted him to become. I tried to provide a silver lining by offering up the suggestion that he could minor in fashion design and then make a decision after graduation about his career. He quietly agreed, but was not completely consoled with the compromise.

When high school graduation was approaching, I found a book that highlighted the fashion industry and all of the multitude of careers within the industry and I bought it for LeMarcus. In his graduation card I encouraged him to pursue his dream and follow his heart. I wrapped the gift in a bag and handed it to him and he thanked me for the gift as he walked out the door. I did not hear from him for over four months, until he walked into my office in late September. He told me that his graduation gift and the words in his card gave him the courage to tell his parents that he wanted to major in fashion. His parents were not happy but they agreed to pay 50% of his tuition. The same agreement they had made for his other college choice.

There he stood, in my office, with a huge smile on his face and a band aid on his finger from an accident in sewing class. He was telling me how much he loved school and how much he enjoys sewing and designing patterns – the happiest I had ever seen him in the two years that I had known him – truly happy. It affirmed for me that being present and listening are incredibly powerful gifts for young people and that encouragement…encouragement can be life changing.

Pamela S. Sheffer – Program Director, Just Us @ Oasis Center 

A Journey for Hope

At Just Us we believe that every young person deserves a liberating space where their sexual orientation and/ or gender identity are not only affirmed but celebrated. Every week throughout the academic year, through the community we create, young people who identify on the LGBT spectrum are able to engage with other young people like themselves and feel free. So often LGBT young people feel isolated and alone due to their identity. At Just Us, we strive to help each other know that this should never be the case.

 The creation of community is one of the most important aspects of our work at Just Us, the sense of isolation is lifted and young people begin to thrive and grow into healthy and happy teenagers with their sights on a bright and beautiful future. An intoxicating by product of feeling connected with others who are like you, is hope.  So I guess you could say that we are in the business of helping young people find hope – hope for life, hope for love, hope for joy, and hope for a full and happy life living authentically.

The journey for hope is a unique and special experience for each of the young people who consider Just Us as a priority in their busy schedules of school, sports, music, work and other life necessities. Although the journeys are very personal, we as program directors are afforded the honor of witnessing the beauty of the growth and development of each young person’s progression of self acceptance and empowerment. Our hearts and minds are tattooed with the images of transformation we see each week – the tears, the laughter, the smiles, and the illumination that follows the discovery of self-worth. While our youth benefit from our programs every week, we are equally fortunate as we are blessed to witness the sacred processes of becoming and to remain in the presence of young people who seek refuge from oppression and discover hope along the way.

Each month we will try to capture a small glimpse of the journey for hope that we witness, keeping our young people’s identity safe and secure, but sharing the gifts of lives lived authentically which they share with us each week.  

Pamela S. Sheffer – Program Director, Just Us @ Oasis Center