Yes, I know I’ve kind of abandoned ship lately. But never fear, I shall return! I only have a month left of law school so I’m hunkering down and then joyously returning to blogging.
That said, I really wanted to get a quickie out there for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which is focusing on transphobia this year. I thought this was particularly appropriate for me personally, because in the past year I’ve been thinking a lot about gender identity and am very thirsty at this point to learn more.
Though I was always conscious of the “T” in LGBT, I think I’ve spent a lot of time being at least partially transphobic, and very trans-ignorant. The Global Arc of Justice conference really helped me understand how broad the fight for transgender rights is, though, and some personal acquaintances as well as some books I read helped clarify what gender identity is really about. There are a lot of different ways to experience gender – it isn’t just male, female, FTM, or MTF. Some people identify entirely as their “destination gender” after transition, and don’t want to be referred to in any other way. Some identify strongly as transmen or transwomen. Some prefer something more fluid, and don’t identify as trans but rather as genderqueer or something similar. Some go from being a “straight male” to a lesbian, some from “straight female” to straight male, some stay bisexual or pansexual the whole way through. Though I don’t think our society has very many set-in-stone stereotypes about gender identity, because we tend to simply cover up the variations, it’s definitely a bigger world than I initially thought, and it’s important to recognize these differences when thinking about discrimination, rights, and/or the law.
There have been some great steps in the law lately, perhaps most notably the House’s passage of the Matthew Shepard Act (c’mon, Senate!) A lot of people think of this as a hate crimes bill to protect gay and lesbian people, and it does expand our protection, but actually we’ve already got a lot of it. Trans and intersex folks have nada. So this law would be a great step, but at the same time, there are a lot of things that need to happen that aren’t happening. We need to educate ourselves about gender and not be afraid to discuss it, to ask questions, to teach our kids about different gender identities. We need to educate law enforcement (big time). And those of us who don’t really understand need to ask, read, educate ourselves, and become activists. We also need to learn to listen. I think a lot of people in the LGBT movement (myself being one) have a tendency to think we know what transpeople need (and intersex people, if we even consider their existence). We lump transfolks into the gay rights movement and then get bitchy when they intrude on our women-only space. I admit that when I first heard about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival incident, I was a little unsure about my opinion. I wasn’t sure I wanted someone with a penis in a woman-only space, because I will freely admit that I hate and deeply fear the penis at this point in my life. But on the other hand, well, that’s my problem. I need to get over it, or not show up. We don’t have a right to identify as women if we’re going to exclude others who choose to do so. My own acceptance is coming along slowly, and I appreciate any help from trans, intersex, and genderqueer folk who have advice or opinions, but I also know that it’s not your responsibility to fix my fuckups. I think we all need to take responsibility for the discrimination and plain stupidity we’ve exercised in the past, and figure out how to do better in the future. Hopefully this year’s IDAHO focus will be a strong first step.