HB2 and making problems where there were none

Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking about writing you a letter on this issue for a while, and I guess lucky for procrastinating me, it hasn’t blown over. Unluckily for transgender people, unfortunately, it hasn’t blown over.
By now, you’ve probably figured out I’m going to be writing about the infamous bathroom bill. I’m not a fan.
It’s been incredible to see over the past few years the gains transgender people have made in visibility and acceptance, from Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black to Janet Mock. Unfortunately, just as with the women’s rights, when a marginalized groups makes some gains and gets some visibility, there’s usually a huge backlash. We saw it with the push for women’s suffrage, as I’ve written about before, and we see it in the rise of Men’s Rights Activists and virulent online misogyny in response to modern feminism, and we’re seeing it in HB2 and hysterical fear-mongering arguments that “men in dresses” will attack children in bathrooms.
To top it off, this whole “men in the women’s restroom is a threat to women’s safety” thing assumes that all men are violent sexual predators and that gender-separated restrooms somehow keep people safe. But when I was a little girl just learning how to use the restroom, I remember you going into the restroom with me to help me out. I don’t remember if it was the men’s room or women’s (I feel like maybe it was both on different occasions?) but HB2 would criminalize either.
I’ve seen little boys in the women’s room, and I wouldn’t be upset about a father helping his daughter pee in a public restroom, regardless of which bathroom they use. Public restrooms have stalls, which is privacy enough for anyone to do their business, and no one should have to show their birth certificate to go in a stall.
On top of this bill creating problems that didn’t exist before, it also assumes gender and gender expression are black and white — or pink and blue. But they’re not. I remember a kid in my high school, a couple years younger than me, and the whole two years we attended school together, I didn’t know their gender. They were very physically ambiguous. But it didn’t matter because they’re a stranger! My guess at their gender would have no value on my life, or theirs.
transgender q
Boys can paint their nails and like dolls, girls can play baseball and hate makeup. The only thing that says otherwise are gender norms like the ones HB2 seeks to enforce, which leads to individuals who don’t adhere strictly enough to those norms being discriminated against.
And some people don’t really feel like “boy” or “girl” describes them accurately. They can shift between genders, or maybe don’t feel they have any specific gender at all. AND THAT’S TOTALLY OKAY BECAUSE WHAT MATTERS IS THAT THEY’RE PEOPLE AND DESERVE THE SAME RIGHTS AS ANYONE ELSE.
But I’m rambling now. What matters is this, Dad: HB2 creates problems out of nonproblems, and seeks to enforce binaries and create barriers. What we need to be doing though, is breaking down those barriers to create a culture of expression and acceptance.
Also, sometimes when the line for the women’s room is long, I use the men’s. It’s totally no big deal.

On Stonewall, and standing with all women

Dear Dad,

This Saturday marks a very important anniversary. You know what it is?

The 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the event largely regarded as the starting point for the modern LGBT movement. Maybe you remember seeing something about them in the news?

The riots started at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, one of the few places where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals could be themselves. Unfortunately, police would routinely raid gay bars, looking for people who didn’t appear to dress in alignment with their sex or exhibited gay behaviors. On June 28, 1969, however, the customers at Stonewall refused to comply, rioting against police abuse and catalyzing a movement. Today, the Stonewall Riots are remembered yearly as Pride celebrations throughout the country. That’s why most Pride events fall in June.

At the center of the riots were transgender women, notably and most vocally Sylvia Rivera, an outspoken advocate for queer and transgender rights until her death. Unfortunately, as gay and lesbian rights made vast strides into the mainstream, transgender individuals remained pushed to the side, facing discrimination and violence.

Transgender women of color face extremely high rates of violence and murder compared to other queer individuals, Dad, and it seems almost every week another story of a murdered transgender woman is in the news. Last week, the body of Yaz’min Shancez was found burned and dumped behind a trash can. The death of Islan Nettles in the fall inspired massive protests, but still transgender women face widespread hate and fear for their lives.

As a feminist, I believe that all women deserve to feel safe and happy, and this includes transgender women. So this Saturday, when the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is observed, I’ll be thinking of Yaz’min, and Islan, and Sylvia, and honoring them, and trying to find more ways to help and protect transgender people moving forward.