And you can quote me on that.
It all started when I woke up this morning and turned on my computer. I rubbed my eyes and saw an article entitled, The Transgender Culture Wars. “What, there is a transgender culture war and my friends and family did not tell me?” The article is written by Prof. Anne Hendershott and appears to have been inspired by Pvt. Chelsea Manning, Don Ennis and this year’s bathroom debates. Like any good academic, Prof. Hendershott did her homework and found credible critics (including Pope Benedict XVI) of the trans* experience and she gives us their views. The professor’s main concern seems to be expressed in her subtitle: “Serious discussion of gender-identity disorder is becoming increasingly politically incorrect. Soon it will disappear altogether.” I can’t speak for other people, but it’s likely that I will always discuss gender identity dysphoria/disorder because I am a man of trans experience. Respectful discussions are always welcome here. Name calling and other disrespectful behavior is not welcome. That’s pretty simple, eh?
Thanks for addressing a challenging topic, Prof. Hendershott, because the genie is out of the bottle and will not return. What I find most interesting about your article is that it relies heavily on research of male to female transsexuals. Since transsexuals come in two flavors, male to female and female to male, why is there no research or comments concerning female to male transsexuals in your article? Furthermore, trans* individuals exist in cultures much older than the US, so the argument that “our cultural and historical conditions” create transgender people seems weak to me. Lastly, I take offense at this “transgender culture war” concept that you promote. I am “over and done” with the 20th century use of the word “war” to describe conflicts and challenges that are not wars. A war is fought in a particular place where there is death and destruction on all sides.
Unfortunately, in the 21st century actual warfare occurs all too frequently all over the world. So let’s stop pretending that our challenging national discussions are “wars” of any kind. This unfortunate word usage diminishes the lives of those caught in the line of fire as combatants and bystanders. I know the genie is out of the bottle on this issue, too, but I just have to say: there is enough war without creating more war.
Most trans* folks I know are like most other folks: we want to be good neighbors. We do not want to be pathologized, criminalized, demonized or victimized. In order to accomplish this goal we must live as our authentic selves and be treated with fairness in all aspects of society. If we did not stand up and say “here I am” this society would not treat us fairly. If we did not stand up to be counted we would remain the uncounted and discounted victims of violence and inequities that this society can dish out. Perhaps those who want to understand trans* folks (and not some monolithic “transgender culture”) need to speak to us directly and not rely on “experts” to understand us. I encourage everyone to get to know trans* people (and any person you think is different from you). Maybe then you and I will not feel the need to create another war before we agree to be neighbors.