Trans* subversion of the social script:
why trans* identities are punished for disrupting the dialogue — especially in the bathroom.
The subversive nature of non-binary gender
A huge shift in my personal understanding of trans* identity occurred when, early in our 6 year relationship, my wife (at the time, my girlfriend) explained that “transgender” merely implies gender identities outside of, or other than, that which was assigned. This was a lightbulb moment for me.
You see, I never identified with the female script I had learned. It was familiar, I knew the lines well, but it never stopped being clunky. When I came out as queer, those lines of dialogue and interactions were much more fluid for me, and offered fewer moments of cognitive dissonance. Even still, something about the role felt off.
The biggest road block between being queer and specifically identifying as trans was that the only trans* script I had heard was binary:
“I was born in the wrong body. I hated my male/female body.”
“I always knew I was trans.”
“I grew up spending all of my time with the boys/girls. I just got along with them. I loved doing all the boy stuff/girl stuff.”
This stereotypical trans* script — however valid and real for many transgender individuals — didn’t fit any better than the one I was familiar with, so I stuck with the gender script I had rehearsed since childhood for another decade after first testing out a masculine name and male pronouns. It wasn’t until I learned to subvert gender-bound scripts that I could make space for my own unique, non-binary gender.
Our scripted social order
Our external selves are by nature a performance. This social act is conflated as evidence of the natural consequence of who we are, and we are taught to believe the actor and the part they perform are one in the same.
We are not all that good at acting, unfortunately. The scripts we follow can be burdensome, depending on how well synced they are with our inward experience. Brave individuals go off script when it conflicts enough with their sense of self — they improvise and write in lines, or erase those that are clunky for them. Others practice and practice and can’t seem to get the delivery right, often forgetting entire pages in the pressure to perform.
It’s important to note that not all roles are created equal, either. The hierarchies they establish function to demarcate space between us and bring order to the plot. This hierarchy is extremely difficult and often dangerous to break. Going off script to bridge this inequality of roles will most likely result in a backlash by those who have been cast in parts presumed to hold more power. This backlash can take shape as a mere bump in the road, but is also understood as adequate cause to end the life of such a heretic.
The roles we are given are typically catered to intersections of our identities, and we are handed these scripts so early that wardrobe adjusts our clothes to match our parts as newborns. Our parents generally comply without questioning casting. They read us the lines, correct us when we go off script, and repeat again and again until we get it right.
One major flaw in this system is that the authors really don’t like being very specific in the parts they write. They tend towards combining roles which they have come to expect naturally go together, simply due to plots they have heard over and over:
- Mentally handicapped/Below-average/Average/Intelligent/Brilliant
As individuals modify and push back against these scripts, the lines evolve over time. Some scripts didn’t even exist for most of human history, and those are the ones that tend to be the most difficult lines for people to interface. Those scripts start out clunky in their rarity, and offer less nuance and variation than the others.
New scripts are notorious for halting interactions. Most people simply don’t know how to respond to these unfamiliar lines, foreign as they are to them. They end up flipping through page after page, frustrated by the interruption of flow and the inconvenience of learning new lines (again, a result of underwhelming acting skills). The inertia of the majority languishes under the burden of this level of change.
Being trans* is a new script, and we only have to look back a few short decades, for example, to recall the time when being anything other than heterosexual lacked a script as well. Transition periods where new scripts are being written lead to awkward, often false equivalencies formulated in an effort mitigate the disruption of social flow:
- When I am a woman in the workplace, I must adopt segments of the male script (ex/re-evaluate wardrobe, tone of voice, etc.) to be taken seriously.
- When I’m not heterosexual, I must be paired with someone who reads the script of the opposite gender in order to be seen as a legitimate couple (Also, definitely try to be monogamous and committed).
- When I am transgendered, I must adopt the “other” gender script in order to be seen as a person, and effectively interact with others.
The bathroom debate
One can simply review the bathroom debate to see that the problem conservatives have is the change in script, and has no defensible connection with the behavior of trans individuals at all.
Current bathroom script: Men and Women must have separate bathroom facilities because men have dirty bathroom habits and will take advantage of vulnerable women in this isolated space.
To suggest that a trans individual make use of facilities that don’t coincide with their assigned gender is to flip the script for everyone, which is why they justify making where trans* people pee their business. They try to mitigate this foreign scenario by fabricating the false equivalency that changing the script will literally lead to “men in dresses” assaulting women and children in the bathroom.
Unfortunately for trans* individuals, no matter how much they insist that bathrooms are about peeing, pooping and (hopefully) washing your hands, conservatives (who, by the way, absolutely ABHOR all script editing — it’s basically what unites them) refuse to let go of their chosen plot.
Also unfortunate, is that even liberally minded individuals are not immune to buying into the dumbed down trans* script. Their defenses of trans* rights often rely on the binary view of gender (“BUT this transwoman is NOT a man, SHE is a WOMAN.”).
Gender, in many ways, remains at the center of how we interact with each other. While a liberal individual is likely balk at the idea of associating “black” with “poor”, they might not blink an eye at associating “female” with “sensitivity”, or “male” with “toughness”.
By eschewing the accepted binary, genderqueers leave no space for mitigating the interrupted script. Fear of awkwardness often mutates into frustration and boils up as anger when people are left improvising their lines (once again, we are not skilled actors!). They are left baffled, grasping at straws to find anything resembling common ground.
And so the story goes: we are, as genderqueers, a social irritation, an unreasonable group of misfits who never learned how to perform our roles. We can’t even pick one of the existing scripts! How dare we?! And when we ask to be addressed by our chosen pronouns: my GOD, we don’t even respect grammar?! We disregard Biology?! Some of us dare to change our bodies, and some of us have the gall to remain the same physically, but still want to change our name and/or pronouns. We will tear this culture apart with our unreasonable, overreaching demands!
Some people just so happen to feel comfortable with, and maybe have even bought into, the script they were given. That’s fine. Good for them. The problem is that they often lack the imagination to see that others may not share this confluence between their performance and their inner self. Some even go so far as to label this dissolution as sinful or unnatural.
Their perspective is inherently oppressive.
To place their childish fear of discomfort and change over the mental health, happiness and authenticity afforded to an individual brave enough to adapt their own script, is petty, self-centered and morally bankrupt.
Now, think of all the social conservatives shouting and crying foul about how liberals are anti-first amendment “fascists”, diminishing their freedom of speech by updating, expanding and adding variety to our social scripts.
Indeed, their hypocrisy stinks to high heaven.