Tim Pawlenty, governor of MN, was recently interviewed by Newsweek, the content of the interview published online yesterday will be hitting newsstands on Jan 4 of next year. The reason I linked to the third page of the interview article was that I wanted to highlight the following:

That statute [the employment non-discrimination statute in Minnesota] is not worded the way it should be. I said I regretted the vote later because it included things like cross-dressing, and a variety of other people involved in behaviors that weren’t based on sexual orientation, just a preference for the way they dressed and behaved. So it was overly broad. So if you are a third-grade teacher and you are a man and you show up on Monday as Mr. Johnson and you show up on Tuesday as Mrs. Johnson, that is a little confusing to the kids. So I don’t like that.
Has the law been changed?
No. It should be, though.
So you want to protect kids against cross-dressing elementary-school teachers. Do you have any in Minnesota?
Probably. We’ve had a few instances, not exactly like that, but similar.

That “probably” is the most disturbing part of the whole thing. He doesn’t even know, but he’s ready to throw people he doesn’t know to the wolves he isn’t sure exist. What he’s doing is knocking down a transgender straw man (pardon me, straw woman), not addressing anything that remotely resembles reality.

To actually address Pawlenty’s real response, I’d point out that for trans people, the way we dress, the way we behave is not a preference, anymore than Pawlenty’s presentation as a man is fake, forced, affected, or otherwise artificial. If he’s going to privilege his cis gender over my trans gender, then he’s going to have to answer for that kind of entitlement. My preference is (I hope somewhat obviously) to be cisgender. But I’m not. So I have to do what I can with what I have.

Speaking for myself only, gender identity isn’t fluid—the subtext to Pawlenty’s response is that Mr. Johnson will be Mrs. Johnson on Tuesday, but then show up on Wednesday as Mr. Johnson again. That would be confusing. Hell, I’d be confused by people that did that. But trans people aren’t like that. We might not identify strongly with the gender binary, but we usually have a pretty fixed placed in the spectrum. I’m a woman. I’m not the most feminine woman ever, but I’m not the most masculine one either. I’ve always had that internal identity, even if I didn’t express it outwardly.

But, you might ask, what about people whose gender expressions are more fluid? I don’t have the knowledge or experience (or space) to speak to that question, but yes, people with more fluid gender identities do exist. Regardless of how you fear they might act, I think that if you want to be a dick to people, you have to have more than a general suspicion and a cheap straw man argument. I’ve never even heard of androgynous, gender fluid people acting the way that Pawlenty fears. But then again, that’s because I’m talking real, actual people, not scare-tactic-fear-inducing-straw-men.

But Pawlenty claims that they’ve had to deal with something similar to crossdressing teachers in Minnesota. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but I did want to see just what it was he was protecting OMG teh childrhunz from. So I tried googling “crossdressing teacher Minnesota”. I didn’t find a lot on crossdressing teachers in that state (or any state for that matter), but I did find that it’s the crossdressers that are usually the ones who have it the hardest, not the straight kids or adults who make fun of them. Who’s protecting whom?

One other thing I did see was that a male to female transsexual librarian transitioned on the job in Minnesota. Her name is Debra Davis, and she has a website that nicely explains her position in her own words. As it happens, one of Ms. Davis’ colleagues, Carla Cruzan, sued the school district over allowing Davis to use the women’s restroom. Here’s a summary of the case from the Transgender Law Center, the info about Cruzan v. Special School District No. 1 is on the top of page 2. If you don’t want to read the link, Cruzan lost her case; the court found that the school district was not permeated with intimidation, ridicule and insult by allowing Ms. Davis to use the restroom that was consistent with her gender identity and presentation, and that such conditions hardly constituted a sexually hostile work environment.

Let me explain why allowing Ms. Davis to use the ladies’ restroom doesn’t create a hostile work environment: trans people don’t molest cis people in bathrooms. For all the states that have tried to pass Non-Discrimination Acts and been met with the charge of providing safe haven to child molesters and sexual predators, there has never ever been a single case of a trans person assaulting someone in a bathroom. There have been plenty of cases where straight people do it, though. The linked example here is the case of a CVS manager who was spying on his female customers with a camera phone, and was also circulating a petition outside his own store in protest of a non-discrimination ordinance that was being considered by the city council. In other words, he wanted to prevent trans people from using the restroom that was appropriate for their gender identity because he was afraid that trans people might assault cis people in the bathroom. It’s too bad I already wrote an article on hypocrisy.

The snippet from CitizenLink above is another example of the same disingenuous bullshit that Pawlenty spouts, and it seems like all these conservative news outlets and politicians just snowball this kind of crap back and forth. I’d like to remind you, that there is absolutely no evidence, no case that the paranoid conservatives can point to that supports their contention. If they had a real life example, it would be all over the god-damned place. But they can’t even find one. What they can find is Ms. Davis, a woman who just wants to go pee. As a result, they don’t have any proof, just a bunch of scare tactics that work off the use of the word “probably.”

Let’s say we have a hypothetical white male child molester. Let’s say he typically goes after little boys (I apologize if this is squicky, let’s just say that we’re on the jury of his criminal trial, and when we find him guilty, we’re going to lock him up for the rest of his life). So, his usual M.O. was to get little boys in the boys’ restroom, right? The presence or absence of the bathroom bill does nothing to prevent this from happening.

Now let’s assume that in a second charge of aggravated sexual assault on a minor, the child molester hid behind a non-discrimination statute to enter the girls’ restroom and molest a little girl. First, even if the child molester claimed to be transgender, and tried to pretend that he had every right to be in the girls’ room, that still DOESN’T GIVE ANYONE THE RIGHT TO MOLEST KIDS IN THE FUCKING BATHROOM. Second, even if the non-discrimination act wasn’t on the books, let’s suppose our child molester really wanted to hurt a little girl. Would the presence or absence of a bathroom bill stop him from doing that? Trying to use one’s status as a trans person makes sense if you want to *use* a bathroom, but not if you want to molest or harm other people while in that place. There just aren’t words for that kind of analogy fail.

Let me explain something about trans people and bathrooms: we understand that restrooms are safe places for people of the same gender. I think that trans people understand this better than most cis people give us credit for—believe me, we hate feeling uncomfortable in the bathroom. We don’t like to be uncomfortable, and we don’t like making others feel uncomfortable. That’s why we use the restroom that is most appropriate for our gender presentation.

Regardless of internal identity, you use the restroom that is consistent with your gender presentation, at least in public. If you look like a man, don’t go in the ladies’ room. Even if you identify as female, others will be uncomfortable, they might call security or the police, and you’re going to have to out yourself and explain the whole uncomfortable situation to a group of strangers who may be less than sympathetic. Likewise, if you look like a woman, it’s probably not a good idea to go somewhere other than the ladies’ room. If you don’t mind, go back and take a good look at that photo of me in the red dress I posted two days ago. Where do you think I would cause the most consternation: the men’s room or the ladies’? And that’s why the male child molester in the girls’ room is a straw man. No male bodied trans person is going to go in the girls’ room if she doesn’t pass.

And that’s why Cruzan’s case made no sense—she might have known that Ms. Davis was born male, but it seems like it’s pretty obvious that Ms. Davis didn’t identify that way, and I don’t think Ms. Cruzan should be unclear about that. So where is Ms. Davis supposed to go when she needs to use the restroom? The men’s room? Or is she supposed to be singled out and forced to use a unisex bathroom? I’ll tell you something from personal experience—having to do that is humiliating. It’s one of those ways in which cis people entitle their own genders above those of trans people. If I’m out at a restaurant for lunch and no one knows that I’m trans, no one in the ladies’ room gives me a second glance. But at work, I’m not even allowed in the ladies’ room to check my makeup. It’s like everyone’s worried that I’m going to see something that I’ve never seen before. That’s humiliating because it says to me that I’m not a real woman, that I’m fake or artificial, and my artifice will make others uncomfortable even though all I want to do is go pee.

Here’s the same story, but from Mission America. The note on the case makes a point of misgendering Ms. Davis, using her male name, and repeatedly using incorrect pronouns. They make it sound as though Ms. Cruzan was the only female faculty member willing to fight for the decency of *all* the female staff, and look at how she was rebuffed—in a fit of poetic justice she was told to use a unisex single restroom if she preferred.

That’s pretty harsh, maybe, but if you think so, then maybe you should think about how it feels to be in the shoes of a trans woman and be on the receiving end of that kind of treatment everywhere you go. Is that kind of treatment justified because a person chooses to transition? Should we force people to choose between being themselves or being accepted? I realize I asked a very similar question in relation to the episode from The Closer, but it seems like that dichotomy is the one that comes up most often. There is always some compromise involved, but it is unfair and discriminatory when it is never the cis people but always the trans ones who must compromise.

I want to ask why accepting trans people as they are is such a negative thing. Why is it so hard to believe that other people experience their gender in a way that is different from you? One thing I’ve learned from feminist writing is that no two women can even agree on what it means to be a woman. Everyone experiences their gender differently, and feeling like your gender and body are mismatched doesn’t seem impossible. It may be outside your experience, but that doesn’t make it wrong any more than being poor or black or atheist or not very athletic would.

I could ask other questions: why isn’t my life ever represented fairly in our culture? Why do the Christians get to have it all and still complain about being put upon? If I may:

For more than 30 years, homosexual activists have been demanding that our Judeo-Christian culture capitulate and embrace their view of human sexuality, marriage and family. If Americans ever accept these demands, they can expect to live in a culture that will be turned upside down — literally unhinged from the sane moorings instituted by the God of heaven.
Harvey’s prediction is of a grotesque culture that includes: “Lesbian bride dolls. Fourth grade ‘gay’ clubs. A king and king at the high school prom. Dating tips for same-sex teens.”

I want to ask why any of those things are seen as being negative. How much different, how much less depressing and horrible would life be for kids who learned to accept themselves instead of hating, hurting, cutting or killing themselves? What’s wrong with letting a person’s life be represented in our pop culture? What’s wrong with lesbian Barbie, other than the fact that people might actually buy them?

I suppose, as Governor Pawlenty might say, “we wouldn’t want to confuse the kids.” I guess it would be an absolutely horrible thing to confuse kids into thinking they can be themselves only to let them find out as adults that they’ll be treated like perverts and freaks.