Speaking of my girlfriend, we had a conversation yesterday morning in which she made some brilliant points and I realized that I was so busy picking the details apart in my last post on this subject that I never zoomed back out and looked at the big picture — I did it in my head, but not on the page. So, to sum up:
I guess what it all comes down to (besides Tangowire being transphobic asshats) is that it’s very telling when a statement intended to convince people someone wasn’t acting in a discriminatory manner can actually reveal the problem to be worse than it first seemed. It shows the way transphobia and trans issues are completely misunderstood by the general public — and even by other letters in the LGBT community — that these beliefs can be so widely stated, and no one even realizes they’re offensive. It’s a more insidious form of prejudice, when people who truly believe they view and treat everyone equally have absorbed all the weird messages about trans people that are out there in our culture, and have never stopped to think about whether believing and acting on them could be discriminatory. After all, they would never say “trans people are gross and wrong,” don’t even believe it (consciously, at least), so how could anything they say be transphobic? (This goes back to a conversation I’ve had several times recently, even before I saw it on Racialicious and Feministing, about how much more useful it is to talk about the fucked-up things people say and do, rather than using those to draw conclusions about who they are. Because it’s awfully easy to respond to “You’re transphobic!” with “Am not! How could I be? I’m queer myself, and I have trans friends!” And it gets us nowhere. There needs to be a way to talk about what has been done or said, and whether it was harmful, without calling people bad and insuring they won’t listen to anything you have to say.)
One of the major problems is that only one trans narrative has really made it into the public consciousness. It’s the chrysalis analogy: you go in one thing, and come out something completely different, and while it’s happening you’re totally isolated. But that’s not everyone’s story, and it reveals a pretty deep misunderstanding of trans folks and the process of transition to assume it is. Granted, many trans people choose not to date during transition. Because they want to wait until they present the way they see themselves before getting into a relationship, because they’ve been told and they believe that no one could possibly want them when they’re in between, because if they choose the wrong person they can be in serious danger, etc. But it’s one thing and totally understandable to choose not to date during transition. It’s another thing and totally fucked up (not to mention untrue) to tell trans folks that no one wants them when they’re in between and they should just keep themselves to themselves until they fit a binary gender norm again. Regardless of how loudly the people saying so insist that they’re not transphobic.