Brynn Tannehill

Why Do So Many Folks Hate Transgender People?

Filed By Brynn Tannehill | May 18, 2014 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: anti-trans hatred, bathroom scare, bigotry, caricatures, choice myth, gender binary, gender identity, lists, stereotypes, transphobia

hate-fire.png"Why? WHY?! What did we do to you? We're not telling you how to live your life and be. Why do you feel it necessary to hate?"

Most transgender people have asked this question a thousand times over. We don't pose a threat to anyone as an impoverished, persecuted minority representing about .3% of the general population. So why on earth would people spend so much time and effort hating us?

Here are ten reasons they do.

1.) Hate is easy.

Hate requires little effort. You don't have to step out of your comfort zone, you don't have to learn anything, or deal with nuance, or put yourself in anyone else's position. You don't have to challenge your friends, family, or people at the church. You just go along with everyone else, and make assumptions that feel safe and intuitive.

2.) Sympathizing with transgender people is hard.

Identifying with a gender you weren't physically born as is a very alien concept to the vast majority of people. Empathizing with people based simply on their humanity is hard. Having empathy for someone who is very different is even harder.

3.) Most people don't know a transgender person.

Most studies say that only 8-11% of people personally know someone who is transgender, yet approximately 75% know someone who is lesbian or gay. Studies also show very strong correlations between knowing an LGBT person, and being supportive of LGBT issues. The transgender community lacks that vital component of acceptance.

4.) We look/sound different.

It's always been easier to ridicule people who look or supposedly sound different. Look at the caricatures of blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Japanese, gays, and many others from the past. If an unpopular group of people looks different, it can and will be used to caricaturize and demean them.

5.) It's assumed to be a choice.

The short answer is it's not much of a choice, and similar to when LGB people "decide" between being completely celibate or being themselves. Acceptance of LGB people is highly correlated with belief in a biological origin of orientation. The biological origins of being transgender more and more well-understood, though.

Numbers 6-10 are after the jump.

6.) There's a lack of positive possibility models in the public eye.

Currently, the number of positive transgender characters on TV and in movies is very limited. The rest almost always fall into one of three categories: pathetic transgender person (Brie in Transamerica or Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club), trap for straight men (The Hangover 2), or sex worker.

7.) 7.) Transgender people challenge deeply-held paradigms, and that makes people very uncomfortable.

Transgender people challenge the notion that gender and sex are more than just chromosomes or what's between your legs. That, in turn, challenges the religiously-held belief that God created just two genders, and never makes mistakes. It challenges a person's sense of sexual orientation when they find a transgender person attractive. Things which contradict a person's of set of "facts" either are rejected outright, or elicit strongly hostile thoughts.

It does not help that the human brain is very finely calibrated to evaluate faces, and categorize them based on very subtle cues as male or female. We recognize, though often not consciously, when someone doesn't fit the paradigms of the gender binary. When people don't fall neatly into one of those groups it causes a visceral reaction ranging from discomfort to fear, disgust and anger.

8.) Hating those who are different is an evolutionary advantage.

When it was tribe against tribe, your genetic survival depended on banding together for the common defense. The ability to use hate to unite your group makes the defense of your genetics more likely to be successful. Intellectually or emotionally humanizing your enemy isn't a successful evolutionary strategy.

In modern times, being transgender or intersex is probably the most visible way a person can be quickly identified as different. When a transgender person is assaulted, the attacker is much more likely to carry all the way through to murder.

9.) We're portrayed as a perversion.

From the left, right, and even a few biased researchers, people accuse transgender people of being perverts, fetishists, and likely rapists. This is in great part why the right-wing tactics against non-discrimination ordinances have been so successful: the right wing tells people that it's a choice between protecting their wives and daughters or a tiny group of perverts.

10.) It's socially acceptable.

Using transgender people as the butt of a joke is still common. Urging violence against us, demanding we be sent to concentration camps, calling us rapists and perverts, and using slurs to describe us are all still socially acceptable in a way that isn't for the LGB population.


Recent right-wing flyer accusing transgender people of being rapists. Click to enlarge.

So, what are the answers to all this? Some are cultural: we need more positive portrayals of transgender characters in the media. That also means no more Rayons or Bries, for the love of all that's good and holy -- they're as much a stock character as a Star Trek redshirt.

Transgender people need to be more out. The more people know us, the better it makes it for the rest of the community. We also need better science being pushed, and for the LGB community to actively seek out and destroy anti-trans science the way they did the Regnerus study.

We need to emphasize the actual science which shows biological origins, that this is not a choice, and that gender identity is an immutable characteristic like sexual orientation. People need to understand that this is neither a lifestyle choice, nor is it a sexual perversion. Lastly, we need people who push virulent anti-transgender ideology to finally be labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A straight, non-transgender friend and ally summed up what we need the most though:

"I cannot comprehend what a person who identifies as transgender endures. As a human being, I don't have to comprehend to feel compassion and acceptance. It's okay to not understand. It's not okay to demean and belittle because of your own personal shortcomings and inability to understand."

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