Responses to daily transphobia

How to deal with misgendering and casual transphobia or [intentional] transphobia disguised as casual, especially when coming from queer people, allies and feminists would be appreciated too. You mentioned in your blog that you have built up psychological defenses against casual misgendering and cissexism, I’m curious to know what they are because that’s something I have struggled with in the past. 🙂

The way I deal with transphobia primarily depends on:
– where am I at with myself?
– who is the person (what power dynamic is there between us) being a jerk?
– who else is around (if anyone)?

Now that I’m confident in my gender and sex, it’s way easier to not be affected, and instead file away the misgendering as “indication that this person isn’t safe for me/other trans people.”
Sometimes, when I fail to respond overt misgendering e.g. “Ms *name*”, “you may identify as male but ‘really/biologically’ you are female” etc the person will follow it up with “aren’t you upset?” or “aren’t you going to defend yourself?” In those cases I explain “I’m secure in knowing who I am, I don’t depend on you to confirm it.” If they continue to try to get under my skin, I’ll add something along the lines of “I’ve noted what you’ve expressed, and I’ll inform the powers that be (e.g. your/our/my manager), and let other people know to avoid you/your business/services.” If they insist on they’re right to say/do what they’re doing, I add that it’s incredible they have higher standards than the government and WPATH, they are demonstrably wrong according to both those authorities, and they definitely don’t know better than those two.

For those concerned that we may change our mind:
I point out that death (be it by suicide or any other method) is truly irreversible. Is that a risk they are willing to assume while the conversation goes on given the suicide rate within trans communities? Trans people are at their highest risk for suicide once they’ve decided to transition (whatever that may entail for them) until they are able to start it. It drops once they start but remains important until they finish (again, whatever transition may mean for them) at which point is is closer to that of the general population. Regret statistically, is quite unlikely. And the few I know IRL have complex histories and it’s not straight forward regret in the vast majority of cases.

For those concerned that it’s medically unsafe:
Compared to chemo and other treatments, transition is quite safe. All bodies have a bit of the 3 hormones, it’s not introducing a new substance to a body, and we are monitored to take it within certain levels. Any medication not taken within prescribed levels can be life threatening, starting with acetaminophen (aka Tylenol). There are much bigger fish to fry if this is someone’s genuine concern.

If there are other people around when I’m being intentionally misgendered, looking confused/unimpressed, I visually convey that I too don’t follow the misreading. I might inquire if I’m being called a woman as a way to put me down, and if so, would they like to make a broader, louder statement about their feeling that women are inferior. You can be pretty sure women will give cut eye and support you if you draw out that sexism is at the root of transphobia.

If it’s a cishet guy who’s tearing into my body, I explain that he’s clearly very invested in my body, and I’m flattered, but I’m not interested. Their homophobia takes care of the rest.

If I’m given a specific body/quality that is “universal to all men” such as:
– prostate, testicles, sperm production
– height, size
I inquire if they say as much to post-cancer treatment guys or war veterans that they’re less of men because they are now without prostates, balls, dicks (after stepping on a mine, organ removal.) Are they saying that young boys who don’t yet produce sperm, whose balls haven’t dropped, nor are taller than girls their age aren’t male? What are they then? Essentially, I put it on the person to frame how much of the transphobia is specifically applied to trans people and demonstrate to them that they already are well capable of having more expansive understanding of what is maleness/masculinity and that it doesn’t depend on body parts.

If I’m at work, I point out that being invested in/discussing the contents of my underwear is considered sexual harassment so I’m not going to continue the conversation.
If I’m not at work, I might throw in a joke that I need them to buy me dinner with a nice glass of wine before I might be tempted to respond.

If it’s coming from feminists, I ask them to clarify if they’re saying that cis women are incubators, whose principal responsibility is reproduction, how does their pro-choice politics stop short of supporting my right to choose what I did with my reproductive system.
If it’s someone who’s going on about “the need to dismantle the binary” I tell them that as a feminist, I fully support their right to choose to alter their body to make this statement, to show that they don’t depend on their body parts to know they are male/female.

If it’s coming from cis gays, they’re probably cishomonormative, in which case, they aren’t allies. I deal with them as I would with any cishet.
If they’re cis pansexual women, I assure them that any reason anyone gives me with the goal of deterring or shaming someone’s right to choose what they do with their reproductive system is as transphobic as anyone else who shares their goals, regardless of how far apart their respective motivations might be. That I’m indifferent to their dating history or attraction, I don’t want to date transphobes. if they argue they aren’t transphobes because their partner is trans/non-binary, I point out that spouse beaters are married to the people they harm; romantic attraction and love isn’t mutually exclusive to holding shit politics. And deal with them as I would with any cishet.

It often shocks transphobic alphabet soup people that I wouldn’t be attracted to them. I assure them the repulsion is mutual, and it’s one more reason to leave each other alone.

The defenses I’ve come up with are more for the internal stuff such as wishing I was cis, but there are other strategies under acute focus on body/gender.

If they are spiritual based, I explain I’m not of the person’s faith, and I don’t debate Holy scriptures.

I hope that’s helpful. Let me know if there are specific examples not covered here.

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5 thoughts on “Responses to daily transphobia

  1. These are great comebacks. I have said something similiar to these before. In a response to a feminist who asked “Would trans people exist if gender roles didn’t exist?” I asked, “If gender roles didn’t exist, would you get a sex change?” She basically ignored me and went off on a tangent about how we shoulnd’t alter our bodies because something something gender roles. It took me a really long time arguing with her before she realized she was making an ass of herself. :\ The blind bigotry and gaslighting from feminists was something I did not expect, the mental gymnastics involved in insisting I adhere to both traditionally feminine gender roles and female biology while simultaneously pretending to not see gender. I was just blown away by the hypocrisy I witnessed.

    Recently, I had one of these “I don’t see gender” people suggest that I’m not really trans because I was abused as a child, and he finished this off with “you need a brain scan to find out if you REALLY have dysphoria, if you get a note from your shrink, that’s not real.” He immediately began talking to me like I was a child even though we are the same age. I have had an fMRI and an EEG by the way (not that an fMRI or an EEG is in any way part of diagnosing GD or my path to transition, it’s just a curiosity in my childhood history that a child development doctor happened to comment to my parents on the possible masculization of my brain in the womb after seeing only my test results) and I was abused because I insisted to my crazy religious parents that I was a boy from a young age. I’m sure getting abused because I’m trans isn’t what made me trans. He didn’t know any of this information, and didn’t ask, he just knew I was trans and had an abuse history, as soon as I told him I was uncomfortable with his questions he went in on me with this long condescending rant where he basically called me a social justice warrior. Whenever I encounter these people I feel like I’m talking to a Nazi who doesn’t know he’s a Nazi.

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  2. Maybe the reason I respond to people like that and argue with them, is because on some level I believe I need to justify my existence, and that’s what gets them off, that’s why they baited me into the argument in the first place. Like unconscious, low-level bullying, sometimes just bullying.

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    • Yeah, it can be hard to let shit slide, especially when the self-esteem is maybe not doing so great.

      idk if it would help you, but sometimes when there’s transphobia in the media, I do a quick “mental check” could I refute what was presented. So it’s not happening to me and there’s no evidence if I got stomped by something. Though the latter is pretty rare. And knowing I’m sure of what the responses are helps me shake my head faster when it’s happening directly to me and move on knowing I’m in the right. Or, another outcome, is that once I’m super well versed in why an argument is crap, I can more quickly come up with snappy come back that nip these moments in the bud and leaves the other person stunned by how their shit just got turned on them. It can be super frustrating if we didn’t know what to say in a moment, but if you do later on come up with a great comeback, don’t think “too late”, store it away for the next time, because unfortunately, there will be a next time. But at least then, you’ll be ready to look both confidence and witty with a clever come back. (Caveat, if it’s safe for you to respond, there’s no shame in prioritising a roof over your head, food on the table, and your well being. Picking your battles definitely falls under prioritising your overall welll being.)

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      • For me, it’s easier to deal with transphobia from outside than from inside. Inside the trans community, inside myself. That’s the worst of it. I was expecting to struggle with Conservatives, and religious nut jobs, to some extent I was expecting to struggle with the medical establishment, but I wasn’t expecting to come across so much transphobia in the trans community or within my own mind.

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