People who are cisgender (identify with the gender they were assigned at birth) will never understand what it means to be transgender. And that’s okay. Because I don’t understand French, but I know it is a language and I respect those that can speak it. Cis people should be able to understand that trans people are just that – people – and we are worthy of their respect.
However, some cis people, either through lack of or miseducation, or through small-minded bigotry, are transphobic. Not all transphobia is intentional, nor is it always loud and in your face. There is a quieter side to transphobia, one which I argue is more detrimental to the community. This ‘subtle’ transphobia often goes unchecked and this is why it is allowed to grow and spread across the world. Here I will explain __ ways that cis people (and sometimes other trans people) are inadvertently transphobic.
BUT WHAT’S YOUR REAL NAME? WHAT NAME WERE YOU GIVEN BY YOUR PARENTS?
Asking any trans person about their birth name (often called a deadname) is inherently transphobic. Now, I understand the curiosity aspect, I really do. Before and after realising that I was trans, I was often curious about what name trans people started with. This curiosity came from lots of places, intrigue as to how they picked their new name, to see if I could guess correctly, to see if they ‘looked’ like a person of that name, etc. But this is so wrong! Luckily for me, I have taught this behaviour out of myself and I wish that others could do the same.
‘But why is it transphobic?!’ I hear you scream. Well, there are a number of reasons that this act is not okay. Firstly, it is an invasion of privacy. You would not be expected, as a cis person, to disclose any details of your childhood that you found to be, to any degree, traumatising. For many trans people, that’s what their birth name is – traumatising. It is a dysphoric reminder of our pasts that we can just live without. You have no entitlement to know that detail. Secondly, it gives you ammunition against us. I started university under my chosen name, and no one here knows my birth name. I cannot express the freedom I felt knowing that no one here can slip up and use the wrong name – because they had no other name to use.
In conclusion, DO NOT ASK FOR A BIRTH NAME. YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW.
DON’T YOU THINK DOCTORS HAVE MORE IMPORTANT JOBS THAN YOUR ‘COSMETICS’?
This is one that I have faced very recently. So, in the UK, under the NHS, transgender people are entitled to get hormones and some surgeries for free, paid for by taxes. In Scotland specifically, you must first attend appointments at a Gender Identity Clinic, and they will then decide on a treatment plan for you. The doctors at the GIC are specialists, they know a lot about trans health. But that is the only field they work in (usually). What I mean by this is that they do not take breaks in between life-saving heart transplants to help transgender people. Therefore, they actually don’t have anything ‘more important’ to do, because treating trans people is their job.
I recently shared an article on Facebook about the negative affects of long wait times for trans people. A cis man (who is actually in the LGBT+ community) took it upon himself to argue with me about why those wait times exist. He had decided to tell me that these doctors had more important things to be doing, and after explaining to him that they don’t, and that trans healthcare IS important, he mocked me and the struggles that the trans community faces.
I am not an expert on US regulations for trans people, but I have watched others go through their transition online and so I know bits and pieces. From what I gather, in most states, trans people meet with a specialist psychologist or therapist for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria prior to undergoing treatment. Then, they see specialist doctors for their hormones and surgeries. So, the same argument, that these doctors don’t have anything ‘better’ to be doing, applies here too.
This statement is transphobic because it implies that trans healthcare is inferior to healthcare unrelated to gender. This assertion is fundamentally wrong. While waiting for testosterone may not physically kill me, it may be detrimental to my mental health, which can lead to self-harm or suicide, as it has done for others. For some, gender reassignment surgery is life saving and we only go through it if we need it.
Conclusion: Don’t be an asshole, respect trans people’s right to healthcare and physical transition
NOT LETTING TRANS PEOPLE USE THE BATHROOM/CHANGING ROOM OF THEIR CHOICE
To explain this, I’m going to tell a little story. I was doing some summer shopping with my girlfriend one day last year. I found a really cool pair of shorts that I really wanted. I have bigger thighs, so I decided that I would need to try them on before buying them. The shorts had come from the ‘man’ section and so I headed to the nearest changing room – as you would. The shop was quiet, and the changing room was empty. As I walked up to the attendant, she said that I would have to go to the changing room downstairs, in the women’s section. I was devastated. I cried like a baby in the middle of the shop floor and then waited outside for my girlfriend to complete her purchases.
This sort of thing is not uncommon at all. Trans people are constantly told to use bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, etc. that they do not want to use because they don’t identify with the gender specified. Not allowing trans people to use the facilities they want to use is transphobic as it is a blatant disregard for their gender identity. It takes roughly zero ounces of effort to let trans people pee where they want to.
Summary: We just want to pee. We just want to try on clothes. We just want to get changed. LET US BE.
In conclusion, transphobia in all its forms needs to be addressed. If in doubt, think about how it might feel to be treated like that and more often than not, you’ll work out if what you want to say/do is acceptable. Don’t be offended if a trans person calls you out on your transphobia. Note it, apologise, and don’t do it again. Its that simple.