I believe in the basic rights of all transgender people. I believe that we, as a society, a nation, and as a world cannot continue to deny anyone the same rights and dignities cisgender people expect as a matter of course.
We're making some good strides forward in Gay/Bi/Lesbian rights, but we still severely marginalize and, confusingly, fear Transgender people.
I am very lucky in that my physical gender presentation and my mental gender presentation match. Not because anything else is a bad thing, or not normal, or not desirable, but because our society makes life super easy for people who fit the socially sanctioned gender types, and treats those who do not as outcasts.
Even the most cursory look at the Caster Semeya story shows how regressive people are about people who don't physically fit the rules our society has laid down about how men and women should look; add intersex or transgender issues (not the same thing! Please check out the links!), and people lose their tiny little minds.
To my greatest shame, Feminism has in large part failed its Trans Sisterhood; the nasty commentary I have seen on some supposedly progressive feminist sites makes me want to scream. The idea that someone who identifies as a woman should not be treated as a woman is... incomprehensible to me. We are our perceptions of ourselves - how many times do we tell other people "it's not how you look; it's what's inside that counts"? Yet, when it comes to trans women, people insist on the opposite.
I don't like this. And I don't like it when people do it around me. One of the excuses I hear is that people don't know the etiquette of being around trans people. In the age of the Intarwebs, this is a pretty lame excuse, but I'll bite, and have scattered some links for y'all to pass on to anyone and everyone who is curious throughout this post.
But first, a couple of basics that I'd like everyone to start practising right now - around me is a good place, since I get really fucking browned off when people think it's okay to be transphobic (especially about false issues) around me.
1. Call everyone by the name they like to be called. This seems pretty simple, right? We expect this courtesy from other people in regards to our own names, and are suprised and offended when people decide to call us something else. You'd be amazed at the number of people who insist on calling trans people by the name they were given at birth, using phrases like "well, it's your real name, isn't it?". Ugly, ugly stuff. Don't do it. Give all people the respect you'd want for yourself.
2. Refer to people with the gender by which they identify themselves. Again, mind-numbingly simple, but again, the number of incidents (and people!) I have run into where someone insists on calling a trans person by the wrong gender boggles me. It's like they'll catch "teh gayez" or something if they actually refer to a trans woman as "she". It's fucking insulting, is what it is. I'm not going to refer to someone who identifies as male, who physically presents as male, who calls themselves a man, as "she". It's stupid, it's nasty, and it's prioritizing your bigotry over the feelings (and safety) of the other person. Be respectful.
3. Keep your asshole opinions to yourself. (If you do not have transphobic thoughts, obvs. this bit does not apply to you.) I am not the thought police, and I cannot control how people think (despite what some people might tell you). All I can offer is (hopefully) thoughtful information and commentary from the "other" side that may make people who see this post more able to empathize with and understand trans issues and why they affect everyone's human rights, especially if they have never given the issue much thought beyond "sex change? EEEEWWWW". If you have strong feelings about why trans people are awful, or evil, or should be locked away, or even dead (!), keep them to yourself. You do not know who you are talking to, and what their feelings may be, and refraining from spewing transphobic bile is a public service. A little self-control goes a long way towards making the world a better place. Plus, I find that not giving air to one's ugliest thoughts helps to minimize those thoughts in favour of other, kinder ones. Empathy is the act of putting yourself in someone else's shoes. It's fun and educational!
It's funny - the "issue" of trans people in society has never been a question for me - people are people, it's that simple. I was stunned the first time I ran into transphobia outside the far right conservative sphere, because I honestly thought that people who had progressive views on feminism and the various intersectionalities of oppression would be totally on board with the idea that people should be able (and welcome) to present themselves as they wish - after all, wasn't feminism about the agency of all humans?
It seems not. It turns up everywhere.
And that's a damned shame.