Mila Madison

It is most likely all of us have dealt with some form of discrimination, hate or lack of acceptance because we are transgender. It is a sad reality of the world we live in. Not only do we face this while we are out in the world, but we often face it at home as well.

Personally I was recently reminded of this sad fact when a relative went out of his way to send my wife a picture of me along with a few choice words about how “disgusting” we both are. Me for being transgender and her for staying with me. He also went on to misgender me intentionally by calling me “he” instead of “she”. This is certainly not the worst I have or will have experienced, but it does serve as a reminder of how ignorant and hurtful the world can be.


When trying to understand where this all comes from we arrive at a deadly cocktail of ignorance, misinformation and poor representation throughout society. Hate is often passed down from generation to generation. It is taught through socialization. It is fueled by fear. It stems from misrepresentation and is solidified by misplaced beliefs.

Generations of hate

For many, their first experience with hate comes from their parents. We are taught at a very young age what we are supposed to like and not like. We are told what religion to believe in, what political party to support, what sports teams to root for and a host of other beliefs or traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. Some of us evolve to think differently and question what is passed down, while others accept it without question.

The socialization of hate

Hate gets socialized at an early age. I remember as early as kindergarten when kids would make fun of other kids just because they were different. At that age it wasn’t because you were gay or transgender. It was because you wore glasses or maybe you were the one person with red hair in the class. It would later become what kind of clothes you wore or your family’s income. Much later it would become things like being transgender, gay and lesbian, or race. Kids are taught to hate those that are different through social pressures.

Fear of the unknown

Most people do not know anyone who is transgender. Back in December, many news organizations including the Huffington Post, ran articles detailing how more people in America have seen a ghost then a person who is transgender. Fear of something they have never known or seen perpetuates the problem. They are unable to fully understand it because it has not been experienced in their everyday lives. Politicians use this fear to motivate their base.

Misrepresentation in the media

In movies and television we are often portrayed as the brunt of the joke. We are often represented as being out to fool everyone. Look at movies like Ace Ventura. Here the lead character, played by Jim Carrey, realizes that that the antagonist (Sean Young) is transgender. He then becomes disgusted by the fact that he kissed her and begins to dry heave along with everyone else in the scene. It reinforces the stereotype. It says that transgender people are really the gender they were assigned at birth even though we know this not to be true. It reinforces the idea that transgender people should not be accepted. We see this in all kinds of movies and television shows. For some, this is all they know about transgender people. They only know what they see on TV. No wonder they are all upset about transgender people using the bathrooms they identify with. The joke is starting to get old however. Just look at the backlash regarding the Zoolander 2 trailer. People are beginning to wake up to the fact that it is in bad taste and not funny.


It is reinforced by misplaced religious beliefs

Many people are told by their faith organizations that being transgender is a sin. Many religions cite eunuchs, which transgender people are not. Some state a man should not wear a woman’s clothes and vice versa. Even if this were viable it is based on what one was assigned at birth. It is actually reversed. They should be more upset about a transgender person not dressing according to their identity if you were going to actually adhere to those standards. Transgender is simply not mentioned in religious text. Cross-dressing is not transgender. It is an ignorant misconception to think so. Many of these organizations also choose to rule out ridiculous parts of their texts with the exception of the ones they apply to the gay and transgender communities. It just does not work that way and there are no legitimate reasons for religions to hate transgender people. Unfortunately these hurtful beliefs are often perpetuated through many of the world’s faith organizations.

How do we change things?

So as I think about the hurtful relative I have, I realize he is a product of all these reasons. He spent a lifetime being told that I am disgusting and that what I am is wrong. He has been told I am nothing more than what I was assigned at birth. Maybe he is fighting his own internal feelings. Usually people lash out at what they are to distance themselves from it in the eyes of others. I can only know that he is afraid. Maybe he is afraid of me or afraid of himself? Possibly a little of both, who knows?

What I do know is that the only way to change perception is to normalize transgender. What this means is that the more we come out and the more people know us, the more acceptance we will receive. It is easy to be fueled by fear when you don’t understand something. The good news is that the tides are changing. The younger generations are becoming more and more aware and accepting. We are starting to be seen in the media and culture. We are just starting to be viewed as human. If it were a product cycle we would be in the early adopter or induction stage. The people accepting us now are the most open minded. It will then reach a growth stage where regular people will become aware. We will then have the late comers, then finally it will be normal or old news. This will only happen if we let people know us. It will only happen if we succeed at what we do day in and day out.

As for my relative, I feel sad that my gender has such an effect on his life. It is unfortunate to know that it was so important to him. Especially since it never seemed to matter before. Sometimes we need to just let people go and hope they figure it out one day. I also realize that he has so many things to wake up to that he may not make it me in our lifetime. What I do know is that this is probably the best thing for him. By his actions he is obviously thinking about it all. To me that is a good start.

Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!

Love and peace,

Mila Madison


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