How To Really Eradicate Transphobia

So, I was browsing Twitter last night before I went to sleep. I saw this little gem from Hot Cis Takes, which is a compilation Twitter account:

It reads as though it was written either by a trans person who hates themselves or by a TERF. But I’ll address the five suggestions they have. Quotations from the original image are posted because the image resolution is of beer goggles quality.

Stop Calling People What They Are

Don’t call women cis or TERFs, be friendly towards them, don’t argue, don’t force your way into female only spaces or demand acceptance.

Yeah, I know the image calls it “stop calling women names”, but that’s not what’s going on here. When people are called “cis” or “TERFs”, it’s not a matter of name calling. It’s a description, either of behaviour or their gender. If you’re assigned the correct gender at birth, you’re cisgender. If not, you’re transgender. That’s really all “cis” means. Calling someone cis is as offensive as calling someone white. Additionally, the use of the label “cis” is a more accurate label than “normal”, “genetic”, “biological” or any term that has been previously used to refer to women assigned the correct gender at birth.

As for calling people “TERFs”, typically people don’t get called that unless they engage in rhetoric that is common from TERFs. The message here is that TERFs shouldn’t be called out for their odious behaviour. This is obviously not a way to “eradicate transphobia”… if anything, it’s a way to enable it. And you have no obligation to “be friendly” towards people looking to deny your humanity nor should you be expected not to argue. Additionally, trans women have a right to be in “female only spaces” given the fact that we’re female. If we’re wrongfully excluded because we’re transgender, we shouldn’t take it lying down. We must demand equality and our rights.

Stop Putting the Blame Where It Belongs

Stop blaming everyone for your problems. It’s not all only about you. Respect others, be modest and polite. Stop being a victim! Don’t seek haters, bigots and transphobes everywhere, and you may find more friends.

Yeah, yeah, I know the original image said “Stop Seeking Haters” but let’s be real, this is what they really meant. The gist of this paragraph is to discourage trans people from holding people accountable for their actions and to paint those of us who do as irrationally seeing “haters, bigots and transphobes everywhere”.

The best way to end transphobia is to call out transphobic behaviour. Tell them what’s wrong with their action in detail. Not just for the person who engaged in the transphobic behaviour but also for the benefit of anyone spectating. Pushback is critical in order to help educate people on why transphobia is wrong and what is transphobia. When you don’t put the blame where it belongs, you aren’t doing the work necessary to spark social change. Which leads us to our next point…

Change Starts With You

Work on yourself, be, look like, act, talk and walk like the gender you believe you’re [sic] and become a better person in every other way. You will see less misgendering & transphobia.

Finally, a section where I didn’t have to change the title, though I still disagree with their conclusion. Firstly, I will get the pedantic shit out of the way before I address the meat of this hot, steaming pile of bullshit. Transgender people aren’t “the gender [we] believe [we are]” any more than cisgender people are, and the phrasing would be weird if I didn’t already have enough data to say with confidence that this post is about enabling transphobes.

Yes, if it is harder for people to read that you’re transgender, you’ll see less misgendering and transphobia. And I’m not going to bash on anyone who feels the need to do so in order to get some respite from this horribly transphobic society. But I refuse to go stealth, even after getting FFS and vocal surgery. Why? Well, I’m going to quote a certain visual novel.

If you can breathe, you can stand. If you can stand, you can fight.

Olivia Nevakris, quoting Luther Nevakris in The Royal Romance, a story in Choices.

Their title was true in that change does start with you. But it is not predicated on you fading into the background like so many of the trans people who came before did. One of the worst legacies of the gender clinics of the late 20th century is that the programmes required trans women to be silent and fade into obscurity.

Start Denying Pseudoscience

Be realistic. Humans don’t change sex and sex is binary. You may change your looks and have a better life in a new gender role but there’s no magic to turn you into the opposite sex.

Again, I’m rewriting their headers, as this one was called “Stop Denying Science”. A common refrain from transphobes is that trans people are denying science when we live authentically. I’m hoping to write a whole series of articles about the actual science backing being transgender. However, since they didn’t say anything scientific that I can refute, I’m just going to leave it hanging that transphobia is the pseudoscientific position, not being transgender.

Some of the gender identities that have been discovered in the past few decades.

Having said that, sex isn’t binary. There are axes that sex can fall upon, such as genetic, endocrinological, anatomical, neurological, etc. and I don’t think that you can honestly believe that it is binary, given all the variables. The existence of gender non-conforming people only helps further the doubt that sex is binary.

The point of transition isn’t to “change sex”, so to a certain extent, I agree that “humans don’t change sex”. Rather, transgender people transition in order to make our bodies fit who we actually are on the inside. It’s not “magic” that turns us “into the opposite sex”. No amount of willpower makes a transgender person stop being transgender. The best we can do is to transition, and this is what the responsible medical and mental health authorities recommend in order for us to live healthy, happy lives.

Fight For Respect and Acceptance

Don’t force others to accept and love you. Don’t force your beliefs down people’s throats and minds, don’t silence, intimidate or threaten them if they don’t accept you. Wait! Patience and respect will get you much further.

I think there’s a bit of confusion as they’re trying to equate the respect you must earn (as an authority) as opposed to the basic human respect we should all have. I don’t think that trans people should have to “earn” respect or acceptance but the fact remains that in our transphobic world, we are compelled to fight for it.

We’re not talking abut “beliefs” here, we’re talking about basic human dignity. People should accept you for who you are. If they refuse to respect your basic humanity, you have the right and obligation to call them out. You shouldn’t be expected to wait for people to stop being transphobic and finally accept you for who you really are. If they won’t do it on their own, call them out for their shitty behaviour. Hold them accountable.

Patience will get you nowhere and you have no obligation to respect a belief that who you really are shouldn’t be respected. You have to stand up to those who threaten to oppress you. You have to point out how flawed and factually bereft their assertions are. Do it to the point where people see their arguments lacking merit.

Wrapping It Up

The image has a couple of final quotes to wrap up, and after I address them, I can give you my conclusion.

Transphobic groups aren’t “women’s rights groups”

For more practical tips just consult transsexuals who were through all that before you and don’t see women’s rights groups as their enemies.

Trans people don’t see women’s rights groups as our enemies. However, I would bet hard money that the “women’s rights groups” this image references aren’t actual women’s rights groups. Actual women’s rights groups would never advocate letting your oppressor walk all over you as this image advocates. It reminds me about what Martin Luther King, Jr. said about the white moderate.

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

The parallels are so stark, it’s uncanny. King warns about the white moderate, who is more interested in order than justice. Hell, the people who wrote this image don’t even agree with us in the goal we seek – to end transphobia. But almost everything in this quote could be equally applied to the people who would agree with this image.

… But women can be cis.

Women aren’t cis. Trans women are trans women. We can all get along together.

While not all women are cis, women can be cis. This clearly reeks of a wilful misunderstanding of the word “cis”. The fact remains that not only can women be cis, most people in this world (yes, including women) are cis.

The next sentence, however, is quite telling. Yes, trans women are trans women, this is so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said. However, this echoes a TERF talking point that trans women aren’t actually women but rather “trans women”. This phrasing allows TERFs to use the term “trans women” without seeing us as the women we actually are. After all, many of the phrases TERFs use to define us (i.e. “trans-identified male” and “trans rights activist”) don’t really work in the larger society. So, saying “trans women are trans women” may sound obvious, but it allows TERFs to mentally justify using the phrase without admitting the fact that we’re women.

Summing Up My Thoughts (or TL;DR)

This is undoubtedly some of the worst advice you can give someone for combating transphobia. It is an ill-conceived attempt to blame the victims of transphobia and disempower us from making our society better for trans people. It may work on some people who have bought into cissexist narratives, but it won’t work on me. In the past few years I’ve been in the Green Party and studying social justice movements, I know nothing gets done this way. We have to fight to counter oppression.

The Civil Rights Act didn’t happen by asking politely for rights. Marriage equality didn’t happen by “respecting” the ridiculous notion that we don’t deserve the right to marry. When it comes to equal rights, compromise is unacceptable and is a delay of social justice. And, to quote Martin Luther King again, “justice delayed is justice denied”.

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