Achieving Transgender Equality Rights: How Passive Education can be MORE Effective.

 While we have seen many steps taken forward by the transgender population in securing basic human rights of equality, we are still many years behind the movement of the gay rights movement.  While much of this variance can be directly attributable to the fact that the gay rights movement has had many more years, and decades of traction, there is something else at work here that makes it more difficult for the transgender equality movement to ever find that same level of tractive momentum.

I believe change is going to come even more slowly for the transgender populace than it will for the gay and lesbian rights movement. We will get there... but the movement will be slower in achieving it's ultimate culmination as has occurred with greater rapidity within the GLB sphere. Much of this, I attribute to several factors...

1) The GLB realm has achieved many of their goals and has been able to permeate the media channels ahead of our movement. Their capabilities, holding positions within the media, allow them to integrate with the variety of networks to provide traction for such shows.  Unfortunately, the quality of the shows representing transgender individuals has been predominantly skewed and we are still the target of jocularity at our expense.   Usually, the depiction of a crudely dressed male in a dress serves to substantiate these images (we almost never ever see the reverse nor jokes of the oddly dressed woman in men's clothing...that's just not deemed "funny").  Some of the independent media channels are starting to change that image but it is slow going and still not inherent within mainstream media channels.

2) The GLB realm is more greatly understood then the transgender realm. The main impetus of this statement is as associable to the fact that most people can understand outward manifestations and actions within the gay populace more clearly then they can inward and non-tangible assertions of the identity which transgender people claim for their own. To put this more simply, people can understand "gay" because they simply see and can easily identity the tangible aspects that a gay person wants to BE with a another person of the same sex. With a transgender person, there is only the ASSERTION made by the individual that their identity is that of the "opposite sex" as is generally cited. There is less tangibility to the concept within the cis-gender world and, as we all know, if we can't see the world is round, then we have no tangibility as a human race, to ascertain that it is anything but flat.

3) Much of the GLB realm and others within the media are allowing for the portrayal of transgender individuals as fringe tag-alongs to the GLB community and depicting our lives as such within the mainstream media.  I covered this as a sub-part to item (1) but feel it needs its own bullet item number....and further discussion.

...And here is the BIG one....

4) Teaching others through education rarely works. Trying to sit on a show and explain our lives goes over most people's heads. No one likes to be lectured rhetoric as to why we are who we are.....and why we should deserve the respect and privacy yielded to others. Those that are different but for which (unlike the Gay and Lesbian population) there is no tangible ability to understand will always question and probe. It is rude, but it appears to be human nature. I can cite many examples in ordinary cis-gendered life where this happens if you like.

One of the most effective strategies I can see in furthering the transgender movement would be NOT so much through just active education and legislation (although it is an inseparable and intrinsic part of maintaining the forward momentum of our rights movement) but also to consider that those who come to accept us most learn to find us first as people the same as they are. In other words, education through passive learning associated with familiarization. This means, again in plain English, that people who get to know you as a person come to realize that you are the same as any other person. They may NEVER understand why we are who we are BUT they will find compassion to our needs and our rights simply because they will have a connective association with us as HUMAN BEINGS.

There are a couple of TED talks on passive learning as being FAR more effective than trying to stuff human rights and what is seen as a personal agenda down others throats. Acceptance comes with understanding. Understanding comes with familiarization. Those who do not wish to associate or familiarize themselves with us will find themselves slowly pushed into a corner - not by the actions of what we have done, but by the actions of others around us, who come to accept us for who we are and who THEY themselves push into the sidelines. Familiarization also allows through associative acceptance. Example

I have seen this happen on many occasions. One of the local pubs I visit has a local clientele who, when they saw me the first time, were very, very nervous of who or "what" just walked into their bar. Over the course of familiarization in the ensuing 3 years, they have come to know me as a person and would (and have said this on multiple occasions) stand up for me if there were any problems that might ever arise. Those who were stand-off-ish now give me warm hugs and I am actively sought out each week as a vital part of the clan we now are.

Familiarization also creates associative connectivity. If John knows Christen and John is OK with knowing this trans person, and I know John, then if John likes her, then perhaps I can get to know Christen and come to like her.

There are more reasons.... I could write a book about all of this given the people I have interacted with (especially with respect to item (2).

I'll stop here for now.... there is a lot to be said for both active education and legislation AND for passive integration through immersion. If we can make inroads into the main communities through such familiarization campaigns, then we have a better chance of furthering our movements forward as people get to know us and come to realize that we are just like anyone else....


  1. Just a thought worth looking into as well. Another reason the Transgendered population as a whole has had trouble being taken serious are because of two other groups. The Crossdressers and the transvestites; The Crossdressers have been looked at as being men who enjoy masquerading in women's attire for sexual pleasures and for voyeurism. When people can read a Transgendered person, they look upon them as they do the Crossdressers. And whenever a cis woman's environment has been invaded by a readable Transgender person, the cis women get scared and fearful because some Crossdressers were seen as perverts and sexual predators.Transvestites are looked at as men who wear women's clothing for payment or for it's voyeurism quality. Most all Transvestites love to flaunt their flamboyant in men dressed as women in pageants. Also, the majority of transvestites are gay men in women's clothing. And most of all the crossdressing men and transvestites I know of do not want to go any further than to look as womanly as possible without losing their manhood (penis). Now, it has been argued that there are some Transgendered women who feel that they don't want to lose their manhood as well, but they still see themselves as women in men's shells. So for the Transgender people to find the recognition they so desire, they need to stand up as a whole Transgender group. It is true, the gays and lesbians have been fighting for their "Own agenda" for years, but when they need the Transgender numbers, it is to further "Their Own Cause and Movement." It is true that we have come a long way piggy backing on the gay and lesbian movement, we still need to rise up together to be seen and heard together. Both the post-op's and the pre-op's need to stand together and be seen. Just my thoughts.

  2. I love your writing! BTW, the word "identity" in the text, I think you meant "identify". Can't wait to read more!

  3. Christen,

    You are absolutely right. I think the only way for people to accept us is to do our part and be good people. The power of goodness goes along way. Wife and I like to go to a dinner and always like to leave a good tip. The ladies that work there are always helpful and kind. I can't believe they don't know I am not a cis woman, but they always address as ladies and treat us nice.


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