Whether we realize it or not, many of us uphold transphobic beliefs. I freely admit that when my son came out as transgender more than six years ago, much of my fear was rooted in not understanding gender diversity and seeing it as “different.” Our unconscious bias often comes out in small ways, known as microaggressions. Because they seem small, microaggressions are often harder to identify, address, and then change or reform. In this instance, size does matter. Harm is harm, even when it’s a thousand papercuts. What are the costs of these transphobic beliefs, these false narratives about the trans community? Let’s break them down into personal costs and professional costs.
Inflicting Emotional Harm
I think it’s safe to say that most people don’t go about their day looking to inflict psychological and emotional distress on others. You may say, “I don’t discriminate or use awful slurs!” That’s great. But are you actively working to remove your unconscious bias and address the microaggressions that can slip into our everyday lives? Do you nod your head when pundits declare drag as inappropriate for children? Have you ever said that children shouldn’t be allowed to choose their gender in case it’s just a phase or they’re seeking attention? Those are a few of the false narratives that are hurtful and offensive. They perpetuate the discrimination your trans friends, family, and colleagues are facing on a daily basis and cause emotional harm, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more.
Even if you don’t know anyone personally who is part of the trans community, you probably know their allies, families or friends. Your community notices the jokes you laugh at, the memes you share, and the discourse you’re a part of—they also notice your silence. It’s hard for allies to maintain relationships with people who uphold transphobic beliefs because they are committed to promoting equality and social justice. Allies will gradually or abruptly cut ties with people who are diametrically opposed to supporting their trans friends and family. When it comes down to needing to choose between friendships, allies will make the healthiest choice, and a relationship with someone who is upholding transphobic beliefs is decidedly unhealthy.
Limiting Personal Growth
I get it. The temptation to stay in our little bubbles in life can be very strong. And it can seem much safer. However, when you resist growth and stay within your comfort zone, you may miss out on new opportunities to learn, develop new skills, and achieve your goals. Not to mention the wonderful new people you get to meet. By failing to challenge yourself, you may feel stagnant or stuck in your personal and professional life, which can lead to a lack of motivation, decreased self-confidence, and even depression. None of that sounds very appealing!
Transphobia is just not tolerated by many people today. If you express transphobic views or engage in transphobic behaviour, it can result in negative publicity, backlash from customers or clients, and damage to your reputation. This can lead to lost business and difficulty attracting new clients or customers. Also, being known as tolerant of discrimination in your workplace can make it challenging for you to recruit and retain top-talent employees who value inclusion because many other companies are embracing gender non-conforming and non-binary employees and customers. Employees and customers are less willing to tolerate silence and avoidance of taking a stand to defend gender diversity, and they are unafraid to communicate their displeasure.
Legal and Financial Consequences
Trans rights are human rights. So, any company or professional who perpetuates discrimination or harassment toward anyone in the trans community might face legal and financial consequences. This could include lawsuits, fines, damage to brand reputation, and more. Corporations, both large and small, have workplace policies that include anti-discrimination, and they are usually very clear. The recent report of J.K. Rowling’s 74% drop in profits, thanks to her intolerance of transgender women, is a great example of the financial consequences of spewing transphobia.
As more and more companies prioritize Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I), there are limited professional spaces for people who uphold false narratives about the trans community. When workplaces and businesses are welcoming for all, there is less room for discrimination and discriminatory practices, and those who uphold false beliefs will find it more difficult to find professional opportunities.
Upholding transphobic narratives and false beliefs about any marginalized community is no longer the popular refrain, regardless of how loud the bigoted minority might be at the moment. We need to recognize the personal and professional risks of upholding those narratives. It is far easier and more rewarding to strive for curiosity, understanding and empathy toward all people, regardless of their gender identity and expression.
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