Content note: discussion of transphobia and trauma.
In my previous post I wrote about pain and love. About how people who have suffered pain often end up inflicting that pain on others. They do not sufficiently explore the nature and origin of their pain, and they do not work to heal it – to create that crucial distance between the source of the pain and their self. I wrote about this because I can relate to being in pain. The queerphobia of my youth and adulthood traumatised me and it wasn’t until my early thirties that I realised the extent of this pain – partly through reading about queer oppression and being able to connect that to my own experience. This knowledge allowed me to slowly create a distance between myself and the experience. I poured love, patience, therapy, friendship and kindness into this gap to help heal the wound. And it has healed.
So when I look to the people at the forefront of the transphobic moral panic I draw from my own experiences to try to relate to them. As a person who’s suffered pain I try to connect with the ways they have suffered pain. Hence the title of that previous post, “Pain & Love”. But in doing this I forget about that other key ingredient of transphobia – hate. That visceral loathing for trans women, that hateful disregard for non-binary people and all the other ways hate manifests in a ‘movement’ that wants to see trans people scared, erased and, for many, dead. These things have nothing to do with pain and everything to do with hate and the activating of that hate to harm other people. Another word for this is violence. Simply put, transphobia is violence.
There’s a phrase that “hurt people hurt people” but, do you know what, I’m a hurt person and I try my damndest to not hurt other people – even the people who hurt me! I try my best not to meet anger with anger, even though a lot of people get angry with me, and feel justified in blasting me with their anger. But that hurts and, surprise surprise, I don’t enjoy hurting people. It’s not fun to shout at others, to wound them, to cause them harm. When it comes to hate “hurt people hurt people” simply won’t do as an explanation (or excuse) for the actions of bigots. “Hateful people hurt people” might work a bit better and while it’s important to understand the origins of that hate, just as it’s important to understand the origins of people’s pain, the first task is to defend those being harmed by that hate. So that’s why I’m writing this post – to remind myself to say no to hate. For so long I was conditioned to excuse and tolerate the behaviour of my abusers, constantly making excuses for them, and empathising with them (while they had zero empathy for me), and that conditioning affected my politics too and how I engaged with oppression. But I’ve changed and this post is a reminder that while healing and rehabilitation are vital destinations on the journey to peace, before either of them, we must first hold haters to account and say no to their hate.