The Advocate reported on a story about a New Hampshire school that will allow a transgender third-grader to use the girls bathroom and wear girls clothing. I found the story heartwarming – if a little girl is born with male genitalia, I think it’s great that her family and her school are working to ensure that she’s encouraged to be who she is…
I expected some of the online comments to be negative on the age of the kid – she’s 8, a very young age. Those of use who are not trans don’t understand when someone realizes that he or she is trans, so I refuse to comment on the age of the kid. But what I didn’t expect was the hateful comments in the comment thread of self-identified gays and lesbians. These are some of the things they wrote in response to the story (I’ve left out the names of the posters, but you can see the names if you just look at the article):
“I read about and see more and more young women having their breasts cut off and taking tetestorone. Young woman who have barely left childhood are being encouraged to mutilate their own bodies. How does this protect their dignity?” – I’d like to point out that no where in the article are we reading of this child being forced to cut anything on her body…Also, I don’t know what trans-friendly world she lives in, but I don’t know of an environment that encourages trans surgery.
“Why do girls and women have to bear the brunt of this? Why are gay organizations hell bent on destroying women-only space? Why do lesbians support this? http://bugbrennan.com/2012/09/24/when-the-bullet-hits-the-bone/”
“Lesbians support it because they wrongly think this is the compassionate thing to do. And often as women, they are used to putting everyone else’s needs before their own.”
“misogyny = transgender ideology”
“Only a raging misogynist like [name withheld] thinks women should smile and wear lipstick and stand up for men’s rights to invade women-only space.” – This was in response to a guy’s curse-laden response to the poster’s transphobic posting. Even though her point of view is fucked up, using misogyny to argue against transphobia is wrong. Though, the lesbian poster in retaliation against another poster, posted the person’s name, address and email address on the comment thread.
“The current intense focus on transgender rights is going to harm the gay and lesbian community. It’s bad enough that we want to force states into paying for convicted killers to get sex change operations, but now we want to insist that school children be allowed to use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable with? We’re having a hard enough time as it is without compounding our struggle with this kind of nonsense. We’re fabulous when picking out a wardrobe but apparently we really suck when it comes to picking our battles.The current intense focus on transgender rights is going to harm the gay and lesbian community. It’s bad enough that we want to force states into paying for convicted killers to get sex change operations, but now we want to insist that school children be allowed to use whatever bathroom they feel comfortable with? We’re having a hard enough time as it is without compounding our struggle with this kind of nonsense. We’re fabulous when picking out a wardrobe but apparently we really suck when it comes to picking our battles.” – this is in reference to a story about a transgender inmate who is convicted of murder, who argued in court that she was entitled to a gender realignment surgery.
So, I didn’t copy/paste all of the ugly comments because most of them were written by the same two women, and also the debate devolved into a shrill contest of name-calling and blanket and unjustified accusations of misogyny.
To say that I found the arguments of these women disgusting is an understatement – but unfortunately, it’s not the first time I ran across a story about transgender issues and a gay man or lesbian take issue with the gay community’s concern with trans folks. The resentment comes from a variety of sources: 1) a misunderstand of trans issues – or an ignorance of trans issues; 2) resentment at having to include trans rights in the umbrella of gay rights, as often trans rights are more contested than gay rights; 3) resentment among biological women towards trans women – this goes back to Second Wave Feminism, when Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem both had highly equivocal points of view of trans women.
I don’t ever want to discount anyone’s feelings – but not fighting for trans rights makes no sense for the LGBT community. The arguments used against trans folks (“it’s not natural” or “it’s not biological”) are often the same arguments used by homophobes. Also, folks who aren’t trans won’t understand the issues trans folks face – we cannot begin to say how someone should identify – whether it’s male, female, intersex, trans, queer, etc. It’s none of our business. What is our business is making sure to stand behind our trans brothers and sisters in their fight for equality in the law and society.
Gender and gender identity is fluid – and trans identity is fluid, too – a trans person isn’t necessarily someone how undergoes surgery – and I don’t see a problem in that. I also don’t see the problem with an 8-year old using a girls bathroom. Also, these women were arguing that allowing for trans folks to use women’s rooms would raise the risk of rape. First of all, trans women won’t rape women – it’s a boogey man creating to scare people – the stats on trans folks are usually and disproportionately victims of crimes, not the perps. Secondly, having separate bathrooms doesn’t ensure women’s safety from rape.
There is a general disconnect between what many of these bigots think about trans folks: are trans women really women? Are trans men really men? Well, the quick answer is, yes, if they identify so…It’s that simple. I don’t pretend to understand what makes someone transgender – it’s akin to my lack of awareness of what it means to be a woman, black, poor, or disabled. But my inability to empathize with trans folks doesn’t give me an out from my responsibility for defending trans rights. It’s too bad that so many in our community don’t see that.