“Act female”

I’m kinda tired of being the flashpoint for this particular revelation but prescriptive codes of behaviour based on gender norms suck. To put it bluntly, they suck a lot.

Just last week, a transgender man in Louisiana won his discrimination complaint against his employer through arbitration. Tristan Broussard involuntarily resigned from the financial services company he worked for when he was intolerably forced to “act and dress only as a female.” He was awarded more than a year’s salary as well as additional damages for emotional distress.

Okay, so there’s a lot being tangled up in gender codes. For starters, there’s no distinction made between gender identity, gender expression, and gender role. This would clarify a great deal of where these employers are going wrong–and why, thankfully, judges are ruling on an interpretation of Title VII that indicates “sex stereotyping” as a form of sex-based discrimination.

For my part, I look forward to any and all attempts to elucidate whatever the flaming fuck “act female” means. Mostly because it demonstrates that the very principle of gender differentiated codes is inherently sexist and impossible to rationalize without falling back on unsubstantiated claims about the nature of gender. It’s like getting someone to explain a rape joke–they’ll figure it out, what a flaming turd they’ve stepped on, usually. Because here’s the critical thing, dear readers: The liberty of your gender expression is at stake too.

Even without taking into account gender identity and trans employees, employers are pushing to create a precedent where it is legal to dictate an acceptable range of gender expression that they can impose on you based on your assigned sex. That means even if you’re cis, the employer’s success in the courts would indicate that the same imposition will affect you. This exists to some degree already, but employers are narrowing that range ever further, ensuring “proper womanhood” looks a certain way (I anticipate makeup, long hair, pencil skirts, regardless of whether or not you want them).

If experience has taught me nothing else, it’s that nothing will get the support of cis people on trans issues faster than pointing out how it affects cis people. (Yes, that’s my bitter cynic talking). But it’s true. Even if courts side with the employers (and reading the above article seems to indicate they aren’t), there’s a decent chance an issue like this could gain mainstream support and see much bigger protests than if it were marketed as a “trans issue.”

Transmisogyny is just a more specific manifestation of misogyny. Just tell the next cis person that when they dismiss these discrimination cases–the rulings will affect them too.