BY: MK Worthington
Over the past few months I have come across several online instances of shocking transphobia on blog posts and in the news from people who refer to themselves as allies. Personally, I find this trend greatly disturbing for a number of reasons. Bloggers and writers who paint themselves as martyrs who are suffering as a result of the unreasonable and ungrateful trans* community invite criticism and even hostility toward trans* people across the board. The message seems to be: “If you don’t want my help, then you can face my wrath.” And, worse still, there are plenty of people out there willing and eager to back them up based on a strange, misguided sense of righteous indignation.
The most recent example I have of this phenomenon is a blog post that I was directed to via Facebook by a fellow author in an increasingly problematic writer’s group that I belong to. The blog post was penned by an author of gay male romance named WT Prater. Mr. Prater’s blog is public and available for everyone to see, and he actively recruited viewers for this particular post by advertising it on Facebook and in other various forums for fans and fellow writers alike. Naturally, I followed one of his links and ended up on a post titled: HELP NOT WANTED: A Letter to the Transgender Community
If you are interested, check out the post here, and read the responses as well:
It makes for a fascinating read.
Now, let me give you a rundown of my experience and knowledge of this post—and of Mr. Prater himself.
First of all, the title: HELP NOT WANTED: A Letter to the Transgender Community
This title implicates the entire Trans* community across the board, with no exceptions. Despite Mr. Prater’s claim in a response: “I did not state ALL people this or that…” – YES, he did. The title does just that.
Next, let me examine the content of the post. Mr. Prater approached an LGBTQ center because he wanted to start—and participate in—a transgender support group. When the officials at the center, (who, by the way, were not trans* people themselves), tried to explain to Mr. Prater that his involvement in that particular venture would not be appropriate, he decided to respond with this punishing rant against trans* people, turning the situation into an imagined competition over who suffers more and worse from various forms of discrimination!
Mr. Prater’s experience is NOT, as he claims, an example of the Trans* Community discriminating against another member of the “LGBTQ” community. It is, however, a clear example of Cis-entitlement and disconnect. Mr. Prater, a Cis-gendered “gay” man, did not ask HOW he could help the Trans* community, he insisted on being allowed to do what HE wanted and offer the ‘guidance’ HE knew they needed… When someone tried to explain the problems with his chosen form of involvement he turned around and attacked the very people he said he wanted to help…
The opening paragraph of his post alone is enough to turn the stomachs of most Trans* people. He begins by saying:
“I feel like I should start this letter off by saying I am Cis-gendered male and I am gay. I have known I was gay since I was five years old and I have never yearned to be female in any way, shape or form. True, I love the female ability to dress wildly and accessorize outrageously, but I would not give up my penis for the world.”
His argument throughout the post is that he UNDERSTANDS what Trans* people are going through, but that intro proves he has NO idea… And, as if that weren’t enough, it is also a strategic misrepresentation of who he is. Mr. Prater chose to refer to himself as a ‘gay man’ for the purposes of this post, garnering a great deal of sympathy from readers who idolize gay men in an almost fetishistic way—however, within the writing community, it is common knowledge that Mr. Prater is married to a charming woman named Julie, and the pair represent themselves on that forum as bisexual. He doesn’t work alone, he works with his wife, and as a pair the dynamic is much different from simply that of a single gay man.
I believe Mr. Prater has the idea of a ‘support group’ confused with an ‘activist’ group or even a ‘pride’ group, and his desire to participate in the group reads like a creepy, voyeuristic desire. Given the frequency of violence trans* people experience at the hands of Cis-gendered individuals, gay and straight alike, his presence WOULD make vulnerable and frightened trans* people uncomfortable and unwilling to attend. He happens to be a physically huge Cis-man, intimidating on many levels. It isn’t a reflection on him as a person or even on the potential members that he’s been asked not to attend the support meetings. It is a reflection of the reality we live in. It is similar to the way an ex-Army drill sergeant would not be an appropriate group leader for a group of sexually abused women… Marginalized groups deserve to have their own groups where they can feel comfortable. Mr. Prater is NOT trans*, nor does he have any relevant degrees or experience which would qualify him to participate in such meetings… in fact, the comments and attitude of his post show him to be a singularly bad choice for the position.
Unfortunate, his claims of being a ‘rejected ally’ cause quite a stir, lending a sort of justification to further hostility toward the Trans* Community