Content warning: Violence, transphobia
On Friday morning I received this message from a (now) former friend “…I don’t know if you are autistic or not…to be honest..I don’t care. You can identify as whatever you wish…but I will not call you they or them…I will not call you she either, because she is the cats mother….Mr Kitty died of a broken heart. I know EXACTLY why he liked my bag…I’ve had wild birds do the same thing….you weren’t home…Your books are OK…not great…but pretty good…take care Jeanette. And yes…I’ll dead name you for as long as I wish.” Needless to say I was horrified and very, very sad and they were blocked two seconds after I read the message. I had known this woman for many years, we had attended each others’ birthday parties and been to each others’ homes.
This blog post is about bigotry, and more specifically transphobic bigotry. How is my mental health after that message? Well not good although it has been not good for some time. The message just made it another degree less good. I am more angry and sad at the way this person treated me. I suspect she is one of those people who fall under the category of ‘trans excluding radical feminists’ or TERFs although to my mind they are about as far from feminism as anyone could get. They are ideological transphobic bigots hiding behind feminism to excuse their hatred. JK Rowling is a famous example of a TERF as is Germaine Greer. I consider myself a feminist but I qualify this by saying I am an intersectional feminist to avoid being associated with TERFs who are doing immense damage to the community.
Being trans and / or gender divergent seems to attract a lot of bigotry, bullying and trolling, For some trans people they are attacked by strangers in the street. For others – including me – the bigotry tends to come from people harassing me online to people assuming I am female and misgendering me and calling em a ‘lady’. I suffer more from erasure than random hatred. I had a colleague who liked my advocacy work. This was around the time I came out as non-binary. She said to me ‘Oh but you are a real girl.” I don’t think she realised how hurtful that was. I had spent so much energy and stress coming out that to have someone assume my gender was wrong was pushing me right back into that closet was very harmful.
I have had some comments which are so silly as to almost eclipse how offensive they are, Someone told me I couldn’t wear a skirt because skirts were for girls and I am non-binary. This flummoxed me a bit. Could I wear pants? Maybe I should go nude?? I had someone else tell me I shouldn’t be involved with a women’s disability organisation because I was not a woman. The fact that the CEO and previous CEO of that organisation were also non-binary seemed to have passed this person by! I often feel like I am subject to the scrutiny of the gender expression police!
Someone commented on my social media yesterday that they had seen a lot of posts from me calling out bigotry and it must be difficult being trans as there seems to be a lot of bigotry. They were right. Transphobia is rife pretty much everywhere. In movies and TV trans people are either objects of ridicule or disgust and this is rarely challenged. While this is improving slightly there are still very few trans and gender divergent characters in movies and TV and in other positions in public life. It is as if we are invisible – or accurate and respectful portrayals of us are anyway,
Transphobia is dangerous. It can cause suicide and self harm but it also drives some bigots to acts of violence against us. When the plebiscite for equal marriage was held in Australia a few years ago several of my trans friends were physically assaulted included one by a woman holding a Bible! There is a transgender Day of Remembrance held each year to observe the murders of transgender people. And while the situation in Australia is bad enough, in some other countries things are far worse.
I was speaking with a friend on the phone this afternoon. We were talking about society and advocacy and gender diversity in particular. I said that we cannot assume that things will improve in a nice gentle trajectory or that the passage of time makes bigotry less of an issue. Advocates and activists need to not be complacent as things can get nasty and take a turn for the worse almost without warning. For every person advocating for positive change there is someone who wants things to go back to a world where everyone is in the closet and perpetrators of transphobic violence face no sanctions for their hatred. We are seeing some positive changes and we need for that to continue. And I want a world where the message I shared at the start of this post would never happen. Transphobic bigotry is never OK.