Some people are obsessively transphobic, eternally thinking, writing and preaching about how dangerous trans people and “trans ideology” are to women, children and society. And some people are a bit transphobic, enough to keep me wary of everyone.
How many would follow “of course you are a woman” or “I accept you as a trans woman” or “I’m not transphobic” with But?
-but you look a bit weird
-but I understand why some people don’t think you’re a woman
-but you might frighten someone in a changing room.
Generally they are accepting, or perhaps tolerant. It’s not because she’s trans! I use the pronouns she wants and everything! But her voice/wig/personality just gets to me. Their desire to seem so, to themselves and to others, gets in the way of their being accepting. They stop being accepting when something goes wrong.
Someone might say, “well, I never liked her” and be highly resistant to the idea that me being trans had anything to do with that.
Being trans is rarely the sole problem, in any situation I find myself in, and it always makes things slightly more difficult.
This article in Ha’aretz discusses research on a similar phenomenon in antisemitism. 2.4% of people are virulent antisemites, and 30% hold one or more antisemitic opinions. So the endless arguing, raising all sorts of issues, might make some such opinions acceptable. I’m not transphobic, but- trans women should not be in women’s prisons/refuges/sports events. Are underlying mental health issues properly treated? (No, the psychiatrists don’t have the time). Will they regret mastectomy in a few years’ time?
Prejudice links to status, and I have noticed myself patronising less privileged people, to keep them in their place. I am in a state of conscious incompetence, noticing when I enforce society’s standards rather than what I would like to be my own. I want to treasure real value but still judge by worldly standards. So I would say I am not racist, then notice myself reinforcing colourist hierarchies.
-we weren’t bad people, we just did bad things.
-is there any difference?
There is. I seek to change. How much difference there is depends on how successful I am. I will cure myself of these habits.
I am also low status because I am unemployed. People notice my clothes, and judge me for them. I was patronised in the library, and looking back I am mortified to see it was late September, it bothers me so much still. So I went back after The Testaments was published, they have several copies, and I ordered it.
When the email came to say I could pick it up, I did not for a week because I could not summon the motivation. I went down on Monday, and the same woman said the book was not there, and she would bring in her own copy so I could get it on Wednesday. I appreciate the generosity. I was disappointed she was not there on Wednesday. I wanted to indicate my educated status. I have been thinking up clever things to say about the book, so that when I take it back I can show how sophisticated I am. How pointless! It is not that I want this person to like or admire me, but that I want her to see my positive status signifier, the ability to appreciate literature, rather than my negative ones, old clothes and being trans.
At the CAB I advised a man who irritated me by coming with an abstruse question on pension contributions and entitlement and his constant refrain, “Are you wi’ me? Are you wi’ me?” He had done his research. Of course I was with him, I thought, as usual I was way ahead. I looked it up and may have got it wrong.
Status indicators stop us seeing people. Low status indicators may produce irritation we could never name, so assign to other causes. If someone with Cotard’s syndrome comes up with an explanation for why they can talk to you consistent with their delusion of being dead, you know they are fabulising. It is harder to spot when they fabulise to make consistent explanations with their belief they are not transphobic.
Everyone is transphobic. Society makes us so. I have internalised transphobia. It is constant hard work to rid ourselves of prejudice. Until being trans is as normal as being Black should be, everyone will be a little bit transphobic.