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?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Trans United for Obama Launches Nationwide Volunteer Effort

WASHINGTON, June 8 — Trans United for Obama, a national volunteer effort, has launched a campaign to rally transgender people, their allies, families, and supporters in the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

The campaign, organized by a group of transgender advocates, educators, bloggers, authors, and their families and allies, aims to educate people about the historic changes that the Obama Administration has accomplished in the past three and a half years to secure equal rights and protections for all Americans, including transgender people.

Among the victories achieved during President Obama’s first term is the removal of onerous and outdated requirements to change gender markers on legal documents such as passports, immigration documents, federal employee records, Veterans’ Administration records, and birth certificates for American citizens born outside of the US. In addition, discrimination based on gender identity is now banned in areas like federal employment and public housing programs, and President Obama signed the first federal law aimed at addressing the rampant violence that transgender people face.

Trans United for Obama (TU4O) will work closely with the president’s campaign and will hold regular national calls to coordinate and boost trans and allied people’s participation in the re-election campaign. One of its goals is to register new trans voters and support others who may be prevented or discouraged from voting by new and discriminatory voter ID laws in several states. Supporters can register at the website to volunteer, donate money to the campaign through the grassroots fundraising site, and express their support for the re-election of President Obama and for his ongoing efforts to secure equal rights for transgender Americans.

Trans United for Obama can be found at  

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