The List: MTFs and the Locker Room
[Part 1 of 2]
Seldom a day goes by lately without a new story concerning a (welcome) policy change regarding trans people and private spaces such as restrooms and locker rooms. Accompanying posts reporting each of these stories is usually a long comment thread filled with predictably ignorant outrage offered by those who not only have no direct experience with the subject at hand but whom have never had any motivation to learn anything about it. We are as a community well aware that our critics don’t feel the need to inform themselves before opining about what a terrible threat that we are. Most of us have actually had the opportunity to experience the results of that ignorance in our own life. The willfully ignorant aside, it is also true that there are a great many people of goodwill out there who would be only too happy to show us compassion if they understood the reality of our situation. So I want to write this month to offer some clear, simple talking points to help inform them.
First of all, this must made be clear: by definition this particular discussion concerns primarily transsexuals. The arguments which I will present are really not effective in the case of people whose gender nonconforming they can take off and put on at will. RuPaul may be transgender according to the broad definition, but he is no transsexual and does not claim to be. The character that he portrays is one that he takes off when he leaves the stage and goes on to live his life as a non-trans male.
Whatever one might wish to say in defense of that right to occasionally present oneself to the world as the other gender, or in some other way decline to conform to the cultural gender norms, that is not the same discussion as a person who’s whole life, 24/7, is the lived experience of being the sex which conflicts with one’s apparent physical makeup at birth. For us, it is not as simple as an optional choice of behavior or a lifestyle, it is our very identity.
Second, I’m going to lay aside for the sake of this discussion the reality of trans men. To be sure, they exist, and they have legitimate concerns in terms of acceptance but if we are to be perfectly frank, those who oppose trans access to “private spaces” are not really terribly worried about the trans man in the men’s room. No, these people are all caught up in the throes of “penis panic” at the thought of someone equipped (however reluctantly) with that organ finding their way into the ladies room or locker room. Is that particular irrational fear which this column is meant to reflect.
What follows next time, then, is a list of arguments which may be offered to both the skeptics and critics, even though they will often be close minded, as well as to those who have a good heart and would be sympathetic if they only knew the facts of the situation. Feel free to repeat these and distribute them as you see fit. Not to suggest these are unique to me of course.
Perhaps these will be something you can share with a friend or neighbor or relative who’s having some trouble dealing with trans equality has a social concept even if they accept you. Or maybe that will be something that you can share in the midst of a situation or you are being challenged right now to justify your desire for access. Maybe it will simply give you objective reasons to give you confidence in your own heart that you are not asking too much.
The list is upcoming in my next post.
photo by Abizern