I am somewhat worried that during this post I’m going to want to use the phrase “I’ve been on a journey” but with the extreme level of cliché that would entail I shall do my best to avoid it.
So recently I’ve been on a journey…
Today I was asked about the point of the ‘T’ in LGBT. It was the same question I was asking myself a few months ago. I just couldn’t see the point of it, couldn’t see the similarities with LGB and although I was never transphobic as such I certainly was very trans-ignorant! Over the last few months however, I have the pleasure of spending time with some really lovely and interesting people who’ve helped change my mind about this and I now consider myself pretty good on the issue. Admittedly ’good’ is a rather bad word to describe it but hopefully it is obvious what I mean.
I still struggle to understand trans issues. In the sense that as a cisgendered person (my gender identity matches my sex) I cannot hope to understand what it’s like to be trans. In that regard I have made absolutely no progress. I still cannot understand why someone would be trans and I struggle to see what the big deal is about it. Of course this all seems somewhat contradictory to my claim of being ‘good’ with the whole trans thing.
What has changed is that I now don’t care whether I can understand it. It doesn’t matter that I don’t really see the point. What matters is that there are people out there who are trans and our current society is massively unfair to them. It annoys me to no end that straight people don’t get what it’s like to be gay. Obviously some can empathise and thankfully progress is slowly being made in terms of gay rights across the world. The problem is this took way, way, way too long. We had the mad rush of civil rights for black and ethnic people. We finally made progress in this area and although there is still a way to go the majority of people view racism as a bad thing and we bemoan our previous generations for the mistakes they made. To a much more limited degree this is happening with homophobia. Slowly it is fading and gradually the younger generation is judging previous generations for their mistakes. However, there was no natural transition. People still struggle to see the similarities between the black rights movement and the gay rights movement. People didn’t suddenly ‘get’ what it is like to be black or gay or a woman. They saw injustice and finally started to object to it after years of failure.
Effectively what I’m trying to say is that I support human rights. Now this may mean that I focus a lot of my attention on LGBT rights but that is only because it is something close to my heart that I see needs fighting for. One of the main reasons I have for doing this is because in 40 years time (or however long) when homophobia is something that the majority of people reject I don’t want to be embarrassed about what my generation did. I want to be able to say that I did all I could to fight against it. Now this is all very well and good and I am aware that I sound a little bit holier than thou (I honestly don’t mean to be) but perhaps it isn’t instantly obvious how this relates to trans issues.
The point I’m trying to make and, characteristically the point that is taking me far longer than it should to make, is that it doesn’t matter if you cannot understand something like transgenderism; if you can see people being discriminated against you should object to that. As long as the human right being fought for doesn’t hurt anyone it is worth fighting for. We shouldn’t need time to work out whether we understand or can empathise. If someone feels discriminated against and we can prevent that we should. It shouldn’t require generations of failure to finally rectify our mistakes. It is 40 years since the fight for gay rights really kicked off and we are still only just approaching the point where equality is on the horizon. We can’t afford to make the same mistakes again.
Now I don’t mean getting overly PC about stuff. We all dread the phrase “political correctness gone mad” but trans discrimination is so easy to avoid. You can avoid using gender pronouns and use someone’s name or ‘they/their etc’ instead. You can stop asking for people’s gender when it is completely unnecessary. You can accept that not everyone is cisgendered and, if you meet someone who isn’t, not question that. All of these things and more require such little effort and certainly don’t harm anyone but make such a huge difference to trans people.
You don’t need to understand why people are trans. You don’t need to see the point of it all. All you need to do is see the really easy ways you can make a positive impact in people’s lives and help make the world a more tolerant and inclusive place.
I am so glad we ‘lump’ the T into LGBT. It may not be exactly the same but it is still the same fight. It is about allowing people to live their lives as they want to and not enforcing cisgenderism on people the same way we enforced heterosexuality on people in generations past.