So. With the Trump administration’s latest reversal of the previous administration’s policy, we’re back to bathrooms, back to hurling transgender children outside the shield of federal protection while they’re in school. I know millions of parents, and the children they have so carefully taught, feel allowing transgender children into the bathrooms in which they feel naturally comfortable removes a certain protection from their so-called normal children. A few problems with that rationale:
- Transgender children are not an actual threat or something from which anyone needs to be protected.
- People who hate someone, or are afraid of someone, on the basis of the child’s gender identity pose a very real and well documented threat to children.
- There is absolutely nothing normal about being afraid of a child based on whether they believe they are a boy or a girl.
Now, the main arguments I come across opposing any type of acknowledgment of transgender as a legitimate form of existence fall into two categories: those that argue the issue of gender is simple, and those that argue the issue of transgenderism is ridiculous. I want to address both of them rationally, despite the fact that both are obtuse and the latter is downright cruel. I still feel the argument deserves a calm, reasoned approach, because the people I know who hold to these arguments are not otherwise obtuse or cruel. I truly want to draw a line between what I feel about insensitivity and cruelty towards children and what I feel toward those who struggle to see things the way I do.
I know it’s easy for the issue to seem simple—boys have a penis, girls have a vagina. But we didn’t learn everything we really need to know in kindergarten or watching Kindergarten Cop. While it may seem like an easy answer that any kid with a penis should use a boys bathroom, it’s not. It would possibly be an easy conclusion if gender were strictly a physical issue. But we know it’s not. If it were, if psychology and emotion weren’t an important (and perhaps more important) part of gender, no one would care about this discussion. Girls wouldn’t be concerned about boys peeing in the wrong room outside of their propensity to leave the seat up (or to splatter when they don’t bother to raise it). There would be no psychological or emotional threat or fear if there were nothing but a physical difference between boys and girls. It’s not the physical difference that concerns people, it’s the emotional and psychological side of things—boys’ and girls’ interest in or curiosity toward the opposite sex, their understanding of gender and sexuality, and their level of comfort in a vulnerable situation around people of the opposite sex. All of those things are legitimate aspects regarding gender . . . for everyone. The emotional and psychological aspects of gender are indeed important. So we can’t simultaneously act out of concern for the emotional and psychological well being of most children because it’s an important part of who they are as boys and girls and completely dismiss it for transgender kids simply by writing off their gender identity as something that is imaginary, contrived, or changeable. If you are of the opinion that there is something wrong with children who have the emotional and psychological makeup of the gender opposite to that of their physical one, something that can and should be changed, I beg of you to please open yourself to the possibility that you’re wrong rather than declaring your ill-informed assumptions as fact. If it’s not your experience, listen carefully to those who do know about it.
I recently got into a pretty healthy discussion about this with someone who, while disagreeing with me, finally said in complete exasperation that he was just completely confused by it all. I loved that response. Expressing confusion is so much better than judgment. Confusion can be helped. Stubborn judgment is pretty immovable.
The other category of argument against transgenderism is the realm of the ridiculous. And insulting.
- What if I identify as a Chinese person even though I’m Irish?
- What if I identify as a wolf?
- What if I identify as a woman tomorrow?
These are intentionally obtuse false syllogisms. If you base your argument solely on a presupposition intentionally calculated to be false and easily dismissible, it makes for great humor (if by great you mean stripped of all humanity). But it also makes for a completely invalid argument. Because . . .
- Gender differences are not at all like racial differences.
- Species differences are completely unlike gender differences.
- Transracialism is not, as far as I know, an observable occurrence in our society, certainly not one I have ever heard results in violence or hostility.
- Transspecies issues: see above.
- If you aren’t transgender, the notion that you might be tomorrow assumes that it’s a choice. It is intentionally dismissive. Stop confusing that for smart.
- Transphobia causes abuse, suicide, violence, murder, and hatred, and if you make a joke out of someone else’s very real suffering, you’re guilty of the logical fallacy of You’re an asshole. Sorry, I can’t be completely rational about attacks like that.
So, that’s the lowdown from where I sit. I know there’s more to say, but it’s a starting point.
Here’s a trivia question:
What Pulitzer-prize-winning novel published in 2002 was inspired by the memory of Herculine Barbin?
Put your answers in the comments, and I’ll keep them hidden until midnight.