Why Trans Rights Are Just Polite

Civil rights are just being civil

When I walk into a room no one checks my genitals. My existence doesn't require any biological proof and I don't have to 'prove' it through public debate. Sometimes people misgender me on email and I correct them and they say sorry. This is all trans people are asking for. It's not some 'new' category of rights, it's just not being rude. This to me is what trans rights comes down to. Not checking dicks but simply not being a dick. Not being rude.

There's obviously a lot of debate around the trans issue, but to me it's not up for debate at all. It all comes down to the simple act of walking into a room. We don't check gender at the door. We take peoples word for it. Trans rights is thus not some new thing and doesn't require fundamentally rewiring our brains. It is in fact very easy to teach children and is only hard for adults. It's just common courtesy, which is unfortunately uncommon.

The whole burden of biological proof, the requirement to explain away every hypothetical, the argument that this is some big change is all a distraction. All we have is a situation where someone walks into a room, says "hi I'm Miss James" and someone else is like "no you're fucking not, and you can't use the bathroom!" Some people are just being rude, and cloaking their bigotry in demands for endless 'evidence' which will never be satisfied. Politically, of course, this incivility translates to structural and personal violence. Into oppression, rape, murder, and just suffering.

You could say that trans rights is more than just politeness, it changes legal status, it changes society, it changes rules. Yeah, OK, great. Were gender roles so amazing in Victorian England or 1950s America that we should never change them? Of course not, those legal and social rules for men and women were shit and they have been changing forever. What are we even defending here? Changing the moribund idea of fixed gender roles is good for everyone.

Gay marriage made me—a cis dude—more interested in marriage. It enhanced rather than destroyed the insitution. In the same way increasing trans pride has made it possible for me—still a cis dude—to question rigid gender roles in myself and my children. I wear 'girls' clothes or colors now and it's great, I like it. If someone says my son looks like a girl I try to teach him to not be offended at all. Hence the trans struggle for liberation is liberation for everyone.

People are like 'how can we teach our children this?' but this is fundamentally what I want to teach my children. Treat people with respect. Don't be rude. That life is fragile and short, and to not get hung up on appearances. The only thing I really want to teach my children is to be kind. Why would I teach them that kindness stops at a gender role, or a border, or any such invisible knife?

In practice, my children asked their art teacher 'are you a boy or a girl?' once. They/them discussed it for a bit (this is not any trans person's responsibility btw, we checked if it was all right) and then my kids moved on. It wasn't this grand cultural conversation to them. After a few minutes they honestly got bored. This is what adults should aspire to. Just listening, learning something, and then getting back to having fun together.

While there points of conflict and contradiction to work out (especially for old people), slight discomfort over changing rooms and sports teams does not require the oppression of an entire class of people. The fact is that most rapists and abusers aren’t going through the trouble of changing their whole fucking gender to get some sneaky advantage. They’re just raping and abusing. Trans people are not the problem, these acts are the problem. It’s categorically wrong to discriminate against an entire group of people based on hypothetical guilt.

Therefore, if anyone does something bad in a bathroom deal with that as an act not as bunch of potential, honestly made-up crimes which we assign to a certain class of people. My generation was of course conditioned to think of trans people as serial killers or liars or a joke, but they’re not. They’re just people, with all of our faults. We can (and must) deal with them as fellow human beings. It’s only civil to judge them by their actions, not persecute them for who they are.

I'll keep this article short and not deal with every objection because that, to me, is the point. I don't deal with objections to my existence as a male and nobody checks. Nobody looks at my penis or checks my blood and I don't fucking want them to. How rude. We don't need to go on and on about this. It's fundamentally an insult that trans rights are up for debate at all.

If this requires some some different language, fine. They/them is really not that hard. In my culture I go by at least 10 different names on a regular basis, depending on age/gender/relationship. Sri Lankan babies somehow figure this out, I think adults will be fine with they/them. This is just living in a society.

Our society, like all human society, is based on mutual respect and that's all the trans rights 'debate' about. Some people want basic respect and other people want to be disrespectful. You don't need to understand the biology of anything here, just imagine everyone in a room. Who's the rude one, the one saying "Hi, my name is" or the one saying "No it's fucking not and you're probably a rapist!"

Thus whenever the 'debate' comes up I simply ask people if they saw my penis before we sat down. Am I really male? Are you really female? This is unknown in most conversations and also completely unnecessary to 'prove'. I'm not telling you how to pronounce your name or what your gender is. Who cares? Just sit down, talk to people with respect, and don't be rude.