IDAHO this year is focused on the issue of transphobia. I wanted to talk a little bit about this issue, because I have seen it play out even on a college campus like mine that claims to be so progressive.
Earlier this year, the feminist group at Knox, Students Against Sexism in Society (SASS) decided to forcibly "gender fuck" two bathrooms in one of the buildings on campus. We did not have permission from any of the administration, and in order to cause the least amount of panic, we decided to set up a table for three days outside of the cafeteria and explain our mission as well as collect signatures of support. We wanted to make the two chosen bathrooms gender neutral, meaning that people of any gender could use them. We explained that this would not effect the other bathrooms on the lower level of the same building, in case this idea made people uncomfortable.
We got over 100 signatures in support of our initiative, and had lots of people ask questions. We explained that the gender dichotomy present in bathrooms was not suitable for a number of transstudents who expressed that they did not feel comfortable in either bathroom. Designating these two bathrooms gender neutral would help make students feel more at ease.
I tabled for a while each day, and one day I was sitting with three SASS members who are trans-identified, when someone came up to talk to us. He approached us and asked us the usual questions, but unlike most of the people we talked to who reacted in one of two ways, "Oh, that's great!" or "Oh...okay..." he started asking more and more questions. He made sure to tell us that he was interested in having a discussion, but at the end, this was what he had to say (in my words): If transpeople feel uncomfortable with dichotomous bathrooms, maybe they should just go to counseling to help them with those feelings of discomfort. It makes more sense than making a larger population of non-transgender people feel uncomfortable having gender neutral bathrooms.
The conversation unraveled from that point. I couldn't believe that this guy, saying he wanted to have a conversation, had us talk with him only to shut us all down by implying that gender neutral bathrooms were unfair to cisgender people. What? It makes no sense to ask transpeople, who are not privileged like cisgender people are in this society, to adapt to a world that was not meant to benefit them at all. All we were asking for were two gender neutral bathrooms in a building with more than two bathrooms, and this guy still couldn't see the point.
It's this kind of attitude, even though it may seem small and unproblematic, that proves how important it is for us to work for transrights not just in our own countries, but around the world. It is this kind of attitude that allows people to feel entitled to murder transpeople, to harass them, to make them feel like an Other.
To read an appeal rejecting transphobia and respecting all gender identities, click here. To sign the appeal, click here. I did!