Monday, March 25, 2013

Somebody Call the Gender Police!

[Content note: Trans* bigotry]

Usually when I use the term "gender police," I'm being metaphorical.

Arizona state Representative John Kavanagh, however, has proposed legislation that would make it illegal, and would carry a jail term, for someone to use public restroom, shower, or locker room facilities that are marked for a sex other than that which is marked on the person's birth certificate.

He purports that the legislation:
'“is designed to protect young children from being exposed to the other gender in their fullness in inappropriate situations. I'm just restoring sanity, because the Phoenix bill turned gender upside down.'”
The other bill he references is one that provided discrimination protections to transgender people in public accommodations.

There's a lot going on here.

For one, Kavanagh's statement and proposed legislation play into the trope that transgender people are inherently predatory and dangerous to children. Yet, according to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (PDF), 53% of transgender respondents reported being verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation. And, 22% report harassment by police, 16% report being physically assaulted in jail/prison, and 15% report being sexually assaulted in jail/prison. (And, actually, this survey demonstrates that many transgender people experience harassment in nearly every sphere of life).

Meanwhile, according to the same survey, 41% of respondents reported living without ID that matches their gender identity, so... it's profoundly cruel and ignorant to suggest that it's primarily transgender people who pose a public threat, and to advance legislation that would pointlessly put transgender people into even more contact with the criminal justice system.

I mean, does Kavanagh know any of this? Did he seek out this kind of information or input from transgender people or advocacy groups at all before using his power to propose legislation that could so profoundly impact their lives, safety, and well-being?

My sincere sympathies go out to transgender people who might live in a heightened state of fear, anger, and/or sadness due to this proposed legislation.

Two, it's not difficult to foresee how such the enforcement of such a law could also be used to police the gender of non-gender-conforming cis people. I have several friends, for instance, who regularly get the "double-take" when they enter public restrooms, and sometimes people even outright "inform" them that they are in the "wrong" restroom.

Are Concerned Citizens going to start putting people under citizen's arrest, or calling the police, if they think someone's in the "wrong" restroom?  To what extent is it going to be an expectation for people to start pre-emptively carrying their birth certificates with them if they think they might have to use a public restroom at some point?

Third, and on a lighter note, Kavanagh also proudly states that his proposal is also addressing the "specter" of people who use the wrong restroom just because they are, in his words, "weird."  Okay, look. This is a sign of my privilege that I can "get away with" doing this, but I use the men's bathroom somewhat frequently when I'm, say, at an Indigo Girls' concert or at a gay bar that has an enormous men's restroom but, like, only one stall for women.  And....yes, as I typed that out, I realized that my bathroom, concert, and bar habits are probably "weird" to Kavanagh, but I also reject the notion that he's the Big Decider of what's normal and what's not, because really....

What. the. hell is with his dorky phrase "the other gender in their fullness"?

The guy can legislate about people's bodies but he might pass out on his fainting couch if he actually utters the words "naked" or "genitals"? Put your big boy pants on, pal, you're a state representative for god's sake.

You know, it's funny, in a FML sorta way, that progressives are so often accused of being oversensitive and too darn politically correct. Instances like these just show that if the right buttons are pushed, everyone has their limits of what or who they consider too sensitive to discuss in polite company.

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