I’m scared. I’m scared and I’m angry. Scared because I’m exposed to voices in the mainstream media who hate me and people like me. Angry because time and again those same voices are given a platform to spread their destructive message of prejudice and intolerance.
I’m one of the fortunate ones. I have a wonderful daughter, a job, my own home, a fabulous group of supportive friends. I don’t get misgendered in public. The only personal harassment I suffer is the everyday stuff any woman deals with: being asked to smile by strangers, facing presumptions about my (lack of) competence, being ignored and spoken over, never having decent pockets in clothes.
I should feel great about it. I did feel great about it. Until recently. There’s been a change: the attacks used to predictable, occasional occurrences. The usual suspects in the usual places. I could brush that off. But in the last year or so there has been such a huge increase in the media (mainstream and especially social media) in content that seeks to turn public opinion against trans people like me.
On the surface they seem so reasonable. They want a debate. They’re concerned about women, about women’s rights, about safeguarding children. That’s the thin end of the wedge, their foot in the door. That gets them an audience. And once they have people listening they start with the fearmongering.
They don’t want a debate: they want a platform. And they get it daily in newspapers, on the radio and TV. They cry about being silenced from every outlet imaginable. And they go about their strategy of sowing distrust and apprehension. FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
They refuse to refer to trans women as women. After all, that might suggest we’re at risk too. They invent hypothetical situations based on little or no evidence and use these to suggest trans women pose a risk (it’s always trans women specifically, you’ll notice). Everything they say is calculated to portray us as a group separate from women, as other.
They don’t need or even want evidence to back their wild claims. How much easier is it to raise fears of a modern day bogeyman such as the male rapist donning a dress to access women’s spaces if you’re not burdened by the necessity of finding elusive examples of it ever having happened? But even if it were a thing, what does it have to do with trans people? Surely if it’s a problem, it’s a problem whether or not trans women have access? In fact, wouldn’t trans women be at risk too, perhaps even greater risk?
These are the exact same tactics used against immigrants, Muslims and other groups by the far right. They are the same fears raised 30 years ago during the fight against Section 28 in support of gay rights. The dismaying thing is that it works, especially in the factionalised society we live in where we are encouraged by the media and many in the public eye to see everything in terms of us and them.
So I’m scared. Scared in case I encounter somebody who has been encouraged by such rhetoric to see me as a threat. Scared, more than ever, that I will be physically attacked. I get nervous being out on my own anyway: that’s par for the course as a lone woman. But these so-called feminists have made this woman doubly afraid to merely be visible in public.
And that’s why I’m also angry.