Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Transphobia

This week, a birth occurred. Not a traditional birth, maybe, but we all served witness to the beginning of a life - that of Caitlyn Jenner, a woman finally able and ready to become the truest representation of herself. It might be a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding around a topic that most people openly have no background or experience of, but the fact is - a lot of tweets that followed were inherently transphobic, almost without meaning to be. I wanted to write this post, but I was also reluctant - worried that what I said might come across badly, or I might be incorrect; so please bear in mind that a lot of research has gone into this post, a lot of definition reading and experience researching to try and best understand and explain certain things. It's also important to note that this isn't directed at anyone in particular, but if the shoe fits - maybe go back and revise some of those ill worded tweets.

Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair

Transphobia is, according to Wikipedia - "a range of antagonistic attitudes and feelings against transexuality and transexual or transgender people, based on the expression of their internal gender identity. When "Call Me Caitlyn" damn near broke the internet, the response of people was overwhelming, joyous, and - sad to say - too often, almost accidentally transphobic, due to ignorance (as well as those that are downright mean and rooted in unpleasantness). So what might have been said that's offensive, and why is it?

  • "Man or not, she's hot" - Seriously, do I have to explain this to you? This calls the gender of a person into question, and that's not okay when the gender has been clearly specified - it's rude. There's no question of gender - Caitlyn Jenner is a woman.
  • Purposely using the wrong name - This is so ignorant it's something I'm struggling to get past. Calling a transgender person by a name that they no longer go by, especially if you don't know the person personally and haven't talked to them about it, is essentially erasing the identity that they feel is the most them. If you do it accidentally, apologise. If you choose to do it on purpose - it's rude, ignorant and you should be ashamed.
  • Misgendering - I lost it a bit about this yesterday, but to me this seems so integral. If you choose to use different pronouns (he/him) than have been specified (she/her) - that's such a crappy thing to do. Imagine if somebody just chose to misgender you no matter how many times you corrected them - you wouldn't like it, and it's not different.
There is also a lot of debate as to the idea of calling Caitlyn Jenner prettier than you being transphobic - but continuously reading about this, I thought I'd put it as a separate point, one that you can decide upon yourself. This is meant, often, as a compliment and a message of support - however many believe that it does convey a sense of surprise, as though the idea of a transgender woman being more attractive than a cis woman is inherently unexpected and surprising. It is worth putting thought into and being careful about using this one.

Honestly, there are so many more - but these are the most frequent ones that I saw - so, here's me signing off. It's 2015, and we shouldn't be here having to battle transphobia when strong women and men have shown us their true selves - but most importantly, have some compassion towards other humans. If it sounds like a dickish thing to say, don't post it. Simple as. 

Here's to the beginning of a brand new chapter for Caitlyn Jenner, here's to all the kids out there struggling with their feelings and having to read such negative comments, and here's to helping battle transphobia.

Sammy xo.

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