What is transphobia? I think of it as phobia, ranging from mild discomfort to visceral repulsion, but how does it arise? I asked, and a friend wrote that it is A system of oppression, frequently so deeply embedded in society that it can be presented as “natural”, which pressures people to assume that sex and gender are the same thing, that gender assigned at birth is ‘correct’ gender, and that conforming to gendered expectations is important.
Conforming to gendered expectations. This does not distinguish revulsion at me, expressing myself female, from revulsion at an effeminate man. I would have to pretend to be a Real Man to escape this obloquy. This could alter my view of TERFs, who have a disproportionate emphasis on trans issues, rather than more serious feminist concerns. Even though they themselves do not conform to gendered expectations, they hate my non-conformity
-because it mirrors their own, embracing what they reject
-or even because they project onto me their hatred of their own non-conformity, which makes life so difficult.
-or perhaps because when they discover RadFems, and feel at home, this is one of the ways to show they fit in with that group.
We should be allies. We suffer equally under the system of oppression, but that system pits us against each other. And they would say sex and gender are not the same thing, but that sex is a matter of reproduction, gender a matter of culture.
One said that people are scared when others do not conform to norms. We feel safe in homogeneity. I hope that when you can accept your own variation, you can accept that of others. She went on to say that we should not ask people to repress feelings of discomfort, but instead avoid wrongful behaviour. Exposure to trans folk may cure the transphobe, who will become more comfortable with us as s/he gets to know us- which is just how you treat arachnophobia.
One referred to playing the trans card, claiming trans discrimination where there is a real reason for different treatment. Having so few cards, I might be tempted by that; and when I am talking of how trans folk are wronged I could object to the conversation being turned onto wrongs we commit. Yet we should not play the trans card, it is an act of weakness. Oppressing others entrenches oppression, exacerbates the distance between us.
The transphobic person feels selfrighteous about it, and will have arguments why their behaviour is justified. Cis folk will not be so alive to the smell of transphobia. We can see it, and trying to persuade others no, it’s really transphobic, is horrible, bringing back to me my worst experiences of exclusion.
There is institutional racism. I read of a diversity course where the trainer posited every example as “What do we think of them?” rather than expanding the we to include groups with differences.
There is internalised transphobia. I feel wrong; being treated as wrong revives all those feelings of despair and rejection; I restrict my activities to avoid situations where I fear prejudice. I feel wary in pubs.
One said the word is wrong. It is hatred, not fear. I would say it is an aversion, and the suffix “phobia” though originally meaning fear has been expanded to mean aversion, as in arachnophobia again.
“It gives ignorant, narrow-minded, stupid people a label.” Um. No, I don’t feel that is helpful, because it suggests they are incorrigible, and I hope no-one is incorrigible. It is worth working to reduce transphobia.
One said, having experienced sexual violence from men, she was wary of men and so uncomfortable who she perceived as a man but who wanted to be treated as a woman. I sympathise. Her “instinctive feelings about her safety” arise from her experience, not just dislike of the unfamiliar. She feels discomfort when her reason- this individual is unthreatening- conflicts with those instincts. Her empathy could conflict, as well: she knows it is unfair to treat me so. I responded without criticising, and she said that she did not mean me: and I wept in relief, for we were not distanced after all, and wept at the distance I feel from others, some created in me, some created in them.