Deconstructing Stonewall’s “Fit” video

Stonewall made a video recently to be sent to all the schools in Britain to help prevent LGB bullying. However, they included this piece on trans people. Watch it in all its transphobic glory.

[Description: a video link, in the video a number of LGB (and maybe one trans guy, it’s not made at all clear) young people are sitting talking together in what appears to be some kind of youth centre. Apologies now to those people using screen readers as this description is not very good. I promise to get better at writing descriptions]

So. Stonewall, we don’t expect you to be awesome about trans issues, in fact we expect you to damn well leave them alone, but if you’re going to address trans issues in a anti-bullying video it’s really pretty obvious that the video shouldn’t contain the word “tranny”. Especially not if you’re then going to allow the word to pass unchallenged.

I know that you wanted to have the characters in your video talk like normal youth but that really really doesn’t mean that you couldn’t have called that boy out on his inadvertant (scripted!) transphobia. “Tranny” is NOT “short for transgender” if anything it was originally short for “transsexual” and it is an INSULT. It’s a derogatory term used by cis people to put trans people down, degender us and make us feel ashamed of who and what we are. It’s NOT a good word to use in an anti-bullying video. Stonewall, if the word “tranny” will now be used unchallenged in our classrooms to belittle and degender trans girls, trans boys and the gender-nonconforming butch lesbian girls and femme gay boys you love so much – it’ll be your fault.

Whilst we’re on the topic of degendering: here’s a news flash for you Stonewall. “Transsexual” is an adjective, not a noun. I’m a transsexual man, not “a transsexual”. While some trans people identify as not having a gender, I do have a gender, it’s male and I want that to be respected. I’m a MAN, not a transsexual. Did you get that? I’m also NOT “a girl who feels more like a boy” because I am not now nor have I ever been “a girl” (again, caveats here about trans people who do feel that they were girls who became boys or vice versa, I personally feel more like a boy who used to wear drag all the time). I am not personally acquainted with any trans woman who thinks of herself as a boy/man who feels more like a girl/woman, I’m sure some exist but Stonewall, you who do not speak for trans people, don’t try to tell me that the way I feel about myself and the way others feel about themselves excludes us from own self-definition. We are transsexual people and we decide what that means. Get over it.

Dear Lee, I know you’re only fictional and possibly not even played by a lesbian but I’ll address this section to you. The answer to “Am I a transvestite?” isn’t “No”, it’s “If you want to be”. If you, my fictional friend wish to identify as a transvestite, you can. You can identify as a butch lesbian girl or as a straight trans boy or as a drag king who doesn’t believe in sexuality labels or as queer or as just Lee. Be cis or trans, the only rule is “Be you”. You can identify as whatever you like, whether you feel like a girl or not and no matter how you want to dress. Just be Lee, because Lee is beautiful.

Stonewall, by being so quick to tell Lee that they aren’t a transvestite and basically telling Lee that their gender expression is just a phase by suggesting that they’ll “grow out it” you’re privileging cis identities above trans identities by suggesting that all nonstandard gender expressions are temporary and that grown up people have standard cisgender identities and expressions – except for butch lesbians of course. Lee might grow out of wanting to dress the way Lee does or Lee might grow into a butch woman or Lee might grow into a man if that’s what Lee wants to do or Lee might not be a man or a woman at all. If this situation were real, I can imagine being Lee and needing support and guidance as I realised that I was trans and needing to be told not just that it was okay to be gay but that it’s okay to be trans.

Your video Stonewall tells thousands of British children that it’s okay to be gay and it’s okay to dress however you like – just so long as you aren’t trans. This video others trans people and makes them something strange and mysterious whilst spreading inaccurate transphobic assumptions as fact.

Stonewall:

  • Trans people should never be called “tranny” without permission, most of us find it incredibly insulting
  • Trans identity is not “the wrong sort of gay” because being trans isn’t a sexuality
  • Trans people are not their “birth gender” they are the gender they identify as. I am a man, my girlfriend is a woman, my boyfriend Kit has no gender and identifies as a thing. We are who and what we say we are.
  • Gender is not the same thing as sex, stop conflating them
  • Not all transsexual people get or want gender reassignment surgery  and the words “sex change” are pretty insulting too.
  • Transsexual is an adjective
  • It’s okay to be trans and Lee doesn’t have to be a girl if Lee doesn’t want to, no matter what the person who appears to be Lee’s girlfriend thinks
  • If the person with the really short hair and the peircings is meant to be a trans guy, it’s worth noting that not all or even necessarily most trans guys were “tomboys” as kids.
  • GET THE TRANSPHOBIA OUT OF THE ANTI-BULLYING VIDEO!

Stonewall, you clearly have a lot to learn about trans people. Hopefully by actually talking to some of us you can learn.

By the way, I’m not the only person who thinks this, transactivist has written about it here and includes a transcript which people might find useful, I was planning on writing a transcript myself but it seems transactivist beat me to it.

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