The other day I was being all vain and looking for sites that linked to “That is so Queer”. One of the "internets tubes" took me to a Portuguese trans blog. The author of this blog copied one of my entire posts and reposted it, with credit, on her site. I am honored. Our trans sisters and brothers are, as a huge understatement, viciously maligned.
Trans-peeps are what they are. As I am what I am. What I am is not altogether certain, but the fact of the matter is that they are FAR FAR more certain about their identities than I am.
They are so certain they risk their lives and livelihoods to be what they are.
Kids grow up with all kinds of messages about where they fit in. A lot of that has to do with gender. The standard toys, job opportunities, role as mother/wife. I was confused enough as a kid. I cannot imagine the kind of drama that would have ensued had I been in a little girl’s body and knew, deep down in my heart, that I was a little boy. How incredibly frightening to tell one’s parents, one’s friends, one’s colleagues that when you see me next, I will be different in a way that is so notably obvious.
How great the fear of being alone in this world that transgendered women and men deny what they know, live closeted, secretive, false lives and attempt suicide in numbers from over 30% (Health Soc Work. 2005 Feb;30(1):19-26; J Homosex. 2006;51(3):53-69.) to over 50% estimated by some social service organizations.
Transgendered people are discriminated against in jobs, housing, healthcare, and in every other way you can think of. Imagine going into a bank and changing your name from Herman to Lily or from Annette to Frank. Will you be surprised if the bank representative can’t help you because you don’t have enough forms of proof, despite being told on the phone that you do? Will you be surprised when you hear snickering on the way out?
Transphobia is all too common in the queer communities as well.
I was shocked (shocked I tell you!) when at the precious (not to mention precocious) age of 20, first hearing about the Michigan Women’s Music festival (yes, I know they spell it with a “y” but I don’t, and won’t), that only “women-born-women” were allowed. Before I even knew what kind of queer I was, I knew I wasn’t going to be attending that event.
It’s not a phase, ladies! Heard that anywhere else? It’s not like she’s going to suddenly, in her sleep, in the tent next to yours, morph into a man with nothing but patriarchy and rape on his mind! Like anyone would go camp in the woods of Michigan in a tent, eat organic vegetarian meals for 5 days and listen to the musical stylings of Lez Zeppelin and Melissa Ferrick to be a man? No, she wants to be there because she wants to be there. Period. With or without one.
I am thrilled to report that as of last year’s festival (2006), they are now accepting trans-dollars and trans-chicks are welcomed! I’m still not going, but, “Way to go and it’s about damn time!”
Gay men seem to have a bit of the same issue. Sadly, the LeatherSIR/Leatherboy competition only accepts “born males” into their contest. I wonder what the problem is here? Is it that someone’s penis is too small or is it the fear that a transguy will act “girly”? Or is it something else I cannot comprehend?
I could not find one leather organization that excludes the participation of transmen. So why include this in the rules?
I’m certainly not saying that all or even most gay men or lesbians are transphobic, I’m just sayin’, check yourself. Are we doing to them what has been done to us? Is our acceptance so fragile (or even so sure) that “we” are afraid that “they” will “ruin” the little speck that “we” “have”? ((I do love me some quotation marks!)) Is there something about the fluidity of gender that makes people dismiss others? Or is it sheer stubborn ignorance, as NBA player Tim Hardaway illustrates in an interview at ESPN.com with a childhood friend who happens to be a reporter (explaining why he said he “hates gays”):
“I still don't accept their lifestyle. No. I don't want to … try to find some type of understanding of why they live the way they live or why they are the way they are. But as a person, my beliefs are my beliefs. I don't have to condone it and I don't have to be around it. You can curse me out in the streets and in the papers. As long as they don't put their hands on me.”
Here are a few more references, just in case you were curious.
US Department of Health and Human Services. Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, Volume 3: Prevention and Interventions in Youth Suicide. Rockville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services; 1989
Garofalo R, Wolf CR, Kessel S, Palfrey J, DuRant RH. The association between health risk behaviors and sexual orientation among a schoolbased sample of adolescents. Pediatrics. 1998;101:895–902
Garofalo R, Wolf CR, Lawrence S, Wissow LS, Woods ER, Goodman E. Sexual orientation and risk of suicide attempts among a representative sample of youth. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999;153:487–493
Saewyc EM, Heinz PA, Bearinger LH, Blum RW, Resnick MD. Gender differences in health and risky behaviors among bisexual and homosexual adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 1998;23:181–188