We return to my personal experiences and so require the should-be-obvious disclaimer that I am not a spokeswoman for the entirety of trans folk.
So obviously I am preoccupied with the extent of trans-antagonism even here in Canada, where the government is finally tackling institutional discrimination by mandating nondiscrimination policies. But par for the course, a lot of people don’t understand what discrimination actually is, and think that if something is made illegal it “stops happening,” and now that it might be illegal to discriminate against trans folk in a few more months we can all go home and stop complaining.
What this attitude overlooks are two things: structural discrimination and personal discrimination. I’ll cover structural discrimination another time but even with personal discrimination there’s a fair bit going on.
It’s been criminal to discriminate against cisgender gay people for years, yet cis gay Canadians still exhibit lower socioeconomic outcomes compared to cisgender heterosexuals (“cis het”). Now if you’re the type of person I can’t speak to politely, you blame cis gays for this. Unfortunately for you, all evidence points to cis het folk still enacting–and getting away with–homo-antagonistic discrimination.
Which creates a problem if I try to talk about homo- and trans-antagonism. This is a problem that starts with the actions of cis het people. That means it is impossible in a thorough analysis not to, at some point, examine the role of the majority in the socioeconomic outcomes of the minority.
Which also means, at some point, I have to talk about you. Yes, you, even the ones who take the time to read a trans voice (I’ve recommended many, hopefully I’m not the only one). While I am grateful that you put your money where your mouth is and remember to seek out information before forming an opinion, it is still necessary to discuss how suspicion and denigration of trans folk, especially trans women, is baked into the common understandings of gender itself, and that all of us (even me) may not be able to reach into the corners of our mind to root it out.
Let’s start with an example from a fellow critic of my favourite punching bag: The Roman Catholic Church. There are no shortage of odious reasons to dislike the Catholic institution: They exploit their publicly funded organizations to proselytize to vulnerable people; they lobby for religious exemptions from secular law so they can continue endangering and abusing women and queer folk; they are openly and unabashedly patriarchal and put an alarming amount of effort into conditioning their congregation to accept and propagate this; they shield the perpetrators of child sexual assault; they compare gender variance to nuclear weapons; they guilt-trip their congregation into financing these human rights abuses; and they make sure their church bells are obnoxiously fucking loud.
I could go on, but the point is that there are a few criticisms floating around where the most cutting criticism an atheist can muster against the Church is that its figurehead wears a “dress.” I think that reflects a very interesting system of values where all those other egregious crimes against humanity are somehow unworthy of mention. From a Humanist perspective, “patriarch” is an insult–or at least it ought to be. You needn’t bring in a morally neutral activity such as crossdressing to suggest the Pope is worthy of condemnation. I think you can reach a little higher for better fruit than that.
So it manifests among otherwise well-meaning atheists who are generally in favour of QUILTBAG rights & affirmation yet haven’t made the connection between mocking people like Trump because of statues depicting him as fat and ostensibly intersex; and how this message simultaneously denigrates fat & intersex people. As with the Pope, it’s not like there’s a shortage of reasons to really rag on Trump here.
Having written about these issues for a long time I won’t suggest we reduce our coverage trying to understand the impact of deliberate, willful trans-antagonism. I am all too happy to render individual Catholics uncomfortable when I suggest their institution advocates for my psychiatric abuse and that they are complicit in this. And the damage Catholic lobbyists have done to human rights issues is undeniable across the globe.
But supporting a community as embattled as the trans community means understanding that a broader body of accidental, unintentional bias still contributes to our difficulties, and in that respect I need myself and anyone who calls themselves a trans ally to not write ourselves off when we talk about trans-antagonism. That means when I say stuff like “cis het people do this,” don’t walk out of the room and count yourself out because you’re “one of the good ones.” It’s quite likely that you have and will do ‘this,’ even if by accident.
It’s okay, the same is true for me. I just hope we all have the patience and maturity to sit ourselves down and learn from it. What we don’t need is for you to tell us what a great ally you are, we need you to show us by contributing to the accountability of those advancing trans-antagonistic positions, even if unintentionally. Which includes yourself.