Here I am on an average Monday. My hair is all messy, pulled back into pigtails, and I have visible stubble on my face because I haven’t shaved for 2-days.
I am well aware that I do not “pass”. Even I acknowledge that while I am quite femme in how I dress, I by no means meet the standards or expectations that cis people have of how trans people “should” look.
For those who know me very well, this isn’t surprising because unlike the trans individuals that are regularly featured in bathroom selfies, in trans activism graphics, or throughout news and social media in general, I am non-binary.
If you don’t know what that means, it’s okay. Society is largely fed gender, as well as trans visibility, through a binary lens of striclty “feminine” and “masculine”, “woman” and “man”, or “female” and “male”. Non-binary, genderqueer, or gender diverse individuals, on the other hand, live their lives with gender identities and/or gender expressions that are not exclusively masculine or feminine. They exist somewhere between, or even completely outside of, the gender binary and cisnormativity (the social, political, and institutionally reinforced assumption that all human beings are cisgender, or, wanting to be perceived as cisgender).
Honestly, I have no desire to pass at all. My transition has largely been social up to this point but it will soon include some combination of HRT (hormone replacement therapy), laser hair removal, and/or breast augmentation.
Overall, how I identify and express my gender will continue to be non-binary even as I make the changes to my body that I need in order for me to be happy and healthy in it. It really is that simple.
So, to summarize: while I am rather femme, and my body WILL physically change to have breasts and less body hair, I am not a “woman” or a “man” and I will not identify, or seek to pass, as either of those identities.
I know that all of this is very hard for many cisgender, and even many binary trans people, to understand. But the truth is that I don’t need you to understand. What I need is for you to acknowledge the simple fact that everybody is built differently.
You don’t have to get it. Just respect that I know my body and gender better than you do… and I need to poop.
In fact, everybody needs to poop… except for maybe Kim Jong-Un, who is said not to poop… and who supposedly also talks to dolphins.
But everybody else does and that includes two-spirit, non-binary, genderqueer, bigender, gender fluid, agender, and gender nonconforming people.
Problem is that as cis people loose their collective minds about trans people in public washrooms, trans advocates and activists almost exclusively rely on images of cis-passing binary trans folk as their playing card to (A) convince cis people that trans people are just like them, and (B) convince cis people that trans people are not scary or dangerous.
Meanwhile, non-cis-passing trans people, as well as everybody who identifies between or outside of the gender binary, continue to face profound amounts of harassment and violence in public washrooms. Further, they usually find themselves at the center of the struggle as cis people use them as a reason to keep all trans people out of bathrooms, while advocates and activists seem more concerned with asserting that “trans women are women” rather than showing actual support or solidarity for those who don’t fit the binary.
So, while I don’t speak for all two-spirit, non-binary, genderqueer, bigender, gender fluid, agender, and gender nonconforming people, here are some things that I need from fellow trans advocates and activists:
1. I need trans advocacy and activism to stop ignoring (and making excuses for ignoring) the existence of two-spirit, non-binary, genderqueer, bigender, gender fluid, agender, and gender nonconforming people.
Aria Ehren wrote: “If visibility is indeed the path to acceptance, then we need visibility that improves the lives of all transgender people. What we’re getting right now falls far short of the mark. The ‘tipping point’ won’t truly have been reached until that occurs.”
If years from now when, perhaps, public discourse has shifted from its current state of outrage to one of acceptance for trans people in public washrooms… but only binary gendered, passing individuals are being accepted by the cisgender and heterosexual majority… than what good has that really done for the trans community as a whole?
Which leads to…
2. I need trans advocacy and activism to be intersectional, and to stop reinforcing harmful gender norms and cisnormativity through almost exclusively presenting white, cisgender “passing” trans women and trans men as the standard for gender diversity; or, as the single most at risk individuals in public washrooms.
Ashe McGovern wrote: “For trans people of color, who are generally overpoliced and surveilled, as well as feminine-presenting people who don’t “pass” as men or women, racist, femme-phobic, and sexist acts of violence can feel like an inevitable risk with every trip to the bathroom — or elsewhere.”
In summation: placing white, able-bodied, binary, cis-passing trans men and trans women at the center of advocacy and activism against anti-trans bathroom bills is an immense disservice to gender diverse people experiencing racism, ableism, or more, in addition to transphobia.
We should be universally condemning gender policing under all circumstances, not framing acceptance as white, passing, and binary. Which leads to…
3. I need bathroom activism selfies to stop reinforcing the notion that trans people only deserve respect and privacy in binary gendered public washrooms when they visually “pass” as cis enough to be deemed worthy of “belonging in there”.
Ashe McGovern said of bathroom politics selfies: “… these visual tactics reinforce the idea that one can determine by looking at a person in which bathroom that individual ‘belongs.’ This places masculine-presenting women, feminine-presenting men, and nonpassing, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming people who, like all humans, need to use the bathroom, at even greater risk.”
And that’s a big problem. Rather than saying: “gender policing is wrong and dangerous for everybody,” bathroom politics selfies almost exclusively frame debate around how gender policing legislation is problematic because it affects white, binary cis-passing trans people who are being forced into the “wrong” bathroom. It’s far too narrow a perspective.
The next time somebody brings up a non-passing person as justification for anti-trans bathroom policies or bills, rather than circumventing discussion of that individual take the time to acknowledge that they deserve to safely use the washroom that best aligns with their identity too. No passing required.
4. Most importantly, I need to be able to use the washroom without being relentlessly insulted, harassed, intimidated, or threatened; all because I don’t pass enough to take a dump in any gendered washrooms.
If all of this is starting to sound a little repetitive, good. Please read it again, and again, and again, because I cannot stress enough how important all of this is.
The methods employed so far by most trans activists and advocates are simply falling way short.
This post was featured on Schmutzie.com’s Five Star Mixtape for May 4, 2016.