Trans 101 for Wobblies, part 2: Challenging assumptions & misconceptions

Part 2 in the series on Trans issues by Boston IWW member Fey, originally appeared here.

I’m glad to have gotten some positive feedback on the last trans 101 post And so, onward we go.

Part 2: Challenging assumptions & misconceptions

1. Trans people are not “really” their gender.
Wrong! Some trans people will say they became their current gender, but a lot of trans people will say they were born as one gender. Please respect our experience. More on this in some of the other points below, but let’s get this basic concept stated first.

2. Sleeping with a trans person challenges your sexuality.
Sometimes wrong. If you are a straight man and you sleep with a trans woman, you are clearly still straight. Something about her, not her anatomy, attracted you to her. However, if you are a gay woman and you get into a relationship with a trans man, many if not most trans men would feel disrespected by qualifying the relationship as “a lesbian relationship.” If your sexual experience with a trans person makes you uncomfortable, consider what it is about you that may have made it seem peculiar, not just what it is about your partner.

3. Trans people have an obligation to disclose whether they’re trans to have sex.
Wrong! Sometimes disclosing it can more dangerous than risking the possibility of a “surprise.” If a trans person’s so-called “failure” to disclose that they’re trans or have different body parts than you expect is a big problem for you, once again, consider what it is about you or the situation that may have made it hard for them to disclose. The media might make it seem like trans men are just closeted lesbians trying to snare young girls, and like trans women are evil deceitful prostitutes, but that’s the media, not the reality. (While we’re at it, there are a lot of trans women who do sex work, but it’s usually due to poverty, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with sex work either.)

4. Trans people rush into surgery or hormone treatment.
Wrong! This usually involves so much bureaucracy and money-saving that by the time we’re ready to go through with it, we have had every last possible opportunity to back out.

5. Bogus controversy: allowing trans people in the right bathrooms, and creating unisex bathrooms.
Contrary to public fears, trans people just want to use the bathroom in peace. Allowing trans people to use the bathrooms they feel most comfortable using, along with creating unisex bathrooms, is no more likely to give cis men excuses to enter women’s restrooms to commit sexual assault or rape. Cis men have never needed to dress up as women in order to do this.

6. Bogus controversy: trans women have male privilege.
Every trans person is different, but often, trans women have never been able to experience male privilege because of their childhood gender expression demoting them immediately on the social totem pole. It is an individual question after that point, but regardless, it’s extremely likely that a trans woman has experienced or is going to experience the effects of patriarchy as a woman, because she is one. Consequently she is just as entitled to safe spaces for women as cis women are.

7. Bogus controversy: trans men are only seeking male privilege.
Trans men often wind up with male privilege after years of never having received its benefits. However, this privilege only is useful in settings where trans male identities are accepted in the first place, and because of experiences both before and after transition, trans men often become feminist allies. In other words, if a trans man is a chauvinist douche, it’s because chauvinist douchery is intrinsic to our society, not because he’s trans.

8. Trans people are protected by anti-discrimination laws regarding someone’s sexual orientation.
Wrong! This is almost never the case. Even though society generally refuses to distinguish between our gender identity and our sexual orientation, bosses sure do love to make the distinction as an excuse for firing, not hiring, or mistreating us in the workplace.

9. If gender is all a construct anyway, a trans person’s gender doesn’t need to be so directly asserted.
Wrong! Lots of trans people would love gender to just not be a big deal, but we are under the same pressures to be manly men and womanly women as cis people. It’s true that gender is a construct, which many of us do actually challenge on a regular basis, but the argument that specifically trans people deliberately maintain gender as an oppressive division in society makes no sense when you consider how many cis people do the same thing.

10. A trans person who doesn’t effectively pass for cis can’t complain about discrimination; they’re clearly not trying hard enough.
Wrong! This should almost go without saying, but our right to be treated fairly should have nothing to do with whether we pass for cis. Of course, some of us do try to pass for cis in order to avoid discrimination, but that’s not the ideal situation.

11. Trans people with non-binary identities are just trying to get attention.
Wrong! Non-binary people really just aren’t comfortable with the descriptors of “female” or “male,” and that’s their right.

More coming soon, thanks for reading! Part 3 is now available here.

Comments

Kureigo-San
Aug 11 2014 12:31

What does it mean, to pass for cis?

gamerunknown
Aug 17 2014 23:25
Kureigo-San wrote:
What does it mean, to pass for cis?

To pass for cis means to be regarded as the gender one wishes to identify as by sight. So a trans woman would be referred to as "her", rather than asked which descriptor they'd like.