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Op-ed: Why Are The Advocate's Commenters So Transphobic?

Op-ed: Why Are The Advocate's Commenters So Transphobic?


Antitrans vitriol posted in response to The Advocate's coverage of transgender issues is symptomatic of broader divisions in the LGBT population.

If you've ever read the comment sections of an article that was written by a trans person or is about transgender people on an LGBT publication's website, you've seen an incredible amount of hatred. Maybe you've personally even left a disparaging comment or 50 about trans people in general or the trans author in particular.

Why the h-e-double-toothpicks is that?

Well, if you're gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and you're not transgender yourself, how much do you see yourself having in common with transgender people? A lot? Some? Nothing at all?

According to a June 2013 Pew Research poll, 48 percent of gays, 53 percent of lesbians, 62 percent of bisexual women, and 76 percent of bisexual men see themselves as having nothing in common with transgender people. Nothing. Zippo. As in, "Why do we even have a T in LGBT?"

To a lot of LGBT people, trans people are "the other" -- just too different from that small circle of "normal" so many of us have a habit of drawing around ourselves. Trans women are ugly; trans women aren't women -- that's what we trans peeps hear from some of those who don't see themselves as having anything to do with the T of LGBT.

So let's look at some of the comments on The Advocate and LGBT Weekly, a publication where I write a weekly column.

And yes, I'm naming names because the names, for the most part, are public with the comments.

For an Advocate article titled "Laura Jane Grace Is True Trans," Daniel Nelson's contribution to the comment thread was "She still looks like a dude. You got a long way to go, honey." In the article "UFC Women's Champ Refuses to Fight Trans Athlete Fallon Fox," he added, "Fallon Fox is a man. Nothing she does or wants to do can change her biological and chromosomatic makeup."

And there are the "trans exclusionary radical feminists" who prefer to call themselves "gender critical feminists." This is a really small but noisy group of mostly lesbians whose take on trans women is that we're really males delusionarily believing we're females. According to their arguments, trans men are likewise delusionarily believing they're really male, genderqueer folk are just plain delusional, and intersex people are just an argument used by trans people to derail their dogmatic belief in a sex binary necessary to prove the patriarchy.

For example, Mixell Garcia wrote in the comment thread for The Advocate article "Hunter Valentine Cancels MichFest Performance Over 'Womyn Born Womyn' Policy," "So you are going to miss a wonderful week because of men who want to be women? And women cannot oppress men, because it's men who have power over us. They control jobs, housing, etc."

Pat Gargaetas wrote in the comment thread for the article "Equality Michigan Petitions Michfest to End Exclusionary Policy," "Men calling themselves women are not female. Because BIOLOGY." In the same comment thread, Keely Emerine Mix wrote, "I and other radical feminists insist that people not born women are not women and thus shouldn't be." (Good grammar is not required to make comments, y'know?)

And then there are the transsexual separatists. These are the folk I've personally received the most comments from over the years as a blogger and a columnist. Transsexual separatists are transsexual-identified women -- often going by identifying titles such as "true transsexuals," and "women of operative history" -- who don't identify as trans, trans*, or transgender. These transsexual separatist folk hold as dogma that if a trans woman hasn't had a vaginoplasty, then she can't be a real woman. And they're often a bit anti-LGB in their heteronormativity too.

Commenter Anne summed up this dogma in the comment section for one of my LGBT Weekly articles, titled "Maryland's Potential Referendum on Trans Civil Rights." She wrote, "NO having a vagina doesn't make you feminine, but it DOES make you FEMALE. Having a penis makes you male. It is all about genitals and all about what it is to be FEMALE and to be loved by a man as a FEMALE should be." Comments about my genitalia, by the way, were in response to my written revelation that I chose an orchiectomy over a vaginoplasty for medical reasons.

Sometimes this group gets personal. In response to another column, "What's Wrong With Jurisdiction Shopping to Marry Legally?," Jennifer Usher wrote, "Females do not have penises. Sandeen is not a female, no matter how delusional he is, nor will he EVER be a woman, even if he has his penis removed." Another who posted a comment under the name "Nobody special" for my column "My Year of Bureaucratic Changes in Gender" wrote, "So, how soon can we expect to hear of you creating a scandal by hanging out in the women's showers with your shlong hanging out?"

It's easy to see the world through the lens of "we're like this, and they're like that." Acceptance, sympathy, and even tolerance is something we may save for peers, and not extend to those we just see as others that we have nothing in common with.

And that's really not too groovy, is it?

AUTUMN SANDEEN retired from the U.S. Navy in 2000 with 20-years of service. In 2010 she and other LGBT veterans were jailed twice in direct actions at the White House advocating repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." In the past she blogged for Pam's House Blend, and currently she is an editor at The Transadvocate and a columnist for LGBT Weekly.

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