Trans of Thought: Cisgender Fatigue

By : Melody Maia Monet
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PQ: “I love being both gay and trans—and I hate being confrontational—but it is obvious to me we have a transphobia problem within our community.”

In the early 90s, I came home from college during a break and went to a party with some of my former high school classmates. One of them told me of his experience as a cadet at the U.S. Naval Academy that had severely soured him on Jane Fonda. Apparently, it had become the practice of the academy to blast audio of Ms. Fonda over loudspeakers as the cadets were put through their paces during physical training. In short order, every cadet began to associate physical stress with the sound of her voice, and not surprisingly, also grew to hate her.

No doubt this was intentional, as before she rehabilitated her image during the 80s as a fitness queen and today as one half of “Grace and Frankie,” she was known as “Hanoi Jane.” She was so derisively named for her infamous trip to North Vietnam, in the midst of the Vietnam War, to tour the dike system allegedly bombed by American forces. The U.S. military has a long memory for people they consider to be traitors, and yes, I saw the obvious lesbian joke possibilities in my previous sentence. I’ll pass. Too easy.

Neither have transgender people forgotten how we are fundamentally misunderstood by cisgender people. To be fair though, that’s often because the most recent example was the last time we logged into our social media. I am very tired of looking through my newsfeeds only to see justifications for doing nothing the slightest bit inconvenient to support transgender people or just garden variety transphobia.

In the last week, I have been told that I shouldn’t speak up to defend transgender people when it makes people uncomfortable; I must accept a member of a lesbian group who posted that trans women are not women or lesbians; It is ok to treat gender identity and sex as equivalent and that I lack the ability to discern transphobic behavior.

What was most disturbing to me was that all of these comments came from members of the gay community. Now I love being both gay and trans—and I hate being confrontational—but it is obvious to me we have a transphobia problem within our community. Even worse, it is generally unacknowledged and is emotionally stressful to transgender people like me who dare to point it out.

I had a good friend visit me recently, who herself is a very well known national transgender advocate, and she spoke of the emotional labor involved in simply being us. I nearly burst into tears as she crystallized so succinctly what I had been feeling lately. Emotionally overworked by a community that constantly insists, in ways large and small, that maybe it might be better off if I didn’t exist. I am fatigued and fed-up. I am past the point of being polite and patient as the LGB community gets its collective act together.

What I find most frustrating is how intractable a problem it is to convince my fellow gays that everything isn’t just fine and hunky dory. That it isn’t just about transgender people being too sensitive or looking for reasons to be insulted. Rather than accepting that inconvenient truth, I see a lot of time and effort being spent explaining away LGB transphobia in face-saving arguments instead of being honest with the underlying insecurities and ignorance.

In practical terms this has meant a recasting of victimhood, much as we see with the religious community in its opposition to gay people. The focus is moved from root bigotry and lands on illusory discrimination against “choice” and “freedom.” Just as a baker can claim it is prejudice against his religious beliefs to ask him to make a cake for gay couples, gay people sometimes claim it is a violation of their “natural” preference when queried on why they often aren’t attracted to trans people. I’ve even seen some gay people go as far as to say it is homophobic to question that lack of attraction. When portrayed in such charged terms, it leaves very little room to maneuver or suggest that perhaps more is at play in a world where large amounts of media attention is dedicated to portraying transgender people as undesirable. Preference is not the get-out-of-jail free card gay that cisgender people like to believe it is, any more than it is for my U.S. Naval Academy friend’s learned dislike of Jane Fonda.

I must admit that I am not very optimistic at this point that things will get better soon, no matter how many videos I make on YouTube, arguments I get into on Twitter or opinion pieces I write for Watermark. If we can’t even acknowledge a problem exists, there is no chance that it can be effectively addressed. It can feel very much like banging my head against a rainbow wall. There are days I am frozen by the anxiety induced from telling friends that their views of transgender people are problematic. Constantly living in a besieged emotional state, with seemingly few supporters, is isolating. The temptation is to not speak up and cause waves.

Who wants to be disliked? Why rock the boat if it won’t get me anywhere? I suppose discouragement is the point of behavior based on denial, but I just can’t “drop it” as I was advised to do recently. If anybody has an idea on how I can be an effective transgender advocate and not upset people, please drop me a line. In the meantime, I’m going to visit my therapist. A lot.

Melody Maia Monet is the co-founder of madskillsconsulting.com and owns a YouTube channel on lesbian and transgender topics. You can view her videos at YouTube.com/MelodyMaia.

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