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It's Not Transphobic

Transphobia means "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against transgender people." What most people consider a phobia to be — "irrational fear of" — is only a rather small subset of what the word "transphobic" tends to be used to describe (the irrational fear of bathroom homicides for example). Overwhelmingly the term is used to mean "aversion to" or "discrimination against." Unfortunately, and very frustratingly, it has been extremely over-used for for situations that meet the absolute bare minimum requirement for "aversion to" with microscopic, razor-thin margins.

A perfect example of this is a cisgendered individual unwilling to date a transgender individual purely for a desire to have biological children. Is this a preference? Yes. Is it an aversion to transgender individuals for the purposes of dating? Yes. Is it an aversion to transgender individuals as a whole? No. Does it meet the definition of transphobic? Also yes. For a word that sees such common use as describing an active threat to the transgender community, it sees too-frequent use for situations that aren't even an inconvenience for anyone.

Let's play this hypothetical out to the extreme opposite, as its active usage was designed for. Assume the following federal law exists solely for the sake of argument: "any individual that questions or confirms their own suspicions of being transgender — as well as anyone that fails to report this activity or actively hides it — must be taken to a concentration camp and tortured for the remainder of their lives." Is this law transphobic? Yes, unequivocally, on all three counts.

Therein lies the problem. By placing a reasonable desire to have biological children in the same ballpark as genocidal war crimes, we've killed the hero created to kill the beast. The term "transphobic" is an emotionally loaded word. By applying it to something as innocuous as wanting biological children, it becomes diluted and meaningless. If something that incredibly insignificant can be transphobic, anything can. And if the threshold for entry is set that low, there is no value to having it at all.

Granted, the prefix "trans" and suffix "phobia" have existed long before transgender was even a blip on the radar. It is not the word's existence that I find inappropriate, but rather the application of it. Surely a literal genocide built upon the desire to eradicate something can be seen as a phobia, but it's ill-fitting to use a phobia as a summation. After all, the terms "ethnophobia" or "semitiphobia" aren't used for measures this extreme, even if syntactically correct, for good reason. Something of such an extreme magnitude far surpasses simply a fear, or aversion to, or discrimination of. It requires higher standards to adequately describe in a way that catches the magnitude without dilution. And therein lies the problem.

Is banning transgender individuals from competing in sports transphobic? What about forcing transgender individuals to use the bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificate? Or refusing to protect against discrimination that prevents transgender individuals from getting jobs, housing, insurance, medical care, or any other number of necessities? On paper, yes, but in reality, no. It's not transphobic, it's anti-trans.