I didn’t know any transgendered* individuals until my junior year of college. Well, I didn’t know any that were out of the closet. When a friend of mine announced that, although I knew her as a he, she was a she, I was a bit thrown. Not thrown in an oh-someone-else’s-god-don’t-touch-me way. Just thrown because I wasn’t expecting such a revelation.
I saw her almost every week, but since she didn’t go throw any major physical changes or even tremendous wardrobe changes it was difficult to get used to the knowledge that she was a she. I consistently had trouble remembering to call her by the female name she adopted and using feminine pronouns was equally difficult. Getting used to the fact that someone has discovered their gender identity does not match their physical sex is tough. For me, it was actually rather similar to trying to remember that someone I’d known for several years has gone from being called Judy to Victoria without major outer appearance changes. I always felt pretty bad and apologized if I screwed up and called her by the wrong name or used male pronouns to refer to her.
That being said, I never had any real problem with the change. I was happy that this friend** had discovered**** something so important about herself. I knew she had had a variety of other difficult things going on in her life, and while I know being transgendered comes with its own set of problems, I hope that realizing you are transgender is better than not realizing it. In my view it’s not really any of my business what your or anyone else’s identity is unless I can somehow help you figure it out.
I do not understand transphobia. I understand confusion surrounding the term “trans”. Transgenderism and transsexualism***** are not things that we really learn about in school or from most of our parents. (All I recall is a discussion of gender identity disorder as a psychological disorder and the story of David Reimer.) Homosexuality has become mainstream enough that we all learn at least something about it, but trans issues and definitions are hardly ever mentioned without being treated as abnormal psychology (as in, “something’s wrong”). So being confused or ignorant is an understandable position.
But fear? What are you afraid of? Are you afraid if you meet a transgendered individual, you will no longer understand what it means to be your own gender? Are you afraid you will lose your gendered identity? That’s more absurd than the people that assume they are so darn attractive that a homosexual is going to hit on them******.
It really disgusts me how many people denigrate transgendered people, transvestites, and transsexuals. You might view them as odd or strange, but that’s no excuse to treat them as subhuman or discuss them like they are insects to be ground under your shoe. No one should have to deal with having their basic rights as a human called into question.
I wish I knew what else to do to raise awareness about transphobia and how misguided and harmful that phobia is. Hopefully this blog post contributed at least a little to the conversation that needs to happen. I know I’m rather uneducated on the terminology used to describe gender issues. If anyone knows of a guide for said terminology or feels like writing one, I promise to include the link in my next “What I’ve Been Reading” post (as long as you tell me about it). I apologize if I misused any terms: feel free to correct me (in a friendly manner).
*Please forgive me if I get the terminology wrong. I don’t really know the difference (if there is one?) between transsexual and transgender.
** Friendly acquaintance? Acquaintancely*** friend?
*** Yes, I know acquaintancely is not a real word. I don’t care.
**** Is discovered the right word? Decided doesn’t seem to fit quite right.
***** Who knew? Transsexualism is recognized as a word on my spellcheck and transsexuality is not. I guess that makes sense.
****** How to recognize self-centered/vain people: what better way of saying “the world revolves around me” for a heterosexual is there than, “I don’t like being around homosexuals because they’re going to hit on me.” To these people I must say, if you know someone is homosexual (and you are hetero), how likely are you to seriously hit on them?