Dear Anonymous Person,
Yesterday I found out that you sent in an article to the website I edit for, Thought Catalog, called “I Think My Boyfriend Wants To Be With A Transsexual.” It’s a super classy title for a super classy article that doesn’t show me why your boyfriend has a predilection for “tranny” porn, as you so helpfully put it, but indicates to me exactly why it might not work out between the two of you. You’re a transphobic toolshed.
Of course, part of me empathizes with your struggle to understand your boyfriend and the parts of himself that he won’t share with you. I get it. I date men. We always claim that members of the male gender are so easy and uncomplicated, like babies who watch a lot of football and leave facial hair all over the bathroom sink. We think that all men are low-maintenance (like a Honda or something), and when they turn out to be just as complicated as everyone else is, it bothers us so much that we constantly overanalyze them.
Understand that I know where your worry, your concern and your fear comes from, but what bothers me is the way you don’t just place the blame on him but on transgender people themselves, who have nothing to do with your relationship. It’s kind of like saying that gay people will ruin the sanctity of marriage. Trans people have nothing to do with the strength of your commitment, and trust me, that ship was going to sink anyway when he discovered that you were an incredibly unempathetic tool who felt the need to describe people as “things” and an entire class of people as a “fetish.”
My childhood best friend is trans. Is she a fetish? I like to wear women’s clothing sometimes — because it’s fun and I like to go out with a beard and heels in public and watch men try to figure me out. The last time I wore a dress, a cabbie felt it appropriate to rub my lower lip without my consent and give me his address. Was I his personal fetish? No, I’m a human, who deserves to be asked when I am touched. I deserve to be taken out to dinner and treated like a lady, a bitch, a lover, a child, a mother or whatever I happen to identify as that day.
And the thing is: I’m not trans. I have the privilege to wear a dress when I want and a wig when I feel like it. I can write for a major website on the internet and know that they make space for me and stories like mine will be told. (Hell, the Huffington Post has a whole section for it. I’m doing just fine.) As a producer of content, I try use my privilege to create a safe space for trans people in my work and the pieces I personally publish, but let’s face facts: The internet is a lot safer for people like you than transgender folks.
You intentionally misgendered trans women as “men” in your piece, but this happens every day. Even when trans women are murdered in cold blood, the media can’t do them the simple honor of getting their name right. These women fought to be the person they wanted to be, in a society that doesn’t believe they have the right to exist, and we don’t even have the decency to let them have the thing they died for.
A name or a label might not seem like much to you, because you don’t have to think about these things. You haven’t had to correct people when they call you “sir” or risk getting fired over it, as happened to a friend of mine when she politely corrected a customer on her gender identity. A friend of mine is writing a letter to all of the different organizations and individuals that have misgendered them over their years (they prefer gender-neutral pronouns) — which, as you can guess, is a lot of educating to do.
It gets exhausting having to constantly explain your gender identity or defend yourself all the time. Imagine doing it your whole fucking life.
Take s.e smith for example, the genderqueer writer who accidentally became the center of the “Ou Gate” controversy a couple weeks ago. smith didn’t ask to be misgendered by Hamilton Nolan and Gawker and certainly didn’t ask for their gender identity to get dragged through the mud in the media — to become a part of somebody else’s culture wars. All they wanted to do was write an article and express themselves in the media the best way they know how.
When smith responded, they seemed barely angry or upset, probably used to being misrepresented or mocked by people like Nolan, who don’t care about being polite or respectful. The Nolans of the world don’t have to care. You don’t have to care, and usually people don’t. For s.e. smith, it was just another day around the office. Pass the stapler.
As we all know, you can’t ask everyone to be perfect all the time, but Anonymous, I’m not asking you to be perfect. I’m not asking you to go out and actually be friends with a trans person or get to know these people whose identities you so casually dismiss. I’m not asking you to date a trans person and see that, just maybe, being attracted to trans people isn’t so unusual at all — and that trans people deserve to be told their bodies are sexy and not some niche interest object for your boyfriend’s sexual pleasure.
I’m just asking you to recognize that your words mean something to other people, and when you call people “things,” that means something. You recognize your words as being cruel, so why do you say them? Why do you make the world a worse place for trans people to be in? What you fail to recognize is that the world doesn’t revolve around you and your deceitful boyfriend and that other people have problems, too, ones that have nothing to do with you. Your article is only making those worse, yet another sign that our media doesn’t give a shit about trans people.
I didn’t publish your article and I don’t know who greenlighted it, but I know that Thought Catalog exists as a space that’s open to all kinds of commentary, ones that I’m proud to publish and that give me hope for the world and then some lazy bullshit and trash like yours. Frankly, I’m so used to the internet as a whole existing as a problematic, fucked-up space that it’s all just becoming another day at the office. (Thanks, Reddit.) Pass the fucking stapler, and pour me a shot while you’re at it. I’ll need it later.
So, yeah, writer who was so proud of their piece they didn’t bother to put their name on it, you can submit something like this at Thought Catalog and it might end up on the site. Some person who isn’t me might see value in it and greenlight it, hoping it provokes discussion, and I don’t have the power to vet every single article. I don’t own Thought Catalog and if I did a) it would have way more articles about Meryl Streep and b) we would have published your piece with this GIF after every paragraph.
However, just because we publish it doesn’t mean that I have to like it or go quietly into that good night. You submitted this piece with the belief that Thought Catalog is a safe space for voices like yours, and my hope is to prove you wrong. My hope is that people will read your article and attack it for the piece of shit that it is and tell their friends to attack it. My hope is that all of the trans people on the internet will collectively discover your identity and mobilize all the forces of darkness to convince you to get a hysterectomy, lest you breed future generations of transphobes.
But those trans people aren’t alone. I’m not transgender. I don’t know what it’s like. I can’t speak for them. However, I know that trans people have got to be sick and tired of complaining about this alone and being the only people who get angry. They are told time and again their opinion doesn’t matter or they are just being “sensitive.”
So I can speak for myself when I say I’m watching you, too. I will attack you right along with them. I will call in every favor I have to see that people blog about you and spread the word. I will work to make the internet a less safe space for the hatred you so casually toss off and make it a little less safe for transphobia every day. I will make sure that trans people drown you out in a chorus of anger and of love, because that’s what the world needs more of.
In the meantime, I can’t tell you what to do with about your boyfriend’s porn habits, but I can tell you what to do with your future submissions. I cordially invite you to stick them up your ass. To paraphrase Beyonce in Obsessed, no one comes into my house and touches my child.
So take your shit elsewhere. I hear Vice is looking for folks, and it sounds like you would fit in nicely. I’d be happy to take a look at your resume if you want. Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Note: It’s a .org and not a .com. Wouldn’t want you to send it to the wrong fake email now.)
Take care and please do try to find another boyfriend. It sounds like he’s just not that into you anyway, and trust me, it has nothing to do with trans* people. It’s not them, it’s you.
May Meryl Be With You,