Trans people and basic human respect.

Author:Christina, Greta
Position:FIERCE HUMANISM - Column

There's something that's been puzzling me. I've been thinking about cisgender people who get upset about transgender people. ("Cisgender," for those of you who aren't familiar with the term, is the opposite of "transgender"; it means someone whose gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth.) Some cis people object to the new vocabulary many trans people are advocating for or are simply making use of-- changes in names, pronouns, and so on. Others object to the very existence of transgender people: they think gender is solely and entirely determined by the genitals we were born with and that any other perception of it is just nonsense.

Here's what's puzzling me: Why do these people care?

Let's assume, purely for the sake of disproving the assumption, that trans people are somehow mistaken-- that they "really" are the gender they were assigned at birth based on their genitals, and it's silly for them to think otherwise. I obviously don't think that--I think it's a horrible opinion, deeply offensive, and out of touch with well-documented reality. But assuming that this opinion is true will help me demonstrate just how wrong it is. So for the sake of argument, let's assume it's true.

So what? How could it possibly affect you? What business is it of yours? If someone else is identifying with a gender that you personally think is "wrong," how does it harm you in any way?

In reality, I think there are a lot of answers to the question, "Why do people care?" I think accepting the existence of trans people makes everyone else rethink gender in ways that may be unsettling. If we're invested in the idea that gender roles are "natural" and inborn, it makes us rethink that. If we're invested in the idea that gender is 100 percent socially constructed, it makes us rethink that. It makes us rethink masculinity and femininity in ways that may undercut our sense of our own masculinity or femininity. Indeed, trans identity causes us to question the very idea of a gender binary--the idea that there are two and only two genders that are distinct and easy to identify. It makes us rethink what gender even is.

For years, the reasons I thought of myself as female (to the degree that I thought about it at all) were that (a) I was born with a vagina, and (b) I've been treated as female since birth and have absorbed my culture's opinions of what it means to be female. Even when I was defying those opinions, I was still accepting my basic...

To continue reading