Thursday, February 18, 2016

Living As A Transgender Person Is Hard Enough

From the time she was two, our friend's "daughter" insisted on being called "Joseph." She wanted her hair styled short and would only wear "boy's" clothes. Of course, we at first thought it was just a cute phase, an homage perhaps to the older brother she loved, but she never "grew out of it." Now as a young adult he is a handsome young man attending college.

Even as recently as 1996, when Joseph was born, our societal awareness of transgenderism was limited. Yes, we were aware of the "sex change operation," there having been a few high profile cases. I'm thinking specifically of Dr. Renee Richards, who controversially played professional women's tennis after her reassignment surgery, a quest that lead to a landmark New York Supreme Court decision in 1977 establishing transexual rights in that state. We have come a long way in a short amount of time.

If I didn't know Joseph (he's chosen a different adult name for himself), I don't know where I would be on this issue, although I'd like to think I'd still stand with humanity. It astonishes me that even as a two-year-old he knew he was a boy, despite what everyone around him insisted. Equally astonishing, I think, are his parents who I'm sure anguished in private, but who were always supportive and accepting of their youngest son. In turn the schools Joseph attended supported and accepted him as well, seeking to make life easier for him, not harder. Today, by all accounts including those of my own daughter, he is a popular kid, "cool," living the sort of active teenaged life one would hope for any kid.

Yet there are those who fear him. Last week South Dakota became the first state to pass anti-transgender legislation, in defiance of federal law, forbidding children from using bathrooms, locker rooms and other facilities that correspond with their gender identity. Let's be clear, there as not been an issue with transgender people using the facilities of their choice: this is about adult people and their own perverted imaginations, becoming so frightened by the twisted pictures forming in their heads that they feel they must, proactively, rob already vulnerable children of basic civil rights. And if you don't think that this isn't just a first step in a campaign to deny transgender people even more of their basic rights, you underestimate the irrational fear that underlies this sort of bigotry.

If the governor signs the bill, and it's unclear whether or not he will, South Dakota will become the first state to codify this type discrimination into state law, but there are a host of other states where similar measures are making their way through the legislative process including here in Washington. The primary argument being used to promote these discriminatory bills is the sound-bite slogan, "No men in women's bathrooms," an assertion that without strict sex-segregation men will be free to sexually assault young girls in public restrooms. This is not something that is happening, mind you, even in a world in which trans people are already using the restrooms of their choice. No, in the real world, such as the public schools Joseph attended for thirteen years, places where children are free to use the bathroom in which they feel the most comfortable without undergoing a "genital check," men do not assault young girls in bathrooms any more than they assault them anywhere else.

In fact, this is the real problem: the twisted minds of the people who promote these laws because of their own fevered imaginations, such as the scary one housed in the skull of minister of the lord, former governor of Arkansas, and Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee who recently said:

"Now, I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE. I'm pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, 'Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today.'"

These are the words of a man with predatory crimes on his mind claiming that the only reason he didn't assault teenaged girls were the stick figures on the shower room doors. It's men like this we should be fearing, not children using the bathroom. I share the goal of doing what we can to make the world safer for women and young girls, but this is not what these discriminatory measures are about. How about, instead, we teach our boys to not be like Mike Huckabee?

Living as a transgender person in America is hard enough. These kids are already at heightened risk for depression, suicide, and other self-destructive behavior. We should be seeking to make things easier for these children, not harder.

(Note: I originally used the term "transgendered" in this post and in the title instead of the proper term "transgender." Not only was my use grammatically incorrect, but some consider it an insult. I am no longer ignorant. Sadly, since I originally saved the post with the mistake in the title, the error will continue to show up when shared on Facebook and other places, even though I've changed it here. I'm sorry for anyone who was/is hurt by this. I have learned something today.)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Teacher Tom, as always for your sane thinking.