Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
This piece will begin, uncharacteristically, with an apology. To the old man in the cinema who thought it necessary to shout at me for using the disabled toilet, I am sorry. I’m sorry you felt the need to tell me you hoped one day I would ‘get into a state’ where I would actually need to use it, and that I should be ashamed of myself. I’m sorry you lack the insight to consider that it might have been far more pleasurable for everyone to mind your own business.
Like many other trans people, I would have much preferred to just use the bathroom in peace. I would have loved to have just breezed into the men’s as I am, thankfully, often lucky enough to do, and left without worrying about anything other than how they were going to return to the Zombieland universe ten years later. However, I didn’t. I used the disabled toilet, briefly inconveniencing you for roughly half a minute (you weren’t there when I went in) and escaping the ugly furrowed brow of the large man who seemed to pause as we both headed in the same direction, and look me up and down with a suspicious glare. I do really apologise for whatever you felt the need to shout at me for. But I wasn’t assaulted, so honestly I’m counting it as a win.
I relay this comparatively tepid tale of casual transphobia for a number of reasons. Firstly, in a society which has seen a 37% rise in transphobic hate crimes in this year alone, I thought it would be a breath of fresh air for people like me to read something which didn’t end with one of us beaten or spat on or murdered. Indeed, although the progress made in the past few years to acknowledge and bring attention to the existence of trans people and our right to exist as our authentic selves is not lost on us, there is an undeniable atmosphere of hostility which does not yet show signs of decreasing.
Notably, the recent development of the ‘LGB Alliance’, an anti-trans hate group which split from Stonewall (declaring that the organisation has ‘sold out lesbians and gays’), serves to highlight the necessity for further and more vocal support of the transgender community. The organisation claims to be against ‘gender extremism’; a term we can assume refers to the desire to have trans children properly educated and given the support that would prevent lasting traumatic mental health issues.
The concept of trans people preying on young people is not a new phenomenon, nor is it original. It was not long ago that gay people were synonymous with pedophiles, perverts, and predators intent on leading astray the innocent heterosexual youth. Sharing a bathroom or changing room with a gay person was unthinkable, and many members of the queer community will not be unfamiliar with having been told that their identities are a phase they will grow out of, and that if it weren’t for their friends they may not have considered this ‘lifestyle’ at all.
Of course, many people nowadays would consider this ridiculous. Teaching children about the existence of queer people is far less dangerous than letting them believe that they are broken or different, and people in public bathrooms really aren’t concerned with anything other than getting out of there as quickly as possible. This rhetoric has instead been rebranded for a new scapegoat; one who’s vulnerability makes it all too easy to alienate from the rest of the community and wider mainstream society as a whole.
Trans exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) and transphobic sentiment serves only to promote white, Western standards of gender and beauty. With womanhood being defined by a very specific set of codes and conventions, even cis women have found themselves attacked and accosted for not conforming to the concept of a ‘real’ woman. Body hair and prominent facial features are criticised for being unfeminine, outlining clearly racist undertones of TERF ideology. In short, transphobia is nothing more than bigotry rebranded for a new audience; it pretends to be politically correct by labelling us as aggressive predators, oversensitive and intent on forcing identity on innocent queer youth. It is quite clear that these people are unwilling to converse and change their opinion by learning more about our (quite frankly beautiful) community, about the joy and sense of safety that comes with finding out that you are not alone, and that there are ways to feel more at peace with yourself.
In the face of such an unrelenting wall of hatred and bigotry, it is important for one of the most vulnerable demographics to hear from you – cis people. It can often feel as though, at an administrative level, we are nothing more than inconveniences that will one day be ‘hate-crimed’ out of existence, and that we are to be tolerated until that day. It is vital to refuse to stop talking about trans people when discussing overall human rights issues. By seeing transphobia for what it truly is and vocally refusing to accept it, we are one step closer to feeling safe amongst our peers once and for all. Only by listening and learning can we offer support for every member of society, regardless of identity.