Photo: Flickr / JeepersMedia

Call me ‘Connor’

Is now the time to talk? One writer tells us why understanding transgender issues is so important…

I’m Connor. That’s who I am and that’s who I know I am. I was born male, I feel male, I look male. However, for some people gender isn’t as straightforward as the word stamped on their birth certificate.

A few weeks ago, a flatmate wanted to watch Caitlyn Jenner’s interview and I agreed to watch it with her out of curiosity. As we watched the interview, what became clear was neither of us had any real understanding of what Caitlyn was going through. We continually paused the footage to take a moment to consider what she was saying. This person, who was born a man and looked like a man, actually felt like a woman. This concept was difficult for me to understand as it was so far removed from my own experience.

But when Caitlyn spoke, she didn’t ask for people to understand what she was going through. All she wanted was for people to show her the respect she deserved as a human being. Her words struck me, “All of us deserve the right to be loved for who we are”. And what she said was true. No matter what we do or don’t know about transgender issues, what we do know, is that Jenner is a human being and that human beings deserve to be loved. Now that Bruce is Caitlyn, it is our duty to show her the respect that she deserves.

If Caitlyn has successfully put transgender discussion on the agenda then I think that is a victory.

Of course transgender issues are tough for us to understand. For many of us, we don’t personally know of any transgender individuals. Indeed, current estimates suggest that just 0.02% of the population are transgender, or 1 in every 5,000 people. Also, the transgender issue goes outside the safety of our vocabulary. It does not fit in with our traditional gender vocabulary which are attached to preconceived ideas of what is male and what is female. The issue leaves us in unknown territory, that we are too afraid to enter. And so like a tourist without a map, we follow the mainstream and risk missing out on something important.

This is not a helpful attitude. Our lack of support as a wider society is damaging. A statistic from the Guardian suggested 60% of the transgender community have contemplated suicide. I believe the only way to reverse this statistic is to start talking. I’m not a statistician, but I’m pretty sure since Bruce became Caitlyn, the transgender issue has appeared in more tweets, popped up in more conversations and been reported in more publications than ever before. If Caitlyn has successfully put transgender discussion on the agenda then I think that is a victory.

Many, including Caitlyn’s own mother, have voiced concerns that this gender transition has been made public for financial gain. I can see their concerns. But I don’t feel that discussing finance is helpful in this situation, I would suggest is merely a way of distracting from the serious conversation that needs to be had. Jenner has made a very private aspect of her life public and I think she has made an important step by opening up a dialogue. I think this issue has been kept quiet for too long and the only way to achieve wider acceptance is by talking about the issue.

I think this issue has been kept quiet for too long and the only way to achieve wider acceptance is by talking about the issue.

Taking history as our example, a century ago black rights would have been a far off thought for many. Yet, individuals such as Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King started a dialogue which led to the passing of a Civil Rights Act in 1968. No more were blacks second rate citizens. As in the time of the black civil rights movement, this is an important opportunity to educate ourselves and embrace this important facet of humanity. Caitlyn has shown us that every individual has a different way of being themselves. Just because somebody else doesn’t conform to our view, it doesn’t make their way wrong. Just different. This difference makes us all unique and in our modern society, we should celebrate the fact that everyone is free to be who they want to be.

I don’t claim to understand transgender issues. I doubt I ever will. However, what is important is that we all show love, respect and support for all people. Whether they are transgender, cisgender or of any other identity. If she wants to be called Caitlyn, then that’s a choice we should all be willing to support.


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