Gender Jamboree, Part Six

Gender Jamboree, Part Six August 16, 2019

Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Five

I’d like to address a few more misconceptions about trans people that are common among Christians. Many of them are rooted in the media, both in entertainment and in the news—and even honest and unbiased news can foster misconceptions, since its primary job is to report on bad or exceptional things, not on ordinary ones.

1. That trans people are following a trend of rebelling against gender norms for the mere pleasure of rebellion. I don’t think I know anybody who would pour  thousands of dollars into surgeries and changes of legal documentation, along with incessant harassment of every kind from passive-aggressive remarks to violent assaults on their lives, merely for the pleasure of annoying their parents. I dare say a handful of such people exist, simply because human beings are very weird creatures; but (reckoning people who are in some sense trans at about half a percent of the populace) I decline to believe that there are seven and a half million people quite that dedicated to what, on that showing, amounts to a prank.

It also so happens that plenty of people who transition, whether to gain acceptance for their gender identity or out of mere personal preference, are as typical and even stereotypical of their gender as anybody. Even if that were a form of rebellion, it wouldn’t be rebellion against society’s gender norms.

2. That trans people believe you can choose whatever gender you like. Now, this is a little ticklish. There are trans people who say this—although for what it’s worth, the only trans people I’ve heard say it are ex-Catholics who seem to be saying it as a “fuck you” to a Church that’s deeply hurt them, so it’s difficult to say whether and in what sense they mean it. In any case, most of the trans people that I’ve met or read have insisted that their gender identity is very much a part of them and not a mere personal preference, as unchosen as the anatomy they also didn’t choose. Many documents from the Vatican and the USCCB seem entirely unaware of this, vaguely categorizing trans identities as manifestations of a “gender ideology” that sees nothing at stake but personal autonomy; this does not reflect most of what I’ve actually heard and read from trans people.

3. That trans people are really just gay. I mean, sure, some trans people are gay; some are straight. (1) Some are bisexual, and others still are asexual. Conflating gender identity (a person’s inner sense of self) with sexual orientation (whom they are attracted to) is not the winning strategy it looks like at first blush. It really doesn’t explain anything.

4. That trans people are promiscuous, deceitful sexual predators. To anyone even casually familiar with the lived experience of trans people, this notion is a bad joke. Trans people are victims of sexual violence and exploitation at shockingly high rates when compared to cis people: close to 10% of cis people report being sexually assaulted at some time in their lives, while trans people report molestation at rates nearly five times higher. (2) And these are just the assaults that get brought to the attention of the law, and just the sexual assaults. Violent attacks upon trans people—with or without prior sexual contact—are also horrifically common.

Why trans people are subject to molestation and violence of these kinds is less easy to pin down, because there are several factors at work. Societal condemnation and disgust towards trans people is certainly a contributing factor, both directly and indirectly: directly, in the sense that it tends to minimize and excuse violence against trans people; and indirectly, in that it shames men who are attracted to trans women, which in turn gives them a strong psychological reason to displace their defensive anger onto their trans partners. (3) Additionally, both because their bodies are fetishized (usually as something forbidden and/or exotic) and because there are few legal protections in the workplace for trans people, some turn to various kinds of sex work, (4) which are often dangerous.

5. That accepting trans people will allow dangerous sexual predators posing as trans people to sneak into gender-segregated spaces with malicious intent. I would mildly point out that not accepting trans people does literally nothing to prevent this. In the notorious bathroom bills, for instance, the people who are aghast at the notion of a trans woman being in the same bathroom with their daughters don’t seem to have considered that the alternative is having that trans woman in the bathroom with their sons.

But more than that, when we take people who transition into account, not accepting trans people actually gives such predators, if there are any, more cover and not less. A trans man who was born with female anatomy but has been on hormones for a year is going to look, well, pretty masculine, including a flat chest and a beard as likely as not. That trans man looks like a man. And your idea of preventing gender confusion and possible abuse is to tell a person who looks like a strapping six-foot mountaineer to use the ladies’ room?

(1) The funny thing is, it’s true to say that some transgender people are gay and some are straight no matter what your beliefs about gender identity are.

(2) Savvy readers may observe that I cited sources using two different studies to obtain an estimate of sexual violence against trans people. Savvier readers may also observe that, lest I be accused of juggling numbers to make the trans plight more sympathetic, I used the lower of the two estimates of assault against trans individuals.

(3) This remains true, regardless of whether it’s right or healthy for men to be attracted to trans women. Even if it were wrong, it would still be inexcusably wrong for a man to vent his rage in this way—and if it is indeed the duty of society to inculcate shame, it would be society’s duty to inculcate a stronger shame against violence aimed at the objects of our lusts.

(4) Yes, sex work is work. Being a job doesn’t make it right, any more than being wrong makes something not a job. Being the CEO of a usurious company that underpays and exploits its workers is a job too (oh hi Amazon, I didn’t see you there).

Images via Pixabay

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  • “That trans people believe you can choose whatever gender you like. Now, this is a little ticklish. There are trans people who say this”.

    Yes, that is (one of) the problem(s) with the transgender movement: its claims are completely incoherent and contradictory.

  • “A trans man who was born with female anatomy”.

    Known to rational people as a woman.

  • I.e. some trans people believe different things than other trans people.

  • Ame

    I think he was clarifying for people new to the terminology.

  • Ame

    For point number 5, I think both sides of that debate are hyper reactive and throwing shameless punches below the belt. In real life, for most of the country, people understand that there may be special circumstances in which a man needs to be in the woman’s bathroom and a woman in the men’s bathroom. Those cases usually involve either something wrong with the other bathroom or accompanying children or persons with various disabilities to the bathroom… And yes, women tend to be more welcoming of drag queens, transvestites (I use the term strictly for the cisgendered straight men who simply fancy women’s dress from time to time), and trans women.

    For most of us, we abide by informal rules of etiquette and consideration for others and try hard to be discreet, minding one’s business. I think it’s time to start formally teaching these rules of etiquette much like we teach casual wear versus business wear. Imagine a 12 year old girl in the church women’s bathroom looking at a mother changing the diaper of a two year old son and exclaiming “boys are not allowed in the girl’s bathroom.” Kids need to be taught who is safe to have in the bathroom and who is not.

    The people who are not truly needing the women’s bathroom tend to be menacing, voyueristic, creepy, inconsiderate, indiscreet, engaging in sexual behaviours, and often clearly looking like they’re not there to relieve or clean up themselves. The way that many laws and policies for accommodating trans persons have been clumsily written so that a man without a valid reason to be in the woman’s bathroom can try to say he’s really a woman and then can’t be touched by the law. Of course, trespassing laws can be used against him but the upheaval he causes in the meantime is a serious concern that needs to be worked together. The arguments on the trans side that any kind of restrictions are about transphobia I think only adds fuel to the fear women have of having women’s violsafe spacesated

  • In much the same way that some flat-earthers believe different things than other flat-earthers.

  • It certainly clarified things for me. Until now, I have never been able to tell whether the term ‘trans man’ refers to a man or a woman. I now know that it refers to a woman, but it would make a lot more sense if it were used to refer to a man.

  • Or that some Catholics believe different things from other Catholics. It would be rather surprising if this weren’t the case of any group.

  • I suppose it would be rather silly to expect coherence and consistency from crazy people.

  • All groups have some variation among individuals. I might as well say you’re inconsistent for not agreeing on every detail with your next door neighbor.

  • You might as well, but then, my neighbour and I are not running a political movement.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    You are at odds with the medical consensus on the treatment of trans patients:

    – just like the flat earth folks are at odds with the scientific consensus of geospherism.

  • Clare

    With all due respect I think you are being a little flippant about the issue of biological men being permitted into segregated female spaces, which after all exist for a reason. Of course, determined enough creeps and perverts are going to find a way of being creepy and perverted no matter what safeguards are put in place, but that doesn’t mean we should (through good intentions) make it easier for them. Women and girls *have* been sexually assaulted by transwomen/men posing as women in toilets, and by biological males claiming a female identity in prisons, or, worse still, in refuges intended for women escaping abusive relationships. I doubt even the most ardent trans rights activist would be comfortable with having their pre-teen daughter share public facilities with Jessica Yaniv.

    Personally, I would have no problem sharing a changing room with a fully-transitioned transwoman, and I sympathise with the fact that using the gents’ is not a realistic, safe option for such a person. However, given the increasing trend of announcing that ‘not all women have vaginas’, I would absolutely not be comfortable with seeing a penis in a shared shower, however much its owner claimed it to be a female organ. Yes, transgender people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, but it should not be at the cost of my own privacy and safety.

  • Clare

    Just a brief thought on transgenderism and sexuality – it’s worth noting that it seems fairly common for gay people to have wanted to be the opposite sex as children, only to go on to live happily in their birth sex after puberty – one of the points of debate around trans children, although as that is not covered in this article it is probably a discussion for another time.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    It’s ironic that the same thing was being said about black women, and when racism became taboo, lesbians, and now that’s taboo, us.

  • Clare

    This doesn’t really address any of the points I’ve raised. Black women have no well-documented, ongoing history of violent abuse against white women, nor do lesbians against straight women, therefore as a straight white woman I have no issue with sharing toilets or changing rooms with black women/lesbians. On the other hand, men absolutely do inflict violence on women on a regular basis. It is therefore logical that women should be concerned at legislation that risks giving predatory men an excuse to enter private areas where women are vulnerable. But yeah, sure, my fear of being subjected to voyeurism, harassment or rape is exactly as bigoted and illogical as racism or homophobia…

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    if you would like to cite statistics showing that trans women have a high prevalence of violence toward cis women, go ahead.

  • Clare

    My argument wasn’t that transwomen are violent towards cis women, but rather that men are violent towards women and, particularly when combined with the ‘some women have penises logic’, this kind of legislation gives extra cover to those with bad intentions – in my country (the UK) there was an incident where a man convicted of rape claimed to be transgender, was transferred to a female prison wing and – quelle surprise – attempted to assault the women held there.

    Bluntly, pre surgery, there is no conclusive, empirical way to tell if a male-bodied person who claims to be trans is being truthful. Now that ‘some women have penises’, it is perfectly possible for men to sneak into women’s places with impunity because there is no way to prove they are not transwomen. Additionally, even accepting the lady-penis logic, is it fair that women in changing rooms, some of whom may be rape survivors or reluctant to be naked in front of men for religious reasons, should potentially have to view male genitalia in female facilities? For me, expecting women to put up with this shows a serious disregard for other people’s boundaries.

  • Joslyn Renfrey

    On your prison example, I already know that the idea of trans women being raped in men’s prisons turns you on, considering how ‘lovingly’ you sexually objectify us with all this talk about our genitalia.

    You seem to believe that trans women in general are exhibitionists, as if we don’t find the concept of a woman (cis or trans) showing random people her genitals in the changing room to be far-fetched and off-putting.

    If you don’t consider this off-putting, do you do this in the changing room yourself? Do you consider this normal behaviour???

  • Clare

    Now you’re just being ridiculous. As you clearly have no interest in engaging with any of my points beyond ad hominems I see no further point to this discussion.

  • Trans identity is for many or perhaps most who have it clearly a trial and a burden, and I won’t argue that. Nor will I argue that it diminishes a person’s human dignity and/or rights; such people remain in imago Dei. Their spiritual distress is real, and they deserve the love, care, and sympathy of others as much as anyone.

    But we may not do with our bodies absolutely anything which strikes our fancy, such as remove healthy function. Gender reassignment surgery, particularly when it leads to sterility, is mutilation and gravely immoral.