Thursday, 2 June 2016

An Unlikely Conversation

A: The idea of trans women using women's bathrooms makes me feel uncomfortable.

B: I'm sorry to hear you have feelings that are unpleasant for you.

A: I know that if we are objective there is no sense in putting my feelings ahead of someone else's, but I still don't like feeling that way.

B: Do you know why you feel badly about it? What comes to mind when you think about the idea.

A: I mean, I guess I imagine men lying to perv out on women.

B: Have you ever met any trans women? Perhaps if you knew some personally then instead of your brain conjuring imaginary creeps you'd think of actual people you knew and it would be obvious that the women's bathroom was the place for them.

A: That might work, but I don't know any trans women. Or at least if I do I don't know that they are trans.

B: I know a trans woman who might be willing to talk to you about her experiences, if you'd like that.

A: Really? It seems like a lot to ask someone - to out herself to a stranger just to try to make the stranger feel more comfortable.

B: Well, the woman I'm thinking of in particular is pretty open, and I think increasing understanding helps everyone.

A: That would be great. If I could get over these feelings I have about trans women then I would be better off.

B: And of course if you have feelings that are uncomfortable to you, you might want to try therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has a proven track record of helping people get over emotions they don't want.

A: I have misgivings about going to therapy because it's not something that my friends and family really do. I feel like I would have to hide it or I'd end up being very vulnerable around them. Plus my understand is that it can be quite expensive.

B: Well, there are inexpensive and free options, though they aren't as easy to access. As for your feelings about the reaction of your friends and family, I guess ultimately you have to make that decision for yourself.

Feminists, trans-rights activists, anti-racism activists and lots of other "leftists" are sometimes painted as angry an unreasonable; part of an internet outrage machine ready to jump on anyone who won't kowtow to their ideas. People who say they support progress will say that if we want to convince anyone then we need to be kinder to people, not hate people for hating.

Which of my two characters is more absurd and unreal? A trans rights activist who is sympathetic towards the human emotions of another person? Or someone who is against trans rights who owns their own emotions and doesn't assume their emotions aren't a good basis for public policy? If there is anyone out there who feels bad about some rights issue and would genuinely like to seek help for dealing with those feelings without hurting anyone else, I think they have a small-to-medium shot of finding support rather than disdain from an activist. The odds that such a person exists, however, are slim-to-none.

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