Marks: Stop policing trans bodies

People who are transgender face constant opposition when fighting for recognition. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)

When I first came out as a nonbinary transgender person, I was not prepared for the amount of policing other people would soon perform regarding my body, my looks and how I express myself. By policing, I mean trying to tell me what to do and how to do it. This is a problem that I would argue every person who considers themselves to be transgender faces.

The primary example of body policing I’ve seen is regarding bathroom policies. At home or when there are gender neutral bathrooms, going to the bathroom is not a concern. Thankfully, the University of Oregon has approximately 111 gender neutral bathrooms.  However, this is not the case for many colleges, or in public. This becomes an issue when gendered bathrooms are involved. Trans people are faced with the decision of whether they should go into the gendered bathroom that they identify with, or that which correlates to their assigned sex at birth. Often, regardless of which bathroom they end up choosing, they are met with negative responses such as staring, or even full-on confrontation. One recount of this is the incident of Dean Spade. Spade, a trans man, was confronted by police after entering the men’s restroom to use the facilities. After demanding identification and Spade’s fruitless attempt to explain that he was trans and just needed to use the bathroom, the police officer got violent and called for backup. Spade and two of his friends who tried to intervene were arrested. Unfortunately, this sort of treatment is not uncommon for trans people.

In North Carolina, the problems that transgender people already face regarding restrooms was brought to the next level when governor Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, a bill preventing trans people from using the bathroom that they are comfortable with. Furthermore, the bill restricted cities from passing anti-discrimination laws. This conservative bill is nothing more than another attempt to oppress the transgender community and prevent its people from living their truths as their authentic selves. Thankfully, McCrory was not re-elected as North Carolina governor after his signing of the bill. Whether it can be chalked up to bad treatment of the transgender community is unclear, but it was definitely partially because of how the bill affected businesses. Regardless of the reason, it is still a step in the right direction for the trans community.

Does it really matter if someone with a penis enters a bathroom designated for women? Furthermore, how would you necessarily even know unless you were to put it politely spying on them?

This brings to light another issue I have with how people interact with the transgender community. Why do people feel it is necessary to comment on how trans people present? As a nonbinary transgender individual, I can safely say that every trans person feels differently about how they choose to present themselves. There is nothing wrong with a trans man presenting more feminine, a trans girl presenting masculine or anything in between. It is only because of the gender binary that people feel the necessity to tell trans people how to present themselves. By eradicating the usage of the gender binary, transgender and cisgender people alike would feel more comfortable presenting however they choose without any fear of comments relating their presentation to their gender.

Finally, I would like to address the idea of “male” and “female” bodies. A common term for transgender people that is used when one wants to know about their genitalia is the AMAB or AFAB acronyms. These stand for Assigned Male/Female At Birth. I find this to be extremely problematic. First of all, what’s the necessity to know about and obsess over trans people’s genitalia? Unless you’re going to sleep with someone, it’s not really any of your business. Secondly, in reality there is no such thing as a “male” or “female” body. If you identify as a girl, that’s great! If you don’t feel like you’re suited to gender, that’s fine too! The point is that it really doesn’t matter how you identify as long as people respect that identity and how you choose to express it.

Ultimately, you should refrain from judging others, especially those in the transgender community. How we express ourselves and what’s in our pants is none of your business, and it’s not your place to pass judgement on us.

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