You do your best to be a progressive liberal. You get involved with the causes that matter to you. You make sure to surround yourself with positive, progressive folks and try not to get bogged down in stupid turf wars online.
And yet, despite your best efforts, you find yourself hearing the same ignorant, bigoted anti-trans arguments over and over again. Sometimes it’s family members that you have to get along with; sometimes it’s the friend-of-a-friend who won’t stop spewing hate on Facebook.
Franchesca Ramsey and Kat Blaque have teamed up for a wickedawesome YouTube video about how to verbally beat down an anti-LGBT family member (check it out below). Here are some of the common transphobic arguments, and how you can stand up for what’s right when you’re faced with these arguments.
1. A Man’s A Man And A Woman’s A Woman: It’s Just Biology
Wrong on all counts. Yes, folks who tend to present as “female” have XX chromosomes, and those who present as “male” have XY chromosomes. Blah, blah, blah– sperm and egg meet and make a baby, and the XX or XY combo determines male or female.
Except that there are lots of perfectly healthy people who don’t even fit into a so-called “biological” binary. If the basis of a person’s understanding about gender is based on the XX/XY binary, they’re already wrong.
Not to mention that gender and sex aren’t the same thing. Gender is a social construct. (Quick redux on “construct:” girls aren’t born with a biological predisposition to wear dresses; society agrees that that’s what’s “normal” for girls. In many cultures, men and boys wear dresses, and until just recently, the pink/blue gendered colors were reversed: boys wore pink, and girls, blue. The point is, it’s all made up and arbitrary.)
Gender Dysphoria is the term for when a person’s gender identity is different than their sex. Treatments vary (or the person may choose not receive any treatment at all), but it is important to identify the condition in the first place so that folks can receive insurance coverage and appropriate health care. It really is not that complicated. But when folks muddle the issue with ignorance and bigoted opinions, it becomes hella confusing.
2. Uhh, Caitlyn? Nah, I’ma Call Him Bruce
First of all, rude. Gender identity aside, when someone has made it clear that they would like to be called a different name than what they were called before, you should do it. Each person gets to decide their name. What my parents wrote on my birth certificate does not get to determine what people call me for the rest of my life.
But it’s not about names, is it? A person saying this will almost always use the male pronoun, so in most cases, the person saying it is just refusing to believe that transgender is “a thing.” Caitlyn Jenner has decided that that is her name. Get over it. It says more about you than about her if you use her wrong name and pronoun.
3. Why Do These Trans People Expect Us To Change Pronouns For Them?
Oh no! The dreaded pronouns! In my opinion, this one is the most legitimate of the anti-trans arguments: it is a challenge to change a person’s pronoun in your mind. My spouse’s cousin is trans, and she sent out an amazing email to the whole family announcing her transition. After that, whenever a family member mentioned her, I could see them pause as they worked to remember the correct pronoun to use. (Luckily, not an anti-LGBT bigot in the bunch!) Our language is ridiculously gendered, and it is hard to challenge our English language gendered-ness.
If a family member is talking about a person in the family, it is important for you to stand up for them. A trans person’s challenges are FAR greater than having to remember which pronoun to use, and the trans family member needs to know that you stand with them and not with the loudmouth.
If this gripe is about a trans celeb like Caitlyn Jenner, you can just dismiss this argument with, “I’m sure she doesn’t care what you think about her pronouns.”
4. And While We’re At It, ‘They’ Is Not A Singular Pronoun
Still with the pronouns!
Many trans and gender-queer people choose “them/they” pronouns instead of the gender-binary “he/she.” Because in traditional usage, third-person singular pronouns tend to be “he” or “she,” a singular “they” can be a bit of a mind-effer. That’s okay. Language evolution takes time, and not everyone is comfortable with it.
However, singular “they” in English is not a new, PC, “feminazi” term: it’s actually old AF. As early as 1894, a singular “they” was discussed as an alternative to the “he/she” binary. Jane Austen used a singular “they.” So did C.S. Lewis.
But the fact of the matter is that it may still be uncomfortable to refer a person as “they.” That discomfort is a legitimate feeling, but not a legitimate reason not to refer to a person by their chosen pronoun.
5. We Need To Keep Women And Children Safe By Keeping ‘Men’ Out Of Women’s Bathrooms
Ah, yes. The bathroom argument. There’s an easy way to shut this down without even getting into it: “Oh, you’re an anti-rape activist? Tell me about your recent efforts.” Cuz you know that a person is conveniently concerned about women’s safety and wellbeing only when it dovetails with their anti-LGBT bigotry.
If you want to get into it more, point out that trans women aren’t men FFS. Also, when someone is in a bathroom stall, it doesn’t matter what their genitals are. Lastly, trans women are WAY more likely to be ASSAULTED in a bathroom than they are to assault someone else.
Even North Carolina’s idiot governor who introduced the hateful HB2 has admitted that he has never heard of a transgender person molest someone in a bathroom. Ever. These bills and attitudes are just wanting to make life harder for trans people, and to tell them they don’t fit in. They don’t give a flying rat’s behind for women’s safety, or for where folks take a dump.
6. Have They Had ‘The Operation’ Yet? What Are They Packing?
First of all, ew. No one gets to speculate about anyone else’s genitals without being labeled a major creep. Blaque explains it fully: “Trans people’s bodies are not public property.”
It is not acceptable to speculate on anyone else’s genitals out loud ever. People who try to belittle trans people by insinuating that their genitals should define their gender should get a swift smackdown. A friendly smile and a, “I don’t feel like it’s ever okay to talk about other people’s genitals” should shut down the bigotry pretty quickly. If it doesn’t, turn the tables around: “How about you? What are you packing?”
Hopefully these comebacks help shift the conversation away from bigoted and hurtful opinions, and toward an open discussion in which all are welcome.
H/t Everyday Feminism.