Dehumanization: The Term ‘Trap’

Let me invite you into the mind of a transgirl

Let me get one thing clear from the very first paragraph here. I am not writing this post to tell you what you can or can not say. I am not writing this post to censor you or to control how you refer to people of your choosing. I’m writing this post for one specific reason only. I’m writing this post to ask for a understanding. A understanding of how other people might react and think.

What you choose to do after that is up to you.

Lately I’ve been getting into conversations about a specific term with several people, be it over Twitter, Skype, Ask.FM, Facebook or any other form of online social interaction. The term in question is very common worldwide both in relating to fictional characters as well as, unfortunately, real people. The term is “trap”, referring to either a boy who looks feminine, a girl who looks masculine or a transperson. While today it might be most linked with the anime and East-Asian culture fandom more than anything else, it’s not really all that simple.

What does the term suggest? Well, it’s pretty simple to understand it. The word itself holds a definition of A stratagem for catching or tricking an unwary person.. As a term for a person, it suggests that the person in question is trying to entrap/ensnare a person with the opposite sexual attraction. That they’re trying to trick you into thinking one thing to get one thing out of you, and that’s sex. No matter if you find the term okay to use or not okay, you can not deny that that is what it means. That is why it’s used, because a boy looked a bit like a girl and that must mean that he’s trying to trick people into gay sex. Right?

Trap Article 1Well, in case you aren’t convinced about the definition, let me tell you where the usage of trap originated from, or at least where it first became popularized. During the Vietnam war it became a term used for transgender prostitutes that would pretend to have female genitalia until they got the American soldiers alone, upon which they would rape them. It’s horrible but true and it certainly befits the definition of the word. What trap meant for those soldiers, was a rapist that would trick you into getting raped.

But I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking that it’s a term that in modern times are only used to describe anime characters like Saika Totsuka from My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU or, initially, Charlotte Dunois from Infinite Stratos. And you know what? If that was the case, then I’d not have much of a problem with it. But that is not the case.

I’ve been called a trap. I’ve been called out for trying to “trick people” into sex just by me mentioning that I’m a transgirl with no mention of anything else. I’m not alone either, almost every transgender person I know have had the term or a variation of it used against them to paint them up as sick perverts who are preying on people of the same birth-gender. We’re effectively being called rapists just for existing.

But let me invite you into the mind of a transgirl for just a little bit. Because we are indeed by a different defintion “traps”, though not to others, but to ourselves. One of the most commonly described ways for the way a transperson feels is “trapped in a body that’s not their own” and I find that very accurate. I have a mirror right next to my computer, I put it up there because I can’t stand to look at myself as I hate the way I look. By having the mirror there I’m reminded that I need to break out of what I’m stuck in, if it so take years.

Trap Article 2It’s harsh and it hurts to constantly look upon myself hate, but it also helps for me to realize a situation. I know that no matter what I do, if I go through surgery, take hormones, dress like a girl or anything like it, I will always have been born a male on a physical level. I don’t want to forget this, because I need to understand that I was not fortunate enough to be born the way I wanted. I want to never forget that I am, in fact, a girl trapped in a mans body. That’s why I’m open with it on the internet, that’s why I’m writing this post.

I would never ever want to trick anyone into thinking I’m something I’m not. If I end up with a partner at some point in the future, I could never do anything with them if I didn’t tell them about what I had gone through first. There’s a high risk that I will never actually find someone that I love that will love me back because of that. Because when you meet a person who’s attracted to your physical appearance and you tell them that you were born with a different gender and had to go through therapy and surgery to become, in my case, a girl, they commonly have one reaction.

They’re going to call me disgusting. They’re going to say I lied to them. They’re going to say I tricked them. They’re going to call me a tranny. They’re going to call me, indirectly, a rapist.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the very first thing I ever tell them, I’ve already had that reaction from a person whom I literally told my gender identity before I even told the person my name. I’m being judged as the worst scum of the earth before people know the first thing about it. It goes beyond just conversations as well, I’ve seen people hide away their children and avoid me as I walk past people on the street, just because I’m dressed in a skirt and have a wig on my head. It’s soul-crushing and makes me hate myself far more than I already do because it makes me feel like I’m not even worthy of being a person. I’m not a person, I’m not a human being, I’m a disgusting and dangerous trap.

Trap Article 4

Every time I read or hear the term trap being used, be it against a real person or a fictional character, these thoughts go through my head. I’ve not been out of the trans-closet as a girl for one year yet and I already have scars in my memory flashing from the dehumanizing behavior people put towards people of my gender identity.

Let me end this the same way I opened it. I am not asking you to stop using a term that you’re using and I’m not asking you to censor yourself because of the way I feel. I believe in personal freedom, I would never force someone to do anything like that. But I do ask for some understanding and to maybe reconsider if you will. If you’re going to take anything away from this, take away that a term can hold more weight than you might first think. I would like it if you didn’t use the term when talking to me personally, but that’s up to you in the end. Please just understand…

I don’t like being called a rapist just for existing.

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12 thoughts on “Dehumanization: The Term ‘Trap’

  1. I’ve been completely out on Twitter (@anya_fennec) since the beginning, and lucked into a very supportive circle of people that don’t give me shit for it. Though I have seen other parts of the internet that are extremely hostile. As for IRL, let’s just say Thailand isn’t nearly as forgiving as some in the west seem to believe, plus being Thai comes with the entire ladyboy prostitute connotation (IIRC During the Vietnam War the soldiers would get “Rest & Relaxation” with prostitutes in Thailand, so those incidents you described probably took place a lot there).

    Anyways I wanted to say that there are places online and offline that will be supportive instead of hostile, and there is hope for a better place. I actually met my boyfriend on twitter, and he knew that I was trans since the beginning and has been nothing but supportive. So don’t give up~ hit me up on twitter if you want.

    [Sidenote: had quite a long discussion on twitter about how I wished there was a different term from both trap and trans, since trap has the negative connotations while trans… something about it just makes me feel icky. Not an issue with meaning, but just from a purely acoustic/phonetic sense, I hate the word trans. I tend to use trap to refer to myself in certain circles I trust, and don’t use it for other real people. If there was something that both sounded cool and isn’t negative I’d be damn happy. ]

    • I agree that trans doesn’t have the nicest ring to it, but at least it doesn’t have a negative history and meaning to it. But hey, if you feel comfortable with calling yourself a trap, more power to you. That’s great. Like I said, I’m all for personal freedom. Followed you on twitter as well, thank you for the comment. ^^

  2. I’m glad you could you put into words what you’re feeling. Sad that you have to go through all that stuff.

    And I now feel a little embarrassed by every time I used that expression jokingly. I never directed them at someone specifically, it was always at some hypothetical situation like you said, in the anime and East-Asian culture fandom. The problem is, that it was always used as a sexual thing, and that became so common that people just automatically associate it with “trap”.

    And I think that part of the problem was the lack of understanding and knowledge of the situation, I think that more and more people are starting to became aware of this, but it’s still not enough.

    It’s really sad to see people react and act the way they do, and I’m sure your life is even worse than we can imagine, specially because you’re such a great girl. I wish all the best things to you and wish I could grant you more strength to keep on fighting this battle.

  3. What a heartfelt and well articulated post. You have my most sincere sympathy for the pains you’ve gone through. I might have to spend a lot of time explaining the word ‘genderqueer’ to people, but I know I’m terribly fortunate in the way I’m treated by comparison.
    I also think you’ve effectively hit on one ofthe most troubling aspects of anime and fandom. If it’s alright, I’d ask an extension of the topic – what do you think of the predominant tendency to blur the line between gay men and transwomen in anime (i.e. Grell from Black Butler is explicitly trans, but a character such as Leeron in Gurren Lagann is supposedly a cisgendered man who still has extremely played up ‘femme’ tendencies). I find it troubling myself, in ways I’m still trying to parse out a thoughtful argument for.

    • I am intending on expanding my thoughts on LGBTQ issues in anime. I actually have a post about transpeople in anime planned that compares negative and positive examples. I can’t promise that’ll it be up soon, but hopefully.

      • Please do make a post on LGBTQ issues in Anime, that would be fascinating!
        I can’t identify with how Transgender Ladies feel personally as a Transgendered Male, but I have seen what you ladies have to go through. It’s horrible enough to be Transgendered without having to put up with the ‘trap’ nonsense, which is definitely more aimed at Trans Women!.I have browsed with female friends in the Males section and even gone far to use the male changing rooms. Yet, my male friends get treated like ‘perverts’ or ‘sexual deviants’ for even glancing at female clothes and they were screamed for being near the female changing rooms! I even had one person I knew who helped me ditch my old Female clothes and gave me some of his old guy clothes and was extremely supportive of my transition. Yet, he made a Transgendered lady and made comments such as ‘man in drag’ and even claimed that he was going to ‘kill the manwhore’ as it was ‘unsightly’ for a biological male to wear female clothes, regardless of how they were inside! Despite the fact that I was the same in reverse. It’s kinda terrifying how drastically difference opinion is.

      • I am currently writing a post exploring Trans/Genderfluid characters in anime, I would lvoe to get some of your input on it though. Mind sharing some contact details with me perhaps? I can be reached through twitter (link on top) or via email at tobiichikarlsson@gmail.com

  4. Sure! My most active Email address is my college one, which is; 10552960@student.bpc.ac.uk and would be the best way of contacting me at the moment. Apologies for the massive block of text reply from earlier, I have quite a lot of passion for both Anime and Gender topics. Which is really why I love the concept of your article, and I really hope that I will be able to contribute in some way if possible.

  5. Pingback: Problems with Genshiken Nidaime and it’s handling of gender issues | Anime Is Dead

  6. Pingback: Through All Your Houses Wandering | HEARTS OF FURIOUS FANCIES

  7. “they’re trying to trick you into thinking one thing to get one thing out of you, and that’s sex. No matter if you find the term okay to use or not okay, you can not deny that that is what it means.”

    My 2 cents:
    My understanding has always been, the trap (a male who could convincingly pass for female regardless of gender identity) in question was used to lure unsuspecting heterosexuals (preferably the insecure kind) in to becoming aroused by another male, at which point we could point and laugh “haha, you’re gay now!”.

    The source of the meme, as far as I know it, was the early days of 4chan (the phrase itself being a reference to Star Wars which quoted a lot back then), when saying “that Bridget sure is cute” would get you laugh at and thus Bridget became a “trap” to lure unsuspecting anime fans to ridicule; the term eventually evolving to include people in real life.

    If the Vietnam thing is true (could you cite a source? I feel like searching Google for “Vietnam Trap Prostitutes” wouldn’t yield much useful) it’s probably just an unfortunate coincidence.

    In short, I don’t believe the term (at least originally) is meant to defer anything about the subject’s gender identity, nor is it meant to be explicitly disparaging towards the subject in a general sense; the person is a “trap” yes, but as a trap they are merely a component of a scheme designed to bring humiliation on someone else.

    That said, I will acknowledge that that was a decade ago, and the phrase could now be more in line with your view of it.
    If this is the case, at least know that it wasn’t always about gender identity and undertones of sexual coercion.

    • As someone called a trap almost every week in disgust, I have to say that you’re simply wrong on it not being disparaging.

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