It’s the ERA or the Gender Nazis: You Can’t Have Both

Wonkette has a new article up about a trans person who was banned from giving a lecture on the history of unconventional genders and the people who express them. It happened in Montana just a few day ago, and was justified by the county officials who nixed the lecture by a recently passed anti-drag ban.

Weirdly, I said this would happen, oh, 27 years ago when there were no anti-drag bans. And I said non trans people, especially cis women, would be targeted for harassment in bathrooms and other gender segregated spaces under laws both then-extant and also laws proposed by some who wanted to address the need for trans access to sanitary facilities while continuing to write legal limits on gendered bathroom access into the criminal code.

And lo, and behold! There’s not only this lecture banned, but 22 or 23 years ago I was blocked from entering a building to deliver my own lecture, on the basis that I was a “feminazi” and “kiddie rapist”, and don’t forget the armed proud boys showing up to drag story hours. And we must remember not only the recent incident with cops on video harassing and removing a queer tomboy/skater type from a women’s restroom, but also too many incidents to name with people I know, cis and trans and others, being thrown out of restrooms on the basis of gender. People you know, likely too.

I say this to point out that the gender nazi is going to gender nazi, and while we have a hope of getting this law thrown out, these laws were never a prerequisite for hatred and harassment.

I’ve seen many, many years of complacency on these issues when I thought more effort and more argument were required. I get it, not everyone’s priorities are my priorities. And not everyone believed the apocalyptic trans girl b/c how could things really get this bad?

But we’re here and we’re fighting now. I simply want to make the point that it can’t just be about arguing the 1st or the 14th in court. Our response has to be everywhere, unrestricted by time, place and manner.

As I have said before,

If we win the right to speak, or to vote, or to employment, or to public access, or to equality, or to life, but only so long as we agree to be sufficiently conventional in our gender, not one of us, cis or trans, has won a single damn thing.

That life is life in Gilead, with different numbers of people happy on different days based on the ever-shifting gender norms of whoever holds power. Too many people have been content to live in Gilead because for much of the last 35 years the people with power have had slowly but continuously expanding definitions of acceptable femininity and masculinity.

I hope we are not too late in realizing that accepting gendered limits to our rights, even if we are comfortable with the current application of those limits to ourselves, is the acceptance of a governmental right to police out clothing, our language, our professions, our families, our lives.

We have never been safe from this policing, even if many of us have felt safe. It is stunning when one considers the number and breadth of the rights we have accepted as conditioned on acceptable gender. At its core, the issue is this: any right that may be frustrated or denied or revoked based on gender is a fundamentally insecure right. Since at the moment in the United States there is no right that is secure in this way, everyone living, working, or visiting the US exists under a very robust, manly sword hanging by a very dainty, feminine thread.

Nothing less than passage and ratification and public acceptance of the ERA can secure our rights. The power of government to police gender must be removed from its hands entirely, because it has proved it cannot use that power safely.

I want each and every one of us to see how trans people are treated and to think, “Yep, that’s how they would treat me.” Because they will. Because they can. Yes, I and other trans people are at the focal point of the gender nazi’s lens of hatred. But just because you’re not trans doesn’t make you remotely safe. They are fighting for the right to make anyone an untermensch  if they do not like your gender, but not because they want to gain it. Rather because they still have it and feel it slipping away. They do not want to lose this power. They do not want equality with the untermenschen.

And if their reactionary project is successful, if they reinscribe a government right to police gender for unacceptable deviance, there will be nothing left to do but kneel with a young pastor Niemoller, pray, and wait your turn.