As a community, we can’t go back

Recently, a transgender child in Maryland was profiled in a few news stories, showing the positive aspects of affirming a child’s gender identity. And shortly after these stories appeared,  a hate group (the American Family Association) began publicly urging that Tyler’s parents be prosecuted for “child abuse” by allowing their child to confirm his gender identity.

Generally, people are accepting but the small yet loud groups like AFA cause problems for those parents who are simply trying to allow their child to figure themselves out. Yet there are some people who, as trans themselves, believe that we don’t need to be publicly visible or politically active. Yet these small minorities have successfully, for years, denied equal human rights to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals as well. And now that we’re more publicly visible, we have become the latest bogeyman of the radical right.

Further, that genie can’t be put back into the bottle. The old way of doing things, sliding under the radar, whether we think it was better or worse, does not matter any more. We can’t go back. More and more health professionals are dealing with more and more transgender individuals who are not choosing to live lives of depression, fear, and mental anguish. And this means that more and more of us will be visible. So the argument that people should have done this or that or gotten this step done before that step (none of which is consistent with advice from medical professionals) is simply an attempt to walk backwards to a time when trans folk were just less visible. And that is not going to succeed. We’ve been noticed by the haters.

We now have two choices – allow them to strip us of rights, to prosecute us for daring to be ourselves, or we fight back. If your position is one that says we should not fight back, legally, politically, and socially, then your position has become one of passively allowing them to try to strip us of our rights, and you are exhibiting signs of internalized transphobia. You’re afraid of who you are, of being seen for who you are, and so you side with those who would dehumanize you.

I’ve met trans folk who identify as right wing Republicans. They mouth and say the same things as these “social conservatives” about everything, including GLB people, except themselves. Somehow, they’ve convinced themselves that they are different, special, and won’t be targeted, dehumanized, and attacked by the radical right. Yet the evidence is right there, in all its public glory, that the radical right is now very aware of those of us who are trans. They’re not going to stop. They’re not going to give up. They are going to keep pushing now until we win these legal battles clearly and authoritatively.

Some trans folks can pine for the “good ole days” when we were mostly not noticed. But we cannot go back. It’s not going to happen. So choose and choose wisely. Either fight for the rights of all trans people, including yourself or be prepared to see yourself ultimately outlawed and criminalized. Because, as the evidence above demonstrates, that is exactly what these people want to do to us.

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2 thoughts on “As a community, we can’t go back

  1. “If your position is one that says we should not fight back, legally, politically, and socially, then your position has become one of passively allowing them to try to strip us of our rights, and you are exhibiting signs of internalized transphobia. You’re afraid of who you are, of being seen for who you are, and so you side with those who would dehumanize you.”

    I believe it presumptuous of you to tell me how I should respond to fear and tell me that if I don’t fight back, I am passive and operating from internalized transphobia. I don’t believe in”fighting back” because all that does is cause more fear and thereby hatred against us. Instead, I believe in embracing fear and returning it with love in the most visible way that I can, just as Mahatma Ghandi did against British rule in India. I do not believe that I would be where I am today if I operated from fear and returned hate with more hate. As Jesus said in Matt. 5:39, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
    Deanna Joy

    • Thank you for your thoughts, Deanna!

      Perhaps I might have chosen my words differently but nowhere was I urging returning hate for hate or engaging in literal violence. A transwoman was hacked to death in Philadelphia a few days ago. That is literal hate and violence against us. What I am advocating is to stand up for our rights, to support political candidates who will not allow us to be trampled underfoot, and who will stand against the bigotry of organizations like the AFA, which wish to criminalize our very existence.

      My point is that the old way of “passing under the radar” isn’t going to work anymore.Either we allow the AFA and Matt Barbers of the world to define our very existence as a criminal act or we stand up and demand equal protection under the law. We can’t say that we prefer to not get involved because our very existence means we are involved. Matt Barber and those like him are not going to let you be. How would you feel if a politician in your state decided to force you to legally identify on all your documents as male? This is actually being discussed in Texas.

      I am pretty sure that I know what Mahatma Ghandi would have chosen in these situations and it would not have been to passively allow the Matt Barbers of the world to dehumanize and criminalize us.

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