Illustration by David Sohn
If you’ve spent any time in the degenerate cesspools of 4Chan and Reddit, you’ve likely heard the phrase “traps are gay” thrown around casually. Those who use it typically have a poor understanding of its far-reaching implications, or even what it means. While the phrase may seem like a harmless joke, it is in fact a reflection and perpetuation of long-standing societal prejudices against trans women. The phrase is not a form of direct discrimination, but its mere existence and use is deceptively problematic.
The derogatory term “trap” offensively refers to transgender people as “crossdressers” guilty of deceiving those around them by presenting themselves as a different gender. As it is usually directed at trans women, it implies that it is deceptive to express a gender identity that doesn’t conform to the cisgender status quo, and that trans women are predatory. Since it is used as a blanket term for male to female transitioners, the term denies the legitimacy of transitions, generally stating that trans women are just men playing dress up, that they are not women.
The second part of the phrase, “gay,” also contributes to transgender erasure. It indicates that men who use the phrase feel that their masculinity and heterosexuality is threatened by their attraction to trans women. Immature masculine banter often involves the use of “gay” as an insult, which forces ridicule upon anyone who deviates from the cis-het norm. In stating “traps are gay,” they seek to affirm these horribly toxic norms by degrading trans women instead of trying to realize the inadequacies of their insecurity. Thus, the phrase invalidates transitions and insinuates that trans women are simply gay men.
When the two words are used together, the phrase is representative of the greater societal issue of hate and violence often perpetrated against the transgender community. Men who have issues with fragile masculinity will often feel that they have been deceived by trans women. To men controlled by toxic societal norms, trans women are just deceitful crossdressers. In extreme cases, these thoughts eventually escalate to violence or murder. Thoughts like this stem from derogatory phrases such as “trap,” as well as from insecurity.
Ultimately, the phrase has legitimate repercussions, such as reinforcing feelings of disgust or repulsion regarding interactions with trans people. It is not a comical term, but rather institutes false beliefs about trans people. It justifies violence that stems from insecurity. In order to create a safer world for the trans community, work needs to be done from the ground up. It can start from calling out those who use toxic phrases like “traps are gay,” for phrases like this only serve to perpetuate violence and transphobia.