Each year, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (the “IDAHO”, as it is usually called), will see actions and initiatives take place in many countries and contexts and on many different issues.
All these activities and initiatives are a very strong signal to all, decisions makers, public opinion, civil rights movements, human rights defenders, etc. throughout the world that our fights for our Rights as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, intersex, etc… is vibrant!
The Day provides all different kind of actors with a very powerful opportunity to express their demands and to advocate for their case. Each year also, the IDAHO aims at using the extra public, political and media attention that it provides at all levels to highlight one specific aspect of the struggle for sexual rights.
This year, we chose to highlight the often neglected but important issue of Transphobia.
Here's the appeal for the rights of trans people all over the world in PDF format.
And here's where you can sign the appeal. This is an international initiative, so anybody can sign.
And yes, the acronym, IDAHO, has an invisible T. I've said it before, transpeople tend to be the ones least thought of among the alternatives to the heterosexual norm. Even those identifying as homosexual will quite easily fall into the trap of discriminating, in some form or manner, or just plain insulting, denigrating, or dehumanizing, transfolks.
The issue of transphobia is a feminist issue. The bottomline of transphobia is a very subtle kind of misogyny, and even ciswomen will gladly participate in hatefulness against transwomen (just as women will gladly participate in hammering in patriarchal norms against other women). Let me outline it for you:
- Transgenderism itself is seen as an act of "transgressing", crossing between boundaries which many societies teach should not be crossed.
- These gender boundaries should not be crossed because
a) women should never aspire to be higher than what they are (i.e., men),
b) men should never aspire to be lower than what they are (i.e., women) and
c) it is notoriously difficult to socially control people who will not fit into neat little boxes and follow the rules of their own sandbox.
In order to maintain this social control, we are given the narrative that men are men and women are women (plus all accompanying myths, such as men are animals who cannot control themselves, or women are less capable of leadership positions, and to be something other than what you are is an act against God and thus, unnatural), with implicit social consequences if we do not follow prescribed rules of behaviour.
- Thus, when a woman wishes to transform into a man, it's quite understood why, because the Big Boys' Club gives one lots of perks, and she is despised for having a vagina and finagling her way in there.
On the flip side, when a man wishes to transform into a woman, he is despised by men because women are a lower lifeform, objects to be consumed, whereas men are active do-ers. He is also mistrusted by women who hold any man's wishes to enter the female realm as suspect.
You'll note that this reasoning, too, ties in with the reasoning behind homophobia:
- woman, passive vessel, bottom, lower.
- man, active agent, top, higher.
Keep in mind these other points:
- Sexually anxious people are neurotic about their position in society and easily manipulated. e.g. hypermasculine young men who're constantly trying to outdo each other with sexual exploits even at the cost of loving relationships with women.
- Sex is a commodity. See: common ideas of sexual purity (female virginity is a rose she gives to her husband on their wedding night), sluttiness (if she'll sleep with one guy, she'll obviously sleep with just anybody), marital exchange (you owe your partner sex when you're married to them, even if you don't want it).
- A woman, as passive vessel, submits to sex / takes it.
- A man, as an active agent, penetrates / invade / conquers.
(I know, you might think, "this is all very archaic", but your next-door neighbour / family members / friends / partner might believe this, shocking eh!)
So when a man consents to being penetrated, he takes the position of the woman in the relationship. And because our society has run so long on the idea that woman = inferior not-quite-human, any man who would submit to that is lesser than a man, and every man should reject being asked to submit to being penetrated.
In fact, a man should show his rejection to being the 'lower' by proving that he is the 'higher', more powerful agent within this interaction, and the best way to prove is by doling out violence.
Homophobia and transphobia are feminist issues, because their roots lie within the ever-pervasive misogyny that drive our society's interactions with gender.
And like misogyny, transphobia is pervasive - it lies in our inquisitiveness on any transgendered person's motives to change their sex, in our disregard for their opinions on gender. It lies in our willingness to express transgenderism as unnatural and wrong. It lies in our mistrust of transwomen and in our calling them "men" despite how they identify themselves, and in our insistence to call transfolk by their "real" names, identifying them by their biological sex rather than chosen gender, or using insulting words like "tranny", "fake", "liars".
The flip side of actively hating them is our objectification of them - finding them sooooo exciting because they're, like, totally two genders, and so daring, and so unnatural, and so different, so transgressive. Instead of seeing them as full human beings, they become our idols for the Other, the Difference that we want to participate in so we, too, can rebel against the Establishment. We project our desire to be different onto them, all the while ignoring their efforts to be normal human beings.
If we neither hate nor lurve them, then we dismiss them, think they're less important, or "too much" for mainstream society. We saw this when an LGBT group removed items from a Bill regarding transfolk, with the excuse that "if we put in transpeople's rights in there, this document will be rejected outright. Let's work on homosexual rights first. We can't ask for everything upfront."
Even when we try to support them, very often we're so damn busy trying to speak for them and advocate for them, we ignore their true needs which may be very different from what we think their needs are. A ciswoman can never speak for a transwoman, because being cis will NEVER amount to being trans, and being cis is having privilege over a transwoman. And when we are called out on our lack of awareness for their needs, we get defensive, resentful that they're not appreciative of our efforts, because dammit, we deserve that cookie for even giving a shit.
And then there're some of us who're just plain ambivalent about it, who just don't think about it, that trangender politics don't matter to anyone who's not trans. This is a logical fallacy. Transgender politics is about the right to be recognized as human, a right that everyone deserves. If you give one group that right but not another, it stops being a right.
We can't all be perfect, and I've used terms I never realized was transphobic before and been called out on it. Being called out on ignorance and privilege is not an attack nor a reason to stay silent when it comes to issues as important as human rights.
Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
From Questioning Transphobia:
On Questioning Transphobia
How To Check Your Cis Privilege
Life As A Transwoman Ain't Easy by Guest Blogger GallingGalla
Take My Arm, My Love by PortlyDyke
There's No Good Way To Use "Fag" by Melissa McEwan
Little light's essay on fairness. A repost, sure, but good for the soul.
Excerpts of Beyond Inclusion, an essay by Cedar (you can get the whole essay with a donation! It's a 26-pager and still in progress, because transphobia still exists.)
Feel free to leave links you've got on the issue as well.
Cross-posted to the Redux Edition