So there’s a comic making the rounds right now featuring a crocodile sneaking into a pond by “transitioning to a newt” so it can eat the poor creatures in the pond. And I’m not gonna link to it because honestly it’s positively phobic and vile, but I do wanna talk about it.
Gosh I hate things like this. They break my heart because I hate it when folks’ fear and hatred of me and people like me becomes just so incredibly crystalized.
There’s some stuff at the top of the order like… we all get that we’re talking about bathrooms, and particularly the women’s bathroom. So kinda… let’s break down what we’re seeing:
(Let’s just like.. ignore the whole “women can’t possibly protect themselves” trope here because there’s so much to work with.)
This is a comic about fear. It is about danger. It is visceral and terrifying. Like.. there’s this crazy eyed reptile “slithering” into the pond with all these defenseless creatures right? This is meant to evoke a panic and it does that with gusto. People who buy this story are afraid. People who think this are scared. And scared people don’t do rationality. We are not gonna logic this problem away, we are not going to reassure them that I’m ok to be in the women’s room.
So much of this comes down to the language of masculinity and the way that trans women are subjected to it as a context for our femininity. Men describe themselves in animalistic language almost as a compliment. They portray themselves perhaps as a lion, a wolf, a hawk, a tiger, a bear, or whatever. There’s often this language of natural strength and cunning paired with this idea that men are apex predators. So what do you call a loathsome man? You don’t take his predatory nature away, no, you make him secretive, slimy, efficient, cowardly. You make him a snake or a shark. You make him something that crawls along the ground or preys on weakness and surprise. This is different from “weak” men who are still men but are described as rodents or meek creatures. (“are you a man or a mouse?”) Those men aren’t predatory anymore, they’re too weak for that. Instead they’re just gross.
Why does this matter? There are two things at work here. One, the language of men is still being used to describe trans women. Two, trans women are described as the lowliest of low creatures in the male hierarchy. Trans women are not just men, in this language, they are weak men who prey on unfortunate. That’s the story. But the important part of this is that, no matter what, they will portray me as a predator — the question is what kind of predator I’m going to be in their book.
Because as long as they see me as a predator they will never do anything but worry about me. So how do we stop that impulse? This isn’t an educational issue with them. They’re gone. The only thing that is gonna stop the individual from being afraid of me, or any other trans person, is exposure to us. They have to see us again, and again, and again, as what we are and not as something threatening to them. If you have a phobia about spiders or snakes you’re not particularly likely to be someone who is very familiar with spiders or snakes. Fear lives in the places where understanding hasn’t taken root.
So the solution here is positive media. And a lot of it. It’s exposure. It’s trans people being out and casual and visible in TV shows. It’s TV shows set in rural USA having a feel good episode where the main characters get over their bigotry about trans people. This starts to stop when you get Tim Allen to do an episode of whatever-that-show-is-he’s-on-right-now featuring trans people being casual. We’ve been through this before — it’s gonna take DECADES to bring this down from the boiling point as a society and it’ll still be there. It just won’t be socially acceptable. Homophobia still exists, just bigoted people are aware of the consequences of putting it on display. This kind of fear is multi-generational.
And fixing it at an individual level is work. It’s hard, hard work. It’s a monumental effort to get just one person to walk away from views like this. This is what makes someone like Contrapoints so amazing and important. That’s the kind of work she does and she does it well, for those who have ears to listen. It means outreach. It means people like me and other trans folks answering unfair questions calmly. It means me going out in sitting in front of groups of people for no other reason than that I’m trans and talking to them so that maybe, just maybe they won’t raise their kids with the same prejudices.
And people always look to trans folks for answers on how to solve the problem of predators in the bathroom, as though they won’t give us decency and dignity until we solve this problem. It is not trans folks’ problem to solve what ACTUAL predatory men do. Straight up, if we knew how to fix men so they’d stop terrifying the hell out of us don’t you think we’d do it already? This is a bigger discussion than trans issues. Anyone who wants to put it on my plate as a trans woman to fix men before they’ll treat me with dignity can, with all the kindness my frosty buddhist heart can summon up, go fuck themselves.