Way Beyond a Double Standard
Society’s unattainable expectations for the Trans community
In late December of last year a video started hitting the on-line news outlets of a Transgender woman getting irate in a GameStop after being misgendered by the staff. What isn’t apparent is whether or not the staff made an intentional attempt at misgendering the woman because the video started late in the interaction. The woman’s outburst got so heated that she implied that the clerk should step outside if they want to see a “sir.” The outburst was even punctuated at one point when the woman knocked over a display.
What can I say, I’ve wanted to have this same outburst myself. And who hasn’t wanted to go off on a GameStop employee? Getting $20 store credit on a new game is enough to make anyone irate.
The woman in question appeared to be in that awkward pocket of transition where her perceived ambiguity was tipped by the timbre of her voice. This too is a problem I have. Anyone who has ever spoken to me knows that I very rarely talk feminine. For some it’s simply impossible to lower their voice, and for others training their voice is an act that takes marked and repeated practice.
For probably the first 18 months of my transition, I would cringe when someone called me “sir.” At some point my presentation changed and most people would get my pronouns right. I suspect this has to do with how soft an appearance can become once Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) begins making noticable changes. Around that same time, I also gained a lot of esteem for who I was becoming. Simply put, within that time span, I was just as emotionally fragile as the woman in the video; I would speculate that she too was at the beginning of her transition.
As of late, with my choosing to accept the baldness that I cannot escape, I have realized that some people I have interacted with have referred to me as “man.” This doesn’t make me happy, but it surprisingly doesn’t hinder me either. “Man” is often a gender neutral word, so I’m not too phased. Even when I’ve recently had one of my customer’s refer to me as “sir” I’ve fallen back on a significant lack of concern. I do not require the approval of random people to affirm that I am a woman; the reason why I am unphased is because I accept who I am, and that’s the most critical approval of all.
This is not to say that I don’t feel for the woman in the video. We cannot know how many times she’d been misgendered leading up to that interaction, and I know all to well that these things will eventually become emotional deadweight. It’s unfortunate that she was unable to respectfully correct the clerk, and bring the interaction to a mellow and educational conclusion.
Further insult is garnered by the fact that someone deem it necessary to record the blow-up and pass it to the media. The act of filming this woman having an understandable emotional breakdown has become highly damaging to the community as a whole. And if the consequences of this viral video further compromises this woman’s mental health, one hopes the person filming it understands just how harmful that act was and thinks twice before deciding to profit from another’s pain.
When I initially saw the video I shared it in a private Transgender Facebook group with the comment that it would be weaponized against the community. My most respected local Trans advocate chimed in that “it was already happening…” She was right. That was December 28th, and as of today (January 1st), I’ve seen the video posted on approximately a dozen other news sites. Some of the sites were run by the extreme and insensitive Right who opted to cease referring to her as a woman, and instead call her a man — the very transgression that upset her to begin with. One begins to wonder if they’d feel any remorse if that continued indignity pushed her to end her life.
Naturally, the comments on the video — regardless of where it was posted — devolved into a castigation of the entire community. Statements regarding how we are “all mentally ill” — because of this one incident — became the trope-of-the-day. What I personally found bothersome about these comments is that when a Cisgender person has a recorded breakdown at a retail counter, it doesn’t become a rebuke of the entire Cisgender population.
In this example we have proof that the larger society believes we are subhuman; unworthy of equal treatment and acceptance — simply because we are Transgender. This creates a standard of living that we are forced to live which goes beyond the pale for Cisgender people. We are expected to live our lives in a manner that is above reproach. We must never have one exposed failing, lest we become that single example that is used to denounce the entire Trans community. It’s a standard that is way beyond a double standard, and one that would be impossible to maintain for many Cisgender people.
If the Cis population would treat us as human beings, and worthy of equal dignity, we wouldn’t be transitioning on a razor’s edge. We wouldn’t feel so socially awkward that public breakdowns are even a thing.
Furthering the social stigma are those Cis people who have the legal ability to deny our place in society by refusing us employment, housing, or access to healthcare. This is exactly the kind of discrimination that our current administration seeks to make easier for Cis people to do by erasing Transgender people from government protections (where applicable and not overridden by state law).
When this happens it creates a higher standard of excellence that Trans people are expected to maintain over Cis people. But it becomes unrealistic when we become forced into living homeless, or selling our bodies simply to get by — otherwise known as ‘survival sex.’ This reinforces the Cis held stereotypes for Transgender individuals and gives those same people a reason to continue to deny us access to all the things that Cis people can have easy access too. Additionally this can push many of us back into our addictions and self-destructive behaviours that took hold of us prior to admitting we were Transgender.
It’s no wonder the suicide rate runs so high when the deck is stacked so arduously against the Transgender community.
On December 18th 2018 Martina Navratilova made a transphobic tweet that highlights this very problem.
In this we have this implication that simply having a penis becomes a reason for a Transwoman to be disqualified from participating in a women’s athletics. The notion becomes one simply based on anatomy, not ability, and it ignorantly refuses to acknowledge the prolonged effects of HRT on a body.
Eventually Martina succumbed to the pressures of an already victimized Transgender community; deleting her tweet, and apologizing; the conservatives stepped right up and said she shouldn’t have apologized. I suppose the irony there is that the same people who would denounce her humanity based on her sexuality chose to elevate her the moment she pounced on a more victimized community. It doesn’t speak well for conservatives when they often profess to be Christian, but yet seem to always target the weakest gazelle. Doesn’t seem like something Christ would do, but that’s a conversation I’ve had in these blogs far too many times.
By in large, Martina echoed a familiar sentiment; that Transgender women have an unfair advantage in athletics based upon simply possessing a penis. As if to imply that the penis itself is capable of imbuing a person with super powers. This highlights the ignorance of the larger society when it comes to those who have undergone gender transition.
The organ that would provide a Transwoman with an unfair physical advantage is actually the testes. And a Transwoman participating in women’s athletics wouldn’t (and can’t) simply declare themself a woman and immediately begin participating in women’s athletics without actually undergoing HRT which would suppress the advantages of testosterone (the hormone produced in the testes). Furthermore, a Transwoman could simply undergo an Orchiectomy to remove her testicles while keeping her penis. Once that’s done, no hormonal advantage could be perpetrated without re-introducing testosterone to the body. Which would not pass the governing athletic body’s medical testing.
That being said, the International Olympic Committee ruled in 2015 that an athlete need not undergo any surgery in order to participate in their chosen sport. The ruling — based in science — concluded that a Transwoman who had undergone a medical (not surgical) gender transition and had maintained a level of testosterone of 10 nmol/L for 12 months prior to competition was eligible to compete.
Let me put that into perspective. Approximately a year after having my Orchiectomy I had my testosterone level checked, and the latent levels that my body produced were 7 nmol/L. My testosterone level prior to ever beginning HRT was higher than 700 nmol/L! That SHOULD give detractors like Martina a good idea of just how suppressed this powerful hormone needs to be before a Transwoman is cleared to participate in professional sports.
Of course whenever a Transwoman wins against a Cisgender woman she immediately gets attacked for having anatomy that gives her an “unfair advantage.” But this is not simply a one sided argument. For all those who cry foul over the advantage of having a penis, I offer you an example of a Transman who excelled in athletics and who (clearly) didn’t have the advantage of a penis.
Mack Beggs is a Transgender man and wrestler who was made to wrestle with Cisgender girls while attending High School. He, of course, won! This would be equivalent of having a Transwoman who hasn’t undergone HRT being permitted to immediately participate in women’s athletics. This is a strange double standard when a Transman with the advantage of testosterone was made to wrestle Cisgender women who don’t have that advantage. It goes a long way to highlight the misogyny that is being largely directed at Transwomen.
Beggs wanted to wrestle men, the fact that he was not permitted to do so seems indicative of how fragile Cisgender men might be. Imagine how wounded they would have been had they been bested on the mat by a better wrestler who just happened to have a vagina. Imagine if it was your kid getting bested on the mat by a man with a vagina. For me this feels like an attempt to save the egos of Cisgender men and their parents. The patriarchy felt threatened. They don’t get that Trans men are MEN! There’s no threat here, if you lose then you lost to a man; plain and simple!
What’s deeply concerning is that society aims to create unrealistic expectations and rules for how we exist in the world. We are forbidden to excel because when we thrive we get accused of cheating at a system that’s already rigged against us.
One of us can’t have a public breakdown without making the whole community a target. But a Cis person having a breakdown miraculously isn’t a microcosm of the entire Cis community.
We are considered bad people because we may find ourselves needing to participate in survival sex when no one will hire us. Yet, those who deny us employment assume no responsibility for creating this situation in the first place. Let’s be clear; No one wants to compromise their body to survive!
If we are abandoned by our families and end up homeless; this is somehow something we deserve. Throwing your child on the street because you can’t handle the social stigma associated with supporting the child’s transition only serves to reinforce those stigmas. It also proves you’re a terrible parent.
When we fall on addictions or become suicidal it feeds the false narrative that this is caused by being trans. Statistics have shown that suicidality and addiction decreases when a Trans person is accepted by their family. There is no downside to loving someone. Our greatest allies are always going to be our parents.
When we rise up and become superior athletes on our own merits and under measured and monitored HRT, we get called cheaters. Denying the science that proves gender variance has existed for millenia is one thing, but denying the science that proves that Trans athletes are held to the same hormonal standards as their Cis counterparts is completely ignorant.
Every one of these issues can be changed by simply having a loving and educated society.
A supported child can transition before their body turns on them. A loving family won’t kick their child to the curb. The child can become a functional adult without predisposition to addictions acquired to cope with being an unsupported Trans person. A supportive and accepting society will not render the individual homeless and dependent on selling their body. They could get access to unfettered healthcare which would assist with the mental, medical, and surgical needs of being Transgender. All of which will make for a happier healthier, and emotionally stable person.
Ultimately a shift in society needs to happen before the stigma of an unattainable level of excellence can be obliterated. The goal is to exist! How can we get to that goal when Cis culture keeps changing the location of the goalposts to serve their own ego?
Treating Trans people as you want to be treated doesn’t mean you diminish yourself. Actually, according to Christ, it would elevate you. Why is that so hard?
We are not the enemy, and we never will be. Please stop painting us as such.
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