Trans People Are Just Using The Washroom. That’s It!

Ever since the issue of Trans people using the public washrooms best aligned with their gender identity entered the public sphere, opponents have been saying the same thing over and over again. “This is going to result in perverts using the ladies room to gain access to vulnerable women and girls.” Now, in many school districts across North America, policies have been in place for awhile, long enough to assess the impact, that allow Trans people to use the washroom of their choice. The result? Nothing. No reported attacks. Just people using the washroom. That’s it. (read about it here)

It’s time for opponents in the washroom ‘debate’ to stop talking. I understand that a cis woman may be uncomfortable when a person she perceives as a man walks into the ladies room at the local shopping mall, but her discomfort is her problem. The Trans woman who looks to some like a “man” is uncomfortable every time she steps out in public. She knows people stare, point, and judge her for who she is, and keeping her from using the appropriate washroom is just another form of oppression. How do you think she feels being forced into the mens room, much less being the subject of the assumption that she is a pervert looking for access to young girls? 

I’m not going to go on too long here, it’s really not necessary. In the places where Trans people are allowed to use the appropriate restrooms, the result has been that everybody is going to the washroom they are most comfortable using. There have been no reported rapes, no reported molestations, no reported sexual harassment of any kind, and believe me if these things were happening, they would be reported immediately. If Trans people were preying on innocent washroom goers, we would know about it. The absence of incidents speaks volumes, and those who insist that this will happen have to accept that the facts disagree with them.

Is it possible that a bad person will eventually abuse these washroom policies to prey on young women? Of course. But bad people have been doing bad things for centuries. Many right-wingers suggest that the policy is wrong because somebody may use it for criminal intent, but when this logic is turned back on them, they become outraged. Suppose I were to say something really controversial about guns. Suppose I said that all guns should be banned because some people use them to commit murder. This argument has been used by others, and every time these same people … who use this same logic against Trans people using the washroom … suddenly disagree with themselves. The difference is that there is actually evidence for the gun argument. Otherwise law abiding citizens DO commit murder with legal firearms. We know that because it happens every day. Trans people are NOT raping innocent women in washrooms.

The point is, the anti-Trans “washroom argument” has no evidence behind it. On the contrary, the opposite appears to be true. Trans people are using the washrooms they are most comfortable in, nobody is getting hurt by this, and it’s time for you opponents to stop arguing otherwise.

 

‘Trans-Age’ And Abandonment 

It has been an uncharacteristically long time since writing my last post. In late 2015, a story surfaced that has had me quite perplexed, and I have had to take the time to think, study, talk with others, and decide how to approach it. What I am about to say may anger some people in the Trans community. As a Genderqueer person myself, I don’t want to offend anybody, but as an activist I have to speak up when I feel something is being done to harm our goals of visibility, acceptance, and equality.

In late 2015, we learned about the 52-year-old father of seven who left his family to live life as a 6-year-old girl, Stefonknee (Stef-on-knee) Wolscht. She was interviewed and applauded by The Daily Xtra and The Transgender Project (read about it here), has become a well-known advocate for Trans issues, and while we need and welcome more advocates, I’m just going to say it … ‘trans-age’ and abandonment should not be celebrated

In a very small nutshell, gender is largely a social construct. The gender binary (man and woman) is part of this, as are the roles assigned to those genders, and oftentimes a person’s sex does not correlate with the gender distinctions placed upon it. It’s really much more complex than this, and I have written about it in more length in previous posts, but in the most basic of terms, this is how we get the multitude of legitimate Trans identities. Age, on the other hand, is a temporal condition that is NOT socially constructed. Age just IS, it’s defined largely by the responsibilities and relationships that develop over time, and a responsible adult does not get to stop being an adult just because they have had enough of it. One can certainly live as a child in their own home, but when you have responsibilities, namely seven children, you don’t get to just quit and move on. When somebody has a psychotic break and decides to go back to being a child, they do not need to be celebrated. They need compassion, empathy, and professional help.

Now, I have no doubt that Stefonknee Wolscht is a Trans woman. That is a legitimate identity for many, many, many reasons; including those mentioned above. Also, she has suffered a great deal for being Trans, an experience that should never be diminished. What I take issue with is the celebration of her decision to abandon her family and live as a child. We all wish we could escape adulthood from time to time. Sometimes the pressure gets too much and we have to step back to catch our breath. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it may very well be that the play therapy she is doing is a legitimate form of healing. But at the end of the day we are the sum of our years, we have whatever responsibilities we have taken on, and we don’t get to escape that by deciding we are once again six years old.

Frankly, I am disappointed with The Daily Xtra and The Transgender Project. Evangelicals are constantly looking at us and asking “what’s next?” They already see us as degenerates, and just as we start to gain legitimacy at the discussion table, you go and praise somebody for abandoning their family to escape reality and live as a six-year-old. Do you know how far back you have set us? Do you know how many evangelical radio hosts and public figures are using this to further their cause? Yes, we must accept everybody as they are, but that doesn’t mean without question. There is a big difference between gender and age, and jumping to celebrate something before attempting to think about it and understand it is an act of ignorance. Even your own reporting on Stefonknee reveals a troubled person in need of help, and your actions are not at all conducive to her mental health. We certainly need to accept and support her, and in this case that means validating her identity as a Trans woman, and helping her to learn to cope and heal as an adult.

The movement for civil liberties, for equality, understanding, and acceptance, is where I feel at home. I love people, and I love this work. When I came out in August, I received all kinds of support. This fight is very dear to me, and I feel honoured that there are people who read and appreciate what I have to say. I feel the need to protect it because it has helped so many people; myself included. On one hand, I sympathize with Stefonknee’s struggle, on the other I see a gross misuse of the movement when abandonment is celebrated. In Stefonknee’s case, it was clear that she would no longer be welcome as a Trans person in her own home. This is devastating, and it’s no surprise that it would cause a meltdown. As an adult, she had to move out, and find another place to live. But to leave your children behind because you “don’t want to be an adult right now,” is not okay.

I’ll be honest, this one story has made me question my involvement with the movement altogether. I have a dilemma regarding my alliance with a group of people who lack the ability to understand when a person has had a mental breakdown and needs help. And what about empathy for the family affected by this? There are seven children, where was the compassion for them in the coverage? All I saw was a condemning tone when speaking about the letters Stefonknee’s children wrote expressing embarrassment and hurt. Sure they clearly don’t understand Trans issues, but they are children! They are children, and they have just been abandoned by a parent with very little explanation as to why! Is that what we’re doing now? Condemning children for feeling hurt over abandonment? If we don’t care about the obvious issues here, what business do we have reaching out to anybody? Am I wrong? Am I the only one who feels this way?

 

Pick Your Battles

When I began writing as Outspoken Ally, I was a new advocate. Like many new advocates, I was eager to loudly proclaim the message of equality and speak out against bigotry at every opportunity. I wrote about it, and I did it. Every chance I got, I did it, and what I found over time was that I was wasting a lot of unnecessary energy. Many people are up for the discussion in some form or another, but some either don’t get it or don’t want to. You have to pick your battles, because some just aren’t worth having.

Yesterday, I was speaking with an acquaintance who I have known since High School. The conversation was fine, until he unexpectedly launched into a string of very hurtful insults toward gay men; his comments littered with the word “faggot.” It took every bit of strength I had, but I immediately decided to let it go. Why? Because I would have voiced my discomfort with what he said, and then been dragged into a long, drawn out shouting match that would have left me exhausted, angry, and stressed; having made zero progress. Sometimes a hateful person is just a hateful person, and clashing with them isn’t worth the energy.

Let me assure you that I am still wholly committed to this work. What has happened over the past couple of years is that I have calmed down a little bit. My anger with inequality and those who uphold it, though still there, has given way to a more measured approach. Rather than fight every battle, I prefer to fight those battles that are worth fighting. I can argue with a person who just doesn’t care, and wind up feeling like I wasted precious time, or I can sit down with a person who wants to have the debate, and walk away with a sense of validation. If my opponent is unswayed but was receptive, it was worth the time.

A case in point is Dr. Michael Brown. I find Dr. Brown misinformed to say the least, and have written about him before. In my latest post (Trans Rights In 2016), I said that he decries Trans people as freaks, perverts, and liars. It is true that on his radio show he calls them broken and unnatural, frames the public washroom debate as an opportunity for dangerous men to gain legal access to young women, and blames people like me for perpetuating the “lie” that your gender can be different from your physical sex. Although not using the words “freaks, perverts, and liars,” his message is exactly that, and he took offence to my saying so. It is unlikely that I or anybody else will sway Dr. Brown … but engaging with him IS worth it. As wrong and misleading as I feel he is, he is still capable of intelligent debate. He is a smart man who believes he is doing good, and with people like him, the argument is almost always worth having. That’s why I then encouraged you all to voice your opposition to his misinformation on his Facebook page. (Taking my entire message into account, however – my numerous blog posts speaking out against vitriolic attacks, cursing at those we disagree with, and threats of violence – anybody who reads me regularly knows that I endorse civil opposition only)

If you feel the need to take every opportunity to fight, go for it. As long as you approach it with civility, you have my support. What I am encouraging you to consider here, is to save your energy for fights that are worth having. Before engaging, ask yourself one question. Is it worth my time and energy to confront this person? If you’re anything like me, you might find it less stressful, and more effective for your advocacy, to pick your battles.

Trans Rights In 2016

2016 has to be the year of Trans rights. On November 13, 2015, an article appeared on theguardian.com, outlining the very pressing dangers facing Transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States today. It was devastating to say the least, and it serves to warn us all that the struggles of Trans people deserve more attention in the year to come.

2015 saw the landmark SCOTUS ruling legalizing marriage equality throughout America, and that was just one of many victories won this year. Despite the fact that LGB people are still facing discrimination, harassment, and the ever-present fear of violence, things have gotten better overall. 2015 has been a great year for equality! We must keep this momentum going in 2016, and at the same time prioritize our push for the same progress in Trans visibility and understanding.

As of Nov 13 (the publication date of the article above), there had been 21 Trans homicides in 2015; almost all of whom were Transgender women of colour. Of the 53 Trans murders between 2013 and 2015, NOT ONE had been reported or prosecuted as a hate crime. Due to social pressures, stigmas, and threats of further violence, we know that most violent crimes against Trans people go unreported, leading to the safe assumption that these numbers are not even close to revealing the reality of the situation. It should be noted here that these are U.S. statistics, but that the struggle for Trans people across the world, including my country of Canada, is just as real.

A Congressional group dedicated to the rights and equalities of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. has taken the step of putting together a Transgender Equality Task Force, and we have to put our passions into this as well. Governmental and grass roots groups have to both work hard for this, a combined effort that has seen success for decades now. We have to fight just as hard, though hopefully not as long, as we have for the rights and equalities of LGB people.

Note what was just said about the victims of these crimes – in 2015, most were Trans women of colour. It is rightly pointed out in the article that the issue here goes much deeper than mere Transphobia; a definite issue to be addressed, but it only scratches the surface. The deeper issue lies at the intersection of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Immediately clear, and again rightly pointed out in the article, we can no longer afford to address these issues separately. Where do we begin? By listening to the people already talking about it, and asking questions to gain a better understanding.

The push against traditional gender roles, against sexism and for Feminism, against transphobia and for equal rights and dignity, against continuing systemic racism, and many more problems, are here all wrapped up into one. Trans people have become the most at-risk group among the LGBTQ+ community, Trans women of colour especially. Their voices are not being heard loud enough. Their struggles are not being addressed to the proper extent. They are being decried as freaks, perverts, and liars by evangelical activists like Dr. Michael Brown (you can find him, and object to his misinformation, at askdrbrown.org, and ‘Ask Dr. Brown’ on Facebook). Most importantly, the realities they face are not understood. We have to correct that in 2016, before more lives are taken.

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, preferring instead to make lifestyle changes when the time is right. This time, though, right now, is the right time for all of us to make a change toward asking, listening, empathizing, and acting to make things better. Countless LGB people died while we sat and passively argued against inequality. It was only when things reached a tipping point that the push got real and things started to change, and they still have a long way to go. That tipping point came too late for people who never should have suffered the way they did, people who could have been effective voices fighting for their own lives. Are we going to continue to repeat that history?

In every single state but California, “Trans Panic” is currently considered a valid legal defence. For those of you unfamiliar with what that is, “Trans Panic” is the argument that upon learning that the person they were involved with was Transgender, the murderer panicked, lashed out in an uncontrollable rage, and cannot be held responsible for their actions. Since Trans people are seen as such a shockingly disturbing bunch to an aging white cis-male legal establishment, “Trans Panic” can be used for nearly any situation – from brief social interactions to a romantic relationship. After all, who’s to say that panic and murder aren’t warranted when you buy someone a drink at a bar and find out they have unexpected genitalia, right? “Trans Panic” frees the guilty and blames the victim. It says the victim deserved to die, and this somehow makes sense to the legal establishment in every American state but one. This has to change in 2016.

The good news is that there are people already talking about this. What we have to do is start listening to them. It took a long time, but many people have come around and taken the time to understand what it means to be gay and/or lesbian. It was once thought that bisexuality wasn’t a real thing, but people know differently now; and bisexuality is better understood. Two-spirited people are beginning to be celebrated in some communities, Queer people are entering the discussion and we’re telling our stories, and asexuality is beginning to be talked about as well. The challenges and dangers facing these groups are still there, but things have improved greatly. Let’s make 2016 the year we give Trans issues the attention they deserve. Let’s make 2016 the year we force the discussion about the intersectionality of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Let’s make 2016 the year we tell our legal representatives that “Trans Panic” is a disgusting and dehumanizing argument that has to be thrown in the trash where it belongs.

2016, I must admit, is also going to see me asking more questions. I intend to ask about terms that confuse me – terms like “transage,” and “trans-species.” I want to learn more, to know if my inclination toward dismissing terms I find suspect is valid or the result of my own ignorance. Humanity is complex, we are all very unique and fascinating creatures. Before venturing an opinion or point-of-view, especially for a person who chooses to live as an outspoken ally, information has to be sought out and carefully taken in.

My plans for 2016 are many, but where my Trans advocacy is concerned, I intend to ask, learn, act, and aggressively fight for the equality, rights, dignity, and acceptance of the Trans community.

Have a safe and happy New Year!

 

Hope For The Holidays

First of all, Happy Winter Solstice!

As the majority celebration of Christmas draws near, the streets, shopping malls, cafés, and restaurants are full of festive music and the spreading of good cheer. This time of year is wonderful for those of us fortunate enough to be able to enjoy it, and although I hope for a happy holiday for every one of you, I also hope for peace for those who have no home to go to.

To those who have been driven from their homes, those who have been disowned, those for whom the holiday is not a cheerful time … you’re in my thoughts. Not that it helps, but at this moment it’s the best I can do. I hope that you find a place to stay warm, for a kind hand from a stranger. And you know what? I have not lost hope for humanity. There are people doing these very things. I hope that you find a reason to smile, a reason to be you in spite of those who have hurt you; and not just for the holiday, but for every day of your life. Most of all, I hope that you find inner peace, and that you don’t give up. We love you.

No matter what celebration you enjoy this time of year, I hope that it finds you the best you’ve ever been. I hope for a safe, happy, holiday season for each and every one of you beautiful people. As for my family, we celebrate Christmas (the cultural traditions, without the religious ones). The joy that comes from sitting with my family on Christmas morning is something different, something truly special. That is my hope for everyone this holiday season. That everybody will find someone who brings them joy, someone to cherish, and a reason to smile.

Happy Holidays!  🙂

 

Caitlyn Jenner Is A Toxic Influence

If I have ever suggested that Caitlyn Jenner be considered a role model, I sincerely apologize. I defended her coming out, I stood against the mocking halloween costume, and I still hold to those positions … but I was flat-out wrong if I ever said that people should look up to her. In fact, I was wrong in my first piece about her when I suggested that, given her fame, her coming out would be perhaps the most positive thing that has happened to bring Trans issues into the public dialog. That would have been the case had Caitlyn decided to exercise a little bit of humility and act like a decent human being. But, unfortunately, she did what she always does – acted like the narcissistic and shallow person she is, and served as a device to de-legitimize the Trans community with her unique brand of privileged ignorance. Yes, I was wrong about Caitlyn if I suggested she be seen as a role model, and I’m sorry.

For those not aware of what has me so angry, here’s what Caitlyn said in a recent interview with TIME. “I think it’s much easier for a trans woman or a trans man who authentically kind of looks and plays the role. So what I call my presentation. I try to take that seriously. I think it puts people at ease. If you’re out there and, to be honest with you, if you look like a man in a dress, it makes people uncomfortable. So the first thing I can do is try to present myself well. I want to dress well. I want to look good.”

Others are outraged about this and unpacking it, and I’m going to do the same. There are so many problems with this statement that it’s difficult to decide where to start. First of all, and perhaps the most obvious point, is that the initial sentence delegitimizes Trans people who identify as non-binary. It’s clear that Caitlyn’s perspective does not include ALL Trans people, and that is problematic. Second, the entire comment oozes of privilege. The vast majority of Trans people are not able to afford the massive amount of money she spent on facial feminization surgery, etc; and to suggest that they aren’t taking their presentation “seriously” is a slap in the face. Caitlyn Jenner is so unaware of the world around her, that I shudder to think some people actually take her words to heart. Some further thoughts:

: Let’s not ignore the implication that Trans people are “playing a role.” This is perhaps the most serious problem with what Caitlyn said. I don’t know if that’s really how she feels, but if it is, that she is playing the role of a woman, what are the implications? I hate to be guilty of the de-legitimizing tactics I’m accusing her of, but given what she said I think it’s fair to wonder about her authenticity. How damaging would it be in the arena of public perception if it turned out that she really believes her own words? The most famous Trans woman in the world not a woman at all, but just playing a role? Looking the “part,” instead of looking like a “man in a dress?” I don’t want to think this. I hope it was just a poor choice of words.

: The “man in a dress” narrative is not new for the Jenner/Kardashian crew. Khloe Kardashian used it in an interview a few months ago, and Caitlyn is more than happy to just throw it around as if nobody gets hurt by what she says. “Man in a dress” is extremely harmful and transphobic, as it delegitimizes Trans women entirely. Instead of being called what she is – a woman – a Trans woman is called a “man in a dress.” This terminology is unacceptable.

: I would like to say that I hope Ms. Jenner feels ashamed of herself for doing more harm than good, but I really don’t think she cares. She’s made it clear on multiple occasions that she doesn’t care. As for making people feel uncomfortable … so what? That’s really their problem. If I choose to put on a dress and go to the mall, and someone has a problem with that, too bad. You’re uncomfortable? Try pretending to be someone you’re not for most of your life, and then tell me about being uncomfortable.

Caitlyn Jenner won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for her courage in famously coming out on the cover of Vanity Fair. She was short listed for TIME magazine’s 2015 Person of the Year (placing 7th). The reality show documenting her transition and life as Cait, is putting her thoughts and ideas on display, a dangerous thing when you think about how many struggling teens in search of information might stumble across her completely disconnected and misinformed ideas. While Hollywood and many of my fellow leftists praise and celebrate her, I simply cannot partake. Caitlyn Jenner is a self-absorbed, unaware product of privilege. She is continuously asked to speak on issues she knows nothing about, being given unearned credit as an authority on LGBTQ+ issues. She is against marriage equality, she doesn’t understand the struggle faced by LGBTQ+ people who don’t have millions of dollars to buy friends, and I don’t think she cares about them anyway. I don’t think Caitlyn Jenner cares one iota about anyone but herself, and from where I’m sitting that seems obvious.

If we are looking for Trans role models, how about Laverne Cox? How about Tiq Milan? How about the countless others who are down-to-earth people doing something positive for the Trans community? How about the Trans people living authentically and helping in real ways, instead of taking to reality TV for their own grandstanding? We have a lot of Trans role models. Caitlyn Jenner is NOT one of them.

One more thing: there is a new book out called “Outlasting the Gay Revolution: 8 Principles For Long Term Cultural Change.” Don’t waste your money on it, it was written by Dr. Michael Brown and isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. I bring it up because his primary argument is that our movement is self-defeating. When these things happen – the ‘Drop the T’ petition, Caitlyn Jenner causing outrage among the community she is supposed to be a supportive member of – people see what Dr. Brown has to say coming to fruition. I disagree of course, it seems to me that mass opposition to those ‘bad apples’ is a sign of solidarity, but the religious right sees it differently. We can’t stop Caitlyn Jenner from saying stupid things – she is a Republican after all – but we can be aware of what our opponents are saying so that we can argue against it. And one of the things we can start with is rejecting toxic influences like Caitlyn Jenner as role models.

 

“The Bible Doesn’t Say That”

Contrary to what one might assume from the title, I am not going to talk today about whether or not the Bible condemns homosexuality. I have made my thoughts on that clear from a scriptural perspective on my ‘Think’ page, and from a legal perspective in the article “2015 Talk Round-Up: Biblical Law.” Today, I offer some quick thoughts on the argument that the Bible does not tell believers to judge or condemn. You know, the whole “who am I to judge? The Bible tells us to love” thing.

Every time the accusation of self-righteous condemnation is levelled, I hear Christians responding in regard to whatever group is under scrutiny with “those aren’t real Christians. They are judging, and that’s against the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say that.” Every time I hear this, I have to wonder if those people saying it have ever actually read the Bible.

Here’s the thing. The Bible commands believers to “rebuke the sinner” (Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:3, 1 Timothy 5:20, and many more). Jesus commanded believers to “judge righteously” (John 7:24). IF you are a Christian who believes the Bible is the word of God, and IF you listen to what Christ said, and IF you look to God to determine your actions … then it IS your place to judge, it IS your place to condemn. The Bible DOES say that.

This is a pretty simplistic and brief argument of course, and it could be argued at great length from both sides. The point I am making is not that the Bible says one thing. The point is that Christians who condemn us for being LGBTQ+, or for whatever other reason, if they believe we are worthy of judgment, are just as much Christians as those who say otherwise. It is very misleading to say that the Bible tells believers only to love when that is very clearly not the case. It does say to love and have compassion, and it also says to judge and rebuke. Which part you choose to follow, if any, will be determined in large part by what kind of a person you are. Choosing to follow the love parts doesn’t make you any more of a Christian than choosing the judging parts. I’m not saying the Westboro Baptist Church is scripturally justified of course, the word “fag” is nowhere in the Bible, but the guy who told me that I am leading kids away from God, recruiting them into a life of sin, is. He believes what he said, and the Bible told him to do just what he did – judge and rebuke the sinner.

The Bible is a big book, and there is a lot of complexity to it. As frustrated as I and the knowledgeable Christians I argue with get with one another, we at least have a scriptural understanding in common. I find increasingly that pop culture rhetoric on this topic reveals both a lack of understanding of what is actually in there, and an eagerness to use it in social issue debates. The Bible doesn’t just say what we want it to. I would love to tell that guy that he is going against his own holy book when he ignorantly judges me, but he isn’t. It says what it says.

I don’t take the Bible as a moral authority, or as a book with any moral lessons that can’t be found in many other books (I can go to much older texts to find the same lessons). I study it because I grew up trying to follow it. I use my experience, and my knowledge, to help others. In addition to that, the Bible has a tremendous amount of cultural ‘pull,’ and whether or not we use it in any meaningful spiritual way is a choice those of us raised with it have to make. As a Queer person, I have Christians who love and accept me, and Christians who loath and condemn me. All of them are justified by scripture. So the next time you want to say “the Bible doesn’t say that,” think twice. There’s a good chance it does.