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While I Was Away

I’ve come to realize that I must be a woman of enormous power, influence and importance. Do you know how I know this? Well, during this brief period of time where I found myself without a platform for my blogging, a flurry of abuses of trans rights took place. Clearly, they saw that I was no longer writing, and thought they could get away with it without being viciously excoriated by my mighty pixels! Well they were wrong.  *hardass squinty face*

The first such opportunist was a disgruntled Girl Scout who had the rather poorly thought out idea of initiating a boycott to protest the Girl Scouts policy of acceptance and inclusion of transgender girls (children who had been assigned-male-at-birth but who presently identify as female). She posted a video, written up by my lovely former colleague Elyse Anders and commented upon by my friend Veronica at WeAreSkeptixx, complaining about GSUSA’s policy of trans-inclusivity, mangling her terminology, and exposing herself as a hateful, callous transphobe. Or maybe an innocent child who had been indoctrinated into such bigotry (note the repeated references to “my family” and their beliefs). I suppose I’d prefer to believe the latter, since I dislike the idea that children can learn hatred so young. But my own experiences and personal history remind me they can.

Fortunately, the video and an associated site (Honest Girl Scouts) with a PDF depicting reasons to oppose the Girl Scouts inadvertently sparked a counter-boycott, and turned into one of the best ad campaigns Girl Scout Cookies have had since Wednesday Addams. I, for one, didn’t exactly need any extra reason to buy a half-ton of caramel de-lites this year, nor did my waistline, but like many I’m definitely going to take the opportunity to demonstrate my support for the Girl Scouts and their policy of inclusion and non-discrimination. Through gluttony. Though I certainly would recommend that everyone deciding to buy extra cookies this year also send a letter to the Girl Scouts letting them know the reasons for your support, and that you back the right of transgender girls to be included in the organization. Given the appallingly high risks of homelessness, bullying, depression and suicide, trans youth are in dire need of places where they can feel accepted and loved.

Defeating bigotry with cookies and love. What more could you ask for in a counter-protest?

As for the girl initiating this failed boycott: Perhaps she can go ahead and sign-up for the proudly hetero-normative Boy Scouts, whose anti-queer bigotry hasn’t stopped them from permitting girls to join their affiliated Venture Scouts and Sea Scouts.

Sadly, not all of the news stories from the past two weeks have had such an optimistic undercurrent. In Tennessee, Representative Robert Floyd has proposed instituting legislation, the “Bathroom Harassment Bill” (thanks for the demonizing doublespeak, Bob) to deny transgender people access to gender-specific facilities such as public restrooms and changing rooms.

He went on record as saying “if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there — I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there — I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.” The phrase “stomp a mudhole” is in Southern dialect an explicit threat of physical violence, the implication being that you’ve beaten someone so ruthlessly that they’ve been rendered incapable of pulling themselves up out of the mud. Given the actual degree to which trans women are routinely victims of exactly that level of violence, if not worse, it’s a pretty chilling remark. One can’t help but wonder what the reaction would have been if such a threat had been made towards the senator himself, or towards the Christians of Cranston, Rhode Island.

But trannies? Who cares! Freaks and sinners, the lot of them.

Floyd admitted that his decision to implement such discriminatory legislation was motivated largely by a recent incident at Macy’s, where an employee had been fired for denying a trans woman access to the women’s changing room. This triggered the usual responses… overreactions in regards to a hypothetical risk of rape or voyeurism should “men in dresses” be permitted access to women’s changing rooms, the typical desire to punish trans women for the potential crimes of cisgender male attackers, the notion that the Macy’s employee was being “persecuted”, “oppressed” or “discriminated against” for her religion on the grounds that she was not being permitted to persecute, oppress and discriminate against trans women for allegedly religious reasons (can someone please point me to the Bible passage that says trans women aren’t allowed to use women’s changing rooms?), enough misgendering and vicious insults towards the trans woman in question to last a lifetime, threats of boycotts, comical misunderstandings of what “open door policy” means, and various statements that the entire moral fabric of the United States of America will come crumbling to the ground should we not make sure that trans women are treated like dirt at all times.

More from Representative Floyd: “Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.”

You know what would happen there, in the men’s room, Mr. Congressman? We’d get stomped dry. And tragic lols at the implication that trans women “dominate society.” I am so sick of the Bizarro World up is down mentality of this kind of rhetoric.  It is not persecution or oppression of your religious beliefs to ask you to leave us be. Having encountered this topsy-turvy tactic numerous times, such as the “persecuted straight men” on r/mensrights accusing me of being blinded by “trannie privilege” (I would have posted a long, angry response, but I was in the middle of a deep-tissue massage provided by my Chamorro manservant, and my pile of baluga caviar wasn’t going to eat itself), I can’t help but feel the tactic is simply an inversion of the language they see their opponents effectively using. To them, “privilege” is being “allowed” to speak up for equal rights, and “persecution” is being asked to not bludgeon discriminated minorities with your beliefs.

Also, I’ve said this before, but I’d like to again make it clear, for my new readers: there is absolutely no credible evidence to suggest that policies permitting trans people access to appropriately gendered facilities carries any increased risk whatsoever.

Amongst the legislation being proposed by Floyd was the idea that if her gender was questioned a woman would need to present her birth certificate in order to receive access to a restroom or fitting room. And this is about protecting the privacy of women, somehow? And yeah, I’m absolutely sure that TN will relax the restrictions on obtaining an updated gender marker on your birth certificate to accommodate the new laws…

But things were even worse elsewhere in the world. During all this, reports began coming in about widespread police abuses towards trans women in Kuwait. The Human Rights Watch issued a 63-page report entitled They Hunt Us Down For Fun: Discrimination And Police Violence Against Transgender Women In Kuwait. Empowered by an amendment made to the Kuwait penal code in 2007, criminalizing the act of “imitating the opposite sex”, police have been committing vicious acts of harassment, institutionalized discrimination, and extreme physical and sexual violence towards trans women for years, with the tacit approval of Kuwait’s government and people.

The policies that permitted the arrests (and subsequent abuses) to be made were purposefully vague, entitling a police officer to make a judgment call more or less on a whim whether or not to target someone for having committed the “crime”, completely regardless of their actual presentation or attire at the time. For instance, simply having soft skin or speaking in a “feminine” voice could be interpreted as an infraction of the law. These laws were also used to blackmail trans women into providing police officers with sexual favours. Threats of further violence and abuse additionally silenced the victims from being able to speak up about the mistreatment.

But Kuwait is one of those scary “third world” countries populated by an Exotic Oriental Other™ that are hardly to be expected to actually protect the rights of their citizens, though, right? No such institutionalized discrimination against trans people could be occurring in the civilized “first world”, such as those European nations long held in high esteem for their record of human rights and social justice, yeah? Like the consistently praised nations of Scandinavia? Well…The Swedish parliament recently chose to maintain a law requiring the sterilization of trans people in order to be eligible for a change of legal sex.

Now, most of my friends and those with a generally left-leaning disposition acknowledge the importance of reproductive rights, but it seems that a lot of cisgender people have somewhat misunderstood this story, or failed to see the actual issue, or why this is a problem. For instance, many cis people assume that transition naturally entails the loss of fertility anyway, so what exactly is the harm of the law?

The first important clarification would be that Sweden also does not permit transgender people to cryogenically bank sperm or ova for future use. This effectively completely denies any reproductive rights for all trans citizens (if they wish to have their sex legally recognized, anyway). It means there is literally no option for legally transitioning while still maintaining the option of having children.

The second clarification is that not all transitioners choose to undergo sexual reassignment surgery or sterilizing procedures and treatments. It isn’t a matter of course that sterilization is part and parcel with transition. There are numerous different ways in which gender dysphoria manifests, many different kinds of relationships an individual may have to their body, many different preferences one has in how to transition, many different priorities an individual may have in terms of that process, and many, many, many different paths an individual may take towards feeling comfortable with their sex.

There are numerous reasons why a trans person may wish to forgo surgery. Not everyone is healthy enough to undergo SRS, hysterectomy or orchiectomy. Not everyone can afford it, the related expenses, or the time off work. Not everyone feels those procedures are necessarily worth the pain, risk, hassle or, indeed, loss of fertility. Some feel the present surgery is not adequate to meet their desires or needs (this is especially common amongst trans men). Some trans people even feel perfectly comfortable with their genitals as they are, even if they felt that transition was extremely important in other regards. Those are all perfectly reasonable decisions for someone to make for themselves, and it is highly inappropriate that a government should make those decisions for its citizens. Our bodies must fundamentally be our own, along with our reproductive rights.

It’s also worth noting that fertility can be preserved through a transition. I even have a friend who is a non-op trans woman who recently conceived a child with her partner after many, many years of having lived fully transitioned. The baby is beautiful and healthy. That her baby would have been forcibly denied her by such a policy is an appalling concept to me.

The law carries many dark echoes… eugenics, abortion law, and even genocide. It’s archaic and a deep violation of the fundamental rights of a class of human beings. What’s more, the majority of Sweden’s parliament do indeed oppose the law, but due to the structure of their parliamentary system, a minority conservative party (highly religiously affiliated, surprise surprise) has been able to block any change to the law. A petition is currently being distributed to hopefully sway Sweden’s prime minister to make some kind of executive decision that could override the parliamentary process. Please sign. Like anyone else, we have the right to have children if that’s our decision, and we should be permitted to make our own choices about our own bodies.

A sad realization I have, regarded the sarcastically self-important hyperbole of my first paragraph here (naturally none of this actually has anything to do with me) is that this actually hasn’t been a particularly extraordinary two weeks. This wasn’t a sudden change of pace, or a shocking, unprecedented sequence of events. This is the usual. The same kind of thing I would have come back to report upon after almost any two week break. The typical set of attacks and tragedies we face over and over again, against which we try so hard to maintain faith and fend off exhaustion and apathy. This is the way things are for us, for the trans community, and the way things will continue to be for a long time. There’s a lot of fighting left to be done