Isolation, discrimination and segregation. Such issues are common encounters to trans* people.
But in recent weeks, some small steps have been made to alleviate this situation. The state of Massachusetts now permits school children to choose which restroom or sports team matches their gender preference, not their biological sex. Congress renewed the Violence Against Women Act, which includes protections for trans* people who are victims of domestic abuse.
Trans* (with an intentional asterisk) includes all people who do not conform to a society’s traditional gender/sex alignment. The asterisk signifies the inclusion of all terms similar to transgender, transsexual and genderqueer, among others. Being trans* is larger than just gender but not quite as encompassing as sexuality. Using trans* is appropriate in most situations, because it generally implies a lack of societal alignment between gender and biological sex. The term is used to be as inclusive as possible, regardless of surgery or genitalia status or other factors.
While society is making progress on recognizing a separation between biological sex and gender presentation, not everyone is on the same page.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly recently mocked the Massachusetts inclusion directive, saying that policies that allow children to express their trans* identity without notifying their parents are “truly madness.” O’Reilly demeans trans* issues, as if being trans* were like choosing to wear pants or a dress. Being trans* is not a choice — it is an identity that struggles for recognition in our gendered society. Trans* individuals deserve the rights of gender expression that Western culture is finally beginning to accept. So Mr. O’Reilly: Fuck off.
Although the UC system and UC Berkeley have taken actions to create an inclusive atmosphere for trans* people, more work can be done to improve our campus. For example, the UC Student Health Insurance Plan covers offers gender confirmation and hormone therapy treatments. That’s good news, but what about restrooms? It seems like we could adopt more gender-neutral or single-person restrooms on the UC Berkeley campus. Many trans* individuals may fear using traditional public restrooms due to humiliation, safety and retaliation from those using the restrooms. But there aren’t any simple solutions to complete inclusion — society is extremely gendered.
Since many trans* people are called something different from what was given at birth, how do names play in politics? My registered name on bSpace posts, classroom rosters and Cal1 Card is Matthew, but what if my desired name were something different? Trans* people risk being “outed” in all of these situations, unless they go through the trouble of warning instructors or ultimately getting legal name changes. Think about the first day of class: Trans* students may have had to contact their professor before coming to class to ensure they will be called by their desired name. The environment at Cal for trans* students is far from perfect.
Regardless of gender presentation, name or identity, we are all humans, all trying to get along with one another. Although I do not identify as trans* and have the privilege of being cisgender, I empathize and hope that one day, Cal will be entirely inclusive of the trans* community.
Image Source: МОЛОКО via Creative Commons