Austen Crowder

The transgender row to hoe

Filed By Austen Crowder | June 04, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality, Media, Transgender & Intersex

I had a strange experience at a drag club the other night. I had gone with friends to see the show, see, and we were having a great time of it. During the end-of-show monologue, the queen onstage asked how many homosexuals were in the house. I rose my hands to cheer when I was stopped by a chuckling friend. "You're not gay anymore," they said. I had to agree.

Strangely enough, I felt a little pang of loss when the realization came over me. Sure, I've flipped around the spectrum a few times, going from straight male to gay male to bisexual male to bisexual female, but the jump to straight feels... well, alienating.

Sure, I'm queer as a three-dollar bill, and I'm very motivated to work for LGBT rights, but at the same time I have to wonder exactly what will become of transgender people once the dust has settled around the marriage debate. From the sound of talk radio chatter, local gossip, and my own interactions, I fear we'll still come out on the short end of the stick. Take these quotes from the "Rob, Arnie & Dawn in the Morning" radio show, a Sacramento talk radio station, about transgender children:

"Because you know what? Boys don't wear high heel shoes. And in my house, they definitely don't wear high heels . . . I'm going to go, 'You know what? You're a little idiot! You little dumbass!' . . . I look forward to when [the transgender children] go out into society and society beats them down. And they wind up in therapy."

"I'm not open-minded once I look into sumpin'" one of the two men grunted at the beginning of the segment, their voices interchangeable. "I have every right to call you a freak and judge you on that. It makes me sick. 'Mommy, I'm a girl trapped in a boy's body,'" he simpered, mimicking an effeminate little boy. "I want to wear a dwess."

For sake of full disclosure, I need to mention at this point that I don't agree with transition before the age of 18. Exploration, which may also encompass full-time living, is fine, but at the same time we must also remember that children aren't exactly informed when they make these decisions. However, it is not okay to discount their feelings because they are children - they should be free to live they way they want to.

I shouldn't be surprised that these people are making a spectacle about their response to transgender kids. Shock jocks clear their bills by making people angry, and the T issue is rapidly replacing the GLB issue as the shock factor of the week. Negative press releases are still press coverage, and it generates listeners.

I'm listening to their response on today's morning show. They did not hesitate to respond with the "I have the freedom to have an opinion and to be politically incorrect" argument, the weary old yarn it may be. "Because I don't understand it, its okay to throw it into the trash bin."

The primary issue being levied against the transgender community - one which I have seen in my own life - is the "ooked out" response. (I use their terms here.) The argument goes like this: I am weirded out by transgender people, therefore I am entitled to think that transgender people are bad for society. This justifies my bitter invective, because I am weirded out and people who are weirded out respond by degrading the thing that makes them uneasy.

In listening to the show, I got to thinking about the present civil rights movement. The gay rights movement is in full swing right now - this much cannot be denied. What good does that do me if people are going to look at me and say "that's a freak"? After all, we are, as a country, placing our civil rights into the hands of the mob. They have seen GLB people on television, in print, and as stars in movies, but the trans community still remains an enigma to those who do not understand it.

In other words, what does gay marriage matter to me? Love may be love, but I still get stared at like some freak when I open my mouth about being part of the GLBT movement. "You used to be a man," they say, and I nod in response. "And you're straight." "Mostly," I reply, and they go crazy.

Overall, the radio show was a great town hall for discussing trans issues. The shock jocks backed off long enough to discuss things frankly, which allowed people on all sides of the coin to understand the complexities involved with the trans issue. Bad things were said, sure, but there were some great discussions and meaningful conclusions drawn on the show.

At least one of the hosts got it: "Transgender people don't want to shove their status down our throat; they want to exist without being killed." Furthermore, one of the hosts has a MtF friend, and claims that he was "the only one who agreed to talk to him [sic] as the transformation happened. . . Everyone else in the clique called him a freak and a nut." There are gems of understanding between the lines: hell, they even drew the line between tolerance and acceptance - they tolerate, but do not accept the fact that trans people are justified in their decision. Listening to this broadcast, however, shows me one gaping hole in the GLBT civil rights movement: being gay is okay, but trans people are still just friggin' weird. Perhaps that's why, statistically speaking, we have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered.

Maybe that's why the not-homosexual comment at the club struck me so hard: I'm not gay. I'm transgender, and that's a whole different battle entirely. Maybe the next step is sitting down with everyone and figuring out just how different that road can be.

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Jenna Alis Salles | June 6, 2009 2:13 PM

I just have one argument with this, the rest of it is written beautifully though

"I need to mention at this point that I don't agree with transition before the age of 18"

if the person is sure and you make them wait then they have already started the onset of male puberty and there will be irreversible side effects there, so I cant agree with that part of it even a little bit

for instance, feat stopped me from telling my parents and I was absolutely certain before the age of 7 that I was female

Jenna Alis Salles | June 6, 2009 2:17 PM

gah typos there should be a way to fix those, feat should be fear

i could get behidn puberty-stalling drugs, but beyong that I think the decision is too big for a child to make. Besides, it would help calm the parents of this child, IMO.

The biggest point I see here is the fact that gender and orientation are not connected. It's a wonderful thing, and your friends' reaction shows the need to discard the worn-out binary way of thinking so many people hold dear.

It's also funny that, in transition, most people cross over not only the gender binary, but also the "orientation binary" from queer to straight or straight to queer.

Pack your bags - you've moved lol.

I like that metaphor. I think its probably one of the best I've heard about this subject, and one I plan to "borrow" to explain this issue. I've just been using the "once you get to this territory, binaries no longer apply," but moving makes a lot more sense. Thanks!