On The Default Is Transphobia
Transphobia is the default.
That is, the anxiety about, aversion regarding, animus towards, and apathy to getting involved with trans people, the needs of trans people, and the issues of trans people, is the default, the basic, the starting point, for everyone.
Every single person everywhere. Famous? transphobe. Historic fighter for rights? Transphobe. Beloved composer or playwright? Transphobe.
It is the default, the starting point. The core presumption and understood norm.
Now a lot of you are saying “but I’m not”, and I am going to ask you a simple question: how did you learn not to be a transphobe?
When did you learn not to be a transphobe?
Because you did. You had to learn it You had to struggle with it and think about it it and learn about it and you had to put in effort and time and energy and attention.
The same thing applies to racism, misogyny, ableism, antisemitism, islamophobia, and the rest of the endless list that basically boil down to people treating other people shitty and then getting away with it.
They are the default, the expectation, the foundation; built into the schools, the tv shows, the churches, the civic centers, the laws, the ideas about what is a boy and what is a girl (all of them are in those two, really) and the rest of it — we even have to teach how not to do it in schools and *that*, my friends, is why so much effort is put into stopping them from teaching people how not to do it because that makes it harder to stop it all, from don’t say gay to CRT that isn’t about actual CRT to the rest of the lies and the twisted evil shit we hear.
This is simple truth that drives a lot of things and why it can come as a shock to many.
So pick a celebrity you like. No, not Johnny Depp, he’s already been known as a transphobe for a while.
No, not Mel Gibson, also a long time transphobe.
Cher? Oh, hell yeah — Cher had to learn. Some of you may not recall how baked it it was in the 70’s, during the heyday of variety shows like the Sonny and Cher show, or how a standard go to sketch was always something transphobic.
Nobody is not transphobic without work on it.
Trans medicalists? Like Buck? Yep — they haven’t done all the work. They reached a point where they had to just stop because they didn’t know how to go any further, or didn’t want to go any further.
Same thing with Caitlyn.
All of us had to learn as well.
*I* had to learn — do not think I exclude my mixed race hind end from that rule. I just never stopped learning.
Now, why does this matter?
Simple reason: every celebrity is a fucking transphobe unless they have put in the work and *proven* they are not.
And that means they will have a hard time doing so, because who really thinks they should have to prove themselves to others?
Doesn’t matter if they have a trans friend.
Doesn’t matter if they give to a broad based org like HRC or GLAAD or THE TASK FORCE (not that GLAAD or the Task Force are bad things, mind you, but there are a lot of trans orgs who could use a hand and we are *EVERYWHERE* and for some reason I only ever hear of trans people raising money for them).
Doesn’t matter because unless they put in the time and the energy they will still be influenced by transphobia.
By the stigmatization of trans people.
Most of them don’t want to get the flack — they are fine letting Rowling or Gervais or Chapelle or the fucking toad prick of a person called Maher all take the heat for it, all be the ones that speak out loud.
Most people are not dealing with Animus like those folks are, though.
They aren’t into hating.
They just don’t want to be involved, or are anxious about us, or don’t really want to be around us because we are maybe icky or strange and holy shit can you blame them all the time when you all know what it is like being around too many trans women for like an hour.
(That is a joke, which I made because it is funny, unlike the things that are being described poorly as jokes by three of the previously mentioned people).
Everyone you meet is a transphobe *until they prove they are not*.
This is a tricky thing. It is perhaps the hardest thing for a lot of folks to learn because it means that we have to learn how not to trust someone after a lifetime of being taught to trust them.
Police, coworkers, bosses, politicians (ok, so bad example), librarians, firefighters, the hardworking and often mistreated clerk at a GameStop, the folks in your gaming guild, the postal carrier, et cetera ad infinitum.
They are all transphobic, and especially if you are of a European descent and raised with long roots in the good old USA, it is what they have learned and they have learned to trust being transphobic and they have learned to be trusted about that.
Yes, it is that kind of thing.
They really are out to get you.
Not always intentionally, but the general population has no fucking clue what the ICD is and hell, even most trans people haven’t heard of WPATH and so all they know is that trans people are crazy.
Even doctors. Even Academics. Even the people who spent their entire fucking lives researching gay people and proving all kinds of important and cool shit about them.
That new friend will expect that you recognize how they aren’t really transphobic ( I mean, they are your friend, after all), and so they will be offended when they say or do something transphobic and you call them out on it.
They may even get really mad at you for something they did.
What it means is that they need to do the work. You cannot force-feed it to them, you cannot teach it all to them, you cannot hold their hand and walk them through it.
Hell, I do that for a living and I say all of that because seriously, you can’t. I don’t mean you shouldn’t, I mean you can’t. They are slippery as shit and they have been taught to be hurt by all of this and it is really difficult for them to learn at first.
It takes their wanting to do the work.
Sometimes with you, sometimes around you, but they still have to do it.
And all you can do is ask them to do so.
It is exactly as much fun as asking someone to get past their fragility and start looking at racism.
Shit sucks. Because apparently no one believes they are racist, especially when they do racist shit and the exact same thing is true of transphobes. And a transphobe, btw, is someone who has *refused* to do the work. Usually after pretending to do the work and then lying about it.
They are not transphobic when they call you Mr. Debbie Girlygirl. They are just “having a hard time” or “not approving of your choices” or “letting you live whatever lifestyle you want as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them”.
Hell, look at how many people had to go all anonymous to say they really hate the idea of not being able to play a trans person in a movie. Because did you see how many folks got Oscar’s for that? The Academy loves pathos, baby!
This is why fighting for trans rights is so hard. When those who want us dead spread lies, they spread lies that are already out there, that are already being thought of, that have been there for 60 fucking years and more.
So those who hear them find it easier to believe those lies because fiction always has to make sense, and reality doesn’t.
You can throw facts and figures, draw arrows and lines with squiggles and circles and pretty little decorations on the edges and you are stil going to be talking Latin because while it makes sense to you, you already put the work in.
You already learned this.
And all you can do is ask them to go and put the time in yourself. You can guide them, and that is a good thing, but they have to do the work.
But remember that every celebrity is transphobic until they put the work in, and then show it, upfront. Every person you meet is transphobic until they prove otherwise. And most importantly, there is no punishment for this because this is the normal, everyday, commonplace, typical, standard, default.
This is why long time activists are never really surprised.
They already know everyone is. It is also why they are surprised by younger folks who aren’t.
Because they are used to no one putting the work in.
Also, if you do the work for them, get paid.
Because fuck me, that knowledge is worth something, and if they don’t pay for it, they won’t value it or respect it.