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Mandi's World

Through a Glass Eye Darkly

“He saw nearly all things as through a glass eye, darkly.” —Mark Twain, about James Fenimore Cooper

 

As my interest in writing has grown, I joined an online writing forum called Writing.com, which is designed to allow prospective writers to share their work, write reviews and rate other writers’ work, and have access to some writing tools and support.  As I explored the website, I noticed that many authors created surveys to gather information on different subjects of interest.  I decided to create my own survey, and my subject was people’s attitudes about transgendered people. 

 

My survey is in no way scientific, and I wasn’t even sure what I would do with the results.  My primary objective was to make people think—I posed a number of statements and asked people to rate to what degree they agreed or disagreed with each statement.  I deliberately wrote statements that I thought would expose people’s biases.  I also deliberately withheld the fact that I am transgendered. 

 

As results trickled in, I began to identify some of the weaknesses of my survey.  For one thing, I was depending on people to come across the survey and take the time to answer it, which did not give me a good random sample.  Many people who saw themselves as sympathetic to transgender rights seemed more likely to answer the survey because of the name of the survey and how it was classified on the website, and many people who already had negative opinions seemed to avoid it.  I did, though, get a few who clearly did not like my survey and made a point to tell me so. 

 

Another weakness was my survey design.  For example, when I first ran the survey, I did not give a neutral response option, forcing respondents to either agree or disagree with every statement.  At first, I stood firm on this, thinking that it would make people consider the statements more carefully, but when I started getting remarks that people decided not to respond because of the lack of a neutral option, I relented and added a “Not Sure” response option.  Some of my statements, too, were not worded in the best way.

 

The survey ran for three months, and I received forty responses.  The website does track data on the respondents as long as they are registered users of Writing.com.  According to this data, the average respondent was female, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, and has some college education.  For each statement, the respondent had the following choices:

 

  1. Agree Strongly
  2. Agree Somewhat
  3. Disagree Somewhat
  4. Disagree Strongly
  5. Not Sure

 

Here are the statements:

 

1.      Most men who crossdress are heterosexual.

2.      About the same number of women are transgendered as men.

3.      It is more socially acceptable for women to crossdress.

4.      The majority of transgendered people are highly intelligent.

5.      Transgendered people are mentally ill.

6.      All transsexuals have surgery to transform their genitals.

7.      I would be friends with a person even if I knew that person was transgendered.

8.      Transgendered people are good, morally upstanding people.

9.      It is likely that I have met people who were transgendered but I was not aware they were transgendered.

10.  I have at least one friend who I know is transgendered. (this item had only “agree” or “disagree” as options)

11.  The cause of transgenderism is likely biological.

12.  Transgendered people threaten society.

13.  Transgendered people are fetishists.

14.  The rights of transgendered people are protected by law.

 

There was also a fifteenth statement that invited respondents to write an optional comment on anything they wanted regarding transgenderism or the survey. 

 

Twenty-eight percent of the respondents reported that they know someone who is transgendered, and I noticed that those respondents were generally more knowledgeable and accepting than those who do not know a transgendered person, a result that I expected.

 

“Most men who crossdress are heterosexual” provoked a lot of commentary.  The response was split almost evenly between agree and disagree, but I got comments such as “I personally view transgendered people as practically the same as everyone else, gay or straight or bi or whatever.”  Some people assumed that men who crossdress are homosexual, and thought my suggestion that they are heterosexual meant I had something against homosexuals.  One person thought I was talking about all transgendered people and said, “I am straight and I'm transgendered... or rather, I'm a man trapped in a WOMAN's body, but I love men... so what does that make me? Straight? Gay? I don't know anymore.” 

 

The point I was trying to make was that sexual orientation is not the same as gender identity.  About the same percentage of crossdressers are homosexual as what you would find in the general population—it simply is a separate issue.  Crossdressers who are heterosexual have an interest in making this distinction, as many are either married or want to date women.  If people continually see you as homosexual when you are really heterosexual, your sex life tends to be negatively affected, as well as your options for a committed relationship.  For transsexuals, a discussion of sexual orientation gets really interesting, as the second comment in the previous paragraph illustrates, and it really depends on one’s point of view whether a person is “gay or straight or bi or whatever.”

 

“The majority of transgendered people are highly intelligent” turned out to be another startling statement for many people.  Only five percent of respondents strongly disagreed with the statement, but I got many comments like this one: “I would assume they have the same intelligence as anybody else!”  Only the people who reported knowing a transgendered person strongly agreed with the statement, and after thinking about the many transgendered people I know, I also strongly agree.  Transgendered people are some of the brightest people I know (they certainly tell the best stories!).  Actually, it has been documented that the average transperson is above average in intelligence when compared to the general population.  Perhaps this is Mother Nature’s way of compensating us for all the trouble we go through.

 

The statements that most respondents agreed upon were

  • It is more socially acceptable for women to crossdress” (58 percent strongly agreed, no one strongly disagreed)
  • Transgendered people are mentally ill” (no one strongly agreed, 72 percent strongly disagreed)
  • “All transsexuals have surgery to transform their genitals” (2 percent strongly agreed, 68 percent strongly disagreed)
  • “I would be friends with a person even if I knew that person was transgendered” (72 percent strongly agreed, no one strongly disagreed, and only one person disagreed somewhat)
  • “Transgendered people threaten society” (no one strongly agreed, 87 percent strongly disagreed)

 

I admit that some of my statements should have been worded more clearly.  For example, when I wrote Transgendered people are mentally ill” I was trying to ask whether or not transgenderism is a mental illness.  In fact, many transgendered people are mentally ill, and many non-transgendered people are mentally ill.  But many transgendered people are also not mentally ill.  My statements about whether transpeople are morally upstanding or whether they are fetishists were also faulty for much the same reason.  My next survey will be better.

 

The most interesting part of the survey was the written comments.  I was bracing myself for some strongly negative remarks, but actually I didn’t receive that many.  One brave negative soul included her contact information, and I responded with a polite but vigorous rebuttal.  She then thanked me for my politeness and conceded, “I do judge and I do close my mind to things I don't agree with.”  She also vowed to learn more about transgenderism.  Many responded anonymously, though, and here are complete comments from two anonymous negative souls:

 

Many transgendered individuals I have written to over e-mail believe God "mistakenly" put them in the wrong body. I would think that individuals what became transgendered would actually shun religion in favor of views adopted by the transgendered community as a whole. I guess I can't comment more than that since I can't seem to understand beyond a few idle thoughts that I have had that it would be easier to be a woman. Even then I still wasn't overwhelmed by it. I thought about guys. I experimented as far as thoughts and desires, being an artist it's really easy to see the beauty in either gender. Now that I think about it, I think that most if not all of these individuals would have had to have had some form of depression before such a transition . . . regardless, I can't force someone to believe the same way I do. I'm hurt and saddened by their discisions, but it is theirs to make.

 

Each person is created uniquely as God intended, and therefore has value. I am meant to love each person, despite his or her choices in life. I am not perfect, and I have no right to judge others. However, I do desire to see my own sin and be corrected so that I may grow closer to God and glorify Him. I have the same hope for others. I do believe that Scripture is God's Holy Word, and not only does it point out my lust, my lies, my prideful attitudes, but it also points out homosexuality and other sins as well. Discipline isn't always comfortable, but it is beneficial. I do not believe that any person is innately good or moral. And I do not believe that transgendered people are any more "bad" than the rest of us, and they're definitely not more or less "intelligent". Sexual sins, however, do have serious consequences--for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. I think a part of desiring to switch genders is due to a lack of satisfaction in who God has created a person to be, and ultimately, the peace and joy that comes from a relationship with God will not be fulfilled by any change of that kind. I hope my answers do not seem harsh. I'm trying my best to communicate both truth and love and to clarify what the "multiple choice" answers might have expressed. I hope you have a good day.

 

The first comment made me scratch my head a few dozen times.  I have no clue what these views are that the transgendered community supposedly adopted or how they are contrary to religion (Are there human sacrifices going on that I don’t know about?).  I also don’t think any truly transgendered person believes it is easier to be a woman, or a man for that matter.  After that, the person lost me completely.  The second comment sounds like sermons I have heard before.  What I find interesting, though, about the second responder is that he or she seems to feel guilty about the “harsh” words.  The last sentence especially reeks with guilt.  Both of these respondents probably feel as though their argument makes sense and is just.  My own experience tells me that they are not just. 

 

It seems to me that we all have gotten into the habit of looking at each other “as through a glass eye, darkly.”  We look, but we don’t see.  We often develop our own version of the truth based on what we want to believe, not what actually is.  We want others to understand us, but we are apathetic when listening to others.  We think ignorance is bliss, but ignorance is far from bliss when that ignorance is aimed at us.  With this in mind, I do my best to understand other people’s points of view and try to remind myself that people have been misinformed for so long.  I look for ways to build bridges with people, to educate them and challenge them to really see the other side of the issue.  Despite all its weaknesses, I do think my survey succeeded in provoking thought and dialogue on a topic that most people don’t really know much about.  Soon, I will be launching a new, improved survey and keep the dialogue flowing.

 

And now, I will close with more comments from respondents, but these are different:

 

I certainly don't think they should be denied their civil liberties protected by the constitution, and I'm always saddened by acts of violence against people who are transgendered.

 

The reason I decided to stop and take this survey was because...well, my brother is transgender....i've only known for about a year, so i'm still sorta not knowing what to think and stuff..if that makes sense...anyways good topic to cover!

 

I really don't have a problem with anyone. I'm an open person, and I don't care what other people do with their lives. If you are not hurting anyone with your actions, who are we to stop you in your actions?

 

I think people should be free to act the way they wish as long as it is not detrimental to others. I see transgenderism as harmless and the only people offended by it are the uptight, narrow minded ones.

 

I lived in a Foster Care Home ran by a transgendered male. Everyone thought that he was homosexual (correctly). However, I know that all transgendered people are not homosexual. I have a girlfriend who simply prefers to dress like a man.

 

I consider myself to be lesbian. I once (recently) crushed on a trans guy, though. (Born a female, identifies as male). It really got me questioning how important gender really is...

 

I agree strongly that SOCIALLY it is more acceptable for women, but personally - I have no problem with either. After all, if women can wear skirts or pants if they choose, then so should men be able to.

 

A couple of the statements made me wonder… if these statements are actually true. If they are I feel very illinformed and would like to learn more about this subject.

 

People should be more tolerant, despite their displeasure, because the world is not just about them, it's about other people too.

 

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