The real issues behind this attack on Transgender rights

There has been some talk about the regime’s attack on transgender people this week, but since very little of it has come from transgender people, they mostly miss the point. I’m going to explain what the issue is here, but before I do that I just need to get a couple things out of the way.

  1. I am not to get into this fake debate about safety. It’s just a smokescreen to cover discrimination, and wasting my time debating it would involve accepting their premise that transgender women are fundamentally different than cisgender women.
  2. I am also not going to talk about people feeling uncomfortable in the bathroom because they don’t like the physical appearance of another person. Again, it’s a fake issue to distract from the real one. And it’s just really stupid.

The conversation about this has been mostly centered around bathrooms. This is done for two reasons; One, it makes the issue seem smaller and less significant; people can wave it off and say “Just use the bathroom somewhere else” or “Just use the bathroom that doesn’t correspond with your gender identity” making it seem like it’s a big kerfuffle over a minor issue. Two, it allows them to establish a rule saying that transgender people are not the gender we identify as, without having to explicitly say it.

That is not to say that these laws don’t have an enormous effect on the lives of transgender people, because they do. Transgender people are removed from public with laws like this. Everyone needs to use the bathroom, and by targeting bathrooms they are able to impact all transgender people every day of their lives. Transgender people are then forced into a position where we have to use a bathroom that doesn’t correspond with our gender identity, which outs us and makes us a target. If we don’t want to do that, we are forced to try to avoid using the bathroom all day. Recent data shows that 60% of transgender people avoid using the bathroom at all during the day, which causes 8% of transgender people to develop kidney/urinary tract infections. To avoid using the bathroom, one third of transgender people will avoid eating or drinking anything during the day. These laws are done to cause hardships like this for transgender people to encourage us to stay home and out of the public eye, or preferably to conform to a gender that doesn’t match our gender identity.

That is only part of the reasoning behind these laws. The main purpose of them, as I said, is to enshrine in our laws and society the idea that transgender people are not the gender they identify as. These laws mean that every morning every transgender person has to ask, “Do I try to conform to the wrong gender to make life easier for myself? Or do I keep living as the gender I identify as and deal with the difficulties and abuse that’s going to come today?” When we’re getting ready to go out into the world, they want us to be thinking about the lengths we’re going to go to so we can avoid using the bathroom, or fearing that moment when we have to use the wrong bathroom, outing ourselves as transgender and pulling the focus of any would-be abuser to us. As I said, this is purposely done to make life so difficult for transgender people that we will want to give up and conform to the wrong gender. It often ends in suicide instead.

You can see another purpose of this way of approaching the issue in the way make sure to center the conversation around the argument, “Do you want these men who think they’re women in the same bathroom as your wife or daughter?” As soon as you engage in that conversation, you’re validating their false premise that a transgender woman is really just a “mentally disturbed” man. They know it’s harder to argue their real position; which is, “We want to enforce a strict concept of a gender binary because it benefits our patriarchal society, so we need to erase those who don’t fit into that binary from the public eye.” In order to avoid the real conversation they will go with the premise that transgender people are mentally ill, so as to turn it into a discussion over how much to accommodate these mentally ill people.

Focusing on transgender women and portraying us as men who are mentally ill serves another purpose too. There’s a reason they never talk about transgender men using the bathroom with cisgender men, and that they use terms like “Mentally disturbed”, “Deranged”, and “Mutilated bodies” to describe transgender people. It is done purposely to demonize and dehumanize transgender people, because if they can make the general public afraid of transgender people than they can more easily discriminate against transgender people. They want people to focus on the image of dangerous men with no regard for their personal safety or the concerns of others threatening men’s wives and parent’s daughters. It reinforces the patriarchal ideas of women being a man’s property and that if other men are left alone with his property, his property could be despoiled. Furthermore, it reinforces the idea that cisgender women would be helpless against a man who wanted to do her harm.

We are doing everyone a disservice when we act like this is an issue about where someone gets to pee. This is a fight to rigidly enforce patriarchal gender roles and a gender binary while erasing those who don’t conform to it. It’s about making every person who doesn’t fit into that gender binary think about the fact that society doesn’t acknowledge us or respect who we are. It’s about creating a demonized and pathologized image of transgender people so that society will accept discrimination against them, even arguing that it’s for our own good.

This isn’t a transgender issue. This isn’t even an LGBTQ issue. This is an issue that affects all of us. It’s not about where some kid gets to pee; it’s about you being assigned a gender role and ensuring there are reprisals against those who dare to push back against them.

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