Emily DeTar, Traces of Privilege, 7
Across the country we are talking about transgendered people. But not for all the advances they have helped in our history, or for their accomplishments, but in an argument over whether or not they can use the restroom. Amidst such news, it’s very easy to see that I have cis-gendered privileges.
Cis-gender is term for those whose gender identity matches the gender and sex they were assigned at birth.Cis-gender is different from those who are transgender, people whose identity matches a specific gender different from the sex assigned at birth, or those who are genderqueer, those who fall on a spectrum, or between different gender identities. There are many other kinds of gender identifications and names, but these are the three most widely used and known terms for those whose gender identity differs from those assigned at birth.
There are constantly privileges for those who are cis-gender, but particularly for those whose gender falls neatly into the divide of masculine and feminine. Simply think about the routine of your day. I have never questioned whether I look enough like a woman. I have never had to feel it was wrong to be a woman. There are clothes designed to fit my body type and to showcase my gender identity that are easily available. There are bathrooms designated for my gender. I have never been questioned about using a bathroom. I have never had a doctor look at me and then decide to refuse service, because they couldn’t take care of concerns related to my gender. When I talk about my gender, I have never had someone immediately ask about the size and type of genitals i have. While I may have been called names because I am female, I have never been perceived as threatening, other-ized, or assaulted because my appearance didn’t align with my perceived gender.
But over and above all of this, is the recognition that I “fit”. I am more than just a cis-gendered woman, but one who likes to present as feminine. That means that all the messages, the pink dolls, the wedding dresses, the constant advertising for yogurt or sleep medicine, and the all magazine ads have told me that I “fit” what it means to be a woman. I have never had to grow up constantly feeling that when it comes to my gender identity, I didn’t "fit".
Transgender and genderqueer persons are consistently told that they don’t “fit” by the subliminal messages and now by the outright laws of our country. These bathroom laws are more than just the peace and privacy of a very intimate bodily need, they are about how transgender and genderqueer persons are dehumanized.
Take the testimony Maddy Goss, a transgender woman from Raliegh who was interviewed by CBC news:
“I think the one thing that's really important to understand about all of this is in the United States, people are trying to pass these bathroom bills by using the trans person as bogeymen, perverts, child molesters, people lurking in bathrooms. No, trans men are just men; trans women are just women. We just want to use the bathroom in peace and live our lives.”
Or take the words of Candis Cox from Raliegh, who quit her job over the humiliation of constantly being forced to use a handicap restroom where she worked since she couldn’t use the restroom of her preference:
"I want people to see I am no different than anyone else. I'm a Christian, I have strong faith. I volunteer as a Wake County Guardian Ad Litem, which is a court advocate for abused and neglected children, but people don't ask me about that. I pay taxes, I go to the grocery store, I have my family who I love, I worry about things. I don't have weird sexual fetishes, I don't have some criminal background, I wasn't abused. I'm an everyday, day-to-day normal person."
The constant dehumanization, and ugly portrayal of fear-based stereotypes has more dangerous consequences then possibly using the restroom. These statistics are taken from the HRC website.
- 90% of transgendered persons reported harassment at work.
- 70% of transgender and genderqueer persons reported being discriminated by health care providers.
- 20% said they were not served equally by law enforcement.
- 40% of black gender nonconforming persons and 45% of Latina/o gender nonconforming persons were denied access to homeless shelters when they needed them.
As Unitarian Universalists, we are call to dismantle and destroy the narratives that make any one person seem less than fully human and worthy. Our believe in every person’s inherent worth and dignity goes beyond simply believing in people. We demand that everyone feels fully human. The kind of fear-mongering and hate-filled language that demonizes others is not acceptable. Which is why laws like House Bill 2 in North Carolina are more than humiliating for gender nonconforming persons, they are hate laws. May we all work to erase laws like this and the open discrimination and criminalization of gender non-conforming persons.
This is part 6 of an ongoing series, "Traces of Privilege," which explores privileges I possess, and what my faith as a Unitarian Universalist calls me to do about them.