It's real, but like the left's other cliches, the real deal's not nearly as pervasive as advertised. Underneath the resistance is a more comprehensible fear: Sexual violence.
Out of all the left’s badly-abused words, ‘transphobia’ has to be the one flogged so hard it’s become one with the asphalt.
I’m not sure anyone really knows what genuine transphobia is anymore.
The key is the suffix ‘-phobia’, which is an outsized fear of something. Like, I’m pretty genuinely arachnophobic if a spider gets on me (I’m not sure a serial killer would freak me out as much).
A mysophobe is someone terrified of germs, dirt or contamination and goes to great lengths to maintain very strict personal hygiene.
And real homophobia is best exemplified by what you see in the U.S. military’s ongoing tussle over gay soldiers, for whom President Bill Clinton pioneered ‘Don’t say gay’ long before Florida.
The left famously tosses around pejorative words they’ve long since rendered meaningless: Racist, misogynist, transphobic, TERF, Nazi, fascist. The right is in the process of neutering ‘woke’ and ‘pedophile’. Like the left, it’s also fond of Nazi and fascist.
Will the real transphobics please stand up?
The ‘misics and the ‘phobes
Last November a fun game trended on Twitter for an hour or so in which people were encouraged to take a news headline and insert the word ‘transphobia’. It parodied Pink News, an LGBTQ website obsessed with transphobia in its headlines.
Some of us wags with nothing more constructive to do took up the challenge.
I had a field day with it.
Planned Parenthood defines transphobia as “….when people have deeply rooted negative beliefs about what it means to be transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming.” Furthermore, it goes a step further and defines it in context of ‘transmisia’, which “highlights the prejudice at the root of beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and systems that hurt or deny the existence of trans and nonbinary people.”
They’re similar, but Planned Parenthood differentiates transmisia from transphobia, as the latter is an anxiety disorder along with all other genuine phobias. Transmisia is mostly what you see on social media, while genuine transphobia is far less common.
The question few seem to ask is: What is the nature of the hostility or fear of transgender people? Which appears to be mostly against transwomen, whose stories dominate mass and social media.
Conservatives, and in particular the far right and the religious right, have been historically hostile to gender-bending or blurring of sex roles. For the religious, such attitudes are rooted in the Bible, when patriarchy meant women and children were property of the man.
Ergo, the right is more prone to homophobia, which is disgust for a man who ‘acts like a woman’, having sex with another man, and even worse, if he’s the ‘receiver’. Why would he let himself be treated like a woman? they ask themselves, which gives us some insight into what they actually think about women.
‘Phobia’ enters the picture when the man becomes afraid he might be targeted by male lust, an intolerable situation for a sex used to being the hunter or the predator rather than the prey. (Prey = weak, vulnerable, passive. Like an animal. Like a woman.)
He might even become the prey of a man who can force sexual contact if he rebuffs the advances. It can create cognitive dissonance on some level if the homophobe realizes or considers this is what women have to feel - fear of rape and sexual violence he himself might have forced on or created within women.
Today’s potential predators, in the mind of a genuine -phobe, look more like women than predators in years past. Someone feminine who could force herself on him with a penis, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
Worse, what if he becomes attracted to a beautiful woman who turns out to be more penis-ed than advertised, as portrayed in a famous movie, activating potential worries this might mean he himself is gay - or less straight, at least, than he thinks.
I would think it might be a shock to find one’s self fooled by someone one thought was the opposite sex, but not necessarily homophobia-triggering, but then I never was attracted to a man who turned out to be a woman. I can understand being mad or feeling misled, but not wondering whether I was actually gay for being attracted to said individual.
But I’m not a man, and in my experience men worry far more about being gay than women. Although interestingly, an obsessive fear that one might be gay could be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder, rather than homophobia or closeted homosexuality.
Where genuine transphobia lies is a real fear of being a romantic or sexual target of someone who’s not what they seem. It’s a newer iteration of homophobia, which itself is rooted in misogyny.
But fearing the threat of sexual violence from male bodies, however they dress? That’s the most common threat for both men and women. Men are violent, against other men as well as women, especially against men who aren’t ‘man enough’ for them.
That’s not transphobia. That’s fear for personal safety.
Let’s note that transmen are largely left out of this debate. There’s none about transmen and washrooms. I expect they use whichever they want, with little drama. Men won’t care as much if a woman is there, although I wonder how safe the transmen might feel since they’ll be as susceptible to rape as they always were.
Ironically, for all the male fear of male sexuality directed at themselves, many studies have found that a large number of transgender youth, teens and adults have been sexually assaulted and raped, and may be at higher risk. Less attention has been paid to transgender sex offenders, complicated by how common it’s becoming for typical male heterosexual offenders to ‘go trans’ in an effort to stay out of male prisons where, pretty arguably, they might otherwise become targets of transphobic male violence, or male rape one way or the other. But also arguably, because women’s prisons will give them access to women who can’t run away. These men will rule the roost.
The fear of sexual violence by transwomen, literal males under the skirt, lies at the heart of trans movement resistance for both men and women. There’s no difference in criminality between men who identify as men and men who don’t.
It’s easier to change the hair, the clothes, the face, and the body than it is to change what’s between the ears.
The fake female rape rise
Rapes by women against women are on the rise according to the latest stats, unless you realize that transwoman rapists are now called ‘she’.
News stories not always in the right-wing media abound of men taking advantage of the trans movement to commit sex offenses (not always rape) in women’s private spaces, yet TRAs and ‘allies’ claim ‘that never happens’ and complain about ‘transphobia’, treating all ‘people with penises’ as though they were potential rapists.
Well, yeah, that’s why we have sex-segregated bathrooms and other spaces. Because some men will take advantage of it, and we don’t know who. Like how the University of Toronto had to decrease their number of gender-neutral bathrooms ‘coz guess what da boyz did? They filmed two women showering.
Don’t know how the miscreants were dressed or what their pronouns were, but don’t care. Penises do not belong in women’s private spaces.
It’s not transphobic to say so. It’s realistic.
The bathroom tug-of-war may not be completely about women’s safety. It may be as much the flashpoint over control - whether women will cede male control over private spaces.
Ironically, the right may have driven this issue that so threatens them more than they realize. After all, the right itself doesn’t believe in women’s right to control their bodies; as predicted, after their victory over Roe v. Wade, they’ve begun attacking birth control.
Women’s rights suddenly seem more important to misogynist right-wingers now that their wives or daughters may have to share a bathroom with a male pervert discreetly filming them or waiting to assault them when they open the stall door.
The law of unintended consequences.
TRAs behaving badly
Transactivists’ common complaint that criticizing the movement ‘feeds the right-wing narrative’ ignores how they enable the right to gorge on transmisia and transphobia: TRAs’ bad behavior and inflammatory language, heavily fueled by the least marginalized group in the world - adult human males who’ve appropriated marginalization.
As J.K. Rowling noted in the excellent podcast series The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling, “…Women are the only group, to my knowledge, that are being asked to embrace members of their oppressor class unquestioningly, with no caveat.”
We live at a point in history where transactivists demand we believe genuinely absurd beliefs not just from the right but also from the left, on something that’s not a matter of opinion but established scientific fact: Sexually dimorphic humans cannot change their sex just by wishing or declaring it so, or with medical intervention.
No, not even with a gender identity certificate.
I think of all the times I laughed at Christian fundamentalists when they came to my door handing out execrable Jack Chick tracts. “How can I believe what you say about the afterlife,” I’d ask, “when you can’t even handle the fundamental truth that we evolved from earlier life forms, and particularly monkeys?”
I’d force them to stay on my turf rather than argue on Biblical points. “This is established scientific fact, as clear to anyone who reads a science book as it is to you and I that the sky is blue. We can both look up and see it’s true, unless you’re color-blind, then it might not look blue, but that will be a failure of your eyes rather than the truth. Why should I believe you when you can’t even accept established truth here on earth?”
The notion that we can change gender, that a transman is the same as a man and a transwoman is a woman is the far left equivalent of the fundamentalist Christian Creationist belief. Right here in 2023.
TRAs demand we accept their deluded view of the world or we are ‘killing transpeople’, wishing them dead or erased, committing genocide, encouraging the police to not investigate crimes against transfolk, and many other invented claims and downright lies designed to shut down the awful truth they don’t want to hear, akin to the belief that challenges the 6,000-year-old planet and the six-day Creation.
Couple that with the aggressive drive to push gender questioning on small children, and an equally aggressive drive to alter their bodies permanently, and the right’s got all it needs to scare their own into voting Republican to Save The Children.
What do Republican political wannabes need with transphobes when they’ve got TRAs?
And we on the Level Left find ourselves allied with the the forme. The Murky Middle is where we don’t always like the company we keep.
I can support people, including children, who feel weird, or different, or aren’t sure of their gender identity or romantic preference without agreeing with every single point of religious or gender ideology. I don’t live in a black and white world; mine contains many more shades of grey than a mommy-porn kink trilogy.
I can agree with conservatives on some things, but not others. They can agree with me and my kind on the need for same-sex bathrooms without necessarily sharing my or our views about abortion, gun control, the debt ceiling, or the wisdom of supporting Donald Trump.
It’s not transphobic, or even transmisic, to state what I believe in good faith—with the weight of the scientific community behind me—that sex is ingrained in every cell of one’s body and that biology does in fact define you. I might privately believe you’re a man or woman underneath the garb and stereotypical haircuts but still treat you as you want to be treated, as long as you’re not a dick—or a bitch—about it.
I don’t think I’ve met very many transphobes, as I suspect most of us haven’t unless we hang out with toxic masculine men and toxic feminine women, perhaps with their own internalized misogyny. We arguably know far more transmisics, and may be guilty of it ourselves at least at one point or another.
If the alphabet soup community wants to change the attitudes, or reduce the resistance, it can start with the heteromisic, homomisic, and gynomisic (or -phobe) in the mirror, whose hate for Others who don’t believe like they do directly approximates the hate we see in the right’s MAGA rallies.
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