When asked about the trans experience, I have often told the story about a top golf pro who takes on a game for a million dollars, where the only handicap is “three gotchas.” He doesn’t know what that means, but how bad could it be?
On the first tee, just as he swings his opponent reaches between his legs, squeezes hard and yells “Gotcha!” into his ear. He muffs the drive.
On the second green, just as he swings, his opponent does the same thing. The putt goes wide.
When he gets into the clubhouse, he has lost by six strokes.
“How could you do that?” a friend asks. “After all, he could only screw up one more swing.”
“It’s not that easy,” said the pro. “Did you ever play sixteen holes waiting for the third gotcha?”
Now a researcher has done a study that says just the expectation of rejection, the cost of self-policing has profound effects on trans lives.
Brian Rood: Expectation of rejection makes people who are transgender feel anxious, isolated, depressed
We found overwhelmingly that transgender participants reported that they felt rejection could happen anywhere. As a cisgender person, this reality felt sobering and sad. A transgender person believes, “Anywhere I go I’m worried that something bad could happen to me.” For a cisgender person, that’s not usually the case. Our trans participants said that they felt they could be anywhere and they would be worried about rejection or safety. ... The most frequent coping response to expecting rejection was avoidance. If participants think they might be targeted for their gender identity, their response was often to avoid the situation altogether or escape. That makes for a pretty limited life. ... These narratives of fear, anxiety, hypervigilance and constant worry that we collected from our trans participants seem to be parallel to someone who’s had a traumatic history.
At least according to this study, “third gotcha” is real and costly.