What changed

Jude Doyle’s piece on “the transgender tipping point” spurred one of its quoted experts, Julia Serano, to expand on her comments. As ever with Serano, this is worth reading: Revisiting The “Transgender Tipping Point” Ten Years Later.

I do believe there was a truly positive development for trans people taking place in the early 2010s that is potentially worthy of the moniker “tipping point.” For most of my life, the trans experience was typified by isolation and invisibility. Most of us grew up not knowing any other trans people and this sense of isolation was reinforced by how infrequently trans people and issues were covered in the media. Even as an adult, it was really hard to find trans community, especially if you weren’t living in a major city. Gender-affirming care was also extremely difficult to access, both because there were very few providers and most adhered to a strict gatekeeping system wherein only a select few “true transsexuals” (people who would be “passable” and heteronormative post-transition) were allowed to transition. This only added to the sense that very few trans people existed.

What changed, as Serano goes on to explain, was twofold. One, the internet suddenly enabled us to find information and support that was previously hard or even impossible to find. And healthcare, previously very hostile, moved to a more informed and evidence-based model that understood transness wasn’t a disorder to be cured but just part of human nature.

Those two changes were seismic; we got to see that we were not alone, and that we were not broken. And naturally that meant that more of us felt able to come out and be who we are.

As Serano says, the tipping point in the media was a confection, and it mistook trans visibility for trans acceptance. But there was a very real tipping point for trans and non-binary people in “trans autonomy and agency, where gender-diverse people could finally speak for ourselves and choose our own trans trajectories.”

Despite the best efforts of the media, and the UK media in particular, there has been a massive shift in trans visibility – and with that visibility comes understanding and acceptance. Serano points out that at the time of the “tipping point” article, just 9% of Americans said they knew somebody who was trans. By 2021 it was 42%. That means more trans and gender non-conforming people can see that they’re not alone, and that more people who aren’t trans can see that we’re no different from them.

As I’ve written endlessly, hatred thrives on ignorance; it’s one of the reasons the bigots want to ban any form of trans representation, and prevent us from living normal lives. But that genie isn’t going back into its bottle.