The word “phobia,” from the Greek word, “phobos,” means “fear.” You likely have heard of homophobia, a word that has been with us for awhile, which refers to those who fear gays and lesbians. Transphobia has more recently been coined.
If it seems odd to use “fear” to describe the attitude of people who are offended by those who identify with one of the LGBT, it should not. Many people fear that LGB’s and we T’s are out to indoctrinate the world to our wicked ways. They fear that our queerness might rub off if they get too close to us, and every other notion you can imagine and many you cannot fathom.
I have witnessed plenty of LGBT phobia, especially when I was a pastor and, it seems by the way they spoke to me, people assumed I was offended by these folks, too. Know this: My entire life I have been no more offended by any LGBT person than I have by those who carry out injustices, by heterosexual fornicators, by those who get drunk, by liars, by gossips, by cheaters, by . . .
In this essay, I come to the defense of those who have real-life concerns with integrating transgender persons into everyday life. Because we trans folks have so many conflicts in life—addressing our inner struggles, transitioning physically and socially, and the many dynamics of family and friends and work and you name it—it is easy to brand anyone who is not for us to be against us, to be transphobic.
It is an unfair characterization.
Last summer, I wrote this essay after a young trans woman’s story became national news: https://eilerspizza.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/to-lila-perry/
Because I did not jump on Lila’s bandwagon, but begged her to consider that she is not the only person involved with her public desires, I had trans friends label me as transphobic.
What I argued then, I take up again at the news I read yesterday because of this article on HuffPost: “South Dakota Is The First State To Pass A Transphobic Student Bathroom Bill.” Admittedly, HuffPost is a progressive, liberal-minded news source, yet I find myself wincing at articles with biased titles.
In this post, I DO NOT intend to discuss some of the things the bill spells out, which indeed bother me. My focus today strictly is whether or not people’s concerns are transphobic.
Salient points of the article:
- “South Dakota lawmakers are the first in the nation to pass a bill outlawing transgender public school students from using restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identities.”
- “The bill provides that with written parental permission, affected students may request a ‘reasonable accommodation … that does not impose an undue hardship on a school district,’ such as use of a single-occupancy restroom. “
- “‘Every single child, including transgender youth, should have the opportunity to succeed and be treated fairly by our schools and elected officials,’ the center’s executive director Kris Hayashi told The Huffington Post in a statement. If the governor signs the measure, Hayashi said, it will ‘endanger students and open up South Dakota schools to legal chaos, liability, and the loss of millions in federal funds.’”
- “If the bill becomes law, it will most certainly result in intense emotional pain for transgender children in South Dakota, advocates for the LGBT community warned.”
These stories always prompt this question from me: What about the rest of the kids? As challenging as it can be for the trans student, so it can be challenging for the rest of the youngsters.
I am with my trans friends on this vital aspect: No self-respecting person shows her or his private parts in a bathroom. Even men, while standing at urinals—including when there are no privacy walls between them—are discrete about zipping up while facing the porcelain potty. Those men and women who use stalls never remove clothing before closing the door and always redress before opening it.
When bills are proposed and laws passed which place undue burdens upon we trans folks’ bathroom usage, our natural reaction is to find these laws transphobic, especially as we listen to the fearmongering which accompanies them.
When the subject turns specifically to young people, I become very sensitive. For the sake of trans persons, we long to have folks respect us, to be included as the regular-acting people we are, for others to understand we have no interest in making trouble or doing anything we would not want done to us.
I vividly recall how sensitive I was in my teen years. In high school, when we had phys ed class every day, we cleaned up in communal showers. Because of the hormone disruption I experienced in the womb, which is behind my gender dysphoria, I went through puberty one to two years after every boy in my class. When I saw pubic hair growing on them, I wondered what was going on . . . and where was mine? Because I remained bare for so long, I found ways to hold my towel over myself and shower with my back to the center of the shower room.
It was tremendously embarrassing.
Last week, an NPR show featured the mother of a thirteen-year-old trans girl. She said, “My daughter is just like every other girl. Why can’t she shower with the rest of them?”
No, Mom, your daughter is not like every other girl in her class. Her anatomy is different. Thirteen-year-olds are early in puberty. They are hyper-sensitive to their bodies. Boys and girls are becoming sexual beings to each other. Peer pressure is now part of their lives.
All generations of humankind have understood the teenaged years—life’s awkward stage—are the hardest years of growing up. For a school system to be concerned about trans kids using certain facilities—locker rooms, especially, and perhaps also traditionally male and female restrooms—is a proper concern for every single child, both the cisgender youths and the trans girls and boys.
I have written enough about, and demonstrated by my behavior, the importance of remaining level-headed and considerate of the feelings and needs of everyone. When we T’s and our allies too quickly scream, “Transphobic!” we do no one any good, including ourselves. We sound like whiners. We often have earned the label.
Conversely, when those in charge tell lies to create fear about us T’s in order to win their way, they are worse than whiners. They are shameful human beings.
Do we have many issues which need resolving for the sake of all Americans? Yes, we do. We trans folks are on the dirty end of many a stick, and we are tired of being whacked about, of being hurt, of being ridiculed.
There are ways to answer these questions so that trans youth need not feel left out, singled out, and sold out. Most schools have numerous bathrooms, Certain ones could be designated as gender-neutral, and anyone who is fine with that could use them. Friends of the trans kids could show lovely support by using them. With locker rooms, while they are not as numerous, certainly areas can be sectioned off, and other agreeable forms of privacy enacted.
When we feel like we are being treated with respect, we will react in a like manner.
This never seems difficult to me. It becomes difficult when people get their dander up, turn to fearmongering, believe transphobic rhetoric, and forget the most basic rule which we want all people to practice toward us: Treat others the way you want them to treat you.
Let’s all practice it. When we do, we will get things done.
We will enjoy living together.