As I was idly thinking about future College of Curiosity events, my mind wandered to potential speakers and contributors I might invite. I put together a mental list of qualifications and desirable characteristics and went down the folks I knew who seem to meet the metrics I was looking for.
A name popped up. It is someone I’ve never met, but she’s done good work over the past few years. She’s well-spoken, a good writer, and shares that ever-important curiosity that we’re trying to promote here.
Then I thought, “Oh, but she’s transgender.” And I crossed her off the list.
And then I sat down to write this Daily Curio. It is clear, from that transient thought, that I was being transphobic, or if that word is too ill-defined, I was at least being prejudicial towards someone who was transgender.
Was it because I think “transgenderism” is some sort of political statement rather than a real “condition”? No, I don’t think that at all. I think transgender people are sincere in who they believe they are, and that anyone telling them they’re not who they are should really take a closer look at how they came to their own identity.
Was it because I disapproved of their “lifestyle”? No, I don’t disapprove of their lifestyle. In fact, I don’t think being transgender is simply a lifestyle. I think it’s an important part of who those folks are as human beings.
Was it because I thought of them as somehow mentally challenged? Nope. It seems that most of the challenges that transgender people have to deal with come from other people who can’t accept them. And apparently, I’m one of them.
So why did I automatically discount someone who was transgender from being a speaker at an event I’m considering? The answer wasn’t hard to find: I was concerned that their status as a “transgender” person would get in the way of whatever their topic might be. It’s a real concern; I’ve seen it happen. A transgender person states an opinion or presents research on something, and the comments reflect on the person’s gender identity rather than what they’re saying.
And then I slapped myself hard, and wrote this article. Prejudice isn’t always generated by malice. I certainly bear no malice towards people who are transgender. But I am prejudiced just the same, and the end result is just as harmful. I am helping to perpetuate the idea that transgender people can’t fulfill the same roles that cisgendered people can. And that is the very definition of “bullshit.”
Fortunately, I have curiosity on my side. I don’t need to be defensive. I don’t need to hide my prejudice under a cloak of rationalization or anecdotes. I just need to recognize it for what it is, and then decide what I’m going to do to overcome it.
Curiosity can be a cure for prejudice. Or at the very least, it can be a treatment. And I invite you to try it the next time you catch yourself in a snap-judgement that’s based more on reaction than insight. Put away your horror, shame and defensiveness and replace them with a desire to learn more about what’s going on. You, and truly the entire world, will be better for it.
And now I have some work to do.
UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that the term “transgendered” is not accurate, and that “transgender” is more appropriate. I’ve updated the text and added an update to the audio. That’s one more thing I learned today.