What Harm Does Difference Do?

In a recently heated discussion about issues regarding Transgender people I said (and please bear in mind that these quotes are taken out of context of the rest of a heated discussion):

“…The death toll suggests the latter is the most likely.

It seems a pretty grim, visceral piece of proof that trans people are an oppressed minority, a violently oppreessed minority. There is no privilege in those numbers, those names, those graves. Just the evidence of stupid hatred against people who were doing no harm.”

To which the reply included:

“But I disagree that these people do not harm. I think they do lot of harm.”

Now I’m really interested in what kind of harm the Transger dead were doing.

And I’m trying to look at this from as broad a perspective as possible. What harm do people think these murdered people were doing?

I’ve been an outsider all my life for many different reasons. I’ve lived below the poverty line since the age of four or five. I’ve come from an intellectual family life while living in rural and outright bush outback communities. I’ve never fit in with stereotypical masculine behaviour. My racial background, actual and perceived as well as that of family members has also marked me out as different. I’ve been a Goth since my tweens and while my crossdressing has been closeted I’ve been very gender non-conformist publicly. The latter had many presuming me as being gay.

I’ve experienced an awful lot of hatred and bullying over the years on account of all of these and i must say it all tastes the same to me. Now personally I’ve had very little problems for over a decade despite my increasing public gender non-conformity but the news of the Goth couple beaten in the U.K. one into a coma from which they have recovered and the other to death as well as the anti-Emo riots in Mexico as well as the recent coments about Transgender murder victims having been causing harm makes me wonder exactly what this perceived harm is supposed to be and why it results in such violence.

I’ve heard arguments that it is an instinctive response from evolving in tribal societies to maintain group cohesion but I don’t entirely buy that, it just seems far too simplistic and doesn’t explain why some people are fine with everybody, some with only those most like themselves and others with most difference in people but on one or two issues are as hateful and intolerant as the most close-minded.

Some amongst the transgender community like any other community preach for integration. I’ve seen on crossdressing forums conservative dressing folk reacting hostilely to those in the leather and fetish communities or to those who dress in a provocative manner. On the other hand I’ve seen the same in the other direction too.

In the Goth community I’ve not seen quite the same phenomenon but instead it’s more like other subcultures where divides aren’t on integration, most members of subcultures don’t care about that except when having to meet job uniform codes, but instead their are generational conflicts where some of the Bat-cavers have looked down on the Goths some of who look down on the Baby-bats and some of them look down on the Emos. Each seeing the next as a wave of usurpers wannabes and spoilers whose new fashion and music is destroying their culture. Thankfully this is just a vocal minority inmy experience. Amongst goths gender non-conformity has been rather well accepted but I have heard of racism being a problem though that seems more and more to be a thing of the past.

This implies to me that a portion of the hatred of difference may be about self-identity. That defining oneself by differences to others is part of the operative process. When goth clubs were full of people wearing black and dark red some started wearing white and pink (before pink became fashionable again in the mainstream) to stand out. For many older goths, especially women, the colour was something they’d wholesale rejected and the Baby-bats and Emos use of it feuled a lot of the hostility towards them or at least provided an excuse for that. So conflict is against the opposite of those factors used in self identification to define the self or against those similar as to share the same space and community but who embrace a distinctive opposite and therfore appear to threaten the self identity by introducing rejected elements into it.

If correct rhis would mean that two different sets of factors would be the most significant as to whether someone would be hated. Someone being strongly opposite, say a metal-head with their heavily masculine/butch aggressive culture and Emos with their effeminacy, androgyny, passivity etc would be the first catagory. Strong similarities with a distinctive difference would e the next for example between Gothic subgroups who might go to the same clubs, dance to similar music but where such a seemingly superficial thing as a colour could result in outright hostility (though thankfully amongst goths hostility often involves some exaggerated posturing rather than physical violence).

Does this extend to hatred towards Transgender people? Does it extend to race? Sex? Sexuality? Culture?

I’m not sure, I think there must be more to it stil.

What are your thoughts?

What harm might people perceive Transgender people to be doing? What harm might Gay people, Goths, Emos, Blacks, Asians or any body else be perceived to be doing that people acting aggressively towards those who hold no physical direct threat to them might perceive themselves as acting defensively and even by others as to have been acting defensively as seems so often the case?

What similarities might there be betwen these perceptions that could provide insight into the phenomenon? What differences might make some of them distinct or are they all superficial?

Is any of the perceived harm actual?

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