I'm Liberal. Am I wrong in this one opinion about transgenderism?

I’m Liberal. I believe trans people should be treated with complete respect. I think that their choice of pronouns should be used. I’m an LGBTQ ally and even do some gender-bending stuff myself, such as wearing makeup.

I’ve of course heard of Jordon Petersen and for the most part didn’t agree with his take on transgenderism and how it should be handled (though he tends to be mischaracterized in many ways by people who should know better). Ben Shapiro is a dick when he misgenders people, etc.

So here’s the opinion that fellow Liberals make take issue with: you can’t command people to perceive you in a particular way. Some trans people seem to expect greater validation of their appearance and status as being “really” of a certain gender than cis people can expect. E.g., it’s fine to criticize the appearance of a cis dude or chick (“Hey, that person is really ugly–look how they’re dressed–terrible!”), but it’s politically incorrect to say a trans person is fugly or isn’t dressed right or doesn’t look like their intended gender, etc. The former is just being a standard dick human, no big deal; the latter is being “transphobic,” a mortal sin.

Here’s where I see a paradox. Trans people want society to believe in gender and have standards with regard to it; otherwise, there would be no gender to become or have recognized by others. In a society in which men and women dressed, styled their hair, wore makeup, etc., completely as they pleased without any thought given to “male” or “female,” then a person transitioning would draw no attention whatsoever. Now perhaps they would want the biological accoutrements associated with one sex or the other, but no change in gender would occur, nor could they expect to be treated differently after the biological changes.

Our society isn’t like that, however; nor is any other. Moreover, aside possibly from gender-nonconforming people, trans people want to undergo a transition that does make a social difference. They want to be perceived as really being the gender of their choice. Moreover, they don’t want to be criticized in any way about their level of success in making the transition; i.e., looking good or not. This is what seems to me to be asking too much.

People are assholes, and people police every aspect of appearance down to minutiae. I’m a cis guy, and I know that if I walk out of the house “looking weird,” I’m going to catch flak for it. The vast majority of people are going to be too polite to say anything, but some will. Hell, I once went out wearing leather pants, lipstick, and eyeliner, and I was basically catcalled by a guy from a moving car. I know what it’s like (nothing negative was said… I think it was, “Where’d you get those pants?” But the vibe was still uncool and felt somewhat threatening. Don’t do that, people!)

In a way, I think the gender-blind society would be better. Be whatever you want, and the rule is that people can’t give you shit for it. On the flipside, you can’t demand that people positively validate your appearance, either, or see you as anything in particular.

So how am I politically incorrect? I’m sure posters here will tell me, but it seems that there is a strain of Liberalism in which anything trans requires 100% pious validation of however the trans person perceives themself or wishes to be perceived. I’m not doing that. I would never, as stated above, say anything to a trans person, give them a cross look–anything–but I reserve the right to think, “Wow, that appearance isn’t working,” and so on. (I don’t mean to imply, however, that I regularly think this. I think the majority of trans people look great, and I think some trans women look hot. In general, I like fucking with social norms anyway, hence my own gender-bending at times…)

OK, I’ve asked for a critique of the above… so please feel free to lay it on me. :slight_smile:

I largely agree with what you wrote above. There is a limit to what society can force people to do. You can force people to follow certain regulations, or procedures, or to do or say certain things, but the extent of controlling people’s inner thoughts is beyond society’s ability.

I challenge this assumption:

I guess if one is an equal-opportunity jerk, well, kudos’n’shit.

Oh I don’t think it’s a good thing. But I think it’s an aspect of human nature that’s very hard to overcome. When I’m a dick in my mind about other people’s appearance, it’s not as though I feel good about it…

Oh, I don’t care who you are, there is NEVER an excuse for being a fashion victim. If you go out looking like a candidate for People of Walmart, fuck yeah I’m going to criticize you. Trans, cis, whatever.

Uh, “fashion victims” and “People of Walmart” are opposites. Fashion victims put a lot of effort into imitating the way rich/famous/succesful people look.

I don’t think this generalization is warranted. A significant number of people who are trans don’t buy into gender at all, not in the sense of a clear standardized binary. I bet most transfolk would disagree with your statement about having standards with regard to it, because I understand you to mean standards of the form “women are like this, men are like that”. They would likely agree with standards like “when somebody tells you their gender you take them at their word and treat them accordingly, whether they are cis or trans”. Many wish society generally put less emphasis on gender.

I’m cis, myself, but many of my friends are trans and I have worked with many trans people. And I’ve read a lot of trans literature. This is where I’m coming from; it’d be great if some people could bring trans experience into the conversation.

There’s a standard for how we treat people who aren’t transgender. They present or identify themselves as women or as men, and we treat them accordingly. We don’t challenge them or flip 'em over to check for ourselves, and to do so would be unforgivable. This is the proper standard for how we should treat people who are transgender, too.

As to what impressions might be passing through your own mind, or anybody’s? If you’re acting as a decent human being, that’s nobody else’s concern. If you want to evolve to a more comfortable place, avail yourself of more trans books and movies, go to conferences, and have more trans friends if they’re happy with you.

You may be falling into the fallacy of confusing what people unlike yourself would prefer, with what you imagine they expect. Few minority groups of any persuasion expect to be treated fairly and politely, unless they are unable to learn from experience. They just would like that to be the case.

If I had to make a wild guess I would say that transgender people would ideally like to simply pass for the gender they believe themselves to be, and if they can’t quite do that, to be treated with the respect and politeness deserved by anyone who is just trying to live their life and not cause problems for others.

There is also a big difference between silently assessing someone based on physical cues like clothing, height, mannerisms, etc. – something everyone does, and actually must do, to negotiate life – and jeering out of a car window.

I live in an area where I encounter a lot more gender-ambiguous people than is common, and you know, I do not find it at all difficult to just treat them like human beings.

My attitude is not “I get to tell you how to perceive me” and more “If you understand me, you’re likely to perceive me closer to how I perceive myself”.

It’s not necessarily true: I may misperceive myself. We’ve all known people who think of themselves in ways that we don’t feel are warranted. I may be among them.

But if I’ve got a legitimate insight that I’m far more like one of the gals than akin to the other male people — which is by necessity a generalization among generalizations, since there are others like me — then if you come to understand that from a combination of your own observations plus the suggestion that that interpretation might be a useful one, you will perceive me in those terms and I will feel correctly understood.

But yeah, I don’t get to tell you what you must perceive. I might want to :slight_smile: , but I don’t have that power.

This is an incredibly bad take. There’s a difference between what individuals feel and wish for, and what individuals respond to on, let’s say twitter, and what transgenderism is about.

You later write " I reserve the right to think, ‘Wow, that appearance isn’t working’", like that is what your post is about, but that’s not what your previous talking points say. Nor is it a sensible interpretation of what most trans advocates promote.

Of course if someone is being a jerk and is dissing a trans woman’s appearance (it’s almost almost a trans woman) there will be responses with accusations of being transphobic. And sometimes that will be “unfair”. Say the person is just an equal opportunity asshole who genuinely has no other emotions and ideas than “I should tell people that their appearance doesn’t match the current mainstream ideal of beauty”.

But a lot more often people who find it necessary to go public with criticism of a trans woman’s appearance are genuinely transphobic. And for trans people, transphobia is a real threat. An attack on who they are, and sometimes a literal attack.

If you perceive assholes occasionally being called out for transphobia when they’re just assholes (I think those are rare) an unacceptable side effect of building acceptance for trans people, yeah, you should work on that.

Even if transgenderism was an entirely cultural phenomenon, which seems highly unlikely, discrimination and phobia is still a problem worth fighting. Yes, even if some people only see the most extreme opinions and feel they are being told they’re not allowed to think anyone is ugly.

I’ve had some thoughts in a similar directions:

But I think, in response, AHunter3 made a good point:

So maybe one might hold that those who are ‘in tune’ with the generalizations prevalent in society simply are on different footing with respect to criticism—appearance or behavior-wise—than those who aren’t. The differences in gender—the normative aspects of what’s proper in ways of behavior and appearance for a woman or a man—are ultimately a fiction; but they are a fiction that creates a certain lived reality for those within a given social context.

I think that your political affiliation is irrelevant to whether or not your are right or wrong about a particular issue. Your opinion on a specific topic is not more or less right because of your political leanings, nor should the validity of your opinion be affected by it.
I’m not sure why you mention that you’re a liberal or that other liberals might disagree with you on this. None of that really matters. The opinions of other liberals should not affect your convictions more than the opinions of non-liberals. The merit of opinions and arguments pertaining to specific issues should stand on their own and not be affected by the arguers other beliefs.
I am in no way criticizing you, I just think people too often dismiss other people’s opinions or arguments because the arguer is a Republican or some other affiliation. Worse still is when people too readily agree with another person who happens to belong to the same political party.
IOW, don’t be concerned whether other liberals might take issue with your opinion. I think society would be better served if people felt more comfortable about having their own beliefs instead of forming opinions along party lines. I’ll never be convinced that every single person who is against strict gun control is also against abortion. Yet, that’s how it seems. I can’t help but think this is due to people just going along with whatever their group claims to believe.
Anyway, sorry for the hijack.

What business is it of yours what other people choose to wear? They don’t need an “excuse” to do so.

If you look at other people and think inside your head that they look ugly, or that their clothes do, that’s the inside of your head and your business. Doing it out loud means it’s your ass that’s showing, not theirs. Even if their ass is literally showing.

And has it ever occured to you that whatever’s in style at any particular moment is going to look foolish to quite a number of people?

If you know specific people who think it’s fine to complain about how other people are dressed but don’t want anybody to complain in the same fashion about how they themselves are dressed, then call them on it. They should shut up about the people they’re criticizing.

But if what they’re complaining about is that people are criticizing them specifically for not looking like their gender is supposed to look: that’s a different problem. ‘Look at that dude trying to pass as a woman, that dress doesn’t even fit’ is not the same thing at all as ‘look at that woman wearing comfortable loose saggy/tight stretchy pants, she ought to be wearing whatever standard of snugness is in style at the moment.’ They’re both nasty, but they’re not the same sort of nasty; and they’re not in the same league of nasty, unless you’re somewhere where people might be physically attacked for wearing the “wrong” tightness of pants.

This. Making fun of people’s appearance is always shitty behavior. It’s especially shitty when they are struggling to overcome a disability–in this case, a pretty dramatic physical/hormonal disorder. It’s like making fun of a burn victim for being ugly. No one is going to physically prevent you from doing it, but when you do, they are going to call you an asshole.

I feel like my understanding of what you want to be able to do is not what you are really saying. Can you clarify?


I don’t know that trans people have that expectation. I suspect the rule of, “If you can’t say anything nice…”, generally applies in tolerant and just society.

Maybe I don’t hang around enough trans folk, but I’ve never had anyone demand validation from me.

I don’t see this IRL, personally. I see it in the culture wars via the media.

I also got personally slammed by a friend yesterday on this issue. He seemed, to me, to be taking a really reflexive PC approach to things, and I wanted to discuss some of the things I’ve said here. I wanted a reality check on my opinion.

I basically agree with your points. Why did I start off saying I was a Liberal? To avoid people assuming I was a Conservative and assuming other beliefs based on that. I did it to orient the conversation.

I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but since you are holding back details, this is what I am imagining:

“I was telling my buddy that [transwoman on TV] looked like a bag of hammers and that she should have fired her surgeon and invested in a paper bag for her head he gave me shit about it, and I am upset because last week I said way more derogatory things about Sally in accounting, about how I wouldn’t fuck her nasty ass face with someone else’s dick, and he laughed. So what I want to know is, why is it okay to say the latter and not the former?”

And there’s three answers to that. One is that it’s not okay to say the latter, either, but all kinds of “boys will be boys” behavior has been grandfathered in as “locker room talk” and being mean-spirited about people’s appearance is something people don’t reflect on. The second answer is, as I suggested earlier, transpeople are struggling with a disability. When someone has a burden you don’t, mocking them for not being “good enough” at something you never even had to face seems shitty. Finally, as other people have mentioned, transphobia often manifests as actual physical assault and death. People looking for validation for their violent, angry views may take those sorts of comments as normalizing their own rage.

Heh, I used to work for a woman who loved to talk about her and her quite young daughter negatively commenting on how people dressed. This was a while ago when goths were just beginning to be popular. She had a term she used that I can’t remember now, something similar to “beauty” with a very heavy sarcasm. She thought it was hilarious. All I could think was what an ass she was and what an ass she was training her daughter to be.

I’m not always crazy about new trends in fashion, but then I think how I dressed 40 years ago, and I mind my own business.