One of the more intriguing things for me these days is listening to ordinary people – the non-trans kind of ordinary people – trying to describe transsexuals. I’m not talking about the opinionated haters, or the agenda-driven special interests. I’m talking about average Joes and Janes just trying to understand what the heck this “transsexual” thing is, regardless of any opinions they may have about it.
A pretty good example of this recently was on the “Stuff You Should Know” podcast. This podcast usually hovers around the fifth or sixth most popular downloaded podcasts on iTunes, so they’re speaking to a substantial audience. And with that in mind, they recently took on the topic of “How Gender Reassignment Works.”
I have to say, they did a pretty decent job explaining it. They stumbled through a few things and made some forgiveable mistakes. But they had really tried to do their homework, and tried to cite recent information as much as possible (there was one statistic cited from 1992 which they were tempted to discount because of its age – thankfully I’m not a statistic!).
The main themes that seemed to grab them as the “wow” moments, as in “Wow, I never realized that about gender reassignment” were:
1. It’s not a quick or easy process. They remarked about this a number of times in a number of ways. Paraphrasing some of their comments about this: “You have to jump through a lot of hoops.” “You have to clearly and strongly want this.” “You have to spend a lot of money.” “The whole process seems designed to weed out anyone it’s not right for.”
2. There is no single “sex change operation.” There are lots of different operations and it’s all part of a larger and longer process. Some people require several operations, some gender reassigned people don’t have any operations at all. And besides…
3. WPATH Standards of Care (which they cited prominently) require living for at least a year as the target gender before they’ll allow most surgeries (with some exceptions – they called out top surgery for FTMs as an example of an exception). They clearly realized how challenging this must be.
4. There are LOTS more transsexuals among us than they ever realized – even if you only count the post-ops. They cited Lynn Conway’s research about this here – which they should, because Lynn thoroughly debunked the far more commonly cited “rare” numbers.
5. They were noticably “struck serious” over this topic as a whole once they were informed about it. After researching the whole thing they realized it’s not a joke. There’s a whole lot of injustice affecting transsexuals currently, and few legal protections. After they understood more about who we are, they didn’t feel right joking about it.
All of this contributes to my general belief that the facts are on our side, so our long term prospects for understanding and acceptance are good. Average people trying to make sense of the transsexual condition by and large draw sympathetic conclusions once they have the facts in hand. The challenge is how to get those facts better understood. And this podcast was a step in that direction.
Sure there are some people who form opinions first and ignore any facts which don’t fit. But those people are a minority – even if they can sometimes be a very loud minority. When looked at purely as something to be understood, rather than something to be judged, we tend to win people over on the merits of our case.
Anyway, check out the podcast, and let me know what you think.