Wednesday, December 3, 2014

12-3-2014 Entry: Becoming a Gender Outlaw

So, yesterday I was surfing around on Facebook when I probably should have been doing something productive, but while I was wasting my life away in the digital world I came across a post from the local Fox news channel that caught my attention. It read:

 “Turns out the photo used in an anti-transgender ad that ran in a number of Minnesota dailies was previously used on the cover of a novel written for a GLBT readership.”

Now, this obviously caught my attention because it used the term anti-transgender but there was something much more interesting about the story than the tagline. The tagline itself is pretty innocuous simply because stock photos are used on book covers all the time and whether or not the same photo was used for both pro and anti LGBT causes isn’t really that big of a deal (yes I switched the letters, no real reason other than I am a creature of habit and have always seen/heard it as LGBT not GLBT). What IS a big deal is what cause the photo was used for.

For any who might live in Minnesota then you are likely aware that a huge controversy (/eye roll) is brewing among “concerned parents” about allowing a teenage transgirl to play on a girls’ sports team (highschool sports for clarification)and based on some of the heated reactions to this “controversy” you would have thought Jesus had rolled up on a Harley Davidson with a cut-off denim jacket, a Hell’s Angels Tattoo and said “I like to eat abortion babies!”

People are seriously going bananas over the idea that a transgender girl would have the nerve, the audacity, the INCOMPREHENSIBLE GALL to ask to be treated just like the other girls in school! **sarcasm alert** I mean, how could he (note I didn’t say the appropriate pronoun) be so ridiculous as to demand recognition of his misguided identity as a female? He is just trying to get an unfair competitive advantage and wants nothing more than to get a sneak peak at my little Susie’s teenage body in the showers after practice! My God, if we let this happen then our children might even have some weird lesbian transsexual orgies in those showers and are certain to forget their forced-upon dreams of going to the university to study pre-med! My Susie needs to be a doctor, not some tranny-loving whore with none of the living-through-my-child aspirations I've worked so hard to instill in her!!

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating their reactions a tiny bit  for the purpose of humor, but what I’ve said really isn’t that far from their reactions, which I will share here:


 Megan Gosiak (yes that’s her real name, do what you will with it) says: I'm not anti transgender. I'm anti opening the door to abuse, misused, and allegations flying. I don't want my daughter showering with boys who claim to be girls and I don't want my boys showering with girls claiming to be boys. You claim a different gender than what you were born with, you need a different bathroom and locker room. I don't want even the possibility of my daughter being overpowered in the bathroom or locker room and I don't want the possibility my boys have a girl claim they abused her. I'm raising my children to be respectful and tolerant, but where is the respect and tolerance for how they feel?
When you open a door like this, you open it to those who just want to see the opposite gender naked and will go to great lengths. You open it to those who want to stir the pot and start screaming that they've been abused. What about the majority? Shouldn't the kids get any say? Give those who identify differently their own space and make that the end of it.

So let’s recap this, according to Megan Gosiak transgender teens are really just rapists and liars, I mean what else could they be after all? It’s not like it’s normal or okay to color outside of the recognized and church-approved gender lines. Oh and she wants us to feel bad about how put out the “majority” will feel when they have to acknowledge a group of people that they’d rather just marginalize, and what is her solution? Separate but Equal!! Oh my favorite suggestion from the privileged people! You are different, and I don’t want to feel uncomfortable by having to question my assumptions about the gender binary system I’ve been indoctrinated with, so I’ll just create a whole new bathroom for you to poo in because that’s the easiest solution for ME, never mind how you feel about it. Also never mind the fact that historically speaking separate but equal is never equal… oh wait, didn’t the supreme court say something like that not all that long ago…  something like “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” (Brown v. Board of Education)


Let’s keep chugging along, our next contestant in the transphobia game is Mary Enninga who says: “This is ridiculous! I keep hearing "anti-transgender"... I'm not anti-transgender. I'm just anti-stupidity. If a person with male or female parts "identifies himself or herself" as the opposite sex, then sorry folks - you have to use the same bathroom and showers as the people who have the same male or female parts that you have do. This has nothing to do with tolerance and EVERYTHING to do with common sense and decency.

Recapping we come across another person who’s bought into the easy to digest, seemingly harmless assumption that sex and gender are indiscernible from one another. Notice how she uses quotation marks around the identifies himself or herself bit, what does that say to you? To me it suggests that she isn’t completely buying the idea that this boy is really a girl on the inside, because how could he be? He was born with a penis, right? Penis = boy, plain and simple… but that’s not anti-transgender or transphobic in the least, it’s just fact, right? The thing about this comment that really gets to me is the fact that Mary doesn’t even acknowledge the possibility that the very blatant assumption she’s made about the nature of gender could be misguided. She makes the assumption and runs with it by spouting off suggestions of how to solve the problem, but she fails to see that all of her suggestions are rooted in an assumption that’s faulty thereby making her solutions also faulty. This is akin to me making the assumption that the earth is flat and therefore it is both ridiculous and silly to think that we can sail to the edge of the earth; of course we will just fall off into oblivion, so the only solution is to just not sail to the edge and everyone will be safe, done and done! We shouldn’t risk trying something new, exploring some new territory, or even questioning the assumptions we make about the world. All of those things are dangerous and anyone with common sense and decency would know that. Notice again the privilege that’s seeping through with this comment. She is the adjudicator on what’s decent and sensible because she knows her place in the gender pyramid of power: a white, hetero female with natural lady parts and all, therefore she gets to determine the rules of those who are at the bottom of the pyramid (the misguided and confused transgirl who just wants to play with the other girls)


Onto our last contestant and possibly my favorite one. His name is Chris Israel (can you get any more Anglo-Christian for a name, I mean seriously?) and he says: “This country has gone full retard. I can't believe this atrocity is even being discussed. Without retarded liberal parenting, this would never happen. Just disgusting the way liberals like sexualization of children.

Oh, where to begin with this one? Isn’t it just juicy, like an artery clogging extra-bacon mountain-high triple cheeseburger with a large fry and Coke? Let’s start with the double marginalization present here. A transgender teenage girl wants to play sports with the other girls is a result of “retarded liberal parenting.” He is basically saying transgenderism = retardation… which if you really think about for a few minutes is just a staggering assumption. Not only is it using one marginalized minority group (people with developmental differences) as a benchmark for what Chris believes to be stupid, or useless but it uses a derogatory slur for that marginalized group to attack another marginalized group. And all of this, of course, is the result of those damned liberal parents. If it wasn’t for their open minds, capacity for empathy and understanding that things aren’t always what they seem, we could just have order in our country. Boys would be boys and girls would be girls, just like God intended. Okay I’m projecting some assumptions of my own onto Chris but I think we can agree that Chris favors himself very high on the privileged pyramid of power. He is white man who suffers none of the fools who dare to question or blur the lines of his assumptions about reality, especially his assumptions about the intrinsic correlation between sex and gender.


So what’s to be done here? How do we, the gender outlaws (thank you Kate Bornstein for this term and your pyramid of power theory) overcome such odds? How do we get these people to understand what they seem so unwilling to grasp? How do we awaken them to the very important reality that exists beyond the binary assumptions of gender?

I believe that we have to keep making them uncomfortable by being present in their experience. Let’s crank up the cognitive dissonance that these people are experiencing by not being afraid to bend and break the rules they assume to exist. Let’s go out and be who we want to be regardless of what the few at the top of the privileged pyramid of gender power have to say. If we show them that there are many of us and that we are living lives of success and happiness by coloring outside of the lines they’ve drawn, maybe a few more of them might finally give up on their assumptions. Maybe a few more of them will say, “you know what, I guess there are boys who are girls, and girls who are boys, and that’s okay.”
We have to stop hiding who and what we are. We cannot fear the discomfort we create in the privileged because discomfort always leads to growth, and they need to grow. We all need to grow beyond our previous limitations and find out what exists outside of the assumed borders. The gender world is not flat, and I’m setting sail to discover new land, won’t you come with me? Let’s break the gender rules, let’s push the limits and see how far we can take them.

-Emma, the gender outlaw!

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