Response to Transphobic H-SC Tiger Article

A Response from Farmville Pride’s Board of Directors to the Transphobic Tiger Article

On October 28th 2019, the Farmville Pride Board of Directors was appalled to read in Hampden-Sydney College’s student paper, The Tiger, a transphobic and uninformed opinion article: “Transgender Lies Become Tyrannical.” The article was authored by the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, and it was clearly below editorial and journalistic standards. 

Transgender individuals must continually fight every day for their most basic rights. In 2015, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) published results of a 27,715-respondent survey. While the entire survey is worth review, there are some notable results:

  • “One in ten (10%) respondents who were out to their immediate family reported that a family member was violent towards them because they were transgender” 
  • “Nearly one-third (29%) of respondents were living in poverty, compared to 14% in the U.S. population” 
  • “40% of respondents have attempted suicide in their lifetime—nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population (4.6%)”
  • “One-third (33%) of those who saw a health care provider had at least one negative experience related to being transgender, such as being verbally harassed or refused treatment because of their gender identity”

The issues presented in the above survey results are further complicated for transgender people of color. The same NCTE survey results found the following regarding Transgender people of color: 

  • “People of color, including Latino/a (43%), American Indian (41%), multiracial (40%), and Black (38%) respondents, were up to three times as likely as the U.S. population (14%) to be living in poverty”
  • “The unemployment rate among transgender people of color (20%) was four times higher than the U.S. unemployment rate (5%).” 

These statistics validate that transgender individuals are targeted and opposed in almost every aspect of society, and violence and discrimination are still too often a shared experience. Contrary to the writer’s assertions, the trans community poses no threat to any other community, and framing them as liars and tyrants only increases their risk level for violence and/or mistreatment. In response to the attack on the trans community, Farmville Pride offers some direct and informed rebuttals to the published false, misinformed, and transphobic statements.

Rebuttal One: Individuals may claim they cannot be “transphobic”, because they don’t “fear” transgender people. It is important to note these people are avoiding the true charge when labeled “transphobic.” Anyone with access to the internet will easily discover the definition: “having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people” (Oxford). In making the choice to debate the etymology of the word, to argue that “phobia = fear” rather than defend the charge of prejudice or dislike, the respondent acknowledges that they are prejudiced against trans individuals and do not like that there is a social stigma with being labeled as such.

Additionally, the ability to interact cordially with a class of people you have an unreasonable aversion to while in public only means you have the minimal level of restraint to engage with society. If someone is polite to the faces of trans people but spends their hours writing poorly written and poorly researched opinion pieces with the intent of spreading disdain for trans peoples’ desire to be respected and allowed to pursue personal happiness without social, medical, legal, or commercial discrimination, then they are “transphobic”, whether they like the etymology of the word or not.

Rebuttal Two: Collecting accurate data about transgender populations is difficult due to fear of discrimination and readily available examples of anti-trans sentiment in their communities. Estimates for the population of transgender individuals in the US range from 0.39% (Meerwijk, et al) to 12% of Millennials (GLAAD). There are likely far more people identifying as such who are undercounted or miscounted. In the context of the opinion piece in question, the size of the population is a moot point. Under what paradigm is it acceptable to deny respect and acceptance to a group of people just because they are not a significant enough portion of the population? If so, how large a percentage must a population be before denying housing to them is unacceptable? Medical care? Protection from targeted violence? Ultimately we believe, and hope that the population of Hampden-Sydney also believes, that all humans deserve basic respect and protection from systematic discrimination. 

Rebuttal Three: Choosing to characterize (someone’s) transgender status as tyrannical shows a gross and willful misapplication of the idea. The Oxford definition for tyranny is “cruel and oppressive government or rule.” It is amusing that the writer would choose to first highlight the disparity of cisgender to transgender population sizes, and then ascribe to them control of the government or rule of the country. Currently, there are no “out” transgender federal elected officials. We are beginning to see positive change in representation with some notable recent elections to state level offices, but that is still exceedingly rare. It is hard to imagine a population of people ruling as tyrants in a government they have little-to-no representation in. We suspect that the true object of the writer’s ire is the growing percentage of the population that supports and respects transgender individuals and their ability to live their life unhindered by those who are unwilling to attempt to tolerate or understand them. 

Rebuttal Four: The choice to frame the findings of our leading medical, psychological, and sociological organizations as “lies” is also disappointing and distressing in an individual charged with the responsibility of maintaining the journalistic integrity of a newspaper. The American Medical Association,  The American Association of Pediatrics, The American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians, The American Psychological Association, and the American Sociological Association have all published statements or practice guidelines backed up by peer reviewed research supporting the validity of the trans experience and their specific medical/social needs. Under this preponderance of scientific evidence, how does anyone dedicated to journalistic veracity conclude that these concepts are “lies?”

Rebuttal Five: Regarding representation in government it is suggested that a hypothetical congress composed of 50% cisgender men, and 50% transgender women would pose a representational equality crisis. To an extent, this ridiculous hypothetical is true, but it demonstrates a lack of comprehension of the ideological desires of those fighting for equal representation. It first appears to assume that the 50% cisgender male portion is a given and any other population’s degree of representation is at the expense of the remainder. We suspect cisgender women would indeed feel underrepresented if they were to have 0% representation in our government, much like other minorities and disenfranchised groups have felt at many points, now and in the past (including women). The obvious solution is not a congress composed of 100% individuals assigned male at birth but rather a congress that closely reflects the true demographics of the country, in all aspects. Unfortunately for the writer of the article in question, that means that the high percentage of cisgender, white, wealthy, males in our government would reduce to reflect their actual population density. This correction would hardly be a sign of tyranny. Rather it would be the fulfilment of the ideals of true representational government.

Rebuttal Six: The final argument the writer makes is in reference to the ongoing legal battle between two parents over the care of their 7-year-old children. It should first be noted that the sensationalization of this particular case is a journalistic tragedy in which a 7-year-old, who had not consented to having their medical history distributed has unfortunately had that information published nationally and often incorrectly by organizations that have allowed their transphobic biases to cloud their ability to respect the privacy of minors and perform appropriate fact checking. In this case the important facts to know are:

  •  The mother (a pediatrician) is following the joint recommendations of the AAP and ACOP
  • The child has demonstrated gender variance in a “insistent, consistent, and persistent” manner
  • At this time “social” transition is the only form of transition the child is/was receiving
  • The initial step of “puberty inhibitors” is non-permanent, used in cis childeren regularly, and serves to give the child time to be “old enough” to make an informed decision.

The false assertions of the mother wishing to start “feeding [the child] irreversible female hormones” and to “chemically castrate” the child demonstrates the writer’s unwillingness to seek medical and psychological truth or learn about the perspectives and choices of others that do not match his own.

The Tiger opinion article clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding and inability to empathize with the transgender community. The Tiger’s editorial leadership is lacking and disappointing, and this piece and its subsequent responses may be a part of how Hampden-Sydney is assessed by future potential students. The Farmville Pride Board of Directors calls on the communities of Hampden-Sydney College, Longwood University, and the Town of Farmville to vocally and forcefully reject the sentiments found in The Tiger opinion article and to visibly demonstrate support for the transgender community.

Signed,

Farmville Pride Board of Directors

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