Hello Cis People, Let’s Talk Bathrooms

I don’t normally blog about trans issues. Why don’t I blog about trans issues? Well, I’m a cislady. I’m like, really really cis. So I figure it’s not my place, not my job, to run my mouth about trans issues. Instead, I do my best to elevate trans voices when I can, and I stick to writing about what I actually have expertise in.

CONTENT NOTE: homophobia, transphobia, and brief mention of rape. Plus lots of swears.

Apparently that’s like, ranting about kids and gender and one children’s album. I’m comfortable with that.

But, we have to talk about all of the bathroom shit (pun intended!) that’s going on. Yesterday, on twitter, I learned of an Oxford, Alabama law even more heinous than the North Carolina law we’re* all pissed (again with the potty puns!) about. Essentially, this law is in direct response to Target choosing to allow trans folks to pee where they’re comfortable. It makes following Target’s policy, or just your own judgement when you have to pee in any store or other public place, a crime for trans people.

Let’s all pause to look at a picture of a cat.

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I think we all deserved that break!

 

Ok, now I am speaking specifically to cis people. Everyone else, you’re free to stay, or free to spend the time you were going to spend reading this looking at even more cat pictures. It’s a big internet out there, enjoy yourself. Cis friends, family, and others, listen up.

This law is literally evil.

This law puts our trans brothers and sisters, and non-binary siblings, in a truly impossible situation. You probably already know this! But for real, we are talking, in many cases, about having to choose between risking assault and risking arrest, just to pee. That is utterly and completely terrifying and you and I cannot imagine what making that decision must be like. These laws are dangerous for all trans people, yes, but they are most dangerous for trans women and for trans people who do not “pass” as men or women. And bear in mind, when you think about this, that the murder of trans women has already been on the rise in this country.

Look, when the fight for “marriage equality**” was going on, some trans folks were upset about it. Lots and lots of cis people, gay and queer folks who wanted their marriage certificates (hey I get it!) but also straight allies, felt like trans people were just complaining. They were just muddying the waters, they were deflecting attention from the struggle. Look, we collectively said, we have to fight the good fight in some kind of order! Marriage just happens to be the thing we are fighting for right now! We will totally do your rights next!

But that hasn’t happened.

The broader LGBTQIA has not, as far as I can tell, regrouped to fight our asses off for trans rights and safety after winning our marriages. Instead, what we did was, we celebrated, and then we went to brunch or something.

That fucking sucks. That’s not ok. We have to do better.

I’m not articulating myself very well because I’m extremely emotional about this.

These bathroom laws, they aren’t really about bathrooms. There is a segment of the population in this country that is extremely uncomfortable with anyone who doesn’t do gender roles the way they think gender roles should be done. We often call these people homophobes, but that’s really a shorthand, because there’s a lot else going on there than just fear of gay-ness. These are folks who are deeply invested in the power structure of the patriarchy, and they don’t want to see it upset. These people fought tooth and nail over the marriage stuff, because as misogynists, they couldn’t see how a marriage between, for example, two dudes, could be anything but unnatural. Yes, they were overly fixated on their own fear of butt-sex. But also, to them a marriage has two distinct roles, roles that are defined by gender, gender that is defined by sex.

They lost the marriage fight, and they’re not over it.

And they’re taking it out on the people who are easiest to scapegoat.

Not only are they doing that, but they’re using the fear of rape to accomplish it. Because the claim behind all of these bills is the same: Some trans women have penises. Some penises commit rape. Your wives and daughters are vulnerable while they’re in public restrooms. Some trans women might just be dudes who are lying about being trans to get access to the bathrooms where your wives and daughter pee so they can rape them.

That’s scary. It scares people.

It scares people who weren’t necessarily afraid of trans people peeing before. It’s designed to do that. It’s created by people in power to stir up their base and terrify them. It is talking to those people on the ground who are vaguely afraid of gender roles not being followed “properly” and saying, “yeah, not only are they ruining marriage, but they might rape your daughter.”

And it’s a fucking lie.

Of course, the point isn’t just to keep trans women out of women’s restrooms. The point is to stall the movement. The point is to hit back, hard, after they lost the marriage thing. The point is to create a culture where trans people are not safe, and especially a culture where non-binary and non-passing trans people are not safe. The message is clear. Fit in, look normal, do the gender binary and do it well, or stay home. They’re trying to turn back the clock and put people back in closets. Of course, they can’t turn back the clock on the marriage thing, so they’re doing it to the most vulnerable among us. That would be: transgender women, non-binary and non-passing trans folks, and intersex people. They are not stupid, they know how power hierarchies work, and they know we won’t fight as hard for those people as we did for middle class white gay men.

We have to prove them wrong.

If we don’t fight for the safety of our trans siblings, then we are nothing but hypocrites and cowards. If you were in any way a part of the struggle for marriage equality, you don’t get to sit this one out. We have to make this our fight and we have to do it now, before it gets any worse. And it is going to get worse.

I know, we are all tired. I know, our oppression is not limited to one area, but occurs on intersecting axis. For those of us who are queer, and don’t have the incredible fortune  to have every other privilege on the planet, we have to spend a lot of time and energy fighting oppression, sometimes just to stay afloat. For me, I’ve got queer/femme/woman/parent/poor/fat to deal with. And in reality, I’m getting off easy, because I’m white.

But we have to take up this struggle. Don’t wait until it becomes “your issue.” What if you sit this one out, because you’re tired, and then three years from now your child comes out as trans? What if your lover does? Hell, what if your mom comes out as trans? You literally never know. We need to try to make the world safer for trans people now, not when it personally effects us.

Especially especially especially because, regardless of what we said, the fight for marriage equality has in many cases made trans folks lives harder, not easier.

***

Ok, that’s great. But what can we do? I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I’m going to share some ideas, but I’m sure I’m missing things (feel free to add to the list in the comments). I think it boils down to leveraging whatever privileges and abilities we do have to help in whatever ways we can, however small.

1.Talk About It With Other Cis People!

Cisgender people are often unaware of trans lives and the threats that trans people face (that is how privilege works). One thing we, as cis people, can do, is be super super clear about our stance on trans issues. If you have relatives who are grudgingly ok with the gays, but skeaved out by trans folks, tell them that’s not ok.
This means more than just sharing memes talking about how stupid bathroom bills are on Facebook. It means having the conversation. It means asking questions. It means piping up when someone in your life says something transphobic. It means doing the emotional labor that our trans brethren are exhausted from doing all the damn time.
“Oh, I can see why you are uncomfortable in public restrooms, lots of people are! But trans people have been using the restroom for a long time without incident, and statistically they are actually more likely to be assaulted than cisgender people. I think your fears are misplaced in this case.”
Your privilege as a cis person gives you the ability to have these conversations safely, even if they’re uncomfortable, and that isn’t always the case for trans people.

2. Always Always Always Use People’s Correct Pronouns When Discussing Them

While you are having those conversations with other cis folk, you may (or may not) want to be somewhat gentle with them. If they’ve never met a trans person (that they know of) they may need a serious case of trans 101 even if they aren’t malicious, and that has to be ok! But you should never compromise on a trans person’s pronouns.
If someone refers to a trans woman as “he” or “it” correct them. Do it every time. You can do it without being a jerk, but still be firm. If they say they have a hard time using correct pronouns (I hear this one all the freaking time!) then say something like “yeah it just takes time and effort.” Putting in the time and effort is part of being a decent human. Using incorrect pronouns purposefully is a form of violence against trans people. Under no circumstances should we condone it, and we definitely shouldn’t engage in it ourselves to make cis people more comfortable. I guarantee you it won’t get your transphobic loved one any closer to accepting trans folk, in fact the opposite is true.

3. Give Money If You Got It

Here is where you can donate to Trans Lifeline. They’ve seen an increase in calls due to the anxiety and fear caused by terrible bills and laws like these (which is, sadly, part of the point of them). If anyone knows where else to give money PLEASE PLEASE share it in the comments and I’ll add it to the post.
And let me just add that if you felt it was important to donate to the cause of marriage equality, and you aren’t sure if you’re going to donate to anyone about this, maybe you should seriously rethink that? (Unless of course, you’re facing severe economic hardship that you weren’t facing back then.)

4. Call/Email Elected Officials

If elected officials are considering anti-trans legislation, contact them. Elected officials want to be elected again in most cases, which means that while they’re more than happy to do lots of shady things for money, they do actually care what voters think of them. If you can, tell them.

(If anyone has numbers/email addresses we can add to this, let me know and I’ll add them!)

5. Uplift And Boost Trans Voices On The Issue

Yes, we need cis people to be talking about this, but that is not all we need. We also need to hear directly from those affected by it. Cis people who do not see trans folks as fully human won’t do so if they never hear from trans folks themselves. As long as trans people are a hypothetical idea to them, they’re free to demonize them. And besides that, trans people deserve to have a voice in their own issues, just as anyone does.

(I need to take my own advice on this one, will add links here later, feel free to share in comments.)

6. Be A Bathroom Escort

I just learned about this on twitter! If you are a cis woman, you can offer to be a bathroom escort for trans women who feel unsafe. This is probably most applicable in places with these heinous laws, but even in places without, this conversation is contributing to more vocal transphobia and I wouldn’t be surprised if trans women all over were feeling pretty unsafe right now.

If you are in Detroit, and I’m where you are, I will pee with you.

7. Do Not Try To Make This About Cis People

I am seeing a lot of cis people responding to these heinous laws with things like “not only trans people but also cis people who don’t look butch/femme enough could be affected!”

Stop. It.

These laws are bad all around, yes, but they are specifically aimed and keeping trans people unsafe in public spaces and that is what we need to talk about. Yes, they may have side effects that hurt others, but those people will have recourse, and also benefit from an overwhelming amount of privilege that trans people simply do not have access to. When you move the focus off trans people affected, and make it about cis people, regardless of what your intent is, it sounds like you are saying that the problem with these laws is not that they put the most marginalized of us in danger, but that they might also negatively affect a privileged person.

Stop it. You know better than that. Trans lives and experiences matter, and they should be the first thing that matters when they are being attacked. And y’all, this shit constitutes an attack.

***

That’s all I got right now, but I’m %100 sure I missed things so please let me know where my blind spots are. Let’s be kind to each other. Here’s another cat picture, a couple notes below that.

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Notes:
*if you’re not pissed off about HB2, I’m honestly not sure why you’re here? I’m assuming that if you are reading, you’re a decent person.
** I put “marriage equality” in scare quotes on purpose, because the marriage equality movement did not create actual equality in marriage. What it did, was to expand marriage rights from a narrowly defined exclusive group to a sight more broadly defined (but still exclusive!) group. We need to not forget that.
*** This should go without saying, but I will not tolerate any anti-trans sentiments in the comments. That includes “devil’s advocates” and people just bringing shit up “for the sake of argument.”
**** If I fucked something up, trans folk are MORE THAN WELCOME to let me know in the comments. I’m trying hard, but I am an imperfect ally. Happy to make changes and issue an apology if I made a misstep.
***** These laws are aimed at trans people, and that’s primarily what I’m discussing here, but it should be remembered that they are probably JUST AS DANGEROUS for intersex people in most cases.

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