I am an ftm transgender person. I have been living as Jay* for some time.
Sometimes, people ask me questions about being transgender. Sometimes, I hear people saying hateful or ignorant things. I would like to try and address some of these things. This post could get long, so if you’re in it for the long haul I suggest going and grabbing a snack and a glass of your choice of beverage.
Issue the First: Washrooms.
I see a lot of people afraid that if transgender people are allowed to use the washrooms that correspond with their gender expression, then they’re going to abuse that right and peep at or harm women. I can’t speak to the experience of mtf transgender folks, but I can speak from my own experience, and it’s this: when I go to the washroom, it’s because I need to use the washroom. That’s it.
I hear people saying, well, biological sex is a thing, and if you have a penis you should go in the men’s room, etc etc. What about the cisgender men who are waiting in there to beat up anyone who doesn’t fit their idea of who is a man and who ought to be allowed to use the men’s room? They’re probably few and far between right? Well, so are the transgender people who are looking to harm you.
I guarantee you, the vast majority of trans people are just like me: all they want is to use the washroom in peace and go about their business.
When you make a big deal about it, when you say things like “you can’t come in here because you have a penis” etc, what you are really saying is “you are too different and unacceptable to be allowed to do the things I take for granted that I am allowed to do”.
Issue the Second: Feminism.
This one’s gonna suck, and I apologize in advance. Herein lie slurs and frankly hate speech, repeated for education/discussion purposes, so if that’s going to upset you, better to skip down to the next bolded heading.
Recently I heard/read some people talking about the washroom issue. There were a handful of people who were like “rock on, live and let live”, and a handful of people who were all “well, NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)”.
The people who truly scared me, however, were the ones who ranted and raved about how “blokes in dresses”** being allowed to use the women’s washroom was an affront to feminism, because it was taking away from “real women”*** and erasing their safe spaces.
For the record, a transgender woman is just as “real” a woman as any other woman in the world. Maybe she wasn’t born with a vagina, maybe she didn’t grow breasts during puberty, maybe she has a penis. But gender lives in the mind and the heart, not the underpants, and it is not for anyone but the individual (and their doctor, perhaps) to speak about.
But like I said before, I have never met anyone who ever went into the washroom for any other reason but to eliminate waste, or perhaps check their makeup in the mirror/try to get something out of their eye using said mirror.
When you say things like “trans women aren’t real women, and allowing someone with a penis in a woman only space is anti-feminist because it takes away from ‘real’ women”, what we hear is you telling transgender women that being themselves is shameful, dirty, and wrong.
Issue the Third: Pronouns and Names.
Does it really harm you that much to refer to a person with the pronouns they ask for? I don’t understand why some people have to make a point of using the wrong pronouns, even when the right ones have been provided. What we hear when you do that, is “you are not worth respecting. You are not worth being pleasant to”. Some people make jokes about it, like “you identify as he/him? Well, I identify as Overlord, what are you going to do about that?”
What we hear when you do that, is “you are a joke, not a real person with feelings”.
I chose a male name for myself. Don’t worry, I’m aware – painfully aware – that I don’t present the way I would ideally like to. Put bluntly, I look like a girl. Part of being aware of that, is knowing there’s going to be a certain amount of ignorance leveled at me. For the people who I’m spending three minutes with and will never see again? I can grit my teeth and bear it.
Sometimes, though, people can get really persistent about my name. I’ve noticed it’s usually only when I’m wearing my work uniform. On the one hand I feel like that’s because that’s the only time I wear a name badge. On the other hand, I feel like maybe it’s because since I’m in uniform, clearly representing my company, I feel less free to speak up to protect and defend myself – and members of the public feel more free to demand explanations and personal information from me.
“Is your name really Jay*?” Yes, it is. “You’re wearing the wrong name badge.” No, I’m not. “Did you play swapsies with the badges today, naughty girl?” …no, we’re not allowed to do that. “No seriously, what is your name?” Still Jay*. “Don’t be silly, tell me your name.” I’m not being bloody silly, and you heard me the first time!
If we were out on the street and you heard that my name was Jay*, would you challenge me? Would you persist? Would you insist that I was wrong or somehow trying to trick you? No, you wouldn’t, because if we were out on the street, I wouldn’t have a code of conduct dictating that I have to smile and be pleasant to you. I could tell you what I really think.
Don’t even get me started on the people who ask why I haven’t had surgery. I don’t, and shouldn’t, have to dignify this with an answer, but here goes: it’s expensive, it’s invasive, and the public health system here is backed up for 40+ years because it only does, I think, two of these a year. But while we’re on the subject, let me ask YOU a question. Since when did I owe you, or anyone, access to my medical records?
When you badger us for personal information, what we hear is, “you’re not worthy of me respecting your privacy and personal space.”
Issue the Fourth: Respect.
I feel like a lot of these issues overlap. But anyway, at the end of the day, I really don’t think transgender people are all that different from anyone else. We all need to eat, and sleep, and use the washroom. We all want to be loved, and accepted. I wouldn’t dream of asking you what you have in your trousers, because it isn’t my business – so I don’t see how what’s in my trousers should have any bearing on anyone who is not me (or my partner).
All anyone ever really wants is to be treated with basic human decency, right? I just think, like, imagine if you were waiting in line to use the washroom, and you heard people debating whether or not you should be allowed to because of some arbitrary physical characteristic that you had no control over. That wouldn’t be very fair. And yet it happens to us every single day, multiple times a day.
For some reason, it’s more important to put us in a box and keep us away from “normal people” than it is to acknowledge that we ARE normal – we’re just OUR kind of normal – and that we’re people too. Is it any wonder that transgender suicide statistics are as high as they are, when we have judge, jury and executioner embodied in every nasty small minded person who feels like taking it upon themselves to judge us?
I’m not naive enough to think I’ve changed anyone’s mind writing this post. I just wanted to get my side out there. I know that ugly is ugly and ignorant is ignorant and that very seldom changes, but I think it’s not enough to sit in my room waiting for the world to change. We have to talk about these things, and not let fear or lack of information rule.
* My name is not actually Jay. The name I chose starts with a J, and is a very traditionally masculine name, hence all the questions/comments.
** This is a slur, and I am sorry to have had to repeat it. It is reductive, relies on outdated stereotypes, and, most importantly, it is unacceptable.
*** Transgender women are real women. Transgender men are real men. Just wanted to repeat that.