Recently, literary magazine The Antioch Review published an article by Dan Harris called “The Sacred Androgen: The Transgender Debate”. This article is deeply transphobic - this post is my response.
The first “wtf” moment of Harris’ article is when he begins right away referring to trans people as “TGs”. This is objectifying, dehumanizing, othering, and basically makes us sound like a weird class of alien people, setting up the article for its ultimate transphobic motif. Is it really so hard to just say “trans people”?
Oh but he starts the article saying trans people still have our humanity and by citing some of the awful shit that happens to trans people like ok Mr. Harris you must not be transphobic if you’re acknowledging that society continues to fuck trans people over. This will protect you from any response that labels you a transphobe, right?
Ok so after that quick aside, Harris launches into some deeply problematic stuff. He says that trans people are “entangling” us with our pleas for proper pronouns. He calls this plea “Byzantine” and “patronising” and a “snare”. Yes, my desire to not be called “he” or “sir” is so complex and patronizing. I’m sorry our desires to not be misgendered are so inconvenient for cis people like yourself, you must really spend so much of your time agonizing over how badly trans people treat you Mr. Harris because we ask you to use our pronouns. How many trans people have you met Mr. Harris? How many times have you actually had to think about pronoun usage? Does this really pose a problem in your life? Compare that to how troubling it is for a trans person to be routinely misgendered - it literally feels like a knife in the gut. And yet my desire to not be knifed in the gut is “Byzantine”.
Next, Harris says it’s “insulting” to use the “pejorative” term “cisgender”. He defines it as “those of us who accept, however unenthusiastically, our birth gender”. But this is wrong. It’s not about enthusiasm or comfort or anything like that, nor is it about “accepting your birth gender”. It literally means “non trans”. Mr Harris, are you a trans person? If not, then you’re cis. It’s not an insult. It’s a description. It’s not meant to define your entirety as a person, you are surely more than just a mere Not Trans Person. I mean, it’s in the Oxford English DIctionary. It’s used by academics. It’s completely neutral. The only reason it feels like an insult is because it’s not a term you would choose to describe yourself because you don’t identify as “not trans”. But tough luck.
According to Harris trans people shouldn’t be upset that cis people are “curious” about our bodies. But the fact that Harris can’t see the problem with this curiosity just hammers home the Cis Blinders that Harris has on. Of course he can’t see the problem because Harris has never been reduced to just his genitals, or been gawked at like a freakshow, or have had a horrible time dating because of people rudely asking about his private parts. You know who else is curious? Kids are curious about why someone has a scar on their face but guess what? We teach them to be polite and not bring it up unless the context is right. Why can’t Mr Harris learn that simple lesson when it comes to people’s genitals?