People’s gender identities and expressions are naturally diverse, however, in the UK; gender is often understood to be binary. To use an analogy, instead of everyone being evenly distributed in a sea, they are randomly swept up onto two separate islands, and there’s no swimming allowed in between! Each island has its own rules, or gender stereotypes, which set out how men or women should look, act or behave. The idea that boys should like blue and enjoy aggressive, competitive activities, whilst girls should be passive and nurturing, are two examples of gender stereotypes. There is strong pressure to conform to these gender rules. Society often penalises anyone who breaks the rules and the penalty is even worse particularly for those who try to leave the island which they found themselves on at birth – this is called transphobia and transphobia is the sharp end of sexism.
So, transphobia is intolerance of gender diversity. It is based around the idea that there are only two sexes – male or female, which you stay in from birth. And furthermore, that people who fit gender stereotypes (by sounding, looking or behaving like men and women are ‘supposed to’) are somehow better than those who don’t.
Trans people, gender queer people and people with a transsexual history can also experience homophobia, because the abuser often neither knows nor cares how a person identifies, just that they are different in some way. If someone has been -phobic to you and you have a trans – spectrum identity (including if you are gender queer or if you have a transsexual history but identify as the man or woman you know yourself to be) you can get in touch for help and advice, no matter what the phobia is about.