We Need to Address the Unevenness of Trans Acceptance
An important problem too few are talking about at the moment.
Welcome back to Trans Realist, a project where I have a conversation with my fellow trans people, about what could be done to make our lives better in the real world.
Today, I want to talk about an often overlooked issue: the uneven state of trans acceptance we have right now. I mean, LGBT acceptance has always been uneven, and different parts of the Western world became ready for gay marriage at different times in the past two decades, for example. However, I still think the current distribution of trans acceptance is historically uneven, and is certainly more unevenly distributed than, say, the level of support for marriage equality fifteen years ago, if you want something to compare with.
So why are we seeing this unevenness of trans acceptance? Part of it is the current political polarization, which is often along geographic, demographic and educational lines. This is why aiming to end, or at least lessen, the political polarization should be an important priority for trans people and our allies. It is also why we need to actively build bridges and actively reach out to people from different backgrounds. We should aim to connect with people by emphasizing our common ground on shared values like compassion and decency, as well as a common respect for the Enlightenment values that underpin modern Western societies, like honoring each other’s freedoms, and a commitment to science and objectivity.
We also need to acknowledge the fact that society is made up of people with different personality types. This is relevant because some styles of trans activism from recent years are likely to have alienated people of certain personality types. For example, people who pride themselves on free thinking could be turned off by seemingly being told what they can say or think. The collectivist atmosphere of much of recent LGBT culture could be an additional alienating factor for these people. The frequency with which some activists make statements indicating a wish for radical cultural change certainly doesn’t help with promoting acceptance among traditionalist and communitarian types. The us vs them rhetoric is also a big turn off for communitarian minded people in general. The overall truth is, the current messaging of trans activism isn’t playing well with a substantial portion of society, and this must change.
It is important to encourage a more even distribution of trans acceptance, because the current uneven distribution has many harmful effects on the trans community. For example, many trans people continue to live in very unaccepting environments, and their voices are not often heard directly. Meanwhile, other, more privileged trans people, who get to live in accepting environments, including most of those who are activists or celebrities, often do no more than pay lip service to the struggles of the left behind.
Moreover, the uneven acceptance and polarized attitudes towards trans issues makes the trans community very vulnerable to being used as a political football in the tribal culture wars. We might even be starting to see trans issues become a regular part of national election campaigns, like gay marriage was for nearly two decades. The trans culture wars were an unexpected part of the recent Australian election, and many people expect it to feature prominently in the 2024 US and UK elections too. If we want to avoid that fate, I think the crucial thing to do is to address the uneven acceptance problem.