Am I a troll? That’s what someone recently implied when they saw that my profile states that I’m anti-transgender. What does it mean to be anti-transgender? It isn’t that I hate transgender people, it’s just that… Well…
When I was in high school there was a boy who was nicknamed Data, as in Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He called himself data and would insist that he was in fact an android. He claimed that demonstrating his android nature would violate the Prime Directive, and so he was required to live like a human amongst the rest of us. He was completely serious about his identification as an android. No question, the kid was kind of looney. But you know what? He was sincere, he was consistent, and he suffered the slings and arrows that followed from his strange self identification—unlike many transgender people.
I have friends who identify as transgender. I love them; they are dear to me. But they suffer from the mistaken belief that because they want to express gender traits not usually associated with their birth sex that we have a common cause fighting for “transgender rights.”
When I describe my friends as “transgender,” that is the label they apply to themselves. My transgender friends have careers as men, romantic relationships as men (and benefit from marriage as men), and are men to their friends and family. They get to deal with car salesman and plumbing repairmen as men. When they drive, the other drivers see them as men. They are men when they are walking along a street at night. They are men when they pitch an idea at a meeting. They are men when the physician is telling them a sober truth about the health of a family member. They are men when they are trying to secure a loan with the bank.
They are women at the intimate holiday party where only the inner circle is aware of their alter ego. They are women on their second, secret Facebook or Tumblr account. They are women in World of Warcraft or Second Life. They are women when the stakes are very low, the threat of being “outed” is virtually zero, and the titilation factor high. They are women when they assert some moral position saying they have a “gender identity” that I’m required to admire and respect. They are women only in those rare circumstances where being a woman is not a risk to their continued exercise of male privilege.
A couple of years ago one of these friends came out to a couple dozen “straight” friends on one of the transgender visibility days. In his letter he wanted his friends to understand that “women like us” are frequently targeted for violence. I didn’t say anything. I know better than to challenge his exercise of privilege publicly or privately.
He has never worked as a woman, been snubbed as a woman, threatened as a woman, loved as a woman, nor has he ever held any responsibilities or duties as a woman. Yet, he thinks we are in the same camp, AND he thinks he is entitled to speak for me when the subject of trans rights come up.
My transgender friends are good and loving people, but they cannot comprehend what it is to have dysphoria as strongly as transsexuals do. But, frustratingly, they think they do. They think they an empathize. They are wrong. Transitioners who self-apply the label transgender are unwittingly empowering voices wh mistakenly believe they can understand us and speak for us.
That is why I am anti-transgender.