All the little power games

Content notice: Trans-antagonism.

It was in December 2015 when Alberta passed Bill 7, a law that added gender identity and expression to the protected classes under the provincial criminal code. For the most part the law passed with little more than the usual humming and hawing from radio talk show hosts. Perhaps it was the weather that discouraged protesting, but it wasn’t until summer 2016, around the same time that Bill C-16 was finally proposed (a similar law, but federally), that I witnessed in person the sorts of power games that cisgender opponents to trans rights would engage in.

Trans Equality Society of Alberta (TESA) organized a rally to express support for the legislation. Scheduled after the rally was the reactionary response. But the rally in favour of trans rights, upon its conclusion, asked if any of its members would stay to counter-protest the anti-rights rally.

So we did.

Physical violence was thankfully avoided, but that doesn’t mean the cisgender anti-trans rights protesters didn’t have their little power games to put us on the back foot.

If you’re trans and you catch the attention of the a particularly unhinged trans-antagonist, your doxxing doesn’t stop merely at the location of your legal identity–they always, always dig up your prior name (aka birth name or dead name) and insist on using it to refer to you, or at the very least implying you’re suspect by publishing it alongside your legal name. And if you’re a public figure, it’s usually not difficult to locate your previous name because all legal name changes might be published where you live.

So now, in order to meet the demands of the anti-rights camp and have a, quote unquote, “civil” conversation, you have to engage whilst being called the wrong name, the wrong pronoun, and the wrong titles.

I kid you not–the woman leading the trans counter-protest was referred to as “Sir” the entire time. Their twisted idea of respect was itself a cheap tactic, a kidney shot. So we either proceed to ignore this behaviour in order to talk about the logistics of trans rights and how literally zero cis men have been excused from criminal behaviour because they were cross dressing when they did it; or, instead of refuting these myths and misconceptions, we spend the entire time trying to get our opponents to stop fucking calling us by a name that isn’t ours.

The excuses for this tactic are flimsy. Trans-antagonists don’t go around calling every Bill William, or every Dan Daniel, or every Ted Theodore or every Jan Janice or every Sam Samantha or every Liz Elizabeth. We already have a culture that permits cis people to change their names, their given names and their family names and their titles, for any reason. There is no reason other than prejudice I can think of to deny the legitimacy of trans people using the exact same machinery that everyone else has for decades.

So the anti-rights protesters set up the expectation that trans folk ought to act “civil” during a discussion in which our opponents engage in cheap shots and dirty tactics that we either have to ignore or change the topic to redress, while defaming us as predators and rapists.