Posts Tagged ‘transphobia

29
Jan
14

Obama’s State of the Union Address Ignores ENDA (and more), or “Remember when the President stood up for trans rights in front of Congress? Yeah, me neither.”

In tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama talked extensively about jobs and the economy. He discussed immigration reform. He touted the success of the Affordable Care Act. He devoted several minutes to discussing current foreign policy situations. He touched on education, tax reforms, and pressed for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Sadly, he left a number of critical issues completely untouched- chief among them the concerns of the LGBT community and the languishing of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, commonly known as ENDA.

Oh sure, he gave the minimum of lip service to our existence in his brief mentions of “marriage equality” and later his hat-tip to “sexual orientation” in his statement about equality in regards to the upcoming Olympic games in Sochi. Meanwhile, in 29 states it remains perfectly legal to fire (or refuse to hire) someone because they’re gay, lesbian or transgender. 33 states offer no protections to transgender workers. According to the most recent report from the National Center for Transgender Equality, 90% of transgender workers have experienced some form of harassment. Nearly half (47%) had been fired, had not been hired, or had missed out on a promotion because they are trans, including 26% who had been actually lost their jobs. Because of the persistent discrimination and transphobia in the US, losing our jobs has even more catastrophic effect than it does for the straight, cis population, leading to four times the rate of extreme poverty, and four times the rate of homeless (1 in 5 trans people will be homeless at some point in our lives). Most heartbreaking of all, 41% of trans people will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, more than 25 times the risk of the general population.

These bleak facts stem for a systemic, entrenched anti-trans bias within the entirety of the US economic system, from education to the workforce. While we have lots of work to do to disassemble this bias, comprehensive workplace protections for transgender individuals (and indeed, all LGBT people) would provide a large measure of stability and would represent a huge leap forward in trans rights. Congress has an excellent opportunity to enact such protections, though S. 815, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013. The proposal passed the Senate in November 64-32, including three yes votes from Republicans. While Congress has previously considered similar bills, this marks the first time such a bill containing protections for trans people has gained final passage in a chamber of Congress. All indications are that- if allowed to come to a vote on the House floor- the bill would pass, and President Obama has indicated that he would sign it. So what’s keeping this critical legislation from passing? The unwillingness of Speaker John Boehner to allow a vote, as he views it as “unnecessary” (I’d be willing to bed the 1 in 4 trans people who’ve been fired would handily disagree). Unfortunately, the rules of the House make it nearly impossible to circumvent the Speaker’s block on the vote.

So, back to Obama’s State of the Union Address. President Obama prodded the members of Congress towards action on a number of issues, including extending unemployment benefits, increasing the federal minimum wage, closing tax loopholes, and funding preschool education. Unfortunately, he entirely failed to prod Congress on the final passage of ENDA. Job protections for LGBT people are not a particularly controversial topic for the public at large. A poll by the Center for American Progress back in 2011 demonstrated that nearly 3 of 4 Americans support workplace protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, including a majority of Republicans. More troubling is that 90% believe these protections already exist. So, we have a policy that the majority of Americans- and a majority of Congress- supports (indeed that most think already exists) that won’t become law because of one single legislator’s objections. The State of the Union seemed like the perfect opportunity to press for action on such an item. Mr Obama could have very publicly called on Boehner to allow such a vote (either directly, or indirectly). The President could have promised to sign an executive order to require protections for LGBT people in all federal contractors as an additional pressure, much as he did with the federal contractors and minimum wage. President Obama’s press office included such items in his pre-address “fact sheet”, but that’s a far cry from a expression of public support in a major address. When the President took the podium, all we heard was a deafening silence on one of the most critical issues facing us today.

Some might argue that it’s a fairly “minor issue”, affecting a small number of Americans, and not worthy of the President’s limited speech time. However, as a comparison, roughly 1.6 million people recently lost their unemployment benefits, about 0.5% of the population by my estimate. LGBT identified folks make up about 4% of the US population by current estimates, more than 8 times as many who would benefit from the far-more controversial unemployment extension. However, that issue was found worthy of mentioning at length in his speech. Returning to the minimum-wage issue for a moment, about the same number (1.6 million) of individuals currently make minimum wage (per Bureau of Labor Statistics)  as recently lost unemployment checks. And yet, raising the federal minimum wage was a key issue in Obama’s address. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe these are both very important and worthwhile issues and they certainly warranted being discussed in the President’s speech. But in sheer numbers, the passage of ENDA impacts a greater number of people, and it’s nonsensical to argue that we’re comparatively insignificant minority.

I could take the President to task for many oversights in his address, from drug policy to criminal justice to reproductive rights to proper funding for the NIH. However, his failure to press for action for such basic protections that could do so much to improve the lives of trans (and other LGBT) individuals is absolutely inexcusable, particular given that that ENDA enjoys wide support with Americans and has functionally zero fiscal implications. If this version of ENDA dies in the House without reaching the President’s desk, it will represent an enormous missed opportunity to provide trans and queer people with something most have never had- a chance to live their lives without fear of losing their livelihoods and incomes simply for being who they are. The simple fact is, Mr Obama had the opportunity to take a groundbreaking step in going to bat for the LGBT population in his address (and, in doing so, keep a key campaign promise). However, as has become so common a theme in his administration, President Obama left queer and transgender Americans out in the cold.

28
Jan
14

Why Genital Essentialist Comments are Transphobic Microaggressions, or “People need to stop talking about what “real” men and women have in their pants.”

Microaggressions: those little phrases you hear every day that give you a stinging reminder that the world considers you “less than”. The term was originally coined back in the 1970s in regards to racism, but it’s come into usage in feminist, queer, and pretty much all other intersectional conversations about privilege. Dr Derald Sue, who has written extensively about racial and other microaggressions gave the following definition in a Psychology Today article in 2010:

“Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”

Think of it like this: open aggressive harassment is like someone dropping a big rock on your car from an overpass- it’s sudden, immediate, and it’s probably going to do some serious damage. Microaggressions are like being caught behind a gravel truck every day- each little hit does a fairly minor amount of damage but the accumulated effect day after day is going to make a big mess. Some microaggressions are direct: intentionally misgendering of a trans person, or asking a black guy what gang he’s in. Some are more subtle: men referring to certain tasks as “women’s work,” or someone commenting on the enjoyment of cake by a random person of size passing by. Jared Leto’s recent acceptance speech at the Golden Globes is another perfect example, as Parker Molloy recently discussed over on The Toast. If it’s sort of thing someone might brush off criticisms of as “being too sensitive”, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a microaggression. If you’re still having trouble conceptualizing this, the good folks over at The Microaggression Project have cataloged more examples than you’ll ever need. (Caution: it can be a pretty triggery website.)

Transphobic microaggressions take many forms, from downright hostile comments about how “gross” or “weird” trans people (and/or their bodies are) to insidious things like the use of phrases like “hot tranny mess” in a derogatory fashion about someone’s appearance. One that seems to be among the most prevalent (and dismissed) are comments about the sort of genitals (or other features) that “real” men or women should have, a situation commonly known as “essentialism”. When these comments are specifically about the sort of genitals that one particular gender has (or doesn’t have), it becomes genital essentialism. I recently came across this post in the blogosphere, ostensibly written about standards of female beauty, but unnecessarily containing a bold transphobic microaggression. (I have extended criticisms of the entire misogynist piece, but we’ll skip those today.) The writer opines:

“I’m going to let you and the rest of society in on a secret, real women have vaginas. In fact, that is the number one prerequisite in being considered a person of the female persuasion. It’s not the shape of your hips or the size of your rump, it’s the fact that I can’t find a penis anywhere on your body.”

The problem here, of course, is that a statement like this also very clearly implies that anyone without a vagina is not, in fact, a “real woman.” It’s an implicit rejection of the femaleness every single trans woman on the planet who has not had GCS. Sure, it’s a flaming angry tirade from a religious crazy about what evil sexual perverts we all are. But, it is a jab at something that trans women hold fairly sacrosanct- their identity as a woman. In that, it becomes a transphobic microaggressions, even if the writer had no negative thoughts about trans women in his mind when he wrote it. A more wide-reaching example occurred just today on Twitter when Joss Whedon (of Buffy, Firefly, and Avengers fame) tapped out this doozy:

whedontweet

Once again, reducing femaleness to genitals…and this time not even the presence of a vagina, but simply the LACK of penis and testicles, making it not only an anti-trans microaggression (by implying that by having male genitals, trans women aren’t women and that by not having a penis trans men aren’t actually men), but also a sexist microaggression (by defining women as simply “that which is not a man,” the implication being that gender is defined in the context of maleness). Again, I’m not necessarily saying that Mr Whedon had any particularly transphobic or sexist intentions when he made this statement, but the fact that a statement like this can be tossed off like it’s nothing speaks volumes about the invisibility of trans people in the minds of the world at large.

Quite unfortunately, this whole “real women have vaginas” thing is a lot more prevalent than you might imagine. You see, a few years back the internets spawned a meme about female body image, centered around the phrase “real women have curves.” Not unexpectedly (nor at ALL unreasonably) there was significant backlash against this reduction a woman’s identity to her physical body appearance. After all, it’s pretty cruel and offensive to declare that thin women aren’t “real” women. Disappointingly, the phrase that seemed to frequently be substitutes in place of it was -you guessed it- “real women have vaginas.” This phrase became a rallying cry against the imposition of unfair beauty standards. Writer Dory Hartley wrote in a piece for Huffington Post:

“Number one: they all have vaginas. If you’ve got a vagina, you’re a real women.”

Again, the implication is clear: No vagina = not a woman, vagina = woman. There’s no room in that equation for trans bodies, and it becomes an inherent denial of our femaleness or maleness of this reduction of identity to genitalia. Tamsin Howse of Kiki & Tea was so body as to actual title a piece “Real Women have Vaginas.” In it she writes:

“Remember – Real women have vaginas. And some people I call women don’t even have that.”

There it is, again- a bold declarative about what exactly the sorts of body parts “real women” have. The follow-up statement feels like an attempt, perhaps, in being inclusive of trans women. But her phrasing contains an implication that she doesn’t believe they really ARE women, just that she calls them women, which feels almost like another microaggression in itself. I could, quite literally, go on for another 1000 words of similar examples. None of these pieces were written by trans-exclusive rad-fems bent on the oppression of trans people; I’m 99% sure none of them harbored any transphobic thoughts as they composed these articles. But each one of them is one more tiny jab at the femaleness (or maleness) of trans people, and a reinforcement of our invisibility.
The common response to this sort of criticism (so common I can practically hear the voices) is that we’re being “too sensitive,” that we’re “looking for transphobia” where it doesn’t really exist, that we’re trying to enforce “overly-PC” standards. These are the sorts of arguments consistently made by oppressor classes defend their privileged status. Similar arguments were made for years in regards to queer microaggression comments (for example, insulting a man by calling him a c*cksucker) that are now quite widely perceived as being offensive and inappropriate homophobic statements. Genital essentialist statements like “real women have vaginas” functionally reduce an extraordinarily complex portion of a person’s identity- their gender- to a rigid, overly simplistic, inaccurate, incomplete, and frankly incorrect biologic assumption that becomes an ugly, painful kick at something critically important to trans people, our firm understanding of our own femaleness or maleness. The accumulated effect of having statements like this bombard us daily from everywhere we look just adds to the pervasive transphobia that we endure from our culture. So, please stop reducing everyone to their genitals, and assuming that “real women” or “real men” have any single defining characteristic. Real women have bodies. Real men have bodies. Real Non-Gender-Binary-Identifying-People have bodies. That’s all you can assume about them.

14
Jan
14

#NotYourTransStereotype, or “Kat Hacé writes beautifully on the perceptions of trans people.” (Reblog)

#notyourtransstereotype | Papier Haché.

Kat Haché is a recent addition to my list of favorite trans writers in the blogosphere these days. Her writing is brilliant, poignant and insightful. Plus, she’s also a grad student and a bit of a nerd, which pretty much put her stuff right the sweet spot here. I’m a little disappointed in myself that this is the first time I’ve reblogged her!

Her most recent (as of my writing today) is an absolutely perfect take down of so many of the perceptions and preoccupations the world has of trans people. This bit particularly hit home for me:

“I am not something to be ashamed of.  I am not the butt of your jokes.  I am beautiful, capable, intelligent, and not mentally deranged.  I do not look like a freak or exist to be gawked at, regardless of my attire.”

As per my goal of getting people to read lots of the brilliant stuff penned by the numerous talented trans writers now making their voices heard on the Net, I’m not going to say much other than the piece brought tears to my eyes, and that you REALLY should go read it. 🙂 Scoot!

 

07
Jan
14

Toronto Story About Transgender Locker Room Harasser is a Hoax, or “How a Toronto Star journalist fails at integrity (and journalism).”

Toronto newspaper pushes trans hoax, claims no duty to fact check | The Transadvocate.

So, over the weekend, the Toronto Star’s Ethics columnist published a response to a email from a “senior woman” claiming she was harassed by a “a “man” claiming to be transgender, who had not yet begun physical treatments” (their quotes not mine) while using the locker room at her local YMCA. This columnist then provided what was, by most accounts, a very trans-friendly and open-minded response, going so far as to point out that “transgender women, regardless of their status regarding surgical intervention, have the absolute right to use the women’s change room.”
I read this piece over the weekend in my usual perusal of the headlines for possible commentary, was shocked to hear about the initial claim, but generally pleased with how the writer handled with question.

However, the talented Cristan Williams over at TransAdvocate decided to investigate further and actually called all of the Toronto area YMCAs to see if such an incident had actually occurred. In news that comes a no shock to pretty much anyone…none of them had any idea what she was talking about! Upon contacting the columnist, he responded that it was not his responsibility to verify the accounts he’s given and essentially shirked all responsibility for fact-checking his piece.

Here’s the issue with that notion. While I understand that what he’s writing is functionally an advice column, the piece pretty specifically brings up a VERY sensitive issue, which is cis people’s fear of being harassed by trans or “trans-posing” people in locker rooms and bathrooms. It’s not as though the letter was asking for advice in how to deal with a boss who’s stealing, or a spouse who’s unfaithful…this is a story that the potential to do real harm to the trans community. One of the largest arguments made against allowing trans people to use public restrooms and locker rooms of their identified genders is precisely the fear that this hoax of a story hits on and propagates. It’s ammo for the right-wingers to curtail our basic human rights, and he had an absolute responsibility to do at least a basic fact check of the circumstances before letting such a tale go to press in a major newspaper. Failing the author’s responsibility to fact check, the editor also had a responsibility to ensure all i’s had been dotted before allowing such a potentially inflammatory yarn make it to print.

I also happened to notice that while the story’s headline at least manages to properly refer to the alleged harasser (and apparently non-existent) harasser proper as a “transgender woman”, the URL very definitely says “transgender man”. It’s a microaggression, but still definitely another black mark against the Star in this situation.

I’d like to be able to give the Toronto Star and this columnist the benefit of the doubt on this, but given the way all stories involving trans people are sensationalized for readership throughout the media, I’m finding that difficult. Toronto Star, you owe us a correction, and an apology.

04
Jan
14

CNN Writer Taken to Task for Transphobia, or “I like reblogging with alliteration. Also, Parker Molloy is awesome.”

CNN Features Massively Transphobic Article, I Write the Author | Park That Car.

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last year, you’re probably aware that AB1266 is pretty much the biggest news story about trans people in 2013. But, just in case you ARE one of under-igneous dwellers, it’s the bill signed in California in July that grants wide-reaching protection to transgender K-12 students, including access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams of their identified gender. (Somehow, I managed to completely miss blogging about it…SHAME on me!)

Not shockingly, the bill has been extraordinarily controversial, and it’s brought out some of the most vile and disgusting transphobia in the media that I’ve seen in quite some time. And of course, it’s gotten it’s very own religious-right-driven appeal referendum petition. Since the law went into effect on January 1, there’s been a resurgence of hate-and-misinformation filled op-eds through out the mainstream media. Richard Lucas at CNN penned this doozy piece of garbage, and it caught the attention of the brilliant Parker Marie Molloy from Park That Car, who absolutely took him to task for every single lie and piece of misinformation he spouted. Her piece is one of the best counterpoints to the BS about the “dangers” of trans protections that I’ve seen yet, and it’s definitely worth a read (and a share, if you’re feeling share-y!). And of course, feel free to vent your irritations at CNN for publishing this kind hateful screed.

04
Jan
14

On Stealth in the Trans Community, or “How I accidently slipped into invisiblity, nearly lost myself, and came out wiser for it.”

The concept of stealth is oft-debated and fairly controversial topic within the trans community. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, the general connotation is the idea of living one’s life without disclosing or acknowledging their pre-transition life. In the most classic sense of the term, it generally refers to a transwoman who- after GCS- does everything possible to erase evidence that she had ever been male-assigned and never discloses it again, often asking family to lie/conceal their pre-transition life, and/or otherwise completely cutting off from those who had known them before transition. As the trans community has evolved, the notions of just what exactly is and is not “stealth” have become far grayer. Can a non-op transwoman go stealth? Is it stealth if you deny your trans status to everyone but your romantic partner? What about simply blending in and not explicitly mentioning one’s trans status to casual acquaintances? Perhaps most importantly, given how trans people are treated in society, is going stealth really such a bad thing? I previously discussed the problem of disclosure to one’s sexual partners, but this issue is far thornier, and my views have definitely evolved as I’ve moved through my own transition.

Defining what exactly “IS stealth” is complicated, and the breadth of opinion within the community appears to be fairly wide. For me, I tend to put the dividing line at “active deception”…that is, you venture into “living stealth” when you’re starting to actively lie. Again, I know there’s some gray area here, after all, most would argue that an lie of omission is still a lie. But, to me, I don’t feel that we have any requirement to disclose pretty much anything about ourselves (and I mean ANY of us, cis or trans) to complete strangers or casual acquaintances. Quite simply, everyone is entitled to keep private what they feel is personal, private information.  The wonderful folks over at TransAdvocate did quite a fantastic series on stealth over the summer that hit on a lot of my general feelings on the matter, and this piece from Cristan Williams hits the nail right on the head. She writes:

Not telling the grocery sacker that you’re trans is not stealth. Trying to get your parents to lie to your new boyfriend is being stealth. Not telling every co-worker in the building that you’re trans is not being stealth. Not telling your best friend is being stealth.

There are tend to be generally two major camps of opinion regarding the acceptability of going stealth: those who believe it’s a completely reasonable thing to do given the current climate of transphobia, and those who hold that stealth is a betrayal of the queer (particularly trans) community. For those who hold to the acceptability of stealth, one of the primary arguments is often that being trans is mostly a medical problem, and once that problem (one’s incongruent assigned-at-birth sex) is corrected, there’s no longer any need to identify or come out as trans. Other simply argue that if you have the ability to do so (owing to one’s attractiveness, ability obtain GCS, etc), then why should you? One the other side, there are many who believe that slipping into a stealth life deprives the trans community of much needed visibility. After all, many of the large gains in LGB acceptance are due to the visibility and personal relationships that LGB folks have developed, and this has been born out in numerous polls. Additionally, some argue that the trans community is often the only support available for trans people- especially early on their transition, and that the voices of those who have successfully transitioned are sorely needed as examples and role-models for those just starting out, and therefore to “turn your back” on the community that supported you is unacceptable. Of course, the arguments on both sides of this issue go considerably further, but that’s pretty much the gist of it.

For me, I spent much of the early part of my transition firmly in the “stealth is not okay” camp. I’m definitely not at all ashamed of being a trans woman, and I feel that being visible and vocal IS the best way for us to make progress for our teeny-tiny majority. Of course, it’s also an easy thing to say when almost everyone around you has known you before and through your transition. I was lucky enough to have very supportive friends who stuck with me, so I didn’t really encounter the choice to not disclose my trans status. Even new people in the early days who only knew me in a female presentation were always aware that I’m trans right off the bat. I’m not going to say that I ran around in public wearing a giant “HEY EVERYBODY, I’M TRANSGENDER” sign, but as I’ve mentioned before…I don’t think not telling every single stranger has anything to do with stealth (after all, no one tells every stranger in the street about what their genitals look like!).

As it turns out, the chance to get a fresh start can give you quite a shift in perspective. When I left my full-time career job to return to University for my PhD, I suddenly found myself in an environment where nobody knew anything about me. A few of the faculty were aware, as I hadn’t yet finished changing my name, but other than that I was just some random, shy new girl to everyone else. For the first few weeks, I was DEAD sure everyone knew I was trans and that I was totally delusional about this “fresh start” business. But, as I slowly drew up the courage to converse with classmates (particularly the other girls in my program), I realized that I had quietly slid into cis-assumption. And, I have to admit…it was really, really nice. No Trans 101, no awkward stairs while people try to pick out the incongruencies that would give aware my birth sex, no avoidant or hesitant conversations. At times, I’d begin to wonder if someone had finally picked up on something that would get me clocked, but then I’d be feeling unwell and someone would ask if it was my ‘time of the month”, or something along those lines. I even once made a major slip and mentioned my complete avoidance of Catholic hospitals because of my fear of being left to die, to which my wonderful classmate said “Well, it’s not like you HAVE to tell them that you’re gay!”. So as the weeks stretched into months, the idea that I HAD to tell everyone that I’m a trans woman slowly drifted to background…it became easier to just skip around the potential issues and make the small revisions to my personal history to make it congruent with what they perceive of me. Initially, I chalked it up to “oh, well, I don’t know these people! It’s none of their business!”. Once I got to know a few people better, I told myself that I was just protecting myself…life was already stressful enough in grad school, why should I risk making it worse by coming out? About two-thirds of the way into the semester, it really hit me- I had edged into the gray outer reaches of stealth. While I’m not asking anyone to lie for me, I am being revisionist about my personal history for the sake of “passing”, and that’s definitely active deception.

Again, I just kinda put it to the back of my mind for a long while, as I had numerous other personal stresses to deal with at the time. For the a good portion of the semester, I had actually put pretty much ALL thoughts about trans/queer/feminist issues and most of my activist tendencies on hold so I could focus completely on brutally difficult core classes in my PhD program. However, as I reached the last few weeks of Fall semester and my brain gradually unfogged from the extreme studying, I realized how much I missed all of that…which in turn led me to serious examine my being semi-stealth when it comes school. I have to admit now, that I’m bothered by my behavior. Sure, I’m being visible for queer women (which is, of course, important!) as a whole, but my stealthy-ness isn’t do a damn thing for the trans community, and that’s not at all like me. I feel like I’m bending to will of cis-society, being a “good” trans girl by not making a fuss and quietly going about my business. Furthermore, it really started to erode my personal identity…I wasn’t being ME; I was being the person that society wanted to be. And it happened EASILY…it’s the path of least resistance in many sense. And as I said, I even enjoyed to an extent. It’s forced a major shift in my perceptions of stealth and those who choose it.

I still definitely want people to not be stealth…I do think it’s harmful on a personal level, and I’ve now personally experienced how easily it can start to erode your own identity. But even more, I want to live in a world where no one ever feels like they HAVE to go stealth, where trans people are just as loved and accepted as anyone else. I’ve previously harbored some pretty negative feelings about stealth trans people, and certainly made some fairly negative statements about them. And for that, I’m sorry. Being trans is among the most difficult situations that can be thrust upon a person, and anyone who manages to survive it and live a life that makes them happy should be celebrated…even if they choose to distance themselves from our community. If stealth is way that makes your life happy and livable, I support you. If being out and proud is what makes you happy, I support you and stand with you. To that end, I’m ready to start being more visible. I’m ready to shake people’s perceptions of what a trans woman is, and to be a success story in the sciences that we really need. I’m scared to death to do it, but I know it’s only way to really do what I set to do when made the decision to transition: to live my life genuinely as the real me.

06
Jul
13

The Religious Right Kicks Trans People Again, or “Seriously, can you all just take your bigoted bullshit and fuck off now?”

Pastors argue against ‘transgender’ on human rights ordinance | News – Home.

I know this is just a lot of the same tired bullshit we hear again and again and again every time someone has the audacity to think that maybe trans people ought to be treated like human beings. But I feel it’s important to continually call this bullshit out and make it clear that it’s unacceptable and ensure that they are held accountable for their intolerant bigotry and hate-spreading.

Basically, the religious folks down in Miami-Dade are up in arms and spewing transphobic nonsense because the Miami-Dade County Commission would like to include gender identity in their human right ordinance. So, in essence, they don’t feel like transgender individuals are entitled to having their human rights protected.

From the article:

“Now you so confused you don’t know what you are that you’ve got to go — you’s a woman, you going into the men’s bathroom. You’s a man, you’re going into the women’s bathroom,” said Elder James Smith with the Apostolic Revival Center. “No, I don’t respect that.”

Sorry, Elder Smith, but I don’t respect using one’s religion and influence in the community to push narrow-minded hateful views on every around you. Despite what you might think, transgender people are ACTUALLY people, and we are deserving of equal treatment and protection under the law.

On the flip-side, I give some major points to the Miami-Dade County Commission for pushing forward with adding protections for trans people in their county! Way to go!

25
Jun
13

A Victory for a Young Lady in Colorado, or “Really, are we STILL talking about where people can pee?”

via Rights Unit Finds Bias Against Transgender Student – NYTimes.com.

So, I am poking fun at the whole situation of the trans bathroom complicated in the title. But at the same time, as much as other people want to get up in arms about how dangerous and scary it is to have trans people in our public bathroom, all we really want is to void out bladders in relative safety with minimal hassle. I’ve already given some significant effort to discussing the trans bathroom “problem” elsewhere in the blog, but that article was driven primarily towards adults.

What’s going on here is some poor child is being forced to endure some very adult complications because of her gender identity. She’s six years old and was assigned a male gender at birth, but currently identifies as a girl. She presents as a girl and is identified as such at school. And some parents freaked out at the notion of her using the girls room and the school forced her to use a separate bathroom in the nurses office. Today, the Colorado civil rights division found that the district had discriminated against her, and ordered the school to allow her to use the girls bathroom.

Now, the challenges of appropriately handling children and students (particularly very young ones) who do not identify as their birth sex are numerous and complicated, and too much to cover in this particular post. I’ve sketched out some writing on that topic in particular that will be making an appearance as one of my usual biweekly essays some time in the coming weeks. But the important thing to point out is that the general consensus is that children should be allowed to explore their cross-gender feelings and/or identities as want, and that those who do are generally much healthier.

So I’m very happy for Coy that she can return to school and be comfortable being who she is. That’s a wonderful victory for her. But there’s language in the ruling that I think is important beyond just what it means for this brave little girl. From the article:

But the state’s ruling went even further, saying that evolving research on transgender development showed that “compartmentalizing a child as a boy or a girl solely based on their visible anatomy, is a simplistic approach to a difficult and complex issue.”

Depriving Coy of the acceptance that students need to succeed in school, Mr. Chavez wrote, “creates a barrier where none should exist, and entirely disregards the charging party’s gender identity.

This speaks to a significant level of research and understanding of the issues surrounding gender identity by the Colorado civil rights commission. And that’s huge. It means that at least in some places, the people in power are taking notice of trans issues and learning about the. And not just the basics, but actually developing an understanding of the deeper complexities of gender and gender identity. While Colorado is a relatively left-leaning state, it still gives me hope that this kind of though will continue to spread and genuinely improve the lives of trans people everywhere.

So my hat is off to the Colorado civil rights commission, and a big congratulations to brave miss Coy on her victory.

24
Jun
13

A Period of Adjustment, or “Sometimes our friends just need some fricking time to get used to the idea.”

Coming out. It’s one of those hallmark processes of transition for the vast majority of us. It’s a process that’s often fraught with complications and awkwardness for everyone involved. For those of us doing the coming out, there’s a ton of stress and anxiety about the how, when and where of those conversations, and even who to have those conversations with. A lot has been written around the blogosphere about all of those items. But I think something equally important to consider is how the process of coming out affects those around us, and to give them the time and space to process the information if necessary.

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Some people are just going to be shitty and stay shitty, no matter what. I think some of us probably are lucky enough to have nothing but supportive people in their lives, but I imagine that’s the exception, not the norm. When we start the process, I believe it’s very important to be prepared for the possibility that some people in our lives will never be able to accept our transition and remain a part of our lives. Whether it’s the standard transphobic nonsense, an inability to process a change this significant, or some other personal hang-up, it’s just a reality given the state of our culture when it comes to transgression of the accepted “norms” of gender. For people like this, there’s just a point where we have to throw up our hands and let go. Education and patience will only get you so far, and eventually you are just wasting your time and emotional energy. But I think with a little patience, many people who may initially have difficulties accepting that their friend or family member is transgender will eventually come to some degree of acceptance and support.

One of the first things that we as trans folks need to remind ourselves is that no matter what, we have always had MUCH longer to process our gender identity than those around us. For most of us, that process goes on for years with tons of introspection, learning, and exploration long before we share that journey with anyone else. Our friends and family members don’t have the benefit of that experience, and many times aren’t privy to that portion of the journey at all. I know that for myself, that entire process was intensely personal and private, and I’m still not overly comfortable sharing it almost anyone. So when the facts of someone’s gender transition finally come out (generally, along with that person’s coming-out), I’m sure it came seem quite sudden and even jarring to many.  Building on that, for those of us actually doing the transitioning, the facts of a transgender life are our everyday immediate reality, and in some respects, they become relatively mundane to us fairly quickly. But it’s important to remember that those around us, having a transperson in their life, with all the complications that it brings, is a completely new experience. And for a large portion of people, new is almost universally scary and confusing. What I’m getting is that those in our circles may need a period of time to adjust to the “new normal”, as almost all of us do when something major changes in our lives, and we need to learn to be okay with that.

I think, though, that the heart of some of the trouble we experience when coming out have a lot more to do with identity more so than experience. For many of the trans community, our identity when presenting as our assigned-at-birth sex is largely a construction, a convenient facade we built and held up for years so that we could function relatively without hassle in the world. There are often facets of our real selves woven into it, but it’s just not really the person we are inside. But we put a great deal of care into those constructions for our own personal safety (and I think many of us thought we’d hold onto them forever at one point). The problem is, everyone involved in our lives developed a relationship with that facade, without every really knowing what was going on underneath. So while we may feel relieved and excited to cast aside that construction and let the “real us” shine through as we transition, people important to us have attachments to that identity and all that it entails. They have memories with and of that person, stories that they share about them, and a relationship they feel they understand with them. For many, it can feel like their friend, spouse, child, etc has died, and they will feel the need to mourn that person. And I feel that that is totally normal, and that we as a community need to make allowance for it. I’m not saying we all suddenly become completely new and different people and there was nothing genuine about us before transition. But often there’s enough newness once we embrace what we feel inside and slip off our masks that the analogy rings pretty true. And really, I think that that kind of attachment is meaningful and it should touch us- it means that we are important, and we did well in cultivating that relationship. I truly believe that once our loved ones can understand how important transition is, and how much it’s improving our lives, they will more often than not be able to embrace the changes and hold onto that relationship.

If we aren’t willing to try to understand the complicated emotions that may surface when we come out to those we care about, then we put the relationships that could enrich our lives and ease the burden of our journey in jeopardy. I know that most of us are almost constant on guard for rejection so that we can harden ourselves to it before it has the chance to do much damage. So, when we see loved ones struggling to understand or cope with the realities of the changes we are going through, we’ll tend to see rejection and instinctively push that person away. Sadly, this tends to only worsens the problem. After all, who wants to put effort into understanding someone who isn’t willing to put in that same amount of effort for you? Now we’ve possibly lost a relationship, and the community has lost a potential ally, all for a lack of patience and empathy on our part. And really, is that exactly what we’re usually asking for from our friends and family members when we come out- patience and empathy?

Ultimately, I think what is needed is to realize that the coming-out conversation is a two way street. As much as we might not like to admit it (or just plain sometimes forget!), in coming out to someone, we’re asking for something big of them. We’re asking them to re-align their personal conception of who we are, and in many ways, to let go of someone they may have loved very deeply. I’m not saying we’re out of line for asking for these things…I believe that it’s a reasonable thing to ask from someone who cares about you once they understand the severity of the situation. What I am saying is that everyone deals with big things in their own way, and we owe it to the people who love us to give them the time and space to process it in way that works best for them. If we can give them a little patience and empathy, I suspect we’ll get it back in spades.

19
Jun
13

Being A Better Ally, or “She said it better than I could, so just go read it.” (Reblog)

Four Steps To Being A Better Trans Ally | Thought Catalog.

Rebecca Kling wrote a fantastic post for ThoughtCatalog about the simple ways that trans allies can be more effective. It’s just beautiful in its clarity and simplicity.

Read it, share it, live it!




A blog about nerdy things, feminist thoughts, and queer/trans life. It's full of rants, opinions, and personal stories. I don't claim to speak for absolutely anyone but myself. Read at your own risk.

Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,937 other followers

Follow Trans.Nerd.Feminist on WordPress.com