There’s a lot of very blatant transphobia in our world, yet I’ve never actually encountered someone who would acknowledge that they or their words might be transphobic. I think this is because people don’t quite understand what the word means. It’s not a fear of trans people, we’re adorable and peace loving, no one is afraid of us. Transphobia is a fear of deconstructing gender barriers.
When an interviewer rejects and applicant who happens to be trans, it’s not because they personally have a problem, but their customers might. When a landlord denies housing, it’s because the other tenants might complain. When schools refuse to allow someone access to public facilities, it’s because some of the other children might be uncomfortable. When a cisgender man reacts violently towards a trans woman, it’s because he’s worried about what others will think of him.
Gender roles serve an important social function, and the thought of their erasure is a source of anxiety for many. We are afraid of ourselves and each other, of what we might do if given license to live however we wanted. There are obviously more than a few negative extremes along this line of thinking, and I’m certainly not advocating an erasure of gender roles. What I am saying is that it would be really nice if we as a society could remove the weight of obligation and stigma, allow people to decide for themselves exactly where they fit, what role they are best suited to perform. Unfortunately this idea seems to terrify some people.