I really wish I’d seen this post on John Scalzi’s blog before he closed comments: Generation X and Trans Lives. In case you don’t know, Scalzi is a science fiction writer who has won more than a few awards. Despite being what would have been described a couple decades ago as a Rockefeller Republican in his personal political leanings, he is frequently painted as ultra-liberal just because he advocates being kind and respectful of each other. John also happens to be 9 years younger than me, which puts him in what most people call Generation X. And this essay is a thoughtful post about the dismaying fact that a not insignificant fraction of that generation which is often characterized as very open minded, are transphobic.
If you have time to read the post and the comments, it’s worth the time. John moderated the comments for two days before closing them, so it probably won’t be traumatic; but he does let people who remain polite and don’t repeat falsehoods about trans people say a few things that might be a bit upsetting.
I’m going to steal one bit from the middle of John’s piece:
“Understanding one’s own sexism, or racism, or homophobia, or transphobia, isn’t about reaching some plateau and getting to stop. You have to keep working at it.
“Which can be fucking tiring, you know? Now I get why so many people who were 20 or 30 years older than I was would tell me proudly that they marched with MLK or protested in the 60s: Because it was a way of saying “here’s my resume, I’m on the side of angels.” But the 60s were the 60s, and now is now. The fight’s not the same and sooner or later, generationally speaking, there’s always something to trip over.”
John is much kinder to the transphobes he is talking about than I find myself able to be. And I think he might be being kinder than they deserve. Let me explain: some years ago, I was blessed to take part in the birth of the child of two of my best friends. I was in the room when my godchild was born (after a long labor where we were taking turns who was supporting the mom). There is something that happens in your brain/heart when you hold a newborn baby after going through the birthing process. There’s a part of me that said, “I will walk through fire for this kid. I will slay dragons for this kid.”
Some years later, my godchild told us all that we had been using the wrong pronouns. And that their old name was now a dead name. It wasn’t easy to learn the new pronouns and name. Similarly, my sister’s youngest child informed us a year or so ago that we had been using the wrong pronouns, and that they had a new name.
I don’t think I’ve ever dead-named either my godchild or my nibling in person, but I know I have used the wrong pronouns more than once. Forgetting to use the correct pronoun or slippin on a name is tripping over trans issues.
On the other hand, saying that trans women are not really women, repeating lies about trans people, claiming that trans people are threats, denying trans people health care, denying trans people rights? That isn’t tripping over trans issues. That’s erasing. That’s threatening. That’s attacking. That’s harming.
If you believe those things about trans people? That makes you one of the dragons that my godchild and my nibling (and every other trans person out there) needs to be protected from.
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