Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Trump

Oh for crying out loud. I mean really. Come on 2016, are you actually for real? Adults dressing as clowns then dashing about high streets; every decent celebrity dying; talks of tea & jam fueling Britain’s economy; Brexit; Theresa May as Prime Minister; Nigel Farage & Bob Geldof sailing across the Thames while firing insults at one another; Boris Johnson as foreign secretary; and now President ruddy Trump.

What on earth is this? Have I smoked something I shouldn’t have and fallen into the most hilariously terrifying dream? Surely this is all made up, right? please say it is.

The last time I genuinely felt happy about an election outcome was probably 2008. I was 18-years old. Just a naive university student with trivial understanding of how the world worked. Our local student bar opened its doors all night long. Alcohol was served from 7pm to 7am to celebrate US election night. As the hours passed, Barack Obama moved closer to securing the White House.

The atmosphere overall was one of optimism. Left-wingers and right-wingers came together, cheering on history as it unfolded before our eyes. In our collective naivety, the students of Aberystwyth university spent that evening celebrating joyously as we watched an event we were convinced would end racism within the United States (oh how innocent we were).

Like our American neighbors across the pond that night, the crowded bar in that small Welsh university town believed real change was approaching. The dream of progression felt so attainable you could practically smell it.

At the time, it seemed like an overly jolly night on the tiles with a few too many ciders and a merry atmosphere to boot. Today, the very memory of that evening makes me want to curl into a ball and weep until the world ends.

In the years since, elections and votes in general have ranged from disappointing to downright terrifying. Alright, so some rather great laws have passed in that time (the legalization of Gay marriage being one example), yet despite the small pockets of positivity, disappointment has overwhelmed the happier times. The UK's coalition government of 2010, the conservative win of 2015, Scotland failing to secure independence, and the European referendum of last June to name a few. All a series of shitty moments, gradually leading up to the shittiest moment of all; Donald J Trump securing the White House.

No matter how I choose to look at the world since waking up last Wednesday and seeing that surreal headline sprawled across my iPad, I can’t bring myself to perceive it in a positive light. Some have told me to calm down, to just “wait and see”, to hope that all my fears are nothing more than the gloomy pessimism of a left-winger’s mind; yet I'm failing to achieve this.

One of the most powerful and influential countries on the planet has just put a misogynistic, racist bully in charge of their highest office. Here’s a man who boasts of grabbing women by the genitals, has been accused of rape, called all Mexicans rapists, labelled all Muslims terrorists, insulted the grieving mother of a dead soldier, mocked people with disabilities, flirted with the idea of firing nuclear weapons and has acted like an all round shitty human from start to finish.

How the hell is it even remotely possible to look at the decision made by the American people on November 8th and think everything will be ok? Seriously, please tell me, because right now, I’m riddled with fear.

There’s no way to deny it, the western world has been slipping further to the right for quite some time now. Racist headlines, xenophobic rhetoric becoming apart of mainstream thinking, far-right parties evolving into major contenders in the elections of many European countries, consensus hatred and apathy toward refugees fleeing countries bombed by our own governments, Brexit, and so on and so forth.

Maybe the West has always been right-wing. Maybe my assumption that most living within this corner of the globe were progressive was nothing more than the bi-product of a young, naive mind. Maybe the dream of living in a world where bigotry diminishes one year at a time was wishful thinking.

In the passing days since Mr Trump won the 2016 election, there’s been the usual mutterings of blame and theories as to why this happened in the first place. Few seemed to predict the outcome of Tuesday night. There was even a moment on Fox News where the presenters uttered in disbelief that Clinton may well not become the 45th president. The world scratched their heads in disbelief when the reality of what was happening began to sink in.

Now there’s finger pointing and attempts to find conclusions into how and why this vile life form managed to secure a job as leader of the free world. As usual, most the ideas and accusations fired have hints of truth to them, yet don’t explain the full story and are more often than not far too simplistic.

One argument is that Trump raced toward victory because of the immensely flawed electoral college system. Indeed, this is part of the reason, as Clinton did actually win the popular vote. She led by 200,000 votes after all. Most of Clinton’s voting demographic were based in denser populated city states, meaning that despite the higher number of overall votes in her favor, Trump still managed to secure a comfortable victory.

This explains part of the reason, yet we must also take into account that Clinton running for the Democrat party also contributed to the fact we now have a clueless plank set to move into the White House. Clinton, unlike Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election, didn’t have a big enough movement behind her. Obama had a boat load of activists and volunteers, followed by unimaginable support from political groups and movements all across America. Clinton simply didn’t have that kind of backing during this election to carry her to a safe victory.

Because the problem is, Clinton just isn’t that popular a candidate. As a matter of fact. She’s pretty despised by an awful lot of people. Democrats included.

Clinton has had a history of dishonesty regarding LGBTQIA rights, her stance toward the Trans Pacific Partnership, and has even been caught on camera explaining to bankers that politicians should have a separate “public” and “personal” persona.

The Clintons are a family known far too often for bending and breaking the rules; taking in millions of dollars in speaking fees & charitable donations from questionable sources, using her private email server while acting as secretary of state, and suspiciously generating nearly $100,000 after investing just $1,000 within a ten month period.

Her support of the Iraq war, her key role in the decision to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (destabilising the region and paving way for ISIS), and her neverending appetite for foreign intervention has also contributed to her lack of popularity.

While millions swooned over the idea of Barack Obama in 2008, Hillary Clinton received nowhere near as much support as a result of her pro-war, pro-establishment, questionable nature.

This means that even though voting turnout for republicans last week weren’t all that much different to the 2008 and 2012 figures for John McCain and Mitt Romney, Trump still managed to secure enough overall states to become the 45th President of the United States. I'm not saying anyone else would have done a better job (including Bernie Sanders, as many are claiming), however the fact that Hillary Clinton was running most certainly didn't help when it came to the numbers.

These aren’t the only reasons of course, and they aren’t the only speculations put forth since Tuesday night. Another one bandied about is the belief that Trump won the presidency because of the nation’s disappointment in the Obama years. A lot of people went into the 2008 election convinced that Barack Obama would bring about a totemic level of change to the American political and social landscape. Although he did indeed manage to achieve some great feats during his 8-years in power (Obama Care, legalization of gay marriage, to name but two), Congress went out of their way to block as many of his attempts at progressive change as they could.

The neverending pushback from Congress left many disappointed, let down by their own expectations of America’s 44th President. As a result, the American people looked upon the Democratic Party of the last 8-years - a party which Clinton was apart of - with disappointed eyes. In November 2008, they were seen as the party who would deliver a brighter future. Today, seeing as less than expected has changed, less enthusiasm and support is held toward them.

Another argument put forth - one which I’ve heard far too often over the past week - is that the liberal left are solely to blame for Trump’s victory.

This is not only a claim made by the right, but also by the left themselves as well.

The idea goes like this; the way those on the left have treated those on the right has inevitably pushed them so far to the extreme that they ended up silently protesting by voting for a xenophobic bully who brags about assaulting women and hasn't the slightest clue on how to run a country.

Now look, I’ll be honest and admit I think there are problems in the ways the left communicate with those who don’t agree ideologically, much in the same way as I think there are problems with the ways in which those on the right treat those who don’t agree with them.

Yes, the left need to adopt new ways of understanding and listening to others before labeling them racists or whatever (just like how I think the right need to stop automatically labeling people on the left as “sensitive”), but come on now.

Do people genuinely think the left have insulted right wingers so much (kinda ironic, considering how often I hear anti-liberal folk talk about how easily offended the left supposedly are) that they felt as though they had no other choice than to run to the voting booth and elect a hate-filled bully into high office? Really? So because liberals and the left in general came across as accusing and easily-offended in their eyes, that forced them to go ahead and vote for someone as rotten as Trump?

The liberal left do need to begin addressing the ways in which they speak to the right - ways which may well assist in polarising opponents in some respects - yet you can’t blame liberals for Trump getting into power. Instead of screaming “they made me do it!”, how about we accept that Trump is in the White House because people voted for him in there on their own accord.

Enough with all this “triggered people made Trump voters vote for him!” or “they silenced the right-wingers into choosing a racist because they called them all racist in the first place!” Maybe I'm exaggerating, but that sounds a bit like a member of the Klu Klux Klan saying “I only joined because my classmates kept calling me racist!!”.

I’ve always been a believer in the idea that you can’t change a mindset by insulting someone - that you have to do it through empathy and civil discussion - and I will admit that the left have been guilty of not going about the right way of doing this at times; myself included in that criticism. But saying they are solely culpable for Trump because they didn’t educate or empathise with enough people is bouncing the blame over.

Tump voters put Trump in the White House, not the people who voted otherwise.

Now is the perfect opportunity for those of us who play ball on the same ideological field to begin assessing and evaluating how we interact with those who disagree with us. It's time to find new ways of communicating views to the world and understanding those whose mindsets differ.

Because I can appreciate that at times progressives have been guilty of labelling others as racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/etc when it isn't necessary, and I can appreciate that we’ve failed to explain why people like Trump are not out to make the world a better place for anyone other than themselves.

Yet while I can acknowledge that the left have failed to publicize their worldview efficiently enough in several respects, the fact so many are beginning to adopt the notion that liberals are screaming “bigot!” at any given opportunity is starting to make me slightly concerned that many may start to use this as a means of silencing those questioning and calling out language suppressing and enforcing dangerous stereotypes.

I’m growing troubled over the possibility of people using the whole “you’re being over sensitive” rhetoric to justify calling all muslims terrorists, trans people via their birth genders, poor people scroungers, black people thugs, gay people perverts, refugees parasites and so on.
 
Calling all muslims terrorists contributes to a mindset which results in innocent men and women getting stopped at airports, beaten up on the streets and in some cases murdered by paranoid folk. Referring to trans women as men and trans men as women results in gender variant individuals getting battered by insecure folk, restricted from public spaces and made to endure crippling gender dysphoria (for the record, gender dysphoria is a bit different to getting a tad miffed. Hence why trans people go through the social & physical agonies of changing their genders in the first place). Calling the unemployed scroungers amplifies a hatred toward them which forces governments into cutting their benefits and making them more unfavourable within the eyes of employers/authorities/society in general. Labelling black people as thugs encourages distrust, makes them appear more guilty and is what results in more black folk getting arrested/shot/imprisoned/murdered on a daily basis. Referring to gay people as perverts makes for more beatings, distrust, alienation and disgust. Calling immigrants parasites strips them of their humanity, resulting in homelessness, antipathy and abandoned by nations whose governments were responsible for blowing their homes to smithereens in the first place.

The language we use and the ideas we share contribute to the suffering and oppression many minorities endure. I’m not talking about hurt feelings here, I’m talking about lives that are ruined because of attitudes and ideas spread throughout our culture.

There’s a considerable difference between offending and oppressing. When talking about racism or sexism or homophobia etc, we aren’t talking about about making a comment which ruffles the feathers of some touchy soul (though why anyone would want to specifically offend another without consequence sounds like the yearnings of a prick if you ask me. But that’s neither here nor there). When referring to oppression, we are talking about a series of actions/mindsets/language which persecutes or undermines an entire group of individuals on a social and institutional level.

Despite there being a clear difference between offending someone on an isolated level and oppressing an entire group, since Wednesday’s election, I’m beginning to see the whole “generation snowflake” and “you’re all just triggered babies” rhetoric get bandied about far more frequently than usual.

Racism, sexism, homophobia and prejudice in general are issues we all need to discuss and question; regardless of our ideological stance. Sure, some have indeed been quick to label others as bigots without giving much time or thought to the people they are accusing, and sure, I genuinely don’t think this achieves anything worthwhile. Yet if we someday reach a point where people start to assume by default that those who are victim to oppression or hatred are just “offended” or “sensitive”, then there may well be problems.

What if the “overly-offended” claim gets used to gag any discussion regarding oppression or prejudice? Could our society become so accustomed to this belief that we could eventually see a day where attempts at combatting bigotry are consensually perceived as whiny children yearning to be nannied from cradle to grave?

Or maybe my concern is irrational. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe I’m assuming the worst right now because of how I’m hearing all this talk about how the rise of Trump is apparently thanks to a liberal culture who silences and shames those who disagree with such ideologies.

I presume some are using the whole “liberals did it!” claim because they are getting “liberalism” jumbled up with “neoliberalism”.

Being “liberal” usually means supporting progressive political ideas and liberties. “Neoliberalism” on the other hand, is the economic model which transfers control of economic factors to the  private sector. Neoliberals want a free market where everything related to capital is privately owned, leaving the state to focus instead on regulating those said markets, creating social fairness within them and internalising external effects.

Sounds dandy when you put like that, however in recent decades, the free market has grown into a destructive, heartless monster. A monster which exploits the poor, drains the natural resources of our lands, cripples social mobility, amplifies class inequality, benefits only a fortunate few (e.g. anyone who’s rich), and makes life increasingly difficult for those who don’t prosper from such a system.

Hillary Clinton is seen by many as a walking embodiment of the modern neoliberal market. The fact she’s top buds with a whole tirade of millionaires who’ve essentially being buying her out for the entirty of her political career meant that voting for her was seen as a vote for the economic system which crashed the world economy back in 2008.

Despite Trump also being a part of the capitalist system so many despise and have suffered from, his “every-man” way of speaking, plus his habit of saying whatever springs to mind separated him in the eyes of many from the stuffy political elite who caused financial Armageddon 8-years prior.

The hatred and distrust brought on by politicians puppeteered by the neoliberal elites of our land are what is seen as the cause of Trump’s election. Yet somewhere along the way, it was decided that progressives were also to blame.

(Having said all of this however, liberals in America are often ideologically married to neoliberalism, plus the leader of the Democratic Party was a neoliberal. So I can see why the two are usually viewed in unison by so many).

People are blaming are blaming the liberals for this mess. People are also claiming that the reason America now has a clown in charge of the world’s largest military fleet is not just down to progressives shouting right-wingers all the way to the extreme, but more to do with the filter bubble brought on by news outlets and social network.

While those on the left saw nothing but articles focusing on how vile a buffoon of a bigot Trump is, right-wingers were subjected to articles focusing on how much of a war loving establishment puppet Clinton is.

The liberal left saw no way of Trump winning, whereas the right were certain Trump was the better of two evils.

An echo chamber erected from the digital coding of Facebook and Twitter, silencing both sides from one another. No one knew what the other was thinking, meaning neither side could prevent or deter the outcome.

Who knows if any of these claims are right, or if any of them explain the bulk of why we now live in a world where that twat from The Apprentice is essentially one of the most powerful men on this rock.

All I know right now is that I’m terrified. I’m terrified because I’m beginning to see just how right-wing the world around me is. Every few months, something happens which genuinely makes me recoil in horror as I realize just how anti-progressive this globe genuinely is.

Once upon a time, I believed the nations of the world grew gradually more progressive in their attitudes. I honestly thought bigotry was slowly being eroded from our lands. That as the years came and went, we’d all become more loving and tolerant toward each other. My stupid, infantile mind assumed that time would strengthen civil rights in ways never before seen. As of today, however, I realise I couldn’t be further from the truth.

The world of today is a cold, mean place.

Our governments invade and destroy entire nations, only for our citizens to mock and despise the very victims we create through such actions.

Western governments chizzle away at civils rights.

Newspapers openly fabricate racist headlines for the masses to lap up alongside their morning cereal.

UK/US troops are sent out to Middle Eastern countries year after year to engage in meaningless conflicts.  

There’s no such thing as good guys or bad guys anymore. Just hatred, blame, lies, bullying and distrust. Everything feels well and truly screwed.

Since Tuesday night, however, there have been many in America who’ve stood up and declared that Trump is not their President. They’ve taken to the streets to protest the horror of what’s happened. To which the Trump supporters have reacted against by moaning about how they should all just “chill out and go home. Gosh, what babies. He won, you lost. Shut up and respect democracy!”

These protesters are protesting not because they are “whiny little children”, but because these are the people who are going to suffer greatly under a Trump administration, because they aren’t fortunate enough to ride out four whole years of this nightmare without suffering the consequences of an extreme right-wing government, and because they ARE respecting democracy by exercising their right to protest.  

And for those who say “now he’s in, he’ll probably calm down”. Yea, maybe he will, I mean I doubt it, but whatever, I’ll admit there’s a slim possibility that a lot of the awfulness he pledged was nothing more than a boatload of bravado. However I do indeed recall a time when people said the same thing about him getting elected as the leader of the Republican party.

Everyone assumed he only said all that crazy racist twaddle because it would boost his publicity. “When he’s running for the top job”, they all said “he’ll try and appear to a wider audience, so he’ll tone it down”.

Except he didn’t. He was just as appalling as he was prior to winning the leadership bid. So forgive me for being skeptical on that claim.

What I think will happen is Trump will have such trivial knowledge when it comes to running high office, he’ll let everyone around him run the show instead. He’ll let vice President Mike Pence - a man who signed one of the worse abortion laws in country, signed a bill which made it perfectly fine for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQIA customers and illegally tried to cut off federal aid to refugees living in Indiana - and Stephen Bannon - a anti gay, anti Semite, white supremacist who owns a far right news outlet - run the show.

While Trump may fail to bring about all the horrors he promised on his campaign trail, the thought of Pence and Bannon taking control is what’s keeping me awake at night right now.

I’d love to keep an open mind, and oh how I’d love to be proven wrong right now. I’d do anything to be made a fool of right now, to see Trump go on and steer America in a direction of true greatness. Of course I don’t want minorities to suffer at the hands of a clueless bully and his far-right gang of homophobes and racists. I dream of a day where all these fears of mine are exposed as nothing more than the paranoid nightmares of a foolish liberal.

For the time being, however, I’ll remain fearful. Fearful for those who now have to endure four years of Trump, who have to go to bed each night wondering how long their medicare will last, how long it will be until their rights are stripped from them, how long it will be before they lose everything because of the outcome of last week’s election.

All we can do now is try to learn from what’s happened. Listen to what those who voted this fool in have to say, find out why so many have turned to far-right rhetoric in a bid to bring about change, and figure out a way of sorting out the mess which seems to be scattered all around us.  



Thursday, 31 March 2016

LADS


This post is in no way referring to the wider mainstream population. Based on personal experience, most people are genuinely lovely. This post is specifically a rant (admittedly written partly whilst drunk) aimed toward particular transphobes who believe in dictating another's identity for their own narrow minded and insecure reasons. 

It’s Friday 25th March, Easter 2016 is upon us and I’ve four days off of work. I love a good excuse to go out and party these days, therefore both myself and my girlfriend decide to kick start the weekend ‘celebrations’ by venturing up to the city of Wolverhampton for a night on the town.

The night starts off pretty well. As we exit the taxi, we find ourselves standing outside a swanky cocktail bar. Several drinks later, we are back out on the streets, scouting for a fresh change of scenery to grow more intoxicated amongst. As we pass a fancy looking bar, my girlfriend notices two guitar singers performing. Her attention is captured by their presence and she’s dragging me inside before I know it.

It’s a pleasant environment, looks as though it’s been done up recently. Most of the place is vacant (still pretty early though), however in the far corner sit a group of four boys and three girls. They’re all intoxicated and bantering back and forth with the two singers like over excited kids attending a panto.

“What music do you like love?” Shouts one of the singers. Before I have time to realise who he’s speaking to, my girlfriend responds with a request for Oasis.

We purchase drinks and seat ourselves in the centre of of the room while the band plays to us all.

Several songs later and our glasses are dry. We decide one drink in this place is enough. It’s a nice environment, however the guitar players constantly interacting with the crowd is a little too much to put up with after 30 minutes.

“Where you going?” One of the guitarists asks. My girlfriend explains how we’ve got an engagement to attend, as much as we’d love to say.

As we pass through into the foyer, the words “See ya later Lads” chase after us. An awkward laugh is visibly heard coming from the closing double doors behind us. Humiliation and sadness fill my mind. Me and my girlfriend have just been publicly misgendered, all in the name of a cheap laugh.

It’s amazing just how ok some believe misgendering is. Not only do they presume it’s acceptable to misgender in the name of poking fun at a trans person, they are also genuinely of the opinion that referring to trans women as “he” and vice versa is nothing more than the cold hard truth.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it doesn’t make it a woman is one way this argument is often presented. The rhetoric here doesn’t really make any sense when you think about it. Yes, putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t do anything to amend or alter its gender identity. For one thing, we don’t even know what a pig’s actual gender might be anyway. It’s an animal that doesn’t communicate in the same way as humans do. It doesn’t have a culture in which to present their gender identities with. Furthermore, lipstick has nothing to do with making something or someone a woman. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, this argument is just a way of distracting people on the opposing end of the debate into over-thinking a nonsensical claim.

Some will make similar claims by using a fictional character (Unicorn/Thor/Jesus) instead of a pig, however the truth remains the same. Of course you can’t transition into Thor, but Thor is a cultural construction, not a gender identity.

Doesn’t matter how much you say you’re a woman, your DNA says otherwise is another argument put forth regarding trans people’s genders. What the transphobes uttering this claim are trying to say, is that the only way you can define gender, is by basing it primarily on the biological basics regarding “male” Chromosomes and “female” Chromosomes, which they were things the transphobes learnt all the way back in Junior school sex education lessons. In their heads, if you have XY chromosomes, you’re a man, and if you have XX chromosomes, you’re a girl. God knows how they define those born with XXY chromosomes or reversed chromosomes (e.g. physical “female” body with XY chromosomes and vice versa). Here, the idea is that the only way we can be identified is via what our genetic code tells us. All hail the sacred cells.

The DNA argument is also often accompanied by a brief statement on a person’s genitals. So, as we all know, more often than not, when a human owns XY chromosomes the fetus usually develops into a male body possessing a penis for genitalia. When a human owns XX chromosomes, that fetus often grows into a female body and owns a vagina for its reproductive organs.

In the same fashion as the previous, the opposing side are here using the key stage two theory of penises for males/vaginas for females in a bid to categories gender based on some biological facts. Again though, no idea how they categories those who are born with ambiguous genitalia. But I guess the problem here is that these people are basing their claims on the idea that there’s simply two fixed biological sexes in existence.

Sex is much more of a spectrum than a binary. Despite common belief, XX chromosomes can grow into male bodies, XY chromosomes into female bodies and XXY chromosome fetuses are indeed conceived. Bodies differ, and despite what people may believe, there are a far wider variety of outcomes when it comes to the characteristics owned by each body.

And even if they were just two binary sexes which never overlap, how the hell would it still have anything to do with gender? It’s not like they are the same thing. I mean gender identity is a state of being; how one perceives one’s self within the world in which they exist within. Sex is more to do with the reproductive capabilities of a given body. 

Gender identity has more to do with gender expression; which is the ways in which a given human being communicates its existence to the world around them. Clothes, behaviours and presentations from the life form's surrounding culture are what is used in order to communicate gender expression; a complex variety of signs and symbols delivered in the name of portraying how one perceives themselves to others.

So what the fuck has one’s state of being or portrayal of their gender got anything do with the coding of their chromosomes or the shape of their crotch? Why the hell does a dick get to have the final say on a person’s gender, or a set of microscopic cells for that matter? Why does this “it’s biological” bullshit get seen as a valid rhetoric in the eyes of others? Gender identity (one’s state of being) and gender expression (one’s presentation of one’s self to the world) are in no way the same as sex (a categorization into which most living organisms are placed into based on their reproductive organs).

Yet the argument persists, and there are those out there who still use this as their conclusive argument. Nothing you say will change their mind and no number of explanations on what gender means will be taken on board.

Why do they do this? Well, it’s most likely down to insecurity. You see, gender identity and expression mean a lot to humans. We like to be seen as whatever gender we identify as and hate it whenever others refer to us as anything other. For example, a lot of cisgender boys don’t like being referred to as "girly", and many cisgender girls would hate it if you told them they were in anyway “manly”. So how can such people who want validation of the fact that they are a “man” or a “woman” rid themselves of such doubtful angst?

They tell themselves that their DNA proves that they are of course. I’m a man because I’ve got a penis or I’m a woman because I have a womb. Problem solved. No more questioning of one's fears.

This “science says so” rhetoric is a sad and rather ironic choice of words when you think about it.  For one thing, it’s using science to condemn transgender people in the same way that religion is used often used to condemn gay people. A simple line of text from a body of work is being exploited in order to try shut down the gender debate. Instead of seeing sex and gender as two separate entities, the anti-trans crowd will claim that the great work of science states there are two binary sexes, and that those sexes prove which gender a given life form belongs to; regardless of that life form’s particular identity or expression.

Which is all nonsense. This doesn’t “prove” that trans men are really women and trans women are really men. It’s just a way of simplifying gender in a bid to validate one’s own cis-based insecurities. The truth is, there are more than two genders and the gender of a human isn’t always necessarily the one they were assigned by society at birth. Nonetheless, select members of humanity feel adamant to label people and refer to them in whatever gender they deem suitable. The consideration of referring to a person in the gender which they identify as or express simply does not occur to them as a reasonable form of behaviour. Instead they will speak to someone as if they are defined solely based on their genitalia and/or genetic code.

To put it bluntly dear readers, I was born with a penis. Furthermore, my chromosomes are most likely XY. Although I’m now on HRT, I went through male puberty as a teenager and my body was that of your classic key stage two sex education male body model. Except I don’t identify as a man, but as a woman. My gender contradicts my sex, yet why the hell should that make me a “man”? I don’t present myself to the world as a man, neither do I see myself as one. My genitals aren’t on public display and neither are my genetics. So why should something no one can see have the final say on who I am, especially after all one has done to get here?

Oh grow up Amber you might be thinking. So this belief insults, big whoop. People get insulted all the time. Why should the world stop just because you're in an emotional pickle?

Right, so first thing’s first, yes, I was upset by the guitarist, of course I was. I’ve risked a lot and gone through plenty of physical and financial pain to get to where I am with regards to my gender. Nonetheless, it really doesn’t matter if I was upset or not, because whether I was or wasn't isn’t the point of this post. It may have insulted me, sure, however after a couple of minutes I’d forgotten about the whole affair and was partying drunkenly into the night.

The real problem with misgendering is much bigger than a simple insult, however. It is in fact a far more poisonous act which feeds into the larger structural systems of prejudice toward the transgender community. Believe or not, intentional misgendering is a form of transphobia.

You see, people often look at prejudice from a highly simplistic angle. They think that homophobia is murdering some gay kid; that racism is beating up a black guy; that sexism is yelling at a women to get her tits out; or that transphobia is throwing an egg at a trans person from the window of a moving car.   
Truth is, prejudice is far bigger and far more complicated than this on a grandiose scale. Discrimination is wired deep into the body of our society; manifesting in many forms and disguises. Women in management positions are paid 35% less than the men working within the same profession; Muslims are often perceived as a terrorists by default because they are constantly compared to a group of extremists who they’ve never met; girls are raped and seldom believed by the authorities because those in charge believe the victim’s sexual attraction contributed in some way to the event; police officers are more likely to pull over a black citizen than they are a white one; disabled people are viewed by many as feckless skivers; the working class are perceived as burdens on our society whereas the tax absorbing Royal Family are worshipped for merely existing; men are seen as studs for sleeping around whereas many will look at women and proclaim they are slags for participating in the very same behaviours; refugees fleeing war torn countries are judged as nothing more than animals who threaten local economies and ways of life. These are just a snippet of the vast quantities of ways in which discrimination can disguise itself within our the different corners of our society. It exists on every level, in every office, behind every door, in every school and on every television. No matter where we are or which country we are in, conscious and unconscious prejudice spews from the mouths of many; making people unemployed, forcing them to earn far less than their intellectual equals, putting them in harm's way, making them guilty despite being innocent, branding them with a stained reputation, pushing them back into a the midst of warzones and making life as hellish as possible for them in as many ways possible.

The language we use and the ideas we hold have large impacts upon the culture that surrounds us. The reverse is true also. Culture impacts our ideas, so when we grow up in a world that hates others for being different, well we too become victims of that hatred. Nonetheless, despite consuming it, we also vomit this toxic sludge back into the world in which it came from. The way we talk about people of colour, religious minorities, the disabled, elderly people, gay people, intersex people, asexual people, and so on and so forth shapes the wider world around us. Together the hatred is shared and passed down to younger generations. When someone calls a black man a thug, a muslim a terrorist, a woman a slag, a homosexual a pervert, a trans person a freak; they strengthen these beliefs and notions further. It keeps itself fresh and strong; allowing it to exist well beyond its time.

Referring to a trans person by whatever gender they were assigned at birth contributes to the larger beast of transphobia in many ways.

If you continue to perpetuate the notion that trans women are men and trans men are women, you’re ultimately going to exist in a world where people are often of the opinion that these individuals are one gender pretending to be another. You’re going to live in a society where employers won’t see a woman applying for a job at their firm, but instead a man in ladies’ garments; dressing in clothes and masquerading as someone who they aren’t. Likewise, an employer might see a trans man as a woman dressing in boyish attire, acting out some sort of faux role, caring little about presenting ‘properly’ for the interview. Perceiving someone as an act as opposed to an authentic human being is incredibly harmful in this context. The same goes for individuals who fall under other hetero non conformative ways of expressing their gender. Those who identify and present as androgynous, gender queer or something else are often seen as acting “out of character” in the eyes of the employer.

One way in which the act of intentional misgendering contributes to the larger body of transphobia is in relation to the problems which face trans people when it comes to bathrooms in this day and age. Last week, North Carolina passed a bill which would allow employers to discriminate against LGBTQIA individuals within the workplace. One of the numerous issues that LGBTQIA activists flagged up regarding this law was the fact that it granted employers permission to ban trans from using public facilities that matched their gender identity/expression. Rest rooms and trans people seem to have been bugging the Americans in particular for some time now. There appears to be an awful lot of paranoid talk about how trans people are in disguise so that they can allegedly access previously-restricted bathroom spaces in order to peep at the other users and sexually assault them. It’s a fear that’s never really been apart of reality, as statistics show no trans people have been caught or prosecuted for assaulting cisgender people in public toilets or changing rooms in the past. In fact, the statistics reveal the complete opposite, as numerous occasions have occurred in which paranoid members of the public verbally or physically assault transgender individuals because they believed them to be deceiving perverts using the incorrect bathroom for their own maliciously criminal motives.

When you have people going around saying trans people are the genders they were born as, such viewpoints are essentially fueling this bathroom paranoia further. When someone says “trans women are men”, they are essentially denying the existence of that transgender person. The term “transgender” means the self-identity of an individual who does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of the “male” or “female” sex. When someone responds by saying “no, you are the gender you were born as” they’re basically saying that the non-conformity isn’t actually a self-identity. Sure, they may call it a “non-conformity”, but merely one in their eyes which only goes as deep as the clothes surrounding that trans person. They don’t care how the trans person sees or presents themselves to the world, in their eyes it’s one big lie.

So instead of just letting trans person use the bathroom which conforms with their identity, people fear that they are hiding behind a cunning mask that allows them to “bypass” into certain areas which they shouldn’t enter. Instead of the trans person being an individual, they become an act in the mind of the ignorant. Not a human relieving their bladder, but a dangerous forgery hiding behind a camouflage for malicious reasons.

Luckily the bathroom issue doesn’t happen often, and a lot of the time, trans people use bathrooms with little to no hassle. I’ve experienced no troubles as of yet, and I’ve been using public toilets as a woman for over a year now. But nonetheless, it does still happen, it does still affect people, and you do still hear of numerous cis men and women expressing concern about sharing bathrooms with someone who wasn’t initially assigned the same gender as they were at birth. When you go around telling people that transgender women are men and transgender men are women, you’re going to add fuel the fire of these idiots who think trans folk are liars plotting to take them down from behind the confines of a once-safe public door. Seriously, it may not be the sole cause of this twisted (and ironically perverted) paranoia, but it’s certainly propping up one the ideas lurking behind its existence.

Another problem with this binary obsessed, biological superiority is the implication it has with trans people in the eyes of straight individuals who may find them attractive. I’ve been on the receiving end of this problems numerous times now, and although most guys in general are ok with finding out they’re attracted to a trans woman, there are unfortunately a handful of highly insecure individuals out there who become hostile whenever they realise a girl they are chatting to was initially assigned a guy. I’ve had drunk lads get frustrated while repeating “you have a cock”, one threaten to break my jaw if I told anyone he chatted me up (prior to knowing), and guys making grossed out sounds whenever I explain to them that I’m transgender.

If you live in a world where you’re constantly told trans women are men, you’re going to increase the likelihood of insecure straight guys becoming angry whenever they are attracted to a girl who everyone’s telling them is really a boy (and vice versa, because it does happen the other way too). These guys don’t just target trans women of course, as gay men have also been known to come under attack whenever they cross paths with such angry and fearful lifeforms. Still, it’s a problem which affects the trans community too, and many have been murdered as a result. If you’re straight and insecure, nine times out of ten, you’re still going to be attracted to a women. Seeing as trans women present as women, chances are, that fearful person may one day find themselves liking a woman of this nature. If these people are to believe the notion that this girl is not a girl when she is, then problems could quite easily arise.

Like I say, most men aren’t like this, but again, the man/woman male/female belief is just pouring more gasoline onto their bonfire.

It’s not only transphobes or scared straight dudes that misgendering impacts, as being referred to by a gender you don’t identify with also strengthens the internal dysphoria experienced by trans people themselves. Gender dysphoria is one of the hardest feelings to explain. For one thing, the emotions can differ significantly from person-to-person.

The best way I can describe gender dysphoria in relation to myself is by comparing it to the feeling you experience when you see something that’s so outlandishly violent or gross that it turns your stomach inside out. It’s like looking at a football player after his bone has shot through his shin, or a man getting his head crushed by a vehicle, or anything basically found on Rotten.com. Anything that turns your bones cold and stomach hot is the feeling I experience whenever I perceive myself or am referred to as a man.

I would get this feeling any time I looked in the mirror during my teenage years. The facial hair, the adam’s apple, the broad shoulders, the muscular arms; all triggered this revolting reaction whenever I remembered such features existed on my body. The shape, the feel, the look; it was all vile. In the end the only way I could cease this sickening feeling was by presenting as a woman, spending thousands of pounds on facial hair removal, another several hundred on risky hormone replacement therapy medication and years of an incredibly difficult social transition. Years of work helped ease the endless discomfort of dysphoria, but to hear a “sir” uttered one’s way, or a “mr” in a doctor’s office, or a “Dan” from my mother, or a “it’s a fucking dude” fired from some thoughtless prick’s mouth in a bar; brings all that dysphoria rushing back to torment me. For days, sometimes even months after, that feeling remains and it takes a lot of time for such a feeling to subside again.

Yes, ok, I’ve gone back to being all personal again haven’t I. I said near the start that I was specifically referring to how misgendering contributes to a larger and more violent form of transphobia, yet this point contradicts my pledge right? Well not really, because you see, dysphoria isn’t just a horrid feeling, but it can also be a killer.

Dysphoria differs in intensity from person to person. This is why some trans people have to transition at a very young age, whereas others can go on well into old age before they make the leap. This is because as time goes on, feelings of dysphoria increase in every trans person. Eventually, the feeling gets so intense and unbearable that there are usually two options for a trans person to take; transition, or let the pain consume you.

On the 28th December 2014, Leelah Alcorn took her own life after posting a suicide note on Tumblr. Leelah was raised in a highly conservative Christian home in Ohio. When she was 14, Leelah came out as transgender to her mother and father. Her parents refused to accept her identity and when she turned 16, they denied her request to undergo gender reassignment. Instead of allowing her what she wanted, Mr and Mrs Alcorn sent Leelah to a Christian-oriented conversion therapy program. The aim of these twisted programs is to try and convince gay and transgender teens to reject their identities and sexualities.

Eventually her parents removed Leelah from school, as she had revealed that she fancied other boys in her classes. Shortly after all this, Leelah wrote a post (which would become her suicide note) in which she talked about the loneliness and alienation she experienced as a result of being forced to reject her gender identity in favor of her birth assigned one. Later on that night, Leelah walked into oncoming traffic.

Transgender suicides like Leelahs are still far too common in this day and age. Parents, peers and strangers attempting to force trans people into rejecting their identities - particularly amongst teens - has often been a huge contributing factor in high suicide rates amongst gender variant people. Misgendering doesn’t just offend someone, it tears them apart, one day at a time.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the preceding paragraphs the word “biological superiority”, which is basically what this “trans women are men and trans men are women” argument is. People who adamantly believe and claim that biology ultimately defines their overall gender are essentially saying they are the authentic one whereas trans people are the inauthentic by challenging conventional expectations. The ways in which I’ve heard some folk go on about how they don’t think they should be sharing a bathroom with a trans person because it makes them feel uncomfortable leaves me stunned by just how self-righteous such a statement sounds. Because of the shape of their genitals, and the chromosomes they wouldn’t even know where there if it they weren’t told, somehow think they get to act as if they alone can and can’t choose who enters public spaces alongside them.

The misgendering itself is also a form of biological superiority. The person doing the misgendering is assuming the right to appoint another gender identity to those they don’t understand. They confidently call a trans woman a man, despite the fact that her entire existence shows otherwise.

Those who think they have the right to snatch an identity away from another are essentially seeing themselves as a higher form of human; one who can call others whatever and whoever they like.

They talk about trans people and the public spaces they occupy as if they are the sole masters in the trans communities’ fate. As if they have the right to determine who we are and where we may go in public. Again, most people are highly tolerant of trans people using the same public spaces as them these days, but as we’ve seen in North Carolina over the past few days, there still are some out there who spend thousands of dollars on tax payers’ money to hold a meeting where they decide whether it’s ok or not for trans people to access the public restrooms which match their gender. Thinking you’re more of a man or a woman because of your biology pushes trans people into a no-space. After years of hormone replacement therapy, electrolysis, name changes and painful social transitions, do you really think it’s nice for a transphobic cis man or woman to go up to a trans woman and say “you’re a man”? And would this transphobic cis man or woman really believe she was a man, I mean really? With all those changes? Of course not. Most trans women don’t look anymore like a man than Kate Middleton does, so if she’s not a woman but she’s also not physically or psychologically a man, then what are they trying to say she is?

Which of course is what trans people are also sometimes referred to as; it. All these years of being pushed outside of the gender boxes by transphobes, that vile little slur spawned into existence. You sometimes hear the “he,she,it” line uttered and it’s possibly one of the most dehumanizing things you can say to a person. By calling someone an it, you are removing them of any identity altogether. You strip them of their person, they are no longer human in the eyes of the bigot, they are an unusual, exotic, extraterrestrial thing.

These are just some of the worldly transphobic situations which misgendering can enhance, however what about the act of misgendering itself. I mean ok, so you might think so what if it has larger impacts Amber, surely it’s such an insignificant thing to be called a sir from time to time. It’s just a word, and it hasn’t affected you in the ways you describe above.

And yes, ok, fair point, except it isn’t really, because the act of misgendering isn’t just a momentary little insult which goes unnoticed, because much like the T word, the N word or the F word, misgendering has its own historical context for the trans community. Misgendering is often heard during hate crimes. Trans men and women have heard their birth assigned gender uttered at them in acts of violent rage as transphobic people beat them to death; the last words they ever hear. Slurs referring to birth genitalia or pronouns spat at their faces as they experience the final few moments of their existence in unthinkable terror.

The words “it’s a man” are also often heard moments before an object is hurled from a car or a window at a trans pedestrian.

Heck, even the fact that misgendering can lead to suicide is technically considered a form of language which influences the victim into taking their own life. Misgendering is used by killers, yet is also a killer in and of itself.

The context of misgendering is their use in hate crimes throughout history. They are words and ideas which go hand in hand with verbal assault, beatings, suicide and even murder. When I hear a repulsed guy in a bar go “look at that fucking bloke”, or an elderly gentleman utter “fucking tr**ny” under his breath (both actual experiences of mine by the way), I can feel the hate and anger tucked into their words. The ways their lips clench and the words leave their mouths like involuntary ticks. Misgendering may at times be a clumsy mistake (we all slip up from time to time), but when someone intentionally shouts about how biology makes all trans people fakes in the opposite gender’s clothes, well there’s quite clearly a lot more hate going on under the skin.

And I say this because, what’s the problem? Really? I mean why do transphobes want to deny that trans people exist? Why do they feel they need to prove that we somehow aren’t what we say and know we are? Who wins at the end of all this?  What do people really want? Do they want big burly trans men using the women’s toilets while busty trans woman pee at urinals? Do they want us all to have masculine names so they can tell us apart from the “real” girls? Do they want us all to put on as heap of ugly looking clothes so that we don’t inspire any lust in a straight guy or gal’s eyes? Do they want us all to throw away our wardrobes and start buying clothes that match our birth assigned gender? Do you want to drive countless people to suicide by forcing them out of existence? Is that a perfect world? Really? Misery, pain, suicide, murder; is that what you want?

Nah, fuck that, I don’t want that kind of world, and neither does a lot of people. Because seriously, this post sounds at times like I’m aiming this at the cisgender population as a whole. I’m not. Almost all cis people I’ve encountered in my time have been nothing but supportive and understanding to transgender people and the issues we face. Most detest misgendering and will call out transphobia whenever they notice it taking place. Not only are they fantastic in this regard, but the trans community needs their help. We are a growing voice but still need all the help we can get. Those who you consider friends, colleagues, lovers, families; they will help us all gain a bigger voice on the global stage. Last year saw some of the most dramatic changes for trans visibility within the mainstream media take place. The media exploded with content relating to the issues trans men and women face. A more intellectual discussion is now growing amongst the larger population and the majority are now growing up when it comes to trans rights.

However there are still some out there amongst the masses who continue to misgender intently. I don’t mean those who slip up or may have mistaken someone’s gender at one time or another (we’re all human, we all make mistakes). I’m solely referring to those who openly preach the notion that trans people don’t exist, that they are pretending to be something that they are not, that their biology defines their existence and that they infiltrate public spaces where they think they don’t belong.

And now look, before I go, I must add that I’m all for freedom of speech; despite what you may presume after reading this post. I’m a giant support of the right to express views, and I’m in no way saying there’s no place in our world to discuss and challenge the complex differences (and similarities) between sex, gender and what it truly mean to have an identity. Our species learns largely by sharing and challenging one another’s ideas, however there’s a time and a place for such discussions and if one goes around blindly misgendering strangers or people on the street, then they’re exploiting their freedom to express opinions in a manner which sharpens the blade of transphobia. Freedom of speech is a vital part of our society, however if we begin to use this right as a justification to strengthen prejudice, then  it falls outside the realms of free speech and into the lands of hate speech.

The guitarist who referred to me and my girlfriend as “Lads” was more than likely just being a bit of a bellend. He probably didn’t realise what he was saying, and for all we know, he could very well be someone who’s never really thought about nonconforming gender identities.

Still, he did piss me off.