If you were a white person and “debated” with a black person about whether slavery should still exist, that wouldn’t be much of a debate, would it?
The black person would probably refuse to even engage in the debate. Other people around would shun you, too.
In this case, the act of debating itself is offensive. By engaging in certain debates, the clear implication is that some things are, well, up for debate. And they’re not. Suggesting that they are is an act of violence.
So it is, very often, with trans people.
I once explained to someone the brain studies that prove that trans people have, physically speaking, the brains of their identified sex. This required first explaining that it’s possible to work out the gender of a brain from its physical structures.
The studies don’t say exactly what the different gendered brain structures do, because no one really knows, but it’s clear that there ARE physical differences between different gendered brains.
This person replied, “No. I don’t believe in the gender binary.”
Excuse me? These studies are clear as day. You have to believe in them, otherwise you’re denying reality.
Hearing that hurt a lot, because the information wasn’t just neutral information, it was information that affected my entire life. Even if somehow the brain studies were disproven, the “I don’t believe in the gender binary” argument hurts us, because binary-gendered trans people know they are one gender or another. Their entire lives are testament to that fact. If the idea of the binary genders were just an illusion, then our entire lives would be based on an illusion.
And perhaps some people do base their lives on illusions. But — it’s hard to fully explain but — being trans goes so deep, so far beyond words and theories, that whatever we believed, it would be still there. Being trans is not a theory or an idea. We literally cannot deny who we are; trying to tends to end up in a suicide attempt.
Our experience makes it impossible to deny who we are. Obviously, other people don’t have such a pressing need to accept this truth. But if they had an iota of respect for us, they would listen to our narratives and understand that they, too, must accept this truth, because our lives depend on it.
The truth of who we are goes to the core our whole lives. It can’t be up for debate any more than it’s up for debate that blacks should be enslaved. You technically can debate it, but doing so is an act of violence.
The only reason that such debates are accepted in our society is because our society is incredibly transphobic as a whole. Some of it you might pin down to plain ignorance, but ignorance can’t be a defence anymore when trans people are out there explaining what their experience is like.
Just because society condones these debates, and participating in them has no consequences for you, doesn’t mean they are not wrong. The consensus of society is wrong, and you must fight it.
Trans people are real. Our lives are real. To say anything else is to attack our very lives. And this is not just theoretical; 41% of trans people have attempted suicide. The reason is because they are ostracised and erased by the society they live in. To debate the existence of trans people is to contribute to a status quo that is killing us.
So let me suggest a little more listening to us, and a little less stubbornly imposing your viewpoint on us.
You might have the luxury of denying the experience of people in other areas. That’s still a silly thing to do, because they experience what they experience and you shouldn’t accuse vast swathes of people to be hallucinating just to be more comfortable with your worldview. But in the case of trans people, if you do that, you contribute to a status quo that is killing us.