Tuesday, 14 January 2014

I have been informed today about a gap in Cumberland.

(Hand's up who's old enough to get the joke in the title of this post.)

Sometimes a one sentence answer on facebook expands and becomes long enough for a blog.  In my case it could happen frequently - and has happened often - because I type too much, in part to get my own thoughts straight.

I was sent an article that seemed hopeful to someone - and in some ways it is very hopeful and it's not an article that would have been seen ten, twenty years ago.  Progress.  Progress.  It's about life in a school in Cumberland, North Carolina where a first grader - who is transgender - is using the girls toilets.  Some people are worried by this although I'm not really sure what horrific danger this particular first grader girl poses to the fabric of society or even to the safety of other first grader girls.  The school will be acting to put a policy in place.

Here's the article:


There's more that I could write - such as about the problematic nature of phrases like "opposite gender" and the problem with bringing "sexuality" into this story.  And I'd make a guess that many of the first graders dress and behave "in a manner commonly associated with girls."  This girl does too - she just happens to be a girl with a slightly different body.  So what?  It's not her fault.

People don't worry that - shock, horror! - lesbians use the same toilets and changing facilities and even shared shower facilities as straight women.  Lesbians use them and we're not surprised to learn that nothing happens.  Nobody is endangered.  Of course not.  Why would there be any problem?  There wouldn't because there's no reason why there would.  And that's obvious to most of us.

But the thought that a transgender girl or woman might use the same facilities fills some people with horror and fear - because they see us as predators, as a danger, as perverted, rather than as someone who just wants to go to the toilet or change to use a gym, or change into a work uniform.  The rhetoric goes that transgender women want to attack people.  Fear them.  Cast them out.  They have no right to live full lives.

Thankfully a lot of people don't think like that.  Probably most women in British society don't worry if they happen to spot that I'm transgender and using the women's toilets.  I find most people admire me for doing this rather than fear me for being this.  There was a time when that wouldn't have been the case.  Progress.  Progress.

I didn't send my response to my friend on facebook.  Instead she received a minor discussion about a local, friendly Catholic parish and about liturgy - noting the logical order of the liturgy of the Mass. 

But here's my off-the-cuff, unpolished, disordered, probably controversial response to the article typed in not many minutes:

I look for a time when parents don't feel a need to be informed - because they realise that it doesn't matter - that they're too worried about genitals and too closed/narrow in their views of sex and gender to see a human being as a human being and treat them as who they are.

In the current climate of opinion it's difficult and for now it seems that parents feel a need to be informed - because obviously every transgender child should be outed to the entire community and have no choice in this, even in a community where some people will hate that child for being who he or she is.

But it's good that some schools are at last bothering to think about gender and address this issue.  It's good that schools are allowing a girl to use a girl's room.  It's good that the article calls her "her".  It's good that the child's parents have the courage to let her be herself.

"As welcome as possible under the circumstances" is nasty language though - it sounds like "hey, you're transgender so you're not as welcome as everyone else."  The circumstances are they have an innocent child in their school who should be treated like any other innocent child.  Imagine the damage that may be done to the child if she's treated differently because her body doesn't perfectly match her person.

It's progress and it will continue.  Just think, 50 years ago the argument in the USA would have been about whether to let a black girl use a toilet.  In 50 years time most people will feel just as ashamed of the arguments over gender and the dehumanising of another section of the wonderfully wideness of humanity.

For now it is the transgender person who has something to fear, not the cisgender* person.  Many have been attacked, insulted, arrested in rest rooms.  Some will not leave the house in case we need a toilet, due to experiences they've had.  Remember - we have been and still often are the oppressed.  We are not the oppressor.  Yet we are so often portrayed as criminals, sex perverts and everyone else is made out to be a victim of our boldness in daring to exist and to attempt to live in the world with everyone else.  Or we get told we're mentally ill, deranged, evil, demon possessed, abominations.

How should parents talk to their children?  Simply.  The child will not worry unless the child is taught to worry.

* cisgender - anyone who isn't transgender, whose gender roughly matches their sex - though even these terms aren't ideal descriptions because gender isn't a binary system in which you're either male or female.

1 comment:

  1. "But it's good that some schools are at last bothering to think about gender and address this issue. It's good that schools are allowing a girl to use a girl's room. It's good that the article calls her "her". It's good that the child's parents have the courage to let her be herself."

    That looks hopeful to me. Onward and upward!


Comments are welcome. But not spam and not obscenity. It's not all politeness though - religion and politics aren't banned.