I suggest anyone who hasn’t read Not Your Mom’s Trans 101 before reading this blog. I also suggest everyone, trans cis or something else, read my Trans 101 for Trans People. But it isn’t nearly as explanatory.
“Marriage Equality is Not a Transgender Issue” – HRC’s repeated failure and why I hate that their symbol is becoming the symbol for marriage equality
HRC has a long history of contension with the transgender community. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that at what is, to date, probably the most important development for the fight for marriage equality, that contension once again arose.
At the Supreme Court hearings, where many gay rights supporters had gathered, a transgender pride flag was placed near the podium. HRC reps asked that the transgender flag be removed, claiming that “marriage equality is not a transgender issue”. HRC is claiming that this did not happen and it is not their policy, however people who were actually there say otherwise. (1, 2) One person even claims that the HRC reps continued harassing the person over this flag.
Anyone who thinks that marriage equality doesn’t effect transgender people has NOT been paying attention. Courts repeatedly rule that heterosexual marriages between a transgender and cisgender person are not legally valid, because the transgender person is “really” their birth sex. I’ve seen it claimed that in same-sex marriages that take place before the transgender partner transitions (by which I mean a trans woman marrying a cis woman, or trans man marrying a cis man) will still be valid after the partner’s transition- however I have not seen anything that makes it clear that they would not face problems. Also, when my financial aid department believed that I had legally changed my sex, I was told that I had to apply for financial aid as “single” as the federal government would not acknowledge my marriage- which suggests that legal transition does, in fact, impact your marital status.
The most heartwrenching thing about the marriage situation for transgender people is that these cases almost always come up only when the cisgender spouse dies and their family wants to deny the transgender person what any widow/er has a right to. Instead of being allowed to mourn the death of their loved ones in peace, transgender people are thrown into the public spotlight and have their entire lives and relationship torn apart by bigots. This has happened as recently as 2010 to Nikki Araguz, the appeal to that case is still ongoing. The exact argument against her is that she is “really” a man, and since same-sex marriage is not legal in Texas, their marriage is invalid.
But “marriage equality is not a transgender issue”.
I’m sure that some people would justify this by insisting that all of our problems will go away once same-sex marriage is legal, so transgender people should shut up, sit down, and stop trying to have our problems acknowledged. This is not an acceptable solution, though. Marriage law effects transgender people in ways that it does not and will never effect cis queers, and this needs to be acknowledged.
Marriage equality IS a transgender issue because it is an issue that effects transgender people.
Meanwhile, the HRC symbol is being spread far and wide across the internet as THE symbol for marriage equality. “Equality”? This is an organization that has repeatedly actively excluded transgender people, cutting us out of bills that would offer us protection from discrimination and acknowledge hate crimes against us. But their symbol stands for “equality”. That’s a laugh.
This is something that’s been annoying me lately. I realize that anyone who only knows me from this blog might be a bit surprised- but, really, there’s a reason this blog is so dead.
Right now, being trans is complicated. Like I talked about in this post, I’m getting better at social dysphoria, I don’t have big problems with bodily dysphoria since getting surgery, and I’m becoming more hesitant to come out to people because I’d rather deal with unaware misgendering than being rejected when I express what I need. Is that the greatest place to be? Not really, in an ideal world… But this isn’t an ideal world.
I may have before, but right now I don’t want to be an activist. I burnt out severely trying to be one, and right now I have way bigger problems to worry about.
But a lot of people seem to expect me to be Trans above anything else, and it’s really frustrating to me. It’s not that I don’t want people to be aware that I’m trans, but the way people keep expecting that it’s the biggest issue in my life or that I want my life to revolve around that one aspect really bothers me.
Anyone who’s been following this blog for a long time (and, well, I’m really impressed if you’re still around as it’s kind of dead) might know that I have/had horrible social dysphoria. I say have/had because it’s starting to chill down for the most part, but it’s still there with a vengeance in the wrong situations.
I don’t mind so much, now, getting misgendered by strangers, in part because I’ve gotten better at avoiding situations where people will gender me too much. It’s not always possible, but limiting it helps.. I’ve accepted that I do not pass as male at all, that I really don’t want to take testosterone so likely never will, and I’ve come to accept that being misgendered by people who don’t know better isn’t commentary about me. It isn’t saying a word about my body or genitals, they have no way of knowing about that, or that I fit XYZ gender roles, or anything else. I’m still not at the point where I’m comfortable dressing as feminine as I’d like to, I still feel pressure not to “justify” their misgendering, but I’m at least a bit better at being misgendered.
Our society really doesn’t allow strangers to do anything else, especially not employees who could get in trouble at work by doing something subversive like asking someone’s pronouns. Most people will get offended by that question, and that’s cissexist but it’s the case. Also, asking is so complicated even for trans people. A person who isn’t out trans being asked around family will have to either lie or risk being outted, or if the wrong person overhears the answer it may put the person in danger. Ideally we wouldn’t assume pronouns, but there are reasons that asking is difficult. So even people who may be trans friendly will be nervous asking about pronouns. Is that right? No, it sucks, I wish it would change, but I’m stuck with it and learning to deal with it.
(note that this doesn’t excuse society, trans people shouldn’t be put in danger by being outted and cis people shouldn’t get offended when someone doesn’t assume they’re definitely their gender, and it doesn’t mean that trans people who can’t deal with being misgendered should suddenly be fine with it. Each individual is in a different situation, there are so many reasons why being misgendered by strangers is deeply hurtful and even terrifying for many trans people, and that needs to be acknowledged and respected. It’s just why I, personally, can deal with it)
But after I tell someone, that changes. As soon as I come out to someone, and ask for pronouns, misgendering me becomes deeply hurtful. It hurts to reveal something very personal and risky about myself, to express a need to someone, and have that person ignore it. When they acknowledge they messed up and apologize, then it’s easier to deal with, but I’ve had a lot of people just not care, and the more that happens the less willing I am to tell people.
[this post may trigger dysphoria]
One thing that really bothers me about otherwise trans-friendly cis people is the way that they treat birth as a trans-free situation. I’ve seen cis people who try their best to point out in virtually every other situation that not all female perceived people ARE women, who try to use gender neutral language when talking about birth control and breast exams and other assumed “female-specific” situations, then speak about people who give birth by referring to them exclusively as women and mothers without a second thought. This isn’t malicious, I don’t think it’s intentional, but there seems to be a mental hang-up and it’s a big problem. Because trans people are people, so not all of us want to have children, but some of us do and with as much trouble as cis queer people have adopting- they aren’t going to be lining up to give us children any time soon. I now know too many people who are willing to treat a trans person with respect suddenly start saying “Well, are you still trans? Are you a woman now? How am I supposed to treat you?” after the trans person gets pregnant, when they had no problem accepting the person’s gender and treating them respectfully before.
Sometimes you will get cis people who will only acknowledge a trans person’s gender if they’ve “fully transitioned”, if they can believe that the trans person no longer has their original genitalia. But the same cis people who are willing to accept that there are trans people who may menstruate, indicating a potential for pregnancy, suddenly can’t accept their gender once that person becomes pregnant.
It feels like they, or maybe we as a society, are willing to accept that trans people exist, but aren’t willing to accept that we can be parents. It feels like they consider birth to be this sacred, womyn-born-womyn only space even when saying that they don’t support those spaces in any other situation.
Pregnancy and reproduction is virtually never discussed among or concerning transgender people. The closest I’ve seen is trans people objecting to sterilization being a requirement to legally transition, but no one really talks about the possibility of openly trans people or trans people who’ve started transitioning or trans people in any sense having children. No one talks about what resources pregnant trans people need, I’ve seen people object to the way that reproductive health information can alienate trans people but no one ever says “And, hey, we need obstetricians and midwives who are aware of trans issues, too!”. The only time I’ve seen the situation forced to come up, when Thomas Beatie got so (in)famous, and many trans peoplewere reacting horribly to it.
All of the talk about trans people as parents assumes that we’ve finished having children before we start transitioning or even coming out, that the child hasn’t grown up knowing their parents as their true genders and will have to adjust to the transition. There are no resources for “explaining that your dad gave birth to you”, only “your daddy wants to be a woman, your mommy wants to be a man”.
This needs to change, because there are trans people who’ve gotten pregnant after starting to transition, and there are trans people who are pregnant right now, and there will continue to be trans people who are pregnant and getting pregnant and who want to have children in the future. And these people need support, they need prenatal care from doctors who are understanding of their situation and who don’t trigger dysphoria, they need to know how and when they need to explain this to schools to make sure that their child doesn’t face undo discrimination, they need advice for explaining this to their kids and when to do it.
Instead? Our community treats pregnant trans people like the elephant in the room, the black sheep of our metaphorical family, a shameful secret to brush under the rug.
It really bothers me when people object to the idea that people “just know” their gender. A lot of cis people try to turn gender into something diagnosable, getting annoyed at the idea that gender is just something you know, that a man is someone who knows himself to be a man.
It bothers me because I almost never see this argument for sexuality, or other similar things. Most people are willing to accept that a woman knows she’s a lesbian because she’s attracted to women, which is basically saying that she knows she’s attracted to women BECAUSE she’s attracted to women.
I realize that there’s the argument of physical response- but that’s not all there is to attraction. It’s possible to think “I would like to have sex with this person” without immediately getting physically aroused, or to be around someone you are attracted to without constantly being horny. Physical arousal is part of it, but it’s more than just that. You know you’re attracted to someone because you’re attracted to them, it’s tautological but true. It’s the same with other parts of identity.
There are indicators. Dysphoria or a lack thereof, what causes the dysphoria, what alleviates the dysphoria, etc. And, yes, it is based on social ideas of what a man and a woman is- however, it can be based on very broad ideas of what each gender is. Women who wear pants and play football and cut their hair short and do stereotypically male things are still women, men who wear skirts and bake and wear their hair long and do stereotypically female things are still men.
I see a lot of cis people who make this complaint seem to expect that the answer is “transgender men are just women who want to be more masculine, transgender women are just men who want to be more feminine”- which just isn’t true. Gender isn’t something that can be wrapped in a nice little bow because of the way we see it, it’s complicated primarily because we’ve set such narrow constraints on it and now that people are pushing against those constraints, our models and language for gender are just not enough.
The sex-ed I got was crap. The “sex talk” I got from my mom was a book. From my dad? A really awkward thing that involved explaining how condoms work and something about how he doesn’t know why women like oral. From school? Generally a lot of ‘scare people into chastity’ stuff, like gruesome projections of the effects STDs have on genitalia. No one really talked about rape or sexual abuse or what to do when it happens to you. Generally, the consensus is “Don’t have sex. But if you do have sex, use a condom. No Means No.”. I didn’t masturbate, because I had no interest. I didn’t look up porn or anything like that on the internet, I didn’t even consider that it existed.
So, basically, I didn’t realize there was anything between kissing and sex. I didn’t realize anyone had sex before marriage. I didn’t realize people had sex unless they wanted a baby. You know that scene in Enchanted where Nancy gets pissed because she found a naked girl in a towel lying on her boyfriend and Giselle gasps and goes “she thinks we kissed?”- that was me.
Cue my first relationship.
A lot of things happened that were massive red flags, that I now would see and say “We need to have a serious talk about boundaries” or possibly just hightail it the other direction. Then, well, “No Means No” is a magic chant that protects you from harm right?
I didn’t really want to kiss this guy, and said as such, and eventually he just forced the matter. I figured it was okay and, I mean, it’s not like anything else could happen- we weren’t married and I certainly didn’t want to have kids with him! So then when he tried pushing further, it blindsided me. I didn’t know how to deal with it- “Wait? What? People like TOUCHING that stuff? Are you JOKING?”. So I went to my friends, and was met with a wall of “Well, duh” and “If you don’t do that, you’re a bad partner” and “You can’t say you don’t want those things!”. While still reeling over the fact that anyone even did this, and the fact that the magical spell of “No means no” wasn’t working because no matter how many times I said ‘no’ he’d still push the matter.
What does this have to do with sex-ed? Mostly, if I’d had a better sex-ed, a sex positive sex ed that acknowledges consent and that sexual abuse & rape actually happen, I probably would have been better prepared. If we were willing to actually teach kids about sexual activity beyond “when a mommy and daddy love each other…”, then I’d have been aware that there WAS sexual activity beyond penis-into-vagina sex. If we were willing to talk about abuse and acknowledge it happens, then I wouldn’t have thought “No Means No” was something everyone followed so I didn’t have to know how to defend myself for when “No means ‘force them into it anyways’”.
A lot of people seem to think that ‘asexual’ must mean ‘hates sex, so wants no one to talk about it ever’. And, well, some asexual people are like that- but some verisexual people are like that as well! Asexual people can be just as damaged by sex negativity and crap sex education resources, and can benefit from good quality sex education (that acknowledges us, that emphasizes that it’s okay to not want sex, that it’s okay to try it and not like it) just as much as anyone else.
I don’t get money to teach people about my ‘issues’, I don’t get money to put up with people being mean to me, it’s not my job to fix things.
The LGBTQ center at our school is outright transphobic, and every time I tell someone about this they talk about how I have to fix it. And, you know what, I don’t. I tried, I really did, I spent a full year trying and it was horrible. My anxiety went through the roof, there were several weeks where I was constantly shaking and literally couldn’t relax, I could barely sleep. There are people on this campus who treated me so badly that I start shaking whenever I see them. And when things started getting better, someone who didn’t know anything about trans issues (I’m not joking, I mentioned a trans woman and he said “What’s that mean?”) took over completely, invited the transphobic people who I can’t see without shaking to the trans support meetings (these people are NOT transgender, in fact, they get offended if someone thinks they might be and think it’s a bigger deal to misgender cis people than trans people).
So, no, I’m done. I’m more worried about my studies and future. Being trans doesn’t mean that I got given the job to actively make everything trans-friendly, even if it puts my health at risk. It doesn’t automatically make me an activist. It’s not my job to educate people.
Part of the problem with men being part of feminism is that ‘community’ isn’t like it traditionally was used. In most things called ‘communities’, most people know everyone else or it’s run by people who try to be familiar with everyone. Even these days, in small towns, some people will hear about everyone else in town even if you dont’ meet face to face. But communities and movements like feminism- there are people in them that will never ever meet or hear about each other. A privileged person can’t be accepted into a community and have everyone know why and know that it’s because the person’s given signs that they deserve it and aren’t just abusing their privilege and trying to make yet another space all about them.
And a lot of people do abuse that, you get men who claim to be feminists because they think it’ll get them what they want from women or so they can use feminist key-words to attack women who speak against misogyny, you get various privileged people claim to support people they have privilege over so they can take over and get a power trip while getting back-pats from other privileged people.
Whether or not men ‘can’ be feminists, seeing a man who you don’t know claiming to be a feminist is going to be a red flag for a lot of people because of people who do that.
But, really, any man who’s calling himself a feminist really should be aware of his privilege enough to be aware of that and accept it.