Please sit down and make yourselves comfortable. It's time we had a talk.
It's easy for someone who identifies as transgender to start talking about the issues affecting them. Trans individuals are often asked "how" and "why" by those they encounter, and oftentimes feel pressured to respond. For trans people in the public eye, the pressure is coupled with a need to maintain or re-craft a public image, and this encourages them to go even further -- oftentimes with tremendous benefit to the community, but occasionally at great detriment.
Just as in every other segment of society there are those who do something well, and those who do not. The perils of a misstep whilst transitioning in the public eye can have immense consequences to the community and set back the narrative, even creating or adding to negative public opinion if someone is not well-informed or educated on the issues.
Simply because you are transgender and in the public eye does not necessarily mean that you are the best person to speak on transgender issues. If you are in the public eye and are invited to speak on trans issues, it is imperative that you do educate yourself fully beforehand. If you have not done your research and don't know all of the intricacies under the trans umbrella, the social factors and negative effects on life of those who transition outside the bubble of Hollywood or the media, then maybe you should allow someone else to speak in your stead.
A recent case in point is Zoey Tur.
Zoey presents herself as a scientist and an expert on transgender issues, yet the fact is that however well-intentioned she may be, her wild and inaccurate claims and attempts to define our narrative have done nothing but cause significant harm to the trans community.
In a recent interview on March 13th (may contain triggers), Zoey showed that she not only lacks the knowledge to speak for the community, but that she has no issues with causing harm in so doing if it results in a media appearance for herself. In the interview, Tur stated that the loss of family, job, housing and friends that often occurs for those who transition, reverses when someone undergoes gender confirmation surgery, erasing all other trans identities in her wake. In addition to erasing those within the community who opt to not have surgery or those who want yet can't afford the surgery because it's not covered by their healthcare provider if they're even lucky enough to have one, she publicly re-iterated the TERF and misogynist view that having a vagina is what makes a woman. In Zoey's eyes, having a penis means you lose everything while having a vagina means that you regain what you have lost. This is not a message that we need to be sending to those experiencing dysphoria with no way to finance GCS surgery in a community with 42 percent suicide attempt rate. It is inexcusable.
As an intersex feminine-of-center person, I also take significant issue with Zoey's claim that "For female to males, it's a little bit different. Many have poly-cystic ovary syndrome... which has a masculinizing effect," and that if they have appropriate estrogen therapy won't have "identity issues." This is simply false. Zoey conflates sex and gender consistently throughout the video, and this is a prime example of her lack of research. Tur's reference was to a study in Japan which showed that there was a high incidence of poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, in those on testosterone therapy -- but the study did not have an equal sample of trans-identified males who were not taking testosterone.
The poor understanding of science did not stop there. On the subject of trans athletes, she did correctly state that if a child does not experience puberty and transitions, they will appear cisgender, but then targeted trans athletes by stating that if someone has ever experienced puberty and then transitions, it becomes problematic because they would have an "advantage." This is something that has been debunked by medical science and the athletic community. The only medical professional who has publicly dissented, has no clear understanding of what being transgender even is.
During the same interview, Tur makes several elevated claims regarding her place in the transgender narrative. Not only does she falsely claim to be the first transgender TV reporter when that title belongs to Eden Lane, Tur takes it one step further and actually has the audacity to compare her struggle to that of the "First black performer who was allowed to be on TV." How someone embedded in the entertainment industry and coming from a place of extreme white privilege can compare their experience with that of people of color, is both insulting and unconscionable. Transgender women of color are being killed at epidemic levels in this country. Black people of all genders and expressions are at a significant disadvantage where it comes to institutionalized racism, employment, housing, income and the judicial system. Ms. Tur's experience does not even come close to comparing with that of a transgender person of color, or even that of Ethel Waters. Her wild comparisons simply speak to her not-so-thinly veiled willingness to readily co-opt others' struggles in an attempt to gain personal notoriety and celebrity.
Even more startling is what was not contained in her recent interview. Tur has publicly reposted anti-trans TERF bigotry using her twitter account, where she ENDORSES the author's message, which is that in her view trans women are a danger in public restrooms, even though there is only a single incident on record.
Zoey fails to acknowledge the simple fact that just because one apparent transgender woman punched a cisgender woman in a restroom, it does not make trans or transfeminine people an overall danger. In the same way that cisgender women aren't in overall danger from other cisgender women, despite stories such as this one where a cis-woman attacks another cis-woman with a crowbar in a restroom.
Zoey misses the point that there are far more stories of cisgender on cisgender crime in restrooms than there are transgender on cisgender, and conversely more cisgender attacks on transgender people reported.
Is this a deliberate attempt at changing the narrative around transgender issues by someone who believes in surgical essentialism and transsexual separatism from the trans umbrella, or just an attempt to cash-in on the recent increase of visibility of trans women in the media? Either way, Tur appears to be speaking solely for herself.
To those in the media -- please be responsible and stop giving airtime to someone so ill-informed and ill-educated on the issues as Ms. Tur, when there are plenty of others in the public eye who are truly experts in the field -- not simply because they are transgender, but because they have educated themselves with the issues -- the social, scientific and physical realities of what it means to be transgender, even if it's not underneath their own pane on the umbrella.
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