Fighting transphobia

CW: Reference to transphobic violence

I recently read my discharge notes from a hospital admission last year. The doctor had written ‘Yenn is a 45 year old female and identified herself as ‘binary gender…’ Um, sorry doctor, wrong on many levels! I am not female and I identify as non-binary gender not binary gender. That is kind of the point! As a transgender and non-binary person this sort of thing happens to me all the time. It is infuriating to say the least. That a hospital doctor is so ignorant of the narratives and experiences of gender divergent folks  is simply mind boggling to me. There is official knowledge of gender diversity in Australia as evidenced by laws in some states around gender on birth certificates and the options people have to change their names and gender on things like passports so surely a hospital caring for people with mental health issues should also be aware of these matters!

There is a lot of ignorance around gender diversity and it makes me very sad, frustrated and angry. I encounter it all the time. Some of my trans friends are subject to violence and aggression from strangers. In fact being transgender puts people at a significantly greater risk of violent attacks, including murder. This has been the case for a long time and is absolutely horrific. My gender expression is what I would call androgynous but many people see me as female in my expression and assume I am a woman. This means I am most likely at a lower risk of random transphobic violence from strangers. However I am at the risk of what could be seen as a kind of dismissiveness. People assume I am female and continue to think this even when I tell tham I am non-binary. I had a colleague at a former workplace say to me after I came out to them ‘oh but you are a real girl!’ It was highly invalidating and made me feel very unpleasant. People are constantly misgendering me and calling me a ‘lady’. It is extremely frustrating and upsetting. I am proud of my non-binary identity so having people just dismissing it is very hurtful.

I might not have trouble with aggression from strangers but I get plenty of transphobia from people who know me as a non-binary advocate. I recently had a person who had been a friend for many years spray me with a shower of transphobic hatred, telling me that she would never use my correct name or pronouns and telling my my beautiful cat Mr Kitty had died ‘from a broken heart.’ This person was one of those bigots who hide behind feminism. It was extremely hurtful. I also had someone tell me I shouldn’t be involved in a women’s exhibition. This was despite that fact that the CEO of the organisation hosting the exhibition was themselves non-binary! I even had someone tell me I shouldn’t wear a skirt because non-binary people don’t wear ‘female clothes’. I just thought they were clothes – I had no idea clothes had a gender! Could I wear pants / trousers or are they ‘male’? Maybe I should just wear my undies?? 

Jokes aside, these are things which are indicative of some major issues in society. They have a big impact on transgender people. I am all for supporting people to be out loud and proud as their wonderful authentic selves. The attitudes and behaviours discussed in this piece are all things which would push people into the closet and make them afraid to outwardly express who they are. Bigotry pushes people into the closet. It makes people doubt themselves, it makes people afraid and it makes them hate and question themselves. I am against bigotry in all its forms but as a transgender person I am strongly against transphobic bigotry.

What do we do to challenge this bigotry? The first thing I would recommend is for people who as not trans themselves to be genuine allies. Stand up and be counted alongside your trans siblings and challenge hatred. Make bigots aware that they will be challenged if they spew forth hate. Validate and support your trans siblings. Challenge hatred wherever you see it and be open about being an ally. And for trans folks? Well some things which have helped for me are to call people on their bigotry when it is safe to do so. Also when the hateful ex-friend mentioned above said all her nastiness I reflected that she had the problem, not me. Challenge that idea of ‘I am not trans enough…’ I really struggled with that one until a friend said ‘are you trans? Then you are trans enough’. Connect with your trans siblings – online and in person, read about the experiences of other trans people. There are some great books for autistic trans people including Uncomfortable Labels by Laura Kate Dale and Spectrums, edited by Maxfield Sparrow (which has a chapter by me in it!). Oh and The Autistic trans Guide to Life by Dr Wenn Lawson and me as well! 

I am a very proud non-binary person and seeing bigotry is always going to really bother me – be it intentional or (for example) due to hospital doctors having no clue about gender diversity! This is an area where things are evolving and could go either way. I see the work of advocates and allies as working to tip the scale in the direction of respect, validation and inclusion. I will do this for as long as I am able.    

3 thoughts on “Fighting transphobia

  1. Hopefully with all the work being done now, in the future people will just be accepted for themselves. No more “closets”, no more “labels”, no more hatred, discrimination and violence. Just acceptance!💕

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  2. I unconsciously presented androgynous into my teens at which time I had the idea of gender being strictly binary and according to one’s birth certificate literally beaten into me on many occasions. It took around ten years for me to fully understand why I was treated the way I was and how to present in a way that was acceptable to society. It simply became part of the mask that I, as an autistic, lived behind for the next five decades and which I am only now, in my seventies, coming out from very cautiously.

    I had hoped that societal attitudes would have changed by now, and while it has to some degree, there is yet to be a paradigm shift in how society views gender expression.

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  3. I was treated disrespectfully by a medical specialist a few years ago, so I wrote to him and refused to pay his bill until he apologised. He didn’t of course, so when I got a reminder about the outstanding payment, I made a formal complaint to the relevant medical complaints body. I said I didn’t want compensation, just an apology. It worked. Sometimes I think these people act out of ignorance, but they need to be confronted head-on, politely of course, otherwise they continue in their behaviours. it is very satisfying to receive a formal apology from someone in that position!!! ;). And I’m sorry to hear about the behaviour of your former “friend” – that is truly awful. And although I do not identify as non-binary – I LOATHE being called a “lady” – I most certainly am not a lady!

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