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A week or two ago, a headline passed my eyes: “The transgender zealots are destroying truth itself,” it seemed to scream, on an article by Peter Hitchens in the Daily Mail.
Hitchens’ point seems to be that, given a foothold, transgender people will force people to turn their backs against reality or face reprimand, citing a teacher who refused to accept the preferred gender of a student as an example of “political correctness.”
To Hitchens, accepting a transgender person’s preferred gender pronouns leads to “thought police” and “mass abortion.”
Of course, it’s all utterly ridiculous hyperbole, somewhere on the far end of the old “gays recruit” arguments. Indeed, the piece itself is little more than a Mad Lib pastiche of arguments made for decades against LGBTQ and other rights battles, harking back to arguments about womens’ rights in the 1970s leading to same sex restrooms. We’ve read this all before.
Rather than stoop to refuse such bizarre proclamations of doom and gloom, I’ve decided to, instead, speak on what transgender people actually desire. Now I’m sure I may be missing a few things here and there, but I can assure you that you’ll not fund much support for the “sea of blood” Hitchens — and others — seems convinced we’re so intent upon.
First, we want the right to exist. We’re routinely murdered, and quite often our killers escape justice. In many cases, it is deemed acceptable for them to kill us using the ridiculous “transgender panic” defense, deciding that it is so repulsive for them to have been potentially sexual with a trans person that they had to murder us to somehow save their reputations.
While the threats to our lives are the most visceral examples, existence goes beyond this. We expect that when we present ourselves in the public sphere, our identities be not ignored. We deserve to have appropriate identification befitting our gender identity or expression, and that identity to be respected in the same fashion as our non-transgender siblings.
We seek access to care that is appropriate to our needs. While I’m sure that most might define that specifically to refer to genital reassignment surgeries and their ilk, I feel it well worth noting that getting any medical care can prove difficult for transgender people. Maladies large and small are refused by insurers due to our transgender status, and medical professionals likewise turning us away due to their discomfort with our status.
By the same token, we expect that when we seek housing, or employment, or other basic human needs, we’re going to be treated as equals to non-transgender people. It’s not that we want preferential treatment — but we want to be treated fairly and impartially.
I don’t like the idea of forcing change through law, but as we live in a culture built on such it seems unavoidable. Much like laws have had to be enacted to protect people of various cultures, religions, races, sexes, sexualities and abilities, so too do transgender people deserve the same sorts of protections.
Ultimately, however, I long for a day when people are accepting of transgender people simply because it’s the right thing to do, not because they need to. I — and I think most transgender people — simply want to be able to live our lives as we see fit.
To Hitchens and his ilk, even having to use the preferred pronouns of a transgender person is a devastating situation worth comparing to genocide. I can only imagine the night terrors he must face when confronted with the idea of respecting another religion, or the notion of handicap ramps on public buildings.
I think, however, his moral panic isn’t so much rooted in what transgender people want, but in what they feel we represent. If a transgender person’s transition from one gender to another is accepted, who’s to say that anyone can’t transition? What does it say about gender itself if it isn’t a fixed construct composed of only two options? Further, if it isn’t fixed, then can one really consider one gender superior over the other, as I suspect Hitchens assumes?
That is what I suspect lies at the heart of Hitchens’ all-encompassing fear towards transgender people. It’s not that he sees us as a threat to “truth” in an object sense, but in a subjective one. How would his view of the world need to change for him to be willing to accept that human beings just like him, would like to express their genders and still be afforded the same level of respect he enjoys? How terrible would it be for him to consider that everyone is his equal, regardless of their gender, no matter if they are transgender or not?
What’s more, to allow transgender people such a level of body autonomy would be to afford it to everyone: if a transgender person can live a life of their choosing, what’s to prevent the right to a safe abortion?
In that way, perhaps there is a point to his apocalyptic doom-saying, and perhaps now is the end of male dominance. I could see where that would be so frightening to Hitchens, especially in a time when so many are willing to stand up and speak out against sexism and sexual assault enacted by the powerful people in this culture.
For me, I am secure in my “truth,” and no amount of fearmongering from Hitchens or his brethren will change that. If that’s too much for him to handle, it’s not me that needs to change for his comfort.
Gwen Smith makes for a pretty bad zealot. You’ll find her at www.gwensmith.com.