The “transgender bathroom” drama across the nation has nothing to do with a person’s “gender at birth.” (That statement reflects an infantile understanding of gender, btw. Learn more here: https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/)
What’s really going on is that we are experiencing massive healing of people’s perceived rights to judge others and are experiencing the predictable pushback. We are slowly eroding the societal approval of racism, misogyny and even homophobia. The reaction to these huge cultural shifts is extreme by those who are very invested in keeping things the way they’ve always been. Change is a threat. They become histrionic and are throwing massive temper tantrums. (See Oklahoma’s tactic of banning all marriages if gay marriage becomes legal.)
Separating ourselves from each other is a survival tactic in many ways. The ordinary nature of being human is to self identify based on the idea of the “other.” I’m white and you’re black. I’m Christian and you’re Hindu. I’m male and you’re female. I’m straight and you’re gay. We believe that these labels we create, and the implied roles and behaviors of these role, are Truth, AND that the characteristics these labels try to identify are fixed and unchangeable.
The more we use our differences to separate us, the more we become isolated, and eventually, the more we fear “the other.” We create structures, rules, and relationships to reinforce our fear and “protect” us from the threat. We move our kids out of city schools that have high minority populations, for example.
Imagine waking up and not knowing who you are. Imagine that your constructs of identity and Truth are being shattered every time you turn around. Women can vote?!? My white kids have to go to school with black kids?!? I can no longer denigrate and discriminate against gay people without being held accountable!?! And the list goes on. There are many, many people who are simply mad that things are changing. They are mad that they have to think about their place in society. They are upset they have to now deal with people whom they thought were forever excluded from public and religious life.
So here’s the deal that is being offered to people who are trans*. If you want to experience life without pushback, just become part of the majority. If you can pass as an acceptable member of the majority group, you’ll be fine. But the second you show a sign of difference, you should expect to be punished so you will get in line and conform or you should expect to be expelled from the group when it becomes clear you won’t/can’t change.
Passing. Being a part of the M/F gender binary is a goal for many trans people.
Passing is having no one be able to “tell” you are transgender. Being accepted is something completely different. Here you either pass at a glance or on first meeting but (some/ most) people can “tell” but they accept you anyway as your gender. When people think of being transgender they mainly think “not passable man in a dress” BUT this is not true. Loads of transgender people “pass” extremely well.
What society offers is the least amount of punishment for the person who does the least to make them confront their relationship to what they perceive as real or true. “Be a petite, blonde, feminine, pretty, well-dressed, educated, employed, and religious trans person and you’ll be fine,” they seem to say. Be a masculine gay man who is into sports, beer, fishing, and NEVER talks about being gay, and you’ll be “ok.”
I knew this even as a kid. I’ve been aware of my attraction to guys for as long as I can remember. Something in my home or church environment clued me in while I was still very young that this was not ok in the eyes of the people around me. I suppressed any expression of my sexual orientation. My step-dad could tell something was off with me, though. He was always trying to get me to “stop being a sissy.” “Why don’t you want to help me outside like your brother does. Reading is for girls.” On one hand, I’m clear now that those are pretty abusive things to say to your child. I’m also clear that he was very much a product of a society that devoured anyone who was different. In his own twisted way, he was trying to protect me.
Is what I’m writing helping? Is this issue getting more clear for you?
Not wanting to see a trans person in the restroom is not about a perceived “sexual predator” threat. It’s about not having to confront the very real fluidity of gender. It’s about not having to face up to the fact that what you believe about the world (read YOURSELF) isn’t necessarily true. It’s the trans* person’s fault after all, isn’t it? If only they would just look “normal,” everything would be fine.
Well, I don’t want to freak you out too much, but trans people are everywhere. Some trans people you would never be able to identify as trans. Some you can more easily identify. Does that bother you? I kind of hope it does.
As allies of the trans* community, we’re going to start messing with you now, you realize this. We’re going to walk up to that urinal next to you and say “Man, I’m glad I got my gender surgery. Nothing like being able to use the urinal.” And your head will explode. Eventually, you will get that people who are trans* are people. They want what you want. They feel what you feel. And, yes, they need to pee JUST LIKE YOU DO.
And you will take a deep breath and realize you are ok. You’re not going to die. You can, actually, explain gender to your children. You can, actually, understand gender in the context of your faith. Everything is going to be ok.
And the world goes on.