Why the Trans Hate?, Part II
that reader P.R. in Arvada had set us a letter wondering why there is so much hatred directed at trans people, and that
we'd gotten a lot of responses to that. In fact, the responses were too substantial to really do justice in the Sunday
mailbag. That's why we decided to run a selection of them during the regular week instead.
When we laid out the plan, we said we'd run two days' worth of responses. So, in theory, this entry should be the end
of the line. However, as a result of yesterday's entry, a response that was "substantial" is now "massive." We are going
to take that as prima facie evidence that there's a lot of interest in this question. So, like a hit Broadway musical,
we're going to extend the run at least through the end of the week. Here's another group of reader responses:
- B.P. in Pensacola, FL: Trans hate is decidedly and unquestionably unchristian and
anti-scriptural. This is not complicated. A lot more could be written but here's a quick summary of why.
One of the most transformative moments in the early Church was the admission of non-Jews into the "The Way," as it was
then known. Before that point, and even after being kicked out of the Temple, the earliest Christians viewed themselves
as fundamentally Jewish. Then came Peter's dream as recounted in Acts 10. In brief, Peter had a dream where, three
times, he was presented with foods that were forbidden for Jews, including foods declared in Leviticus to be
"abominations." Peter refused and each time a voice said "What God has made clean, you must not call profane." The three
occurrences of the same event is, of course, symbolic. He awoke and was soon presented with three (again symbolic) men who
were non-Jews. He met with them, ate with them, and invited them to stay with him. This was unlawful for a Jew, as these
people were ritualistically "unclean" and so association with them was forbidden, and lodging and eating with them even
more so. He was questioned about it, explained his experience in the dream and that he had realized it meant that the
message was intended not just for Jews, but also for those who were "profane" under Jewish law. Then, the Holy Spirit poured
out upon all Jews and non-Jews alike, and they were baptized. The significance of this is lost on many today
because we (well, many of us) don't think of others as ritually unclean or forbid association with people of other
faiths—but at the time this would have been a really, really, really, big deal, and if the followers had not been
ejected from Judaism, they certainly would have been as a result of this outright flouting of Jewish law.
Shortly before this, in Acts 8, is the story of the Apostle Philip's encounter with an "Ethiopian eunuch"—in effect, a
transgender person. Again summarizing, after speaking, the eunuch expressed a desire to be baptized and Philip baptized
him. The story is unclear about whether the eunuch was Jewish or not as he had "come to Jerusalem to worship" but was
So, to treat others as somehow unclean or "abominations" is squarely contrary to the lessons taught in the earliest days
of the Christian Church. It is biblically unsupportable by those who consider themselves "Christians" and is exactly
what the message of the early church condemns.
- R.T. in Arlington, TX: As bona fides, I am confident in my faith as a Christian, and at
this moment I am walking alongside and loving my young adult child, who is making tentative steps to transition M to F.
I am neither encouraging nor discouraging my child's actions because it needs to be the child's initiative that drives
this and not a reaction to me. I want to allow for the possibility that the journey could be one way or a round-trip.
(No, the pronoun issue hasn't been resolved between us yet, but don't judge us.)
I think the matter is more primitive than A.S.W expressed yesterday. Hate in any form is not rational unless it is a response to
being threatened. I see a universal part of human nature is to need to belong to a bigger whole. An identity as an
individual is important, but just as important is an identity as "Us." Logically, you can't have an Us without there
being a Them. I agree with the other commenters that I don't see trans people as a Them with the capacity or inclination
to harm Us. Some of the haters understand they aren't threatened personally, so they project the threat onto other
people's children and take on a societal responsibility to protect children from Them. The actions of individuals do get
perceived through the Us/Them lens.
With that said, human history does have examples of an emerging Them that was evil, harmful, and threatened Us. World
War II seems to provide the clearest example that we can relate to. Whether you call it hate, defiance, or opposition;
the emotion and its effects have a place. We also have examples of times when the danger of Them went unopposed by Us
for a long time and the lack of action made things worse because Them got stronger. Hate and Love have their places. My
questions for my fellow travelers here are "Who is part of your Us, and how does that make you feel about Them?" and "Do
Them present enough threat to your Us to deserve your hate?" Those questions apply to both trans supporters and
- M.H. in Seattle, WA: Certainly the right is driving up and leveraging hatred of trans
people, but as the polling you cited suggests, this is a trend that isn't confined to the right and is likely not being
driven by the right-wing echo chamber.
I would suggest that the trans activist community has managed to alienate significant portions of the center and even
the left. Roe v. Wade is overturned and the trans activists drive abortion rights groups to avoid using the word "women."
If one is concerned about rape culture, it is not unreasonable to ask that women's restrooms be penis-free zones and to
do so is not to be anti-trans but rather anti-people-with-penises, but that is not how the trans activist community will
paint it. "Gender is a spectrum" ideology has as an implication that a gay man might not be fully a man. Moving from
informing people of their preferred pronouns to asking everyone what their preferred pronouns are is arguably more
welcoming to the trans community but it also sends a message that everyone should reconsider their gender.
Marriage equality for homosexuals gained support through the normalization of homosexuality within society and the
growing understanding that accepting homosexuals and marriage equality did no damage to the heterosexual majority.
Accepting trans people into society should have been able to follow a similar path. There would have been some areas,
like women's restrooms and women's sports, where a balance of interests would need to be considered, but for most of
society it should not have mattered. Older people might have trouble using "they/them" to refer to singular people, but
that's a grammatical issue not a trans issue and it's one that gets resolved naturally over time as language evolves.
But what we've gotten instead is a more aggressive movement that can seem to target the majority's sense of gender and
personal identity much more than gay rights ever did, and the discomfort with that creates exactly the sort of
environment where the right can productively energize and leverage anti-trans hate.
More succinctly, when one puts things in terms of "you are either with me or against me," one may drive a lot of people
who would not otherwise have gone there to choose "against."
- J.T. in Marietta, GA: Here's a factor I haven't seen discussed yet that I think has
contributed greatly to the growing negative attitudes towards trans people:
Terrible marketing and PR.
Bear with me for a moment. The statistics you published show pretty dramatic decreases in acceptance of trans people.
The time frame you include matches pretty well with the rise of trans activism. Therein lies the problem. Most people
in the U.S. traditionally default towards a "live and let live" attitude. But a small segment of loud extremists have
created negative associations with trans people through their aggressive attempts to police language and demand
instantaneous change to longstanding cultural and social traditions. Anyone who evidences the slightest disagreement
with their agenda is instantaneously labeled a transphobe. This is a terrible way to win minds and hearts. In fact, it
has the opposite effect, and turns people off to their cause. I mean, I've always supported people's right to live
their lives as they please, but these extremists drive me crazy. I think a lot of people have been similarly affected.
You can't blame the recent negative shift of opinion solely on Fox News and opportunistic politicians.
Sexual science has spent the last two generations trying to get people to understand the difference between sex and
gender. Trans activists have largely ruined any progress that has been made by their insistence that "trans women are
women," and that changing gender means your sex has been changed, too. The radical stance taken on juvenile
gender-affirming medical care and the instant labeling of any alternative as transphobic has been particularly damaging
to the overall image of trans people.
And now, I'm ready for the inevitable accusations that I, too, am transphobic.
- E.V. in Austin, TX: If you go on social media, you will find no small number of
insinuations (almost invariably condescending and sanctimonious) that a person is transphobic and evil for failing to
ask for pronouns, failing to use terms like "birthing person" and "chestfeeding," playing Harry Potter video games, etc.
I think part of the shift in Republican intolerance towards trans people in the polls is a vicious cycle of culture war
escalation, where conservative-leaning moderates react to being attacked, out of umbrage or spite, by becoming
entrenched opponents of trans rights. (Particularly when they don't know any trans people personally, so that the issue
is more an abstract proxy battle in the culture wars rather than an issue affecting the lives of real people.)
- D.V. in Columbus, OH: The item on trans hate this week really struck a chord with me, as I
discuss often about this sort of thing with "soft" nonbinary, "hard" nonbinary, and transitioning transgender friends.
Yet, I also have family and other friends that are either unaware or confused, while others are unfortunately apathetic
or even self-centered on the subject of trans people and the idea of gender fluidity and misgendering.
To me, the first two camps actually have the potential to be persuaded on things. The completely unaware and the
confused simply need a proper explanation and an analogy that helps them to empathize even if they do not fully
The third group of apathetic individuals, however, are the Fox Propaganda watchers, and generally put this into a
selfish place of something akin to "why should I have to call you a certain thing if it's annoying or inconvenient to
me?" or the like. Some are good individuals that have maybe been exposed to bad information or misconceptions, but some
are actually more towards a hateful place as well (family, of course, because they wouldn't be friends of mine
This whole thing got me thinking: What is a good analogy for us to help to explain/persuade the people in the middle to
be empathetic and/or accepting of transgender issues in a convincing yet logical way? Also, Democrats sure could use
some ideas as well, as we're terrible at messaging already!
Off the top of my head, I thought about kids with former athletic parents being made to play sports when they're more
into comic books or something, but I wanted to see what else I could find. A decent reddit post I found provided a few
good ideas, namely stuff like being forced to write with your right hand as a left-handed individual, being forced to
use a typewriter at birth instead of a paintbrush, and being forced to use Mac OS instead of Windows OS. However, I'd be
very curious as to what some readers could come up with!
If readers have
answers to D.V.'s question
(that is, suggestions for analogies), we will work them into the conversation. Also, and we will explain our
thinking on this in greater detail when that day comes, but we would like to run an entire day of responses
from trans and/or nonbinary people. So, if you are trans and you have thoughts, or if you already wrote in but we don't know
you're trans or nonbinary, please
send us an e-mail.
In any event, more responses tomorrow! (Z)
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