5 Ways To Handle Relatives' Transphobic Comments During The Holidays
Many of us will be reuniting with relatives this holiday season, which often means being faced with some backwards social views. In order to help us navigate these difficult situations, though, illustrator and transgender activist Kat Blaque and MTV Decoded host Franchesca Ramsey give advice on handling these remarks in the video "8 Comebacks for Transphobic Relatives Over the Holidays." The video was posted to YouTube before Thanksgiving, but the advice it gives can help out with any holiday — or any situation involving transphobic relatives, for that matter.
Blaque and Ramsey explain that the trans community has gained greater visibility during 2015 through spokespeople like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, and people have more understanding attitudes toward trans people as a result. However, transgender people remain the least accepted of all LGBTQ people, with only three percent of LGBTQ adults feeling as if trans people are widely accepted, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. And one-third of participants in a 2015 Yougov survey responded that it is morally wrong to be transgender. Only 18 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said this, compared to 38 percent of those ages 45 to 64, which means visiting older relatives could elicit particular tensions.
In case someone in your family holds transphobic attitudes, here are some ways Blaque and Ramsey recommend addressing them. Scroll down to watch the full video for more.
1. If Someone Says: "I'm Still Calling Bruce Jenner Bruce..."
Or anything that misgenders someone or uses the wrong name.
Say: "What If Your Friend Wanted You To Call Them By Their Middle Name?"
It's the same concept, Ramsey points out: People get to decided what they're called. "Respecting a trans person's name isn't so much to ask," she adds.
2. If Someone Says: "I Don't Want Men In A Women's Restroom..."
Someone may say that it's a violation of privacy or that the "men" they're complaining about (who are actually trans women) could sexually assault women in a bathroom.
Say: "Why Would You Care About The Genitals Of Someone Peeing Next To You?"
That's a violation of privacy — not someone using a bathroom primarily occupied by those with different genitals. Besides, there has never been a reported attack by a trans person in a bathroom. Actually, trans people are disproportionately the victims of sexual assault, and the right to choose which bathroom they use could help them feel safer.
3. If Someone Says: "Has So-And-So Had The Surgery Yet?"...
This may come up when discussing celebrities, a mutual acquaintance, or perhaps even someone else at the table.
Say: "That's None Of Our Business."
Or, as Ramsey, more snarkily puts it, "Worry about your own genitals, please." We don't normally ask people about their what's between their legs, yet many seem to have the idea that trans bodies are public property. They're not.
4. If Someone Says: "I Think They're Just Gay"...
People often conflate gender identity and sexual orientation, believing that everyone who transitions will then be attracted to the opposite gender or that trans people are really just gay.
Say: "Gender Identity Is Not Sexuality."
You can point out that some people are very feminine and attracted to women and some are masculine and attracted to men; you can't identify someone's sexual orientation based on their gender presentation. As Blaque puts it, "Sexuality is who you go to bed with, and gender identity is who you go to bed as."
5. If Someone Says: "How Do I Know What To Call Someone If They Don't Look Like A Man Or A Woman?"...
People may express confusion over what to call someone whose gender isn't apparent or who doesn't identify with a gender.
Say: "You Can Say 'They' — Or Just Ask Them What Pronoun They Prefer."
This problem's not as complicated as some people might think. Some bigender, pangender, agender, and genderqueer people might prefer gender-neutral pronouns like "ze" or "phe"; "they" also works to describe not just gender-nonconforming people but also anyone whose gender you don't know or don't want to reveal. Ramsey also mentions that if you're not sure about someone's preferred pronoun, you can just ask.
Watch the full video here for more ways to handle relatives' transphobic comments during the holidays:
Images: MTV News/YouTube (5)