Transgender people get to own the truth of who’s transphobicBottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Trans Progressive Thursday, March 16th, 2017
Commentary: Trans Progressive
On a certain level I don’t understand hate. I can’t maintain it against individuals as it takes too much energy; I can’t hold it against classes of people because I’m aware, as a member of a minority community, of unintentional (or sometimes willful) ignorance that bigotry arises from.
It takes a certain amount of self-awareness and humility to own one’s own ignorance and a belief system that doesn’t take someone else’s black-and-white worldview of what’s this and what’s that. When it comes to social conservatism, especially the kind that arises from a certain kind of Christian faith or trans exclusionary “radical” feminism, it’s a kind of ignorance that spawns policies and attempts at law.
North Carolina has HB 2, their anti-transgender law, and it’s costing the state prestigious sports events, jobs in various sectors; why even now the ex-Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina is claiming that HB 2 “has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot’ – which is the last thing I am.”
Now Texas, with their SB 6, seems intent on repeating the mistake of North Carolina. Well, at least Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the socially conservative Republicans in the state legislature who are intent to follow him. According to Business Insider, “one study found Texas is risking more than $1 billion by passing SB 6.”
Will any of the Republican lawmakers in Texas who are going to vote for this claim, as ex-Gov. McCrory, that they aren’t bigots? Likely so.
TEDx speaker and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie of Nigeria, whose talk We Should All Be Feminists was sampled in Beyoncé’s song “***Flawless”, was asked about transgender women in an interview for the U.K.’s Channel 4 March 10. “I think that trans women are trans women,” Adichie said in the interview. “I think the whole problem of gender in the world is about our experiences. It’s not about how we wear our hair or whether we have a vagina or penis, it’s about the way the world treats us.
“And I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man,” Adichie continued, “with the privileges that the world accords to men, and then sort of changed, switched gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman, and who has not been accorded those privileges that men have.”
Rightfully, many transgender women called her out on her words, many calling her words transphobic. Perhaps the most poignant response was by the Transgender Law Center’s Rachel Willis, who responded by tweeting, “Chimamanda being asked about trans women is like Lena Dunham being asked about black women. It doesn’t work. We can speak for ourselves,” and “We know exactly what you mean when you say, ‘Trans women are trans women,’ but can’t simply say, ‘trans women are women.’”
Adichie put out a “clarifying” statement on the 12th that didn’t really clear things up: she wanted to highlight what she saw as differences rather than seeing the commonalities that make trans women women too. And, of course, she ignored all other trans male, trans masculine and gender nonconforming experiences in her commentary on trans experiences.
I can at least somewhat understand on some sort of intellectual level that hate and distain goes into an HB 2 or and SB 6. I don’t get the well-intended ignorance of someone who believes they’re a transgender community ally, as Adichie does, yet embraces transphobic thought. She sees trans women as second class women, and doesn’t see anything wrong with that kind of thinking.
If a whole bunch of transgender people call someone transphobic or a bigot, then they are. Responding by saying they aren’t transphobic, or by saying they aren’t a bigot, doesn’t make that true. Transgender people get to own the truth of who’s transphobic and who isn’t, despite what a person who’s transphobic believes about theirself.
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