Democracy or Dictatorship

I was unaware that Trump began to rescind the already little amount of protections for transgender students. It is terrifying to me that one man is given all this power and is hiring individuals in powerful positions who share the same hateful values. It feels like more of a dictatorship than a democracy at this point. Honestly, I am scared for the LGBTQ community, as well as all minority groups, including women and reproductive rights. Gavin Grimm is fighting against his school board and it is very likely this case will make it to the Supreme Court. This issue, although local in Grimm’s case is a nationwide issue that may very soon erupt. The only downside is that the LGBTQ community is relatively small, compared to the women’s march, the population hardly compares, it will be difficult to make a difference if the group has a small following. This is not just an LGBTQ fight, this is a fight for minorities, for basic human rights, but conservatives are very reluctant to change with the times and unfortunately, it seems that they are running the country. America used to be referred to as the melting pot, but now that America truly captures that name, people seem so adverse to anyone who is even a little bit different. I understand that there are a lot of other important issues going on nationally and internationally, but any issue regarding the LGBTQ community is generally pushed aside and hardly ever publicized. This is an issue regarding human rights, and until people start viewing transgender individuals as valid and legitimate members of society there will be little to no progress to improve their lives. The way that I understand transgender and its legitimacy is the way I feel wearing a sundress (hear me out). I am a heterosexual white woman who is constantly told to dress up and wear sundresses and ‘girly’ clothes. The feeling that I have whenever I put on a sundress is cringeworthy, I feel so uncomfortable and that I am not ME. I take that feeling and I amplify it 100 times and I believe that is how it feels to be trans. Feeling like you don’t belong in the skin you’re in, constantly wanting to be someone else. Of course this is all I have to base it on, but I try to use this example to explain to skeptics and it seems to get them to understand a little bit more. I can’t imagine living that way everyday and having the majority of the nation delegitimizing everything that I feel and making life-changing laws based on those close-minded views. Just because the lawmakers are not harmed does not mean that other people are not drastically effected.

The Inspiration of Drag

Through the viewing of the documentary Paris is Burning, I began to understand the context and foundation of what we see drag as today. My only experience with drag had been through RuPaul’s Drag Race around my middle school years. It was not until I had seen the Drag Show that Haven hosts each semester, that I experienced Drag in person. I never understood how much drag related to Muñoz’s ideas of the stage as an escape. After seeing how the people featured in Paris Is Burning would treat the Balls as an escape allowed me to understand drag in a different perspective. Pepper LaBeija said, “When I first started going to balls it was all about drag queens who were interested in looking like Las Vegas showgirls, back pieces, tail pieces, feathers, beads and all that… it started coming down to just wanting to look like a gorgeous movie star like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor. And now they’re went from that to trying to look like models; like Iman and Christie Brinkley and Maud Adams and all those children.” This statement relates to the idea that partaking in the Balls helped make the disadvantaged participants feel like they were part of to social elite. A specific thing said in the movie that I remember was that the young people of color would feel like white executives by wearing fancy looking, upper-class clothing. I never had thought of drag outside of the context of pure performance. I didn’t see it as an encouraging place where anyone could be what they wanted to be. Drag used to be something that confused me, but after seeing a Drag Show for myself and watching Paris is Burning I understand that Drag holds an important place for those who feel like they cannot represent who they really want to be outside of a Ball, or the stage itself.

Combating the Devaluation of Transgender Experience

Kate Forbes’s “Do These Earrings Make me Look Dumb” struck a chord with me because it highlights a consistent problem hat trans people face in nearly all aspects of life: cisgender people who think they understand trans people better than trans people understand themselves. While Forbes focused her critique on the academy—especially women’s and gender studies departments—the issue comes up time and time again: cisgender politicians and pundits argue endlessly about which bathrooms trans people should be allowed to use, cisgender psychologists and sexologists pathologize transgender experience according to their own biases, cisgender insurance executives arbitrarily what is and isn’t “necessary care” for transgender policyholders, and so on.

There is a real cost to the devaluing of personal experience Forbes describes. My own transition was delayed two years because my father didn’t believe I was trans and followed his own conceptions of what was best for me instead of just listening to me, which eventually nearly drove me to suicide. The stress of constantly being denied agency and told you don’t know what you’re talking about by authority figures likely contributes to the massively disproportionate rates of depression and suicide among trans people. Eventually, many trans people internalize the misguided and sometimes deliberately hateful narratives put forth by cisgender people and privileged by cisgender society. Even now, despite going about my daily life as a woman, I harbor a deep sense of shame about my gender identity and often find myself privately questioning if I “deserve” to call myself a woman. I often feel constrained to express my femininity in a very traditional way, because while much of society views a cisgender woman acting in a non-stereotypically feminine way as transgressive and potentially liberating, a trans woman displaying masculine behavioral or stylistic traits often finds her “dedication” to her gender identity questioned and picked apart.

I agree with Forbes in her analysis that, in order to guarantee trans identities the same sort of respect granted automatically to cis identities, more diversity in all aspects of life is needed. In addition to increased diversity, I would also like to see cisgender authority figures acknowledge the way their own perspectives are rooted in personal experience and not some overarching factual norm. By including trans perspectives and acknowledging the limits of cis perspectives when applied to transgender individuals, society can finally bring trans people into the conversation from which they have long been excluded.