New law advances transgender rights in California: Guess who’s complaining?

pout1122Yesterday Governor Jerry Brown of California signed into law Assembly Bill 1266, which alters the state’s education code so that all K-12 student are “permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs, and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.”

Starting January 1, 2014, every bathroom, locker room, sports team, or school activity will be open to every student at that school, be they born boy or girl. What will then officially matter isn’t what gender a kid is physically, but rather with which gender they most identify.

If, though born with boy parts, I identify as a girl, then the girl’s restroom or locker room belongs to me, too. If I possess a girl’s body, but have the heart and soul of a man, then guard your equipment, football team, cuz I’m comin’ in with towel a’ snapping’.

Meanwhile, Jerry Falwell is spinning in his grave so fast he’s worm-holed himself into another dimension. [Tweet this.]

Back in this dimension, though, Jerry’s fellow Christian conservatives fought this bill tooth and nail. The organizations listed by the state as opposing AB 1266 are four: Capital Resource Institute (Christians [barely] pretending they’re not so they can get more government money), Concerned Women for America (ditto), Traditional Values Coalition (ditto), and California Catholic Conference (pfft: like they need money).

So it’s Christians who most object to boobies in the boy’s room and badoinkers in the girl’s. Apparently no one else—or no one with an organization, anyway—cared to fight the bill.

Once again it’s Christians waving high the banner of “Stop Talking About Genitals and Stuff! Girls in Pink! Boys in Blue! Everybody Straighten Up and Fly Right!”

(Oh: one thing that’ll probably get lost in the noise about AB 1266 is that as much for anyone it’s for teachers and school administrators, who can’t keep getting stuck having to make case-by-case decisions about students’ extremely personal, delicate, and complex gender identity issues. It’s fair to ask teachers to enforce rules; it’s not fair to ask them to make up the rules as they go—and especially not about this issue. Talk about being above your pay grade.)

So now we Californians are (legally! whoo-hoo!) obliged to accept girls who identify as male occupying the same locker room as their varsity football teammates, and boys who identify as female elbowing for space at the mirror in the girls’ bathroom.

Love. It. Fair is fair. Though, again, I know all of this causes many Christians paroxysms of penile-paralyzing panic.

Which I understand, of course. Who doesn’t? The world is, after all, every day becoming more confusing. We’re all just trying to keep up. I’m currently struggling to understand how to stream Amazon movies onto my TV. I can only imagine struggling to understand why it’s okay if Jane calls herself John and uses the boy’s john, with all those junior Johnsons everywhere.

See? This is why I spend so much time watching movies. Or it would be, anyway, if I could figure out how any of this dangnabbit new-fangled technology works.

Life. Has it ever been more about the proper plugs, sockets, and wiring?

Anyway: Conservative Christians! Stop trying to stop history! Stop fighting against all people being treated with equality, kindness, sensitivity. If you want to fight something happening in America, fight poverty. As of 2011, 2.8 million American children were living in extreme poverty, with 16.7 million of them living in food insecure households. I don’t recall Christ ever saying one single word about transgender people. But I know he said a whole bunch of stuff about how terribly sinful it is to leave people in poverty.

 

(Thanks to our friend Lymis for his great help dialing in this piece.)

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Dallas Jenkins

    Love you as always, John, but come on. Surely you see why this is worthy of a fight…would you really want your 7th grade son able to walk into a girls locker room? Do you really think that the solution to confusing gender issues is to blur lines and create more confusion and opportunity for kids in their formative years to experience and try to navigate through this?

    • Elizabeth

      I went to an arts school. We all walked into dressing rooms and saw one another in various stages of undress. And, even as horny teenagers, we didn’t judge what we saw. We had a job to do, whether it was dance or theatre or modeling for an art class. We didn’t see blurry lines. We saw people as fragile and strong and plain as ourselves. Seeing it made it simpler, not more complicated.

      It’s about time adults do that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Dallas: Gender issues are already confusing. The only hope now is to unconfuse them by simply accepting and normalizing what’s actually happening with people, rather than continuing to pretend that what’s happening isn’t. Kids are already getting bullied to death, literally, for no reason better than that traditional models for sexual/gender identity so utterly fail today. So we adjust. We open up our perceptions, our ideas, our definitions. We try to anyway. It’s all about time. You might have trouble with this adjustment. I might, too. But your great grandchildren will marvel that anyone ever used the phrase “confusing gender issues” at all.

      • http://Fordswords.net David S.

        Preach! This exactly.

    • spinning2heads

      Dallas – Let’s be real here. In order for your hypothetical 7th grade son to be allowed in the girls locker room, he has to become your daughter. Your child has to take on a girl’s name and identity, wear the girl uniform and/or clothes, use female pronouns. Your daughter has to endure the bigotry that will undoubtably rain upon her, as a trans person; the teasing, the beatings, the outright hatred of peers and the othering stares of adults. Do you really think a boy, your 7th grade son, would do this to himself? I don’t, and I think if you understood what was at stake for the transitioning child, you wouldn’t either. Only your daughter would do that. She would do it in order to become herself. And once she was, would you really like your daughter to be kicked out of the girl’s locker room? That’s the real question.

      • Jill

        This.

      • lzhiu

        I love this response.

        No cisgendered young man or woman is going to spend time, energy, or emotional and social capital in order to slip into the other restroom. As a middle school teacher: if they are so determined, they will find other opportunities to be creeps, that will not necessitate standing up to a homophobic and cissexist norm. Let me tell you about the hallways during passing period sometime.

        And also as a middle school teacher: don’t underestimate the kindness and capacity of young people when they are given the right framework to approach issues of queerness and genderqueerness and difference is general. If the school environment is one that encourages honesty and self-identification without challenge, it is that much easier for the peers of trans* students to accept it as no big deal. (Real life quote from my classroom: “Bruh, it’s just a pink bow. Haven’t you ever seen a hair clip before? He can wear whatever he wants – it’s a free country!” So, minor misunderstanding of the bill of rights; major points for standing up for a classmate.)

        • http://Transparently.ca Lisa Salazar

          Thank you lzhiu, you have added something to the conversation. What is missing in this response stream are the voices of the young people, both cis and trnsgdender, who have already experienced what is being discussed here theoretical and hypothetical trems and can tell us from their positive experiences this was the rightnthing to do. And to all of you who are expressing concerns, if you listen to young trans persons speak for themselves, you will see how wise beyond their years and how full of grace they are…considering how difficult their lives have been.

    • Maria Seager

      This is for kids who self-identify as another gender. Yes, I am sure that some one will try and “be other” to cop a peek, but that’s what teachers are for. You don’t get to be trans gendered for 5 minutes. Doh!

  • Linda MB

    This is such a big step, I am ever hopeful that this will continue and we can ever improve our attitudes. Good for California.

  • Mark Bay

    Guessing conservative don’t pee in Europe ever. Not so many gendered bathrooms in France and after the first time even most Americans live through it.

    • Lymis

      I’m guessing that they don’t pee at home, either. Who has men’s and women’s restrooms and showers at home?

      • Jill

        :)

  • Amy Rueter

    This is a hard one for me with regards to a locker room setting, NOT a restroom situation. I can only speak from a girls perspective, but a young girl changing for PE is traumatized enough by other girls seeing her, how will she feel in front of a girl who still looks like a boy? It’s very complicated. I’m trying to see this from the perspective of a parent of a Trans kid. I’d most want my Trans kid to be able to change in peace, and the best solution for that might be a separate space. I mean, how traumatizing for a girl in a boy’s body to change in front of girls….and maybe this is the step needed to take that fear away? Just thinking out loud.

    • Jill

      It’s true that it is complicated for a cis-entitled world, that doesn’t like differences to the status quo, to wrap our minds around it as yet. But I’d wager there has been enough shame pumped into the atmosphere of gender-assigned education that children brave enough to stand up, own their true sex, and use the restroom that matches their identity are equally capable enough to handle themselves with dignity and appropriateness. The kid that overcomes all that scrutiny and ridicule to make that choice to cross gender lines had to endure more than we’ll ever understand. It’s easy to forget the transgender kid is the one most likely to feel the minority/odd person out status.

      I hear what you’re saying about the separate rooms, but I can’t help but think of the constant message being given to trans people– you don’t fit in, you’re “other”, keep you separate, etc. It only feeds the fears that cisgender people have to not normalize this. Cisgender people need this to happen almost as much as transgender people do, IMHO. I’m only thinking out loud as well.

      • http://Transparently.ca Lisa Salazar

        I like your way of thinking.

      • Lymis

        I’m gay, and for me, being in a locker room was a mortifying exercise in getting showered as fast, or faster, than humanly possible and getting the hell out of there before anything happened, either with my own body or with someone getting the idea that I had something on my mind.

        I have to assume that for trans kids, especially trans teens, that’s going to be equally true. Kids are often vicious to people who are different, and I don’t think it’s the trans kids who will be eager to display those differences, especially not in some pushy or traumatizing way. Remember, these are kids who spend a huge amount of their personal awareness working to fit in as much as possible. I doubt they’re going to choose the times when they are naked in front of others to push the issue (unless pushed).

        • kimberly_r

          I was born intersex, but did not undergo surgery at birth. As a result, I look quite different “down there.” For some reason, my parents elected to identify me as male – perhaps they thought I would “grow out of the problem” (no!). I was never told about this directly, and had to learn about my difference beginning with the first day of gym class, and the communal shower afterwards.

          After that day, I was bullied to no end, and verbally and physically abused. I avoided locker rooms like the plague, and only used the toilet when I knew nobody was there. If somebody came in, I just sat in the stall until they left. It was only when I transitioned and was able to use the women’s facilities that I finally felt safe. Forcing kids to use “biological only” bathrooms is a very, very bad idea – the scars left on the child are deep, and took me nearly 15 years of therapy to overcome mine. Even so, I still have trust and security issues that crop up to this day.

          Anybody who identifies as trans is going to do everything in their power to fit in to their preferred restroom, and they will thank God for being allowed to do so.

          • Matt

            Thank you so much for sharing, Kimberly. It’s good to hear from an intersex person who has transitioned–their voices sometimes get marginalized even in the transgender community. Thank you for surviving what must have been pure hell, and living to tell about it.

    • Maria Seager

      The girls who have issues with this will simply change in the bathroom stalls. It’s what we all did at various times throughout high school. Plus, I have friends who can change their clothes with absolutely nothing being exposed. It’s the most amazing thing EVER. More girls will learn how to do this. Not to mention, this is California and if you’ve ever driven around any of our beach areas, there are kids stripping under towels and pareos all over the place after swimming and surfing. It’s just what is done.

    • Lymis

      Wouldn’t it make more sense to provide some privacy within the space, rather than forcing specific, already marginalized kids into some different space entirely?

      Some of this honestly reminds me of the discussions of the inevitable horrors that would follow the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Western society was coming to an end because people couldn’t figure out shower curtains.

      Trans kids are not the only ones who might be less traumatized in school by having a chance not to be naked in front of everyone else.

      Remember too, that for the most part, outside of things like all-state championships or other similar situation, this is all happening around people who know the trans person all day, in social settings and as an actual person. This isn’t some random set of genitalia wandering in to the locker room, this is their classmate who they know as a person, with all the complexity and eventual familiarity that involves.

      • vj

        “Trans kids are not the only ones who might be less traumatized in school by having a chance not to be naked in front of everyone else.”

        Exactly! I always HATED changing in front of others (and I still do – I go to the gym in my workout clothes and shower at home afterwards…). This actually put me off participating in sports altogether – I would SO have appreciated a completely private space!

    • Anakin McFly

      Where do you draw the line, though? Why should it only be the trans girl’s presence that is more traumatizing; what about the regular girls who look like boys, or the trans boys?

  • http://allegro63.com sdparris

    As one who’s been to a men’s bathroom..well the line to the ladies was long and the men’s hadn’t seen activity until AFTER I settled into a stall. (thanks to one of my kids who was supposed to be standing guard), I do have to say, that the nay sayers on this are making much out of essentially nothing. Everybody poops. Does it really matter if its segregated?

    These are kids. Most will self segragate, a few will find it more comfortable in the more gender neutral setting, after a brief adjustment period, things will settle down. And this being kids we are talking about, a lot of curiousity will ensue, only to realize that the boys bathrooms have fewer stalls and they are just as gross about toilet habits as girls. All this, despite that most kids are already using a gender neutral bathroom at home. After a few months, kids will simply pick the least crowded bathroom to hide out in during that dreaded math test they forgot to study for.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

      It would be nice if parents pointed out that boys and girls have different anatomy and lessened the gender seperation issues that permeate our culture. If we stop telling kids, “no only girls do that” or you can’t play that you aren’t a boy”. We teach kids early on that you are desperate because of gender and therefore unequal. As a result neither really understands or respects the other as we could.

      Then when you throw people who don’t fit into the gender paired mold, it just adds more confusion.

      • http://allegro63.com sdparris

        seperate, not desperate…why I try not to comment via “un”smart phone.

      • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard
        • Elizabeth

          I thought the same thing when a friend recommended a women’s writing group: “But I don’t write with my vulva.”

          • Jill

            I’ll say it again, what would I do without you???

  • mike moore

    I think we give so little credit to kids. I was in HS in the mid-70′s, and my coed crowd was always seeing each naked … changing clothes at the beach, changing clothes after riding, skinny-dipping, sun-bathing (girls topless , but still pretty racy for Reagan Country) … and, if anything, there was less sex&weirdness among my friends than was typical for HS. (ok, maybe not less sex, but way less weirdness.)

    The dorms at UCSB, circa 1980, were like a nudist colony. And from what I can tell looking at my own dozen nieces and nephews, the older kids are even more comfortable with each other’s nudity than we were.

    Count on conservatives – Christians and others – to put their time and money into ensuring kids don’t catch a glimpse of boners or boobies, rather than trying to ensure those same kids eat.

  • SciFlyGal

    In my high school, all the bathrooms were open, in a sense. The bathroom was just a short hallway with sinks on one wall, and toilets on the other. The toilets were individual rooms, floor to ceiling walls on all sides, as opposed to the metal seperated stalls in normal bathrooms.

    There wasn’t a door to the seperate bathrooms, you can look from the hallway and see the sinks. There were seperate areas for boys and girls, but really it was all the same.

    In our gym locker rooms there were no communal showers, just a bunch of individual shower stalls, floor to ceiling again. We mostly used them for changing, as they only gave us 5 mins to change out and get to our next class. No time for showers/drying hair/fixing makeup.

    Maybe if more places had such open, yet private bathrooms, then there would be less of a problem overall. It instead turns a bath’room’ into an open hallway where people just wash their hands.

    • Lymis

      Oh, common sense. Harumph.

    • Maria Seager

      Now this is brilliant and might help reduce lines for “women’s only” bathrooms in public forums overall.

  • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

    NH was considering a bill like this a few years ago, and such politi-christian (I really want that term to catch on … can we make that happen?) groups as Cornerstone Action and the state Republicans in general called it the Bathroom Bill in derision, trying to pretend that it was all about letting men go into the ladies’ room if they wanted to.

    It’s interesting how obsessed with genitals and perverse uses of them fundies and conservatives in general are. It’s especially interesting in light of the fact that no one else ever seems to think of these depravities. Transgendered people just want to go into the appropriate restrooms. Somehow that becomes an opportunity for kiddie-peeping in the minds of self-appointed champions of purity. I guess I’m not perverse enough to be a moral champion …

  • ~Sil in Corea

    Skinny-dipping was a tradition when I was raking blueberries in the 1950s, so people have been seeing each other naked for a long time. It’s only in anal-retentive areas of America that it’s a big deal. Go into any Japanese bath house or Finnish sauna and see how natural nudity is for most humans.

    • Lymis

      It’s those Puritans in our collective background. Just look how well we as a culture handle alcohol compared to some others.

    • Courtney

      Japanese bathhouses are still segregated by sex; women go to one room, and men to another. As someone who’s lived in Japan for years and LOVES a trip to the public bath, I’ve only ever heard of one that was co-ed, but it was more like a swimming pool and bathing suits were mandatory.

      I agree with many other posters here that have expressed concern about this legislation. In theory, I think it’s fantastic. In practice, however, I worry about the safety of transgenders as well as non-transgenders, such as a physically female student being attacked in the boys’ locker room, or a male predator being allowed into the women’s restroom. Change has to start somewhere, though, and I think this is definitely a step in the right direction. I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s implemented.

  • Brian W

    Oh, to be in high school again, co-ed showers would ROCK!!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      whoops: wrong response!

    • Anakin McFly

      I don’t know what goes on in American schools when it comes to teaching reading comprehension, but this bill is kind of about… preventing co-ed showers.

      • Elizabeth

        In US high schools, reading comprehension is minimal and no one takes showers after gym or dance class. That’s not sarcasm, that’s public school as I knew it.

  • PS

    From a rational/pragmatic perspective, I’ve got a problem with this. Bullying is still a huge issue in school and so is personal safety – sexual violence in particular does not discriminate according to age or gender.

    Before anyone says “Oh come on,” I know this from personal experience – an ex-student my age left graffiti in my grade school bathroom threatening to rape me when I was around nine years old, bad enough that it had staff on standby to protect me, and that was a *private Christian* school. I was also the target of frequent bullying from first grade through the end of junior high.

    Kids pick up attitudes from their parents. If their parents are up in arms over this bill, you’d better bet they’ll start noticing if Jill starts entering the boys’ locker room and will probably have a snit over it too. Yes, a number of parents will be tolerant, maybe even have the foresight to sit down with their children and have a serious discussion about what this means and how important it is to respect their peers, that bullying and violence are the mark of a weak person.

    Unfortunately I’m not that confident, and unfortunately I’m aware a lot of parents handle their children reporting bullying the same way mine did – “You’ll always have to deal with people like that, so just suck it up and ignore it.” Even back when I was a kid, before we heard in the news about students poisoning, torturing, raping, even killing their peers simply because they didn’t like them, that was stupid advice. Ignoring doesn’t create a magic force field that makes the bullies spasm and pee themselves like they got hit with a taser and fall to the ground if they come too close to you or if they type your name in Facebook to troll you.

    But parents are going to give bad advice on how to deal with bullies and abusive little $#!+$ anyway. They’re going to let it slip that they think this law is an outrage and say what they’d do to a transgender person if they had the chance anyway… and their kids are going to hear it and absorb that. Some will reject it and think their parents are idiots for not being more tolerant. Others, well, they are the ones who worry me.

    Do I think, in concept, that this is an unwise bill? No. As others have pointed out, other cultures have had mixed-gender bathrooms, dorms, locker rooms, etc., and they handle it just fine. Someday we will too…

    Until then, however, I’m going to worry. It doesn’t help that I did a quick search of the bill for the words “safe(ty),” “protect,” and “enforce,” and came up with no results.

    Yeah, hooray for progress, but what do you do to ensure we don’t end up with another Brandon Teena tragedy? We can’t even make our military get its act together over its own rape scandal and we’re talking about adults who supposedly get trained with values surrounding discipline, honor, and character, for crying out loud.

    • Lymis

      Your concerns aren’t unwarranted. Bullying is real, and trans kids are unusually subject to it.

      But I don’t see how forcing children to use the bathroom that is NOT associated with their gender identity and presentation will make bullying less likely. I’ll agree that this bill may not do everything possible to stop it, but it’s certainly one among many positive steps.

      Without this bill, someone who identifies as a girl, dresses as a girl, speaks and acts like a girl and is otherwise accepted as a girl might be forced to use the men’s room. How would that not just make her even more of a target for bullies?

  • Rici

    “So now we Californians are (legally! whoo-hoo!) obliged to accept girls who identify as male occupying the same locker room as their varsity football teammates, and boys who identify as female elbowing for space at the mirror in the girls’ bathroom.”

    I imagine you meant this to be tongue-in-cheek, but it’s a bit sexist, just the same.

    Enjoyed the rest of your response.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Note to self: never post on transgender stuff … . What, again, is sexist about suggesting high school girls could/should/can play on high school varsity football teams, or that transgender teenage girls might like putting on make-up with their girlfriends?

      • Elizabeth

        Bad John. Girls can’t play football, and boys in girls’ bodies can’t either. As far as cajones, you should see the politics at the girls’ room mirror. -_-

      • Maria Seager

        I think it may have been the suggestion that what a boy who identifies as female wants to do is limited to putting on make up.

        I didn’t read the comment in that manner, but I can see how it may have been read that way. So, to be less “sexist”, may I suggest:

        “So now we Californians are (legally! whoo-hoo!) obliged to accept girls who identify as male occupying the same locker room as their varsity football teammates, and boys who identify as female occupying the same locker room as their varsity basketball teammates,”

      • Rici

        As a girl who fully identifies as a girl, I still don’t want to be reduced to simply wanting to vie for mirror space with my fellow girls, that’s all. I think a lot of people automatically jump to that image when “female” is mentioned, but many girls, natural-born, transgender, and the like, have loftier goals, deeper aspirations, and larger problems than competing for mirror time. It makes it sound like the most important problem girls face today is their looks.

        • Elizabeth

          Newsflash: I’m a lot more than my looks, too. From society’s standpoint, the most important problem we face is our appearance. That’s not an endorsement, that’s a fact of life. M-to-F trans face a much harsher battle than F-to-M in terms of hate crimes, for starters.

  • Soulmentor

    I feel kinda disturbed by this. Seems to me it’s too vulnerable to abuse by voyeurs quite aside from the overall discomfort it will cause among certain venues like toilets and locker rooms. Many of you know I’m gay and I’m empathetic toward transgender persons, but this strikes me as a step over the line that is going to cause serious social difficulties and possibly even unrest.

    This seems like a very unnecessary action. A young man with transgender feelings is still physically male, after all, and the opposite is equally true. I think this is going a step too far and opening a Pandora’s box of trouble. I think even a LOT of gay people will have serious reservations about this action.

    • Maria Seager

      Hmm. It seems to me that this is too far because it isn’t your issue. Women’s public bathrooms do not have place for people to pee publicly. There are only private stalls. Thus, perhaps what should happen (and smell wise should have happened YEARS ago) is that men’s bathrooms should not have public places for urination either. This way no one is looking at anyone’s bodonka donk and all is good.

      • Lymis

        Trust me, men don’t go waving their assets around in public toilets, either, and on the rare occasion that they do, it’s rarely taken well. My guess is that, like most gay men, transmen are more concerned with getting in and out of the restroom without incident than having a chance to peek at anyone else.

        If men are properly using a urinal, nobody sees much of anything. If you get rid of urinals, everyone who needs to sit sits in strangers’ pee. It seems a serious overreaction to remodel all men’s rooms for an issue that there is absolutely no reason to believe will actually happen.

      • Soulmentor

        Not my issue?! Thankfully not, but that’s not the reason for my reservations. If you’ve seen my writings, you know I’m more thoughtful than that. My concern is this; that sometimes PC does push beyond rational and practical. Just sayin…..

        • Anakin McFly

          I have the same concern, but I see nothing about this particular issue that is not ‘rational and practical’. The opposite, in fact.

    • Lymis

      ” This seems like a very unnecessary action. A young man with transgender feelings is still physically male, after all, and the opposite is equally true.”

      Isn’t the question less about their feelings and more about their identity – in this case, specifically, their public identity?

      I agree with you that a boy with transgender feelings who still identifies as a boy, dresses as a boy, and presents a male identity to the world belongs in the men’s room and men’s locker room. But if that same person embraces a gender identity as a girl, identifies as a girl, dresses as a girl, and presents a female identity to the world, then it’s only fair to let her use the restroom and locker room that matches that gender identity.

      I have no doubt that a lot of gay people will have serious issues with this. So? A lot of straight people have serious reservations about my marriage, my employment, my being allowed to raise my husband’s kids, and what the two of us do in private.

      Gay people who have issues with transgender rights and equality don’t get a pass, and aren’t the defining say on the internal experience of trans people, any more than straight people get to tell us who we are supposed to be.

      • Matt

        I just wanted to say thank you, Lymis. Especially when I learned that you were the one who alerted John to this story, my respect for you increased tenfold. It’s sad that the reality is all is not peaceful support and unity under the LGBT umbrella, despite the crap we collectively go through. Christian groups use this against us too–the Focus on the Family “article” on transgenderism begins: “For decades, gay activist leaders worked hard to keep those who called themselves “transgender” or “transsexual” as far out of the public eye as possible. By their own admission, the last thing they wanted was a bunch of “drag queens” and cross-dressers to scare away potential allies and ruin any hope for their community to achieve its political goals.” It’s sadly one of the few things FOTF says about us that is true.

        Just thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your kindness and grace.

        • Lymis

          Um… I’m not the one who alerted John to the story. Please don’t think less of me!

          • Matt

            I won’t; it was just a misunderstanding. You’re still a really cool guy in my estimation.

  • Allie

    No problem with this on grounds of sexual identification. I do have a little problem with physical fairness, however. Girls’ sports are predicated on the fact that girls are physically inferior in almost all sports. If you feel like disputing this, go compare world records for males and females in a given sport, then come back when you’re ready to talk truth. After puberty, women are substantially handicapped in most physical competitions.

    It’s a handicapping system, and just as it’s not fair to allow a 17-year-old first-grader to compete against 6-year-olds, it’s not fair to allow a man to compete against women, even if that man likes to wear skirts.

    There are some potential solutions. One would be abolishing sports altogether. Studies have found that they train students to be sociopathic cheaters. Another would be abolishing women’s sports. Let those women who can hold their own against men compete against men. In fact that’s my preferred solution. Another would be basing who gets to participate as a “woman” on the amount of testosterone present in the individual’s system. That sounds icky.

    • Ivar Husa

      Maybe do as some colleges do with intramural sports. You play in leagues based solely on skill level, not gender. Long live D-Leage Hockey at RPI!

      • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

        I’m sorry, you’re making too much sense.

        If you do stuff like that, then you run the risk of being reasonable and not being able to spout off about how, on average, men are this and that and women are such and such. As if that matters. No sports team is looking for me, regardless of average stats.

        I’m pretty sure that the D-league hockey team would have laughed at me.

    • Lymis

      A transgender girl is not a boy who likes to wear dresses. She’s a girl. And as a girl, she should be allowed equal access to thing the other girls are.

      Unless you are going to set some standard for athletic inability that caps being allowed to participate in women’s sports, and apply it to all women, I don’t think this is fair.

      Women are, on average, shorter than men. Are you going to ban unusually tall girls from the basketball team, too? Where do you draw the line?

      Unless there is some sudden upsurge in male-identifed men who make a gender transition for the express purpose of getting into women’s sports, I think this is a red herring.

      • Matt

        I honestly don’t think that this is going to be an issue. You’d be surprised at how much transgender people bend over backwards to fit in and not draw attention to ourselves. My partner is a trans woman, but she played for the boy’s baseball team before physically transitioning. I played women’s lacrosse and volleyball in high school. We were both miserable, but we enjoyed sports a lot, and we wanted to play however we could.

        We’re acutely aware of gender issues, because transitioning is an all-consuming process. Transgender girls *know* that they have more upper body strength than other girls, and that actually embarrasses them rather than is something they’re very proud of and show off at every opportunity. It’s one more marker of “boy” that they don’t want and seek to correct through hormone therapy.

        Honestly, I wish some of the “concerned citizens” could listen in on a bunch of young transgender people talking amongst themselves, which tends to devolve into “Do I look like a proper man/woman today? Do I ‘pass’? How are my clothes? Hair? Facial hair, do have I too much or not enough? Am I sitting/standing/walking/talking/behaving like a real man/woman? Are my hobbies too masculine/feminine? I feel so ugly today, I feel so lonely and out of place, and I am so jealous that you got to start hormones/have surgery! How does it feel? I am sad because my family kicked me out/some kids beat me up or called me names/my parents wish I had never been born.”

        And so on and so forth.

        • Jill

          This is one of the very many reasons why you are a prodigiously gifted writer, Matt. You communicate truth in an emotionally engaged and connective way. I learn so freaking much, incredible.

      • Allie

        A transgendered person with XY chromosomes has the same physical advantages over a person with XX chromosomes as any other person with XY chromosomes. Hormone treatment, early enough, reduces those advantages but does not eliminate them.

        The issues surrounding transgendered people aren’t going to go away if we just all pretend transgendered people are exactly identical to cisgendered people. They aren’t. As much as I might like it to be true, there is no sex change operation which can physically turn a man into a woman or vice versa. At our present state of medical technology the best we can offer is an approximation. If that’s harsh, it’s nevertheless true. Just as a person born without limbs can’t be given real limbs, a woman born with a man’s body can’t be given a real woman’s body.

        • Matt

          I take extreme offense to that, Allie. What is a “real woman’s body?” One that can reproduce? One that can have vaginal intercourse? One that “looks as woman should?” If you knew even half of what my partner and my trans sisters have had to go through, you would feel sick at what you just said.

          The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ report of 2010 anti-LGBTQ violence found that of the 27 people who were murdered because of their LGBTQ identity, 44% were trans women http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/07/70_percent_of_anti-lgbt_murder_victims_are_people_of_color.html. Yet they are only about 6% of the LGBTQ population. I think it’s ideas about “real women” that cause such high rates of violence.

          Furthermore, trans women aren’t looking to be given a “real woman’s” body because they were already real women the moment they realized who they were. The point of medical treatment is to give them a body they can be more comfortable in. In that case, they are no different from cisgender women who undergo plastic surgery to treat a painful medical condition or just cosmetically. We don’t define a cisgender woman by her uterus and take away her femininity because she has it removed. Why do we define trans women by their genitals or body? Why do we make an extremely difficult process that much harder by telling her from the get-go “You’ll never make it, so don’t even try?”

          What is the point? So that you get to exclude less than 1% of the overall population from your special little club of woman-ness? Well, I don’t call it harsh, as in realistic. I call it horribly and unnecessarily cruel.

        • Lymis

          “A transgendered person with XY chromosomes has the same physical advantages over a person with XX chromosomes as any other person with XY chromosomes. ”

          I’m sorry, but you must have met different people than I have. I’ve met plenty of women who are stronger and more athletic than plenty of men. You speak as though there is no overlap in the spectrum of men’s and women’s physical strength or athletic ability.

          I’m XY and cisgendered, but I’m not stupid enough to try to claim that I could beat a female Olympian, or, honestly, that when I was in high school, that every member of the girls swim team, basketball team, or volleyball teams wouldn’t have trounced me. I can’t outrun a woman who’s trained for marathons, and I’m not going to challenge a female martial artist to a fight.

          The only reason your concern would matter is if boys were declaring themselves to be transgender purely for the purpose of getting on the girls’ sports teams, and even then, only if they were better than the other girls. I’m sure that there are transgender people who are athletes at the top of the game – one early trans pioneer was Renee Richards, and she was a professional tennis player. But given the statistics – the low percentage of trans people in the population, and the low percentage of professional athletes in the population, that combination is going to be necessarily extremely rare, and hardly a reason to bar all trans girls from participating in sports.

          And of course, your logic wouldn’t even begin to apply to trans boys – by your logic, they’ll all be inferior athletes compared to their peers. What’s your basis for barring them?

    • Anakin McFly

      We already have this problem though, with intersex people, as well as those who may or may not be considered intersex – like an otherwise ‘regular’ woman who might have male levels of testosterone. Likewise, I’ve known of at least three trans women who apparently had standard female levels of testosterone before any medical treatment. So it’s pretty hard to have an objective standard. :/ Currently, in professional sports, the official criteria for trans people is 2 years on hormones before they are required to compete with their gender.

  • Maria Seager

    Love this post. Most especially this comment made me spit water “paroxysms of penile-paralyzing panic.” Love the alliteration with the “p” sound.

  • Matt

    A little note: Transgender people have always existed. We are not “opening up” ideas about gender; society is finally acknowledging our existence. Had an X-ray to check for tuberculosis lately? You can thank Dr. Alan Hart, a transgender man who was born in 1890. He spent his life fighting tuberculosis, implementing public health programs and advocating for better treatment for those in the advanced stages of the disease. The first British transgender woman to undergo surgery (Roberta Cowell) also served her country as a fighter pilot in World War II.

    I am so proud that California has taken this step, even though it’s not in my home state. I get so tired of hearing about the beating, rapes, and murders. I get tired of being afraid to use public restrooms even as an adult. This is welcome news indeed.

    • http://Fordswords.net David S.

      Thanks for inviting me into your world, Matt. I still have a lot to learn. But please know I’m listening. It’s your voice and voices like yours that will end the ignorance and intolerance. We’re all on the same path here.

      • Matt

        David, you always make me feel so welcome. Thank you. I love showing people that transgender folks are way more than the bodies God saw fit to give us. If you’re interested, here’s a site that does just that: http://wehappytrans.com/. It’s a site dedicated to sharing positive trans* perspectives, and is run completely by transgender people. Hearing my brothers and sisters share about the people who have supported them the most, what they enjoy the most about transitioning, etc. always lifts me up when I feel down.

      • Anne

        I have to echo David’s response. It’s difficult for me to truly conceive of what it’s like to be transgender. I guess we all have to filter the experiences of other people through our own lenses. I really try to live my life knowing that it’s all shades of grey, and there are many shades that I personally cannot see. Thank you for taking the risk of showing all of us.

        • Matt

          It’s so funny, because I don’t know what it’s like to be cisgender! It took me some time to realize that yes, girls actually like their breasts, and I didn’t because, you know, guy.

          • Anakin McFly

            ahaha thiiiis. >_> I remember once going on a long rant to my mother about how breasts suck and I didn’t understand how anyone could like having them and I hated them for being useless lumps of flesh that just got in the way and anyone who liked having breasts was stupid. She got kind of upset and angry, which is totally justified.

      • Jill

        Isn’t Matt astounding? He blows my mind with his awesomeness. His patience never runs thin with all my cis-privilege screw ups and gaps in my education.

  • juju123

    My concern with this is about children who have been molested or have issues with similar with members of the opposite sex. Having someone of the opposite sex could be very traumatizing. I was molested by a boy when I was little and having boys that close to me in that way would have scared me so much.

    • Anakin McFly

      I hear what you’re saying and can understand. But trans girls aren’t boys; and people seem to keep forgetting about trans boys in these discussions, and how I doubt any girl who has been similarly traumatized is going to be any more comfortable sharing a bathroom with a kid who presents male in every way and is known socially as a boy but just so happens to have a vagina. Which they aren’t going to see.

  • Cindy Christ

    What most christians were complaining about on the discussion board I was reading yesterday was that anybody could say they are transgendered just to use the other bathroom.

    While this is not disconserting to me, I was wondering?

    How is it determined who gets to use the “other” bathroom?

    Can the teachers enact rules which make transgendered “register” first, or can a regular boy who just wants a peak at the girls bathroom use it whenever he wants.

    I am more curious than concerned. Any comments?

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Cindy. I’m not trying to be insensitive, but do you really see young boys saying to the teacher, “I’m a girl,” as a way of peeking in the bathroom? Maybe once out of a thousand. IMHO registering gender smacks of Nazism. That said, I know how proud a friend of mine was when he got his first ID as a male. It was a big deal.

    • Lymis

      I sincerely hope that they put out guidelines to answer the question. But I do note that the law talks about gender identity, and the right to use the facilities and resources associated with one’s actual identity.

      That’s generally a significantly more involved process than just announcing one day that you’d like to shower with the girls, especially if you decide after that shower that, golly, turns out you were wrong and you’re still the boy you’ve always identified as up until then.

      And I would certainly hope that such guidelines don’t allow for the situation where someone is allowed to declare a gender just for the purposes of restroom use but no other aspect of life.

      Sure, some smartass is going to try to pull exactly this. And it won’t be surprising if someone somewhere has their right-wing parents put them up to it with their lawyer on speed-dial and a camera crew ready.

      Something similar happened in Massachusetts when a right-wing parent tried to claim that the opt-in sex ed law meant that the teacher couldn’t use a book with no explicit sexual discussion, just gay characters in class, and staged a situation where he had to be removed from the school by police. We’re still hearing about that one years later (skewed to make their anti-gay point more clearly, of course.)

      But for the most part, this will likely benefit genuinely transgender kids far more than it will be abused by other kids, and over time, how to handle misuse will get sorted out.

      • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

        This rule also seems more about privacy. If a young child is allowed to behave, dress, etc., as the sex they identify with, the other kids generally won’t know that they’re not that sex, will they?

        • Lymis

          No, but first, it’s probably not completely possible to hide a child’s birth gender, not even if you move once the child starts presenting as the new gender – and most kids don’t start doing so before school starts, so any school records from earlier grades are likely to indicate it.

          I can’t speak for the parents, but I’d assume that being open about it, even if discreet, and even if only with the administration, is likely to be far less traumatic than the consequences for the child if they somehow get unexpectedly outed.

          But yes, it would be easier to “forget” and just treat the child as being of the gender they identify with if they aren’t singled out for special treatment when it’s time to pee or shower.

          • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

            That’s what I figure!

    • Anakin McFly

      Elsewhere on a similar thread, a trans woman wanted to know what kid would come out as trans – with all the harassment, bullying, mockery, violence and other horribleness that tends to follow such revelation – solely for the chance to get into the other bathroom. I’m trans (ftm) and it took me ages to get up the courage to do that, and deal wih all the other crap that comes with being trans in society; bathrooms were a reign of terror for much of my life, where going to pee in public meant opening myself to the risk of being screamed at (often, before I switched to the male facilities) or beaten up (not yet, though I once got threatened with a purse, and that was pre-transition when vocal conservative Christians would have insisted I should have been in that women’s bathroom.) I cannot fathom someone willingly going through a fraction of that pain if they weren’t even trans to begin with. If being a pervert is the goal, there are so many easier ways for them to be one. Not that I’m condoning any of them.

  • John Gragson

    “I don’t recall Christ ever saying one single word about transgender people. But I know he said a whole bunch of stuff about how terribly sinful it is to leave people in poverty.” Amen.

  • Scott Scrimshaw

    Love following your posts! We focus too much on the external. If only we (Christians) could remember the old sandwich commercial and translate it to God: ” I only like the insides”…

  • Mike

    I’m a Christian, and I don’t have a problem with it. Your not really a Christian if you do have a problem with it. Hating on “Christians” is a problem…kind of like saying all (insert race here)

  • MaryKaye

    Gender-segregated sports have a lot of issues. There are always people who want to play in a sport not available to their gender, and it’s unfair when they can’t. There’s a very strong tendency to fund and support male sports more than female sports, which is obviously unfair: not only does it negatively impact female athletes, but it means that the sports teams which are often the public “faces” of the school are disproportionately male. (I eat at a hamburger joint near the local high school which is decorated with team photos of the most prestigious HS teams–every one of them male-only. Not much fun for a female athlete.)

    I’d very much favor throwing open all sports to both genders. If a sport is too dangerous for one gender, maybe it’s just too dangerous. I do co-ed martial arts as a 50-year-old woman; I get bruises and scratches, and last spring one of the teenage guys stomped my toe so hard the toenail got infected and fell off, but that just comes with the territory for both sexes.

  • MaryKaye

    My one beef with this story is that, throughout, it refers to trans youths by their biological gender and not by their presenting gender, which sort of buys into the idea that it’s the biological gender which is “real.” My understanding of my trans* friends is that the presentation gender is what’s real to them.

    We hit this head-on in a women’s spirituality group where one of the participants was a transwoman. Or rather, we hit nothing–everyone agreed she was welcome, and she was an awesome asset to the group. There was a slight initial uneasiness that she might have been socialized to interrupt or talk over other women, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem. And that was equally true for those of us who had known her pre-transition and those who hadn’t. I found I stopped thinking of her as male very quickly.

    I’d like to share her quote on this, from a newsletter article she wrote: it was roughly “People say that I’m confused about my gender, but I don’t experience any confusion; I’ve known what gender I was since I was very young. Other people, however, are definitely confused about my gender.” She was a very solid, wise, compassionate presence in our group and I’m glad I got to know her. She struck me as one of the least confused people I’ve ever met (I cherish to this day her advice about breathing when overwhelmed by feelings).

    • Anakin McFly

      Love the quote! And it’s true; I’ve often wondered how trans people could be said to be confused about our genders. The whole reason we’re trans is because we aren’t confused. People generally don’t risk everything to come out based on something they’re uncertain about. It takes a heck lot of prior conviction to do so.

      • Andy

        Those people have it backwards. Trans people don’t conform to their vision of humanity, so they insist that trans people are confused; that there’s no distinction between gender and sex, and that everyone should identify with the genitalia they’re born with.

        Kind of ironic, isn’t it?

  • hadenuff

    So if you’re bisexual you’re born that way. If you’re gay, you’re born that way. If you’re pansexual, your born that way, if you’re heterosexual you’re born that way. Don’t buy if for a minute, show me the genetic proof

    We are socialized and psychologically influenced in one direction or another, (not always intentionally) and so we end up with a direction based on that. Checking out our genitals and how children come into being it stands to reason and lines up with nature that as species we are to relate to each other sexually man to woman. So please, if that’s not what has resulted from your upbringing, get some therapy so you can come into line with the cosmic order of the universe as it relates to human beings and stop messing things and kids up with your pc ideas about sex and gender

    • Elizabeth

      Cool! I so don’t do PC. I was born a woman. I’m fully woman. I would never not be a woman. I’m straight(ish), and, frankly, kind of a babe. Since I could talk, people told me I thought like a man. Why? Too stubborn? Too smart? Too verbal? Too much like my father? We’ll never know. What I do know is that your assumptions on gender and sexual identity are garbage.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      had: so we’ll put you in the “Complaining” pile, then.

    • Anakin McFly

      People keep using the term ‘genetic’ like they know what it means. No, there’s (currently not much, but some) genetic proof for sexual orientation and gender identity is more. But we were all still born that way. ‘genetic’ and ‘socialized’ are not the only options there are, and when it comes to LGBT identities, in-utero hormones are currently considered the most likely culprits. Which means people are born that way. And it’s not genetic. SCIENCE.

      Also, intersex people. While I generally do not advocate checking the genitals of people who are not yourself or in a sexual relationship with yourself or your infant kid or someone you are medically responsible for, if one were to actually check the genitals of human beings, we’d find a lot more variety than the two standard types. I hear that there are actually five naturally occurring human sexes, chromosome-wise.

    • http://thethreews.wordpress.com Ken Leonard

      Show you the genetic proof?

      Why?

      What difference does it really make to you how someone else lives, anyway?

      How does it affect you, other than that you just don’t like what other people are doing? In which case I ask if you can prove genetically that there is some reason why it should bother you and you shouldn’t just be made to get the heck over it.

      I have never had a crush on, much less dated, a woman who wasn’t brown-haired and had other certain traits in common — shorter than average, among other traits in common.

      I don’t know if that’s genetic or something else. And I don’t care. I simply acknowledge that that has always been my preference.

      And I don’t care if anyone ever finds a genetic tie to sexual orientation. I guess I’m not convince that we, as spiritual beings, are nothing but blobs of genetic data.

      Isn’t it ironic that the people who are most likely to deny the relevance of biological evolution are the ones who now the ones who insist that something as important and spiritual as love must be controlled by nothing but biochemistry?

      • Anakin McFly

        “And I don’t care if anyone ever finds a genetic tie to sexual orientation.”

        Then you’re ignorant to how huge a difference it would make in favour of LGB rights if such concrete proof were ever found, and in genes no less (because for some reason people think that anything non-genetic, like fingerprints, are a choice).

        For starters, it would mean the end of one of hadenuff and co’s favourite arguments against LGB people. It would cause a lot of anti-LGB people to have to seriously rethink their stance, perhaps change it. It would put an end to reparative ‘anti-gay’ therapy unless they treat patients at the genetic level, which doesn’t seem possible at the moment. It would put huge pressure on anti-gay laws that operate on the assumption that being LGB is a choice.

        And because of that, I would care. I would care a lot. It would be one of the happiest pieces of news I could ever conceive of hearing, and do a tremendous amount of good for LGB people in the world.

        • Matt

          I honestly don’t think finding a tie would change their minds one bit, if they didn’t want to change them. The religious right in the US is more than happy to ignore every scientific study put out by the APA, AMA, and all of the other scientific organizations out there regarding LGBTQ people. A tiny faux-society called the American College of Pediatricians was even founded solely in reaction to the American Academy of Pedatrics’ endorsement of adoption by gay couples, and is routinely quoted to given a professional gloss to the far-right’s junk science. Evangelicals moved from “pray away the gay” to “love the sinner, hate the sin” as soon as the former was proven untenable.

          We’re not dealing with actual science, which by its nature wants to improve on itself and replace theories that no longer explain our observations. We’re dealing with politics, fueled by parts of Christianity that are livid that their time of death-grip on this country is at an end.

  • otter

    I’m not trans, just garden variety butch, but as I age I look mor like a guy and sure do get stared at in the womens bathroom. It makes the straight gals and me both uncomfortable. I sure woild hate to have to have coped with this as a youngster. As usual, THAT brand of Christian just seems hellbent on denying others compassionate treatment. Karma awaits……

  • Elizabeth

    Hey! As long as John’s in his secret dugout, y’all might like this one. A few rules on trans etiquette written by a pseudonymous blogger friend. http://slantist.com/chelsea-manning/


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