Culture Change for TSTG Issues

| Feb 2, 2015
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We cannot wait for laws to be enacted and court precedents to protect us. Even all the laws at the international, Federal, state and local levels to guarantee our rights, discrimination still occurs. We still have problems gaining our civil and political rights. Violence, proper id, employment, voting and military service, bathroom and other rights are denied to us.

Our rights are denied because of culture in two ways. First the laws and court precedents are not always vigorously enforced because law enforcement and the courts in many areas are populated by people whose culture is anti-trans. (The common word used is transphobic, but I do not assume that they experience fear as opposed to other emotions such as anger.) No matter how conscientious professional law enforcement and legal people are on the job, when some leave work their phobic culture surrounds them at home, at church and at recreation. Furthermore, we cannot pass laws that deal with all situations. For example, Atlanta has an anti-discrimination law but I cannot use the lady’s room because I am renting and it does not cover my situation.

The second way our rights are denied is that many non-professionals commit anti-trans acts which range from microagressions to life threatening violence, or civil and political discrimination. These people are also trapped by their culture.

So what do we do about these pernicious cultures? We can borrow from corporate cultural change and military relations procedures. When corporations want to change, they typically hire consultants and directly involve employees to deal with emotions stopping the changes while teaching new emotions and behaviors. Incorrect emotions need to be desensitized, reduced and extinguished.

The first step in desensitization is to be visible so that people in the culture can become accustomed to our presence. This does not necessarily require coming out. It means that we need to be present in bars, restaurants and other public places. It also does not mean that you have to be unsafe in doing so. For many years I went to support groups in other cities where I was not known. We would go out to local safe bars and restaurants.

The second step is to talk to non-trans people while you are out to show them that you do not bite and are normal. Give them a chance to ask questions. If you become friends, so much the better.

The third step is to support your local corporate transgender or GLBT employee group. Such groups are set up for management to get feedback and to lobby on employee issues. If you do not want to come out, you can safely participate by becoming an “ally,” a recognized position in such groups. An ally helps such groups because they are sympathetic and not trans or GLBT. If you have to make up a story say that a close relative is trans or GLBT. (It won’t be much of a lie because you are, after all, close to yourself). Once, when I was in a company with a billion dollars in annual sales, I anonymously inquired about the corporate employee transgender group but the non-transgender organizer from human resources said that, so far, no one wanted to join. I figured that I could not transition at that corporation.

The fourth step is to support enactment of GLBT laws at the local level. The experience gained at the city or county level is often used when such laws are brought up at the state level. Local officials and business leaders can honestly testify at the state level on such matters as the number of lawsuits triggered by the new laws. In most cases the number of lawsuits is minimal because human resources realizes that they need to support transgender people according to the law.

The fifth step is to support national trans advocacy organizations such as NCTE, TLDEF, Lambda Legal, HRC and GLAAD. Take your pick. Right now there are a lot of them, some of them anticipate that in the future their mission may change to emphasize transgender advocacy, as the same-sex marriage issue is resolved. HRC deserves careful watching. They have a habit of throwing transgender issues under the bus when under pressure. Last fall, their president apologized to transgender people for this at the Southern Comfort Conference here in Atlanta.

The sixth step is to come out. It does not have to be complete. You can come out to some and not to others particularly in this age of geographically dispersed families. I managed to come out at work first, then to part of my family and finally to my children, in stages.

The seventh step is to make more non-trans friends, including cultivating family members. Some social scientists believe that strong cultural support for same-sex marriage was based on the fact that at least 15% of the population knew GLB people. It did not hurt that key lawmakers discovered GLB people in their own families. In surveys, only about 2-5% said that they knew a transgender person.

The goal is to change culture and you can do your part. Now you know how.

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Category: Transgender Opinion, Transgender Politics


About the Author ()

Dana Jennett Bevan holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University and a Bachelors degree from Dartmouth College both in experimental psychology. She is the author of The Transsexual Scientist which combines biology with autobiography as she came to learn about transgenderism throughout her life. Her second book The Psychobiology of Transsexualism and Transgenderism is a comprehensive analysis of TSTG research and was published in 2014 by Praeger under the pen name Thomas E. Bevan. Her third book Being Transgender was released by Praeger in November 2016. She can be reached at

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