What is Transphobia?

Transphobia consists of three main parts:

  • Stereotypes
  • Prejudice
  • Discrimination

Any one of these parts on their own can be transphobia.

Stereotypes

Stereotypes are widely held ideas about a certain group of people, which are oversimplified generalisations.

Prejudice

Prejudices are unjustified preconceived opinions, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings about a person, which often come from believing in stereotypes about the group they belong to.

Prejudice function in 3 main ways:

  • Maintaining an exploitation/domination relationship (keeping people down).
  • Enforcing social norms (keeping people in).
  • ‘Disease avoidance’ (keeping people away).

Discrimination

Discrimination is the actions (including failure to act) based on prejudice.

This can include interpersonal discrimination in one’s private life, e.g. social exclusion, bullying and harassment, physical and sexual violence.

It can also include discrimination in public areas of life, e.g. exclusion from human rights protections, exclusion from other legal rights, exclusion from or discrimination in housing, healthcare, the justice system, accessing goods and services, recreation and sport, education, employment, etc.

Examples include: requiring medical interventions in order to gain an accurate birth certificate, landlords refusing to rent to trans tenants, inadequate access to appropriate healthcare services, schools or employers not taking action to keep students or employees safe.

67% of trans people report experiencing high levels of discrimination in NZ, 44% experienced this in the past 12 months (vs 17% of the general population).

Item.Function.Connection.Example.
Stereotype.Cognitive; thoughts about people.Overgeneralised beliefs about people may lead to prejudice.”Being trans is a sexual fetish”, ”They are dangerous”.
Prejudice.Affective; feelings about people, both positive and negative.Feelings may influence treatment of others, leading to discrimination.”I am genuinely afraid of sexual violence from trans women”.
Discrimination.Behavior; positive or negative treatment of others.Holding stereotypes and harboring prejudice may lead to excluding, avoiding, and biased treatment of group members.”I want to stop trans women from using women’s bathrooms”
”Trans people should be sterilized to change their birth certificate”.

Effects

It is very common for trans people to be stereotyped in a variety of ways, and to experience stigma and discrimination across all areas of life. The impact of widespread transphobia is the key factor in the disparities faced by transgender people.

These disparities include: being bullied in school (21% vs 5% general population), being forced to have sex against their will (32%, vs 11% of women in the general population*), poverty (trans people’s median income is half the median income of the general population), going without fresh fruit and vegetables (51%) and putting up with feeling cold (64%) – 3 times the rate of the general population, being asked invasive questions during a medical visit (13% in the last year), reparative [conversion] therapy (17%), avoiding healthcare visits to avoid being disrespected (36%), high levels of psychological distress (71%, vs 8% general population), suicidal ideation (56% in the last year), suicide attempts (37%).

Table adapted from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wsu-sandbox/chapter/prejudice-and-discrimination/
NZ statistics from Counting Ourselves, 2019.
* This statistic for both groups is estimated to be severely under-reported.