Just Let People Be Who They Want to Be
A Discussion of Trans Rights
I recognize I'm on the far left of the political spectrum. I often describe myself as "Ultra Liberal" because of where I sit and the rights and ideas I tend to agree with. I'm not militant about it but I do think there are certain thing people should be allowed to do, somethings the government should be involved in to make everyone else's lives better, and then the rest of the time society needs to simply butt out. Those ideas alone are enough to get branded as "radical" in some circles in this "modern" era.
One topic that has been in the news a lot these last few years is Trans Rights. With Obergefell v. Hodges gay marriage became legal and the whole specter of "the evils of the gays" was pretty much eliminated from Conservative talking points. They couldn't rail again that part of the LGBTQIA+ community (at least not like they had before) so they needed a new target. Trans people suddenly became the bogeyman du jour, and now you can't find a single politician on the Right that isn't attacking the trans community in one way or another.
One "favorite" talking about (which they play as a joke) is pronouns. "My pronouns are U, S, and A," some will say, which misses the point of pronouns. One, if we want to be pedantic, those are pronouns. More to the point, though, by cracking a joke like that they're actually using new pronouns the way they're intended, as in to define the person in a way they prefer. By saying "my pronouns are U, S, and A," you do reveal yourself to be a hateful prick, sure, but you also say, "I want to be known as an American!" Well, there you go; you just defined yourself.
That's a minor point to the bigger issue, though, which is all of these conservative talking heads simply don't understand, and don't want to understand, what trans people are going through. They see someone "different" and they decide, "I can't abuse them and because they're 'other' I can get away with it." The sad fact of human existence is that this is at least somewhat true. Any time a new group has come along (although being trans isn't really "new" when you look at the whole span of history) there's been at least a vocal minority that has looked down on an attacked them.
Some of it is, of course, fear. This was touched upon in our recent podcast, "#15: J.K. Rowling's TERF War" but when confronted by someone that seems like an "other", people will freak out and lash out from a place of fear. "Your existence someone endangers the reality I've built for myself." Whether that's true or not (spoiler: it isn't) doesn't change that visceral reaction people will have. Thus, when they are confronted by someone they fear they lash out and attack. You can understand the why of it even when you don't understand where they're coming from (and that's not an excuse, just an observation).
Of course, they lash out because they don't accept a simple truth: what trans people do doesn't really affect anyone else. So they have different pronouns than they might expect. So they have a name they've given themselves. Most of us live on the Internet at this point, a realm where we get to choose our own names and be whoever we want to be. That's an accepted part of Internet society, so for those of us that have lived on there long enough it doesn't seem weird to have people do the same thing out in the real world.
The key takeaway for this is that trans people (or whoever, really, for that matter) finding their true selves out in the real world doesn't hurt anyone else. People spend their lives figuring out who they want to be -- how they want to look, how they want to dress, what their personality is going to be -- and names and gender are part of this, whether those on the Right want to acknowledge that or not. The whole idea that you have to be a "real man" or a "proper woman" is another way you're choosing a kind of gender for yourself, it just so happens that those are "society approved", so the choice for those genders isn't viewed as "weird" or "wrong".
I come at this as someone that generally thinks of himself as a dude. It's not about birth certificate or whatever, although that does identify me as male, but because I'm okay just being called a dude and it doesn't matter to me. Frankly, gender in general doesn't matter to me because I have aspects of myself that don't align with the society approved version of "manliness". I like to cook and clean. I like to make art. I don't like power tools, or working on cars, or watching sports. I used to take dance. When a rodent gets into my house, I'll climb on a chair to avoid it. I'm a dude but my wife calls me her "1950s house wife" and I can't argue with that either. Both are true.
Of course I also have other aspects of myself that certain parts of society don't approve of. I'm tattooed and I have long hair. Despite this, I'm currently in a long and successful career in government, being who I am. I've been lucky in that the places I've worked at haven't had dress codes that say, "you must look this way to work here," (and the places that wanted that were places I refused to work at). For me it was a choice, sure, but it also meant I got to be a truer version of myself and I wouldn't be happy if I couldn't be who I wanted to be.
When I think about trans people, what they're going through and who they want to be, I look at it through that lens. I get to define myself as who I want to be. I get to look the way I want to look and I hate it when people try to tell me otherwise. If I can et all of those considerations then I assume everyone should get them and would want them as well. Anyone that wants to tell someone else who to be and how to act is, quite frankly, an asshole. They need to shut up and let other people just live.
End of the day it's about the best possible good for the most people. If it doesn't hurt you (and someone finding their true selves in a safe and consenting manner doesn't hurt anyone) they you just need to back off. Let people be.