There are right and less right ways to get trans acceptance
By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist
I have been visible in public as a trans woman for 15 years now and I’ve run up against disapproval, fear, hate, and resistance. Some folks even went as far as to try to erase my identity as a trans woman.
I would hear that I wasn’t really a woman, that I was a man, that I was weird, sick, gross, and an abomination, among other awful things. Usually, I would just ignore these awful words and go about my business. In the early 2000s, there was really no support at all for trans people, so I just took the hits and tried not to let them bother me.
As time went on, trans people started coming out and living openly and when I encountered the awful name-calling, I would often try to nicely correct the person and let them know that I was female and to please use the proper pronouns and accept me as a woman. Sometimes, that worked, and sometimes it didn’t. Still, I remained nice to them and went about my business.
Nowadays, I see and hear trans people sometimes being very militant and a bit abrasive to folks who misgender them, view them as less than equals and try to erase their existence. I can understand the trans person’s frustration and anger, but sometimes I’m taken aback a bit when I hear how harshly they treat the offending person. I still either nicely try to explain or I simply ignore and go about my business. I pick my battles and decide whether it’s worth it or not to pursue a conversation with the offending person.
A friend once told me about how a marginalized group goes about getting their rights. She said that 20 percent of the people will support you, 20 percent will be against you, and the other 60 percent is up for grabs as they could go either way. Since the first 20 percent already support you and are on your side, you don’t have to try to persuade them to support your cause.
The other 20 percent will probably never support you, so it’s pretty much fruitless to try to reason with them. I know that some folks at times like to tangle with these folks, but in many cases, no minds are going to be changed. I just simply write off these folks and forget about them. Now the 60 percent who are on the fence or haven’t taken a stand yet are possible supporters, so these are the folks you need to persuade and enlighten. These are the ones who can make a difference in the fight for your rights. These are the ones you need to pay attention to and work within hopes you get their support.
How to work with these folks in the 60 percent? This is where I offer my solution to act nicely and attempt to inform them in a calm way. I personally try not to belittle them, but to speak to them on a respectful level. I don’t raise my voice or bring up their cisgender privilege, as those actions many times may back them into a corner and they may become defensive.
Instead, I try to speak to them through my words and my actions, in a calm and respectful manner. Yes, I have reached some folks using this manner. Sure, there are times when I do not reach them, and I may notice that something inside them will not accept me for whatever reasons, but I still give it a try.
Hopefully, I may have given them an opening to support us after they think it over for a while. If I raised my voice and began loudly accusing them of privilege, I think that may turn them off and send them into non-acceptance. It’s not always easy to control yourself as you speak with folks about your rights, but I try my best to keep myself calm. I try to keep my smile and to keep my message clear without making them feel defensive. That’s how I try to chip away at the 60 percent who hasn’t yet taken a stand.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is retired from 3M and has three children and two grandchildren. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.