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Let’s Unpack the Transphobic Activist on Dr. Phil

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

On January 19, 2022, a Dr. Phil episode aired featuring two non-binary guests, Addison Rose Vincent and their spouse Ethan Alexander, and cis-man Matt Walsh (Pink News). This episode contained a “debate” of pronouns and gender and has ultimately been deleted on Dr. Phil’s YouTube channel along with its place on Hulu. However, nothing is permanently deleted off of the internet, and reaction videos still contain the original content that was discussed. 

Just a week ago when I started writing this article, I was analyzing what was said in the original video on Dr. Phil. As I scrolled through the comments, there were viewers supporting the statements that Matt Walsh said, stating how they were happy to see someone that “finally knows what they’re talking about.” This week I returned to the YouTube channel, and there’s nothing. I have to say that I’m glad the transphobic comments were removed due to the deleted video, but I wished I could have screenshotted them to prove that there is so much work that needs to be done before we can eradicate transphobia from our society. 

While this video should have never aired, this is step one. 

As a college student, I find it absolutely hilarious that I am taking a course studying the history of the LGBTQ+ community yet, Matt Walsh, an educator *insert question mark,* ultimately argued that transgender and non-binary people do not exist. To enlighten him and the rest of his followers that were influenced to reinforce their transphobic ideas, I’d like to share some valuable information that I have learned about the long-forgotten oppression that this group has endured… because honey, they’ve always been here – you have just now decided to notice. 

The quotes below that I have provided to support these statements are from “Trangender History in the United States by Genny Beemyn. I encourage everyone to read the entire passage, but here are the details I found most relevant. 

Transgender and non-binary populations have been met with violence since early colonization 

Non-binary genders in early history were recorded in a Native American society where Spanish conquistador Cabeza de Vaca wrote about his findings. He saw, “‘effeminate,  impotent  men’  who  are  married  to  other  men  and  ‘go  about  covered-up like women and they do the work of women…” (Lang,  1998:  67). The relationship between the non-binary genders and the conquistadors was determined on their use to the other men. “Consequently, they reacted to instances of non-binary genders, in the words of gay scholar Will Roscoe (1998), ‘with amazement,  dismay,  disgust,  and  occasionally,  when  they  weren’t  dependent  on  the natives’ goodwill, with violence,’” (4).

The transgender and non-binary terminology is not new. They have merely evolved since their beginning in Native American culture. 

Terms such as the “Objiba (agokwa), and the Yuki (i-wa-musp) translate as ‘half men, half women’ or Men-women.’” Furthermore, there are also groups that took on the appearance of the opposite gender. “Other Native American groups referred to male-assigned individuals who ‘dress as a woman,’ ‘act like a woman,’ ‘imitate woman,’ or were a ‘would-be-woman.’Similarly, the Zuni called a female-assigned individual who took on male toles a katoste, or ‘boy-girl’” (Lang, 1999).

It is not a myth to feel like a man/woman, vice versa or both, at the same time. 

In the 1860’s, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German lawyer, explains an early description of being transgender/transexual. Ulrich explained his own interest in other men stemming from having ‘a female soul enclosed with a male body.’” He argued “that men who desired other men, whom he called ‘urnings,’ might be male by birth, but identified as female to varying degrees” (Meyerowitz, 2002; Stryker, 2008: 37). “Other nineteenth-century writers followed Ulrichs’s lead in separating physical from mental sex.” Knowing this information while watching the video, I was absolutely stunned. To prove Matt Walsh is wrong for his offensive statements regarding trans people, non-binary people and even women, I decided to break down  some of his jaw dropping statements from my perspective and evidence. If you enjoyed the preview, I hope your popcorn is ready for the show. 

“Gets him Walrus hormone pills and eventually drops him off at the zoo to life with other Walrus’s”

“You can have whatever self-perception you want, but you can’t expect me to take part in that self-perception or to take part in this kind of charade, this theatrical production.”

An example of someone who’s life revolved around their gender identity is “Jenny Savalette de Lange,

A member of Parisian high society who lived as a woman for at least fifty years and who was not discovered to have been assigned male at birth until her death in 1858. She had obtained a new birth certificate that designated her as female and had been engaged to men six times, but never married, seemingly to avoid her birth gender from being discovered” (Bullough, 1975). 

Another example was Billy Tipton, “a jazz musician who lived as man for more than fifty years and who was not discovered to have been assigned female at birth until his death in 1989…” Rather than seeking medical help for a condition that could have been treated, he did not want to risk his assignment at birth being released. “He also apparently had to turn away from what could have been his big break in the music industry, for fear that exposure would ‘out’ him. In years later, he chose to live in poverty, rather than claim Social Security benefits, seemingly for the same reason.” (Middlebrook, 1998)

If people are living in poverty and turning down medical care in order to protect themselves from discrimination due to being transgender, saying that the mom of a walrus simply gets him hormones pills to transition is an insult. Transgender people do not owe you their existence, and you do not have the right to falsely display their story. For Matt Walsh to declare this a “theatrical production” when people are risking their lives for their truth, is absolutely disgusting. 

“You don’t get your own pronouns just like you don’t get your own prepositions or adjectives.” 

“If I were to tell you my adjectives are handsome and brilliant, and whenever you were talking about me, you have to describe me as handsome and brilliant because that’s how I identify. 

“You don’t get your own pronouns, that’s grammar, that’s language.”

Adjectives are descriptive words, pronouns replace a noun. For example, Sam is going to the market. She buys apples. The pronoun “she” is used to replace Sam. Because pronouns are a direct replacement of a word/name, the word “she” is essentially Sam. Sure, Sam may be funny or kind, but we wouldn’t say, “Kind buys apples.” Kind is not Sam. Sam is Sam, and she is she. Additionally, this is not the first time that pronouns have been discussed. We are not changing the language. However, calling people by adjectives would be. 

Billy Tipton’s experience is an example of using correct pronouns to respect a person’s identity. “Arbitrarily employing both male and female pronouns, Middlebrook admits that Tipton may have seen himself as a man or may have been a transgender person, even stating that at

Least two of his partners, his sons, and some of his former band members continue to think of him as a man…” (217). We are not changing the grammar. Grammatical rules are still applying the same as they have always been, but if the pronoun does not match the noun, then it is changed. 

For example, “Who are they?” “Oh that’s Sam, she’s cool.” “She seems nice.”

Notice the switch of pronouns from “they” to “she” when we recognize the person’s identity. This is not a new concept. The previous research quote was pulled from when Billy Tipton was alive from 1914-1989. You would think we would have this concept down by 2022. 

“Yeah, I think it’s delusion. It could be mental illness…” -Walsh

In 2019, the World Health Organization no longer declared that transgender was a disorder. Enough said, get with the program. 

“No one can even tell you what these words mean, like what is a woman?” – Walsh

“What do you define a woman as?”- Vincent “An adult human female.” – Walsh

People can be born with male and female reproductive systems, and these individuals are known as intersex. In this case, would Walsh agree that this person would use they/them pronouns or some other form of neutral pronoun because gender does not exist, only sex? Would this person be forever confined to the genitals they were born with and never have the opportunity to define what possibly manhood, womanhood, or the human experience means to them? In addition to this, if pronouns are assigned by the reproductive systems that we have, then Walsh must acknowledge there are more than two sexes. How unfortunate that we are disrespecting others and how they identify when there is scientific evidence that sex, is in fact, more than male or female.

Intersex people have existed since the colonization of Jamestown, and can still be discriminated today for their attire or presentation. The court ordered Thomas/Thomasine Hall who “was bi-gendered or what would be known today as intersexed,” to wear a combination of “man’s breeches and woman’s apron and cap.” This action by the court denied “him/her the freedom to switch between male and female identities, the decision simultaneously punished Hall and reinforced gender boundaries. Hall was “publicly marked as an oddity in the Virginia settlement, and likely made him/her the subject of ridicule and pity.” (Brown, 1995; Reis, 2007; Rupp, 1999). His experience displays the limitations and

discrimination that are placed on individuals simply for how they appear to others. 

“You want appropriate womanhood into a costume that can be worn.”

When I look at what womanhood means, I honestly could not describe the entire experience because mine would be different than my best friend’s. If Walsh declares that womanhood is a costume, then we can infer he means that a costume would consist of “pink” (as he mentioned earlier) clothes, dolls and glitzy things. This ultimately categorizes these items for the female sex. Here, he disproves his claim that womanhood is the female reproductive system by associating it with items that have nothing to do with their DNA or anatomy. So yes, individuals can make their own definitions of womanhood. However, if womanhood according to Walsh is our genitalia, how could we possibly appropriate it? Do we dress up as a uterus for Halloween? Quite a costume. Anyway, Walsh just disproved his statement that womanhood is a person’s reproductive system. It’s whatever you want it to be ladies, and not up for a misogynist who has not had to endure the struggles of womanhood to decide. 

Dr. Phil, while I thank you (or your public relations team) for taking down this video, it should have never been up in the first place. Do not allow the opportunity for a transphobic activist to gain a platform to tear down the existence of other people. Transgender people have always been here and are here to stay. To not acknowledge them now is to ignore the information you have already learned and unpack any personal transphobic ideologies. Addison Rose Vincent and Ethan Alexander, you are seen and heard from the transgender, non-binary and other allies within the community. And Matt Walsh, just know that a strong, successful, educated person who uses she/they pronouns wrote this article. You’re welcome.

Belle Yennie (they/them) is from Independence, Missouri. They are currently majoring in English at the University of Missouri - Kansas City. Belle was named Outstanding Mass Media Journalist in 2021 at Fort Osage High School. They enjoy writing about almost anything, but their favorite topics to cover include wellness and fashion. Living in the KC Metro has allowed Belle to go on mini adventures, such as browsing antique stores or trying out new restaurants.
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