Why the Trans Hate?, Part VI: Stories of the Trans-Adjacent
We've heard from trans readers, and we'll hear from them one more time before this series is all said and done. But
today, we're running letters from folks who are not trans themselves, but have experience of various sorts that gives
them insight into the matter. We are using the phrase "trans-adjacent" because if there's a more correct term, we don't
know it. We recognize these are on the lengthy side, particularly in the aggregate, but we found them compelling.
- I.F. in Toronto, ON, Canada: I was bullied relentlessly as a kid in the 80s, at least in
part because I did not conform to traditional definitions of masculinity demanded of the area where I grew up in
Kentucky. I dressed and behaved in a way that was comfortable for me, which didn't fit any male or female definitions.
In the 90s, things started getting better. I found friends who accepted me for me. By the time of university and later,
the early 2000s, I feel like I reached peak acceptance. I was regarded as a man who didn't fit masculine stereotypes. I
could be a man who liked cars, dolls, fluffy stuffed animals, raceboats and some occasional makeup. I am not, however,
even in the slightest, transgender. I am a man, top to bottom, inside and out. I am also gay, which is relevant later.
Then the 2010s rolled in, and things started to change for the worse. I have transgender friends and I accept them
without question. Where things really started to go wrong was when the so-called "non-binary" became a thing. At first,
I thought this was great. Fantastic! Finally, a way for intersex people and the few people who are really, truly on the
border of transgender as a way to express themselves. Yes, I was entirely on board with they/them pronouns.
Unfortunately, that didn't last long. The trouble with non-binary, as it turned out, is that the term and the definition
were absolutely ripe for abuse. I still remember when "metrosexual" briefly became a thing and I remember what I thought
then. "Uh oh. We've reduced sexuality to a fashion trend. I don't like where this is going." As a gay man, I liked that
we were gaining acceptance and the nightmare of gay hate might be coming to an end. I did not, however, see much
positive in sexuality becoming a fashion trend.
The metrosexual trend didn't last long but, eventually, the professional victims of the world, the ones who are
absolutely desperate to latch themselves to a community they have no business being a part of, found non-binary and sunk
their little claws into it. It was perfect. It had a definition that was easy to tease so that it became so overbroad
that it would be meaningless. Check. Next, claim the label, which is easy to do now that the definition is so
ludicrously broad that it basically includes everyone. Check. As an added benefit, now most of those who claim the
mantra of "non-binary" get to respond indignantly and self-righteously to all matters gender and pronoun-related, which
is partly the point. These sorts of people live for righteous indignation. It is truly a religion.
Swinging back around to the beginning of my little tale, there is, once again, a target on my back. "You like dolls!"
they say. "Yes?" I respond cluelessly. "You must be non-binary!" they declare. They won't let it go. I've lost three
friends because of this because they absolutely will not shut up about it. I just have to be non-binary! My transgender
friends can't stand these people. "Transtrenders," they call them. Anything that doesn't rigidly conform to traditional
1950s stereotypes of what a man and a woman should be simply must be non-binary. It is regressive. It is sexist. It is
also binary to say that everything must be binary and non-binary.
These people are poisoning the discourse for actual transgender people, actual intersex people, and actual non-binary
people. They fuel the Fox rhetoric and suck all the air out of the room for people who are truly suffering. The
moment anyone tells me, "My pronouns are they/them," I immediately stuff myself into the proverbial closet because god
forbid they find out I like dolls or cute, fluffy things, because they'll be coming for me again.
- D.H. in Marysville, WA: Our 16 year old came out to us as nonbinary 3 years ago. We are
involved parents. It was hard. Every day has been a swirl of emotions, a need to be flexible and listen, a chance to
consider things one has not considered before no matter what side of the aisle you're on.
Initially our child wanted hormone therapy and to explore surgical options. This was probably the hardest time. They
were 13. We went to many consultations together, asked tough questions and had intense conversations with our child. In
the end they decided to wait. It was totally their decision. We won't pretend we weren't relieved. Not because we
opposed it necessarily, but because there are real physical and mental challenges that come with making a teen body do
the opposite of what it has programmed itself to do. In the end, if our child had chosen to go that route, we would have
Our child was a caring, thoughtful and beautiful soul before all of this. They are that same person now but even
better. They can be who they are and they are truly happy. Not in a trendy, everybody's doing it, look-at-me kind of
way. In a peaceful, content, quietly certain kind of way. They know who they are and they have always known.
The process, the journey with coming out, with being nonbinary or trans or whatever is so much harder than what
outsiders tend to boil it down to: in this case, capricious acts by confused or self indulgent kids whose woke parents
have brainwashed them or let them run wild or used then as pawns. Even people who are advocates have their own biases
and hangups and fears which they often don't recognize and don't have to face head-on because their kid isn't trans.
It's not simple and it's not easy.
In the end, people just want to be people, to be themselves, to be treated with dignity and respect, to have the same
opportunities as others and to be free from fear. It's not too much to ask.
- T.F. in Tulsa, OK: I am a non-binary daily reader of your site, which I absolutely love.
Keep up the good work! I'm so happy that you are specifically seeking out trans and non-binary experiences.
In real life, I mostly present as male because, frankly, those are the clothes I already own (since I am biologically
male) and because those are the clothes that wouldn't get me harassed by bigots. But I don't identify with masculinity
or male-ness as a part of who I am (nor do I especially relate to femininity or female-ness).
I'm deeply concerned by the push among the right to enforce traditional gender roles. I worry because there's no clear
line (that I can see) where those roles would be entrenched enough for far-right politicians, and they would stop making
more laws about it. The trans person's right to use the restroom that matches their gender, the drag queen's right to do
a show in a fabulous dress, and the trans teen's right to ask their teacher to refer to them by pronouns that make them
feel more like themselves—these rights stand as stalwart protectors of my right to "just not feel like acting like a
dude today." To wear a pink scarf or paint my nails. To let my natural lisp work its way into my voice instead of
constantly reminding myself to enunciate.
As someone who feels comfortable being perceived as male most of the time, I have a lot of privilege which helps me
avoid harassment and attacks, and ALL of it comes from being "less out there" or "less in-your-face" than the trans
activists that some of your readers have been complaining about. By being so extreme, they're putting in the work to
make all gender-non-conforming people have easier lives, and I am eternally grateful.
Sure, being less extreme might be a better political move to make sure those who are uncomfortable are still willing to
vote for Democrats. But that isn't the only responsibility a trans activist has. They're fighting for better, safer
lives for everyone in the LGBT+ community, and they're doing an amazing job.
- E.L. in Missoula, MT: I consider myself non-gender conforming, and I'm still
discovering/deciding if that means the same thing for me as non-binary.
Insecurity is the only reason I can see for someone to feel threatened by people that flaunt traditional gender norms,
sex, or sexuality. Even though these non-conformists have been around since before Homo sapiens, a large part of society
has deemed that not only are gender and sex a core part of a person's being, but they are immutable and unshakable.
And so if a person is insecure in their gender, sex, or sexuality, this could feel like a very real threat. By changing
what it means to be a man or a woman, or going even further and changing from one gender or sex to the other, one could
see it as a degradation of who they are and what their place in society is. Or that these non-conformists aren't holding
up their end of what these affronted people imagine the social contract to be.
Granted, a few readers have chimed in to say something like this, but I will go a little further. The reason this issue
gets under the skin so much more is that the idea that gender roles and sexuality is absolute is so demonstrably false.
Not only does almost everyone flaunt traditional gender roles on occasion, we've also been constantly updating what
those roles are.
We have, over the past hundred years or so, decided that chromosomes and physical sex characteristics have nothing to do
with who can vote, or wear pants, or open a credit card, or get a divorce. We're finally coming to a place where men can
cry and be emotional and tender. Hopefully soon we'll stop caring what people wear or what set of genitals a person
needs to be president.
So I think people are fearful, and therefore hateful, because somewhere, deep down, they know that these things are
worth reexamining about themselves. I'm not saying that everyone is trans or non-binary. I'm only saying that it takes
some measure of courage to sit down and think, "To hell with what society thinks, this is the kind of person I want to
be." And it's much, much harder to act on it.
- S.R. in Knoxville, TN: Reading the letters about "Trans is the new abortion" and the point
that the Republican cultural warriors totally miss is that many trans people are invisible to the naked eye. Yes, the
stereotype of the crossdressing male with lipstick on as obviously trans (they're not, but that's not the point I am
making here) is whom they are criticizing. These people don't even know who it is they're demonizing. How stupid, huh?
My trans child, born female and who now identifies as male and looks like any other 23-year-old male college student, is
a case in point. He's at the basketball game. He's out at dinner. He's at the grocery store. He's living his life.
You know what he looks like? A non-descript 23-year-old male wearing a T-shirt, blue jeans and glasses. Totally
anonymous. He's living in a state that has a Republican governor and that went for Trump in the last 2 elections, after
having grown up in Tennessee. By choice.
Then there are his roommates and his significant other. He lives in a house with 5 other young adults that either are
gender fluid or trans. You'd be hard pressed to know it meeting them, as they seem more like a quirky group of
20-somethings arguing over the video game controller or who is supposed to clean the kitchen. I, even with a good eye,
wouldn't have picked out a couple of these kids as trans.
And during the pandemic these young people decided to hunker down and try to protect themselves the best they could from
contracting COVID. They had been living in their group house only a matter of weeks at the outset of it and hadn't had
a chance to meet any of the neighbors. My son did notice there were 3 or 4 young adults living 2 houses away from them
but as the pandemic was raging they naturally elected to keep to themselves rather than interact. It was months later
that a mutual acquaintance made a comment about where they were living and said "Hey, do you know X and Y living 2
houses down from you? They're doing the same thing you are."
Yes, the trans kids and my son in house 1... did not identify the group of young people in house 2 also as trans and
gender fluid by seeing them around the neighborhood. They had no idea.
The coda is they all had a group meeting keeping their distance out in the street to say hello to each other... in
front of the house with the Trump sign in the yard that was between them.
- M.K. in Wilmington, DE: My wife and I are friends with a family that has two kids
reasonably close in age to ours, one of whom is transgender. Let's call her John to reflect that she was given a
masculine-coded birth name which she is still using.
Oh, by the way, she's in kindergarten.
We've known John since about 9 months. From about age 3, we were aware of her preference for colors, toys, and
activities that are traditionally coded as feminine. In pre-school, John struggled with this in her peer group, to the
point where her dad added pink streaks to his hair to be supportive—"See? Boys can like pink." John has the face
of a little boy but all the typical mannerisms of a little girl. And from everything I've seen, they've worked to
thread the needle to be accepting of their child without boxing them in one way or another to see where things went.
About a week before the start of the school year, John began using feminine pronouns and a few weeks after that she
began asking others to use them as well. Apparently a majority of her peer group has come to accept this, although her
teacher has not and they are trying to move her to a different room. And yes, therapists have been involved throughout
the course of this journey.
Our daughter is a bit perplexed by it all as she knew John before COVID as a boy she would play with once a week and
now, after lockdown, John is a girl. I admit that I struggle with a lifetime of name/gender coding and have to pause
when it comes to pronouns. But from my vantage point this not a "phase." This kid did not wake up one morning and say
"I'm going to be a girl now" as a way of getting attention, and this is not as superficial as deciding Barbie is more
interesting than GI Joe.
This is a six year old who knows she is not like any other boy she knows (apart from anatomy, anyway) who is just trying
to interface with the world. I was socially awkward as a kid and I thought I had trouble relating to others. That was
absolutely nothing compared to what John is working through, and this is at a school that bills itself as inclusive.
So when John comes over to play I work on my pronouns and hope she finds her place in the world. Though I do wonder
whether that place would be easier to find if our notions of gender conformity weren't quite so rigid.
Thanks, all! More tomorrow, of course. (Z)
This item appeared on www.electoral-vote.com. Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news,
Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.
All Senate candidates