Hey folks, welcome to a Random Writing Friday, the last Friday of the month where I post a finished piece from my writing archives instead of a Finding Dragons WIP (or more recently, Neeka WIP) piece. Today I’m sharing an op-ed article I wrote last year that I’ve updated to reflect recent events. I was limited to 750 words because of submission guidelines, but it was never accepted for publication (since I’ve never been published before… sigh).
In this article, I focus on the specific issue of trans* student safety, but there are many more issues facing the trans* community, so I encourage you to check out some of the links at the bottom of the post for more information.
Despite Random Writing Fridays being the only day I might not post a dragon picture, today I was lucky enough to find this beautiful dragon that goes perfectly with my article. This Transgender Pride Dragon is part of a larger LGBTQ+ series by artist Kaenith and found at their Tumblr The Land of Ink and Charcoal. All of their art is amazing, and the dragons are gorgeous — I was completely blown away, I couldn’t love them more. I’ll be sharing more of Kaenith’s Pride dragons in June for LGBTQ+ Pride month, so stay tuned!
Now, without further adieu, here is my article. It’s a sad topic, which makes me even more thankful to have Kaenith’s beautiful art to cheer me up.
Willful ignorance about trans* issues has real consequences
Written by Jamie Lyn Weigt, September 2015, updated March 2016
While there have been many positive trans* stories in the news lately (“trans*” is an umbrella term that refers to all of the identities within the gender identity spectrum), there has also been a corresponding uptick in the number of people choosing to be willfully and even maliciously ignorant about the realities of trans* life, especially when it comes to trans* students.
Recent legislation passed in North Carolina and proposed in many other states indicates a dangerous trend of promoting regressive and harmful transphobic stereotypes, when instead we should be focused on helping and protecting trans* youth and adults from verbal and physical abuse.
I recently overheard two older, professional-looking people discussing a story from last year of a transgender (they used the offensive term “gender-confused”) high school girl, who had won her court case and was now allowed to use the women’s restroom and locker room at her school. The older woman commented that she was “all for tolerance,” but that couldn’t “he could use his own bathroom,” instead of being “in there with the girls?”
It got worse when the man nodded and replied, “They allow this, but then they’re also concerned with campus rape? How are you going to have it both ways?”
I knew the news story they were referencing. It had made the congratulatory rounds in my liberal, LGBTQ+ social media circles at the time, a major win in the struggle for equality. The student in question had been born male, identified as a gay boy through school, and was now socially transitioning to female and identifying as a straight girl in the early steps toward full transition after high school.
Who did this man think was going to get raped by letting this student use the girls’ bathroom?
I realized that they, and many others just like them, were only thinking in terms of binary sexes and genitalia. If one has a penis, one must be desperate to put it into any vagina that wanders into range, gender identity and sexual preference be damned. It made me wonder if the man and woman I was eavesdropping on were romantically involved, and if he was thinking about raping her constantly.
Even those with huge public platforms intentionally perpetuate harmful and misleading ideas about trans* people. Former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee famously inferred some sort of nefarious underlying trans* agenda when speaking about a similar case: “I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE,” Huckabee said in a speech in February 2015. “I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’”
Equating gender-nonconformity with perversion is just one of many tactics used by transphobic people to stigmatize and dehumanize the trans* community. This type of rhetoric has no basis in fact and only appeals to the lowest common denominator, those who are set in their prejudices and will never look further into the issues at hand.
The sad reality is, transgender students (and all trans* people in general) are more likely to be the victims of sexual violence than any other demographic. A 2011 study released by the National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force titled “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey” found sickening rates of abuse reported by trans* students, including “harassment (78%), physical assault (35%) and sexual violence (12%).”
Worse yet, “[t]eachers and staff members, whose job in part includes ensuring student safety, [are] too often the perpetrators of harassment and violence in K-12. Thirty-one percent (31%) of the sample reported harassment by teachers or staff, 5% reported physical assault by teachers or staff and 3% reported sexual assault by teachers or staff.”
Those are chilling statistics that need more reporting and more discussion, so we can focus on making schools safer, more inclusive environments for trans* students, rather than making life harder for them when they need to use the bathroom.
I believe we should all try to open a dialogue with anybody who chooses to stay willfully ignorant of trans* realities, or worse, who use malicious ignorance to forward their own agendas. We must remind anyone we witness being transphobic that there are real people behind these headlines, facing real issues, and it’s up to us to stop the cycle of ignorance and hate.
Links to more information:
Zinnia Jones at Gender Analysis has some great articles, including:
Bathroom Bills: Dehumanization and Control
Bathrooms and locker rooms: the transgender witch hunt
This post is copyright © Jamie Lyn Weigt. All rights reserved. Please do not share without credit and a direct link back to this post and my site, writingdragonsblog.com.