Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

We hear that saying all the time.  “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.  Don’t make determinations about people based on appearance.  It makes a lot of sense when you apply it to superficial things like beauty-~-just because someone is attractive doesn’t make them a good person, and just because someone is unattractive doesn’t mean they aren’t worth getting to know.  Makes total sense.  And for the most part we accept that old adage…except when it comes to gender.

Yeah, I was born female.  And I happen to identify as female.  But as Simone de Beauvoir famously stated, “One is not born a woman.  One becomes a woman.”  Gender is very much about the practice of gender, and not everyone practices the gender that society wants to assign to them.

Welcome to my much-belated Transgender Awareness and Remembrance Post.

Transgendered people are among the most discriminated against in the country.  It is totally legal in many states for someone to be fired based on their gender identity.  It is also legal for people to be discriminated against for housing purposes on the basis of gender identity.  This, to me (and to many others) seems a little ridiculous-~-it’s just punishing people for being who they truly are.

For Transgender Remembrance Day last week my school erected a number of signs on our quad with the details of a survey about the experiences of transgender people in America.  Some of the findings are frustrating and upsetting (I took pictures of the signs–the images are mine and should be respected as my property).  But what is more upsetting is that transgender people are such a minority, even within the LGBTQ community, that no one seems to be fighting for the kind of change they deserve.  “Gay rights” doesn’t actually include transgender people, because gender identity is DIFFERENT than sexual identity, which is a common mistake.  It is totally possible to be both transgender and gay, or transgender and bi, or transgender and heterosexual within the gender that you identify (for example, a girl who becomes a boy and chooses to date girls).  But gender identity does not necessarily dictate sexuality, and that’s a big common misconception about the trans community.

Then there’s the fact that it is often seen as unnatural, which results in an almost extra level of discrimination.  This is particularly problematic because while there are groups such as PFLAG to help support family members adjusting to their relatives coming out, its often harder for family members to adjust to the idea of their child changing genders.  The portrayal of transgender people in the media is often almost comical (for example, the episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia where Mac is dating Carmen, who is transgender), and words like “tranny” make it difficult to see the situation as legitimate and serious, which makes activism even more difficult.  But on top of that, even in situations where homosexuality might be discussed, gender non-conformity often isn’t, and that silence makes progress hard to achieve.

And law enforcement does not seem to be doing anything about it.  Many transgender people end up being harassed or denied help by the police.  Lawmakers tend not to make laws catering to such a minority, especially such an under-discussed one.  Schools are doing little to protect students who fall into any of the LGBTQ categories, but they seem least likely to protect those who identify as T or Q–that is, trans or queer–because school professionals are ill-equipped to deal with the issues these groups face, and on top of that, there isn’t nearly enough of a dialogue about what is happening.   A lot of students fear the repercussions of reporting incidents of harassment, and because of this, the problems persist.

Now, more than ever, a change is clearly needed.  Look at the statistics in these pictures.  And do your own research: you might be surprised at the kinds of things you find when you look at the LGBTQ community as a whole, and at the trans community in particular.  The kind of discrimination that persists, just because people want to be who they truly are, is incredible…and it needs to stop.  And that starts with us, with allies, with people who are willing to come forward and talk about their experiences, with activists willing to stand up and say that 78% of trans students SHOULD NOT be subjected to harassment in school.  That we will not accept a society in which a significant portion of ANY demographic is attempting suicide because things are so intolerable.  I don’t want to live in an America where the police won’t even help the victims of crimes perpetrated against them…do you?  These are people,  just like you and I are people.

In her book The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd writes “It does not matter if you are black or white, we all piss the same color”.  She was right.  And it does not matter if you are male, or female, or born one way and now living the other, we still all piss the same color.




~ by Randi Saunders on November 28, 2011.

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