Mirror Mirror - 2017


Dude Looks Like a Lady? The Misconceptions of What it Means to be Transgender

By Jennifer Allen

The controversial bill House Bill 2, also known as the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act or the (so-called) Anti-LGBT Law has garnered its share of news over the past few months since it was first deliberated in North Carolina congress. Some see it as a good thing, others not so much. What is not readily apparent is… who or what is this Bill supposed to protect?

A part of the problem is that the general populace is still not quite sure what the differences are between a transgender vs transsexual, and intersex vs genderqueer among other terms that have become a part of the lexicon in recent years to explain an individual's gender.

House Bill 2 seems to specifically be addressing the Transgender population, but they don't realize what this term means. I cannot offer the best knowledge on the subject, not being a transgender myself, though I have known people who are in various stages of gender transition. I decided to go right to the source and asked Casper, a college student who recently announced his transition from female to male, for his take on the community and how the outside world has responded to it.

You are a transgender who identifies as male. Can you, in your own words, explain what this means?

The way I articulate my identity is thus: I disagree with the gender assigned to me at birth. I suffer from what is called dysphoria, a discomfort of the body that I have plans to alleviate by undergoing HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Not all transgender people suffer from dysphoria, and not all transgender people seek to physically transition. It is a personal decision that is up to the individual, and often transgender people, even if we need treatment for dysphoria, cannot afford to physically transition.

Have you had any life experience changes after you announced your gender identity? How so?

I have had to socially transition at my college, and all of my professors, employers, co-workers and classmates have been mostly very understanding. There have been some awkward moments with people using the wrong pronouns or saying some ignorant things, but otherwise my experience has been positive, because I was lucky enough to come out at a very liberal, sheltered college. My family has also been supportive, although my father had a difficult time at first.

What are your thoughts about NC's House Bill 2?

I agree with what Laverne Cox said on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert regarding HB2 and other so-called 'bathroom bills' that are popping up all over the United States: this is not about privacy or protecting women from predators, it is about the right of transgender people to exist in public spaces. If we cannot safely use the restroom of our gender identity, we cannot work, we cannot go to restaurants, to baseball games, to any public place.

The LGBTQ community has overall been brought to the forefront by the media in the past decade or so. Do you think this is a good thing or bad, and why?

I think the increase in visibility for the LGBT[Q] community has both pros and cons. Greater knowledge of us leads to less ignorance, and more acceptance. However, hyper-visibility can also lead to a spike in hate crimes and more vitriolic rhetoric from reactionary movements— especially in the United States, where we've seen a resurgence in activity from what's called the 'Religious Right'. At this point, the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color, have seen the most deadly years on record twice in a row (in 2015 and 2016) coinciding with unprecedented visibility and public discourse of transgender people. However, I still firmly believe that visibility is an improvement over the closet. The more the media acknowledges the existence of LGBT[Q] individuals, the more LGBT[Q] kids and teens will realize that […] nothing is wrong with them.

South Asian governments such as Pakistan and India have declared transgenders (particularly Hijras or those who identify as female) to be “not human" and often associated as a “third gender". What are your thoughts on this?

I have less knowledge than I would like on how transgender people are treated in countries like Pakistan and India. I had heard that hijras were a relatively respected group in India, but I could have been wrong. I do think there's a difference between transgender people being considered “third gender" and being considered “inhuman". To say that trans people are a third gender is a particular perspective on transgenderism, a way of articulating it. Some people find it inaccurate, others do not. To dehumanize a class of people, is always bad. If you can remove a group of people from the definition of human, you can justify doing just about anything to them.

Any other thoughts you'd like to share?

I would like people to know that gender identity and sexual orientation are separate. People can be transgender and straight, or transgender and gay, etc. In addition, presentation is not always an indicator of identity.

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One thing I would also like to stress is that being transgender does not by default make you a bad person. House Bill 2 seems to assume that transgenders are simply “choosing" this lifestyle to further a goal of physical and sexual abuse towards those who are not. If there's anything that should be taken from this, it's that being a good or bad person has nothing to do with your gender. Once North Carolina lawmakers can get past that, perhaps we can put more efforts into more important things like education to help alleviate all forms of prejudice in this world.