You see it on the news almost every night. Especially since the recent Presidential election. Those with hateful attitudes toward the transgender community are becoming more vocal than ever. The evidence is all around us and it includes more than just the recent spate of anti-trans bathroom bills or lawsuits against local schools who have been working to accommodate trans students.
Are You Sure You Want Acceptance?
Acceptance is a word that is used frequently in regard to LGBT people and other minorities. You hear phrases like “I just want to be accepted” or “It is important to accept trans people as people.” But is acceptance what we (or you) are really looking for?
The definition of acceptance is “the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.” As a trans person I see myself as being more than “adequate.” In fact, I think I am pretty darn awesome! I make a good living, have raised a great kid, I give to charity, I pay my taxes and work hard to make my community a better place for all. In my opinion, that is worth more than being tolerated or accepted.
Where Do You Fall On The Riddle Scale?
Developed in 1974 by researcher Dorothy Riddle, the Riddle Scale was originally designed as a way to look at peoples’ attitudes toward the gay community, but it can be applied toward the trans community as well. It divides people’s attitudes into “positive” and “negative” buckets. Let’s take a look:
Repulsion: Being transgender is seen as a crime against nature. Trans people are considered sick, crazy, immoral, sinful, wicked, etc., and anything is justified to change them including reparative therapy.
Pity: Transgender status is considered aberrant behavior that can and should be changed. Trans people are confused and should be pitied as less fortunate ("the poor dears").
Tolerance: Trans behavior is viewed as a phase of adolescent development and most people will grow out of it. Trans people should not be given positions of authority because they are still working through their “adolescent” ways.
Acceptance: Characterized by statements like "You're not transgender to me, you're a person!" or "Its is OK for people to be trans as long as they don't flaunt it!" People who “accept” trans people chose to ignore it.
Support: People at this level may be uncomfortable themselves, but they are aware of the transphobic climate and the irrationality and unfairness trans people face. Supporters may work to safeguard the rights of trans people.
Admiration: It is acknowledged that being transgender in our society requires strength. People at this level are willing to truly examine their transphobic attitudes, values, and behaviors.
Appreciation: The diversity of people is considered valuable and trans people are seen as a valid part of that diversity. People on this level are willing to combat transphobia in themselves and others.
Nurturance: Assumes that trans people are an indispensable part of our society. People on this level view trans people with genuine affection and are willing to be their allies and advocates
Building Bridges Leads To Positive Attitudes
The Riddle Scale forces us to reexamine our attitudes toward transgender people and other minorities. It also helps us to think about what types of actions we can take toward building bridges into the wider community.
87% of Americans say they know a lesbian, gay or bisexual person, but the number is less than 30% for trans people. If we are to move from tolerance to acceptance to support and ultimately to a wider attitude of appreciation and nurturance toward trans people we need to spread our message far and wide.
We need to get out in public and let the larger population know that we are not going away and that we want to participate – and yes – nurture them as well. That is what the Transgender Day of Visibility is all about.
Corinne is the webmaster of Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance
More About Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance
The leading organization for support and education around transgender issues in Eastern PA and Western NJ, our focus is on helping transgender individuals as they work through their journey to become their authentic selves while helping the community at large learn more about what it means to be transgender.
Note: The opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily that of Lehigh Valley Renaissance or the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.