“On Educating Cis People”

So, I recently got involved in a conversation with some cis people ( people whose gender matches the one they were assigned at birth, ie. not trans) about trans stuff, and ever since I’ve been thinking about why I find it so annoying when cis people, esp cis men, talk to me about “the need for education” The obvious annoying thing here is the cisplaining (the way that cis people patronisingly “explain” something about trans liberation to trans people) as if we hadnt thought of “education” before!. And of course, its never the cis people doing the education; it would be more accurate for them to say “hey you just need to do more unpaid work here”. And as someone who donates a significant amount of my time to educating cis people (both personally and through Action for Trans Health), i really resent that. But, beyond that, education and awareness raising stuff always leaves me cold if thats *all* it aims to do. It rests on this idea that transphobia can be cured by “objective” or rational research into what trans people are “really like”: a form of respectibility politics (/real/ trans people are normal, etc.). But the reality is that transphobia is an ideology which can warp any “objective” study of trans people to its own ends. For example, if in response to TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, a group of so-called “feminists” who claim that trans women aren’t real women) saying trans people are misogynist, a person could counter that trans people have been historically and currently are at the forefront of progressive feminist campaigns. But for the TERF, this observation only seeks to prove that trans people are deceptive, infiltrating the womens movement in service of the patriarchy. Education doesnt work without also attacking the transphobia ideology itself. Rather than educating people on what “real trans people” are like, i want to see a challenge to the ideology of transphobia itself. This will necessarily involve some education: making it clear that the transphobia ideology’s figure of the trans person are a TERF fantasy and has nothing to do with trans people. But it needs to go beyond this to explain why the figure of the evil trans person exists within TERF (or other transphobes’) ideology. And simply put, the figure is there to obscure holes in their own ideology itself: a simplistic transhistorical grand narrative of male oppression over females as a class falls down when trans people exist. our presence muddies the waters, demands a more complex understanding of power (as do other interventions by black feminists, disabled feminists, and working class feminists). This is exactly why no platforming transphobes is important. Any “free debate” with transphobes is not likely to win them over, not whilst they are being held by the transphobia ideology – any reasonable observation of trans people can be used to service the transphobia ideology. As such, it is necessary to not only educate but challenge the ideology itself by exploding its inconsistencies where possible, and not inviting it into our houses.

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