Transphobia and the Internet

2020-06-13

(heads up, kind of a long post which I wrote most of at 1am)

So, in the past week, you’ve probably seen an author who wrote a book with magic in (I think - I half read one of them as a kid then went back to reading A Series of Unfortunate Events) say some really not so nice things about trans people. Short version of how this then went: she got mass criticism, doubled down, got even more criticism from her co-workers, and then wrote a follow-up blog post. In this post she said some REALLY horrific things about trans people (of which I won’t be directly responding to - that’s not the point of this, and honestly, won’t do the world much good if I did) but also described abuse she experienced. Just to have it on the record, and, I can’t believe some tabloids don’t get this - abuse is fucking awful, and I hope as a survivor she has managed to get some kind of support.

With that little note out of the way, from here on, I’m not really going to be referencing the bad things she wrote, or even mention her name. Instead, I’m going to talk about my experience of being trans in the last week, and then move onto my general experience of being trans online, and my frustrations with how this discourse has evolved.

This week, every time I’ve logged into Twitter, I see trending a celebrities name with “Also trending: Harry Potter” and at once I want to log back out. If I come onto Facebook, I’ll see my friends having to argue with people they knew from their hometowns about this. If I go onto Instagram, all my stories are referencing The Bad Thing and posting screencaps of the Bad Thing. I know, before I’ve clicked on the trending topic that it’s going to already have devolved into an absolute shitshow, where us trans people have been forced into defending our own humanity and cis people will be making funny jokes getting 1k+ RTs about how the sorting hat creator is a transphobe. Meanwhile “GC REALITY TRUTHER 🏁 XX” is out here saying my very existence is predatory and that deep down I transitioned not because I didn’t have another option, but instead because I secretly have a perversion and want the rest of society to indulge me in that.

While us trans people get this kind of transphobic BS every other week at this point now, this is somewhat different. Hell, even my poor mother who uses Twitter to keep up with the cross-over she has of archeology and Shakespeare has had a chat to me in the kitchen going “Wow that author really is a piece of work isn’t she?” and about how she’s had to unfollow people she thought were decent (slight aside: my Mum is great, and the best ally I could ever have. <‍‍3‍‍). With this, I also understand that for cis people a lot of you don’t get that we’ve experienced Miss “GC REALITY TRUTHER 🏁 XX” on Twitter for years at this point, as that’s not really part of your daily twitter experience. As such, you don’t see her when pops up in the replies to a nice tweet about trans things. You also don’t see her in said replies trying to imply that transfem people are wanting to hurt someone, transmasc people are confused and misled, or that non-binary people simply are lying.

That kind of shit burrows DEEP into your mind if you see it enough. People who know me know I’ve been single for, gosh, I think 2 years at this point? Up until now, the big reason has been “oh haha, you know, dysphoria” even though, since I started hormones my dysphoria isn’t present most days. Instead, one reason for me struggling to be okay with dating even after 2 years is the portrayal of transfem people being inherently evil and predatory, which then makes it so hard to even feel okay going on a date with someone. It’s so hard for me to be in a relationship when everyday I’m being told by the glass hell-slab I hold in my hand that it’s dangerous for me to do so. This is the real impact of this kind of transphobia being spread around - not only does it aim to hurt our rights, it aims to have real impacts on our own thinking. These thought processes are personally going to be being extremely difficult to unlearn.

As I write this, it’s also been 5 years since I came out to a wider group of friends as trans (give or take a couple of weeks). Throughout this, I’ve always had something to do with my transness being a source of stress. For about 3.5 years, it was me battling to get access to blockers, then trying to battle to get hormones, and since January this year, it’s now been a battle to try and keep access to that health care, all while trying to cope with harassment that came my way.

It’s been my daily reality for years at this point to go from having to try and defend my own access to health care to logging into Twitter and seeing people try to rip even the lackluster care I had as a young trans person away from the current youth having their very first GIDS appointments. I want to be shouting from rooftops about how best practice means GIDS should be prescribing blockers at first appointment if they want to allow trans kids a safe space to explore identity (as, turns out, it’s hard to explore identity while going through the traumatic experience of the wrong puberty) but instead, I’m being forced to defend GIDS even existing to begin with.

Over the past week, while I’ve appreciated seeing my cis friends come out to say they disagree with the wand aficionado, I’ve also found it somewhat tiring. We’ve been telling you for years about the warning signs with these people. We’ve been trying to tell you how to be good allies to trans people for years. Seeing you only publicly come out and dunk on a transphobe because it’s the trendy topic tells your trans friends that you do care about them, but only when it’ll get you likes and retweets, and in the process, making your trans friends see the thing they’re already so, so tired of. Me avoiding mentioning the magic school author’s name, or any of the content of her posts isn’t just me having a bit of a giggle (albeit it’s been very fun coming up with ways to refer to her) - us trans people are far too used to cis people amplifying transphobic voices so cis people can have their fun making jokes. It happened this week, it happened last January with the DK64 livestream (even though my feelings there are different, given that it supported charity and highlighting many trans voices, ultimately helping people), and yet we don’t see this level of attention being given to trans people when they are begging for support.

I’m not trying to alienate any cis people here. Instead, I want to ask you to do something simple. Listen to your trans friends. We’ve got a tough fucking road ahead, with the GRA reform looking to be not great, the future of health care for trans kids being as stable as my emotions during lock-down, while the Equality Act is probably next on this government’s agenda of things to wreck. The transphobes are going to become even more vocal and organised than they already are after this, so we need this kind of energy you have right now making jokes about a Scottish billionaire writer, so that us trans people don’t have to be doing even more work for ourselves.

So please, listen to your trans friends, and speak up, even when it’s not the cool thing to do.

Trans Day of Visibility 2020