How Do You Respond When Good People Screw Up? (TW: transphobia)

Seriously, I would like to know. Lately I have seen more “I’m not (x-ist) but” from people I would have thought know better. In particular tiny displays of cis sexism (and the attending sexism) have been on the rise and I have found myself flustered. These are nice people, smart people, who I do not want to start a fight with, but at the same time they have said something very hurtful to me, to all trans folk, and do not seem the least bit bothered by it. They are bothered by the potential for being perceived as homophobic or transphobic, but the comments themselves; not so much.


The straw that broke the camels back was one friend’s comment on another friend’s Facebook post. The post in question challenged the arbitrary nature of some gender norms and friend number two made a point of expressing her displeasure with the feminizing of our men. It was a kick in the gut, because both of these women have always accepted me as one (a woman) even when I just roll out of bed and head out without shaving, much less making myself up and putting on my forms. I was confused, angry, and more than a little sad to read that.

How could this person, someone I know to be intelligent and compassionate come out with something so hurtful on so many levels? These sort of comments suggest, despite her qualifications and testaments of love for her queer friends, leave me feeling like she believes being queer is some how less, something I have a hard time believing but there it is just the same. They play into the idea that there is something wrong with being gay, or trans, or even just being a woman. I know if the time ever comes she will love both her sons regardless of their orientation, but what if they hear or read such remarks from her before that time? Will they have the courage to come out to her after knowing she has said these things? I am confident she  will bend over backwards to teach these young men to respect women, but statements like this send the message that women are second to men, inferior, and they have a lasting effect.

I honestly have no idea how to address this. In the past I have had no problem calling these things out. I admit, most of my call outs have been about racial issues, something that I have the privilege of being removed from, so I can pretend to play the cool-headed intellectual about them. This is personal though, and personally I have been through too much lately. This triggered an emotional response from me, and one that leaves me afraid for my continued emotional health. There is a strong biological bias for depression in my family, something that has reared its ugly head recently and I was vulnerable to begin with. I have had to deal with a half-dozen or more stressors of late and this just added to the burden. I know she did not intend to hurt me, I wasn’t part of the initial conversation (and if that is not a sign we need to consider the social and psychological ramifications of social media, I do not know what is.) I was collateral damage in what no doubt felt like an offhand remark.

I know I will share this with her. Hopefully she will see how often I use words like “wonderful” to describe her. I know that probably shouldn’t matter to me, but getting in a fight, and losing another friend, is something I don’t know if I can handle now. I do know I have to say something though. I have to say it for the sake of my mental health, I have to say it for the sake of my trans* sisters and brothers, and I have to say it for her sake, because she is a good person who deserves the opportunity to reflect on what she said may mean for others. Maybe I need to think more on how to handle these things in the future. Maybe we all do.


2 thoughts on “How Do You Respond When Good People Screw Up? (TW: transphobia)

  1. Thre’s no reason to lose her as a friend if you talk it out, or take someone’s offesnive comment as an ongoing burden. When you are feeling down, it’s easy to let everything weigh on you, but this is something you can let go. People say dumb stuff. I’ve said dumb, inadvertently hurtful things, and so have you. Choose to let this one roll off and don’t let it drag you down. Anyway, you’ll lose your mind if you think you can to change what other people think. You can educate some people, but…

    • Unfortunately too late for that Eric. I would have liked to have kept her as a friend, but she accused me of “going after” her kids (y’know the ones that, like her, were anonymous in this and the only things said were how I knew she was a loving mom) and then dropped the “lifestyle choice” line on me. I am sorry that is blatant bigotry. It is dog whistle bs just like Paul Ryan’s “inner city” garbage. Me and mine have been thrown under the bus too often by the movements we try to be part of and too often our grievances are dismissed as petty.
      Anyhow, thanks for you kind words.

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