Why Are We More Interested In Transphobia Than We Are In Transpeople?
"Unfortunately, many times when discussing transfolk, cisgender people tend to dwell on what organs a person has instead of the actual person."
More often than not, it seems as though society only cares to tell the stories of transpeople when they are either the victim of discrimination or the sordid punchline of a joke. Coupled over the past few weeks, stories pertaining to our transgender population have been steadily emerging into the forefront.
When Donald Trump took to Twitter (as he too often does) to announce a "ban on trans" in the military, public figures came out en masse to denounce such an action.Trump's most avid trans celebrity supporter, Caitlyn Jenner, took to Twitter to ask him, "What happened to your promise to fight for them?" Actress and trans activist, Laverne Cox, issued a statement on Twitter saying, "To all the trans folks...I am sorry your 'commander in chief' doesn't value [your service]." Just yesterday, Palm Center released a statement condemning the ban, where 56 retired generals and admirals claimed that the ban would "degrade military readiness."
Trump's reasoning behind such as ban was apparently related to the price it would cost to ensure that all trans members of the military have adequate health insurance. However, this logic was quickly shot down by an article found on Forbes.com that states it would cost no more than $8.4 million (out of a $50 billion Department of Defense budget) to ensure these troops.
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Earlier this week, writer and trans rights activist, Janet Mock, appeared on the popular radio talk show, The Breakfast Club. Janet's appearance on the show can be marred by the many questions asked about her genitalia rather than any actual meaningful conversation about the trans experience. Unfortunately, many times when discussing transfolk, cisgender people tend to dwell on what organs a person has instead of the actual person. Such behavior only serves to further define these people by their body parts and not their person.
In the days following the juvenile interview, The Breakfast Club invited comedian, Lil Duval, to the show. When asked about how he would feel about having sex with a transwoman who didn't "disclose" the fact that she was trans, Duval replied with, "She would have to die." DJ Envy, one the show's co-host then proceeded to hold up a copy of Mock's second (count em') book titled Surpassing Certainty, to which Charlamagne Tha God says, "Tell me she ain't pretty." Duval responds by intentionally misgendering Mock and saying "that nigga is doing his thing." That ideology is detrimental to the progression of the trans community. It exists to cast transpeople as manipulative, untrustworthy and sneaky. However, it is instances such as these that cause transpeople to shield their true identities from the rest of society.
Duval later tried, what I would hope is not his absolute best, to explain his view, telling TMZ, "I don’t got no problem with transgender, I ain’t got no problem with gay people. I got a problem with somebody trying to take something from me. That’s psychological damage." Duval's defense implies that sex with a transwoman would be a sexual assault, rhetoric that is harmful both to the trans community and actual sexual assault survivors. As told by YouTube personality and trans activist, Kat Blaque, on her Facebook page:
"Trans women are far more likely to be survivors of sexual violence than they are to exercise sexual violence. Eagerly presenting the image of trans women as rapists while ignoring the high rates of sexual violence they experience is transphobia. Full stop."
Why do Duval's comments matter? For one, Janet Mock's entire interview was overshadowed by a cisgender man who has absolutely no idea what's like to be trans. He took a sensitive, and still often nuanced subject, and made it about his hyper-masculinity that doesn't allow him to understand, different. A type of toxic masculinity that forces him to degrade others to feel wholly like a man. Secondly, transpeople are actually being murdered. The Human Rights Campaign reported that in 2016, 22 transpeople lost their lives due to violence. And according to GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), there have been 16 murders of transpeople this year. Perhaps even more alarming is how predominately black these victims are. And oh yeah, finally, this is the same Lil Duval who coined the hashtag #ItAintRape to try and justify all the different ways he could force women to have sex with him.
The Breakfast Club is a staple in the black community as far has hip-hop and talk radio goes. Their influence is vast. The interview with Janet Mock and the subsequent one with Lil Duval should have served as a stepping stone to bridge an understanding of trans people and their day-to-day lives, as well as shine a light on the injustices they may experience. Instead, it ended up as a tasteless attack on transwomen and demeaned them to how desirable or undesirable they may be to men. No woman trans, cis-, or otherwise exists to be validated by a man's will to have sex with her.
Since the deplorable interview, Mock has written a response titled, Dear Men of "The Breakfast Club": Trans Women Aren't A Prop, Ploy, or Sexual Predators. She unleashes an eloquent read on Duval and the two male co-hosts of the show saying "you could never" and:
"...their fragile masculinity would not allow them to recognize a simple truth: I am an accomplished, beautiful black trans woman. Your willful ignorance will not stop me from being exactly who I am. My sisters and I are here and we exist, and you will not diminish our light and our brilliance. But I’ll be just fine: I have a job, a home, a supportive husband, and a family. I feel protected and cared for. I’m OK."
Ultimately, Mock wants viewers and readers to take home how necessary it is that we take up for our trans sisters just as fiercely as we should for our cis-ters.
From this article, you can gather transphobia presents itself in several different ways. Sometimes even ways unbeknownst to us. So what do we do? How do we combat transphobia? Through knowledge. Through empowerment. Through understanding that the role of trans people in our society is not to make cisgender people feel comfortable, but it is the job of cisfolk to ensure that trans people are afforded the same opportunities, rights, freedoms and protections—under the law and in commonplace—as their cisgender counterparts.