After the recent series of attacks on cisgender women for using public restrooms, the public is starting to slowly realize that when you target a particular group based on markers that aren’t externally identifiable – for example, what genitals someone may or may not have – you’re going to make mistakes.
Yes, cis women who are gender non-conforming are going to be targeted by an uninformed public who think that they’re trans women. But that’s not really the point. The point is that nobody should be targeted at all.
Transgender people have been living in fear of harassment for decades. We’ve created a culture in which concepts such as “passing privilege” have developed – the idea that transgender people that look more like their self-identified gender are safer in public, and therefore have privilege, over people who do not. We’ve been playing this game long before the bathroom bills were even a thought in the minds of the most bigoted senators, because we have had to as a means of survival.
There’s not only a chance that you’ve shared a restroom with someone who identifies as transgender without knowing it, it’s a guarantee. That’s not even counting individuals who are intersex and who don’t fit smoothly into one category or the other.
This discrimination doesn’t just stop at bathrooms. It extends into psychiatrist’s offices, doctor’s rooms, and courthouses. Unfortunately, bathrooms just happen to be the one place where cis people and transgender people are both policed by their ability to conform to gender roles.
The language behind the reactions to this harassment reveal an undercurrent of transphobia, even when coming from the mouths of self-proclaimed allies. “Of course she’s a woman! Can’t you tell? Having short hair doesn’t make you a man!” Transgender people remain silent because other’s respect in regards to our gender is derived wholly from our ease in following gender stereotypes. We have no other choice. Pass, or die.
In the meanwhile, you have transgender people proclaiming that gender non-conforming trans people – the trans boy who enjoys painting his nails, or the trans girl who prefers t-shirts and jeans to dresses – are the ones preventing “real” transgender people from receiving medical care from psychiatrists despite the fact that the diagnosis of gender dysphoria in the DSM doesn’t mention gender presentation at all. We’ve become so conscious of how we look that we’ve begun our appeal towards our oppressors, locked in a toxic cycle uncomfortably resembling Munchausen’s.
None of this is our fault, either. It’s on the cis people who feel that there’s an “obvious” transgender person, while at the same proclaiming that there is no one way to be a man or a woman. If you want to make an argument about how public restroom policing is offensive, or misogynistic, don’t forget that transgender people were there first. The issue of gender-checking is one that cis people created to weed out transgender people, and cis people will have to reap what they have sown.