Transphobia and Misogyny

In general, I have been fortunate.  Transphobia is rare in my own life.  I was able to come out and transition on the job, I have supporting friends and family, a nice home, a sweet cat…I have not experienced any trouble in the more conservative places I enjoy traveling.   In many ways, plain-old sexism and the increasing menace of misogyny have been a much bigger issue .  This is why it can be so jarring when it does reach me, as it did over the past two weeks.  There were three punches: the statement that existing civil rights laws on sex don’t apply to gender identity; the active support of businesses’ right to discriminate against transgender employees and applicants; and most sinister of all, the attempt to hard-define gender as fixed at birth, erasing the lives of trans people and taking away the rights and privileges we currently enjoy.  This last one is the one that worries me the most – no, they probably won’t yank my passport or my social security card, but sadly I can’t trust them not to.

I don’t think the buffoon at the top of the executive branch cares one way or another about trans people, but he certainly does like to tweak his base, which seems to take particular pleasure in things that hurt women, trans people, gay men, and the like.  That is the cynical answer to “why now”, but why this seems to be a particular obsession is a more complex question.  I don’t pretend to have definitive answers, but I would point to the prevailing and growing misogyny.  It’s not new, but it’s been particularly ugly of late.  Basically, the recently concluded court fight made the statement that a woman’s pain from sexual assault is not as important as getting a man into a position where he will uphold the traditional authority of powerful men over, well, everything.  They hate women who challenge them, and they hate men who are “not with the program.”  This explains why it is gay men and trans women who bear so much of the anti-LGBTQ violence worldwide.  Both groups are perceived as men who are deviating from the program, and therefore as much a threat as women who defy their authority.

Up to this point, I have focused on patriarchy and misogyny without looking at religion, but it’s impossible not to see the interconnection.  The Abrahamic faiths are practiced by millions upon millions of wonderful people, and their worship and rituals are often very beautiful, but their scriptures are all deeply misogynistic to the core.  It’s not surprising that the fundamentalists of each are the easiest people to rile up against women and sexual minorities.  It’s time we finally recognize this and not treat it so gently.  When civil rights are taken away from LGBTQ folks, they lose everything.  When they are restored, no one loses anything.  The deeply conservative and religious claim they are victimized but we must at every step ask them to list how they are harmed.  Except for a few cases of violence which should be dealt with accordingly, they lose nothing.  What does a county clerk lose when she hands a marriage license to a same-sex couple?  Nothing.  What does the baker lose?  Nothing.  If they fear they lose their faith by participating in civil society, it’s probably time to question the strength of their faith, and not the lives of others.

And progressives who claim to be allies need to prioritize this.  No more excusing bad behavior for economic issues (again I could write a book about how some white progressives see only class and forget race, gender, or sexuality).  No more cynically complaining about “pinkwashing” when a large company does the right thing, as several did in North Carolina two years ago.  Don’t just say you stand with us, make it your priority!  And don’t tolerate those who stand against us, whether TERFs, religious communities that claim persecution, or otherwise.

Oh yes, and please do VOTE.  But that’s just a start…

#WeAreOrlando Personal Response

More than any of the mass shootings in the last few years (and they seem to happen more and more often), this one has especially rattled me and affected me. There is the realization that this wasn’t random, but targeting a specific group. Targeting the LGBTQ community. Targeting us. I see more of myself in the 49 names and faces than I do in the victims after most shootings, not because their lives weren’t as precious, but because these victims could have been me. And then there is the frustration that this will get lost in the prevailing rhetoric that predictably goes to gun control and fears of Islamic terrorism. Sure, there have been a lot of statements of sympathy towards the LGBTQ community, and articles documenting the sad history of attacks over the decades, but nothing that puts the violent hatred towards us at the center of the conversation or looks at the causes of why this persists despite so much advancement legally and politically.

It is connected to things that do not involve guns but involve similar hate, such as the series of killings of trans women of color here in San Francisco, or the “bathroom laws” targeting the trans community that “other” and demonize trans women making them such likely targets. It’s the long history of arsons of gay clubs and even churches. Of beatings, particularly of gay men. Of the much mythologized Stonewall Riots themselves.

This occurs not in a vacuum but in the context of issues in the U.S. that don’t get enough scrutiny. We need to talk about how toxic masculinity fuels hatred towards sexual minorities. Young men already disaffected by whatever repulsed by two men kissing or a woman who may have been born a man. And we need to talk about the problem of religious fundamentalism. Even when it’s not in the forefront such as discrimination based on “religious freedom” it’s lurking in the background, with some connection to Christian or Islamic fundamentalism in particular used as justification. One must wonder why these religions would put so much focus on sexual identity and behavior that they would justify hurting or killing someone, but they do. And statements simply saying “we believe in peace” is not enough – we need people of faith to question why tenets against sexual minorities are even important to their religions at all, let alone something of such dire importance to discriminate or incite violence (or call special legislative sessions). They should to start to move away from these doctrines even if it is a break with “tradition”, and make it a priority to speak out against fear, hatred and violence of LGBTQ individuals. And those on the progressive left of U.S. politics, whom I see as comrades in most circumstances, need to also make this a priority. It’s hard to care about who is getting campaign money from whom when misguided laws and violence put ones own existence in question.

I certainly hope this moment doesn’t turn into an excuse for counter violence against anyone, much less a call to war. That would be the wrong outcome. The important thing is for those from communities most responsible for the hate and violence, angry disaffected men and religious communities, to question and show that they are ready to change and to say “no more of this. Not from us.” That’s a lot to ask, but we can at least start.

Faith Flowchart

Saw this on byron scullin, who also read about CatSynth on CDM:

The Faith Flowchart

And just in time for Friday prayers 😉