There I Go Again, Thinking I Have a Basic Right to Exist in Society

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There is a shockingly large contingent of Americans who believe that trans women should not have access to women-only spaces like bathrooms, locker rooms, shelters, prisons, women’s centers, lesbian spaces, festivals, etc. I will call this contingent the Birthers, because they usually say things like only females who had “female” checked off on their original birth certificate can have access to women-only spaces, which would prevent trans women from using the bathroom they feel in their best judgment is most appropriate for them.

Ironically, Birthers usually place a very high value on the idea of freedom yet deny trans women the freedom to be themselves. Birthers are gatekeepers, they want to restrict access to life-saving medical treatment such as puberty blockers, hormone replacement surgery, and surgical treatments. They want to absolutely reduce the numbers of children and adults transitioning, socially or medically. For these people, the only acceptable solution to the “trans problem” is a form of conversation therapy, an attempt to mind fuck trans people into submitting to the fate of their non-consensual birth assignment. The fundamental goal of the Birthers is to eradicate the desire for transition, the possibility of transition, and the pragmatics of transition. Part of the strategy for inflicting this on trans people is by  using propaganda to overly emphasize how gender and thus appropriate social access to gendered facilities is determined by your so-called “innate biological essence”. This is often described by Birthers as a “fact” or “reality” that trans people are somehow “delusional” about. But trans people are not delusional. The difference between the body dysmorphic person and the gender dysphoric person is that the dysmorphic person misperceives the nature of their own body, giving it physical properties that don’t exist. The gender dysphoric person, in contrast, knows full well the reality of their body, that knowledge is usually the basis for medically transitioning and a source of the dysphoria itself.

The Birthers are so quick to point to “middle school biology” to solidify their argument but as Dan Dennett once wisely said “There is no such thing as philosophy-free science – there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination.” The question of whether gender is different from sex is not a question that can be answered purely with science – it is a deeply philosophical question resting on complex questions of personal identity and gender as a performative, socially-embedded, experiential and subjective phenomenom. As Simone de Beauvoir famously said, “One is not born, but rather, becomes a woman.”

Upwards of 60% of trans people say they avoid public bathrooms. Without access to public bathroom facilities trans people are actually at risk of damaging their bladders by being compelled to hold their bladders for too long for fear of using either the men’s room or the women’s room.  Either option presents real dangers and for many trans people the reality is that they don’t use public restrooms at all. If they walk out of a movie, rather than waiting in line, they might just hold it until they get home. This is just one basic illustration of the way in which Birthers want to see trans folks eradicated from society. They want us to accept our birth assignments as absolute biological destiny and would, if possible, totally restrict the small little daily freedoms that allow trans people to exist in a public society of citizens.

But here’s the problem: Birthers will never understand the trans experience. They are not trans and have no concept of what it really means to have an incongruity with your gender. They can’t even fathom it. And if they do attempt to get their heads around it, they often just deny that its fundamental basis is true and go on to insist that the morphological shape of genitals we had as babies determines entirely and forever the very complicated phenomenon of our genders and how we fit into society. Talk about reductionist. Talk about rigid, stale, conservative, anti-freedom, anti-justice. They have no appreciation of the arguments in favor of thinking that gender can come apart from physiological properties. Ironically, most Birthers think that consciousness and the soul can come apart from biology but not gender for some reason, though gender is of course both a deeply social and deeply subjective phenomenon.

The Birthers are fundamentally just hypocrites hiding behind the social force of tradition. They value religious liberty, but not the liberty of trans people to make decisions about their healthcare, or about which bathroom they should use. Birthers justify this restriction of freedom by referencing the hypothetical possibility that a male person could abuse this freedom in order to harm girls and women. But it’s not like there’s a lock on the bathroom door. A cis male can walk in at anytime and there is no magic barrier blocking him from entering the bathroom and assaulting a woman or girl.

Bathroom bills are terrible solutions to a nonexistent problem. There might be a handful of problematic cases existing out there somewhere. With a population of 7.1 billion humans, with trans people accounting for, very roughly ~1 of the population, that makes 71 million trans people across the globe. Out of 71 million trans people it seems statistically likely for there to be at least *some* bad apples. But let me emphasize there is no empirical evidence showing trans women commit crimes at a higher rate than cis women. I repeat. No evidence. All there is is that one misinterpreted Swedish study but the author of the study said herself that nothing about the study suggests that your average trans woman who has transitioned circa 2017 is at any greater risk of being a criminal.

Bathroom bills are not created from the data. They are created from the ideological premise that, as Janice Raymond, the famous “radical feminist” who wrote that trans women are all rapists said, transgenderism must be morally mandated out of existence. Notice how this fits in line with many religious organizations such as the Roman Catholic church, who have said that trans people represent a grave threat to the moral order of society as dictated by the natural law of God. When your feminism aligns perfectly with what the Pope says about trans people being akin to “nuclear weapons” – then I think you need to reconsider your feminism.

Trans people have inalienable rights. We have a right to exist in society how we see fit according to our deepest vision of how we want our lives to go so long as we respect the autonomy of other people as well and think about the happiness of others.

 

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4 Comments

Filed under Gender studies, Trans life, Trans studies, Uncategorized

4 responses to “There I Go Again, Thinking I Have a Basic Right to Exist in Society

  1. you are 100% correct but unfortunately there is so much ignorance out there it’s scary. You won’t be able to change everyone’s opinion but here’s hoping that common sense eventually wins out and these archaic bathroom laws get repealed.

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  2. It feels very much like the arguments used 20-30 years ago with gays. Difference is there are fewer trans folk — we really need all the help and ‘protection’ we can get. And Johanna, I’m not sure that this is about ignorance, I think this is reflects the basic need in religion (society, maybe) for there to be an evil one – today trans folk are the evil ones who will destroy society and the family so we are told. Trans folk have been around since the dawn of time.

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  3. Reblogged this on Legally Toni and commented:
    I love the quality of this writing. The future for trans-folk seems so frightening, but we have always existed, and always will. We need all good people to stand up for human rights for everyone – hell Americans, it’s core to your Constitution. Here in the UK we need to be vigilant too.

    Please read this piece and support the author.

    Toni

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  4. Raymond’s “rape” idea is “metaphoric.” I have been at women’s gatherings where male infants who were still suckling were excluded from a women-only concert because some of the women said they felt “raped” by having “male energy” in the room. The majority of the women in attendance were aghast that anyone could think that way. Many people, such as Raymond, are advancing a hysterical argument. Aluminum hats for everyone?

    It is true there are science deniers, just like there are people who believe the Earth is flat or that global warming is a hoax. Modern medical science confirms that gender identity does not originate in the chromosomes. The latest findings are presented in a straightforward article in a recent issue of “Scientific American,” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-something-unique-about-the-transgender-brain/ and there are more findings as well. The Swedish article fails on several counts including the fact there was no control group.

    It is also true that there are people who want to stop us from transitioning, take away medicine, and so on, but how are they going to figure out who is who even within their hinkey theories. Most challenges to females going into rest rooms have been launched against butchy dykes. When I date(d) women when I was lesbian, I liked women butchier than me and I have seen it first hand, some 12-year-old girl saying angrily to my girlfriend, “This is the WOMEN’s room!” My girlfriend answers, “I know.”. A cis woman gets some pushback. How ironic. The fashion police in action. The lines are already long enough at women’s rooms. How we are going to have people go through scanners?

    They reactionary forces lost Marriage Equality, so this is their proxy war.

    A third of women have been sexually assaulted at one time or another and not in rest rooms. I wrote a post on this elsewhere on the restroom debate https://medium.com/@Virginiahallath/how-to-debate-bathroom-rights-39bcd7e8da1c#.mk0j9iy39 and one on the fact that being trans is not chromosmal based http://virginiahall.net/post/157250429272/is-gender-identity-genetic-maybe-not

    I sometimes feel like there needs to be an anti defamation league out there to push back on all the crazy people. It has to be very tough on people who have not or will never have bottom surgery, or whose I.D. does not have an “F” on it The “bathroom” law, actually a restroom law, fails in two ways–it places a random and undue burden on people and it is essentially unenforceable. It flies in the face of the 14th Amendment of equal protection. Brown v Board of Education, 1954, addressed that issue that “separate is not equal.” Restroom segregation is actually a rather modern concept.

    Most sexual assaults on women are committed by males not wearing skirts and not in restrooms but on dates by “nice” men who show their true colors only later–but this takes attention away from the REAL issue of straight cis het males assaulting females. As for the Roman Catholic Church, Raymond is said to be an ex-nun. She should be more focused on priest molesting little boys instead of her strawman theories not backed up by an empirical evidence. But when has that ever stopped religious zealots from trying to control others?

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