Hello, I’m a transgender woman and I am mentally unstable. My well being is propped up on a razor’s edge by hormones, complicated and expensive medical procedures, as well as therapy.
I am a ticking time bomb and cannot be trusted around your children, women in the ladies’ room, or to do my job in combat situations. I suffer from a mental illness that deludes me into thinking I am a woman, but in actuality I am the sick byproduct of a patriarchy compelled to undermine female power and invade their spaces. I entrap straight men into committing unwitting homosexual acts and trick lesbians into sex with men. I am a deceiver and counterfeit with the intent of forcing the world to reject common sense views on gender and sexual identity. The only positive aspect of my existence is that I am part of a group so small that my rights as a human being can be conveniently disregarded by society based on the slimmest of suspicions, but without any basis in proven fact.
You may think these statements sound ridiculous, but in the last two weeks alone I have seen examples of each of these in my personal life. All of them were put forward by earnest people who I am sure believe they are paragons of fair-mindedness lacking a prejudiced bone in their body. The fact that these are all examples of transphobia would be vehemently denied and justified as simple concern for safety and security. However, it is transphobia of the most insidious kind because it wraps itself in a cloak of noble intention.
One of the things I learned as a psychology undergrad at Princeton was the lengths to which ordinary people will go to protect their personal view of themselves as essentially decent. We do mental back flips to that end and dutifully ignore any evidence that might reveal us to be less than equitable. We suppress and explain to ourselves until we can continue to believe we are good people.
Early on in my transition, I saw examples of this play out in my own life. Back then I was heavily involved with my church in Houston, to the point of being on the committee helping raise funds to construct a building for our rapidly growing congregation. After coming out as transgender, divorcing, and moving to Florida, I returned to my former community and wished to attend Sunday services to see the glorious new building I’d had a hand in making a reality. That’s when the word came back from unspecified sources that perhaps it wouldn’t be a good idea.
You see, in my time away my transition had advanced to the point that I was now only presenting to the world as my authentic female self. My former friends let it be known this made them nervous. They didn’t have any issue with my being transgender, they explained, but they didn’t know how they would explain my appearance to their children. It has been my experience that children are very accepting unless we teach them not to be. I also had the good fortune of being inconspicuously female in my presentation. When I finally did attend services months later, nobody noticed. It was clear to me that these parents were using a false concern for their children’s welfare to justify their own transphobia.
Over the succeeding years I have seen similar examples play out over and over again. Most recently, I made a YouTube video with a friend, who is an Orlando lesbian, where we discussed the transphobic views that dissuade lesbians from dating trans women. In response, there was a comment by one Orlando-based woman. She made a point of calling me a man whose intent was to somehow discredit the homosexual identity of lesbians by “forcing” myself onto them. From her perspective her opinion wasn’t transphobic. Instead it was meant to protect lesbian women from male intrusion and aggression.
Of course, the most glaring examples have come about in defense of Trump’s recently tweeted ban of transgender people from military service. Ever since, my newsfeed has lit up with the ugliest anti-transgender opinions delivered with patriotic fervor. What’s worse is that on the surface they all sound plausible, but any open and honest research into their veracity would find them untrue. Of course, learning the truth would expose the transphobia lurking beneath the surface that underpins the true motivation of these arguments.
The only way I know of to push back in these situations is to confront the lies and half-truths. This does entail work and means taking on real risk. As transgender people and allies, we must invest the time to find out the truth and to actively counter transphobia wherever we find it. We must dare to correct friends and even family when they propagate the myths. This admittedly can be incredibly uncomfortable and perhaps even break those relationships. However, when we do nothing we are actually doing something. Silence is agreement and the lies will continue to spread unchallenged. It is up to all of us to speak out because there are real lives hanging in the balance. To those of you willing to take up this challenge, thank you. As the saying goes, history is on our side. We will prevail.
Melody Maia Monet owns a YouTube channel where she creates videos on transgender topics. You can view them at https://www.youtube.com/melodymaia.