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Letter: Education can help people understand transgenderism

Education can help people understand transgenderism

During the last year, politicians, the media and the public have been paying increased attention to the issue of transgenderism. Encouraged by conservatism in general and by Christian fundamentalism in particular, much of this attention has been negative. The incidence of violence against transsexuals has also increased. Politicians have taken advantage of the situation by passing legislation that is clearly unconstitutional, as in North Carolina, where religious fanaticism has met the demands of capitalism and, under pressure from many major corporations, may pay a high price in lost revenues.

Ignorance of what it means to be transgender is partly responsible because unfortunately, facts are often insufficient to correct uninformed perceptions.

First of all, being transgender is not a choice. While science has not ascertained as yet why it happens, we know that it happens in utero. The same applies to homosexuality, where we also know that it is not a choice but is as immutable as being heterosexual. It is also totally counterintuitive to believe that someone would choose to be a part of a group that has been vilified, oppressed and subjected to violence and even death for centuries.

It is not possible to really feel what it must be like to have a male body but the identity of a female or the other way around. Only a transsexual individual can really feel what that is like. While most of us cannot have an emotional understanding of this, we should try to accept it because it is a reality. Most homosexual and transgender individuals offer the same narrative: “I tried being straight but ultimately I had to recognize and accept that this is who I am.” As a sex therapist since 1981, I have heard this hundreds of times.

One of the interesting sidelines of this issue is that former homophobes, once they understand the issue, become advocates for tolerance, especially if a family member is either transgender or homosexual.

It would be a good thing if those who inveigh the loudest against these very human variations tried to inform themselves from the available literature.

Andre Toth