Guest post: If acceptance is only skin-deep

Originally a comment by Artymorty on Advanced well-poisoning.

sexist & homophobic & transphobic

There it is again. That word, homophobic, as always, right at transpbobia’s side. It makes me increasingly uncomfortable to see it there. Upset even. I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts on why that is. It’s something like this:

Is this how they felt about gay rights? Is this how they felt about us? It scares me a little.

I thought society came to accept gays because they thought hard and came to truly understand in a deep sense what homosexuality is: namely, an immutable trait, not a choice, not a danger to society, etc.

But the way people are reacting to the trans agenda, and directly analogizing it to gay rights, indicates that the real lesson they learned from the gay rights movement wasn’t to listen, learn and understand, but merely to bury any doubts or discomfort deep inside and attack anyone who raises any issues or expresses any concerns.

It’s true that in the case of gay rights, it turns out most (though not all*) concerns about gay rights activism didn’t have any legitimate merit — they were merely “moral disgust in drag” (as Jane Clare Jones put it). But we figured that out by listening to people who spoke up with concerns and holding those concerns up to scrutiny — where they (mostly) failed to pass muster.

That’s a process that isn’t happening with trans activism. And it makes me feel like maybe nobody really did hold their concerns or discomfort about gays up to scrutiny but instead were merely conditioned to feel guilty for having discomfort in the first place, and that they had a moral obligation to suppress those thoughts. Here I’ve been thinking I’m living in a world where homophobia has been eradicated on the Left by the triumph of rational argument, and it’s looking more and more like it’s merely been suppressed on the Left by social pressure.

The trans rights agenda really is nothing like gay rights, and there are legitimate problems with it. I would have thought the left would gladly be pointing that out — making use of that rational thinking stuff that worked so well for gay rights, to expose the problems with trans activism, and strengthen everyone’s rights — women, gays and lesbians, and transsexuals. But all I’m seeing over and over again is a message that goes something like, “the gays taught us we’re supposed to shut up and be good allies no matter how we feel, and now we have to do the same for trans people.”

That’s not a healthy or stable basis for maintaining our rights. If those attitudes aren’t truly felt, but merely enforced by social norms, whats going to happen in a crisis where social norms are weakened? Global warming, economic or political strife? If gay and trans acceptance is only skin-deep, they will be the first things to go. Trans activism should be welcoming more debate, more critical inquiry, to strengthen everyone’s understanding of transsexuals’ rightful place in society.

*Pedophiles latched onto the gay rights movement; it’s a good thing critics had space to call the movement out for harboring them, and the movement eventually got its act together and pushed the pedophiles out. That’s a good example of how open dialogue led to a stronger, better gay rights movement.

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