Home

The Transgender Community™

November 17, 2013

I never quite know how to answer questions about “the transgender community.” To me, the Transgender Community™ is a product of the greater LGBT-industrial complex, just s neat way to classify those of us on the island of misfit toys. Trans individuals are just as diverse and complex as any other grouping of people.

Liberal, conservative; affluent, poor; we’re all individuals. While we may have a common interest, a common goal policy-wise… Actually, that’s not even true. I recently wrote a post about the need for public accommodation protections for trans individuals. To my surprise, a trans person used the comments section of my piece to advocate against these types of protections. Even common threads, similarities — these in themselves do not a community make.

I don’t feel a part of any sort of community. I don’t feel as though I belong to anything. I feel just as lost as anyone else, and I don’t know that it’s fair to pretend there’s this “community,” this bond that connects us. I don’t feel this bond. I wish I did. I wish I did feel the existence of a true community, but I don’t. Or, at very least, I don’t feel one that I’m a part of or welcome in.

I recently read about Alissah Brooks, a transgender woman from Atlanta, Georgia, and her recent run-in with a bouncer who denied her entry to a club on the basis of her gender identity. For those who haven’t yet read this story, after attending a GLAAD event in Atlanta, Brooks and a few friends stopped at Don Pollo Bar & Grill. Brooks was denied entry to the bar after a bouncer asked to see her ID. Her friends then explained Brooks’ transgender status to an employee of the club, saying they believed Brooks was denied entry on account of her status as a trans woman. The employee’s response?  “What’s wrong with that? We can do that — we have the right to be selective. We can do that. We’re a private property.”

Actually, they can’t. This would appear to violate a city ordinance put in place to protect LGBT individuals.

I wish I could say this was the first time something like this has happened to a transgender woman, but that would be a lie. In fact, it was only a few months ago that one of my friends and I were denied entry to a bar in Chicago. On July 19th, after going to a concert on Chicago’s north side, my friend and I decided to end the night by stopping at a bar for a drink. As most bars were jam-packed, we kept walking until we found one with a little more breathing room. That’s when we stumbled upon Big City Tap, a bar that lives up to its nickname of “Big Shitty Tap.”

We approached the door. The bouncer eyed us suspiciously. He held up his hand as if to say, “IDs, please,” and we went ahead, giving him our drivers licenses. He looks at mine, then up at my face; back down at the card, up at my face. He hands me my license, waving me into the nearly-empty bar. My friend, wearing a cute dress that went down to her knees, covered her shoulders, and showed minimal cleavage, handed her license to the bouncer. Immediately, he calls for me to come back out of the bar. I heard the tail end of the conversation between my friend and the bouncer. “Wait, what?” she asked, confused by the situation. “Dress code. That’s all I’m saying,” he replied, waving us away.

We walked away from the bar, not necessarily in the mood to get into an argument over the right to purchase an overpriced beer and sit in a bar blasting shitty music. Still, though, it stung. I felt like a freak; I felt subhuman. There was no way to interpret “dress code” as anything other than another way of saying, “stay out, tr*nnies.” After all, it wasn’t until the bouncer saw that my friend’s drivers license didn’t match his own initial read of her gender that he shooed us away. Had this legitimately been about some sort of dress code, why did he look at the license in the first place? The people who were in the bar? Girls in low-cut shirts that bared their midriffs, guys in t-shirts and jeans, a man in cargo shorts with flip flops, a girl in a short skirt who wasn’t wearing shoes at this point in the evening. Clearly, there was no dress code in place.

We made our way to a different bar, had a drink, and called it a night. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened at Big City Tap. It seemed as though, from an attire-based point of view, anyone could enter the bar so long as the sex listed on their drivers license matched their outward gender presentation.

In what other circumstance would it be okay to discriminate against someone like this? To deny someone access to public accommodations? “No blacks allowed.” “Men only.” “Must have blue eyes and blond hair to enter.” “Must be taller than 6’ to drink here.” “No disabled welcome.” In each of these situations, there’d be a thunderous outcry against the business. This isn’t to say that there aren’t places that do discriminate against people on the basis of race, sex, appearance, and so on; but rather that it’s seen as less culturally acceptable. For transgender people, this kind of treatment is almost expected.

One of my greatest fears is that I’ll find myself in the hospital for some reason, and just left to die. Or that I’ll be in a car crash and upon realizing I’m transgender, being left on the side of the road by paramedics. You might think I’m being paranoid, but these fears are more rational than one would think.

In 2010, Erin Vaught, a transgender woman, checked into a Muncie, Indiana Emergency Room after she started coughing up blood. In spite of her ID, which listed her as female, she was entered into the hospital system as a male (this part has actually already happened to me). She was then sent to an exam room where she was referred to as a “he-she,” “transvestite,” and an “it” by hospital staff. There she waited for two hours without treatment until a doctor showed up, only to tell her that they would not be treating her on account of her “condition.” She was then sent home.

To be clear, by “condition,” these doctors were not referring to whatever it was that led to her coughing up blood. Rather, they were stating that they would not treat her on account of her transgender status. Even though the two issues were entirely separate, the doctor refused her service on account of her gender identity.

Along with examples of discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations, it’s become the norm to expect the worst and hope for the best. It’s not right, though. It’s not right at all. We shouldn’t have to.

This is why I cringe anytime I hear someone say that adding legal protections for transgender individuals is giving us a “special right” or a “special treatment.” There’s nothing special about wanting to be treated with dignity and respect, whether it’s stopping at a bar for a drink or seeking medical treatment.

So, before anyone jumps in and says “why don’t you just go to a different bar?” I want to make one thing clear: this isn’t about the bar. This isn’t about a single event. This is about the world piling on us until we can’t take it anymore.

I really don’t know what it is to “be a guy.” Sure, I lived as one for the majority of my life, but when people ask what it’s like to be able to “see both sides,” I don’t really have an answer. I could very easily give you a comparison of what it’s like to feel intense dysphoria with myself versus not feeling dysphoric, but my experience as “a guy” is so epically different from that of your average cisgender man that a true comparison cannot be made. I could give you a breakdown of the difference in how society treats someone they read as a man in comparison to someone they read as a woman, but that’s not the same as being able to verbalize what it’s like to actually be a guy.

beamanOne of my friends tweeted that asking a trans woman what it’s like to be a man is like asking Jane Goodall what it was like being a chimpanzee. That analogy really hit home. My experience as a guy was more one of careful observation, of imitation, not am authentic representation of the actual experience as a man.

Though, thinking about it, I don’t know if any of us could accurately explain what it’s like to be anything. There is no such thing as shared experience when it comes to life, and to argue that there is, as some trans exclusionary radical feminists assert (stating that there is a “shared experience” among women), is to completely ignore the impact class, race, disability, and health has on our everyday lives. They use this reasoning to back up their belief that trans women are really just men. I’ve written about this topic, and I’ve refuted every one of their arguments, but I can tell you one thing for sure: I am not a man, and if there’s supposedly universal experience men have, it remains as much a mystery to me as it does to any other woman.

The question of whether or not I have benefited from “male privilege” is more easily answered: yes, I have benefited from male privilege in my life. For the first 26 years of my life, the world treated me as they would any other male infant, boy, and man. Sadly, in society as it currently exists, this is a distinct advantage in the world. I understand this, as I have realized what it’s like to lose said male privilege.

As I began presenting myself as a woman to the public, I was amazed at how different things can be. Co-workers talked over me, I got skipped over for promotions, strangers felt that they had the right to harass me on the street by commenting on my appearance or telling me to smile. The world’s sexism hit me in such an obvious, intense, disgusting way. If we are to change that, we need to attack the source of the problem: the sexism, itself, rather than lashing out at one another. Male privilege exists because sexism exists. Sexism exists because the world operates by patriarchy. Arguing over “shared experiences” and authenticity is only a distraction from the true problem: the fact that society looks down on feminine behavior, whether from a cisgender or transgender woman. Masculine behaviors are considered superior in almost every way.

What’s it like being a man? Hell if I know. The better question is why men are treated so much better than women (there are historical and sociological answers to this, but the entire concept is bullshit).

PRE-JULY 1, 2014

image

POST-JULY 1, 2014

image

The Growing Battle Over Transgender Student Rights in California

My debut at Rolling Stone

Read the full article here:
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics#ixzz2jQdtdi5K

My Op-Ed at The Advocate: No One Else Can Define Your Attraction.

http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/10/10/op-ed-no-one-else-can-define-your-attraction

Last night, rapper Azealia Banks tweeted a transphobic slur. Given the uproar surrounding her use of a homophobic slur (those are just 10 out of dozens of news stories about it), I assumed we could count on those same media outlets to call her out for use of the word “tranny,” right? Ah, just kidding! This doesn’t surprise me at all. Zero media outlets have reported on this.

First off, before anyone questions whether “tranny” is, in fact, a slur, let’s look at the context.

  1. She’s referring to how straight women refer to her.
  2. Obviously, she doesn’t see this as a compliment, hence the super-duper-frowny face :(((((((((((((
  3. I’ve written about this before. Here’s a quick visual.

It shouldn’t surprise me that media outlets have let this one slide on by. These are trans issues, so no one cares, right!? Say “tranny,” the general public generally won’t care (and in Neil Patrick Harris’ case, you can even get cast to play a trans woman in a Broadway musical!). But should someone use a homophobic slur, they are to be cast away, shamed for their actions, and may their career tank as a result of it!

In Banks’ “apology” for the homophobic incident (she has not apologized for the transphobic comment), she said this:

After being quickly criticized by others for her use of the word, Banks attempted to defend herself by saying her definition of the word doesn’t mean a gay male, but “any male who acts like a female.”

Oh, great! You weren’t making a joke at the expense of a gay, cisgender man, that’d be rude! You were making fun of people who dare step outside traditional gender norms! Muuuuuuch better.

Shame on you, Azealia Banks, for being a horrible person.

Shame on you, media, for showing just how silent the T really is. Offend a gay man and the world comes crashing down. Offend some trans people and not a peep out of you.

My Conversation with Jim Goad

September 6, 2013

I recently wrote a Thought Catalog article titled “I Can’t Write for the Same Website as Jim Goad“. Within the comments section of the article, multiple people suggested that we “debate” the issues (the primary issue I had was that Jim had referred to transgender people as “self-mutilating freaks”). Jim and I began e-mailing each other. Below is the conversation, unedited.

Jim’s website is jimgoad.net

Parker Marie Molloy:

Hi Jim,

Since you wanted to chat, let’s chat.

First, to acknowledge the points made in your comment, you’re right, I probably shouldn’t have come to the conclusion that you were in favor of Russia’s anti-propaganda law. Your article didn’t explicitly say that, and so, I’m sorry for that.

The main frustration I had with the pieces you’ve written, and why I’ve chosen to stop writing for Thought Catalog stems mostly from the words you’ve written about transgender people in the past. The other aspects (comments you’ve made about women, Muslims and Jews) were just things I disagree with, but didn’t have the personal backing (with the exception of being a woman, but it seemed you were talking of cis women) to respond to.

Why is it that you’ve labeled transgender people “self-mutilating freaks?” How is that fair? You can take issue with me personally for things I’ve personally said and done, but to make a blanket statement about a group of people that has been such a target for assault and murder just seems callous.

I’m interested in having a real discussion with you. I do not hate you, nor do I have any ill will towards you. I accept you for who you are. I’m just curious why you can’t offer trans people the same?

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Parker

Jim Goad:

 

Hi, Parker.

Fading out at the moment and will be asleep soon, so I can’t address all your points at the moment.
Generally, I think someone who undergoes surgery to change their genital configuration is the antithesis of someone who accepts who they are. And to my knowledge, a DNA test would still find transgender people to be their pre-op gender. So it’s my personal opinion—and I can be swayed, so long as I’m not dismissed as “phobic” rather than cynical—that there’s a bit of delusion in insisting that males are suddenly females and vice-versa.
I do think if you talk to me enough you’d realize that I’m in many ways more of an outsider than most people. I’m epileptic and possibly autistic, so in ways I identify with people who are different. What depresses me is when formerly bullied groups turn into bullies, control freaks, and leaders of ideological lynch mobs themselves once they taste a little power.
That’s it for now. So tired I don’t know if that made any sense. But thanks for at least contacting me. I don’t need to be liked, but I guess my main motivation as a writer is that I have a need to be understood. Talk later.

Parker Marie Molloy:

Hi Jim,

Thanks for taking the time to write back.

Okay, so on the topic of trans people, will the history of a transgender individual include the fact that they were born into a sex opposite to the gender they eventually identify as? Of course. Yes, the sex I was assigned at birth was male. Yes, it wasn’t until I was 26 that I conceded that I couldn’t keep trying to be someone I wasn’t, someone I tried so hard to be.

Believe me, Jim, I tried. I tried to just “be a guy.” I felt like I there was a constant buzzing, a constant ringing in my head. I lived in a fog.

Therapy, medication (anti-anxiety, antidepressant), none of it helped. I kept slowly feeling like less of a person, less able to keep going from day to day. Trying to be someone you’re not will take a serious toll on anyone.

It wasn’t until I began hormone replacement therapy that my mind started to feel more at ease, like a dissonance had cleared. This was the one medical intervention that helped.

To your point about your opinion that someone who would surgically reconfigure their genitals being the antithesis of someone who accepts who they are: what are your thoughts on someone who has surgery to correct a cleft lip? What about someone who gets their wisdom teeth removed? Neither situation, if left untreated, would directly lead to death. Shouldn’t someone just accept that they have wisdom teeth? Shouldn’t cleft lip babies just accept that they were born like that? (obviously, no, these are completely legitimate medical procedures)

Some transgender people don’t even want any sort of genital surgery. I purposely avoid writing about anything to do with genitals and/or surgery because, honestly, if someone isn’t my doctor or my lover, what’s in my pants is irrelevant.

I agree that it’s ridiculous when the bullied become the bullies. I don’t see how that necessarily applies to trans people, though. The political activities that the more activist-y of trans folks pursue tend to be pretty simple: outlaw discrimination based on gender identity (ENDA), eliminate housing discrimination against trans people (no proposed legislation), be able to use restrooms, and receive the same respect any other person would get when being reported on in the media.

I think you and I have a lot of common ground, and hopefully we can continue this conversation tomorrow (I’m also just about to drift off, so excuse me if any of these thoughts were a little less than coherent).

Be well,

Parker

Jim Goad:

 OK, I’m somewhat sentient at this point.
So much of this hinges on semantics. I disagree that you were “assigned” a gender. If there’s a penis there, and if the chromosomes are XY, then we’re talking about maleness that can be quantified. If youfeel like a female, that’s a personal construct and is nobody’s business but yours.
To my knowledge, cleft lips and wisdom teeth are usually altered surgically because they present palpable health problems. I don’t think being born with genitals you don’t want present any physical health threats.
Generally, it’s the humorless militancy and throbbing hostility of many of these TG people that annoys me. I think it utterly escapes them that their strident moralism is every bit as self-righteous and scornful of the cultural “other” as your most fanatical Christian. Just as with blacks, Mexicans, women, et al, it’s not their identifying features that annoy me, it’s that they hide annoying personalities behind their social identities and insist my problem is with their social identity rather than the fact that I find them to be annoying assholes. I believe that everyone can be an asshole—the truest definition of equality I’ve yet seen.

Parker Marie Molloy:

I agree that a lot of this. So much of this does hinge on semantics. I guess the most important distinction is sex and gender. Gender is not defined by XX or XY, penis or vagina. Sex is. Gender is the mental/emotional/social aspect of things.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had my chromosomes tested. Sure, you and I are both likely XY, but neither of us can say that for sure. I might be XXY, you might be XXY, and neither of us would know. From a biological POV, research over the past decade or so has suggested that sex and gender are more ambiguous than one would have previously thought. An example of a recent discovery is the FOXL2 gene, which functions in a way that can affect how someone’s mental & physical sex is impacted as their life goes on.
Your statement there, that if I “feel like a female, that’s a personal construct and nobody’s business but [my own],” seems fair enough. I was born male (sex), but I am a woman (gender). I just ask for the same basic courtesy as anyone else. I would like people to use “she/her” pronouns when referring to me. I would like people to call me “Parker” (which is legally my name). I would like protection from someone firing me for no reason other than because I’m transgender. I would like protection from housing discrimination. I would like access to public accommodations like restrooms (my drivers license says “female”).
More than 40% of all transgender people attempt suicide at some point in their lives. That’s a scary number (the general public is around 2-3%). While you say that being incongruent with your genitals doesn’t present any health risks, apparently it does. This isn’t something any trans person chooses for themselves any more than you chose to be a white, American man. It’s just what you’re born into.
I agree that there’s a lack of humor within the transgender community, and really, the reason for that is this: we’re always the butt of jokes. Because we’re the butt of jokes, because we’re treated as “self-mutilating freaks,” because we’re often seen as less than human, we also end up the victims of rape, assault and murder at a much higher rate than any other segment of the population. The public has been conditioned to think that we’re “less than,” and so when something happens to one of us, no one seems to care. A recent example is the murder of an African-American trans woman named Islan Nettles. Last month, as she was walking home, she was beaten to death just a block from a police station. The man who did this? He was caught and charged with misdemeanor assault. A misdemeanor. For killing someone.
It’s been my opinion that yeah, sometimes the trans community can be a little angry, a little militant. And yes, it’s my opinion that sometimes that can be a bit much, a bit counter-productive. That’s why I choose to write about my experiences, the good and the bad, in hopes that I can help humanize transgender people in the public eye. I’m not out marching, I’m not out protesting, I’m not out screaming “die cis scum!” at people. I’m just me, just trying to provide a point of view that a lot of people might not get otherwise.
If nothing else, can you agree that trans people aren’t all, by definition, “self-mutilating freaks?” Do you think I’m a freak? I hope not. If you want to judge Manning for the actions resulting in jail time, go for it. I just don’t think it’s fair to then apply those thoughts to trans people as a whole.
I’m enjoying this conversation, and I’m glad to be able to get your point of view on things. Maybe, from this, on this one particular topic, we can make some progress in bridging whatever gaps there may be between us.

Jim Goad:

An article I wrote about epilepsy. I refer, by implication, to myself as a “tongue-swallowing loser” who has a “biological impairment”:
So, yeah, statistically I’m a “freak.” I’m OK with that.
Even more salient than semantics here might be aesthetics. I make no presumptions about your background, but I’m from a working-class section outside Philly, which is a blunt and brutal town to begin with, so things that seem horribly offensive to some people seem like business as usual to me. That’s why I always blanch when people allege that I’m trying to be offensive. This is just how people talk where I grew up.
I’m also old enough to remember when it was the so-called right-wingers who wanted to ban books, burn records, and get offended at every fucking thing on Earth. There’s been a huge seismic shift at those things as I behold the people who used to be the free-thinking, impossible-to-offend types morph into people that I feel are insanely hyper-sensitive.

Parker Marie Molloy:

 Hi Jim,
I think it’s one thing to self-identify as something, an entirely different thing to label others. If, as a result of your epilepsy, you’re comfortable calling yourself a “freak,” that’s your prerogative. If I went out and said, “all people with epilepsy are freaks!” or “people with red hair are mutants!” or “left-handed people are satanic!” it’s nothing more than just being needlessly mean.
What your writing about transgender people has been, though, is somewhat dehumanizing. When you say that all transgender people are “self-mutilating freaks,” you’re suggesting that we’re somehow sub-human for being born into a condition like this. And when you say this about transgender women (in this case: Manning): “By the way, his name is Bradley Manning, and he’s a guy. To claim he’s suddenly a chick is to deny biological reality,” you’re suggesting that I am not what I say I am.
“Stop shaking, Jim. You’re just doing that on purpose. There’s no such thing as epilepsy, you’re faking it.” See how incredibly stupid and ignorant of biology and medical science that comes off? To say, “you’rereally a guy,” is the same thing. Both epilepsy and transgenderism are recognized medical conditions by the American Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, World Health Organization and National Institute of Health.
But somehow it’s not real?
Epilepsy – Journal of the American Medical Association
Transgenderism – Journal of the American Medical Association
Epilepsy – American Psychiatric Association
Gender Dysphoria – American Psychlogical Association
I’m not trying to tell you to stop having the opinions you have or saying things the way you do. You’ve got a right to say whatever you want, using whatever language you want, using whatever tone you want. I’m not suggesting anything be censored. I’m just trying to point out that the things you’ve said about transgender people are factually flawed. Yes, I was born into a male body, but my brain is female. I couldn’t reconcile the two without seeking medical intervention. To say, “you’re really a man,” is an overly simplistic opinion, not based in medical science.
To say “you’re a self-mutilating freak,” is just mean, nothing more or less. As I’ve said several times over, not all transgender people pursue surgical intervention of any kind. For me, my brain was wired to work on estrogen, not testosterone. I wanted to fix that, and so, like any of the hundreds of millions of Americans who take pills, supplements, injections (Tylenol, Zoloft, Lipitor, Xanax, etc.), I pursued medical intervention. In my case, it was in the form of hormone replacement therapy.
Would you say to someone suffering from heart disease, “you’re a freak if you get a valve implanted! Don’t take your medication! Freak!”? Probably not. Would you tell someone who takes Zoloft or Prozac that they’re sub-human freaks for taking those medications? After all, those medications change how the brain works, which really, if you think about it, changes who they are, straying from the level of authenticity standard you hold transgender people to. Should they not take the meds that might prevent them from committing suicide?I am telling you this right now: if I had not pursued hormone replacement therapy, I would be dead. Jim, honestly, I would not have been able to continue living. My head was filled with static. Shouldn’t I take medicine that saves me from that?
In the end, it’s up to you what you’re going to write. I just want you to know that when I was 11-years old, I was made to feel like a freak because the loud voices of “jokes” on TV, not because I was a freak. For a kid, that’s awful. I’m an adult and can weed through the bullshit now. But when someone is young, when they’re confused, when they’re afraid, words really do hold power over them. A commentor on the article I wrote quoted you verbatim, calling me a “self-mutilating freak” (which, mind you, I haven’t ever had any sort of surgery, of any kind, ever). Your words influence the opinions of others. It’s up to you how you use them. Right now, by calling people like me that, you’re just adding more voices to the crowd of people who wish people like me ceased to exist. Somewhere there’s an 11-year old going through this, and maybe they stumble across your piece (I remember getting on the computer at a young age and just searching various phrases I thought would give me more insight into what was “wrong” with me). Maybe that kid reads your piece, maybe that kid kills himself. They’re your words, though. Do what you want with them.
Jim Goad:
Didn’t the APA, as recently as the 1970s, define homosexuality as a mental illness? Was there some landmark scientific discovery in the intervening years that led them to change their mind? No, it was intense political pressure. If the APA was wrong before, then it’s fallible.
If you didn’t choose to take hormone replacement therapy, you would not have died of natural causes. That’s the difference between gender dysphoria and heart disease.
If someone kills themselves, that’s a choice they make. I reject the idea that “bullying” causes it. In fact, suicide in the face of criticism tends to suggest that the person who killed themselves agreed in some way with their tormentors. Either that, or they were less of an individual than they were a social animal. I’ve faced intense social criticism my entire life, and it’s only made me stronger.
Which brings me to the topic of TGs and others who not only crave but seem to demand social acceptance. Why? To me, that’s a sign of weakness. I prefer individuals to herd animals. And I also tend to like people who don’t demand that I like them.
By the way, I voluntarily underwent two plastic-surgery procedures in my early 20s. I regret it and would deem myself a “self-mutilating freak” on that alone.
As an aside, I am staunchly opposed to the proliferation of psychiatric medication in the USA. I feel it’s possibly the most damaging cultural phenomenon of the past generation. But that’s an entirely different discussion.

Parker Marie Molloy:

Hi Jim –
Correct, until 1973 homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. You’re right, groups like the APA and AMA do occasionally change their classifications on the basis of political pressure. More often, changes are made as medical science advances. Yes, the next edition of the APA’s DSM will chang the classification from “Gender Identity Disorder” to “Gender Dysphoria,” and that was the result of political pressure. No, this does not mean that being transgender is any less real.
I’m not saying that these organizations are infallible (they’re not), but I am saying that there has been substantial medical evidence that supports the APA, AMA, NHS, and WHO classification of this being a medical condition. And this wasn’t added as a result of political pressure. If anything, people are trying to de-stigmatize gender dysphoria, pushing for it to be considered less of a condition associated with mental health and more a physiological one (which the AMA, NHS and WHO all believe).
The fact that you, being someone who has never experienced what it feels like to have a disconnect between your mind and your body, being someone who (to the best of my knowledge) does not have a medical background or experience in the field of gender and sexuality, that you believe the “you’re self-mutilating freaks” argument holds water… it’s just disappointing. There’s a lot of evidence that contradicts what you’ve said, but you seem insistent. You said that you were open to the idea of being swayed on this topic. Are you? Because, honestly, it feels like I’m sitting here showing you globes and photos from outer space, but you’re shouting about how you believe that the world is flat.
Why do trans people want to blend in and fit in socially? Possibly to be able to hold down a job, to be able to walk through the streets without being murdered, to not get kicked out of the house by their parents as a teenager?Transgender people are typically more educated than the average population, but they tend to find themselves at significantly higher risks of unemployment (4x the national average), homelessness and poverty. It’s hard to go around with the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude you say makes someone “an individual,” when the world is systemically against people like you. This is another topic that you cannot directly relate to.
What I’m asking is that you ask yourself if you’re really qualified to opine on a topic before taking it on. Ask yourself, “do I really understand what it is to be transgender?” Just like I didn’t feel qualified to argue the statements you’ve made about Jewish people or Muslims (because I didn’t have the personal experience to intelligently speak on those subjects), I’m asking that if you’re not confident that you can accurately portray transgender people, maybe that’s a topic to skip?
I guess I have 3 questions:
1.) Do you believe me to be a man or a woman?
2.) Are you standing by the statement that you believe transgender people (including myself) to all be “self-mutilating freaks?”
3.) Would you object to me posting our conversation to my blog, unabridged?
I still hope you come around on this one, Jim. I’m not a freak. I’m a human being.
Jim Goad:
 So far I haven’t seen any convincing evidence that it’s a physiological condition rather than a psychological one. The link you sent (http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1568265&resultClick=3) is only an abstract that talks of “Managing Transgenderism.” So to this point it’s not as if I’ve been exposed to a tsunami of compelling evidence. I would be eager to see more in-depth studies that explain how it’s a physiological condition.
 
I could see how things such as hormone levels could come into play in making one feel less “absolutely” male or female. I believe it was Kinsey who had a 7-point spectrum of homosexuality where either end of the spectrum meant someone was undeniably heterosexual or homosexual, with five gradations in between. And yes, I realize gender dysphoria is not the same as homosexuality; I’m merely making an analogy. Rare is the person who is entirely macho or feminine.
 
At the end of the day, however, I believe that science would determine you have a penis and XY chromosomes, thus meaning you are biologically a male. I also believe that if you identify as a female, that is something cognitive rather than physical.
 
If suicide rates are higher among the transgendered, one could offer different explanations. You seem to think it is a result of societal rejection and mocking. I offer the possibility that it could be due to fundamental unhappiness with one’s condition. Are there any studies that compare suicide rates pre-op and post-op? If so, I’d be especially interested to see those.
 
I think we may not be on the same ground regarding exactly what constitutes a “freak.” Someone could have fifteen testicles and I’d still consider them a human being, although a biological freak. Webster’s (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freak) offers the following synonyms for the word: aberrant,abnormalatypical,  exceptionaloddraresingularuncommon, and unusual. Since an estimated 1 in 300 Americans are transgendered, I believe those synonyms all apply. Estimates vary, but roughly 1 percent of Americans are epileptic. Around ten percent of people are left-handed. Since these are atypical and uncommon conditions, I am a biological freak in both cases here.
 
When I spoke of “self-mutilating freaks,” I was referring exclusively to those who elect for reconstructive surgery. And unless someone is performing genital reconstructive surgery on themselves, I guess the term “self-mutliating” is inaccurate. Instead of “self-mutilating freaks,” would you prefer “persons who request that physicians surgically alter them so that they become genital anomalies”?
 
Feel free to publish all of this, so long as it’s unedited.

When a media outlet calls a trans woman a “man,” I’m not surprised. When a website asks trans children questions about “the surgery,” I’m not surprised. When a television network feels the need to include a trans person’s “real name” in reporting, I’m not surprised.

While none of this surprises me, it all disappoints me.

wrenEarlier this week, the Huffington Post syndicated a column by Chris Purdy of the Canadian Press. The article, “Wren Kauffman, Edmonton Transgender Boy, Shares Story At School,” was clearly written with the best intentions.

The story outlines Wren’s openness with the fact that he, at 11-years old, is transgender. I can’t imagine being as open about who was at that age. Good for him.

I dove into the article, eager to read the story of this brave young man, when the first sentence stopped me in my tracks (emphasis mine):

“When 11-year-old Wren Kauffman goes back to schol this week, he won’t be hiding the fact that he’s actually a girl.”

No, no, no. Wren is not “actually a girl.” If anything, the article should have read that he’s a boy who was assigned female at birth. I continued reading, hoping that was a one-time slip up. By the time I reached the second sentence, I realized this wouldn’t be the case:

“Teachers, friends and other students at his Edmonton school know the truth — that he’s a girl on the outside, but feels like a boy on the inside. And that’s why, even at such a young age, he has chosen to live in the world as the opposite sex, and not keep it a secret.”

Again, this is incorrect. He’s not a “girl on the outside.” Look at his picture. He looks just like any other 11-year-old boy. Also, he has not “chosen to live in the world as the opposite sex,” which sounds more like something someone in the Witness Protection Program would do, or something someone does on Halloween. What was described was a performance, not a reality.

Wren’s own words highlight his strength. “If you’re not yourself, then it kind of gets sad and depressing.” Exactly! It is almost impossible to be someone or something you’re not without there being severe emotional distressed attached to it.

The article later needlessly mentions Wren’s birth name, calls him “she” and a “daughter.” Again, none of this surprises me, but it’s yet another reminder that the majority of journalists, even the ones who mean well, cannot take the 15 minutes necessary to learn the correct and respectful way to refer to transgender individuals in reporting.

The final bit of insensitivity, and the portion of the column that prompted my own response, was when the journalist did something I find entirely reprehensible.

“At 18, he’ll be legally old enough to have sex reassignment surgery. Wren says he’s not sure yet if he wants to take that final step. He’s just excited to start Grade 7.”

No, sexual reassignment surgery is not the “final step,” which is to imply that without it, Wren isn’t really a boy. Also, if surgical intervention was not explicitly brought up, why does Mr. Purdy presume that it’s something that all transgender people need or want? The response to the reporter’s intrusive question about plans for surgery highlight just how insensitive asking an 11-year old what his plans are for his genitals: “he’s just excited to start Grade 7.”

People of the media, please stop whatever you’re doing and head over to GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide for guidelines on how to report on transgender individuals. The entire page will take you less than 15 minutes to read, and hopefully you can actually surprise me by getting it right in the future.

A friend once brought up an interesting point:

The way you know that “tranny” is a slur is by doing 3 different Google Image searches.

1.) Search “trans woman” and “transgender woman”

Image

Image

2.) Search “tranny”

Image

Do you see the difference (I had to turn Google’s SafeSearch feature on for that 2nd search as the results were a bit on the raunchy side)? Do you see how when you call me (or any of my other trans friends) a “tranny,” what you’re saying I am? The top images are made up of confident trans women (yes, there are a few misguided entries, but hey, it’s Google, it’s not perfect). The bottom image is mostly comprised of bearded men in drag, photos that demean the people in them, jokes, pornography (take the SafeSearch off and you’ll see).

Next time someone claims “tranny” isn’t a slur, pull out your phone and do these quick searches, asking them if they can see the difference, if they can see why it might not be the most polite thing to call trans women.