There is a really scary level of trans hate out there. Trans people are a minority of a minority, a minuscule fraction of society, yet the discussion of trans issues has become a flashpoint for anger and hate. For some, the existence of trans people seems to strike right at the heart of the patriarchy. It is a huge concern to me that there are so many very professional, well-funded blogs out there with huge followings that seem to preach trans and non-binary hate, that reduce our issues to bathroom use or participation in sports…I couldn’t help but post a comment on one such website, which I re-publish here below…but am worried now that I will attract nastiness from people who think it is okay to hate. The original blog post I replied to was about Caitlin Jenner and Elliot Page.
“We need to get better at tolerance and letting live and let live. Someone who finds themselves with gender dysphoria lives a life of pain. Anyone of us can realise how fundamental gender is to our self-identity.
For most humans, even thinking about whether we are a man or a woman, and what that means is probably something that never occurs to us. But for a very, very small number of people, there is a huge disconnect between the body they inhabit and the body they feel they should have. It isn’t a choice. For some, it is tolerable; for others it is not.
Is this a mental illness? Maybe. Not necessarily. A society that looks at gender identity as purely male/female and that regards self-expression that blurs those boundaries as threatening or hateful or sinful sets up a dynamic of opposition that is dehumanising for the individual that is unable to mentally or emotionally fit into that male/female dynamic. The vast majority of people in society are binary.
A minuscule fraction of us can’t accept the binary because it negates our feelings about ourselves. Trying to negotiate our way through society with these feelings is challenging and often soul-destroying. We didn’t make the choice. We were born this way.
I suspect that a lot of non-binary people would never feel as strong a desire to transition if the existence of the binary “nature” of our society was not so aggressively thrown back at us–there is casual violence present everywhere. Suicide rates amongst trans people and non-binary are substantially higher than for the population at large because of this. How is that a positive reflection on society?
This discussion shouldn’t be political. Tolerance is the mark of a sophisticated society. We shouldn’t care so much about expressions of gender. Instead, we should focus our energies on figuring out ways to co-exist, to tolerate and respect each other. Just as there is no place in society for racism, sexism, discrimination based on economics, creed, or anything else, so too should we take care with gender. Let’s use our energy to find acceptable compromise, possible workarounds that can be made to work for all.
Bathroom use, sports participation have become flash points for binary people…and in truth for non-binary people these issues are trivial compared to what we really think about. I am sure that those issues can be worked out in ways that are satisfactory to all reasonable people. And in the end whether Caitlin or Elliott have made the right choices, for themselves or for society, it is not really appropriate to judge. Let us just hope that they have taken steps in their lives that allow them to be happier people and more able to make the people around them happy.
In my own life I made a choice to not transition. I am not a cross-dresser in the traditional sense, ie. I don’t get aroused by it, I don’t do it to “pass”, but I do it. My mother didn’t make me this way. I wasn’t abused. I’m not gay. Not a day of my life has passed, however, that I have not felt pain at inhabiting a male body. It may be hard to understand, but it’s real, and ironic considering I was a model as a teen and young adult.
I love my wife above anything in the world, being a father to my children has been the most fulfilling part of my life. But I also know that the intensity of my love for my wife is shaped deeply and completely by the fact that I identify as non-binary, ditto my respect for women. I also know that my career success has been built on an ability to empathise and understand the people I work with, and in my case, I have no doubt where that comes from.
I also know, however, that were we to live in a society that did not make alternative forms of gender expression so toxic, that I would be a much happier person, and probably a better citizen. Is tolerance and making an effort to get along and understand one another too much to ask?”