Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Crumbling the Cookie Cutter

In a stunning decision, Federal District Court Judge Michael W. Mossman issued a temporary restraining order postponing Oregon’s domestic partnership law from going into effect. It’s been a tough year for human rights and equality if you happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or, particularly, trans. I witnessed Joe Solmonese lie about the Human Rights Campaign’s commitment to a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act before an audience of 1,000 trans human beings.

We’ve seen an insidious escalation of rhetoric against trans children and youth. Not a week goes by without a conservative political or religious coalition, organization, group, club or cabal objecting to a youth expressing his or her gender identity in a nonconforming fashion. They claw their way out of their cave of intolerance and point fingers, spread lies and threaten elected representatives. They petition school boards if a 10-year-old trans child is using the “wrong” bathroom. They protest a high school drama department’s decision to stage the play Rent because it has a sympathetic and positive portrayal of not just gay characters, but trans characters as well.

What makes this so insidious? Well, that may be the greatest socio-cultural sleight-of-hand trick in history. While the focus is supposedly on “who one sleeps with,” in reality it’s about gender identity expression. In fact, anti-gay bigots themselves say: “We don’t care what you do in the privacy of your own bedrooms. Just don’t flaunt it.” This is what Barney Frank, Joe Solmonese and other “leaders” don’t acknowledge. It’s the part the Alliance Defense Fund, Mike Huckabee and even Barack Obama don’t understand.

The voices of intolerance have distracted us with the shiny object in one hand (same-sex physical acts) while pulling the wool over our eyes with the other hand regarding gender expression and transgression. It’s not about sex. It’s about how far from gender conformity someone drifts. It’s about the “too feminine” male or the “too masculine” female. People aren’t discriminated against because a same-sex physical act has been witnessed. They are discriminated against because of assumptions someone makes based upon their gender identity expression.

“Straight acting” gay men and women suffer less oppression than their “gay acting” gay and straight counterparts. “Passable” gender-conforming people suffer less oppression than their “non-passable” counterparts. This applies to cisgender and transgender people. “Straight-acting” children (who may not yet have a sexual orientation) suffer less bullying and teasing than their “gay-acting” gender non-conforming counterparts.

Each of us has a stake in this fight. We have a stake because there are those who want to measure “how much equality” will be portioned out based not upon who we love but upon how we (and our children) express ourselves. We must work together to build a world in which our children are not forced into a gender-expression cookie cutter. We must stand up for them by first standing up for ourselves.

TransActive Education & Advocacy


H4736 said...

Hi Helen, thanks for writing me!

Harry Nagendra

proudprogressive said...

Short sweet and very well said Jenn - we do need to crumble the "cookie cutter clone trooper" as a friend of mine says, mentality and work to get people , to recognize/learn that gender expression and sexuality are not the same thing. Sounds simple enough , but we know we have our work cut out for us. And work we shall ! The leadership Summit in March in Berkeley should be very productive. It is with happiness i report a writer from the group blog i manage will be attending. Together we will succeed.

yours in the struggle ..