Transgender people are some of the least protected, most persecuted people in the United States. Here are some statistics on discrimination and violence against trans women because of their gender identity or gender presentation:
“No writing is wasted. Did you know that sourdough from San Francisco is leavened partly by a bacteria called lactobacillus sanfrancisensis? It is native to the soil there, and does not do well elsewhere. But any kitchen can become an ecosystem. If you bake a lot, your kitchen will become a happy home to wild yeasts, and all your bread will taste better. Even a failed loaf is not wasted. Likewise, cheese makers wash the dairy floor with whey. Tomato gardeners compost with rotten tomatoes. No writing is wasted: the words you can’t put in your book can wash the floor, live in the soil, lurk around in the air. They will make the next words better.”—Erin Bow (via writingadvice)
“GSM stands for Gender and Sexuality Minority. It’s an alternative name for LGBTQIA+ community.”
I really love this concept, but although it’s technically accurate, something rubs me the wrong way about using the word “minority” in all-inclusive terminology; it makes it seem like the focus of non-heteronormative existence is the contrast we make to a majority group.
Still, this idea is ace. I’d love to see something along the lines of “the AGSC” (the Alternative Gender and Sexuality Community). (via wordify)
I respect Cathy Brennan as a tireless advocate for women and our safety. Unfortunately, Cathy is fundamentally wrong about her premises here, as is Michi, above.
We do not need a better definition of “gender identity”, as the definition of that term from a legal perspective is settled law in 15 states plus the District of Columbia, in addition to over 100 county and municipal jurisdictions around our country, including Baltimore. These laws have an unbroken, empirically demonstrated, 35+ year history of protecting the rights of sex and gender variant people without any reported negative effect on the safety of women.
Even saying that misrepresents to a certain extent that actual state of the laws, as the term “gender identity” rarely if ever appears on its own in such legislation, usually being accompanied by the addition of “gender expression”, and sometimes also “appearance”, “mannerisms”, and “behavior”, or “any other gendered characteristics”. The result of this is that Cathy is entirely misrepresenting the fact that these laws do not only cover transgender people, but they cover all people who for whatever reason may be perceived by other as not fulfilling commonly held notions about proper appearance and behavior for men and women.
She also displays a naïvete about the ways in which laws must be structured if they are to survive challenges of constitutionality. Such laws must necessarily cover all people, or they cannot be regarded as anti-discrimination in the first place. For this reason, when we pass laws to protect women against discrimination, the language of the law reads “on the basis of sex”. When we pass laws to protect racial minorities against discrimination, we do not write the words “black”, “Asian”, “Native American”, or even “white” into the law, we protect “on the basis of race”. When we write laws to protect people on the basis of their religious creed, we do not write the words “Christian”, “Jew”, “Muslim”, “Buddhist”, or “Atheist” into the law.
Similarly, when we pass legislation to protect people from discrimination on the basis of their gender, the general pattern of language that is used is “on the basis of any actual of perceived gender identity or expression (in addition to the other terms, above), whether or not traditionally associated with a person’s sex as assigned at birth”. These terms all have an established, well-understood meaning in our laws and jurisprudence, and in our society in general, and I am in full agreement with those who promote the interpretation of our laws based upon the original common meaning of the terms in those laws.
One of the worst mistakes Cathy makes is when she implies that asserting a “gender identity” necessarily gives one an automatic pass for disturbing the peace or otherwise interfering with the rights of others. Under no circumstances do anti-discrimination laws make it any less illegal to engage in behavior which would otherwise be legal, such as murder, rape, assault, or lewd, indecent, or obscene behavior. It will still be illegal for a trans person to create a public disturbance in a restroom. The only change is to effectively remove the premise that the mere presence of a trans person in any particular public accommodation is necessarily evidence of the commission of a violation.
I would like to personally thank you for this post. What you have written tracks very closely with my experiences, at least as concerns those in our society who have had actual contact with trans women and those in our society who have reason to be aware of these debates, such as the LGBT community, in general.
I would only ask that when you make references to “Lesbians”, that you be more inclusive in your implied definition. Failure to do so is dismissive of trans lesbians, and just generally rude. We’ve got enough rudeness in our society, don’t you think?
By and large, cis women do not seem to have much concern about sharing restrooms with trans women, because women’s restrooms generally have individual, locking stalls. Using such facilities is little different from doing so behind a hollow-core residential door. It’s when we come to the dressing rooms, locker rooms, and showers that things get ugly.
The “alpha male behavior” description, however, is an offensive characterization for those of us who are merely doing what anyone who supports women’s rights ought to do, namely, stand up and assert themselves. This is oppositional sexism at its worst, and a ridiculous double standard. Any cis woman who argued for herself in a similar fashion would be praised for her courage, while trans women who do so are inevitably derided as being masculine. This is exactly the same oppositionally sexist oppression faced by all women, the same oppression that Feminism has been fighting against forever.
I also dispute the idea that many of our detractors among cis women are actually interested in the “concept of supportive sisterhood and peaceful negotiation of differences in an attempt to find commonality rather than differences”. If they were, they would spend more time listening to those of us who are capable of talking about these issues with a calm and clear voice.
Ultimately, I find that the majority of the objections presented here are founded on nothing more than a pervasive desire among some women to mystify the female experience as something which in its essence simply cannot be understood or experienced by those of us who were unfortunate enough to have turned out to be trans. This is absolutely no different than certain trans people claiming to “know” what it is like to be a woman, aside from the truths that we can know about womanhood and being female, primarily that there is no universal experience that anyone can objectively verify.
In the end, all we have is our trust in each other to guide us.
Frankly, that whole speech sounds an awful lot like the way the patriarchy speaks toward Feminism. “Oh, but we must have dialog! You, oppressed people, must listen to the concerns of the privileged.” No. A Thousand Times NO. We do not, and we will not. We do not seek “unity”. We seek equality. We seek parity. We will speak, and we will make ourselves heard. We will do so civilly, but we will not be denied. Our womanhood is NOT in question, and any woman who seeks to deny us our birthright as women is no sister of any woman.
I really do. The thing is, though, is that understanding isn’t going to improve unless people such as your friends decide that trans women are worth listening to, rather than being lectured to. Trans women are tired of being condescended to as if it is our responsibility to act as supplicants in this situation.
There is a lot of righteous anger that has built up in the trans community, people like your friends are at least in part responsible for that, and it is time for you to acknowledge that. For them, and for you, to act as if this is some kind of an unwarranted response and to characterize it as “alpha male behavior” is disingenuous, to say the least. Little wonder you are met with hostility, given this history.
"Alpha male behavior"? More like, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
Do you not realize that these were exactly the same concerns voiced by heterosexual women when Lesbians were fighting for recognition of their rights? How comfortable do you really think heterosexual women really are in places where they know they are vulnerable in the company of those who they believe see them as potential sexual partners?
Do you not see the parallels between the concerns raised by feminists of color regarding the tendency for them to be left out of Feminism by the white leadership?
What all of these questions really boil down to is that there are people in this world, and it would seem that you and your friends fall into this group, that think that the idea of whether or not trans women are, in fact, women at all is somehow up for debate, and that they possess the right to decide the question. If we are viewed as women, then our concerns are women’s concerns, and the differences pale in comparison to the similarities; if we are not viewed as women, then this discussion is the sort of thing that results.
No dialog is going to be successful until “Lesbians”, and I use that capitalized term here very specifically because I see Lesbians in a position where their leadership can be highly effective in settling this question, accept trans women as women, without reservation.
We are comfortable accepting that we are not the same kind of women as cis women, and I will add that the term “cis” in my book carries with it no negative connotations whatsoever, but we are adamant that we are women, and are tired of having to prove ourselves over and over and over again. We recognize that there are differences, but until we are taken seriously as women in any way at all, there’s no hope of reconciliation.
meta-commenting on my Facebook page:
The problem I have with is that they see this as an us against them problem, and that they bear no responsibility for solving it, nor are they particularly interested in understanding that there are those of us capable of speaking intelligently and intelligibly about the subject. They think, ultimately, that they are les gardiennes de mystique du feminin sacré and we are the supplicants and interlopers. They have little interest in equal rights, and only see a need to defend their turf. As I said in a comment, there is a mysticism about the feminine to which they cling.
First of all, I would like to thank Dr. Weiss for the mention!
I have a few things to say about this. I don’t know all the facts of this case, but I’m more concerned about addressing some of the points brought up in the commentary here.
I think that, if Toni’s reportage of the facts of this case is accurate, we can see that this case really doesn’t have anything to do with gender identity or expression. It’s unfortunate for the TSA that it actually happened before the baggy pants case, but perhaps this will lead to some more consistency in enforcement down the road.
Relaxing the normative nature of our society’s standards of gendered behavior doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to throw out every sense of what constitutes appropriate dress in public, particularly for areas where close contact with others in unavoidable, like the conditions that prevail in an airplane.
However, much like attempting to put an ultimate definition to “gender expression”, we cannot codify “appropriate dress” in more specific than general terms. For instance, we can say “No shoes, no shirt, no service,” but having a set standard for skirt length is more problematic. That said, just because we cannot have an objectively set standard for all types of dress does not mean that there isn’t any general consensus of what constitutes appropriate dress.
The outfit of the person in question is essentially little different from lingerie or underwear, and I think very few people would argue that dressing in such a fashion and expecting to get on an airplane is inappropriate and unrealistic, not to mention possibly unsanitary. As Stephanie Weil-Erickson said above, this is about common decency, which is, even though many of us here may push the boundaries of what ought to be considered “common”, a context-dependent reality with which we must all contend.
I don’t think we have much to worry about here, except for that I do agree that such incidents inevitably put trans women under scrutiny that we do not deserve, yet again. Fortunately, this incident will pass quickly without much notice being taken, and will be forgotten, I predict.
As regards standards of workplace dress, I see no problem with alternate day cross-dressing, so long as the employee meets standards of attire and appearance for whatever gender the employee wishes to express, but I also see no problem with an employer refusing to employ such a person in a capacity where an inconsistent identity may have a negative economic effect on the business. In many aspects of business, clients and customers expect to have a certain level of comfort with their vendors, and if such behavior has a negative impact on the ability of the business to thrive, I see little problem with forbidding such behavior. This may not be a legally or morally defensible point of view, but it’s just how I feel about it. I can’t crusade for everything! :)
It is my distinct pleasure to announce that I have been selected by Marti Abernathy as the newest Featured correspondent at Transadvocate. I look forward to providing commentary on our struggle to secure equal rights for all, and doing so in the company of others in our community whose writing has been an inspiration to myself and so many others.
The focus of my writing will be to provide commentary and analysis on the struggle to secure equal rights for all people of sex and/or gender variance. I hope you will read my first article, “Flushing the Potty Panic”, and join in the discussion.
Flushing the Potty Panic
Posted by Gemma Seymour on Jun 21st, 2011 and filed under Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
In 1975, a very curious thing happened in an area of the country where one might not expect such a curious event to take place.
The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, became the first jurisdiction in history of the United States of America to pass an ordinance guaranteeing the equal protection under the law of the right of sex and/or gender variant people to live their lives free of discrimination by others based on their “having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness” (current citation as of 2011: City of Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Title 7 “Civil Rights”, Chapter 139, Section 10, definition of “sexual orientation”).
In the over 35 year long time period since then, similar laws have been passed in 15 states, plus the District of Columbia, and over 100 county and municipal jurisdictions around the country. Of those 15 states and the District, all of these laws were passed in the last ten years, the sole exception being, again perhaps curiously for those of us who often regard any place that does not lie upon the Left and Right Coasts as “flyover country” and a bastion of conservative politics, the State of Minnesota, which adopted the definition used in Minneapolis statewide in 1993 (current citation: Minnesota Statues, Chapter 363A “Human Rights”, Section 03, Subd. 44, definition of “sexual orientation”).
This is not only a testament to how the attitude of the people of this country toward sex and gender variance has evolved in recent years, but an even greater testament to the people of the City of Minneapolis and of the State of Minnesota for their leadership in protecting the rights of humankind, for which I think we all owe them a debt of gratitude.
These jurisdictions, combined, represent approximately 40% of the entire population of the United States of America, a fact which might seem odd, given much of the rhetoric that surrounds the quest to expand the coverage of similar laws to the rest of the population of the United States, which often characterizes the opposition to such efforts as overwhelmingly in the majority.
As we speak, a similar bill, GENDA, or, the “Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act”, is being considered, not for the first time, by the New York State Senate, having already passed the New York State Assembly by a wide margin, and having the support of the Governor, but that bill is being blocked by the Republican leadership, again, despite the fact that it is believed that a majority of the Senate intends to vote in the affirmative on that bill if the Republican leadership relents and allows the bill to go to the floor for a vote.
This is, unfortunately, unlikely to happen, as the current legislative session in the State of New York ends today, but along with the recent battle over a similar law, GIADA, the “Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act”, in Maryland, and the continuing push for a sex and gender variance inclusive ENDA, or “Employment Non-Discrimination Act”, in the 112th United States Congress, it serves as an illustration that the push to expand the reach of anti-discrimination laws to additional states, as well as nationwide at the federal level, is in full swing.
The main point of contention over such laws, as many of us are only too well aware, is the idea that passing such laws will allow the unfettered access of men to sex-segregated spaces reserved for women. Many people in the general population, including a certain portion of the trans community itself, exhibit a strong fear that such laws will increase the likelihood that women and girls will be in danger of various sorts in places where we are all in a heightened state of vulnerability.
While the discussion of such places usually centers on public restrooms, such places also include spaces in which nudity is practically unavoidable, such as dressing rooms, which are disconcertingly often being constructed without individual partitions nowadays, locker rooms, and shower facilities. Less often recognized is the fact that the term “public accommodations”, as these things are known in the language of law, also includes hotels, homeless shelters, the ability to patronize businesses, and many, many more aspects of everyday life.
Even the main sponsor of ENDA in the previous, 111th, and current, 112th sessions of the United States Congress, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA4), a member of the LGBT community and the first member of Congress to retain a known trans person, Diego Sanchez, on his staff, has been widely reported for his discomfort with dealing with this issue.
The latest versions of ENDA, H.R. 1397 and S. 811, as introduced by Representative Frank and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), respectively, both attempt to deal with this problem, at least in terms of how it relates to employment law, by requiring that the construction of the law proceed in the following manner:
“(3) CERTAIN SHARED FACILITIES- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to establish an unlawful employment practice based on actual or perceived gender identity due to the denial of access to shared shower or dressing facilities in which being seen unclothed is unavoidable, provided that the employer provides reasonable access to adequate facilities that are not inconsistent with the employee’s gender identity as established with the employer at the time of employment or upon notification to the employer that the employee has undergone or is undergoing gender transition, whichever is later.
(4) ADDITIONAL FACILITIES NOT REQUIRED- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require the construction of new or additional facilities.”
While this has been seen by some commentators to be an acceptable compromise, it is seen by others as an attempt to create a new “separate but equal” standard, a legal concept which has already been rejected by the Supreme Court of the United States in Brown v. Board of Education, (347 U.S. 483 ), most famously. It also may have the potential to lend a certain legitimacy to the idea of remanding trans people to the ghetto of a “third sex” or “third gender” status. If “separate but equal” is unconstitutional, what other options can we pursue?
One that has been suggested is that we advocate for all public facilities to be single-occupant, fully private, unisex accommodations. This is a practice which has become more commonplace in the modern era since the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990; however, that law specifically proscribes considering “transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders” as disabilities (current citation:http://www.ada.gov/pubs/ada.htm).
It is often noted that there is something of a burgeoning trend to provide similar facilities for “family” usage, which, while it has proven to be a boon for many fathers out alone with female children who need to use a public restroom, has also been very helpful for many trans people. At least one website has been created to list restrooms that may be “safe”, at Safe2Pee, where many such family and unisex restrooms accessible by the public may be found.
Unfortunately, it should also be noted that at at least one prominent location, a shopping mall near my home, the Hamilton Mall, near Mays Landing, New Jersey, access to the family restroom is controlled from a remote location, and will be summarily denied if the person requesting access via intercom and security camera does not have a child with them, so this may not be a solution for trans people even where such facilities exist. When this happened to me, I was so disgusted (and in need of timely access to a restroom) that I did not bother to take the time to find someone in a management capacity to discuss my objections to their policy. I imagine they believe they are preventing pedophiles from attacking children, but it is hard to see how their policy accomplishes such a goal when the family restroom is already single-occupancy.
I have not experienced such issues at any of the other large shopping centers in the South Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania areas, although for the most part, I do not use such family facilities anymore unless I have a particular need for the usually larger and cleaner spaces provided for them, since I have long since become accustomed to using sex-specific facilities. The exception is when I am accompanying my six-year-old, who hasn’t yet been instructed not to call me “Daddy” when we’re in public. Additionally, I am on the road a lot, so the ability to duck into a family restroom and change clothes or touch up my appearance, if need be, can sometimes be useful.
While it would be very nice, in my opinion, as a person who doesn’t particularly like shared public restrooms in the first place, much less shared shower facilities, to have all public restrooms constructed like our current disabled access and family restrooms, I think that we can all easily see that the economic outlay required for such facilities may be too great for our legislators, or for the public, to accept. Anyone who has undertaken a renovation of any room that includes plumbing in their home will be viscerally aware that such rooms are usually, by far and away, the most expensive in the building, and anyone who has attempted to design or plumb such facilities needs to contend with the constraints of the realities of efficient water and waste flow that determine space and distance limitations closely. As the old saw goes, anyone smart enough to be a good plumber is probably doing something else.
Abigail Jensen, in her article about the arguments over terminology in our community and its relevance to the structure of anti-discrimination legislation, believes, as some do, that the ideal situation would be to eliminate sex-segregated facilities altogether. She recognizes, however, that such an ideal is highly unlikely to be accepted generally, and instead seems willing to live with the ENDA compromise.
The ENDA compromise seems fairly easy to digest, apart from its reification of “separate but equal”. Under this proposed compromise, which I will again note would only have effect as regards facilities provided in the course of employment but which would certainly be a powerful precedent for extending the compromise generally, employers would be required to provide trans people with restroom, dressing room, locker room, and shower facilities appropriate to their gender identity, as that term is defined in the text.
Interestingly, and perhaps significantly, the text specifically excludes restroom access in the quote above, and focuses solely upon shared dressing and shower facilities, presumably because with the common knowledge that most shared toilet facilities that are sex-segregated for women contain individual, locking stalls rather than open urinals, it is seen that restrooms do not generally require public nudity. Employers would not be required to construct new facilities if existing facilities may be partitioned sufficiently.
Before I continue further, though, I would like to take a few moments to address the concerns of those for whom no amount of allowing access for men into women’s spaces is acceptable. The more reasonable opponents of restroom freedom for all people of sex and/or gender variance, at least, recognize that trans people should use the restrooms of their target sex/gender, but usually draw the line at allowing cross-dressers, who are usually defined as those people who do not pursue transition but like to temporarily have experiences that are usually limited to another sex or gender. Many others, however, seek to limit such access only to those who have received sexual reassignment surgery of some sort. Usually what this boils down to is that they believe that only trans women who do not have penises should be allowed to use women’s facilities.
First of all, I would like to note that only in very few jurisdictions in this country is it an illegal act for a person merely to enter, or even use for the purposes which such facilities are designed, a sex-segregated facility that is not dedicated to their sex and/or gender. In a follow-up to her article and discussions thereof spanning several websites, Abigail Jensen gave a good summary of the problems of sex-segregation of facilities by law:
“Here’s my bottom line: If we truly believe that allowing discrimination based on someone’s failure to conform, physically or in dress, mannerisms, makeup, etc., to sex or gender “norms” or stereotypes is wrong, then there is no principled way to ban anyone from using any sex-segregated facility without violating that principle. Any such attempt will necessarily be based on the person’s failure to conform to one of those norms.
In addition, any such attempt will give someone, whether a court, government official, doctor, therapist, facility owner or fellow patron, the arbitrary power to enforce such norms by deciding who is and who isn’t feminine or masculine enough to use a given facility. Moreover, the power to determine whether I am a man or a woman, or am feminine or masculine enough to be considered one or the other, is not something I am willing to cede to anyone. Nor do I think anyone else should be required to give up that power.”
Females are a suspect class in our society. I think you will find very few people who will debate this point seriously. This is the main reason why so many people continue to find little difficulty with the sex-segregation of public facilities, even if they have no other reason to do so. When it comes to trans people, however, opinions and perceptions of us as to whether we are “truly” men, or “truly” women, range all across the spectrum. Adding into this the ideas held by many that we are in some way “deviant”, “perverted”, or “evil”, and it is not hard to see why trans people, and trans women in particular, are a suspect class that is at even greater risk than the female population as a whole.
I have spoken with many people in our community who feel that the best solution for the case of cross-dressing men, upon whom the bulk of the objection falls, is to somehow educate the males of our society that they should not feel in any way threatened by the sight of a person in feminine or androgynous attire or a person with feminine or androgynous mannerisms in the men’s room, and therefore, men should under no circumstances be allowed into women’s spaces. I think this is an overly idealized perspective. If it were such a simple operation to achieve, would we not now be enjoying a society where the oppression of all people by means of normative standards of gender was far less than it remains even today, given the decades of modern feminist, not to mention LGBT, consciousness-raising and activism?
Isn’t this just merely another way of saying, “Everyone should just be nicer to everyone else,” and sticking our heads in the sand? Even if it were ultimately possible to accomplish that goal, and I believe it is possible, it would inevitably take many, many years to achieve any measurable success, a period far too long for people who are living with palpable danger to their person in the absence of immediate legal protection to contemplate.
The general pattern of language that is used in anti-discrimination laws that protect trans people bans discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived gender identity, expression, appearance, behavior, or other gender-related characteristics, regardless of whether or not traditionally associated with a person’s sex as assigned at birth. Much of the objection to this language centers on the validity of the concept of gender identity, but it is important to understand that the bulk of the protection provided by such laws hinges more upon one’s presentation of their gender to the rest of the world, that is, one’s expression of that gender through their appearance and behavior, including one’s dress and their mannerisms, than it does, except for in certain circumstances, on the concept of gender identity.
These laws are not specifically designed for the sole purposes of the protection trans people, but for the protection of all people whose presentation may cause others to make incorrect, or even correct, assumptions about their sex and/or gender. They protect cis people as well as trans people. They protect anyone at all who might be perceived by others as being in any way transgressive of the normative standards of gendered characteristics that have long ruled our society, as well as those who just choose for whatever reason to live their lives without devoting an absurd amount of their energy to meeting the high standards of presentation that are often regarded as preferable. As pointed out by Abigail so eloquently, there is no other possible way to structure these laws such that they would remain effective and invulnerable to challenges of constitutionality, let alone based on sound legal and moral principles.
Gender identity, as a protected characteristic, primarily comes into play when a person reveals to someone else that they are trans, or that they intend to transition, yet still retain an otherwise unremarkable presentation, such as an employee making their supervisor aware of such identity or impending transition.
Since the passage of that first ordinance in Minneapolis over 35 years ago, there have been no documented incidents of a male predator attempting to use such a law as a defense against criminal charges resulting out of actions taking place in a sex-segregated facility. None. With the pressure upon legislators that is so heavily applied by opponents of such legislation, we can be sure that had any such incidents arisen, they would have been widely publicized, and would be cited as examples at every subsequent attempt to pass similar legislation.
It is no coincidence that similar fears and objections have attended the push to pass many different kinds of anti-discrimination laws, particularly those which ended the segregation in our society by race with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar legislation, and the failed attempt to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to put the definitive word to the subject of oppositional sex discrimination, in addition, even more notably, to those anti-discrimination laws which included sexual or affectional orientation as a protected class.
This empirically demonstrated, unbroken history of the lack of the societal disturbance always predicted by opponents to be caused by these laws is proof enough that allowing access to segregated facilities not designed for one’s sex or gender carries with it no reason to fear increased danger to women and girls.
Often, those opponents will make the claim that making it “legal” for men to enter women’s facilities is in and of itself an impermissible danger, yet they make these claims without ever noticing that in most jurisdictions, it is, and always has been, legal for men to enter and use women’s facilities, and vice versa. It is only societal custom that maintains the separation, and one other thing.
Regardless of the legality of any particular person’s presence in any particular space, whether sex-segregated or not, whether of the “appropriate” sex or a differing sex, it is always been, and will always remain, an unlawful practice to engage in actions prohibited by law. No anti-discrimination legislation will ever make it any less illegal to murder, rape, assault, or otherwise molest another person, nor will any anti-discrimination law will ever nullify the presence in our society of the existing ordinances and statutes making disorderly conduct illegal.
Sex and/or gender variant people have no demonstrated history whatsoever of using their status, under applicable anti-discrimination laws or otherwise, as protection for engaging in illegal activity. Trans women do not enter women’s restrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms, and showers for the purposes of disturbance, but for the purposes which those facilities were designed, and neither do trans men enter men’s facilities for nefarious purposes, it should be noted. Even if such a situation were to ever arise, it would not make any illegal activity they might engage in any less illegal.
The only real result of anti-discrimination legislation in this country has been to protect the classes of people they are designed to protect from discrimination and violence at the hands of those who view them as subhuman, and to allow the population as a whole to personally experience the fact that sex and gender variant people are no more interested in disrupting society, as a class, than any one else.
Unfortunately, no matter how much we might wish that the entirety of the population revise their opinion on sex and gender variance so that they are more accepting, there will always be those who refuse to do so. These people are human beings as well, and deserve a certain amount of respect for the fact that they are deeply disturbed by the presence of others who they perceive as unlike them. We should not ridicule these people, but have compassion for them. There are also those who are uncomfortable in shared facilities, and there is no reason why their discomfort cannot or should not be acknowledged in a humane manner.
I believe the solution is very simple. Do not create “separate but equal” facilities designed to relegate sex and gender variant people to a ghetto, as proposed by ENDA, but provide out of the total number of public sanitary facilities a certain percentage of fully private facilities for the minority of people who will never be comfortable in shared facilities, either because they desire privacy, or because they cannot overcome their fear of the possibility of molestation based solely on the fact of being in the presence of a person with a differently shaped body, or differently pitched voice.
In order for this to be effective, we must adopt the paradigm set forth by the Americans With Disabilities Act, rather than the compromise language of ENDA, which creates no requirement for additional or new facilities. I am certain that any attempt to do so would create a loud hue and cry that it places an onerous burden on establishments to expend capital. This is exactly the same objection that was raised during the debate over the necessity for the ADA. We passed ADA successfully over 20 years ago, and hardly anyone gives it a second thought in this 21st Century. The objections, as did the objections to all previously enacted anti-discrimination laws, failed to accurately predict the effects of the law.
Yes, a new anti-discrimination law requiring the construction of new facilities would demand certain outlays of capital, but with the current state of our economy, with so many businesses struggling and so many workers unemployed, I cannot help but see this as a massive opportunity to create economic growth. As we did with the ADA, we can allow existing facilities to opt for the ENDA compromise rather than reconstruction and for buildings of historical import to remain in their original condition under many circumstances, requiring only that new installations comply with the new law. The end result of this would be to create an economic incentive for any establishment which constructs new facilities, enabling them to draw on a wider customer or client base, making them more competitive relative to those places which do not upgrade.
This proposal neatly side-steps any question of creating “separate but equal” facilities for suspect classes, and places the power to choose which facilities are appropriate for each person into their own hands, a principle which ought to appeal to all those who value freedom, liberty, and individual choice, three of the most treasured hallmarks of Usamerican society. Crafting legislation to implement this proposal should be fairly straightforward, given that we have the pre-existing template of the ADA to work from.
One thing is sure. No form of discrimination in this country was ever ended by waiting around for a majority of the public to become comfortable with the idea. Every gain we have made in the fight to provide truly equal protection under the law of the rights of all people has been made only through the hard work of activism against an overwhelming tide of discrimination.
Prominent figures in the Usamerican LGBT community banded together in 2009 to draft and adopt a set of principles to guide our quest for equality. These principle have come to be known as the Dallas Principles. I am going to remind us of the first five of those eight principles, as they directly bear on this subject:
1.Full civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals must be enacted now. Delay and excuses are no longer acceptable.
2.We will not leave any part of our community behind.
3.Separate is never equal.
4.Religious beliefs are not a basis upon which to affirm or deny civil rights.
5.The establishment and guardianship of full civil rights is a non-partisan issue.
The time has come for us to unite, and we must do so behind a stance which protects all people, cis and trans alike, maximizing the rights of all without trampling the rights of any. We can do this, we should do this, and we must do this. I hope that you agree.
The air in the forest was thick, heavy with moisture, the earthy smell of leaf mould slowly, inexorably turning to soil. Avaran pushed aside a low hanging pine bough, hoping a better view lay behind it. The cottage was but a hundred yards away, the trees thinning from here on to the clearing where it stood, a thin tendril of smoke rising from its chimney. Unsure how to proceed, Avaran paused for a moment to consider how to approach.
"So," came an amused voice from behind with a sparkling chuckle, "she has finally sent you to me." A pause, and a change of tone. "Or, perhaps, she does not know at all that you have come here?"
Blushing in embarrassment at having been caught out, Avaran turned slowly to find the person he had hoped, and half dreaded, to find. She didn’t seem to be anything like what Sarya had described with her tales of a rigorous taskmaster. Destra, of course, was always rather more forgiving, but then Destra had always had much more interest in learning where Sarya would rather be planning ridiculous escapades.
"Did you expect to find me at home on such a fine day as this?" she continued. One finely drawn hand waved absently through the damp air, referring to the overcast sky that still looked as if it threatened to continue the gentle assault of light rain that had returned off and on through the afternoon. She laughed with more lightness than Avaran might have expected.
"While I admit that would be much more comfortable than getting my feet wet, my needs don’t get taken care of by themselves, you know. Especially not since she left. I have work to do, always." She waved the bundle of gathered herbs she was holding at that last to emphasize her point. Avaran felt her measuring gaze, and could not have said how long she watched, or what it was she had seen in him, but eventually she nodded.
"Come then, girl, if you wish."
Avaran blushed again, to be called so, although it wasn’t the first time someone had made that mistake. In this case, however, Avaran realized that it was said pointedly. She moved past, then, and Avaran was puzzled at how gracefully she seemed to float across the forest floor without a sound, wondering if it was a skill he could learn. Her deep golden hair caught an unexpected sunbeam, and Avaran noted the reddish highlights while tracing the light back to its source in the now patchy sky.
"You have a name," she said as the trees melted away and they reached the rough grass that lined the clearing. It was a strange way of asking that question, he thought, and as he opened his mouth to answer, found his mouth suddenly dry, so his response came out as more of a whisper.
"Avaran. Avaran Carasel."
She turned her head over one shoulder at that, and gave him another look of bemusement, this time with one tawny eyebrow raised. “Really? I rather think not,” she replied, and returned her eyes to what lay ahead. She laughed again, saying “The name of Avaran Carasel I already know. Why don’t you try that again?”
Avaran cleared his throat first, this time, willing his voice to comply with more delicacy.
"Avaïa. Avaïa Carasel, ma’am." That came out a bit more hesitantly than was the plan.
"Now you see, isn’t that much better? To be truthful to others, as well as yourself? And your voice is quite musical. Very well done. It must be your aunt’s influence. She always did have such control over her instrument, even if she was never comfortable with singing in public," she noted as they passed her garden and reached, finally, her home.
"Do come inside," she invited pleasantly, "I’ll make us some tea, and then perhaps, you will understand why you are here. One thing, though. Do not under any circumstances ever again refer to me as ‘madam’. It makes me feel frightfully old, even if I am older than I might appear.
I would say its magic, but as I have a feeling I know why you have come looking for me, I will not lie to you. It is the benefits of my practice, only. I get to keep all the best salves for my own use, especially the ones that require such rare ingredients that I could never make enough to pursue a business selling them, anyway, and I do good work, if I don’t say so myself. You’ll see for yourself, never you fear, if I guess correctly.
In any case, you are free to call me Mírë. I insist upon it, actually, since so few dare, anymore. Oh, but listen to me going on so! Please, sit, make yourself comfortable. I shall be only a moment.”
Mírë disappeared into the kitchen to prepare the tea, leaving Avaïa to mull over everything she’d just said. It was quite a lot, actually, and more than a bit overwhelming.
"Here’s my bottom line: If we truly believe that allowing discrimination based on someone’s failure to conform, physically or in dress, mannerisms, makeup, etc., to sex or gender "norms" or stereotypes is wrong, then there is no principled way to ban anyone from using any sex-segregated facility without violating that principle.
Any such attempt will necessarily be based on the person’s failure to conform to one of those norms. In addition, any such attempt will give someone, whether a court, government official, doctor, therapist, facility owner or fellow patron, the arbitrary power to enforce such norms by deciding who is and who isn’t feminine or masculine enough to use a given facility.
Moreover, the power to determine whether I am a man or a woman, or am feminine or masculine enough to be considered one or the other, is not something I am willing to cede to anyone. Nor do I think anyone else should be required to give up that power.”
It would seem that the main battles of The Umbrella Wars, the pet name I have for the arguments over whether or not trans people should remain under the so-called “Transgender Umbrella”, whether or not certain members of our community are legitimately transsexual people or are just playing “dress-up” temporarily, whether or not the word “transgender” is indicative of a massive conspiracy to eliminate transsexual people, and whether our association with the rest of the LGBT community has been of any benefit to us at all, are finally joined. Many in our community have fought to stave off this divisive conflict, while others have sought to hasten its arrival.
The initial skirmishes have been underway for quite some time, notably, the well-known conflict between Autumn Sandeen and Ashley Love that has additionally affected so many others, but the fighting has been spotty in the past, until now.
In the past weeks, we have seen articles at the Dallas Voice discussing the case of Nikki Araguz devolve into a debate over “transsexual” v. “transgender” with little to no discussion of the facts of Nikki’s case. Mercedes Allen has published an article at the Bilerico Project searching for a replacement for the “Transgender Umbrella”, the comments upon which have equally devolved. Mercedes published a follow-up last night at Bilerico that caused me to write this article, and which I feel certain is going to continue the rancor. Mercedes has a third article planned, she says.
Abigail Jensen wrote an excellent and insightful article describing in detail why, as I have been saying in many places for a long time now, from a legal theory standpoint, the debate over terminology is irrelevant and counterproductive to securing our rights. Her article, posted to her Facebook Wall, has gone to well over 200 comments, many having been deleted for being off-topic and abusive. Abigail’s article was cross-posted to Pam’s House Blend, where now it stands at well over 100 comments, many also running afoul of the new, more stringent commenting stance by the baristas.
The War has gotten so heated that it is contributing in large part to discussions of whether or not Bilerico ought to remove commenting abilities altogether.
My own Facebook Wall and posts to Tumblr, as well as responses to all the articles above have generated no small share of conflict. A post by Zoe Ellen Brain to her Facebook Wall of a related article by Joann Prinzivalli, a principal plaintiff fighting in New York City for the right to change sex markers on birth certificates, has exploded in similar fashion, about to hit 300 comments, helped in no small part by myself, Abigail, Cathy Brennan, and Ashley Love, among others.
In the midst of all the clamor declaring the death of the Umbrella and the din of its dissection, I have yet to hear a compelling argument for how the legal needs of sex and/or gender variant people change depending on how they identify, despite the fact that some, such as Zoe Ambrosine, would have us believe that gender is a figment of our imaginations, or merely a product of lifestyle choice.
I think that it is important, if we are to make any progress at all healing the wounds and bridging the divides in our community, or simply moving beyond them, that we must recognize first that the terminology we use means different things depending on context, and that we must make clear at the very least to each other, and preferably also to those outside our community, what context we are personally employing when discussing these issues. Everything that follows from this point is heavily dependent on the definitions I personally find compelling, so I enourage you not to rush too quickly to conclusions about what I have to say here, should you continue to read, but to consider my words with my definitions in mind.
We really can no longer afford to allow “gender” to replace “sex” in our discourse simply because certain members of our culture, both within and without our community, feel ill at ease discussing anything to do with the human function of reproduction. That we, as a whole society, have allowed “gender” to largely supplant “sex” as our chosen word in an attempt to ensure comfort for others has been, I believe, a grave mistake which has led to severe disparities in the abilities of people to understand our collective plight.
It will be hard enough to overcome the legacy of discourse about these terms generated by the ciscentric medical, psychiatric, scientific, and legal establishments that have vested interests in defining these terms and perpetuating our dependence upon those establshments, as well as the equally ciscentric academics, feminists, and queer theorists, that we may be heard in our own right as to our own lived experiences without continuing to fight misconceptions caused by definitions of these terms previously imposed upon us. We must, therefore, re-define these concepts for ourselves, and we cannot allow those definitions to become embroiled in arguments over the question of their validity. They are very real, and all of us have cause to know it.
Sex and gender, while the words are often used interchangeably in our culture, are no longer thought of by those who make a habit of studying and classifying things as being one and the same. Sex is a biological reality; this is not in dispute. However, we now understand, thanks to modern science, that what we once thought of as a very cut-and-dried binary system with few exceptions has proven to be far more complex than we imagined in earlier times. For this reason, leading thinkers on the topic refer to sex as a “spectrum” or “continuum”.
The biological mechanics of sex can be summed very simply. Sex is an evolutionary reproductive adaptation which privileges a particular inheritance pathway that presents certain advantages for genetic replication over asexual reproduction. That’s it. Given what we now know about biology, I believe that anyone who tries to tack on any further definition is doomed to futility. While the range of sexed characteristics falls into a continuous pattern of distribution whereby two general paradigms emerge, any notion that the range of sexes can thereby be reduced to two is living in denial of science.
Similarly, “gender” is an evolutionary adaptation arising out of sexed biology consisting primarily of behaviors which function to some extent to improve one’s availability for reproduction. Additionally, certain types of behavior have traditionally become associated with different roles in a society in which a division of labor is one of the cornerstones, a cornerstone without which society fails to develop in the first place. As with sexed characteristics, gendered characteristics exist in a continuous pattern of distribution in which two general paradigms can be observed, but to mistake this for a cut-and-dried mutually exclusive binary is a denial of reality.
Our society has traditionally functioned by separating people into these two paradigms of sex and gender to the exclusion of every other possible permutation, and perhaps in earlier times when we did not understand the universe to the extent we now do and our division of labor was more closely related to immediate survival needs, this may have been forgiveable. Certainly we cannot now, in our modern era, forgive the existence of this overly restrictive system, given what we have learned in the meanwhile.
That certain people exist for whom the traditional categories of sex and gender are unsuitable in some way is a tautology. We are, after all, here, discussing our own existence. Many of us seek in some way to redress the fact that we are uncomfortable with our sex and/or gender situations, and it is here that we find the only real distinction that I feel it necessary to make, and indeed that ultimately may be possible to make, within our community. Either one changes one’s sex on a permanent basis using all the medical, psychiatric, legal, and social tools one has at one’s disposal to the extent that one is able, a process which we call “transition”, or one does not transition.
Note that I make no distinction over how much distress one may or may not feel over the initial state, thus creating a hierarchy of those who are or are not “really” suffering, but emphasize a conscious, permanent change to the extent one is able. Note also that I make no reference to one’s initial sex or gender, or one’s target sex or gender, or even whether or not any of those things can be described with any accuracy by the two traditional paradigms.
By undertaking transition, one is by this definition a transsexual person, and may or may not also be a transgender person, for the literal meaning of these two words is “change sex” and “change gender”. Often, a change of sex is accompanied by a change in gendered behavior to at least some extent, especially for those of us who may have been unfortunate enough to adopt as habit certain gendered behaviors that allow us to avoid scrutiny, and these behaviors are often changed if for no other reason than a simple desire to continue to avoid scrutiny in one’s target sex, but a change of gendered behavior is not necessarily a requirement for changing one’s sex.
I realize that there are those who have concluded that because our technology does not allow for a complete change of all sexed characteristics that a change of sex is therefore impossible, and therefore we must speak only of changes of gender. I say that this is a short-sighted approach. I say that to the extent we can change anything about our bodies that results in a successful alignment with who we feel ourselves to be, we are in fact changing what we can about our sexed characteristics. We also should not limit our conception of such things when we cannot have any certainty as to what the future of scientific advancement may mean for us.
Our gendered characteristics may have their roots, ultimately, in biological characteristics, but they are for the most part learned behaviors rather than the tangible substance that is our flesh, and while unusual gendered behaviors are considered taboo to a large extent in our society, and may arise from personal preferences whose origins we may never precisely determine, there is no medical or psychiatric treatment known to successfully modify those aspects of our consciousnesses in which those origins lie.
Transition, as many of us here have personal cause to know, is fraught with pitfalls and roadblocks, but while those of us who are committed to transition may face all of them, we still should not discount, as a matter of human decency, the fact that there are people of sex and/or gender variance who for a variety of reasons may not transition, but face many of the same pitfalls and roadblocks as transitioners. Not all, but at least some.
For this reason, among others, I fail to see that the needs of transitioners are in any way compromised by respecting the needs of those who do not transition, nor do I see that the needs of those who transition to the fullest extent we can muster are in any way compromised by also respecting the needs of those who for whatever reason are not so fortunate to avail themselves of every possible means of transition.
We all, as human beings, are possessed of certain unalienable rights, and it is this concept that we know well is the basis for our modern society here in the United States, and for many others around the world. We have a right to live, we have a right to the dignity of our own bodies, we have a right to our own identities, we have the right to live freely, unencumbered by undue discrimination by others. Our rights are not dependent on the existence of any form of government for their validity, rather we form legitimate governments by relinquishing only enough of our rights so as to empower an external agency to protect those we retain.
The adoption of transgender as an umbrella term, regardless of how the extremists of all factions in our society may view it, was never understood by most people to be anything but a united front for the purposes of securing the guarantee of the equal protection under the law of the inherent, unalienable, natural, human, and civil rights that have heretofore been denied us to varying extents. It was not done to erase identities, to impose a uniformity of opinion, to convey a sense of any homogeneity of our community to society as a whole, or to suggest that there is any one true way to be an authentic member of our community. It was simply a recognition that no matter where we came from and no matter where we are going, that we all of us face similar challenges to recognition of our selves by the rest of society. Some may face more, some may face less, but all the challenges we face are drawn from the same superset of sex and gender related issues.
Yes, we aligned ourselves closely with the communities of non-traditional sexual and affectational orientation. We should be proud of this, even if we feel no particular individual affinity for those communities, because the challenges we face in seeking recognition of our validity and our personhood stem in many ways from the same fount as the challenges those communities face, and again I will note here, as I have previously many times, that that fount is the perceptions of others who view us as unworthy to be considered their peers, not any fundamental differences in “sexual identity”, “gender identity”, and “orientation identity”.
We should be proud of this association, because we should be proud to stand for the equal protection under the law of the rights of each and every human being. It also happens that many of us in our own community are also members of the non-traditional sexual and affectational orientation communities, and we should be as mindful of that as we should be mindful of those in our community who have no affinity with them at all. Even though our relationship with those communities is often a rocky one, on both sides I believe we have common grounds for solidarity. All are human, all are deserving of dignity and respect.
The umbrella has failed to remain compelling for many, not because of any inherent flaw in its canopy, but because of misunderstandings about its purpose compounded with mistaken beliefs by many that the challenges faced by or the needs of transitioners v. non-transitioners, by those who avail themselves of transition to a greater v. a lesser extent, are in some essential fashion fundamentally different. I believe they are not, that they differ only in number and severity, but that they all come from the same pool. Additionally, we have, I am sad to note, a divisive faction within our community which would like to practice and enshrine elitism.
I hear many people arguing over documentation standards, and whether or not we should have, indeed whether it is possible to have, objectively specified standards for the modification of the sex and gender markers on our legal documents. There are, as I see it, four ways to approach the problem, which may not necessarily be mutually exclusive. We can remove sex and gender markers on all our documents; we can require onerous proofs to obtain permission to change those markers; we can institute more relaxed standards of proof; and finally, we can allow for a wider range, perhaps a virtually unlimited range, of sex and gender designators.
In every examination I have made of this subject, I have come to the conclusion that the removal of sex and gender markers from most, if not all, documents would be ideal. In an era when the usage of photographic identification documents in near universal, what extra security is provided by putting an “M” or an “F” next to the picture? If the person’s appearance is markedly masculine or feminine, surely such a label is superfluous, and if the person’s appearance is androgynous or in any way not easily determinate by others, surely no mere label will resolve the confusion.
However, such sex and gender markers have a long history in our culture, and while this solution may be the most helpful to those for whom gender is a fluid thing or for those who identify as having multiple or parts or aspects of multiple genders, I doubt we are likely to convince a sufficient number of people that forgoing the usage of these markers is to their benefit any time soon, so it is also my belief that we will be stuck with the reality of them for some time to come. In that case, we should work for, at the very least, expansion of the categories of acceptable sex and gender markers. I will not here argue for or against any particular such marker.
What I would rather examine is whether or not we ought to require extensive proofs in order to obtain permission to change our markers. What I will ask, is for someone, anyone, to explain to me how a relatively lax standard for proof is of any danger whatsoever, to our community, or to society as a whole, because I believe the danger is non-existent. I will ask you to bear in mind that I consider any requirement for proof of surgical modification of one’s reproductive organs to be a forcible requirement for sterilization, and if such things do not give you pause, I would implore you to spend some serious time in self-reflection.
It is my belief that the standard that should be used for all sex and gender marker changes on all legal documents where such changes may become necessary is the standard that is already in place in my home state of New Jersey, where a change of sex marker on one’s driver’s license requires one to obtain and complete a form from the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission, entitled “Declaration of Gender Designation Change”, which you may download and view here <http://www.state.nj.us/mvc/pdf/Licenses/genderchange.pdf>. In no way can any person simply walk into the offices of the Motor Vehicle Commission and request a change of sex marker on a whim, as similar situations have been represented by those who desire retention of more stringent standards.
The exact wording of this form is as follows:
"I wish to change the gender designation on my driver’s license/identification card to read (M/F). I hereby certify, under penalty of law, that this request for change of sex designation is for the purpose of making my driver’s license/identification card reflect my gender identity, and is not for fraudulent or other unlawful purposes."
This must be corroborated and countersigned by a licensed medical or social service provider with the following statement:
"My practice includes assisting, counseling or treating persons with gender identity issues, including the applicant named herein, and in my professional opinion, the applicant’s gender identity is (M/F), and can be reasonably expected to continue as such for the foreseeable future. I hereby certify, under penalty of law, that the foregoing information is true and correct."
At the bottom of the form is a notice:
"A misstatement of fact or false statement made in this or any application is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment and may result in the suspension of driving privileges. (NJSA 39:3-37)."
The current penalties for violation of the cited statute are a fine of no less than $200 and no more than $500, and/or imprisonment for up to six months, at the discretion of the court. In addition, the driving privilege will be suspended for a period of six months to two years.
This is a legally binding document. Falsifying the information on this document subjects one to serious legal sanctions. I simply fail to see what possible harm could come to society from people submitting to such a legally binding process of declaring their sex and gender. By completing and submitting such a document, one has legally declared one’s transition, and is by definition a transsexual person, and I fail to see how such a declaration being considered sufficient evidence for a change of sex or gender marker can possibly have any negative effect on other transitioners.
I will also note that this is similar to the current standard of proof required by the US Department of State when changing the sex marker on one’s US Passport, and it is very likely that a similar standard that will be adopted in the City of New York should the plaintiffs in the lawsuits challenging the current policies concerning changes of sex markers on the Certificates of Birth issued by the Office of Vital Statistics prevail.
Those three types of documents are the Holy Trinity of legal documentation in our society: driver’s license, Passport, and Certificate of Birth. There are additional documents, but all in some way depend on the existence of, primarily, the Certificate of Birth, the last piece of the puzzle to be liberated from the tyranny of sterilization requirements.
Under this scheme, non-transitioners would have no access to documentation changes, because by requesting a sex or gender marker, one automatically becomes a transitioner. This is not something that people will do lightly, as one is liable for the truth and one must have their declaration corroborated by a person who is in a position to be professionally involved in the provision of transition-related healthcare.
I do not agree that adoption of such a scheme would create a situation where the lack of surgical requirements for everyday life would necessarily lead to a mandated denial of healthcare financing for transition-related healthcare, as has been suggested by some. I have seen no evidence that that claim is likely to be true. In any case, the problems of healthcare and healthcare finance in this country in general cause any concerns over the financing of transition-related care pale in comparison.
So long as we require financing for our healthcare, and I use the term financing specifically because to call it insurance is patently ludicrous as it cannot possibly be considered anything akin to traditional notions of insurance when without such financing most people would have access to little or no healthcare of any kind at all, we can and must also require from our laws a guarantee that we cannot be denied financing for the transition-related healthcare which the medical and psychiatric organizations all agree is necessary, regardless of what is printed on our legal identity papers.
In fact, the whole argument falls flat on this basis! One cannot claim that doing away with surgical sterilization requirements will in any way negatively affect transition-related healthcare financing when the justification for what little financing we have managed to secure is based not upon the requirements of legal identity documents, but on (supposedly) the professional opinions of healthcare practitioners.
Another front in this war, perhaps in the end the most important front, is the battle over securing the rights of sex and/or gender variant people to access appropriate public accommodations. This, of course, is not going to come as a new revelation to anyone here, being as it was the key issue in the failure of ENDA last year and more recently, Maryland’s GIADA, otherwise known as HB235.
There are people both within and without our community that believe that the segregation of public accommodations is both necessary and desirable. While I happen to believe that neither of these things is actually true, I recognize that the bulk of our society does not feel the same way, and that the reality of sex-segregated facilities is something we are going to have to live with for some time to come.
However, rather than follow the language of last year’s ENDA, as Abigail Jensen noted in her article, I think we need to find a better solution. The ENDA solution, as I see it, creates a new standard of “separate but equal”, a priniciple which was found long ago to be unconstitutional. Rather than creating separate facilities for sex and/or gender variant people, and as a compromise with the idea of creating single-person public facilities everywhere, something which is clearly economically too great an obstacle for many to consider, I believe that what we need to do is to follow the example of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and create separate facilities, not for sex and/or gender variant people, who are in any case specifically exempted from the provisions of the ADA, but for all those in our society who need or require privacy and for those who cannot or will not regard their fellow human beings with dignity.
Over 20 years ago, the ADA was passed despite strong objections from the business community that it would create onerous standards of compliance that would be extremely damaging to the economy. I think we can all see now that none of these fears panned out.
We are not a country that was founded to protect majority rule. We are a country with Constitutional, legislative, executive, and jurisprudential traditions specifically designed for, and tasked to, the protection of suspect classes from the predations of the tyranny of the majority over our inherent, individual, unalienable, human, civil rights.
I am not concerned with defining “male” and “female”. I am not concerned with defining “masculine” and “feminine”. I am not interested in any definition of who is an authentic transsexual that involves a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder, the basis of which is currently in dispute within the very organization that publishes that diagnostic manual containing the description of that disorder, as well as within the community of healthcare professionals, especially those who specialize in the provisioning of transition-related healthcare. I will not be designated mentally disordered by those who have a vested interest in such a diagnosis.
I am not concerned whether or not transitioners do or do not follow the guidelines set forth in the WPATH Standards of Care. I refuse to allow any other person the right to determine for me, or to determine the validity of, my identity. Period. The only diagnosis that ultimately matters in the case of transsexual people is the self-diagnosis that one is, in fact, a transsexual person. We have the inherent unalienable human right to determine our own identities, and we should cede this right to no one, ever, no matter how daunting the task of self-determination.
A cross-dresser may not face the need to change their sex or gender markers on their legal identity documents, or to access transition-related healthcare, but they do face the need to access restrooms where they will be safe from assault. This same need is faced by many transitioning people who do not, can not, and possibly never will walk this Earth without the constant gaze of the scrutiny of others. A transitioner who is for some reason unable to avail themselves of every possible aspect of transition still needs to access non-stigmatizing, non-pathologizing transition-related healthcare and still has the right to their identity, this is the same need faced by those who obtain sexual reassignment surgery, even if the treatments may differ. All need a guarantee of access to housing, employment, and public accommodations appropriate to their sex and gender, and this is true whether those accommodations are sex-segregated or not.
I do not fight to crowd everyone under an umbrella they may not wish to stand under. I do not claim that our community needs one word to define itself to the world. The languages we humans use to communicate with each other have a startlingly powerful ability to use multiple words in a description where necessary. All that I wish to see is that a recognition spread within and without our community that while we may not all face exactly the same hurdles in exactly the same order, the hurdles we do face are all of a like, are all built from the same wood, and all must be cleared. If we can do this, together, then our differences and distinctions will be seen, as they properly should be seen, as no hindrance to our liberation.
Unfortunately, as I see it, the long history we have in our culture of oppositional sexism and heterosexism still runs as rampant through our community as it does in the greater society. Certain people are afraid of penises, or of men, because they fear assault, rape, murder, or other crimes that might be perpetrated against them by males, and they feel that the best way to ensure their safety is to take away all the penises. Others are afraid of being perceived as men or homosexuals (because then people will think they are…you know…twisted, dangerous perverts), or a whole host of other things that still boil down to hatred or fear of anything related to males, masculinity, and homosexuality. I will not claim that many of these people do not have grounds for their fears, but we cannot allow voices ruled by fear and hatred to set the agenda while members of our community are quite literally dying because all of us are denied the guarantee of the equal protection under the law of our rights.
Don’t like that umbrella? Fine, me neither; it was dripping water down my back, anyway. Throw it away, we’ll fight in the rain, if need be.
While we may each perceive different reasons to be concerned about conquering any particular hurdle in our paths, the fact remains that we are each still required to jump the same height over the same distance over the same bar. So, let us each fight for each denied right for our own individual purposes. It matters not that perceptions within the community differ so long as the end result is the same, and that end result must, I believe, be the same, for if the hurdle is the same hurdle and we each jump the same height and distance to clear it, how can we land in different places?
Whether we hold an umbrella over ourselves or not, we still need to stick together and respect our differences, our shared humanity, our equality, each other, and ourselves. Continuing to argue over whether we identify as “post-transsexual”, or whatnot, is entirely missing the point of the exercise. After all, nobody ever got to be post-transsexual by not going through transition, first. It is, ultimately, the processes involved in transition that are the common threads that bind us together, and it is those processes to which we need to secure access regardless of how we personally identify.
I’m embarrassed to admit I need to catch up on the rest of this, but I really like this bit. Have you considered submitting to Topside Press?
Oh wow, thanks Gemma. I liked what I saw of that video earlier about Topside, I’ll have to come up with something for them. No harm in trying :)
You’re quite welcome! The thing about Topside is, I really respect what Red is trying to do (BTW, if you’ve never met Red…defs a very cool person!), but I have this feeling that putting out a call for trans fiction authors like that is mostly going to net them a bunch of Mary Sue magical transformation stories and forced femdom fantasies, of which we can of course already get our fill from BigClosetTS and Fictionmania. (Oy, vey…)
Your piece here immediately reached out and grabbed me as being exactly the sort of fiction the trans community needs. It’s matter of fact about being trans, and has a character that is compelling and has authentic reactions that aren’t completely driven by being trans.
The only fiction I’ve ever read that fits into this vein is Brian Katcher’s Almost Perfect. While Brian is a cis, straight, white man, he wisely tells the story from the point of view of the cis, straight, white boyfriend of the main trans character. It’s a great book, and we need more in that vein from someone who is actually trans.
With your story, I especially like the way in which the character’s transness is a point of tension, but it seems like it’s not the main point of tension, just an additional twist. That’s what makes the story seem like it can have the power to reach out to other people it a way that doesn’t feel forced.
1. It is creepy. Stop lying and then covering it up as activism.
2. If you are sincere, and your only goal is to highlight the blatant inequalities and abuses inflicted on the LGBT community by the rest of society, you don’t have to pretend to be anyone other than yourself. Speak the truth, and people will listen.
3. Except when you’re not being sincere and are just using your persona to feed your own self-absorbed view of the world.
4. There’s something really creepy about a white, straight, American man pretending to be a lesbian. It’s almost like you think this identity can be assumed by anyone. Like it’s a sweatshirt you can put on anytime you want. Like this identity, as everything else in this world, is yours for the taking.
I’ve seen several articles in which the problem’s framed as WHITE guys pretending to be LESBIANS. The problem is STRAIGHT guys pretending to be lesbians and white guys pretending to be WOMEN OF COLOUR. We need to stop invisibilising the guys’ straightness and the women’s race. Because it’s continuing to perpetuate the idea that straightness is so much the norm that it doesn’t need mentioning and it’s continuing to erase women of colour. As usual.
This. A thousand times, this. Insightful commentary is insightful.
Biggest turn offs: Refusal to Reason. Cruelty. Arrogance. Selfishness. Dishonesty.
Favorite Movie: Shakespeare In Love
I’ll love you if: I fall in love with you, and only if.
Someone you miss: My daughter, Madeleine.
Most traumatic experience: Accepting that I am a transsexual woman.
A fact about your personality: I’m an INTP, that pretty much covers it.
What I hate most about myself: My body. I’m trans, remember?
What I love most about myself: My ability to experience and express deep emotional bonds.
What I want to be when I get older: Free.
My relationship with my sibling(s): Sucks.
My relationship with my parents: Mostly sucks. One is dead.
My idea of a perfect date: Passeggiata, Cocktails, Dinner, Performing Arts Event, Meeting Friends for Late-Nite Drinks, Conversation, Shower, Sex, More Sex, Shower, Breakfast/Brunch, Exploring, Lunch/Drinks, Conversation, Passeggiata, …
My biggest pet peeves: Rudeness. Refusal to think ahead.
A description of the girl/boy I like: She loves me, and would never, ever, leave me.
A description of the person I dislike the most: She told me she loved me, and left me, destroying what remained of my former life in the process.
A reason I’ve lied to a friend: Because telling the absolute truth served no positive purpose.
What I hate the most about school: That I don’t go to school, because I can’t afford it.
What my last text message says: I don’t remember.
What words upset me the most: “I don’t love you anymore.”
What words make me the best about myself: “I love you.”
A wish that I’ve wished for repeatedly on 11:11: I always make the same wish: “Happiness All the Days of Our Lives.”
What I find attractive in boys: Aside from the fact that I’m a lesbian, you mean? The same things I find attractive in women. Creativity, Inventiveness, Empathy, Courage, Fortitude, and all the turn-ons I mentioned, above, among other things.
Where I would like to live: Philadelphia, PA, or Burlington, VT. I think.
One of my insecurities: My body. Didn’t I mention the part about how I’m trans?
My childhood career choice: Lawyer.
My favorite ice cream: Allora…any gelato from Gelateria di San Crispino in Via della Panetteria, 42, Roma, Italia. Con panna, per favore. It’s right around the corner from the Fontana di Trevi, you can’t miss it. While you’re at it, could you stop by Antica Cartotechnica in Piazza dei Caprettari, 61, and pick up some ink for me, please? I’d be ever so grateful. Grazie!
Who I wish I could be: A prettier, cis version of me. With more money, please.
Where I want to be right now: In the arms of someone who loves me.
The last thing I ate: Ginger Half & Half (Lemonade & Iced Tea, with ground ginger root added).
Sexiest person that comes to my mind immediately: Katie Liederman. I’ve been thinking a lot about her ever since last week.
A random fact about anything: I think it’s pretty obvious why you never see a cello with a scale length longer than about 720 mm, isn’t it?
I’m told by people that Autumn Sandeen isn’t a transsexual, that Monica Roberts isn’t a transsexual, that Ashley Love isn’t a transsexual, that Hexydezimal isn’t a transsexual, that Donna Rose isn’t a transsexual, that anyone who disagrees withtheir view of who is and who isn’t a transsexual isn’t a transsexual, and they all point fingers and yet all of them forget one very, very important thing:I don’t give a flying fuck who is and who isn’t a transsexual.
I read stuff like this:
Transgender goals are completely flipped from ours in that they seek to entrench gender as a pseudo-replacement for sex (pretty much at the beck and call, as well as a *great* side effect of their laziness for the psych institution end of things), whereas we are looking to have sex representation and work with allies like intersex people to build a sex centered community.
and I have to wonder if they truly understand just how wrong they are, and when I try to correct them, I’m told no, no its absolutely the case, and that I’m just spouting more dogma. It doesn’t matter that this literally flies in the face of the fact that as a sociologist, everything I’ve ever written about is very specific — female/male is sex, masculine/feminine is gender, and the two are separate. And I can say, absolutely, that I have asked them pointed questions, and been given answers that indicates they literally do not understand what sex and gender are. That they do not understand the very semantic arguments they are using, that they are at best half informed and meeting the old standard of a half educated person is worse than a fully educated one.
But if anyone were to push me, they’d find out that I’m likely to describe as not a transsexual anyone who spends any amount of time saying that so and so isn’t a transsexual. And *mean* it. Especially when the modus operandi of the inquisitors seeking purity is to shoot them all and let god sort ‘em out.
And here’s why I don’t care: it doesn’t make a diffference. One can argue about who’s who and who’s what and what name to use and how many different desriptions and who couts and who doesn’t until the cows come home to nest in hell. That is, after all, how it came to be that one 64th meant you were black. It is, after all, why I’ve had to deal with internalizing racism and why I’ve had to face the painful and often abusive aspects of colorism. This is just more of the same, an ongoing series of purity tests that no one can ever possibly meet unless they match the ideological measures.
In the end, its still people crapping on you. In the end, it is supposed to be all about making the laws fairer and the society more tolerant for people who’ve already gone through the hard part. When what people like myself are working towards is making that stuff happen so that no one has to go through the hard part. The hard part is wrong.
I certainly have my own opinion on the “transsexual” vs. “transgender” debate that has ignited many a flame war on the internet over the last few months between those who want to separate our community based on those who have had or, at least, want to have, SRS, from everyone else, but I’m not going to express that here. Instead, I’m going to take a position that I’ve never seen expressed by anyone else, although some have come close. My position comes from my background as an attorney and my understanding of how anti-discrimination laws are written and are intended to operate.
Here’s what I know to be true: the dispute about who is transsexual and who isn’t is irrelevant to the fight for protections for transsexual, transgender, genderqueer and every other gender variant or gender nonconforming person in this country. Why? Because of how anti-discrimination laws are written for both practical and constitutional reasons.
Excellent article is excellent. Please read, and also read my response, which I will post here as well, because Toni hasn’t gotten around to passing it through moderation, yet. (Note: i talk about Toni’s reference to the ADA here, but that was actually in an earlier article.)
Thank you for taking up this topic. This is the very thing that I have made the focus of my activism, and why lately I have been spending so much time trying to point out that all this political in-fighting in the trans community is so irrelevant and counter-productive. Concatenating the existing laws, we can see that in the areas of sex and gender, the already existing legislation that is in force today covers: sex; sexual orientation (to which I also would like to see added “affectational orientation”; gender; or, gender identity, appearance, expression, or behavior, regardless of whether or not traditionally associated with a person’s sex or gender as assigned at birth.
That covers *everyone*, and obviates any need for us to argue about who is transsexual and who is transgender. However, the sad fact of the matter is that the real fight is about, and I know I keep pointing this out, so forgive me, as Barney Frank is famous for saying, “penises in women’s showers”.
The bathroom argument is usually brought up, but I think that most people possess enough intelligence to understand that women’s restrooms, in general, contain individual, locking, semi-enclosed stalls, and that laws against public indecency or obscenity already cover the possibility of lewd displays outside of those stalls. If your genitals are showing outside a locked stall, you’re quite simply doing it wrong. The bathroom argument is really being used as a proxy for the real issue of sex-segregated spaces where nudity is practically unavoidable: showers, lockers rooms, and dressing rooms are the primary venues.
Like you, I think the ideal situation would be that we do away entirely with sex-segregated facilities and that people simply get over their insecurities, but I don’t think that’s actually going to happen, if for no other reason than that the mating game demands that we each be given enough privacy from our chosen affections in order to compose ourselves to our best advantage.
The solution, as I see it, is even better than that which you describe above as it was written into ENDA. For you see, that phrase in ENDA creates another situation which has already been found illegal in this country, “separate, but equal”. Forcing trans people into a ghetto is an attack on a suspect class that cannot be tolerated. The best answer, ironically, is provided by the example of the very same Americans With Disabilities Act you noted, above. As an aside, I wonder if the person you spoke with about her lack of knowledge concerning the transsexual exclusion from the ADA is the person I think it likely to be.
The answer is not to exclude trans people. The answer is to exclude people who are uncomfortable with equality. By providing fully-private, single-person facilities for any person who needs or simply desires it, or for those who just cannot stomach sharing facilities with their fellow men and women because they are uncomfortable with the natural variation in human bodies, we solve the problem with a penstroke, just as we made it illegal to exclude people with disabilities from such facilities with the ADA.
Whichever path we take, the ENDA paradigm or the one I suggest, there are going to be complaints over the government forcing establishments to spend money upgrading their facilities as a result of the new law, but these are the exact same complaints we heard during the push to pass ADA. ADA has now been in force for over 20 years, and no one gives it much thought anymore.
The ADA paradigm allowed businesses large exceptions for existing facilities, but simply required new facilities to accommodate all. This is exactly the model that a new gender-inclusive anti-discrimination law should follow. Eventually, the newer facilities will take the place of the older ones, and newer facilities will inevitably have the advantage of being able to draw from a wider customer base, making them more competitive than those who do not upgrade.
This can be looked at as a jobs bill, creating a huge market for every profession involved in the building trades, from interior designers all the way down to tradesmen and laborers.
When you look at it that way, then we can let Jesse Helms rot in his grave, and laugh at how we easily side-stepped his transsexual exclusion clause, using the law he poisoned to catapult us into a new era of equal protection.
“In the guise of Paula Brooks, Graber corresponded online with Tom MacMaster, thinking he was writing to Amina Arraf. Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.”—
“There is this misbegotten notion that transmen and women are about playing dress-up and fooling people. But to be trans is to feel the truth so acutely you can’t fake it. It is to be so consumed with the truth of who you are that you are willing to risk everything to inhabit it. To refuse to be what other people have decided you are—this is an act of courage few individuals dare try. I know I didn’t.”—Allison Cooper, Falling In Love With A Transgendered Man (via superherosky)
(this makes references to my two Facebook accounts, so if you’re not on them, try not to be confused by the references)
Last night, I was looking at photographs with my mother, and I showed her the picture of our table at the Stuyvesant High School Class of 1986 Senior Prom, 25 years ago just the other night. I suppose it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that I have never forgotten the names of all the women at the table, while I do not recall the names of any of the men save one, especially because the five women at the table were among my most cherished friends and classmates.
Of the five, two are already friends on my Facebook account, but one in particular I have been deeply grieved with whom to have lost contact over the years. No one seemed to have any information concerning her whereabouts among our classmates, and every time the alumni organizers were trying to update their lists, her name always appeared under those for whom no contact information was found.
Several months ago, you may know, I began to pare down my friend list, removing even people who I actually knew, in preparation for beginning to come out to the friends who knew me best, so that I could exert some margin of control over the information. There was one friend I deleted with whom I shared only one mutual friend. As it turns out, that mutual friend was Linda Ingroia, one of the women at our table, who might have been the person with whom I made my first close connection at Stuyvesant, having sat behind her on a bus on a ski trip, and upon whom I have always subsequently had more than a bit of a crush. I hope Linda isn’t too embarrassed by this, but I think we all know it, anyway. Besides, which, Linda hasn’t seen fit to join us here, so I feel free to poke her in the ribs, again.
Because I only had Linda in common with this particular Facebook friend, and she did not have a profile picture, I assumed that the only reason she had sent me a friend request was because she might have found my responses to Linda amusing, so in my contractions, I deleted her friendship. I hope that any of you who were also deleted in that process will not take it amiss. I was wracked with enough anxiety over coming out to those from whom I have always felt inseparable, let alone those who may have only known me in passing, and I was trying to limit as much emotional distress as possible that the process of coming out might cause me.
As you know probably now know, if you are able to read this, six months since I began to tell people my story, I have reached the point where I am no longer afraid of people’s reactions (ok, for the most part), and a few days ago, I started to inform everyone on my old Facebook account who hadn’t been told. A couple of days later, I received a new friend request on my old account from that particular person whom I had deleted back in December. I thought of ignoring it, but decided that if this person still wanted to be my friend after having been removed from my list, then she must *really* want to be my friend. Hoping she wouldn’t react badly to the note now posted prominently on my Wall, I grit my teeth and clicked, “Confirm”.
Soon, I had a message from her, telling me what a “magnificent person I had always been”, and wishing me well. I thought this rather odd, because to my knowledge, I had never met this person in my life, so I sent a message back trying, tentatively, to sort out my relationship to this person. Then I realized that I’d never really looked at her Facebook page, and realized that there were some names in her friend list that might be significant.
Finding those names made me hope beyond hope that of the two people in the history of my life with her first name who have been important to me, one was already a Facebook friend, and the other was that woman at our prom table in the Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel that beautiful night of June 6, 1986, the one with whom I’d lost touch, the one who is one of the absolutely most important people in my life, ever. That’s when it occurred to me that “Google Image Search is Your Friend”!
And there she was. The one I’d been searching for all these years. The one who I was just telling my mother only a couple of hours earlier that I thought I’d never find again.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends of all Shapes, Sizes, and Persuasions, please join me in welcoming home my dearest, dearest friend, Robin Roschke (née Appelbaum). Today, my joy knows no bounds. I just hope I don’t run out of tissues…
Imagine, for a moment, a disease that affects 1 in 10,000 people. That is a fairly common disorder; about the same number of people that are affected by glaucoma or deafness, and three times more frequent than brain cancer. Add to that image a mortality rate of 41%. That’s a pretty serious disease, isn’t it?
Let’s add a bit to that picture. The treatment for this health problem is not terribly expensive, nor difficult. It requires some common, inexpensive drugs. It also requires some surgery, in the price range of $12,000. None of this treatment is particularly unmanageable or experimental, though as with any medical procedure, research would no doubt find room for improvement, and it does take a certain level of specialization.
What would you say if you found out thatthere is no insurance coverage for the treatment of this common, deadly disorder? And despite the fact that you may pay thousands of dollars per year for your insurance coverage,if you or a loved one had it, not a single dime will go toward the payment of life saving treatment.
I don’t have a carry letter…or a gender marker change…or a name change. I still need a middle name and want my gender marker to be blank or say “N/A”
UK driver licenses aren’t that bad in terms of gender markers, they have a digit in the “driver number” which is 0/1 if they consider you male or 5/6 if they consider you female.
They do this in New Jersey, in the United States too. The last five numbers of your driver’s license number are encoded with your sex, birth month, birth year, and eye color. My original license number ended “12682”. I was born and conditionally assigned male in December (encoded as “12”), 1968 (encoded as “68”), and my eye color is Brown (encoded as “2”). After I changed the sex marker on my DL, it now reads “62682”. I always knew about the birthdate and eye color encoding (one of those things you pick up as a teenager trying to get served in bars/buy cigarettes), but I didn’t realize about the sex encoding until mine changed. I haven’t actually looked at any of my friends DL numbers, but I imagine it goes like this:
01 51 M/F born January 02 52 M/F born February 03 53 … 04 54 05 55 06 56 07 57 08 58 09 59 10 60 11 61 12 62 M/F born December
It seems weird that they would have eye colour on them.
Well, if you think about it, it’s pretty weird that they would have sex and birth date on it, too. It’s a license to drive. There being no difference in the ability of men and women to operate motor vehicles, why have it there in the first place? Age? Once you’ve established to the DMV or MOT, or whatever it is in your part of the world, that you meet the age requirements back at the office, why do we need to have it stamped on the license? Presumably, anyone is possession of a license meets the age requirement.
Nevermind the fact that they all have photo on them, now, which is really all you need to prevent fraud.
In the end, there’s only one reason for all of this. The fact that driver’s licenses are used as the primary form of identification in our world, a situation that was never originally intended, just as the Social Security Number here is actually by law barred from being used by any other agency, yet continues to be used for purposes far outside its original scope.
My ex used to make such a big deal out of this, insisting that saying anything other than “jewelry” was akin to saying “real-a-tor”, instead of “realtor”. It really used to tick me off, because not only are all three spellings and both pronunciations technically correct, but the icons of fashion who I admire tend to come from the French tradition, where the word is “joaillerie" (roughly, zh-WY-air-ee, pardon ma Français ), so you can see that the most direct translation into English of that word would, in fact, be “jewellery”, just as it is used in A Guide to Elegance, by Geneviéve Antoine Dariaux.
I will however, also defer to the esteemed Tiffany & Co., which uses “jewelry”, and note that the spelling and pronunciation of “jewelery” and “JOOL-er-ee” is considered inferior in Usamerican English by many. By far, the more esteemed spelling and pronunciation in Usamerican English is “jewelry” and “JOOL-ree”.
In Italian, the spelling is gioielleria (roughly, jee-OI-el-er-ee-uh).
I think much of the confusion comes from the different ways in which the word can be derived. It can either be thought of as “things made of/with jewels”, in which case “jewelry” seems more appropriate, or it can be thought of as “the products of one who is engaged in, or the actual craft of, producing things made of/with jewels (a jeweler)”, in which case “jewellery” can be seen as perfectly acceptable. The French and Italian words above also refer to the place of business where the trade or manufacture of such items is conducted.