I am absolutely exhausted with hatred - more specifically, hatred that comes directly from ignorance. Today, I made the grave mistake of commenting (and reading the comments) on a BBC video about how a family is handling their son transitioning to a woman. The comments ranged from the despicable ("would have been better off with one of those late term abortions") to the downright insane ("this is the genocide of white people" - yeah, I don't get it either), but they all shared a common theme. They all suggested that transgender people are sick, and should not live in a way that is most comfortable for them, because it is uncomfortable to others. I am particularly fed up with this being the opinion of many people, on many issues.
First of all, no one is obligated to deny their own happiness for your benefit. No one should be expected to live a life that makes them unhappy because it will make you a little more comfortable. I presume most of you believe that, if you really think about it. I assume none of you feel like you should have to give up your religion because others don't care for it, to work a job you hate because other people would like it if you did, to deny your own political views so as to not offend those on the other side. I can't imagine any of you would live in a way that would make you miserable because other people, some of whom you don't even know, would prefer it if you did.
Second - hold onto your hats here, as shit's about to get scientific - there is significant evidence that trans people have brains that either more closely resemble the gender they identify with or brains that are not typically male or female. What does this mean? Essentially, it means that a trans person is not delusional or mentally ill - they simply have a brain that is more similar to the gender they identify with than the sex they were born, or, at the very least, have a brain that lacks a lot of the markers of a cisgender person. Imagine for a moment that you woke up tomorrow with the brain you've always had - the same thoughts, emotions, wants, and dreams - but suddenly had the body of the opposite sex. Some of you would likely be able to adjust, but a whole lot of you, undoubtedly, would feel uncomfortable, miserable, wrong. You would know in your mind that you are still a man or a woman, but your body, your mannerisms, your voice, your very presence would be decidedly the opposite of what feels right to you. What you may choose to do about that is obviously entirely up to you, but I can't imagine you would want to be denied choices, shamed publicly, or even killed, for how you decided to handle it.
Third, and this is where I get super fucking angry, transgenderism isn't a mental illness, but that doesn't actually matter at all. The position that it's a mental illness is wrong, but it's also maddening from the perspective of those of us who really do have one. People with mental illnesses often suffer terribly, and would do absolutely whatever it takes to live normal, happy, functional lives. We will experiment with prescriptions, diets, physical activities, and even obvious woo in the hope of getting just a little relief. If there was solid evidence that cutting off my little toe would significantly reduce my depression, that little piggy would be gone by dinner. Claiming that transgenderism is a mental illness is wrong, but it's also stupid if you follow it up with something along the lines of "therefore, they should get help, not mutilate their bodies". Even if it were a mental illness, transitioning would be a perfectly reasonable treatment, just as taking anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication is a perfectly reasonable way to deal with those issues. They do not "cure" us of a "problem", they do not mean we've "given in to a sickness", they simply assist many of us in leading happy and functional lives. Why would you ask that we do otherwise? Why would you ask that we refuse the one treatment that might allow us to live happily?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, why the hell is this such a concern for people? As I hear every time I discuss this issue, trans people make up a statistically insignificant portion of the population. This is the argument presented each and every time anyone proposes a change to how we approach any number of issues - "why should the rest of us change on behalf of such a small number of people?" Why indeed! Why would so many of us focus so much of our attention, intolerance, hatred, and bigotry on a tiny minority? Why are billions of people so obsessively concerned with ~ 0.5% of the population? Why does a single video on Facebook about one individual transitioning generate hundreds of thousands of comments? If you are genuinely concerned with the well-being of others, might I suggest you first work on the approximately 100,000,000 people who are currently homeless? The nearly 80% of people worldwide who survive on less than $10/day? The fact that several million people will die of cancer this year? That, thanks to the anti-vax movement, preventable diseases are on the rise? Might I suggest that your concern for the health and happiness of others would be better spent on issues like a lack of proper medical care for people all over the world, our outright refusal to house the homeless and feed the hungry, rising education costs, the belief that manual labour and so-called "dirty jobs" are things we should not aspire to, the perpetuation of war and armed conflict, the worrying trend of racism, sexism, and religious bigotry being acceptable once again, or the fact that nearly 800,000,000 cannot read this rant - not because they don't speak English or have no internet access, but because they are illiterate? Might I suggest that if you are really do want to focus on trans people, you should perhaps consider that their alarmingly high suicide/suicide attempt rates are almost exclusively due not to their "mental illness", but the horrific treatment they face by society at large, and that they are murdered at a higher rate than numerous other demographics?
Please, for the love of all that is good, stop pretending that your bigotry is actually concern. Stop pretending that you are holding on to some sort of moral high-ground. Do not pass off your horrible comments and abhorrent behaviour as tough love and hard truths, because they are truly neither. The "trans issue" is yours, not theirs. Trans people exist. There is nothing you can do to change that fact, so you really only have two choices: you can spend your days frothing at the mouth about a teeny tiny segment of the population that has done you no harm; perpetuate dangerous hatred against vulnerable people; advocate less rights for citizens that make you feel icky, or you can learn a little about people who are different than you; challenge yourself to show love to people you don't quite understand; treat everyone with the same basic decency you'd like to be treated with. Those truly are your only choices, here. Please choose wisely.
Those of us alive today live in one of the most interesting times in human history. We have, quite literally, the entire world, and all the information we have ever accumulated, at our fingertips. The vast majority of us, no matter our social, racial, political, or economic status, can access an unfathomable amount of information; we can learn about absolutely anything we want to, find out what is happening right this second in any part of the world, take a virtual tour of the entire planet. We can educate ourselves on every political, philosophical, and theological position that has ever been proposed. We can have conversations with people all over the world, gain perspectives we could only make uneducated guesses about a couple of decades ago, really get to know people of every possible persuasion. We are experiencing the dawn of global communication. And we are spitting on that fact every chance we get.
I would expect that any outsider looking in on us right now would feel a certain amount of joy and excitement - how wonderful it is that we can communicate with people from all over the globe! How privileged we are to be able to hear directly from the people on the ground. How thrilling that we can have conversations, at any time of day or night, with people on the other side of the world, that we can learn their reality, their hopes, their dreams, their biggest concerns, and tell them about ours.
But we don't use it that way, do we? No, no we do not. The vast majority of us use this almost infinite source of information to confirm our own biases. To dig our heels in a little deeper. We take every piece of information that has ever been presented, and sort it in such a way that it exactly lines up to what we already believed. Shame on us. We have developed, contributed to, and laid claim to a tool that can connect every human being on Earth, and we are using it to build echo chambers. We are using it to further separate ourselves from anyone who may have an even slightly different perspective to offer. To make our world just a little smaller. We are now able, and all too ready, to "delete", "remove", or "block" people for the smallest difference in opinion. We have become hyper-sensitive to disagreement, and feel it not just our right, but our moral duty to immediately and proudly cut all communication with those who challenge our beliefs. We build a friend list, an audience, a group of followers upon a foundation of agreement and acquiescence. We connect on a global level...with those whose beliefs mirror ours.
Hundreds, thousands of years ago - eras we now see as uncivilized and brutal - great minds would gather to discuss everything from what love is to the most efficient economic system. Philosophers would fight for days, weeks, years on end over the most minute details. Decades ago, authors and journalists would carry on life-long debates and disagreements through print. Scientists would publicly one-up and challenge one another. These people disagreed, often fundamentally and vehemently, but they did not tend to just pretend the other did not exist. They did not decide they had no time for someone who had a different outlook. They did not shy away from a debate.
So why do we? Why have so many of us chosen, as I touched on in a previous post, to make enemies and bigots of people who are neither? Why have we become so sensitive to differences of opinion, however minor? Why do we suddenly believe that the only true friends and allies are those who agree with us entirely? Sure, there are some issues on which we should have a zero-tolerance policy - I will not be embracing true bigotry against race, sexuality, or anything else any time soon, for example - but even on these very serious issues, we seem more and more willing to deem the slightest difference in perspective as bigotry, thereby justifying an end to communication with those who are open to changing their minds. This is particularly concerning, as we are rejecting opportunities to positively influence individuals, and society as a whole, in favour of being offended. We are dismissing entirely that some positions are the result of simple ignorance, not malicious hatred, and can be changed through a simple exchange of information and ideas. We believe we are being strong, being righteous, standing up for ourselves and our people, by building a wall between ourselves and anyone who may see things a little differently. What we have seemingly not considered is that, eventually, we will be very alone behind very large walls.
We are living in an age where truly understanding what drives people is more possible than ever, and we have chosen to shrug that off in favour of our own biases. To reject information and cling to prejudice. To build virtual armies against enemies we cannot even define. We have chosen to take technology that can connect us on a global level, and use it to make our worlds smaller than they have ever been. And we should be ashamed of ourselves.
Wherein I say
whatever I want.