[Article written in 2013, and edited in 2019. Photos are from 2013.]
One More Tragic Example
An article in elciudadano.cl today tells of how eight or nine thugs in Ancud, Chile, attacked a pretty transgender girl with no justification, choosing to pick on her due to her being transgender (and, I’m adding: “and pretty.”)
She’s alive but in bad shape — teeth missing, nose broken, and of course in the hospital. This sort of brutality against transgender girls is not unusual — they’re not just killed or hurt but intentionally disfigured as if the violence were intended to punish the person and erase their prettiness or sexiness.
In the movie American Beauty, one character is vehemently negative towards anything to do with homosexuality, and ultimately initiates violence. Turns out that this character was himself gay, hated himself for it and turned the hatred on others.
In this article, I explain how this is related to the above real-life example of the trans girl.
I’m not a psychologist, but it seems to me that the field of psychology has already figured out and explained much of the issue. There are probably more factors, but I’m focusing on one, specifically, in this article. The website PonderAbout.com has a quote:
“Shame” denied and projected is “contempt.”
A friend with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in Counseling told me that contempt is the emotion that [more than anger, for example] immediate precedes the initiation of violence.
Contempt is the key to the puzzle.
A. Kinsey showed that, as a matter of scientific fact and historical record, some subsection of the male population is gay or bisexual as a matter of simple biology. They don’t choose it; it’s a given.
B. Some men have anti-gay cultural values.
Some men might be in both groups, i.e., are gay or bisexual AND have anti-gay cultural values. This group has the potential for psychological conflict.
Someone in this group, in a situation where he realizes “I’m attracted to a guy” will also immediate conclude “I’m gay or bisexual” and feel self-contempt. It’s been shown than many people refuse to own that self-contempt, and instead project it on whomever they consider as the root cause of this mental train wreck. So, they feel disgust for whichever male they feel attracted to. Some men will next initiate violence against that person.
The phenomenon is called homophobia not because the person is afraid of gay or bisexual men, but is afraid of the effect they have on him.
The typical “out” transgender girl differs visually from the average genetically integrated girl by looking more masculine. Being transgender girls, by definition we also either do or did have “outie” plumbing.
Using an oversimplified, highly superficial, concrete-bound standard that I consider fundamentally flawed as to humans (even though it works nicely for gendering barnyard animals), the imprecise thinker presumes that anyone who did or does have “outie” plumbing is basically male.
If that imprecise thinker is male and is attracted to a transgender girl, then because he mistakenly classifies her as male, he classifies himself as bi or gay by implication.
He already punishes himself psychologically with his own flawed thinking, because it’s an incorrect conclusion on an important subject: his sexual orientation.
Often, this sort of flawed thinking also goes hand in hand with presuming that being bi or gay is somehow evil. A guy who has all of these misconceptions will emotionally react to his (mistaken) realization that he’s gay or bisexual by classifying himself as evil too, by his own standards.
Often, this sort of flawed thinking also goes hand with deep personal insecurity, and being highly concerned about social image, specifically what his guy friends think. And so, his (mistaken) realization that he’s gay or bisexual also makes him realize he’s now a social outcast by the standards of his buddies.
For such a thinker, his self-image and social image both collapse at that instant, and he experiences immediate and intense deeply primal pain and fear.
Often, this sort of flawed thinking also goes hand with poor impulse control, of acting rather than pondering. So, when all this occurs, the thinker doesn’t become pensive. Instead, he springs into physical action.
Often, this sort of flawed thinking also goes hand with externalizing blame. So the thinker immediately seeks someone to blame, and so he blames the transgender girl who inspired the sequence of events. That’s at whom his physical actions are aimed.
Often, this sort of flawed thinking also goes hand with a lack of respect for rights, so the thinker doesn’t have inner control that prevents him from initiating violence. We know that disgust tends to be experienced right before violence, and that the thinker projects his self-disgust onto the transgender girl, so his physical action is to initiate violence at the transgender girl.
This is a long causal sequence of events, but it tends to be morbidly validated when we observe that the prettier the transgender girl is, the greater the risk is, of this occurring.
Also, the violence is often aimed at specifically disfiguring her. In the absence of the above analysis that seems like an odd focus; in the context of the above analysis, it makes more sense. The transgender girl isn’t seen as the problem being attacked; her attractiveness is. That’s why disfigurement (e.g., severe facial injuries or pouring gasoline on her and setting her on fire) tends to be the agenda. The transgender girl’s attractiveness is seen to be the problem.
The phenomenon is called transphobia not because the guy is simply afraid of transgender girls, but he is afraid of the effect we have on him — and the implications.
There’s a vast irony here. Transgender girls are, fundamentally girls. On average, the typical “out” transgender girl might well be more feminine than the average genetically integrated girl a.k.a. cisgirl.
Regardless, a guy who initiates transphobic violence is, to the knowledgeable observer, actually outing himself as being sexually attracted to a trans girl.
Trying to explain this away in other ways tends to not stand up to scrutiny.
For example, one hypothesis is that a transgender girl looks odd (by cisgender standards), due to being a blend of male and female due to not having transitioned fully. Could be she has big hands and there’s no changing that, and could be that looks odd. Could be she looks like Barbie but has a male voice, and that’s odd. Could be she has a masculine walk. It’s certainly possible that transgender people can be odd visually and socially (by cisgender standards). But, many members of society look odd or behave oddly. For example, a cisgirl whom I know enjoys dying her hair many combined weird different colors. Another cisgirl I know has unusual tattoos. Some people are exceptionally short or tall, or slender or round. Yet “oddness” is no automatic trigger for focused violence.
For example, another hypothesis is that a transgender girl is mistaken, a guy mistakenly presuming he’s a girl. People mis-evaluating themselves — that is a common phenomenon in culture but not an automatic trigger for focused violence.
There’s something else going on, something that fuels the focused violence.
Let’s recap the flawed thinking implied by a guy who initiates violence in a transphobic context:
- Uses the shape of someone’s plumbing as the standard for gender
- Presumes that being bi or gay is evil
- Deep personal insecurity
- Poor impulse control
- Externalizing blame
- Lack of respect for rights
On the know-your-enemy premise, let’s try to understand such individuals slightly better yet.
1. In the movie “Top Gun” the female instructor admits to a pilot that she sees real genius in his flying skills but she chose to not acknowledge that publicly for fear of it becoming generally apparent that she’s fallen for him.
2. A close friend of mine told me how her grandma explained to her that it’s easy for a girl in elementary school to see which boy is in love with her; it’s the one who is mean to her, pulls her pigtails and so on.
3. I personally can relate; in elementary school, I had a crush on a girl and instead of admitting to it, I was rude to her, terrified of admitting my true feelings.
The latter phenomenon is so well-known in psychology that it’s formally named and taught about: “reaction formation.” Wikipedia defines it as follows:
“In psychoanalytic theory, reaction formation is a defensive process (defense mechanism) in which anxiety-producing or unacceptable emotions and impulses are mastered by exaggeration (hypertrophy) of the directly opposing tendency.”
In the context of sexuality, Wikipedia explains:
“a heterosexual individual who is fearful or hateful toward those who identify themselves as homosexual and bisexual may be seeking to counteract deep-seated and often untouched homosexual desires. A reaction formation is used to exaggerate heterosexual behavior outwardly, to relieve inward anxiety regarding homosexual desires.”
That might well be part of the explanation for the actions of transphobic men.
General Violence by Individuals in a Decent Society
In a generally healthy society, some individuals seethe with anger waiting for an outlet. Given the opportunity, pretext and mood, they’ll initiate violence, typically at individuals or groups perceived to be hostile such as the police, or another race, gang, etc.
Similarly, some individuals are bullies. Their violence is targeted at easy individual victims. Such a violent criminal might today attack a transgender person, and might tomorrow attack someone’s grandma or pet — whoever is nearby and seems vulnerable.
Healthy societies tend to be quite unanimous that if someone belongs in either of these two groups, then they need to be taken off the streets and locked up.
Only a very tiny portion of society consists of attractive transgender girls, and so when one of these is the victim, it would be statistically highly, highly unlikely that she just happened to be randomly chosen. totally independently of her being transgender.
General Violence by Individuals in a Malevolent Society
Sometimes the prevailing culture is so blatantly irrational that it actively encourages such violence as a matter of social propriety, such as in some Latin sub-cultures, and some countries in North Africa and the Middle East. It’s hard for me to make sense of anything when the entire context is ethically inverted to where doing the wrong thing is socially considered a good thing.
One might argue that some small towns in the American South deserve to be classified as such too, and that thugs who beat up transgender girls are simply doing what’s generally accepted as their civic duty. That might well be true, but there is a special irony in that in communities that are deeply religious, specifically Christian.
Whatever else the Christian churches disagree upon, they agree about Jesus Christ being the central figure in the Bible and the Church.
Imagine the teachings of Jesus being applied to the question: “when meeting a pretty transgender girl, what would Jesus do?” A likely answer would hardly be: “beat her face to a pulp.” Rather, such violence is as anti-Jesus an agenda as I could imagine — and there’s no way that any Christian can in good conscience conclude otherwise.
A homophobic Christian who resorts to anti-transgender violence has so much self-hatred that he’s willing to violate the most fundamental teachings of Jesus as well as the most basic rules of human interaction, taught from an early age: be nice, be kind, don’t initiate violence.
To try to evade the issues, some Christians bring up passages in the Old Testament that are admonitions against homosexuality — but that’s beside the point because a trans girl might herself be straight, gay, or bisexual.
If you’re transgender and at increased risk for anti-transgender violence, I propose that you do something about it, personally. If you live in a negative culture, move away. No, it’s not easy, but I’ve done it. It’s possible — and well worth it.
Another suggestion: arm yourself and be clear that you have the moral high ground as to the right of self-defense. Violence against transgender people is astronomically high relative to how small a group we are. Try to avoid becoming one more news story that begins with:
“The mangled body of a transgender girl was found …”
As an example, I own a variety of firearms, each optimized for a particular type of threat. I have a concealed carry weapons permit. I have undergone personalized training with a transgender-friendly former Marine who now specializes in professional personal protection. I’ve taken enough Judo and Karate classes to be able to put these skills to use. I’m clear that I have the right to a vigorous self-defense and I am always alert and ready to exercise it even if it were to get me into legal trouble. I also make a point of favoring rational jurisdictions where my right to self-defense is officially accepted — which is one more reason why I’ve chosen to live where I do.
“A group of would-be attackers got given coroner’s toe tags, courtesy of well-armed, straight-shooting transgender girl who calmly shot them each dead, in self-defense. The District Attorney is pressing no charges and says it’s about time the tables were turned (and later wins re-election by a land-slide, as a direct result).”
In the Harry Potter books, someone unfairly sends some assassins (“dementors”) to kill Harry Potter, and he commendably defends himself. Unfairly, he ends up in a some legal trouble as a result but at least he survived the attack. Ultimately, he is acquitted and vindicated.
That’s the spirit I live by, and endorse.