How Not to Be an A-hole When…

… Your Friend is Transphobic

My housemate does not believe that you could be assigned the wrong gender at birth. He’s liberal in every other way. He was a Bernie supporter. Pro equality. Is LGB friendly. Even understands people who are gender queer. He isn’t overly religious. He hasn’t had negative interactions with people in the trans community. He isn’t hateful towards the trans community, but I feel like I have an obligation to show him the light. We talk. It doesn’t get anywhere. The conversations aren’t hostile.

Am I being an asshole for not letting this go? Is he being an asshole for not changing his viewpoint, even though he isn’t promoting taking their rights away or anything? He thought Trumps military ban was unjust.

Let’s be SUPER clear here: it’s not up to your housemate to ‘believe’ the experiences of trans people. They live those experiences. That’s not up for debate, and it’s deeply offensive to even suggest that. But I do appreciate your sharing his laundry list of liberal bona fides, because I think it’s an excellent example of how someone might be on the right side of history on many issues but still be completely wrong in other areas.

Here’s the deal – you are not being an asshole for not letting this go. Letting it go would actually be the asshole move. This is an issue. Just because he claims that he doesn’t have problems with trans people doesn’t mean that it won’t manifest in other ways in the future. What if someone is an out trans person at work? Is your housemate going to accuse him or her of lying? Because that’s what’s going on – he’s suggesting that every person who is trans is a liar. And that’s deeply fucked up.

Does your friend read? Because there are plenty of trans authors out there. Ask him to pick one, and then both of you read it, and talk about it: Redefining Realness by Janet Mock; Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock; Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt; Whipping Girl by Julia Serano; or Becoming a Visible Man by Jamison Green.

If he isn’t open to that, then you need to stay vigilant and push back every time that he says something that suggests being trans is not ‘real.’ Because again, it doesn’t matter if he’s actively pushing for discrimination against trans people; refusing to believe their lived experiences is an act of violence that needs to be checked whenever it comes up.

One last thing – don’t ask trans people to try to convince your housemate to believe them. They shouldn’t have to do that emotional labor.

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