The UK government decided to ban conversion therapy for everyone except trans people recently. Texas passed a bill that makes gender affirming parents of trans kids child abusers. There are many other incidences of transphobic laws and situations lately. These are very clearly awful, and I absolutely understand. I don’t think things are good right now. However, I do feel more hope for the future than a lot of other trans people currently feel. This analogy explains why.
There is Plastic Beneath the Surface of the Sea
The sea is full of plastic, but it’s deep beneath the waves. There are sunbathers on the beach enjoying a view of the pristine looking waters of the sea. There are deep sea divers looking at all the plastic under the water. There are innumerably more sunbathers than divers. The divers come onto the beach. “The sea is full of plastic,” the divers shout. “Nonsense,” the sunbathers reply. “I can see from here it is perfectly fine.”
The Plastic Becomes Buoyant
One day, all the plastic in the sea becomes buoyant, and floats to the surface. It looks like a chunky vegetable soup. “The sea is full of plastic,” the sunbathers cry. “We know,” the divers roll their eyes. “We’ve been telling you this for literally years.”
“We need to do something,” the sunbathers say. The divers have been trying to do things, but there aren’t many of them, and they are very tired from doing the work all alone for all these years. Still, they turn to the sunbathers. “Thank you for wanting to help. Here are things you can do.” “No,” the sunbathers cry. “We have our own plans,” because by sitting beside the sea they somehow believe they are more expert at sea knowledge than the people who have been in the water.
Eventually, the sunbathers sort themselves into different groups. There is a group that wants to remove the plastic from the sea. There is a group that thinks “not my circus, not my monkeys,” and goes home. And the last group protests removing the plastic from the sea because then it will be on the land and will impact their land-based rights.
The Pervs, or Plastic-Exclusionary Radical enViromentalist Sunbathers, as they like to be known, claim that the majority of the sunbathers support leaving the plastic in the sea. The allies, as the plastic removing group calls themselves, talk over the divers, infantilise them, and claim the majority of the sunbathers support the removal of the plastic. In actual fact, the majority of the sunbathers are back at home having barbecues in their gardens, not giving a shit. They don’t think the situation has anything to do with them, but they still sometimes dispose of plastic in ways that makes it end up in the sea.
Meanwhile, the divers are trying to organise a boat to go out and remove plastic from the sea. But there aren’t a lot of boats, and they’re being used by fishermen, or day tours, or cruises. Because of this, there is a huge waiting list to get a boat and also the boats are very expensive. It is also obvious that a crew will be hard to find, so some of the divers learn how to sail boats so they don’t need help.
But the PERVS have gone to the government and asked that fishing boats not be allowed to remove plastic from the sea. The divers point out that this is diverphobic. The PERVS say it isn’t, they just don’t think we should have plastic on fishing boats. It might end up in our diets. They have concerns. The newspapers report that the divers want plastic in our diets. The sunbathers who went home take notice of this because they like to eat fish. Suddenly, the problem affects them and they are worried about what they see in the news.
The government sees the majority of people supporting no plastic on fishing boats, and makes this a law. However, because the sea is full of plastic, and fish live in the sea, the fish are already full of plastic. The PERVS know this, but they don’t care, because they are diverphobic and are only out to cause maximum pain to divers. The newspapers know this, but write their articles in deliberately true yet misleading ways because fear sells news. The Daily Mail forgets to include the “true yet misleading” part and just straight makes shit up. The government knows this, but rather than educate the population and hold the misleading media to account, the government are instead chasing the majority crowd because they want voted in again next time. The sunbathers who went home don’t know this and believe what the news reports.
Now there is less opportunity to hire a boat and longer waiting lists. The market sees the demand and prices increase. The news reports that the fish are already full of plastic in ways that seem to suggest the divers have been infecting fish with plastic or something. The Daily Mail reports that Elvis is alive, lives on the moon, is a trans woman, and steals and eats babies for eternal life.
The allies organise a National No Plastic In The Sea day, which is nice but doesn’t actually get the plastic out of the sea. The megacorps, responsible for most of the plastic in the sea, tweet out a No Plastic In The Sea Day message and use the movements flag to sell some plastic crap that is absolutely gonna end up in the sea.
The divers struggle on with the job of removing the plastic from the sea. The sunbathing allies stand on the beach, loudly proclaiming their support, but they’re not actually doing anything to get the plastic out. The divers put up with getting talked over and infantilised and don’t correct the sunbathers because they desperately don’t want to lose the little support they have.
A few divers, so exhausted with the never ending task of plastic removal, stop being divers. They go home to have barbecues. The PERVS seek these former divers out, and chat to them, and offer support, and gradually draw the exhausted and often depressed former divers into the PERVS movement, until they are locked in and see no way out. Then the PERVS parade their former divers out in front of their diverphobic hate campaigns because “some divers are fine with the sea being full of plastic” and “if you just stop being a diver, then it won’t matter that the sea is full of plastic.”
Why Have Hope For the Future?
The sunbathers who went home for barbecues miss the beach. They want to come back and sit on the sand, but not while the sea is full of plastic. They gradually start to realise that this is a much wider problem that actually affects them. The allies realise they’re not achieving anything. They start listening to the divers, and with their support it’s easier to get the funding to hire boats. More and more people become allies, and the clout chasing government follows the crowd. Meanwhile, sales of beach supplies and fish have massively decreased, and the corporations realise that if they want to make a profit instead of a loss, they’re going to have to do more than tweet solidarity, and so they start supporting the removal of plastic from the sea, too.
The Analogy Explained
The divers are trans people. The sunbathers are cis people. The plastic is transphobia. The gatekeeping boat owners and crews are doctors, nurses, and other medical specialists. The government is the government, the corporations are corporations, the media is the media, and the Daily Mail isn’t good enough to wipe your arse with.
Trans people often say things used to be better. It wasn’t, it just looked better because the plastic was all hidden under the sea. Some trans people think things are much worse now, but the truth is simply that the rot that was always there is now more easily visible. And the great thing about this is, when it was hidden it was hard to do anything about it. Now that it’s all out in the open we can see where the plastic is floating, and work at removing it.
Our cis allies are already swelling in numbers as the barbecuers join them. And more and more of them are listening to us, learning from us, and helping us in ways that actually remove the plastic from the sea. They are actively helping us against the transphobia we face. Members of the government are already noticing, and following this swelling crowd, and many corporations are doing more than just tweeting solidarity.
The same thing happened with the gay rights and marriage movement. We have to expose all the shit so we can clean it up – it just really fucking sucks that this means we have to live currently surrounded by exposed shit. But I firmly believe that because all the shit is exposed, and because it is clear that transphobia affects cis people too, it will get cleaned up. Things from this point might get worse, but only if they have to for them to ultimately get better, and I one hundred percent believe that they will get better.
The Sea is Full of Plastic
This was an analogy, but the sea genuinely is full of plastic.
If you want to learn more about ongoing efforts to clean the ocean, or find ways to support that, The Ocean Cleanup is a great place to start.
If you want to know more about non-financial ways to support trans people, follow my blog, because I will be sharing posts about ways to do this.
Thanks for reading, please leave a comment if you want.