The hate bus or the hated bus

Claudia Justel

Last week, one news managed to grab the whole of the Spanish media, as well as arouse the debate in social networks. An ultra-Catholic group called Hazte Oír began to circulate, on 27 February, a bus with a transphobic message throughout the city of Madrid. That message was as follows: “Children have a penis. Girls have a vulva. Do not be fooled. If you are born a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you will remain so.”

The city council soon reacted and immobilized the bus the following morning, considering that the campaign breached municipal ordinances and incited hatred. The response took barely 24 hours to arrive by the mayor of the capital. But the same happened with institutions, political parties, unions, organizations, associations, users of social networks and, ultimately, a large part of the Spanish population that with its own means also manifested the deep rejection to the anti-transgender slogan of the religious group.

The Catholic community defends itself in the following way: they appeal to the right to freedom of expression that the Spanish Constitution declares and demands for all citizens in its article 19. In my opinion, the freedom of expression is no longer justified in the moment in which it goes against the respect and the dignity of any person. And this message implicitly encourages unacceptable behaviours and disrespect towards people on the grounds of sexual orientation that should be entirely incompatible with an advanced society. The bus of shame incites not only hatred but homophobia and transphobia.

With this campaign, Hazte Oír focuses on a group, the transgender one, especially misunderstood throughout history, weak and vulnerable, whose rates of depression and suicide speak for themselves of the difficulties they encounter to develop normally in our “modern” and “democratic” society. But the worst of all is that they do, in particular, pointing out the children of this group, which is, those who are even more exposed to marginalization and live with more intensity the confusion between their sexual identity and their gender identity.

Cases of bullying in schools and institutes, and at an earlier age, are becoming more common these days. Children, who are also the supposed receivers to whom the message is primarily directed; what will they think about this if any of them is transgender? What about their families? And what about the bully? These are questions that I cannot answer, but what is clear is that this initiative has had to be carried out by people who do not know what it is to be born in a body that causes dysphoria and feel rejection for their own sexuality. And the fact is that I do not either, but I usually exercise empathy, which is something like putting yourself in the shoes of others, something that not everyone seems to try.

My question is: what kind of people do we want to live with? Do we want free human beings that, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, can develop their personality, or do we want people frustrated and terrified to accept the situation in which they were born? One does not choose where or how is born, but one can choose to make the world a better place or a real hell.

To conclude, is important to remember that this group is the same one that has historically incited women to submissively accept their subordination to man and that still today condemns their aspiration to equality as a “gender ideology.” It is also the same that has protected laws that condemned homosexuality as a criminal offense punishable by criminal law. They have also opposed any law that would expand rights and freedoms, be it divorce, abortion or same-sex marriage.