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Kortney Ryan Ziegler, Ph.D. Headshot

Uses of Black Trans Male Anger

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Early on in my medical transition, I experienced an incredible spike in my level of confidence. After my first dose of testosterone, I anxiously awaited the physical changes my body would experience, and as it did change, my level of self-esteem changed with it. Every new follicle of facial hair or drop in the tone of my voice fueled my ego and reminded me of the powerful joy of living my life as I had always imagined it to be.

As the months passed by and my body further masculinized, my confidence was slowly displaced by strong feelings of anger. My sense of pride became muddied by the societal expectations of black masculinity, specifically the racist assumption that black men are full of rage and prone to violence. This became extremely evident in the new ways my body was policed by others. Whenever I spoke up, asserted myself or failed to make those around me feel safe through complacency, I became the physically threatening angry black male. This realization intensified my anger, but I quickly learned to contain my rage in ways that I never had to before, lest I become the dangerous stereotype that I knew I wasn't.

Beyond the unexpected racist assumptions about my identity from acquaintances and strangers, my personal relationships experienced their own type of transition. I remember when a friendly debate about politics with a friend turned into a tense disagreement. As prideful intellectuals, we both vehemently defended our beliefs, but our differing views quickly turned ugly when I was taken aback by my friend's reminder that "testosterone is really making you angry." Although I wanted to inform my friend of the fallacy of her statement, the conversation ended right there, but not before I profusely apologized and shamefully agreed that perhaps my anger was displaced and unnecessary.

Although I had already learned that as a black male, I had little room to express anger, for fear of the potentially harmful repercussions, what became even clearer to me is that as a black transgender male, I have even less room to be angry. Simply put, thanks to unfortunate societal assumptions of brute masculinity and the damaging myth of aggression as a result of synthetic hormone use, others sometimes interpret our expressions of anger and frustration as inauthentic, in effect preventing potentially healthy and constructive uses of anger in our ongoing process of self-fashioning.

In order for black trans men to move past the limitations of this binary, it is important for us to recognize that our anger is indeed real and is possible to manage within a society that breeds hostility toward our existence. The angry black male that we are perceived to be should not disavow the reality that is our personhood and humanity, and we must seek out healthy ways to reject this distorted image of our identity. This means being aware of our feelings of frustration, rage and resentment and understanding the situations that can provoke those emotions. In other words, use your anger to discover yourself.

I am now almost three years into my medical transition and am still learning to navigate the boundaries of my anger through the process of self-discovery. I found out that with exercise, a strong focus on my writing and the use of therapy, I can manage my anger, though it is not always easy. Unfortunately, my recent inability to find solid employment has catapulted me into a depression that is fed by emotional rage, and I sometimes lash out at my loved ones or rely on self-destructive vices to provide a false sense of calm. However, I always try to remain conscious of the root of my anger. This practice helps me direct future expressions of anger appropriately and away from the most vulnerable people in my life, to prevent irreparable damage.

Every day that I am gifted life, I continue to walk the tightrope of anger management. I tiptoe between intense moments of justifiable rage that attempt to spiritually debilitate me and powerful revelations of emotional strength in the face of adversity. I have come to understand that whether or not one uses hormones, for black trans men, the mismanagement of our anger can impede what could be a positive experience of self-enlightenment. The stress of racism coupled with the stigma of transition can be used either as reasons for self-destruction or as powerful tools of self-actualization, with the latter being our most valuable option.

This blog post originally appeared on blac (k) ademic.