Thursday, June 4, 2009

Radio Hosts Condone Violence Against Transgender Children

Via The Huffington Post:

"Even by the flexible moral, ethical, and professional standards of American talk radio, the May 28th segment of KRXQ 98.5 FM Sacramento's Rob, Arnie, & Dawn in the Morning radio talk show makes for a sickening half-hour of ugliness and cruelty. For once, the focus was not LGBT adults, but minors. The hosts, Rob Williams and Arnie States, devoted the segment in question to a vicious diatribe against transgender children, some as young as five, focusing in particular on the case of one Omaha family raising a gender dysphoric child, and their decision to support her transition from male to female."

It is often argued that anti-gay and anti-trans bullying is not so much about being gay or trans, per se, but actually has more to do with bullies seeking to police gender norms. Sexual difference, the idea that men and women are very different and perhaps complementary, implies hierarchy. Whenever humans construct multiple categories, they also tend to construct some sort of ranking system. And, when men and women are constructed as very different, it is women as an entire class who are constructed as "less than" men. When people transgress gender norms they demonstrate the fluidity of gender, thereby disrupting this hierarchy. After all, how can men be superior to women, if some men act like, are, or become women?

Observe how radio hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States police their (hopefully imaginary) sons' masculinity:

"For his part, States bragged that if his own son were to ever dare put on a pair of high heels, States would beat his son with one of his own shoes. He urged parents whose own little boys expressed a desire to wear a dress to verbally abuse and degrade them as a viable response. 'Because you know what? Boys don't wear high heel shoes. And in my house, they definitely don't wear high heels.

'I'm going to go, 'You know what? You're a little idiot! You little dumbass!'' States sneered, adding later, 'I look forward to when [the transgender children] go out into society and society beats them down. And they wind up in therapy.'....'A boy who wants to wear a dress is a freak. A nut.'"

I find this diatribe incredibly sad.

For one, if femininity were not "less than" masculinity, it is likely that these two radio hosts would not be have had such violent, seething, histrionic responses to biological males who traverse gender boundaries. Men, you will often find, seem to have the most extreme negative reactions to transgenderism. Perhaps, squatting as they are on their pedestals of masculine superiority, the conservative heterosexual male has the most to lose when men and women stop being men and women. If men can really be women and women can really be men, then who would He automatically be better than?

Secondly, note how these radio hosts package and present their You're A Freak! reaction as though it's all just a bit of self-evident common sense. That's the tricky thing about the construction of gender and deviancy. People have a lot invested in the binary biological sex status quo and in keeping a clear demarcation between masculinity and femininity. These constructs have become so pervasive that they masquerade as authentic. Yet, I find it far more enlightening to always be wary of these things people arrogantly call Self-Evident Truths. Such creatures, after all, are usually nothing more than argumentum ad gastrums, lazy and biased arguments from one person's gut that they egocentricly pass off as Universal Truth For All of Humanity.

What is it, for instance, about a dress, in and of itself, that makes it a suitable garment for females but an unsuitable one for males? Could it be that only because US society has arbitrarily constructed a dress as a Piece of Clothing For Females that men, therefore, are not allowed to wear them? That is it, really. No logical reason exists as to why men cannot or should not wear dresses other than that dresses are associated with femininity, girls, and women. Knowing that, why or how is it in any way "freakish" for a boy to desire to wear a dress? In other cultures (and especially at the Vatican!), it is perfectly acceptable and "masculine" for boys and men to wear dresses and dress-like garments.

Could it be, then, that many things about what society tells us are "inherently" male and female are also not so "natural"?

Lastly, in a decent, civil society it should go without saying that Williams and States' violent rhetoric has no place in it, no matter how free they are to say it. Their incendiary words are exactly what some people need to hear in order to justify their hatred of, intolerance of, and possibly violence towards transgender persons. It takes small, angry, and possibly hurting men to publicly condone violence against children- particularly children who are among some of the most vulnerable members of our society- and it breaks my heart. As Michael Rowe notes:

"Trusting, innocent, and vulnerable, [these children] ought to be beyond the reach of the violent, hate-mongering adult rhetoric that is taken for granted in American talk radio. One needs no particular sympathy for transgender people to understand the prodigious boundary transgression of promoting contempt and disgust towards children, anyone's children, on a radio show."

I wonder if anti-LGBT organizations, blogs, and individuals will condemn this violent speech. Or, maybe when these folks express concern for The Children, they do not actually mean all children.

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