On December 10th, Monica at TransGriot pointed to a Facebook Group advocating for the creation of a “Transsexual Registration Act.” The creator of that page and the idea he presents are fringe enough that we typically don’t dignify them with attention, but sometimes it’s important to point to these things and discuss them. Far too often, we try to talk about the kinds of attitudes that we face and why we need to defend against them, but because those attitudes are rarely spoken out loud, the general public is allowed to rest easy in the conviction that these attitudes don’t really exist or aren’t really representative, and that addressing them is unnecessary. When we parse the perspective of the person who made this page and the connected video, there is a direct correlation with those that drive a type of violence that trans people can face, and that result in some of the tragedies we remember during the Transgender Day of Remembrance. There is actually significant value in documenting and parsing that hate, determining where it comes from, and reflecting on how prevalent it might be in society.
Some of the quotes will be difficult for some, so the discussion will follow after the fold — save it for when you’re prepared to delve into some incredibly disheartening attitudes. Consider this your trigger warning.
“I was watching this Tyra Banks video about transsexual children, and I just want to say…”
An online person who uses the moniker TheBistro360 at YouTube posted a group page on Facebook (which was at this link but has since been taken down) and a YouTube video (which at the time of writing was still online, but has been flagged for ToS violations) [Update: this has also now been taken down] which attempted to rally widespread support for a “Transsexual Registration Act.” In his words, this legislation would require that trans people and people of trans history “register their birth name, city/state of residence, date of surgery, date of birth, and any other vital information the government need.”
One cringes at what such a registry could or would be used for, but this person’s concern seems to be particularly fixated on ensuring that heterosexual males can avoid dating someone who is or ever was transsexual. TheBistro360 says in his video that this hasn’t happened to him, but that he was inspired to post all of this after seeing a discussion about trans kids.
Here are the memes that inspired him, and the conclusions his fear and revulsion lead him to, feels they’re perfectly acceptable.
Biology as Destiny
“… If you are male born with a penis, but you have a burning desire to be a woman you are considered transgender? No if you are born a man, You ARE MALE!! Period….”
We’ve heard more than enough of the argument that “you can’t change your chromosomes,” or whatever other excuse people use to deny who we are, to refuse outright to acknowledge us as the women and men we need to be — to excuse treating us in whatever manner they wish.
Usually, those who are saying it are completely closed to even listening to any of the emergent study and research that has been revealing sex and gender to not be neatly and clearly divided between two polarized options. Chromosomes? Genitals? Socialized role and conduct? Hormones? There isn’t even a single benchmark that people who take this stance can agree on and still yield identical results. At some point, this chant becomes so mindless that it loses meaning, and it’s no longer about who a person is, but who is entitled to define the question in the first place.
This is about “Real.” And “not real.” And who gets do define which is which, and decide “what to do” about the non-reals. The underlying assumption, of course, is that The Other is evil and something needs to be done about them, in the first place — if only to protect the reals. History tells us that that’s how it starts: regulation of The Other. Then later, those doing the regulating start to wonder why they should even tolerate The Other, anyway. On a systemic level, it can potentially lead to genocide. On an personal level, it can potentially lead to vigilante-style eradication.
Godwin’s Law states that the longer any discussion continues, the more likely it will inevitably lead to some comparison to Nazi Germany. There’s an extension to that adage that the moment this happens, the discussion has lost all meaning and reality. On the contrary, I’m not all that convinced that humanity is ever more than five steps from repeating genocide, and this progression involving the failure of empathy, othering, entitlement, regulation and then impatience. As long as society insists on structuring humanity into us-es and thems, the capacity for this to happen will persist.
“… Not as nasty and disgusting as you mutilated, faked body transsexuals lol.. At least everything on my body is real… I don’t need to cut off my penis or take any hormones to know who the fuck I am lol…”
It’s about framing life in a way that makes one superior according to one or another criteria.
The Deception Meme
“… If this is put into action alot of heterosexual people wouldn’t have to worry about dating a tranny accidently…..”
TheBistro360’s primary (though not only) fear is of possibly dating a woman, only to discover that she is or was transsexual.
We’ve discussed issues about dating and disclosure before, with strongly divergent viewpoints on if and / or when a person should have to disclose trans history. I have to wonder if there is ever a moment when it would be safe to disclose trans history to TheBistro360, and (assuming safety) whether anyone doing so could ever expect any anonymity and / or respect in their mutual circles ever again.
But regardless of that, there remains an undercurrent argument that alleges that choosing not to disclose is deliberate deception. Personally, I’d think that if there was a possibility or likelihood of sex while one’s genitals are not what their partner would likely expect, disclosure would probably be wise — though I admit that there may be circumstances when it isn’t. But TheBistro360 isn’t only talking only about anatomy:
“… And for those who are already transsexuals, and those who are already pre-op or post-op, they will have to sign this paperwork too….”
So at this point, we return to sex and gender essentialism, and the assumption about an entitlement to define. But this goes an additional step toward justifying special, othering treatment. Because this person probably doesn’t feel that there needs to be a special registry to alert potential dates about their medical history (which transition actually is), dating history, political affiliation, all possible racial heritages, family medical concerns, criminal records, sexual interests or religion. Some of them do come up during dating, and some that don’t can be points of contention or concern later in a relationship — but of these, it seems only transsexuality or trans history (regardless of existing genitals) that this person feels is deception if undisclosed… to a level that it requires legislation of some kind.
Of course, the assumption that any male should be entitled to establish characteristics that automatically disqualify women from consideration as their romantic and / or sexual partner is also misogynistic at its core, but it sort of gets into territory that men and women both regularly go, gets into the politics of desire and is a whole other discussion.
“It has gotten to the point where we have transsexual children and teens attending elementary, middle school, and high school UNNOTICED!”
The fear that we might pass unnoticed returns to the deception meme again, but a significant portion of TheBistro360’s panic has to do with his discovery of the existence of trans kids. The fact that society allows kids to transition repulses him. As it does the religious and non-religious far-right.
Of course, much of this results from a failure or refusal to dig deeper to discover that those few kids who do transition often do so after exhibiting severe gender dysphoria and unhappiness, sometimes to the point of self-harm or tracked in that direction — or else a failure of empathy on that point. No parent sets out to change their child’s gender. And speaking as a leftie trans activist, too, I wouldn’t wish being trans on any kid, if it were a matter of choice. But those parents who discover that transition causes their individual child to do a complete 180-degree turn from depression and negative trajectories to happiness and self-esteem will inevitably embrace the process.
Transitioning as a kid is difficult, and the portrayal of that life-changing decision as whimsical delusion is grossly uninformed. But this person seems not only uninterested in digging to see the reality, he also feels that transsexuality should be a scarlet letter that stays with a person for the rest of their life.
“… It’s actually… it’s actually getting to the point where they got children going to elementary, um, teenagers going to high school, middle school and shit like that and they’re fucking transsexuals before they’re even the age of 18. Something is wrong there. Now, we’re going to have to put a stop to it. Or we’re going to have to let them let us know who they are….”
The assumptions don’t stop there.
How Erasure and Invisibility Don’t Help
At this point, I want to pre-emptively say that racial generalizations and strike-backs are inappropriate and not welcome in comments. One individual’s targeting of a characteristic group is not justification for targeting another characteristic group.
TheBistro360 also assumes that transsexuality is a white characteristic, saying that this is “not in any other place in Africa, but just in South Africa, right now.” He jumps to this conclusion twice in his YouTube video.
“… White people — I mean, honestly, how may white people do you see on that show? I think a lot of them were white, or probably biracial. You know, as a mix or something…”
I’m not the most suited person to speak to this, but it speaks to how erasure and invisibility can result in totally inaccurate conclusions. It also speaks to how the intersections of prejudices such as trans + race tends to silence and terrorize trans people of colour more, and how that invisibility can be further used to cast aspersions. I don’t want to imply that all trans people of colour should be out, because those intersections of prejudice add risk, and that’s for each individual to decide. But I do think it’s a valid issue to put out there, and then invite those who experience more trans + racial prejudice than I to speak about what visibility and invisibility mean.
The God Connection
There’s no indication from the pages or video whether TheBistro360 is religious in any way. For all we know, he may not be. And yet, there are a couple points where God is used to justify trannsphobia:
“… They are, they were not born that way. First of all, if they were, they were supposed to be a girl, then they were going to be born a girl. They wasn’t going to be born with a penis and then later on say, God would say, “hey, your brain was not built for the man’s body, it was built for a woman’s body,” and then BOOM….”
I recently wrote about the danger of conflating far-right Christianity’s hatred of LGBT people with the position of all of Christianity. It is a far-right viewpoint that pushes the idea that God hates trans people. But it is silence that allows it to remain the perceptively definitive viewpoint. And as long as this is so, God will continue to be used as justification.
“… I would like to start a transsexual registration act. It’s no different from those who are pedophiles: they have to register their name and all that stuff and then they go into the system where you can look ’em up to see if they’re a pedophile and what not. This’d be no different. But instead of being in the pedophile system, they’d be in the transsexual system….”
TheBistro360 never actually equates trans women with pedophiles or allege predatory behaviour of any kind. He does, however, see it as entirely acceptable to treat transsexual women the same way that society treats pedophiles, so there is some level of equation happening. And in fact, there are places on Earth where being trans can result in being put on a sex offender registry, such as taking cyproterone acetate (Androcur) as a testosterone blocker in Australia, a circumstance that trans women share with intersex persons there.
In fact, when you consider some regulations in even the Western world — such as Sweden’s requirement that trans people undergo sterilization in order to transition — the “Transsexual Registry Act” idea doesn’t really sound that fringe. One thing that Fox News and other right-wing entities have succeeded at is pushing the overall social conversation so far to the right that welfare and minimum wage regulations sound like communism. They accomplished this by broadcasting all manner of wild spin and allegation, demonizations and strategies to deal with non-existent problems. The genius was to repeat insanity until it sounded possible, then reasonable, then necessary, then inevitable. Our failure was to think that that insanity didn’t need to be countered. Better to face down something like this now when it’s naked bigotry than to wait for National Organization for Marriage to spin a stealthy, rationalized way to force it onto the ballot as a referendum.
But TheBistro360 doesn’t simply conflate transsexuals with pedophiles. Because of assumptions and sex essentialism and his belief in the deception meme, he also conflates transsexuality with homosexuality — a reminder that whether we like it or not, society does not parse language and identity the same way that we do.
“… and then they find out they was fucking men all the time — that’s going to make a person go bonkers….”
And in so doing, he starts to go a dangerous direction: rationalizing the regulation of an entire class of peoples’ lives and justifying whatever they may experience as a consequence.
Something else that the pages and video raise is the instantaneous, often knee-jerk reaction that happens when a person assumes that the fact that something bothers them and makes them uneasy means that the something is automatically wrong for everybody. “Gross,” “sick” and the language of deviance comes up often. It’s a language that translates to the discrimination that all sexual minorities experience, and to a lesser degree, some other characteristic classes as well.
“It’s sick. America is starting to become a sick place.”
This will be something to write about another time, but again, it stems from entitlement, framing life to assert superiority, and in this case, is also fueled by rigid attitudes governing sex. But this impulsive squick reaction further fuels his rationalization, and brings it to a point where it begins to reduce people to non-personhood.
“… and in certain cases some of them still date the thing.”
At a few different points, transsexuals become “things.” This is a dangerous path to take, and objectification of this magnitude is recognized widely as a classic step toward serial murder. This person may not take that path, but his words offer a chilling window into this trajectory.
“… transgender motherfuckers, those things that they call themselves women when they’re really was a boy before, and those things that they’re called men, and they were really a freaking girl before….”
Because when a person becomes a thing, it becomes less consequential if something happens to them.
Understandable Murder and the Acceptability of Disposable People
In an earlier quote, TheBistro360 talks about what he perceives as deception and the implication that someone might be gay if he has sex with a transsexual woman leading someone to “go bonkers.” That’s direction of blame. That’s a rationalization set-up that implies whatever follows can’t be helped, and is just a natural progression of being a heterosexual man:
“… I don’t… I’m tired of seeing these stories about men, dating these transsexuals, transsexual women, and they end up killing these motherfuckers. Them straight men are like, “I don’t, you know, I don’t do gay shit and blah blah” and then they find out they was fucking men all the time — that’s going to make a person go bonkers. And I’m just glad that shit ain’t ever happened to me, but look at the growing rate….”
So it cease’s being the responsibility of the murderer for committing murder, and becomes our responsibility for existing. If this sounds unreflective of the mainstream, remember the groundswell of excuse-making that existed for Allen Ray Andrade after murdering Angie Zapata. And the fact that the one point of hate crimes laws is that in the absence of regulation that makes it imperative to take crimes that target characteristic groups seriously at all, these crimes are often rationalized in a way that actually does leave them without consequence.
So once it becomes easier to empathize with the murderers of transsexuals than with the transsexuals themselves, TheBistro360 decides to possibly benevolently spare us this fate by regulating our existence. Totally reasonable, huh?
“Maintaining these people”
As TheBistro360 says, “And that’s why I came up with a solution to our problem.” Because reducing us to the level of Thing wasn’t enough, and now we’re seen as society’s problem. Requiring his solution, of course.
“… Now, do I have anything against homosexual people? No. One thing I do have a thing against is how we are not doing anything about maintaining these people. To make sure our chil… our people… that people that haven’t came out about their sexuality… will be… will help the heterosexuals avoid them….”
It’s amazing that requiring that society respect trans people and treat them as equals is regularly seen as an unreasonable burden, yet invading our privacy, exposing us to potential hatred and marginalization and justifying our exclusion seems a totally acceptable alternative.
“… You’d actually be able to know that they are transgendered. And it’d be on the application as well. And if they do not… and if they choose not to… they choose not to agree with this, then they would either be jailed and forced to do it in prison, or before… if not… if they’re thinking about actually going to the doctor’s office and they want to get a transition, they will be denied because they don’t want to take that chance. And for those who are already transsexuals, and those who are already pre-op or post-op, they will have to sign this paperwork too. Or they will be jailed and forced to do it regardless of how they went. And then they will be [indecipherable] of their reluctance…”
Never more than five steps, for as long as we are willing to separate ourselves into us-es and thems in order to absolve ourselves of any need to feel empathy and to bother to learn.
The Power of Denial
“All you idiots can hate all you want, and this is not a discrimination page, we are just simply looking out for our heterosexual men and women… We have the right to know who the fuck we are messing with, so whine and moan all you want…”
And the clincher is that through it all, the bigoted remain blind to their bigotry.
“… Am I strongly against homosexuals? No. Whatever they do on their own [that part is mumbled, and could also be “whatever they do on the low,” possibly meaning “down-low”], they do on their own. But what I do not like is that we got a lot of transsexuals running around here, and we’ve got to watch out for them. Because you’ll never know who has… who is a woman or a man….”
But we need not be blind to it.
On the surface, TheBistro360’s brand of hatred seems fringe. It doesn’t repeat the talking points of the usual far-right speakers and leaders, although there are shades of flavours of those attitudes underneath, and their prevalence was enough to make this person feel confident enough to formulate and publicize a plan to “maintain” people. It’s hard to know how many people share this kind of perspective but are afraid to say so out loud. Certainly, this person thought that his idea was something general society could get behind, but also knew that it could be unpopular enough that he sported a hood to communicate his message.
But in the end, this is still a flavour of hate that is out there, and important to be aware of. It also offers a chilling look at how hate can progress.
(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)