These are just some of the things that I have been called in the past week by people who have never met me, just because I am transgender and am advocating that people in MA vote Yes on Ballot Question 3.
Of course, they would never admit that was why. They “don’t have a problem with transgenders” in the same way that those who proudly fly their confederate flags don’t have a problem with “the blacks”. What it really comes down to at the end of the day is that it’s all about them. It’s never about us.
If you were to call any of these people a bigot, a transphobe, etc, they lament at being victimized. The same people who hurl those most hurtful of insults at me cannot emotionally handle being labeled a bigot.
And when it comes to the matter at hand, it is still all about them. THEY are not comfortable sharing a restroom with a transgender person. THEY worry about THEIR wives and daughters being “sexually assaulted” by “crossdressing men”.
They worry about THEIR safety.
My safety doesn’t matter.
It inconveniences THEIR lives.
My life does not matter.
In the two years since the MA Bathroom Bill passed, there has not been a single case of it being abused, nor of anyone suffering negatively from it. (You know this is true, because otherwise the opposition would be off and running with their ‘evidence’.)
Not that it should make a difference in all fairness. As I’ve already argued elsewhere, the actions of one bad person should not condemn an entire group of people. A sex offender will hurt someone regardless of bills like this. In fact, they do in many other states that do not have this bill.
One of the sites that supports a “No” for this vote shared this evidence
This page includes incidents of voyeuristic, cisgender (people identifying as the gender that corresponds to the sex they were assigned at birth), sexual predator men entering women’s rooms. All that their site proves is that straight men are the largest group of sex offenders. None of the states mentioned have the bill in place that we do in MA, also proving that removing the bill will not stop predators from preying on women. All it will do is send the message that transgender people do not deserve equal rights and safety.
If “No” voters are so concerned about the safety of women and children, the solution would surely be to demand proper sentencing for sex crimes. Yet men like Brock Turner serve only six months in jail for raping a woman and filming it. The Catholic Church shuffles pedophile Priests off to safety.
It’s no accident that the same people I see demanding “No” votes online are never the ones demanding harsher sentencing for sex offenders, or supporting victims of the assaults they are so eager to ‘prevent’. It is because most of those people aren’t actually interested in protecting women (and children) at all; they are interested in controlling them. Because it’s all about them…
Transphobia often stems from other bigotries, particularly misogyny and homophobia. (And before you ask, yes, women too can be misogynistic.) These prejudices come from a place that defines gender and sexuality extremely narrowly and in black and white. They believe there are two kinds of people; Normal (like them) and Other (like trans people).
People who fall into the “other” category are seen as being predispositioned to being sexual deviants, despite there being absolutely no evidence that LGBTQ people are more likely than cis and straight people to be such. This (false) belief probably explains why LGBTQ people are so often equated with bestiality, pedophilia, and other unsavory practices. Bigoted people believe if someone is depraved enough to sleep with the same sex, or change their sex, then obviously the next step is to engage in sex acts with a child or animal.
All of this, despite the fact that a majority of those such cases can be attributed to straightcismen.
Distrust of trans people stems first and foremost from ignorance. Cisgender people do not understand us. And all too often, they have no interest in understanding us either.
The biggest hurdle to understanding transness is to first accept that gender and biological sex are two separate things. This concept is very difficult for some to grasp, especially those in the older generation who grew up with a definition that made the two synonymous. Many believe in these absolute truths: If you have a penis you are a man; A vagina, a woman.
Some consider these statements to be an undeniable fact, as if written down in the Bible or Constitution or some other outdated, unscientific text they cling to in order to back up their arguments. My favorite of these books that get quoted to me to dehumanize me is the dictionary, a book which they are incapable of using to look up any of the words that I suggest to them such as “intersex” or “parthenogenesis”.
Generally speaking, the statements are true. Typically when one is born they are given a gender assignment based on their genitalia. But what if the person is born with a mixture of genitalia? A combination of sex chromosomes? The medical community has been well aware of cases like this the beginning of modern practice.
In some cases, doctors and parents have made the startling decision to “help” their intersex child by removing one of the sets of genitalia and forcing the child to grow up as the gender they decide for them. Occasionally this has worked. But mostly it has gone badly.
So it is pretty safe to say that science has proven that biological sex is more complicated than simply male or female. Physical sex exists on a spectrum, covering a wide range of visible and invisible traits, from chromosomes to genitalia.
It has been mostly accepted by society that gender expression exists on a spectrum. We no longer require women to wear dresses, and some of the greatest male heartthrobs have had long flowing locks of hair. But the fact is, gender orientation also exists on a spectrum.
Even a person born completely biologically female may come to the conclusion that they feel mentally and emotionally masculine. And if that is the case, why are so many unwilling to allow that? What kind of dangerous boundaries does identifying a certain way break?
When I came out to my mother I had to take the time to explain to her a lot of things that she had either no, or incorrect, previous knowledge in. Sometimes it was hard. Sometimes she didn’t understand. Sometimes she got hurt or upset or angry, an entire range of human emotion I also had difficulty dealing with. And even though it wasn’t always easy, and it took time, she opened up. She listened. She asked questions. She learned.
I made her a helpful chart to help explain the current understanding of gender and sexuality, and how it relates to me.
She still gets things wrong sometimes. We all do. That’s the beauty of being human. We continue to learn new things every day of our lives, up until the very end. And the most important part, the only thing I can really ask for, is that people admit and accept that.
I can remember an interaction vividly from only five short years ago, during a time when I was struggling greatly with my identity. A friend informed me that someone we knew had started using They/Them pronouns. Strangely, the emotion I felt was anger. How dare they just make things up to be special?? Why don’t they just choose one or the other like everyone else? Like I had to!
Like I had to?
At that time in my life (college at an art school) I had just met my ‘first’ transgender person (an ironic experience in retrospect). My world view on gender had been pretty limited until then. Trans people were more of a myth than flesh and blood. I personally had struggled through middle and highschool with self consciousness, my self expression being based more around survival than identity. I hated my (sizable) breasts, hated how vulnerable I felt in dresses, hated my hair long (but feared being called a lesbian if I cut it). I dressed based on the community I was a part of; emo, scene, punk.
Band T-shirts and bright colors from Hottopic were an armor for me; they made me approachable enough, hip enough, femme enough. Bullying was at a minimum.
In college I had began an attempt (that many do) to reinvent myself. The trouble was, I still wasn’t sure who I was. I cycled aggressively through phases during this time, jumping from tomboy to high femme, goth and steampunk to vintage dresses. Even on the days where I looked cute or pretty, I still didn’t feel like ‘me’.
After a long time of cosplaying (dressing as a character for a convention) almost exclusively males, and befriending a transgender and an agender person, I finally considered the fact that maybe, just maybe…I wasn’t a girl.
When friends would jokingly use masculine terms for me, I would get that strange, pleasant flutter in my chest. When friends online would treat me like a boy, I couldn’t help but smile.
In retrospect it is painfully obvious, almost comical.
But I felt trapped. I was too old to be trans.
In every narrative I’d ever heard, the person in question realizes almost as soon as they are capable of conscious thought that they are “in the wrong body”. They show signs, they struggle through childhood. I liked playing with barbies as a child and my favorite animal was a unicorn. I was now 23 years old, and only just wondering why things felt off. I didn’t fit the narrative.
I was simultaneously finally dealing with a constantly increasing and previously ignored cocktail of mental illness; generalized anxiety disorder and depression. With treatment and relief and the support of friends, I gained new confidence. I was tired of worrying what other’s thought. I wanted to take control of my identity.
I cut off all my hair.
It would still be several months before I finally began coming out to people, before I finally began shopping in the men’s section that I had previously only looked at longingly. With each new sweater I felt as if I gained a little confidence, a little validation.
I learned more about gender, about the nuances and spectrum. I was not a girl; of that I was sure. But I also did not feel like a man. It left me in a strange limbo. I can remember even my mother telling me, “It would be easier if you were just a trans boy. At least that I could understand”. I heard so many variations of ‘in between’ genders: gender fluid, gender queer, nonbinary, etc.
It took me even more time to find the word that felt right: demiboy.
When I had started college, I’d hated labels. I believed they were something ‘snowflakes’ used to feel special. But over the course of the next few years, as I battled self loathing and loneliness, I began to realize that to many, labels are an important step in self discovery. They help you feel less lonely. There’s a word for that?? I’m that!
The point of me telling you my whole wild “Gender Journey” is to show that
I was wrong.
As someone who rarely admits to being such, I gladly admit that I was wrong. My wrongness was based on a lot of preconceived notions, incorrect information, insecurity, and internalized misogyny. But I fought all of those things. I did research, and I spoke to people from so many other walks of life, people who had experiences and feelings I could never have conceived of. I evolved, and then I helped my family start to make that journey too.
In order to learn and grow, we must admit when we are wrong, and open ourselves up to new perspectives.
That is one thing I see again and again from transphobic people: rigid insistence.
That is not a little girl, it is a BOY. (Etc.)
Because you said so?
As detailed previously, it certainly isn’t because the scientific or medical community said so.
Why can’t we allow people to decide for themselves what they ‘are’? Transgender people are not hurting anyone in being themselves. And maybe it is time to consider that no one has all the answers. No one has all the knowledge.
My mother kept an open mind, she reexamined what she thought she knew about gender and sexuality. She rewrote old definitions in her mind, updated the way she views the world. It was hard for her. She told me it was almost like she was “losing a daughter”. But I reminded her that I was still very much me, in fact more so me. She wasn’t losing a daughter; she was losing her fantasy of me as a daughter.
Parents typically have ideas about what their child will be like, what they will grow up and do. My mother had to come to terms with the fact that my life was going to be different than the way she’d envisioned it. But she came to realize that that was ok. That parents do not own the identities and lives of the children they create.
My family collectively decided that they loved me regardless of what gender I identified as.
And that has meant everything to me.
My mother constantly posts things on facebook calling for support on trans issues. She came with me to the Yes On 3 campaign office to get signs.
My father called out one of his friends for posting a transphobic joke on facebook, and when the friend refused to listen, he ultimately unfriended him. He had said “That’s my kid they’re talking about.”
When I cut off all my hair, a lot of people didn’t hide their shock and disapproval of it. But my little brother was right there in my corner, telling them off and defending me.
Even my grandparents have attempted to use my new name and proper pronouns. Age is no excuse.
If only everyone could put in a modicum of the effort my family has, I guarantee the world would be happier.
But for now, that’s not even my request. Right now my only request is that you Vote Yes on 3 on November 6th in Massachusetts. Check off that one little box.
If it passes, if the Bill is upheld, you lose nothing. Things remain as they have been for two years in Massachusetts, and transgender people can continue feeling safe and supported. But if it fails, if the bill is repealed, trans people lose that security. It send’s a message that they are not deserving, not equal, not worth protecting.
Repealing this Bill would endanger the most vulnerable members of our society. Transgender people have an average life expectancy right now of about 30 years old. That’s compared to the 71 years of a cis person.
The murder and suicide rates are horrifically high for transgender people, because there are not enough protections for them in our society.
This law is just one protection that can help keep trans people safe and give them the security and dignity to do something most people take for granted every day: use a public restroom.
And this is just from a human rights standpoint. The fear of using public restrooms out of possible bigotry can also have lasting effects on people, hense why they shouldn’t have to just “wait till they get home”.
Children’s Hospital Boston isn’t the only big name in favor of the bill either.
Those who oppose the bill do so because they don’t went men in women’s restrooms. But the fact that many transphobes fail to realize is that plenty of trans people can easily pass as Cis, such as Michael Hughes, a trans man who would have to use the women’s restroom if the choice were dictated by biological sex.
A facebook friend shared this image of his group of friends down the Cape, and called on transphobes to point out which one they believed belonged in the women’s room.
On the flipside, we have trans women like Brae Carnes, who could be at risk of their literal lives if forced to used the men’s restroom.
Assault and murder of trans women (especially trans women of color) is horrifically high. In some places it is even still admissible to use the “gay panic” defense in court while being tried for their murders.
Finally, there is the argument of children’s safety if this law is not repealed. The trouble is, this bill protects the safety of many children while in place.
All of the above are little (trans) girls who deserve a safe place to use the bathroom. Whether or not you believe they are girls should not matter, because at the end of the day, they are all children. None of them are sex offenders. They pose no threat to anyone. Instead, there are many possible threats to their safety. Do you believe they would be safe going into a men’s room unaccompanied? Would you force them there?
After all of this, maybe you still don’t agree with me.
But I am not going to sit back and comfort you, tell you that is ok, that everyone deserves an opinion, and that yours is just as valid.
Because it is not.
At the end of the day, whether you choose to believe it or not, transgender people are people. We are here, and always have been, despite attempts to erase us from history over and over again. We are no more mentally ill, perverted, or depraved than anyone else. We are not looking for special rights, just equal ones.
We are not looking to be ‘tolerated’.
We are looking to be recognized as valid. As humans.