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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.