The wrong body

Photo: Pil Rosted

By Charlie Hanghøj

“Being born in the wrong body” is the simplified term often used about trans people. In order for the general population to be able to understand the relationship between gender and body, complicated gender identities are made into a simple equation with two clear solutions: a right one and a wrong one. 

When I came out, I knew that my gender identity would be seen as a provocation. Breaking with normativity to such a degree draws a specific kind of attention, and for me, this attention was not positive.


At the root of it, I cannot help or change the fact that I am a transgender person. But several people around me chose to declare their ”disagreement,” as if it was a choice I had made. For me, being transgender turned out to be a deal breaker, and I spent an unnecessary amount of hours and tears coming to terms with the fact that I lost acquaintances, friends, and family in the process. 

Clickbait and assumptions

We as transgender people have for many years been forced to fight hard for our rights, and the struggle is ongoing. The battle is often fought in the public, political arena – in order for new laws and guidelines to be agreed on, the debate has to be communal. 

This sets the framework for today’s debate culture: based on clickbait and fake news, the most difficult struggle is that of introducing the voice of reason. In the choir of cisgender people’s opinions, sensational news, and a massive media focus, it is hard to break through the wall. Instead of listening to the people actually affected, the focus is on assumptions rather than facts and statistics. 

In 2018, I entered the public debate about gender with an interview about gender neutral toilets at places of youth education. The newspaper Berlingske put the article up on their Facebook page, and with a non-moderated comment section, things quickly turned nasty. The debate went from being about gender and the use of toilets to discussing my personal gender identity and assessing its authenticity. This has become the rule as of late, but I was not prepared to play this part, and I internalized the criticism. For a long time, I used the words of others to fill my own self-hatred. 

After having spoken with other public queers about our experiences, it matters less to me what everybody thinks; now I regard the comments as vaguely comedic;

“A boy – why is he wearing nail polish, then? Doesn’t seem that serious to me when he says she/he is a boy.” 

This comment came from a woman who has seen me on the news and then fabricated an opinion – in a classic example of how it’s always possible to speak your mind on something you basically know nothing about. 

A secret life

Public debate and the political arena are not the places to turn to for useful information and facts about transgender people. These are found somewhere completely different: there is a massive support network in a number of secret Facebook groups, where you have to know someone in the group to become a member. I am an active member myself, and help other people who are or have been in similar situations to my own. 

We have been forced to create a subculture for transgender people to communicate, get their questions answered, and learn about the experiences of others. We have created a safe space for real issues and dilemmas to be taken up for debate. 

I would very much like for it to not be necessary for spaces like these to be kept secret, but sadly, the reason once again demonstrates the negative nature of the discourse: many people experience an extreme negative backlash if discovered to be a member of these groups – or their personal circumstances make it impossible to be a public member. 

Hate from within

The debate around transgender people has been ongoing for a long while, and it is a tough one. We are used to hate from the outside – but the development and degree of hate from inside the community is worrying.


In recent years, we have seen the establishment of groups, nationally and internationally, which have become significant voices in the community. The message of these groups is a simple one: If your gender identity doesn’t align with cisgender notions, it’s wrong. With an approach to debate best described as Trump-like, these ”unwokes” lead the battle working against transgender people – particularly children and youth. 

It is one thing to be hated by the heteronormative majority, but when hate comes from within, it becomes dangerous in a different way. One starts treading with caution in a community supposed to empower you to move freely. Safe spaces shrink, and the fear of hatred becomes ever stronger.


Does different mean wrong?

The struggle has, beyond doubt, changed in nature over the past ten years. The stress one experiences as a trans person seems only greater every time the debate is taken up. 

Transgender people are painted as ”wrong” human beings – now not only in the public eye, but within the community as well. They are degraded as people ”born in the wrong body,” even though reality is much more complex than that. 

Matters of gender aren’t simple, and no two trans people are the same. There isn’t a ”right” or ”wrong” way of being a person with a body. I am done with the tendency to use simplified narratives to make this easier for the majority to understand and accept. 

The fact that we have to fight each other within the community is something I fail to understand. It saddens me deeply when people in the community try to push each other into the misunderstood discourse that the rights achieved by one group compromise those achieved by another.


The struggle today

The battle must be fought – we should not stand idly by and watch while our loved ones are refused their rights. We need help, and we will not be fighting this battle alone. 

Help us, whether you are transgender or not; 

Have those difficult conversations. 

Demand a zero tolerance policy towards transphobia from the various LGBTI+ organizations. 

When talking about LGBTI+, give the T its space.

Tell your transgender friend, partner or family member about this article, and get them to join the Facebook groups. 

Be inquisitive and educate yourself, and look at the facts, not the headlines and sensationalism. 

The current discourse sets up two poles: A right way to fight for our rights, and a wrong one. The struggle to break away from this notion, and understand that when transgender people win rights, it takes nothing away from others, is what I would call a right way to fight. 


ABOUT: Charlie Hanghøj (he/him) is 23 years old and lives in Copenhagen.

Charlie identifies as a transgender man. A commentator and a writer, he is a significant voice in the public debate about transgender people. Among other public roles, he is also a Community Ambassador for AIDS-Fondet (the AIDS Foundation), and an activist for FSTB (the Society for the Support of Transgender Children).

Charlie is self-employed and works as a sailing instructor and a therapist. 

Modtag de seneste nyheder

Tilmeld dig vores nyhedsbrev

Få organisatoriske nyheder fra Copenhagen Pride en gang om måneden