Making the Case: Part 1
About three years ago, I posted a seven part series called “Understanding” which had the goal of helping those unfamiliar with the condition trans people were dealing with better, well, understand. Those posts had the primary purpose of offering a layman’s explanation of the condition and the implications thereof. If you are dealing with someone who has a compassionate heart but just lacks information, it’s a series I highly recommend, and it begins with this one. These upcoming posts will focus more on equipping trans people and their allies to engage the public conversation and make compelling arguments for why non-discrimination policies and social acceptance are right and just. These arguments are not for the hard-core haters, even though that might nominally be the person you are directly addressing, but for the multitudes of quiet readers who will be watching the debate to see who makes the most compelling case. The former is unlikely to be swayed, but the latter will often respond favorably.
As I said in those previous posts, there are two caveats: First, this is a site whose origin was primarily focused on crossdressing. In that sense this will be well off topic, but truth be told, i went off that reservation some time ago.
Second, and particularly in light of the foregoing, I will use terms and pronouns which are in the context of the male-to-female aspect of being trans. This is not to minimize or dismiss the reality of female-to-male trans persons, but it stands to reason that that phenomena which we call “crossdressing” is almost exclusively a M2F issue, and as such that’s the audience this discussion is likely to find. You should read each of those references as including the unspoken addendum “or vice versa” as the F2M is just as valid a state of being as M2F.
The goal of this series is to help people who might not have honed their ability to communicate the things they know to be true, as well as possibly to look for certain traps common to this sort of discussion. One of the most common examples is the opponent who constantly attempts to shift the terms of the debate if he can’t handle your response. A convincing comment needs to be on point. I obviously can’t have your discussions for you, but I can give you resources and tools with which to make your case.
For the purpose of this series, and by the way in my own online discussions in general, I’ll use the term transsexual rather than transgender. While trans people continue an ongoing debate about the use of both these terms as well as others, what leaks out into the thinking of our opposition is that the latter term refers to any sort of gender non-conformity under one big umbrella and will seek to use, say, drag queens as an example to undermine your position. If one understands the former (“transsexuals”) to refer only to those person who’s experience of gender dysphoria only receives relief by means of transition then it more clearly focuses the discussion. While I support a culture which respects all forms of gender non-conformity, the laws which have been made the object of controversy refer to “gender identity and expression” and that defined as an identity and expression of gender at opposition to one’s sex assumed at birth. That is, one assumed to be male at birth who identifies AND expresses themselves as female, or the other way around. Expressions of gender such as “nonbinary” or “gender fluid” are not really in view in these conversations (though they are covered broadly under non-discrimination laws) because your opponent will misuse those terms to misstate the position of trans people. They want to argue that we’re defending the notion that a man can just claim that he “feels like a woman today” and gain access impulsively. By using the more narrow term, I seek to confine the discussion to those people actually relevant to the laws being debated at the time.
In the next entry, I want to look into what we mean by that term, and show you how to establish the most important stones in the foundation of your argument.
Photo by: Michael Coghlan