Tag Archives: cultural supremacy

Transphobia and Racism

Anthropologists are aware that there are a plethora of genders around the world. Whether we are talking about gender identity or cultural gender, which are two distinctly different concepts, this remains true. Refusal to accept the reality of the existence of more than 2 genders is refusal to acknowledge the validity of many of the world’s cultures. This is therefore a form of racism or cultural supremacy rising up under the mask of transphobia and/or binarism.

Modern Western imperialism has its roots in the 15th century when various European nations began colonizing other people’s countries, glorifying it as “discovery” and justifying it by insisting that the people who already lived there were animals, not people. This likely played in to their immediate dismissal of cultural differences as “wrong” or “inferior.” Several cultures around the globe enjoyed the freedom of multiple recognized genders before their lands, societies, and resources were taken over by European colonizers, missionaries, and so on. These freedoms often also extended to general acceptance of various relationships that we might call LGBQ through our modern, Western lens. These were among the other freedoms European colonizers squashed during their whitewashing of the cultures of other nations.

Examples for further reading of case studies include:

Decolonization began in some continents in 1945, five centuries after colonization began, and never happened in North America. While many countries regained their independence, it wasn’t until after devastating impacts on their cultures were enacted by the withdrawing conquerors and entrenched over periods of time that were sometimes hundreds of years and multiple generations long. For example, 34 countries in Africa now outlaw homosexuality as of this writing. This isn’t surprising, when we consider that the colonizers came from Europe and 17 European countries still require sterilization of transgender people to this day. Sexual orientation and gender aren’t the same thing, but European rigid requirements around gender include rigid requirements around sexual orientation because their concept of sexual orientation is based upon gender. Thus, many of the world’s nations that are currently very hostile to LGBT people weren’t always that way, and only became that way because of the influence of missionaries and conquering nations from European (and later, American) origin. Nations beginning to relax their death grip on LGBT existence and behavior as transgender and queer rights are slowly won back is thus an aspect of modern decolonization.

North America was never decolonized. Canada and the United States continue to engage in genocide towards indigenous peoples. The fact that most of the states in the United States only recognize two genders legally despite the existence of several indigenous genders is part of this. Our societal and legal refusal to recognize that genitals do not necessarily define gender, and that there are more than two genders, is an extension of the same racism and cultural supremacy that fuels ongoing genocide of various indigenous peoples, that brought anti-gay laws to multiple continents that did not previously have them, and which we must actively combat both within our own minds and at all levels of government if we wish to undo the ongoing evils of those who came before us, and which are still enacted by many of the people around us.

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Transphobia and Racism are Inseparable in Western Cultures

In this article, “(x)” is used to provide links to sources for and further reading related to preceding sentences.

When people of various European nations colonized huge chunks of the planet, part of the process involved replacing aspects of the cultures they conquered with aspects of their own. (x) In this process, genders and sexualities that did not fit into their beliefs were purged along with any religious or spiritual practices that could not be folded into the conquering nation’s Christian ideals. (You can read more about Christianity as a tool of colonialism here¬†and here.)

Across the planet, people of various cultures have had more than two genders for a very long time, such as the Navajo, ancient Jewish societies, the Bugis of Indonesia, and many more. These were often erased by white colonialism, just as queerness was also vilified. After generations passed, cultures which once held space for various kinds of LGBTQIA people lost that capacity. India is a great example of this. Where they once had more than two genders and some branches of the Hindu religion celebrated same-sex love, it is now unsafe to be openly gay in much of the country and people who aren’t men or women are now highly stigmatized. The original law that criminalized same-sex action was put in place under British rule, which ended in 1947, but it wasn’t overturned until 2018 due to the lasting destructive impact of British colonialism on Indian culture. (x) You can watch a short interview with India’s openly gay prince from right before that decision here. Like India, many countries’ homophobic laws came directly from British rule. In fact, CNN says:

“Of the 71 countries around the world in which same-sex sexual relations are illegal, it’s no coincidence that more than half are former British colonies or protectorates, according to research provided by the International LGBTI Association.” (x)

Some cultures have retained their original concepts of gender and sexuality despite the erasure efforts of those inflicting genocide upon them. These cultures are still alive and well. Choosing to insist that the only genders which exist are those recognized by one’s own culture is thus an act of cultural supremacy, and one which feeds into the racist legacy of white colonialism. Transphobia and racism are inseparable in this way.