Below is an e-mail I sent to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette associate editor Jennifer Graham in response to her editorial: “Caitlyn Jenner is still a mister: and he/she is causing fits for uncomfortable conservatives.”
Hi Jennifer —
My name is Parker. I’m a journalist whose work on LGBT, gender, and pop culture issues has appeared places like NYT, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and a handful of other outlets.
I’m also a transgender woman. Or, rather, I guess to you, I’m a “freak show.”
The words you wrote are without question some of the most hateful things I’ve ever read, and I have to ask the simple question: why? Why do you have such an issue with transgender people? Even if you don’t understand them, and even if you don’t support them (which, in itself, is a shame), I have to wonder why this affects you?
Why does it matter whether my driver’s license says “M” or “F?” Why do you care what my genitals look like (or looked like)? I don’t know anything about you or your genitals, but if you told me that your name is Jennifer and you use “she/her” pronouns, I’d call you Jennifer and use “she/her” pronouns.
Because that’s the thing: respecting someone’s wishes how they’d like to be referred to shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s basic courtesy. I wouldn’t look at you and go, “Nah, I think you’re more of a Sarah than a Jennifer. I’ll call you Sarah, instead.”
Trans people want to be able to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender. Why is that a big deal to you? I’m sure that you’ve shared a restroom with a transgender woman before. You just might not know it. Because as much as you paint trans women as “bearded ladies,” our appearances vary just as much as women who aren’t trans.But really, here’s what you’re suggesting: This person is a trans man. That is, he was assigned female at birth. You want him in women’s restrooms?
Because that’s what you’re advocating for. Personally, I think more women would be uncomfortable with sharing a bathroom with men like that than with women like me.
Also, how, if I may ask, would you like to enforce this? Mandatory underwear checks upon entering restrooms? High-cost DNA tests for all citizens?
Because I don’t know about you, but when I go into the restroom, I don’t see anyone’s genitals. That’s why stall doors exist. If you’re going into the restroom and seeing other women’s genitals, then maybe you’re the one who shouldn’t be welcomed into that restroom?
And whatever bit of fear-mongering that can be dished out about why letting trans people have basic human rights and be accepted as the gender they say they are you can dish out, I can guarantee that there aren’t facts to back it up.
For instance, claims that allowing trans people to use restrooms that match their gender will lead to an increase in women being assaulted in restrooms or men claiming to be transgender just to go in (which really, is there a less sexy place on earth than a public restroom?)?
Claims that protecting students will somehow lead to boys lining up to play on girls teams and dominate (that’s the plot of the movie Ladybugs, by the way) or the types of shower-room fantasies pushed by Mike Huckabee?
Is it “You’re either male or female, and that’s that?” Because biologists disagree with you there. http://www.nature.com/
“Is it that women who aren’t born with a uterus aren’t women?” You might want to discuss that with 2013 Miss Michigan, who was born without one http://health.usnews.com/
Or is it simply that you’re lashing out simply because you don’t understand trans people (as it’s quite clear you don’t)? What value has your hateful screed added to the world? And this isn’t just about Caitlyn Jenner. This is about all the transgender people (particularly transgender women of color) who are murdered, lose their jobs, are denied healthcare, etc. because of who they are (and it’s not a “lifestyle choice.” I assure you that I would be dead had I not come to terms with myself.)
I really, truly hope you can how unnecessarily hateful and hurtful the words used in your column are. I am open to having a conversation if you truly want to understand the group of people you just labeled “freak shows.”But I’ll leave that up to you. I wish nothing but the best for you, even if you can’t see people like me for who we are.
Image via Flickr user Jon S.