Is not dating a trans person transphobic?

It’s come to my awareness that in this modern world, there are many otherwise open-minded and compassionate individuals who do not understand or stereotype the transgender community. There have been occasions where I’ve heard friends and acquaintances refer to the transgender community as “hermaphrodite”, “trannie“, “gay” or “someone who had a sex change”. To be clear, in the vast majority of circumstances, these comments have not had any callous intent. From my perspective, these comments are the result of fetishisation from the porn industry, misinformation about the trans community spread through the media and/or an inherent physiological need to identify people as either male or female. In fact, I really do think that many people in this modern world cannot wrap their heads around the sheer idea of being transgender.

trans

And really, I understand how the vast majority of the public cannot understand the idea of being transgender. We’ve seen the exact same reaction when it came to the gay community, women in the workforce and black people living among white people in our history. History has shown us that human beings, when faced with an alien situation or concept, are quite literally fearful of it. Subconsciously, we think to ourselves that men are the polar opposite to women. The media has reinforced this with the idea that men and women have certain personality traits, ambitions and responsibilities.

For instance, I have lost count of the amount of cis-gendered men and women alike who have made the generalised statement that “women aren’t funny”, and refuse to give female comedians a chance because of this. But really, if we think about it, how could half the Earth’s population be born unfunny? Making jokes and making people laugh is something that most of us have done at some point or another. When people make this statement, I truly believe it comes from our subconsciousness telling us to reject and be fearful of an alien concept or situation. Men have always and continue to dominate the comedy genre, so when we are faced with a female attempting to do the same, our reaction is almost defensive and fearful that the norm could possibly be compromised.

women funny

What we see now with the transgender community is the same we saw with the gay and lesbian communities of our past. I’m not denying that homophobia is still prevalent in society, but in the past twenty years we have made leaps and bounds. The taboo that once existed has nearly disappeared.

I can admit that I haven’t had a close friendship with a person who I was aware was transgender in my entire life. I have met trans people, but that’s it. There has been no particular reason for this. Truthfully it’s understandable that a trans person might not disclose the fact that they are transgender with people they barely know. I’m sure this is especially true in Ireland, specifically so in my very small rural hometown.

However, I have been watching and keeping up to date with YouTube vloggers since I was about 17 now. I have watched several transgender vloggers and YouTube documentaries discussing and exploring transgender issues. I have also taken it upon myself to watch a myriad of documentaries following the lives of transgender people.

Educating myself on the transgender community has broadened my mind, and truthfully I at one point knew nothing about the transgender community also. My teenage self may well have used terms such as “trannie”, “transvestite” or “hermaphrodite”. This is what happens when you know nothing about a community.

ignorance

In the past few years, many of the transgender or cis-gendered allies I’ve kept up to date with through social media, have referred to the disinterest in dating a transgender individual as transphobic.

When I initially stumbled upon this idea, I agreed. I thought to myself that refusing to date a transgender person was also a stem of an ignorant and close-minded society. But upon further reflection, I think that the summary “transphobic” may be an over simplification. Let’s look at some reasons why a cis-gendered person may be disinterested in dating a trans person.

1. Reproduction

Many of us desire to reproduce and have a family. Although there are clearly alternatives to the traditional route, including artificial insemination, adoption and surrogacy, many of us would still ideally prefer to reproduce the old fashioned way. I cannot explain why this is the case; but I can assume it is linked to animalistic instincts and the innate desire to pass on our genetics.

Transgender people, unfortunately, can no longer reproduce post-operation the natural way. This means that if a cis-gendered person settles down with a transgender person and both wish to start a family, they will have to go down alternative, often very expensive means to do so. Many of us cannot even contemplate the idea of forking out thousands and thousands for reproductive treatment. Many people work for low to mid wage salaries and do not even have the means to do so if desired.

Personally, I think this is a valid concern for people in not wanting to date and settle down with a transgender person.

2. Masculine and feminine traits 

Many men have expressed attraction to younger women with hourglass figures. Many women have expressed attraction to men with body and facial hair or a muscular physique.

While most transgender people will take hormone treatment, obtain breast surgery and even undergo facial surgery to appear more masculine/feminine, many cis-gendered individuals seek out naturally occurring secondary masculine or feminine traits in finding a mate. Some people even find the idea of cosmetic surgery a turn-off in a romantic partner.

We must understand that these attractions are not inherently transphobic; but are linked to our animalistic instincts and turn-ons.

3. Social pressure and mental illness

Whether we like it or not, we all care to an extent what our friends and family members think of us and our lifestyles. We all fear social ridicule for being different. Many cis-gendered individuals are scared of what people will think if they date a transgender person. I am not one of these people; but I do know that these concerns exist for many.

The transgender community are also more prone to developing mental illness than cis-gendered people. This is due to a systematic ignorance and intolerance of the transgender community. Is it any wonder that transgender people may feel vulnerable, ridiculed or less than for just being themselves? The fact that the transgender community are more prone to developing mental illness is no fault of their own; but the fault of our intolerant society. However, for a cis-gendered individual who has had no history of mental illness, the thought of dating a person who has mental illness or is predisposed to it may be an intimidating concept.

transgender 6

I will never tolerate offensive remarks, hate crime and social exclusion of the transgender community. I will not tolerate or engage in transphobic behaviour from anybody, even people I barely know. However, I do genuinely think that the blanket statement of not dating a transgender person is transphobic is over simplified and does not take into account the factors I have just mentioned.

I think for many people, although they go into the dating scene seeking out a cis-gendered individual who can naturally reproduce, they may at times be surprised with who they fall in love with. Anybody could unexpectedly fall in love with a person who just so happens to be transgender, and the previously mentioned factors just wouldn’t hold weight anymore.

However, this is a very complex issue, and one I am sure I have yet to learn a lot more about. From my perspective now though, I think the above mentioned factors are valid in not actively pursuing a transgender person to settle down with.

However, if a cis-gendered individual has no desire to reproduce, has no issue with hormone therapy or cosmetic surgery etc, I think there can be transphobic reasons for refusing to date a transgender person. If you truly will refuse to date a transgender person for no other reason than the fact they are transgender, I do think that this is transphobic.

We must consider these factors though, for the rest of the cis-gendered population.

If you are transgender, I love you. I accept you. I respect you. And if you are a single transgender person, someone will most definitely love and respect you for exactly who you are. Don’t settle, and don’t allow yourself to be disrespected or fetishised.

 

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Reasons Parents Don’t Teach Their Kids About Being Gay… And Why They Should.

I doubt I’m the only 21 year old who had little if any exposure to homosexuality as a child. I doubt I’m the only one who only understood what gay was in my early teens, and even then I was lead to believe it was something abnormal.

We are doing a massive disservice to our children. I am not a parent, but I feel I can still make this statement. Because it doesn’t take a genius to figure out the problems we are causing our children. It doesn’t take a genius to take a step back and realise that we are still raising our children to be close minded, to live very narrow lifestyles and of course to live by their gender before they live by their hearts.

girl and boy

I have experienced shame-ridden statements regarding homosexuality throughout both my childhood and teen years. I have experienced this from family members, from other people’s family members, etc.

Here are just a few of the statements, and examples of illogical reasoning used by parents in NOT correctly informing their child about homosexuality:

My child is too young to know about gay people.

Yet your child is not too young to be exposed to heterosexual displays of affection, through mainstream U and PG rated television shows and movies? Many movies and TV shows targeted towards children feature straight married couples, boyfriends and girlfriends, tween crushes on the opposite gender, etc. On the likes of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, male and female characters between the ages of 10 and 13 are often shown going on their first dates, “crushing” on someone, having their first kiss, etc. ie iCarly, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Drake and Josh, Kenan and Kel, etc.

sam and freddy

Exposure to heterosexual displays of affection has not turned our children into sexual beings before their time. You’ll rarely see a thirteen year old choosing to behave provocatively, or showing enthusiasm to have sex with the opposite gender. It does happen of course, but it is rare.

This early exposure to mild displays of heterosexual affection has not damaged our children. It has just shown them the very basics of attraction, commitment, love and intimacy.

So, why would exposure to basic homosexual displays of affection be too much too soon for our children? If anything, it would teach our children from an early age to be tolerant, and understand that intimacy and attraction are not limited to boys and girls, men and women, but instead, could and can occur between two people of both and indeed any gender.

The fact that there are little if any gay couples featured in mainstream TV and films, targeted towards children, is a big reason as to why so many teenagers and young adults struggle to come out of the closet.

If it was presented as something normal to them as children, they would continue to believe it was something normal as they approached young adulthood.

The illogical statement that children are “too young” to know about gay people implies that being gay is something that is strictly adult and unsuitable for the innocent and impressionable minds of children. I am not for one second claiming that we should introduce homosexual or heterosexual displays of heavy petting, sexual activity etc into mainstream kids TV and films. Because yes, that would be unsuitable sexual content.

But would it really “harm” our children to be exposed to homosexual, subtle displays of affection?

boy and boy kissing

It hasn’t harmed them to be exposed to boy-and-girl affection. So why not the other way around for a change?

If I speak to my child about tolerance of gay people, it might turn them gay.

Yes… this explains why many childhood lovers of Disney and Nickelodeon, channels which solely feature teenage heterosexual characters, come out as gay later in life. Being exposed to vast amounts of heterosexuality as a child has not brainwashed all children and teenagers into being straight. So why would exposure to teenage homosexual characters result in all children later coming out as gay?

This very statement heavily implies that being gay is a product of nurture rather than nature. But think about it: in a heteronormative society, why would a child or teenager choose to be gay? No one chooses their sexuality. Unless they are bisexual, choose to not act upon their bisexuality, and instead choose to act solely on being with a person/people of the opposite gender. Otherwise, people are straight or they are gay. Allowing your son to play with Barbies or your daughter to play with army men will not cause either gender to later come out as gay. Because people are born gay. Just like they are born straight.

born gay

I don’t want to teach my young teenage child about gay sex education. I will only focus on straight sex education as I only wish them to know about sex for reproductive reasons. 

I’m not a parent, but I can’t help taking massive issue with this logic. How many times have you heard “the talk” begin with the words, “When a man and a woman love each other…”?

In not teaching your child about all forms of sexual activity, you are potentially causing your child to grow up intolerant and ignorant about sex. If you give your gay child “the talk”, and you refer only to the dynamics of straight sex, you are telling your child that he/she cannot have “proper sex” or “real sex” with whom they love when they get older.

Because from that moment on, you are letting your child know that penis-vagina sex is the only valid kind of sex. 

Therefore, you could potentially cause further issues to your gay child in later life, when he/she begins to think they are in fact unable to “lose their virginity” at all.

The worldwide, mainstream concept of sex and virginity is extremely narrow and damaging. Not just for gay people, but for straight people too. We are all taught that “losing our virginity” only occurs between a man and a woman, and only occurs when they “love each other”, and is strictly an act involving a penis being inserted into a vagina.

lose your virginity

So… if a person frequently engages in oral or anal sex, but has yet to engage in vaginal sex, are they still a virgin? Technically, by this narrow definition, yes. But they are clearly not virginal. This is the very issue.

Teaching your child sex education, solely from a reproductive stance, can also cause your child to feel additional guilt and shame about their bodies and about the sex they have. We can discourage our children and teenagers from having sex all we want, but many of them will still do it. 

If and when I become a parent, I would prefer to inform my child about all forms of sex, between both and all genders. Furthermore, I will feel it is my duty to teach my child how to protect him/herself, to understand that he/she can confide in me and come to me for help in a potential crisis situation involving sex.

By choosing only the reproductive standpoint in sex education, we are breeding more and more intolerance and close-mindedness within our children.

child sex

Here are just a few of the illogical statements used by parents in not informing their child about all forms of sexuality. It is greatly due to this narrow method of bringing up our children, that so many of them feel ashamed and uncomfortable in coming out as gay later in life.

I have a feeling we won’t be where we need to be in my lifetime. But I can only hope that things will improve. I am firmly of the belief that it is my duty to raise my potential future children to be open minded, tolerant and comfortable with all forms of sexuality. I will want my children to understand that their gender and sexual orientation does not and should not ever determine who they will become.

We are getting better as the years go by. The younger generation (early 20’s) are in general more clued in than the older generations, which can only mean more tolerance and open mindedness for the future generations. I can only hope… But I can’t teach tolerance and open mindedness on my own. We all have a duty to humanity…

Casual Homophobia

Try it. Go on, I dare you. Express your determination to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community. In a group. In a social setting or otherwise. A group of different kinds of people. Different backgrounds, genders and opinions. Try doing this in the Republic of Ireland. Speak about the topic of gay rights. Go on, do it. Bring it up in conversation.

As an opinionated person, I’ve done this many times. And after expressing my views, I have instantly wished I hadn’t straight afterwards. Because the reception I have been greeted with has been so harmful, dismissive and close-minded that I instantly saw the people around me differently.

It’s a sad day when you see kind, nice, normal people of all ages and backgrounds, reacting so dismissively and carelessly to an issue as vital as LGBT rights.

These same people make big claims like I’m not homophobic, but… *insert homophobic comment here*

In my time, I have genuinely felt a stab to the heart at some of the reactions to LGBT-fuelled conversations. The height of ignorance has truly both shocked and greatly upset me.

Here are just a few phrases I have heard…

1. I don’t have a problem with people being gay, but why do they have to talk about it all the time? I don’t talk about being straight all the time…

Facepalm. Straight people don’t need to talk about “being straight”. The world is already geared towards straight people. It is already the automatic assumption in society that people are straight. You don’t have to “come out” as straight. As a man, you don’t have to worry about your parents or friends rejecting or ridiculing you for simply having a female partner, and vice versa. Being straight is a breeze. Straight people aren’t oppressed, stereotyped, ridiculed, abused or disowned for simply being attracted to the opposite sex.

Therefore, if a straight person began protesting for heterosexual rights, everyone would roll their eyes or laugh (and rightly so!) Straight people are not deprived of rights or opportunities. Straight people do not have to deal with work discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Straight people don’t have to deal with social stereotyping, potential social exclusion etc as a result of being straight.

I really do find this comment to be extremely dismissive. Maybe the reason the LGBT community and straight LGBT allies speak about gay rights and equality is to spread awareness.

In case you haven’t noticed, gay people still do get discriminated against daily. In the Republic of Ireland, they still can’t get married. This is perhaps why the LGBT community speak about “being gay” more than you speak about “being straight”. Because there is absolutely no reason to speak about “being straight” to raise awareness and acceptance, whereas there is huge reason and validity in speaking about “being gay” to raise awareness and acceptance.

I find that straight people can often be very oblivious to the oppression of the LGBT community. Like when you’re in any position of privilege, you often fail to understand the position of the oppressed. Of course, straight people can be oppressed in numerous different ways (by being in a minority race, by being in a minority class, etc) but that’s a topic for another blog.

I find that in addition to the social and legal oppression faced by the LGBT community, there is also the added oppression of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland. The Church tells us that being gay is “unnatural” and “a sin”, and for a gay child to grow up in a school system dictated by the Catholic Church, as well as a traditional Irish culture further dictated by the Church, can be hugely problematic. The child is both directly and indirectly taught that there’s something “wrong with them” for being gay.

When have you, as a straight person, felt guilty for being attracted to someone of the opposite sex?

You most likely haven’t!

2. I don’t have a problem with people being gay, but marriage is for a man and a woman to have children… Why aren’t gay people happy with civil partnerships?

Sigh… Gay people “aren’t happy” with civil partnerships because of many reasons, the main ones being…

* Civil partnerships don’t always protect guardianship rights for both parents if the couple have children.
* If a member of a civil partnership couple is on their deathbed, some hospitals don’t recognize the civil partnership as a valid partnership and can deny or limit visitor access on the basis that “only family members” are allowed in.

Ultimately…

* Gay people want the celebration of their love to be referred to as the same act. And treated as the same thing both legally and socially. Why should they “have to be” in a civil partnership instead of a marriage?

3. Why do gay guys have to be so in your face about it? Can they not just act normal instead of turning into girls?

Probably the most offensive statement of all. It ties in with the whole notion of the gaydar. I’m not really a fan of people saying they have “a gaydar”… Because it plays into the notion that all gay men and all gay women look and behave a certain way.

Like with any stereotypes, there are only that… stereotypes. There’s also a stereotype that Irish people are drunk all the time, but we don’t constantly have a can of beer in our hands, yet this is one of the international perceptions of us.

Some gay men have flamboyant personalities. Some are camp, some aren’t. To make the claim they “all” possess these qualities is downright ignorance and close-mindedness.

And what, exactly, does it mean to say they are “in your face”? Is a flamboyant or camp personality something that bothers you? Would you rather anyone loud simply keep quiet and remain understated in social situations to avoid making you uncomfortable?

I think it goes back to the pressure we put on boys and men to behave manly… (whatever that means) Man up, boys don’t cry, be strong… When any man challenges these gender norms, regardless of whether he is straight, gay or bisexual, he is immediately prone to ridicule… Words like faggot, pussy, bitchIt is an outright disservice to our men that we still have such narrow expectations placed on them.

The same gender expectations exist for women. Women are expected to be behave feminine… (whatever that means) Girls don’t swear, don’t be bossy, act more ladylike… Equally, when women challenge these norms, they too are open to ridicule for behaving “masculine”… dyke, manly, butch…

These labels are downright offensive and the height of homophobia. But what I have found is that prejudice and/or intolerance towards a particular group often comes from a person or people who are completely in denial about their prejudice.

Have you ever heard of phrases like this?

I’m not homophobic but… why is everything so “gay” nowadays?

I’m not sexist but… women are too emotional to deal with political issues.

I’m not racist but… why are black people so rude and ignorant?

COMPLETE AND UTTER DENIAL ABOUT YOUR PREJUDICE!

I actually think it would be better if we as a human race could openly admit to our prejudices. I would respect someone an awful lot more for saying to me “Well, to be honest, I don’t understand gay people. But I’d be willing to learn more about them”.

If you live your life in denial about being prejudiced, how do you ever expect our civilization to move forward and progress?

Aisling Kelleher