Being Phobic

If an eight-year-old boy at a scout camp wakes up at night because an adult supervisor is fondling his genitals and being told to touch the attacker’s genitals, it is perhaps not surprising that the boy has recurring nightmares after this incident. If the eleven-year-old boy narrowly escapes two men trying to trap him in a public toilet, he can perhaps be forgiven for becoming overcautious. If the same person, now sixteen and in his first job, finds that he is the centre of attraction for a man who wears make-up and constantly tries to pinch his bottom, one can perhaps understand a distaste for effeminate behaviour. If that young man at nineteen is cornered by gay men with lewd remarks, one can understand his discomfort at a transvestite show.

The fact that this person, after a period of stabilising his “phobia” and entering into a heterosexual relationship, is still able to be balanced towards homosexual people and understand the struggles they have gone through in a society where especially men’s aversion to homosexuality and transsexuality is or has been widespread is unusual. His heightened vigilance in situations where he senses deception or realises that something is not as it seems should be understandable and is the reason that he understands that transphobia is primarily a fear of deception. In the attempts to create an inclusive society, but overlooking this aspect, for example by saying that trans women are women and demanding that they share the protected spaces for women and urging lesbian women to date them, the problem of deception is also there for women. They too find themselves unable to feel safe in areas where they should be.

To be really inclusive, we have to effectively build more barriers to ensure that people who want to live a life in another identity can be safe, but without giving up the protection of women, girls and young boys. Being an inclusive society demands that we take steps to protect all groups and forget none. We are on guard against frauds, forgeries, swindlers, and scams when it comes to financial matters and take measures to protect people from them. Any lies, red herrings or concealments will be exposed if discovered, which is just a matter of protection. It is therefore not surprising that people show increased vigilance in sexual matters, where abuse and rape are unfortunately commonplace.

Of course, there are hypochondriacs and pessimists in our society who see disease and decay at every turn, as well as obsessive, neurotic and morbid people, but that doesn’t mean we overlook the real dangers we face. Just because we know that some people are overly phobic in one way or another, does not mean that we ignore the fears that people have. Nor should it be common to dismiss women’s concerns that they and their children are at risk when the door to their protected spaces is open to anyone who claims to be a woman, even if their anatomy shows that they are not. It is strange that in some countries this lack of consideration for women’s concerns is enshrined in the law and women can be accused of acting unlawfully if they voice their concerns. It is strongly emphasised when biological men posing as women take to the streets to shout down expressed concerns and when forms of verbal abuse are used that are distinctly unfeminine. The deception seems blatant in such cases, and such excesses do a disservice to the cause they profess. It is perceived as a bizarre mixture of fetishism rather than a bona-fide case of mis-gendered people calling for acceptance.

Above all, overlooked is the fact that a phobia is a disabling or exaggerated fear, which can be excessive, extreme, perhaps irrational or a panic reaction to a situation, person, animal, place or object. To call discomfort with or dislike towards a perceived deception a phobia is in itself an exaggeration, suggesting that no such deception exists and that existing concerns are neurotic or even paranoid. As I have tried to show in the examples above, there are legitimate reasons in people’s lives for worries, fears and anxieties that are not exaggerated, even if they are recurring worries that interfere with the ability to be comfortable with everyone. Experiences with predatory people increases vigilance rather than inspire trust.

To inspire trust, all people must show themselves to be trustworthy and not just say that they can be trusted. In doing so, there are several ways to show that one is reliable and committed to the common good. The inclusion of homosexuality in society grew more acceptable as they were able to show their contribution in different areas of life, and also how they excelled in some and otherwise blended in with everyone else. Many of the ways in which transsexual minorities in particular have protested their individuality have been anything but a demonstration of cohesion and have had the opposite effect in society. It is quite obvious on social media that trans men are far less reactionary than trans women. Artistic expression is one thing, but the struggle for social acceptance is another, and you have to be clear about what you want to achieve and accept that each has their place.

The last thing that I want to address is the fact that we all have our peculiarities, and we all have issues with our bodies, our thoughts, our imaginations, and many of us have had a feeling of not fitting in. Some of us are oversensitive, some are less sensitive, we have tall people and short people, we have large people and thin people. We can’t orientate ourselves on a common norm, set by a majority and enforced by some moral authority, but we must look at what helps and what endangers people. We can’t ignore the vast amount of people, mostly women and children, who are abused and maltreated. But we also can’t forget the men who do not feel comfortable with the common idea of manhood, and everybody in their specialness has to be appreciated.

By acknowledging opposites, we can learn to appreciate the diversity of life. They are mutually dependent, and we only know someone is tall when we see someone who is short. We only know that someone is white because many are not, or that someone is artistic because many of us are unimaginative or more technically inclined. There are also different attractions in sexuality, and we have to be careful not to hurt each other so that one person suffers involuntarily or is subjected to compulsive behaviour that forces them into life-threatening submission. We must not drive people to medication with all its side effects or to permanent operations and amputations. We must learn to help each other and ourselves, to heal when we are unwell or sick, and create an environment where this is possible.

When we are phobic, we may not know exactly why, but it is a sign that something is wrong. If we are not comfortable with who and what we are, that is also a sign that something is affecting us adversely and we need to recognise that unkindness. But we are all affected because we all interact with each other, and this must be the basis for a society where we can work together to deal with the problems we face. It is the truth of all wisdom teaching, that we are one in all diversity, and where there is suffering, we are all suffering, even if we are not aware of it.

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