Planet Fitness and Cis Tears

CN: transantagonism, discussion of hypothetical sexual assault/rape10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_n

The internet has been abuzz over this thing that happened:

[…] a Planet Fitness gym in Midland, Michigan revoked the membership of a woman who complained that the trans woman she was sharing a locker room with looked too much like a man.

Of course, this event has stirred up a bunch of conversation around whether trans people (often trans women) should have access to certain gendered spaces, namely bathrooms and locker rooms. Trans people and allies are basically of the opinion that it’s no big deal to let people pick the bathroom that’s appropriate for them and cis people need to shut the hell up about it. The opposition centers around how it can make (cis) women uncomfortable, and how there’s a chance that (cis) men could dress as women any time they wanted to gain access to these spaces and maybe attack the cis women.

It occurred to me recently that if a cis dude wanted to dress as a woman to enter a gendered restroom, he would have to a) pack the clothes and change into them right before entering the bathroom, risking detection by anyone paying attention, or b) wear the clothes out in public on the way to his dirty deed of peeking or whatever. (Which–if peeking is what you’re worried about–would mean that any cis women attracted to women would also not be allowed in the women’s room. Just saying.)

Does anyone realize that cis men would have to be willing to put themselves in the position of a trans woman in order to accomplish this particular act of subterfuge? If they walked around dressed as women but still visibly male, they would literally be putting themselves at risk for the kind of violence that trans women face, just for the sake of gaining access to a women’s room. They would also be even more likely to be stopped before entering the restroom, or to have someone contact management about their presence since they wouldn’t have been doing any of the regular feminizing routines that many trans women maintain.

It also occurs to me to mention that, though I’m not a criminal psychologist, I suspect the type of guy who would attack women in a public restroom would probably just walk in and do it without the preamble of dressing as a woman. And claiming to be a trans woman isn’t going to nullify those sexual assault charges anyway.

On that thought, there are trans women who rape people. There are also cis women who rape people. Making public facilities accessible to trans people isn’t going to generate rapists where there weren’t any, no matter what their gender is. Not to mention that most rapes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows personally, not random strangers in bathrooms.

Trans women are at risk for violence just like cis women are at risk, let’s not forget. Preventing trans women from using women’s restrooms is going to force them to go into men’s rooms, where they will be at greater risk of harassment or violence. I don’t mean to diminish the fact that violence against cis women from cis men is a huge problem, but cis men are not trans women, and taking away trans people’s access to certain gendered facilities isn’t going to stop or even deter that violence. It’s just discriminatory and othering, and is going to put more trans people at risk of harassment and possibly arrest since so many places are trying to codify laws restricting restroom use.

Bringing this back around to the Planet Fitness thing, the cis woman who complained did so because she thought there was a man in the locker room. The trans woman was reportedly wearing leggings and a baggie t-shirt, but she acknowledges that her body appears masculine from behind. Although, she has breasts and was carrying a purse… Point being, I’ve seen people arguing “But how can we tell if they’re trans and not just a dude in the ladies’ room if they aren’t wearing hyperfeminine clothing and haven’t been taking hormones?” To that I say, fuck you. Hormones cost money, and so do those feminizing routines I mentioned earlier. Let’s not pretend that standards of attractiveness aren’t being used to gatekeep trans women from accessing women’s spaces.

And to anyone who thinks that Planet Fitness responded too strongly by revoking the cis woman’s membership, I give you this:

She returned to the gym Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday “to get the word out” to other women that they “let men in the women’s locker room,” she said.

“Every day I said ‘just so you know, there’s a man they allow in this locker room and they don’t tell you that when you sign up,’ ” she said.

And also this:

Cormier said she then got a call from Planet Fitness’ corporate office telling her that she was violating their “no judgement” policy. She says they asked if she was going to stop talking to other women in the locker room and she said she would not.

Cormier said the representative told her she was no longer welcome at the gym.

This cis woman was aggressively returning to the gym specifically to ‘warn’ other members of the gym that Planet Fitness allows people to use the locker room suited to their gender identity. She was causing a disruption and creating an unsafe environment for trans people. Planet Fitness prides itself on being a no-judgment zone and she was clearly creating a judgmental environment by enflaming her fellow cis women. It makes perfect sense that they revoked her membership. And now she’s suing Planet Fitness for something like $25,000, so we’ll see how that goes.

In trying to come up with solutions to these bathroom debacles, some people have proposed making additional facilities for trans people or making all single-stall bathrooms gender-neutral, or even making all bathrooms gender-neutral, period. Here’s a Laci Green video talking about some of that:

I agree with Laci that making separate facilities for trans people is kinda separate-but-equal-y. Which is not good. I see no reason why all single-stall restrooms shouldn’t be gender-neutral, and I have seen “family” restrooms available, which seems perfectly reasonable. I’m also not particularly opposed to having all multi-stall restrooms be neutral as well, except for having cleaned men’s bathrooms before and they are.. not pleasant. Maybe we’d need to simultaneously introduce the concept of cleaning the bathroom after ourselves, like they do in French airports.

Ultimately, we need to collectively mind our own business and let people determine for themselves which bathroom they need to piss in. FFS.

Wearing Shorts in the Winter (Concern Trolling)

TW: Discussion of victim-blaming in sexual assault, clothing10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_n

I wear shorts pretty much all-year ’round. That includes during the winter.

There are a lot of reasons why I wear shorts, and I become more familiar with them as the season progresses. Because people are constantly giving me shit for wearing shorts in the winter and I have to justify myself on a regular basis.

I’m poor and don’t have a ton of pairs of pants that are still intact enough to wear. I like to wear long socks that look cool. Long pants that are cut for female bodies are incredibly restrictive, and any sort of long pants make it hard to crouch and move around with ease and agility, as I’m wont to do. That makes it especially difficult to wear pants at the gas station I work at, where I have to walk around and do stuff all day.

But it’s winter. And customers tend to lose their minds a little bit over the fact that I wear shorts. Yes, I realize that it’s cold outside. However, I perform most of my job duties indoors, where they keep it a balmy 71°F. [Read more…]

Help My Awesome Family! (Plz?)

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nI generally try not to ask for favors for myself, but this isn’t for me, so today I’m going to use my extraordinarily limited platform to solicit help for my dad, step-mom, and two younger siblings.

My dad is presently unemployed, and my step-mom works part-time. Dad has fibromyalgia and other health issues which make it difficult to work. While my uncle is trying to hook him up with a job, Dad has aspirations to work at home making music (Soundcloud) and videos on his YouTube channel, DaveInABottle.

daveinabottle

(His name is Dave.)

[Read more…]

Skepticon 7 was pretty fun!

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nBefore I go on about my weekend, just wanted to take a second to acknowledge that Darren Wilson is not being indicted for shooting and killing Mike Brown. Which is super shitty and terrifying. And now, back to being privileged…

So, yes! This past weekend, Skepticon happened. It’s the second one I’ve been to, the first being back in 2012. Apparently I took no pictures except a couple selfies of me being pretty before the prom Saturday night, which is classic Me. XD

The venue was different than the last Skepticon I went to. The Oasis Convention Center via the Ramada is a pretty nice place. The tables for various groups were constricted to a relatively small hallway thing though, which was sometimes less-than-comfortable, but otherwise the hotel experience was lovely. (My hubby and I actually stayed across the street, but w/e.)

There were lots of amazing talks and workshops, some of which will be available to watch on the internets. There are only four at the time of this posting, but time inexorably marches on. I didn’t see all of them, but I did thoroughly enjoy the ones I caught. [Read more…]

Atheism, Social Justice, and Dictionaries

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nOver the years, the atheist movement has split asunder over the issue of whether social justice activism has a place within the atheist movement. Recently, a post on The Daily Banter caused a stir of conversation about it the likes of which I haven’t seen since Atheism+ started happening. (Though this one was markedly less impressive.)

The piece, written by Michael Luciano and entitled “Atheists Don’t Owe Your Social Justice Agenda a Damn Thing,” basically argues that social justice is something you do with your liberal hat on and not your atheist hat. He points out that all the word “atheist” means is that you don’t believe in gods and not necessarily that you support “liberal politics.”

It seems apparent to me, first of all, that atheism is a social justice issue. Heina points out in their post “Top Five Arguments the Atheist Agenda Doesn’t Have the Right to Use” that many things the atheist movement tries to fight for are social issues. A lot of atheist activism focuses on equal representation in and by the government and normalizing atheism, the goals of which are to eliminate the ways atheists are harmed as a minority. Seems pretty social justicey to moi. [Read more…]

Defending the use of labels (aka adjectives)

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nI really feel like I shouldn’t have to justify this, but since it’s such a common argument that we-who-choose-to-use-labels come across on the internet, I figured it deserved some actual attention. Quick note: the labels that usually come under fire are ones specifically geared to describe gender and/or orientation.

It goes like this: “I don’t get why people are so obsessed with using all these labels. Why can’t you just be, like, a human being? Aren’t you just creating more division by making up all these categories? Blah blah blah, special snowflake, blah.” (I was going to add more to that, but it kinda sounds like that to me after a while. You get the point.)

Well, to start, it shouldn’t matter to you what language people use to describe themselves. If someone asks you to use certain pronouns or something, respect that. Apart from that, your involvement is not needed.

Here’s the main thing. To quote Anita Sarkeesian: “I know it sounds super basic — Comm Studies 101 – but having the language to name things in the world is really powerful.” Sarkeesian is talking about naming certain tropes in media, but it seemed like a statement which perfectly matches this argument. [Read more…]

I hate the his/her side of the bed meme

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nYou heard me. It’s obnoxious. (Not just because of the inherent cissexism/heterosexism.)

If you’re not familiar with what I’m referring to, it’s a relatively common joke that (in a cishet relationship) women take up most of the bed while the dudes are relegated to a small sliver at the edge.

I couldn’t find exactly the one that ignited this train of thought for me, since it was someone else’s random Facebook post from months ago, but here are a couple examples of what I mean:

what [Read more…]

A New Way to Battle Depression

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nNormally, I’d reserve this type of post for my personal blog, but I figured if I’m feeling inclined to write, I might as well put it in a place where it might be useful to someone. My friend JT Eberhard convinced me that my way of thinking might help someone else put to words how they feel, and moreover this is actually an awesome idea for fighting mental illness and it might literally help someone with their brain weirdness. So, forgive the somewhat personal nature of the post.

Being depressed is about more than just emotions and moods. Yes, that’s a big part of depression: feeling bad all the time for no apparent reason, having disproportionate emotional responses, having a hard time enjoying things, etc. One of the most impactful struggles, however, is that your brain creates logical loopholes and selectively discards relevant information. It cripples your ability to think on a perfectly rational level.

Depression ebbs and flows for me, so some days I think more clearly than others. I take an ADD medication which helps immensely. I’ve also noticed that Ambien has an interesting effect on me. Ambien is a sleep medication that I take pretty regularly. If I don’t actually attempt to sleep within about a half hour of taking it, I find myself incredibly motivated to create things, organize my life, clean my apartment, and begin planning and working toward various goals. As you can imagine, this sometimes leads me to stay up even later, but I digress… [Read more…]

How Depression Is Like Back Pain

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nAs a person with depression, I’m always thinking of new ways to describe it. Partially so that people who don’t experience it can understand what it’s like, and in the hope that these perspectives will help me treat it like a legitimate problem instead of beating myself up over feeling bad “for no reason.” It’s becoming common to relate it to physical illnesses like cancer and strep throat. Here’s a good one: chronic back pain.

(I don’t experience any severe chronic pain, so if I’m completely off the mark with any of this, feel free to correct me.)

Someone with intense back pain might have difficulty getting out of bed. They probably could get out of bed, even if in pain, but most people wouldn’t expect someone to push through that kind of agony unless there were pressing matters to attend to.

Some people with intense pain can’t even bring themselves to go to work every day (or at all, in some cases).

If they do go to work, they might be tired and/or sore enough to be unable to do dishes, laundry, or other house work when they get home.

Chronic pain comes and goes, and sometimes it’s more debilitating than others. One day might be bearable and the next day, even going to sit at the computer is a task of unimaginable difficulty.

It seems as though, by and large, these things are accepted and the person experiencing the pain is not shamed for not being up to the tasks before them. Unfortunately, some people do experience invalidation from others, especially if the pain is not the direct result of an injury. Then, it’s “just in their head.” Which is pretty much the attitude toward depression and other forms of mental illness.

The thing about depression is that it is painful at times. Emotional agony is just as real as physical pain. At the end of the day, it’s all just brain signals, and most people have a pretty firm knowledge of what feels good and what feels bad, whether skin sensations or states of mind.

Depression, like chronic pain, can go for periods of time in “remission,” can pop up for a couple days at a time or months on end, and can be triggered by other things. Someone with back pain might twinge something while lifting a heavy object and be stuck in bed for several days. Meanwhile, someone with depression might have a particularly stressful day at work or a heated argument with a friend or partner, thus cascading them toward depression even if they were feeling okay beforehand.

They’re both unpredictable. They’re both painful. And they’re both real. Invisible illnesses deserve as much respect as cancer or Ebola. (Though you can leave the panic at home.) Nobody should face stigma just because they’re sick.

White House Response to Non-Binary Gender Petition

10464169_10201853698937124_3923966816234564280_nDon’t get too excited, folks. The response was about as disappointing as you might expect.

Thank you for your petition requesting that the executive branch legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records.

We know how important this issue is, and we understand the profound impact, both symbolic and otherwise, of having official documents that accurately reflect an individual’s identity. These documents play an essential, functional role, but also demonstrate the measure of dignity and respect afforded to our nation’s citizens. We cannot overstate the care and seriousness that should be brought to bear on the issue.

We recognize the importance of gender identification in particular and the Obama Administration is working to modernize federal policies in this area. For example, in 2010, the U.S. Department of State made it easier for individuals to update the gender marker in their passports. And last year, the Social Security Administration followed suit by simplifying the process for individuals to change the gender marker on their social security cards to reflect their identity accurately.

As you can imagine, there is considerable variance across agencies and levels of government. And so while the Obama Administration wants to make sure that official documents reflect the identities of the Americans who hold them, we believe proposals to change when and how gender is listed on official documents should be considered on a case-by-case basis by the affected federal and state agencies. However, that consideration must be informed by best practices and a commitment to honoring individuality and ensuring fairness.

Thank you again for your petition. We appreciate your input and the opportunity to convey our shared commitment.

It really just strikes me that the person who wrote this response (Roy Austin, Deputy Assistant to the President for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity in the Domestic Policy Council) doesn’t have an understanding of non-binary sex, much less gender. Like how babies are born with “ambiguous” genitalia and there’s no legal option for designating their sex as something other than strictly male or female. (Not to mention the many inherent problems with designating sex at birth anyway.)

The original petition wasn’t worded super well anyway.

Legal documents in the United States only recognize “male” and “female” as genders, leaving anyone who does not identify as one of these two genders with no option. Australia and New Zealand both allow an X in place of an M or an F on passports for this purpose and the UK recognizes ‘Mx’ (pronounced as Mix or sometimes Mux) as a gender-neutral title.

This petition asks the Obama Administration to legally recognize genders outside of the male-female binary (such as agender, pangender, genderfluid, and others) and provide an option for these genders on all legal documents and records.

So yeah, an expected disappointing response. I’m glad there’s a way for us to engage our government more directly and show our numbers, but I had hoped for more.