How much attention should you pay to transphobia? Very little.
There is street transphobia. It’s weird to think that someone who has never met you and has no knowledge of what you are like as a person really hates you. You are a symbol for him of all he despises. The worst last year for me screamed at me that he would kill me. Well, maybe he was having a bad day. Yes, there are people like that. They rarely do you actual harm. You need to know they exist, but should pay no attention at all to the details of their abuse.
What prompted this post was an article in the Daily Telegraph, which was shared in a trans group on facebook. Church of England’s plan for transgender baptisms outrages bishops was the headline. Well, the Telegraph is a transphobic publication, so when it reports on transphobia it exaggerates it. There are two errors in the headline. Some bishops support the measure, so it should say “Some” bishops are outraged, rather than implying all are. The other error is that no-one has proposed transgender baptisms. More than half the population of England has been baptised, and the ceremony is a reaffirmation of baptismal vows. No church will rebaptise people. If the headline is filled with error, the article will be too.
In fact “ten” bishops “criticised” the ceremony. Few bishops would confess to “outrage” in public. There are 41 diocesan bishops and around 75 “suffragan” or assistant bishops, so a tiny minority has condemned it. Analyse the article, and you see the transphobia is less widespread than the writer would want you to think. The writer makes a desperate attempt to list all the transphobes to make it sound like they are important, but his scrabbling shows how few they really are. They include John Fenwick, a bishop of the Free Church of England. I hadn’t heard of that, so googled it: it split off in 1844 and has nineteen congregations in England.
I mean really. Should you care what John Fenwick thinks? Of course not.
Haters gonna hate. The Telegraph wants its readers to hate trans people, and that is a bad thing. So does the Times, as both are hard-Right publications busily dehumanising various hate groups. Oh, and the Daily Mail, but you knew that. The risk with reading the Telegraph article is that it might discourage you. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid”. It’s full of detail, and if you read the detail and the various horrible things transphobes say, they appear more significant than they actually are. People get assaulted for being trans. We get mocked and vilified going about our ordinary lives. Most people are not like that. They don’t care. You will encounter prejudice, but mostly you will be able to live your life.
Sometimes it is worth checking out the nuances. Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said: “The church should be compassionate and sensitive towards those who experience gender dysphoria, but its fundamental teaching must be based on a revealed truth and objective biology and its relation to social structure.”
Compassionate and sensitive. That is a clear rebuke to those who would express or foment “outrage”. That journalist made a ranty headline, and from ignorance quoted the answer to his bigotry at the end of the article. “Objective biology” sounds pretty rejectionist- saying trans women are “biological males” or something- but I see a glimmer of hope in the words “its relation to social structure”. Socially, I am a woman. He does not merely discount me. He recognises social structure is relevant. Biology is not a complete answer.
There are transphobes about, but there are allies. They will encourage you and make you feel better. When you feel better you will be more motivated and better able to take action. Perhaps Pink News should take that into consideration: many of its December articles on trans have been “Help help the sky is falling” articles about transphobia. Indonesian city Padang using exorcisms to “cure” queer people. Um. The most positive stories are Miss Universe pays tribute to Angela Ponce. The winner, Ashley Graham, said She’s smart, driven, beautiful…and nothing short of extraordinary. Well, yes. I find beauty contests problematic, but I am pleased with the final Peace-and-Love message. We need more of that. And Transgender boxer Pat Manuel has his first professional win. Half positive: a school teacher was suspended for telling trans boy “You freak me out”. Yes he was a transphobic bully: and the school dealt with him.
Don’t pay too much attention to the transphobes. There will always be transphobes. You will still find ways to achieve your aims and succeed as the person you really are. I have just not been taking my own advice, reading a boring and stupid Times article, which refers to “a powerful trans lobby”. I am glad they are trying to terrify their own side. Imagine poor little transphobes, terrified of expressing their bigotry.