No, My Personal Preference Does Not Make Me Transphobic

No, My Personal Preference Does Not Make Me Transphobic

Cis-gendered people should not be accused of hating transgender persons because they do not want to pursue a romantic, physical or emotional relationship with them.

This Article is in response to No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

The debate of transgender people’s rights and their integration into society has been present for years through numerous media platforms. In 2014, news outlets reported that a U.S Marine murdered a transgender woman, Jennifer Laude, for engaging in sex without disclosing that she was a transgender person. The debate surrounding transgender bathrooms laws within the past couple of years provoked a huge out cry from the LBGTQ community through social media. Very recently, President Donald Trump used twitter to state his position that the US would not allow any transgender persons to serve in the U.S. military.

I recently came across an article on the Odyssey discussing transgender peoples position in sexual and emotional relationships with cis-gender people, as well as their roles and acceptance into society. The article argued many unsettling and invalid points revealing a question of education and objectivity on the matter.

Firstly, I would like to give a brief tutoring on the proper terminologies of this subject. Most of my research came from GLAAD, a media platform which provides education on LGBTQ communities and promotes acceptance for these communities. (This is a very informative and reliable source for any readers looking to explore and learn about this community and many more).

GLAAD defines Transgender as “a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.” Gender identity is “a person's internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or boy or girl.)” To simplify, a transgender person is someone whose sexual identity does not match their birth sex. In addition, many do not see their sexuality as aligning within male or female, but see it as a spectrum or outside the gender binary. Cis gender people are defined as “persons whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex” by Merriam- Webster Dictionary.

Transphobia is prevalent in today’s society. However, we must acknowledge the magnitude of what this word means and be sure to use it only in appropriate circumstances. Transphobia, which, again, by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is defined as an “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against transgender or transsexual people.”

The article first tackles the debate of whether a transgender person should have to reveal their state of transition to a non- transgender person. This discussion stemmed from the previously mentioned murder of Jennifer Laude in 2014 by a US marine officer. The article makes the profound statement that transgender- people do not have to reveal their transition, further arguing that it is not a lie to repress this information.

First off, the idea of withholding such principal information is lying. I believe a person’s transition is essential to their emotional and sexual being. It would be deceitful to keep this information from someone a person intends on being intimate with.

Secondly, the motive of Ms. Laude’s murder was based upon the fact that her state of transition was not disclosed. What is important to distinguish is that the act of murdering a transgender person because he/she did not reveal her transition state is transphobic. What is not transphobic is the feeling of deception after discovering an intimate partner is a transgender person without one’s knowledge.

Thirdly, the article argues that not being attracted to a trans person is transphobic. This statement is inaccurate on many levels. The notion that cis-gender people are transphobic for not being attracted to transgender people is the equivalent of saying females are homophobic for not being attracted to lesbian women or gay men.

Transphobia, again, means to have an irrational fear or discriminatory attitude against transgender people. Someone who is not attracted to trans people is not fearful or discriminatory of them; Attraction is a preference.

Also what is lost in this debate is that transphobia implies that a right is being threatened or withheld. Sex isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. To argue that a person who does not want to have a sexual relationship with a trans person is transphobic is completely wrong.

Cis-gendered people should not be accused of hating transgender persons because they do not want to pursue a romantic, physical or emotional relationship with them. For many, just as myself, I support all groups in the LGBTQ community. I think every person is unique and should have the right to express their sexual identity and orientation in however way they please. However, although I feel this way, this does not mean I personally would be open to becoming romantically involved with a transgender person. As I said before: it is all preference.

What is difficult about this subject is two things; One, there is no precedent. The New York Times printed an article recalling the history of transgender milestones. The first person to have a sex change took place in 1952. There have been just 65 years of transgender people coming into American society, and it wasn’t until the early 2000’s through media and advocacy groups did transgender people begin to have their presence known to America.

The transgender community is still relatively new to society naturally creating difficulties in approaching this topic. Politicians, public figures and law makers are still trying to find ways to include transgender people as equal, respected and protected citizens. Unfortunately, there are still many who find moral and religious conflict with the transgender community. There is no rule or protocol for making laws for this community and with transgender people still facing opposition, finding a compromise is tough.

The second adversity is that there is a lack of education among society about trans people. Many make claims which stem from no knowledge or ethics allowing ignorance to spread like wild fire. Education on this subject needs to be pervasive among the new and old generation. As more and more learn about the LGBTQ community, a sense of unity and understanding will allow this community to properly and formally merge into society.

In time I see the LGBTQ community becoming one with society and hope that day comes very soon. Although there are many people with many different beliefs, no matter what you practice, a human is still a human, and every human deserves respect, dignity, and rights.
Cover Image Credit: tn8

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9 Queer Pride Flags That You Probably Didn't Know About

The rainbow flag is certainly the most recognizable, but it isn't the only Pride Flag there is.

It's Pride Month yet again and fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies are celebrating. Normally around this time of year, we expect to see that all-too-familiar rainbow colored flag waving through the air, hanging from windows and sported on clothing of all types. Even when not strictly a flag, the colors of the rainbow are often displayed when showing support of the larger queer community. But what many people do not realize is that there are many, many pride flags for orientations of all kinds, so Natasha and I (Alana Stern) have created this handy guide to some others that you may not yet be familiar with:

1. L is for Lesbian and G is for Gay

The most recognizable letters of the entire acronym, L (Lesbian) and G (Gay), represent the homosexual people of the LGBTQ+ community. Homosexuality is defined as being exclusively sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Again, although the rainbow Pride flag is easily the most iconic and recognizable, there is a Lesbian Pride Flag as well. Specifically for "Lipstick Lesbians," this flag was made to represent homosexual women who have a more feminine gender expression. Here are the Lesbian Pride Flag (left) and Gay Pride Flag with the meaning of each stripe (right).

2. B is for Bisexual

Bisexuality is defined as the romantic and/or sexual attraction towards both males and females. They often go unacknowledged by people who believe that they cannot possibly feel an attraction for both sexes and have been called greedy or shamed in many ways for being who they are, but not this month. This month we recognize everyone and their right to love. Here is the flag and symbol that represents the big B!

3. T is for Transgender (Umbrella)

Gender identities are just as diverse as sexual orientations. Transgender people are people whose gender does not necessarily fall in line with their biological sex. That is to say, someone who is born male may not feel that calling oneself a man is the best way to describe who they are as a person; the same can go for someone who is born female or intersex (we'll get to that in a bit). Someone born female may feel that they prefer to be referred to as a man. Someone born male may feel that they don't mind being referred to as either a man or a woman. And someone may feel that neither term really fits. Identities can range from having no gender, to multiple genders, to having a gender that falls outside of the typical gender binary of man/woman, to anything in between. The colors of the flag are blue (the traditional color for boys), pink (the traditional color for girls) and white (to represent those who are intersex, transitioning, or have a gender that is undefined).

Okay! Here's where we get into the lesser-known letters of the acronym. You may have heard of some of these before but didn't quite know what they meant or how they fit into the larger queer community, or you may not have heard of them at all. Either way, we'll do our best to explain them!

4. I is for Intersex

Intersex people are people who are have a mix of characteristics (whether sexual, physical, strictly genetic or some combination thereof) that would classify them as both a male and a female. This can include but is not limited to having both XX and XY chromosomes, having neither, being born with genitalia that does not fit within the usual guidelines for determining sex and appearing as one sex on the outside but another internally. It is possible for intersex people to display the characteristics from birth, but many can go years without realizing it until examining themselves further later in life. Here is an older version of the intersex flag which utilizes purple, white, blue and pink (left) and a more recent one that puts an emphasis on more gender-neutral colors, purple and yellow (right).

5. A is for Aro-Ace Spectrum

The A in the acronym is usually only defined as Asexual, which is a term used to describe people who experience a lack of sexual attraction to any sex, gender, or otherwise. People who are asexual can still engage in healthy romantic relationships, they just don't always feel the need or have the desire to have sex and are not physically attracted to other people. If that's confusing, think of it this way: you are attracted women, but not men. You may see a man and think, "He's kind of cute" or "That's a pretty good-looking guy," but you still would not feel any desire towards that person, because that's not what you're into. Asexual people generally feel that way about everyone. That's the "Ace" half of "Aro-Ace."

"Aro," or Aromantic, is a term used to describe people who do not experience romantic attraction. Aromantic people still have healthy platonic relationships, but have no inclination towards romantic love. The reason Asexual and Aromantic are together is because they are very heavily entwined and oftentimes can overlap. Underneath that spectrum are also other variations of asexuality (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are asexual but experience sexual attraction in very rare circumstances, or only after they have a romantic connection) and aromanticism (including but not limited to people who still feel as though they are aromantic but experience romantic attraction in very rare circumstances).

Below are two versions of the Aromantic Pride Flag (top and middle) and the Asexual Pride Flag (bottom).

6. P and O are for Panseuxal and Omnisexual

Pansexual and omnisexual people are not limited by gender preferences. They are capable of loving someone for who they are and being sexually attracted to people despite what gender their partner identifies as. The word pansexual comes from the Greek prefix "pan-", meaning all. Pansexuals or Omnisexuals will probably settle for whoever wins their heart regardless of that persons gender.

7. But what about the Q?!

The Q can be said to stand for Queer or Questioning, or both. "Queer" is more of a blanket term for people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community or who identify as something other than heterosexual or cisgender (a term that has come to describe people who feel that their gender does fall in line with their biological sex; i.e. someone born male feels that he is a man). It is also possible for someone to identify as queer, but avoid using it to refer to specific people unless you know they are okay with it; some people still consider it insulting. Questioning means exactly what it sounds like: it gives a nod to those who are unsure about their sexuality and/or gender identity or who are currently in the process of exploring it.

There's no one flag specifically for the letter Q, as all of the above sexualities and identities technically fall underneath this term.

This list is hardly comprehensive and there are a number of other flags, orientations and identities to explore. Pride Month is still going strong, and there's always more to learn about the ever-changing nature of sexuality as a whole and the way we understand it. It's a time for celebration, but also a time to educate and spread the word.

For a more in-depth description of different types of attraction and how they work, click here.

For more complete lists of gender identities throughout history, click here or here.

For a general list of commonly used words in the LGBTQ+ community and their definitions, click here.

Now go grab a flag and fly it high--you've got a ton to choose from!

Cover Image Credit: 6rang

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No, I Won't Be Showing Off My "Trans Pride" This Pride Month

The problem with asking people to explain their identity to strangers.

One of the assignments in my Focused Inquiry II class was to write a multimodal essay, either on a superhero character of our choice, detailing the different aspects of their identity and how they intersect to affect that character's life or about ourselves in a personal essay regarding our own identity. The superhero essay was considered the “easier" one of the two options and thus came with the caveat of having a maximum grade cap at 92%.

In the “frequently asked questions" section of my professor's outline of the assignment, one topic he addressed was that of people who were uncomfortable with writing a personal essay discussing their race, gender, etc. to which he responded, “sometimes being uncomfortable is necessary for growth." This response paired with the caveat of the “easier" option frustrated me; it felt like I was being punished simply for not wanting to share the details of my identity with a professor I wasn't particularly close with and a classroom of students whose names I'd never come to memorize. I saw it as an insulting and utterly dismissive way to address the possibility that perhaps some students want the potential of earning 100% on the assignment without feeling the need to come out to their peers in order to achieve it. It's very easy to tell someone that “being uncomfortable is necessary for growth" when you're not someone whose kept your identity a secret for years out of the fear that people will hate or hurt you for it.

This isn't the first time I've taken issue the way in which VCU goes about its push for openness and acceptance of people's different identities. I recall orientation day, when I had my first encounter with OMSA during which I sat on an unfamiliar floor surrounded by dozens of strangers and anxiously watched the group's representatives hand out a survey asking us our race, gender, sex, sexuality, etc.. Upon filling it out, we were encouraged to share our responses with our neighbors--a request that practically made me want to drop dead. After I overheard my neighbor tell her friend that she “thought gender and sex were the same thing," she turned to me and asked how I'd answered the survey. I read my responses out to her, stumbling through my words as I told this random stranger more about my gender identity than I had told even some of my closest relatives.

While VCU's push for openness regarding everyone's unique identities is made with good intentions, it is not without its issues. The aforementioned examples embody ways in which transgender people are often asked to put their identities on display--a problem that is not reserved to just the VCU campus. Many cisgender people, including those within the LGBT community, do not understand that many transgender people cannot or simply do not want to show pride for their transgender status in the same way that one would for their sexuality. One reason for this is that upon learning of a peer's transgender identity, cis people's attitude and treatment towards that peer often undergo a notable change. While it may not take the form of active or violent transphobia (though that is certainly common), the shift in cis people's language into subtly dehumanizing or infantilizing terminology towards transgender people is all too common.

Before my transition, I never had an issue with words like “cute" or “adorable" being applied to me; once you start transitioning, however, you pay a lot more attention to how cis people talk, including how they complement other cis people. Terms like “cute" or “adorable" are, for cis women, typically reserved for conversations about babies, tiny animals, and, unfortunately, transgender men.

While there obviously are some instances in which a cis woman may use the terms to compliment a cis man, those are far less frequent. Instead, cis men get told they look “handsome," “hot," “good-looking," etc., as transgender men are subject only to the same compliments you'd give your dog. I can count the number of times post-transition that I've been called “handsome" on one hand, but the number of times I've been called “cute" by someone fully aware that I'm a transgender man seemingly increases by the week.

Many people may not see the problem in the difference in terminology, but for many others it serves to indicate a distinct difference in how cisgender people view trans people- when a cis woman knows that a man is transgender, suddenly her compliments get less “masculine-coded," particularly when referring to trans men who don't pass as cis men. These “compliments" only increase the struggle many transgender men have in being seen not only as men but as specifically adult men. Words like “cute" and “adorable" emphasize the sense that we don't look our age- they draw attention to many trans men's smaller frame or younger-looking appearance, characteristics common in trans men specifically because of our being transgender.

These words infantilize trans men and showcase the idea that we are somehow not the same as “real" men. Similarly, transgender women oftentimes are subject to a number of backhanded “compliments" that only serve to subtly discredit their status as a “real" woman. Contrary to popular belief amongst cis people, telling trans women things like “your makeup is so much better than mine!" or “you look better than I do!" (when speaking as a cis woman) is not flattering, but rather indicative of you seeing her as less of a woman due to her being trans.

It's for these reasons (amongst many others) that transgender people often do not make their transness known if they can avoid it and thus often don't show pride in the same public way that one does for other identities under the LGBT umbrella. Even amongst the most open-minded and accepting cisgender people, treatment of transgender people can be noticeably different from how they treat their cisgender friends of the same gender. This is why many trans people simply do not come out as trans once they pass as the gender they identify as.

As a cisgender person, it's important to examine the terminology you use when referring to trans people- when you compliment a trans man, consider whether or not you'd use the same compliment if you were complimenting a cis man. Likewise, it's important to avoid other infantilizing ways that further separate trans men and cis men as though they were of a different gender. Many cisgender women make jokes about how they “don't trust cisgender men," but “women and transgender men are okay." This ideology not only groups us in with the gender we don't identify as but also implies that transgender men cannot express the same misogynistic viewpoints common in cis men, which is simply not true. Transgender men can be sexist, transmisogynistic, and lesbophobic just as cisgender men can and our transness should not be seen something that exempts us from the consequences of that behavior.

While no LGBT person should ever be put into a position in which they are asked to come out when they aren't comfortable with doing so, this is especially important for transgender people who, even in the most accepting environments (including spaces made for LGBT people,) still often get treated differently upon their peers discovering that they aren't cis. While this difference in treatment is often subtle, an unintentional result of ignorance rather than malice, it still can be demeaning towards transgender people. If you're a cisgender person and happen to know that one of your friends is trans, it is crucial to ensure that your viewpoint of them is not one that places them in some other category than their cisgender counterpart.

To quote transgender Youtuber Stef Sanjati, “trans [...] is a descriptor of the kind of woman I am, it does not mean I'm a different gender, just like 'tall woman' or 'short woman' or 'muscular woman' are not different categories of women." Ensuring your perception of us doesn't change upon learning we are transgender is one of many important steps in showing your support of the transgender community.

Cover Image Credit: Trans Pride Flag designed by Monica Helms

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