We Have To Do Better: A Word On Our Transphobia

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Being angered or perturbed by the messages in our comment section, either on Facebook or our actual site, is not a new occurrence for me. It happens everyday. And while some might argue that I should be used to it by now, I’m just not.

But yesterday, when we published the story about Ty Underwood, the 24-year-old transgender woman who was allegedly murdered by a football player she was seeing, I wasn’t angry or annoyed. I was disappointed and saddened, particularly by the comments some of our Facebook followers left.

For those of you who missed the story yesterday, the short version is that Ty Underwood and Carlton Champion Jr. were in a relationship, that first began on the social app Kik. Detectives said that judging by the nature of their conversations they had likely had sex. Detectives also said that, based on these same conversations, Champion likely knew that Underwood was assigned male at birth.

When I posted the story, expecting sympathy for both Underwood and her family, instead I read comments like this:

“the guy should not spend one day in jail…he had every right to be angry.” 

And in case you thought this was just a troll, the comment received 20 likes. There were others:

“If you trick a straight man than [sic] expect danger you have to be up front or you may be killed men take their straight men sexuality seriously.” 

What does ‘assigned a male at birth’ mean anyway. Just say HE was BORN a MALE. 

Someone responded to that: “Trying to be politically correct so people won’t call him a bigot, smh, you can’t say anything anymore without someone getting offended by it.” 

This is what deception and or infidelity can lead to.

Don’t test a man’s manhood. He probably wanted to gain the guy emotionally and then spring the big news on him when his emotions were already involved. I think him killing was completely wrong but transgender people need to be up front from the beginning. 

And sadly, the comments went on and on like this.

The issues represented in this comment thread are many and I want to address each of them, not in an attempt to condemn the people who wrote some of these comments but to shed just a little bit of light into transgender issues and hopefully change the language we use when we’re speaking about this community.

First, I noticed a lot of people saying things like “He was wrong but…” “But” is a very powerful word. It literally has the power to negate the first half of a sentence in support of the second half. So phrases like he was wrong but that transgender woman should have told the truth only serve to rationalize this murder. I’m sorry y’all but lying or deceiving someone does not warrant murder. And far too often, these type of conversations are only applied to the transgender community. I don’t hear women advocating that other women kill their boyfriends when they lie, betray or even violate them sexually. There are few instances outside of self defense or defense of a child that warrant murder. And this instance did not fall in that category.

Please note, I only argue that point to play devil’s advocate. Aside from the father saying his son didn’t know Ty was assigned male at birth, all other signs point to the fact that he did know Ty was a trans woman.

There were some people who wondered why we called Ty a woman and why we used the phrase “assigned male at birth” instead saying “he” and “born a male.”

I’m happy to talk about this one because I was so close to publishing this piece with the phrase “genetically male” included in it. But something in my spirit told me to do a quick google search about appropriate terms. And sure enough, “genetically male” was listed as problematic.

In short GLAAD said:






I know some people use the phrase “politically correct” as if it’s an insult. Politically correct just means we’re using the terms that are deemed appropriate by the community we’re discussing. I get it though, some of us feel like we don’t understand the trans community, so hopefully this example will help.

For years in this country we were called niggers, colloquially, if not in an official, legal sense. And we know the word is still present today. Then we were called nigras, colored, negroes. And today, we’re called either Black or African American. If someone outside of our community, wrote about Black people, today, using the word negroes or nigras, all hell would break loose. And rightly so. Those are not the words we want used to identify us. And we have the right to demand that people respect us as human beings enough to respect our decision to be called Black or African American. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to understand a person’s life style, life choices or mindset to respect them as a human being. You can call it being politically correct…I’ll call it respect.

And lastly, there’s the religion piece. A lot of people can justify disrespecting the transgender community because God created them either male or female and they should be happy with that and not try to change it. And since these people are “disobeying God,” it is therefore ok to disrespect, disregard and dismiss their feelings and experiences.

That’s not the nature of people who know God. God, across most religious sects, instructs us to love people. And not people who love God or people who believe and think and live like we do. All people. I’m not here to write a sermon for y’all today but I do want us to think seriously, critically and even spiritually about the way we talk about our fellow human beings.

We have to do better.

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