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November 13, 2008

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I am agnostic (leaning closer to atheism) who was raised to see "gay=normal", I have alot of close gay friends (last year I went to a gay "not-wedding" ceremony. But I still have alot of trouble dealing with transgender individuals.

I mean, I've worked with them before. But I never felt comfortable about it... It felt strange (for lack of a better word). This individual didn't look like a woman, didn't sound like a woman, and my brain continued to fight the information I was trying to feed it.

My point (what little here there is) is that if even far-left individuals like myself struggle with it, transgenders definitely face an uphill battle. Best of luck to them.

Alchemist: My point (what little here there is) is that if even far-left individuals like myself struggle with it, transgenders definitely face an uphill battle

Of course I had probably met transgendered people before that, and never known it, but the first trans person I met who was out about being trans was, yes, fairly conspicuously transgendered: voice, skin, height, movements, were all somehow off. At that time she had been living as a woman for I think about three months, and at that time (this was at least 20 years ago) I was very, very uncertain about how I felt about the hormonal/surgical/social processes that represented "transgender" in my mind.

Look, I can be quite appallingly rude when I decide to be (you may have noticed). But my parents and the rest of my family brought me up with an iron rule: no matter what, you do not discriminate against someone, or make them feel uncomfortable, or even pass uninvited comments, on someone else's personal appearance.

They weren't thinking of trans people when they imposed that iron rule on me. But they were absolutely stringent about applying it.

And I found, twenty-plus years ago, that this kind of plain old-fashioned good manners, stringently instilled till it becomes rigid habit, is in fact a clear and easy route: you don't have to have an "uphill struggle" with regard to treating a transgendered individual decently, if you already know it's bloody rude to give someone the slightest intimation that their personal appearance makes you feel uncomfortable.

It doesn't surprise me that in a heavily evangelical school population, properly prepped to know how to behave, a trans teen would be physically safe, at least at first. My guess is that it is the sort of community where strong parenting is the norm and children expect to face consequences at home if they act up at school. Also I'm guessing that it is the kind of community where respecatbility is a high value: people don't wnat to rock the boat or be notorious. Proper prepping of normative behavior-- all: be polite, good Chhristians aren't openly hateful, be generous and judge not,WWJD, etc.--and there will be peer pressure to prevent overt meanness.

Not that I have ever lived in that kind of community, so I'm just guessing. I have some acquaintence with very seriously evangelical people and the one thing they do well is follow orders.

So it matters a lot what the orders are.

On the other hand I have lived in a multi-ethnic, mostly low income community where parents had little influence on the behavior their children displayed at school and, in that setting, the children were ruthless enforcers of middle school norms. It was pure social Darwinism in the lunchroom and bathrooms. A trans teen would have been eaten alive and there would have been nothing the staff, no matter how well intentioned, could have done about it outside the classroom.

I have a nephew, who is not transgendered, however he is fabulously swishy and proud of it, at a tough inner-city school in Los Angeles, and he has had no problems. That’s not to say he doesn’t experience the occasional rude remark, but he has built a network of friends and social capital (I think I’m using it correctly) to avoid this. Inner city schools are tough, but have social norms influenced from/by the culture at large.

Homicidal gender panics are learned.

IJHTS that there is no such word as "alot."

By the way, the research center I use to work at, did heavy polling in black and Latino neighborhoods, in Los Angeles and believes the 70% number (for Black voting on No. 8) is wrong.

Listen to the report:

Understanding Prop 8's Passage

A poll of likely California voters done shortly before the election showed Proposition 8 trailing, yet the initiative passed by roughly 5 percentage points. Some believe high turnout among African American and Latino voters, who tend to oppose gay marriage, pushed the initiative over the edge. Others say that heavy last minute campaigning in churches by Prop 8 supporters brought extra Christian conservatives to the polls. Who voted for Proposition 8, and why? Larry Mantle talks with Fernando Guerra, Director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University and David McCuan, Associate Professor of Political Science at Sonoma State University.

http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/

(Scroll down)

or read

TheLeavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles Announces Initial Results from its 2008 Exit Poll

http://www.lmu.edu/PageFactory.aspx?PageID=42372

75 miles and 10 years.

That's how far Loveland and M.J. are from Laramie and Matthew Shepard.

It's also worth noting that both Larimer County, CO and Albany County, WY went blue this year for the first time in that decade, in part because both of them are home to colleges.

I know a sizeable chunk of the Larimer County GOP and most of them are evangelical and staunchly anti-abortion, but by the same token they try to be tolerant of all individuals even when they are voting against those individuals' human rights.

Let's hope that MJ stays safe and that a decade has made enough of a difference.

(Delurking)

Hi Jesurgislac,

I don't disagree with you on this:

And I found, twenty-plus years ago, that this kind of plain old-fashioned good manners, stringently instilled till it becomes rigid habit, is in fact a clear and easy route: you don't have to have an "uphill struggle" with regard to treating a transgendered individual decently, if you already know it's bloody rude to give someone the slightest intimation that their personal appearance makes you feel uncomfortable.

In fact, I think this is absolutely right, and it's certainly the attitude that I've taken when I've encountered transgendered people.

However, I'm not sure that it's enough (thought I suspect we probably agree about that). Treating people decently and politely is the first step, but it doesn't end the uphill battle that transgendered people face for acceptance, either. Those of us who aren't transgendered do need to police our attitudes, I think, and continuously question our discomfort, if transgendered people are going to be fully accepted. Speaking as someone whose family is dealing with this issue, I am fairly sure that most transgendered people must be aware of the discomfort others may feel around them, even if it isn't actively expressed.

. Treating people decently and politely is the first step, but it doesn't end the uphill battle that transgendered people face for acceptance, either.

No, obviously not: legislative change is also extremely necessary - a person should have a right to a birth certificate that doesn't identify them as the wrong gender, the right not to be discriminated against at work or in provision of goods and services. Not just politeness, but a right.

But a lot of the most direct discrimination that I (as non-trans, cisgendered, person) perceive directly is people who think they're entitled to comment on how well or badly a person is presenting themselves - which I see as a difference in degree, not kind, from the male students who felt free to talk in the lecture hall about how the best lecturer we had on software engineering habitually wore jeans and no make-up: she too wasn't, in their view, "presenting herself" right as a female...

Jesurgislac, I agree with you on both points. The only thing that concerns me, I suppose, is that I'm not sure that significant legislative change will come without general acceptance that to be transgendered is part of the spectrum of normalcy. (This is wrong; rights shouldn't depend on whether society thinks certain groups are "normal" or not. But it still happens.)

I know you're in the UK, and I'm not sure what the situation is there, but in Ontario/Canada, people do have the right to ID that identifies them by their correct rather than their birth gender, and to be free from discrimination. However, the discrimination still happens, and very little is done about it. The legislation alone does not change attitudes, and without changes in attitudes it seems to be difficult to enforce the existing legislation against discrimination. The story that Hilzoy wrote about is a great example of how to go about changing attitudes and teaching people that to be trans is one way to be "normal" though.

The only thing that concerns me, I suppose, is that I'm not sure that significant legislative change will come without general acceptance that to be transgendered is part of the spectrum of normalcy.

I think that on the whole it's easier to convince members of a legislature that equality is necessary than to convince the "general public" - at least, in the UK, MPs and MSPs tend to be ahead of the general population.

In the UK, trans people have the right to legally change gender and get their birth certificate changed, and there's now a legal duty on employers to promote gender equality, which includes transgender equality.

In the UK, at least, it's been my experience (as an LGBT activist for nearly 25 years) that legislative change drives social change powers legislative change and so on. The 1967 Act that made sex between men legal in England and Wales was a very limited anti-discrimination law - but it's rightly acknowledged as the key that led to wider social acceptance and broader legislative change.

The story that Hilzoy wrote about is a great example of how to go about changing attitudes and teaching people that to be trans is one way to be "normal" though.

I agree.

Please don't call Colorado a red state any more.

Whenever I find myself thinking "kids these days..." I should remind myself of this. I believe that that people who are currently children will have a lot fewer biases regarding gender, race, and sexual orientation than my generation. I'm sure they'll have their own foibles, but this is the kind of story that gives me hope.

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