Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What is transphobia?

You've all heard the Trans 101 definition: "irrational or persistent fears or non-acceptance towards people whose gender identity or expression differs from the gender they were assigned at birth. Transphobia can lead to direct or indirect discrimination or harassment in a variety of forms; the common theme is a misunderstanding of, or failure to respect, gender diversity."

Are you ready for something more advanced - say, Trans 201? It's all very well to declare that someone's fears are irrational, and many of them sure are, but that doesn't really tell us much about where they come from, so it doesn't help us to stop it. We can only get true understanding through empathy and compassion. I count at least six distinct reasons for someone to feel afraid of or hostile towards a transgender person. They all have different sources, and they all call for different responses.  Some are more rational than others.  Lump them together at your peril.

  • Entitlement policing: the fear that someone is getting away with something they don't deserve. This is behind bathroom anxiety and so much more. It's even more intense if the self-appointed border guard believes that the transgender person in question needs to be made an example of, or else "they'll all want one."
  • Moral condemnation: the belief that transgender behavior is immoral and must be punished. Usually there is no reason given for this condemnation, it's just written in a book somewhere.
  • Sissy discipline: the belief that "men" (particularly young ones) who refuse to accept male roles must be punished for shirking their duties.
  • Deception rage: anger based on a belief that someone has deceived you to gain something valuable from you, including but not limited to sexual gratification. This is a factor in many murders of transgender people.
  • Fear of unintended consequences: fear based on the belief that someone may be unintentionally putting themselves in danger, or making a choice they may regret.
  • Fear of shaming or retribution by association: the fear of being attacked for having loved, cared for or been intimate with a transgender person. This is a legitimate fear based on events such as the murder of Barry Winchell, Calpernia Addams's boyfriend, in 1999. It is also a factor in murders of transgender people.
  • Fear of self-hatred: some people who are intimate with transgender people criticize themselves for it, especially if they believe that it means they are "gay." They may further believe that killing their lover will somehow absolve them of "gayness" or demonstrate their rejection of it.
  • Fear of shaming or shunning of a transgender loved one, by others or even by oneself. Yes, some people attack their loved ones because they don't want to feel obligated to attack them in the future. How messed up is that?
Do these make sense to you? Am I missing anything?


vampy said...

Denialism: Refusing to believe that a trans character is trans because they look too much like the opposite gender. This came up recently with the videogame character Poison. Poison has always been a transvestite since the character was first introduced in Final Fight. In Asia, gender transition has a fascination that is different than the West which is why trans characters are popular in Asian popular culture.

With a real live human, birth gender is a pretty undeniable fact, but with a fictional character it is possible to claim it is a retcon (a post character creation change, added later) or just made up by fans.

Unknown said...

Wow - really amazing work you've done here. You've definitely covered a great deal of ground. I so much admire what you've written. I think it's nearly complete.

I agree partly with pws. There is a psychological"Denial" going on with some transphobia, where a person who was born transgender, but hasn't come to terms with it, fears those who have. I think this is a large part of homophobia as well. I will reveal, from personal experience, that i was afraid of trans people before i came to self-acceptance. I wasn't afraid in a murderous way - but then i was raised in a liberal family that, altho we had our covert prejudices, in the main, looked down upon prejudice, and worked toward acceptance of all people. As an adult i worked in the theatre, and education, where i encountered liberal attitudes of acceptance as well, and i had many lesbian and gay friends. When i encountered trans people as an adult, my own fear of realizing my Self as a transsexual made me react in covertly negative ways. I never said anything out loud, because of my social milieu, so it remained an internal fear and an internal struggle.

However, if you have a trans person who was born into an ultra conservative family, which flaunts their prejudice, which embraces racism and homophobia, who as an adult is working in some macho career, like construction or auto mechanics or forestry, and who doesn't have any friends outside of straitville, this person's fear could become so overwhelming, she might become murderous. For that person murdering a transsexual would be like killing the trans person inside herself.

Deniz Su Tiffany said...

Thank you for sharing. You wrote an article is absolutely spot.

I'm a transexual girl, but sex reassignment surgery yet. And i'm Turk, most of the countries transphobia and hate crimes!