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Let’s talk about fear

It is transphobia, not trans people, that engenders fear in society

Purple text on a green background: Queer Honi presents: Let's talk about fear

Content Warning: Article makes reference to transphobia and sexual violence

fear

noun

  1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm

Synonyms: terror, fright, dread, distress, trepidation, etc.

Cisgender people quite often say that they are fearful of transgender people. Cisgender people say that we are unstable or unpredictable. Cisgender people say that we are “dangerous” or are “confusing”.

In response, I’ll tell you a bit about me: my name is Lukas, and I’m almost 21. I’m a fairly short person, who like reading, writing, Dungeons and Dragons, Pokémon, nature/animals, and I want to be a vet, which is why I’m studying here. I have several great friends in Sydney who I am beyond grateful that I was lucky enough to meet. I am also a transgender man.

There are many cisgender people who just read that last sentence and are now suddenly disgusted or repulsed by me, no matter what else we may share in common. Some cisgender people would hate to be near me, for fear of me exposing them or others to the “confusion” that is a transgender man living his life. Some think that I deserve to be attacked, assaulted, raped, abused, and even murdered because I am transgender. Others will ignore a situation where a someone is being yelled at, attacked, or discriminated against because they are transgender.

I’m lucky I have yet to face transphobia like that. However, that is only because I have started to truly live as myself just this year, even though I have known for years that I’m transgender. I also plan to start hormone replacement therapy this year, as well as coming out as transgender to more and more people. The more I transition, the more I’ll become even more androgynous, and eventually masculine, than I currently am. And of course, talk of transition raises perhaps one of the most-discussed “controversies” regarding transgender people: bathrooms.

Cisgender people get very… strange about bathrooms. For example: I was at a Christmas Carols concert last December, and the portable toilets had male and female signs on them, signs which cisgender people were actually largely obeying. I ended up picking a random toilet that was free, because I was not waiting in line for 10 minutes due to arbitrary signs. These portable toilets were all exactly the same. They were all small, all had bad toilet paper, and all had a not-so-faint stench, yet they were still divided into male and female portable toilets. I still can’t figure out why.

Moving onto public bathrooms, ever since I’ve started to look more androgynous/masculine, the idea of using public bathrooms has filled me with fear and anxiety. Do I use the men’s bathroom because I’m a man? But what if a cisgender man takes offence to a transgender man using the same bathroom as him, and decides to harass me, intimidate me, or even assault me? I’ll tell you what happens, thanks to Hayden Moon offering to share his experiences.

While using the public bathrooms that are on campus at USyd, Hayden tells me that he has been verbally harassed, by being called a tr*nny and a f*ggot by other students. He tells me that other students at this university have also threatened him with rape and murder, all because he dared to use a public bathroom as a transgender person. He has also told me about seeing violently transphobic graffiti in at least several of the public bathrooms on campus. Given all of this and more, the men’s bathroom is off-limits to me unless I want gamble with my safety every single time I just need to pee.

So then, do I use the women’s bathroom? Sometimes, if I really can’t wait until I get home. But I also look too unlike a girl to not raise eyebrows and often get looks, whispers, and snide remarks. What if I’m on my period (which is a unique hell as a transgender man) and need to change my pad or tampon? The women’s bathroom is the only one that’s 100% guaranteed to have sanitary bins, so here’s what I do: I wait outside the women’s bathroom until there aren’t many people in there. Then I rush in, head for the first cubicle I see, take care of things, and then I wait, again, for silence. Then I wash my hands as fast as I can and leave as fast as I can. If I don’t have time to wash my hands, I have to use hand sanitiser that I keep with me.

More recently, I have started to use what is often the only unisex bathroom available, and also what is probably the safest option available to me: the accessible bathroom. I experience chronic pain, and my mental illnesses would also qualify me as disabled. However, since I don’t look disabled, I still get passive-aggressive “why-the-hell-were-you-in-there” glares, or just confused staring as people try to figure out what my disability is.

And what about the transphobic graffiti that is literal writing on the wall? It’s proof of just how hated us trans folk are just for existing. On this campus alone, transphobic cisgender people have scrawled on bathroom walls that transgender people should be gassed, should be exterminated, and should commit suicide. Other transphobic cisgender people have torn down and scratched up stickers that were put up in USyd’s bathrooms with a simple slogan of “We all need to pee”.

This is what trans people face with just using a public bathroom. I haven’t even begun to talk about anything else. If I did, this article would be many more pages long. We have to endure a much higher risk of rape, murder, assault, abuse of all kinds, suicide, mental illness, and so many more challenges than any cisgender person will ever face solely for being cisgender. You will never be treated as less than human, or have your human rights be “debated” solely because you are cisgender.

Now, rewind.

Fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm”. Cisgender people like to claim that they are scared of transgender people. But how can they be scared? I am legitimately fearful of cisgender people, especially those who are not queer, because any one of them could possibly decide to harass, assault, or even murder me just because I’m transgender. You, likely-cisgender reader, are not scared of transgender people.

We do not scare you. It is the other way around.