<21: lgbt youth voice – The Extra Sting of Trans*phobia

To me, the difference between trans*phobia and homophobia is like the difference between oranges and apples: Both are fruits, but they’re two very different flavors, whether they are in sauces, pie, ice cream or juice.

Now, although the thought of pie and ice cream is a delicious one, the thought of homophobia and trans*phobia is not. Homophobia is common, unfortunately. In high schools, in college, in real life and in the workplace, words and phrases like that’s gay and faggot are just thrown about.

But what is the difference between trans*phobia and homophobia? It’s hard to distinguish for some people, both those who are not so involved in the gay community and those who are involved.

The point of the little asterisk in trans* is to give a chance for people to substitute it for their needs, whether the person is a transsexual woman, transgender man, or even transvestite male/female. But the difference between being homosexual and transsexual is about the body into which you were born.

Being homosexual is when you are attracted to people of the same sex, being heterosexual is being attracted to those of the opposite sex, and bisexuality is attraction to those of both sexes. But transsexual transcends just the attraction to whatever members of whatever sex.

Transsexual and transgender are terms for people who aren’t comfortable with what they were born with.

It’s a difficult idea for both trans* people and non-trans* people to grasp — how someone could feel like they were born in the wrong body, like something is tangibly wrong with the body they were born with. It’s a harsh reality, and the struggle often requires assistance from loved ones and others. But thankfully, most trans* people discover themselves and are able to live happy trans* lives.

But back to the original question: What is the difference between homophobia and trans*phobia?

To me, the difference lies in the more physical aspect of trans*phobia.

Imagine, if you will, a post-operation male-to-female transgender person. She is leading a very successful life, perhaps as a lawyer and as a restaurant manager as a side job. Then, one day, someone notices that she is a bit more masculine than other females, and forms the idea that she may have been born biologically a man. That person makes fun of her for it to her face. All of that work she has put into feeling feminine — and wanting to feel feminine — is suddenly disrespected and insulted by someone she may not even know.

That’s the difference between homophobia and trans*phobia. The amount of work that is put into being trans* is astounding, and so is the fact that anyone could have the audacity to mock it.

When people act on their trans*phobia or their homophobia, the results are terrible forms of bullying. Neither should be practiced, of course.

But trans*phobia, to me, has so much more meaning behind it, considering how much more work it is to be a transgender person and for transgender people to fight for equality in how they are treated by society.

Austin R. is a high school student in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

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