So apparently there are still people who have a problem with trans women using the same bathroom as cis women as if a trans woman touching up her make up at the next mirror over from you is a signal of the coming apocalypse or something. I think you can guess what side of the argument I’m on. From all I can tell it’s just a platform for reaffirming hateful stereotypes in the name of fear. It seems to me, parts of the cis population are using it as an opportunity to perpetuate hate while cowering behind their ignorance and claiming victimhood.
Since gender neutral bathrooms have been a thing for at least a decade in other more civilized areas of the globe, I think this so called debate is just another indicator of how backward and ignorant we are but it does provide an excellent excuse to explore something that I’ve turned over and over in my head for a while, the use of the term phobia.
To me a phobia is a fear and I don’t think the things we label as social phobias, ie transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia are really fears at all. I think there must be a different suffix or Latin root that deals with the real feeling behind this king of thinking, so let’s break it down and see.
A little research shows that phobia is an intense often irrational fear, just like I thought. Examples of this include acrophobia, the fear of heights; agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces; and claustrophobia, the fear of small spaces. These are fears. I am so petrified of heights that a two foot stepladder has me convinced I will fall and smash my head open. I’m not afraid of flying so much as I am intensely aware that my ass is suspended tens of thousands of feet in the air. The plane might as well be an illusion for all the comfort it gives me. You know this picture of a rubiks cube falling away painted on a bathroom floor? Yeah it terrifies me. I’m not sure I could walk into that room even though I know the floor is there and it’s only paint.
Here’s a better example. Think of the Boo Box from the movie Hook. You are crammed into a tiny box into which scorpions are dropped onto your face. Now imaging that the box is suspended a hundred feet in the air and I think it’s probable that most people will identify with at least one of the phobias involved. These are true phobias meaning they stem from a fear and no other emotion but fear.
Now let’s see if my other suspicion is correct and there is a difference between the roots for fear and hate. I have to admit that I did not take Latin in school but this being the internet era it wasn’t hard to find the Latin roots for fear and hate and guess what? They’re different.
Miso is not just a delicious soup. Miso, mis, misa is the root that translates to hate or disgust. An example of this is logomisia, the hatred for specific words. Miso is also where we get words like misanthrope, a person who harbours an intense hatred or mistrust of people. Don’t forget misandry, the hatred of men and misogyny, the hatred of women.
Now let us examine what I consider to be misnomers in common use, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia. Ask yourself does a true fear of homosexuals really exist? Does a homophobe shit his pants in fear when he sees two men kissing? No really does he? or is he filled with disgust? I think if we’re honest we will admit it is the latter.
Are you truly afraid of a trans woman using the same bathroom as you? Remember the bar I’ve set for phobia. Does it send you into a wave of panic so intense that it will leave you cowering under the sink or are you covering your disgust at someone else with the guise of fear because that is socially acceptable? Again, if we are honest I think we will admit it is disgust and not fear.
If you truly shit a brick when you see someone who does not conform to your understanding of the gender binary then you do have a true phobia and I feel sorry for you. Personally I don’t make a habit of scrutinizing the gender presentation of the people around me or even really acknowledging strangers in general. Maybe this is an area where my social anxiety gives me an edge??
I believe what homophobes, xenophobes, transphobes are actually suffering from is misia, an intense hate born of disgust. Can you be afraid of these things? I suppose so. You can be afraid of strangers, homosexuals and trans individuals but I still think behind that fear is hate.
When you act or speak violently on that fear it is definitely motivated by hate. We call them hate crimes and there’s a reason for that. If I suddenly went from fearing tight spaces to setting fire to every cupboard I saw, I think we could easily conclude that I had switched from claustrophobia to claustromisia, or how ever that word would be correctly formed based on the rules of Latin.
Changing what we call these attitudes switches them from socially acceptable to contemptible. It also acknowledges that it is an attitude and not some uncontrollable mental condition. An attitude can be controlled and changed. A phobia makes you a victim. You are not a victim of how someone presents their gender or who someone else shows affection to in public. In fact they are more likely to be victimized by your overwhelming misia but that’s another subject for another day.
Being homomisic or transmisic is not a medical condition born of irrational fear. It is an irrational hatred for things you do not understand and the language we use on the subject is important because it strips away the victim role that people with privilege love to hide behind when they feel threatened by the prospect of equality.
My point is that we should call things what they are and stop giving haters the benefit of the doubt. Face it you’re not afraid for your life when you see two men kissing. You are revolted and it’s not appropriate to call it a fear. Calling these things phobias lets people off the hook, making them out to be terrified little innocents in a world of scary people who are out to get them by exercising their right to live on this planet. How very dare they! Let’s not actively give these assholes comfortable language to hide behind.
I would like to advocate calling people out not as phobes but as misians.
“Hey sounds like you’ve got a bad case of irrational hatred there. You might want to examine your misia. Also take a two looks at your privilege and call me when you’re interested in being a decent human being.”
PS I have attempted to make this as sensitive as possible while making a point. If you feel there are areas that could be improved to handle the subject matter more tactfully I would welcome your feedback. My privilege as a cis woman and my ability to pass in the heterosexual world should not and will not be used as excuses for insensitive language choices or other missteps.
PPS Advice on how to properly replace these phobias with misias would be appreciated. Conjugation isn’t my strong suit in my own language.