Transgender Day of Visibility

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Today is the Trans Day of Visibility.

It is a good time for us who are not trans and are allies or want to spread awareness of trans issues and areas where we can do better to support all transgender people. This day has been celebrated since 2009, started by Rachel Crandell when she saw that there weren’t any trans acknowledgement days apart from the Transgender Day of Remembrance where trans murders from the previous year are memorialized. As an ally, I too was looking for a positive day to explore trans issues and celebrate trans lives.


Links to start off your exploration:

Trans Day of Visibility Facebook

Transgender Law Center

National Center for Transgender Equality

NY’s Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA)

Transgender People and Bathroom Access

46/52 – Transgender Day of Remembrance

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As of this writing, 25 trans people have been murdered this year, however that number may only be the US. This is something that needs to end. It’s not about whether or not you agree with someone’s truth, but the transphobia is killing trans people, especially women of color and youth.

We need to remember and continue moving forward to better lives for trans people, equality, and safety.

The first Day of Remembrance was held online in 1999 and has evolved into a day of action as well as a memorial. It occurs every year on November 20th, which is tomorrow.

Please visit the Trans Day of Remembrance site for up to date information and a memorial list of the 2017 deaths as well as Glaad.org/tdor

Bathrooms

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As this Transgender Day of Visibility comes to a close, I’d like to share something I overheard this afternoon.

It was a discussion behind me about trans use of bathrooms in North Carolina between (what I presumed to be) a married couple in their fifties or older.

Husband: It’s not hard. Men use the men’s room; women use the women’s.
Wife: Something about trans people getting beat up in the opposite bathroom.
Husband (with a laugh): Is that my problem? If you dress like a women….. (the implication being simply to not dress like a woman.)

I didn’t hear the rest, and no I didn’t call him out. They were having a private conversation, they weren’t that loud, and I was eavesdropping.

But I will answer his question – yes, it is your problem. It is everyone’s problem when anyone is afraid to use a bathroom; when people are being persecuted and assaulted in a public bathroom because of their gender identity.

When the women’s line is too long, how many of us use the men’s room? Show of hands? Mine’s raised.

What about bringing our opposite gender children into the bathroom with us? How old is too old? Because to be honest, in Penn Station, my eleven year old is still too young to go by himself.

What about bringing our opposite gender disabled family member into the bathroom with us?

I honestly don’t understand the uproar.

The only thing I want from a public toilet is to get in, get out and have as little interaction with anyone as possible.

So yes, it is your problem unless you want to live in a society that is so prejudicial that we won’t allow people to use the bathroom.

It’s not about comfort; it’s about safety.

Transgender Bathroom Policy

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A Comment on a Local Issue

Recently, a local school district modified its bathroom policy, for the first time taking into account transgender students. In seeing some parental reactions at the Board of Education meeting and reading the comments on the local news’ Facebook, I think it’s important to explain and clarify for many good people who simply don’t understand the whole issue of transgender youth, the basics of gender identity, how physical configuration plays its part, and the importance of being able to use the bathroom safely and comfortably.

Let’s be clear: this is the high school policy at the moment, affecting grades 9 through 12 with the approximate ages 14/15 to 17/18, depending on where the birthdays fall.

In viewing the reactions, this also seems to be more of an issue for the parents and non-parent community members and not the actual students (or former students) of the school.

Transgender issues as well as orientation, which is a completely separate discussion should already be covered in health class. If it’s not, it might be time to include some modifications to that curriculum to make it more comprehensive to today’s issues so that misinformation doesn’t continue into adulthood like it obviously has as I witnessed by many of the adult community members, parents and non-parents alike.

One of the comments said to “hold it”. I don’t know if this was said facetiously, and it was directed at both trans and non-trans students, but this is not only a childish response, it is also bad health and ridiculous that an adult would even suggest it for a child, let alone his own.

They described transgender children as being part of a liberal agenda, as being gay, that their gender expression and life choices shouldn’t be used to make school wide policy. All of these statements and assumptions are made based on outdated misinformation and bigoted notions that really need to be addressed and to educate these parents.

Although I would disagree with those against this policy, there is a difference between being against a school policy and stating your reasons and knee-jerking your reaction based on prejudices.

With gender, identity =/= expression, although there is some overlap. Trans people can be straight, gay, bisexual or other orientation. One example of gender expression might be a boy wearing a dress or skirt or high heeled shoes. That is a style choice. I would note that when girls dress as boys it is often easily accepted.

I’ve seen boys wear skirts to protest a dress code aimed solely at girls and no one would accuse them of being girls. They would not use the girls’ bathroom and no one would suggest it.

A trans girl is not playing dress up or making a fashion statement. Their identity is more complicated than what they choose to wear, and if they are asking to dress and use the bathroom facilities for the gender in which they identify, they have come to that decision through a series of discussions with themselves, their parents, and more than likely professional health care providers and mental health associates.

For many, the feeling that they were put in the wrong body is a painful realization and not one that is made lightly, either in private or in public and fear of peer reaction and bullying is tantamount to staying closeted. The fact that this school district is making an effort should be applauded.

Trans girls are girls; they will grow up to be women. They are female. They might have a penis, but that doesn’t change their gender identity of female and as with many young females, they are more comfortable using the bathroom facilities and dressing as their same gender peers.

It is the same for trans boys, men, males. They might have a vagina; some might have breasts developing, but if their gender is male, they are male. They use the boys’ bathroom and locker room.

It really is that simple.

There was one comment that there aren’t gender neutral bathrooms in the “real world.” Not always, no, but in the “real world” trans women use women’s rooms; not men’s. In addition to that, in the real world, when I’m using an adjacent stall or washing my hands, there is no reason whatsoever that I should be observing the genitals of the stranger using the toilet next to me. It’s not as though you do this to non-transgender individuals, assuming you could pick them out from cisgender people.

Another misconception is that if trans youth use their preferred bathroom, they are only doing that to get into the opposite gender’s bathroom to prey on them. This is generally assumed to be trans girls. For one thing, this discounts gay and lesbian students from using their assigned at birth gender bathroom with other students that they may feel attracted to. We don’t separate LGB youth from their preferred bathroom (nor should we), but this stereotype needs to die.

Gay =/= predator

LGB people, youth or otherwise are not attracted to every person they come in contact with. They are also no more likely to prey on someone sexually than anyone else in the school.

Trans =/= gay

Trans =/= predator

Trans =/= rapist

Transgender =/= transvestite or cross dresser.

From what some of the parents were saying about students [boys mainly, another stereotype] pretending to be transgender to get into the girls’ bathroom and rape them because now they have access don’t understand that rape is primarily an act of violence and power; it is not about sex or attraction.

Rape is not a well thought out exercise in “getting some.”

Boys [and girls] are not thinking, ‘man if only I could get into the opposite gender’s bathroom, I could have all the sex I want and no one could stop me.’

Yeah, it does sound stupid when you put it like that.

This would suggest that gay youth are already doing this, and we know that they are not.

This also seems to imply a very low opinion of their own children [boys mainly] and the bigoted, out of date notion that boys can’t control themselves when around someone they’re attracted to.

Transgender isn’t topical or cool. Transgender isn’t a label that you can put on and take off like a hat. Transgender kids have gone through a lot emotionally and psychologically to be able to come out to their parents, their teachers, their peers, and for the students who haven’t come out, but are living their gender identity shouldn’t need to announce what’s in their pants to use their preferred bathroom.

They shouldn’t be accused of being a predator for using the bathroom.

Being a teenager is hard enough without arguing over the merits of something transgender kids have no control over, any more than you have control over the color of your eyes. And if you think that a teenager would claim to be transgender when they aren’t, you need more than this little blurb for your education. No one would subject themselves to that kind of scrutiny and bullying and harassment if they weren’t transgender.

Of the LGBT+ community, transgender youth are at higher risk for homelessness, for being victims to sexual predators, for being assaulted, and horribly murdered. This morning, another woman was murdered while pounding on a door screaming for help.

We should be making middle school and high school better for everyone, not make an already disparaged group feel even more ostracized by repeating hurtful, wrong, and bigoted things we heard when we were kids. We should be willing to educate ourselves for all of our kids’ sakes so that at the end of the day, they can come to us with anything, without having to worry about our response.

This Board is moving in the right direction, and it is the direction that all schools will eventually follow, so read up from reliable sources and then speak out with your concerns if you still have any.

Bullying and Transphobia – More than One Day a Year

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At the beginning of this week, I reposted something I wrote a few months ago about bullying – what it is by definition, my middle school experience and a more recent one. When I wrote that many months ago, I was angry at the thing that was going on; at the bullying being done against me. The bullying – without remorse, without shame, in fact quite the opposite with almost a smirking, cheerful triumph. I would have thought it was sad if I wasn’t so upset about it.

It was written in haste and fury and the tone probably got away from me. It was also written in the middle of the stress that triggered me all the way back to middle school.

That’s one of the ways triggers work. They lie hidden beneath the surface, in the unconscious until one day something happens that reminds the deep down and it affects you in a strong way with feelings rising that are at once familiar and unfamiliar and they are uncontrollable. Not uncontrollable in your reaction, although sometimes, but you can’t control being affected by it in whatever way you are.

On a conscious level, I didn’t go strawberry picking until my first son was old enough. I didn’t have any other opportunities really, growing up in suburbia, no strawberry patches where we lived, but if I thought about being on a school bus alone I was brought back to that day. When I thought about strawberry picking, even the day I went with my son, it came back to me. I wouldn’t call these triggers as much as memories associated with those very specific instances but it’s very similar to triggers that many (including me) feel much more strongly.

The bullying I experienced a few months ago was different. For one thing, I’m in my forties and my bully is well into his adulthood. For another thing, I forgot that not everyone works in the logical and open-minded section of the world. I was silly enough to think that if I spoke to this person rationally, he would realize how abusive and (verbally) violent he was being. I was wrong about that. For the third thing, this is the internet and people take their anonymity to cause more harm than good very seriously. Up until this point, I had been lucky enough to have experienced the latter folks – the compassionate, the kind, the helpful. This change was a surprise and fairly or not, I was still taken aback by the cruelty of it.

I’m sure this sounds naïve, especially for a forty-something mother of three, but I’ve always believed the best in people and this behavior was beyond my comprehension.

Having said that, I still believe that, but my eyes are opened a little wider and I parse my words a little more. I worry about offending people even though I can’t control how people will react to my words or my actions. I try not to let bullies affect me, but it’s hard not to. When it happens, I’m twelve again. I’m hurt, but I don’t want to rock the boat; I don’t want to make things worse for myself.

It’s fear, plain and simple.

And it’s wrong for other people to make us feel that way; to the point that we change who we are to avoid them.

I chose this week to talk about my bullying occurrences for a reason.  This has been Transgender Visibility/Awareness Week, culminating yesterday with the fifteenth Transgender Day of Remembrance, memorializing those transgender people who die violently each year.

If all we think of is the bullying, that’s bad enough, but coupled with the transphobia and violence especially against trans women of color, although trans men are not immune, it’s nearly epidemic.

It’s not a simple case of being bullied for who you are, for how you present yourself, but to fear for your life in a very literal way, knowing that if you meet a violent death it will probably be horrible. The bullying that comes for others after one of these murders must be terror inducing. I mean I get panic attacks thinking about my experiences and even with those, I’m not afraid of dying violently. There must be something alarming about hearing that someone like you deserved to die because of how they present themselves, how they identify.

For simply being themselves and living authentically like the rest of us try to do, they are given a death sentence, and for many this comes after a series of torture and abuse apart from the everyday kinds of side-eyes and bullying trans people face.

That’s why for me, it’s important to draw attention to every death, every torture that’s publicized in the news, every misgendering, every transphobic word that those of us not in the community don’t see as hurtful because we simply can’t understand how hurtful it is.

For every one that’s publicized there are inestimable numbers that are not reported to the authorities or the media.

Whether you know someone personally who’s been bullied for their gender identity or not, this is the responsibility for all of us to make everyone feel safe in their space, and in their skin on their own terms.

Be supportive, but be careful not to bully them into conforming to what you feel are your rights to information and take care not to put three dimensional people into a one dimensional box. Take care not to label those who choose not to use labels, and don’t assume you know better than the individual person. That probably should go for everyone you meet, not only trans people.

For those of us not in the trans community, it’s brought to us once a year as a day of remembrance, after the murders have already happened. For the trans community this is every day, and they can’t click the next link to avoid it.

Trans people are not a cause. Stopping the transphobic bullying and epidemic levels of murder in their community is a cause, and one that we need to focus on until there is no need for more days of remembrance.