How Not to Sound Like a Creationist to a Trans Person

When people say they support transgender people but oppose the specific issues that matter to the transgender community, it makes as much sense as saying you support the gay community, but oppose marriage equality and anti-bullying initiatives.
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Most people who consider themselves progressive agree with the overwhelming scientific evidence of global warming, and the 99.9 percent of climatologists who support the theory. They trust science, reason, evidence and research when they support evolution as well. Same with the idea that sexual orientation is an inborn trait, rather than a "lifestyle." They are simultaneously frustrated, though, with the seeming inability of the opposition to accept what all the educated scientific experts are saying.

The tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs is known as confirmation bias. This phenomena has been studied since the 1960s, and has become the dominant feature of much of the back and forth "discourse" between political pundits on both sides of the political aisle. People are subject to confirmation bias regardless of their political affiliation, or even their level of knowledge. One study showed that evolution denial was not related to understanding of the theory. Another similarly showed that the people who know the most about religion are atheists and agnostics (i.e. knowing about religion isn't enough to make you religious).

This brings me to the awkward relationship between the transgender community and the rest of America. People know the transgender community endures enormous discrimination. A Pew study from last year found that LGB people saw the transgender community as less accepted than any other part of the LGBT spectrum. Another recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that Americans, in general, see transgender people as the most discriminated against minority in the U.S.

Ok, so there's your awareness, and it does translate into some level of desire to do something to help the transgender community. When asked if transgender people "should have the same general rights and protections as other Americans," 89 percent of respondents agreed with this bland, non-specific boilerplate. In other words, most Americans don't want to go out of their way to discriminate against transgender people.

However, many people see protections like those in ENDA as "special rights," and not the same rights as anyone else. Support for a LGB only ENDA polled last December at 66 percent, while support for a transgender inclusive ENDA was only 56 percent.

While 66 percent of the public thinks that bullying of LGB youth is a serious problem, only 43 percent of the public supported a bill to protect transgender students in California and ensure they have full access to school facilities and activities.

Another area where "words are wind," is transgender specific healthcare. There is as much unanimity with medical and mental health care professional organizations on the necessity of transgender specific healthcare as there is with climatologists on climate change. Study after study has shown that the most effective way to bring down the horrifically high mortality rates amongst the transgender population is access to transgender specific healthcare.

Somehow, even in the face of clear, peer reviewed, established, accepted scientific evidence on the necessity of healthcare, nominal allies in the LGB and progressive communities often dispute what the experts say. Or they ignore the financial analysis that points out that inclusion in insurance plans costs less per year than what you can find underneath your couch cushions.

Similarly, when it comes to transgender athletes, even people who want to label themselves allies let their confirmation bias run wild. They decide that transgender people should compete in their birth gender despite:

1. The fact that the NCAA and the IOC have decided that post-transition transgender athletes have no advantage.

2. The science that shows exactly how testosterone is the primary agent responsible for the differences between male and female athletes (and that trans women have half the testosterone of cis-gender women).

3. The expert opinions of the people that wrote the NCAA and IOC policies.

4. The fact that even when transgender athletes are allowed to compete, they are far from dominant.

Then there's the baseless discrimination against transgender people in the military. I have a hard time believing people when they say that they don't believe in discriminating against transgender people in the workplace, but are perfectly fine with America's largest employer making the firing of anyone found to be transgender mandatory with no exceptions. The excuse that it is too difficult is just that: an excuse. We're the last English speaking country left on Earth that doesn't let transgender people serve. In large part because of current policies on transgender people, the U.S. is ranked 40th out of 103 nations when it comes to LGBT military policy. We rank behind bastions of freedom like Cuba and Albania.

When people say they support transgender people but oppose the specific issues that matter to the transgender community, it makes as much sense as saying you support the gay community, but oppose marriage equality and anti-bullying initiatives. Individuals opining about transgender issues without knowing any of the evidence, or simply ignoring it, reminds me of nothing so much as creationist Ken Ham discussing how much tyrannosaurus rex really loved broccoli.

Human beings aren't naturally consistent in their reasoning. We are built this way. But, there is nothing preventing us from at least trying to be consistent. The next time a transgender issue comes up, step back, and ask what the smartest people in the field think. If you instead find yourself agreeing with opponents of transgender issues, that should probably be your first sign that you are giving more credence to your internal biases than to the best evidence available.

Oh, and no laughing at Ken Ham until you do go back and check what experts have to say about transgender people.

Just for the sake of consistency.

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