This is an issue that I've been running into quite a bit in the last year or so, primarily on an online image/meme sharing site. It usually pops up in the context of cosplayers' or animes' depictions of transgender or crossdressing fictional characters, which almost inevitably kicks off a roaring dumpster fire of really gross comments.
These really gross comments usually fall into, or are posted by, two opposing factions.
The general *phobic nastiness.
- Openly challenging and condemning people's gender, sexuality, mental health etc.
The fetishization of trans and/or crossdressing people.
- Oddly claiming to be supportive of trans and crossdressing folks using hypersexual and often plainly derogatory terms.
This is obviously really unpleasant to witness if you happen to be trans, or are close to folks who are... Basically walking in on a fight between two groups who both get it completely wrong.
Now I know that going after the generally phobic doesn't tend to help, so I'll set that aside for the purposes of this question.
I'd like to focus on group 2, the fetishists, because it almost seems like they're attempting to "get it", or at least may at some level be a little more receptive.
I don't see anything inherently wrong with having a fantasy, most people do, and for the most part that's healthy and normal. But... at point... These fantasies intersect with the real world. That's where things can get more than a little irksome. The way a trans or crossdressing person is talked to, or about, in a sexual fantasy piece written by a cisgender person often isn't how they'd like to be talked to, or about in reality. Often the way these characters are depicted is completely divorced from reality.
So far I've tried gently, and admittedly, at times, less gently, explaining that some terms aren't ok. The most common one being the term "trap". Usually saying something as simple as:
Hey, maybe if you like them, you could stop using derogatory terms to talk about them.
This usually just leads down a semantics rabbit hole, and seems fruitless. They're kind of dug in, have the support of their peers, and seem to think that the anime, or other fictional work, is somehow authoritative.
How does one begin to untangle the fantasy, or fetish, from the reality? How does one explain that the depictions of trans and/or crossdressing folks, and the language used, in these fictional works doesn't generally connect to the real world? And that when they use that language and believe those depictions, they may end up doing harm to real people in the real world?