COMMENT: Germaine Greer, Bruce Jenner, and the Fight Against Transphobia30th January 2015
I’ve long been a campaigner for trans rights and the elimination of transphobia. In recent times I had been thinking that the public are finally starting to understand what it is to be trans and that societal progress is being made.
Then I started to read about comments made by Germaine Greer, hurtful gossip about Bruce Jenner, and of course the tragic case of Leelah Alcorn. It is now clear to me that the fight against transphobia needs to be stronger than ever before.
Earlier this week Germaine Greer made an appearance at Cambridge University Students’ Union, where she was giving a talk. During this talk, Greer was questioned about her previous comments regarding trans women, including saying that being trans is a “delusion” and that trans women seem to be “ghastly parodies”. Her response to the questioning was that she “didn’t know there was such a thing as transphobia” and that trans women don’t know what it is like “to have a big, hairy, smelly vagina”.
Obviously Germaine Greer’s comments will be highly offensive to trans women, but the most disturbing thing is that she cannot see that her unpleasant views are offensive, that transphobia exists, and that she is guilty of it. Unfortunately I feel that there is no hope of changing the views of bigots like Greer, who hold such outdated and prejudiced opinions, but the fight against transphobia is one that must be fought.
Recently there have been a lot of articles about Bruce Jenner in the media. Normally the Kardashian-Jenner people are not on my radar, but I have read the stories and gossip about Bruce Jenner with interest because along with the gossip has come the ugly face of transphobia.
I had heard rumours that someone called Bruce Jenner was preparing to transition, but it was only when I saw the cover of In Touch magazine, that had a photoshopped picture of Jenner on it with a full face of makeup and feminised features, that I understood who he is and what the stories were about. The magazine ran a story about Jenner now living as a woman, without having any actual truthful quotes from anyone, and certainly not from Bruce himself. It was simply gossip and speculation.
From there TMZ ran a similar story and a video emerged of their staff being transphobic and mocking Jenner, with comments such as “well he’s not doing a good job of being a man” in response to somebody saying that Bruce wasn’t living as a female. This hateful stuff in certain sections of the media gives the impression that it’s ok to mock trans people and that they are a source of entertainment. That is certainly not the case.
Although I’m no fan of the Kardashians, I have to admire the way they are handling the speculation surrounding Jenner’s gender identity and how they are rallying around him. It shows their strength and love as a family unit and I think as a family they are doing exactly the right thing. It’s clear that Jenner has their support regardless of whether he is living as a male or female.
The way to tackle transphobia (and any other kind of discrimination) is to educate children from a young age so that future generations become more enlightened and informed. I also think we need to call out the media when they say or do something that is transphobic. They need to be held accountable for their comments and the damage they can do. Prejudiced, discriminatory comments and actions have the power to kill. You only have to look at the tragic story of Leelah Alcorn to see that’s the case. However, I believe that by standing up together as allies of trans people we can help to reduce and perhaps one day eradicate this issue.
If Bruce Jenner is living as a woman and in the process of transitioning, then I wish him all the best with his journey. It’s not an easy process for any person, never mind such a prominent celebrity with the glare of the media on them. I hope that in time he is able to be open about who he is and not be ridiculed for it. However, if he isn’t living as a woman and is simply experimenting with his appearance, that is ok too. Everyone deserves to be able to express themselves freely without prejudice and I hope that in time Bruce Jenner and every other person on this planet is able to do that, regardless of gender identity.
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