Religious Right Can’t Imagine that a Trans Woman Might Be Really Good at her Job

I’ll admit it: when I heard about Amanda Simpson’s well-deserved presidential appointment as senior technical advisor to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, my first thought (well, my second thought, after “Hey, awesome!”) was, “Wow, the religious right are going to hate this.” And guess what? I was right. I wish I could attribute that to my amazing psychic powers, but I think it has much more to do with the fact that conservatives these days are really, hilariously predictable.

I say “hilariously” because, while transphobia itself isn’t funny, the fact that anyone – even crazies like anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera and Jerry Falwell acolyte Matt Barber – could protest this appointment is so ridiculous that I don’t know what to do but laugh. Because clearly, appointing someone with thirty years of experience in her field and multiple degrees in subjects that I probably wouldn’t pass an intro course in (I have great respect for anyone who can finish one science degree, let alone several) is “special treatment”, “political correctness” and a result of Obama “pandering to the gay lobby.” It has clearly never occurred to these people that anyone other than a cis man could be the best candidate for this job – or, most likely, any job.

But the more I consider these wingnuts’ mentality, the more I realize that it isn’t that far off from the one shared by patriarchal (or kyrarchal) culture as a whole. In a word where straight, white, cis, able-bodied men are seen as the “norm” – where straight, white, cis, able, male identity is perceived as universal – everyone who doesn’t fit that arbitrary definition of universality will be marked as “other”, and whatever characteristic defines our otherness will be assumed to define us, as individuals. We are, essentially, reduced to nothing but a single characteristic, that one trait (one which is, more often than not, socially constructed in the first place, and may in fact have very little to do with how we perceive our own identities) that marginalizes us within kyrarchy. There is no room for us to be seen as complex, multi-faceted individuals. For people like those quoted above, who have absorbed this rhetoric to the point where any other seems completely alien to them, a trans woman being given a high-ranking job can’t be about anything other than her being trans – after all, that’s the only thing about her that really matters to them. It can’t be about her being really smart, or having years of experience, or being a goddamn rocket scientist – because she’s trans! And therefore it’s all about political correctness! And pandering to the evil gay agenda! Or something!

We can mock all we want (and nothing can stop me from mocking) but the scary part is that all too often, this gets taken a step further – an individual’s status as “other” overtakes not only their other skills and character traits and features, but also their humanity. There are many people out there who simply don’t see trans people (or People of Colour, or women, etc.) as human beings. It’s no wonder, then, that women, POC, PWD and LGBTQ people face such staggering rates of abuse, assault and murder. The religious right may sound ridiculous, but they exist on the same continuum of stereotyping and dehumanizing as many more violent and frightening forms of discrimination – and, as the connections of certain anti-gay groups to the “kill the gays” bill in Uganda has demonstrated, the ends of that continuum aren’t nearly as distant as we might like to think.

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  • Warren  On January 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post!

  • Gessa  On January 10, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Oh, the evils of being “politically correct”. Yet another really good term and concept that has been dragged through the mud.

    *See “affirmative action” and “feminist”

    • Brett K  On January 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm

      Agreed. I wonder, if we stopped calling it “political correctness” and started calling it “respecting diversity and being nice to people” (since, you know, that’s pretty much what it is) would conservatives find a way to drag that term through the mud too?

  • Lizette Pelczar  On January 24, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    hi i really enjoyed your post and i will be sure to read through the rest of your blog… I really appreciate the way in which you look at this subject, looking at this in a new light as they say.. bookmarked!

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