It was a few days after Trump had begun an erasure of my identity. I sat in my English class, and my professor asked how we were genuinely doing. This was the first time I had honestly thought about how politics were impacting my mental health.
As I raised my hand to answer, a stream of tears came pouring down my face. I realized I was horrified about what this meant for my future. This was a complete attack on my identity and a community of identities already oppressed.
The next day, Isabella Chow, my own student “representative,” used Christianity to justify my dehumanization. I grew up in Orange County, surrounded by this same rhetoric that forced me into the closet for years. I was traumatized — there are no words to describe the explicit erasure of my community. So, no, this isn’t a “difference of opinion”; this is the dehumanization of an already marginalized and unsupported community on this campus.
I was disturbed yet not surprised when these events happened. The problem is that I am not only being erased by conservatives; I am being erased by my own “allies.”
In a matter of a few days, The New York Times leaked a memo regarding the creation of a definition of sex as unchangeable and binary under Title IX, the Department of Justice told the Supreme Court it doesn’t consider anti-trans workplace discrimination a violation of federal law, and U.S. advisers at the United Nations are seeking to erase gender from U.N. human rights documents. I felt as though few people were talking about these injustices. I felt as though even those who did speak normalized and diminished the transphobic nature of these acts.
We point the finger at conservatives, but we also need to start looking at how we erase transgender, intersex and gender-nonconforming people on a daily basis. As someone who identifies as genderfluid, I constantly feel invalidated not only by conservatives but also by my progressive “allies.”
This erasure occurs in a multitude of forms.
It happens when you refuse to honor my pronouns. When you view them as “preferred” when in reality they represent who I am. You see constantly misgendering me as trivial even though I have repeatedly (and gracefully) told you my pronouns. You cannot affirm my identity without respecting my pronouns.
It happens when you use exclusionary, gendered language. When you only refer to the existence of women and men. When your feminism only speaks of women and pink pussy hats.
It happens when you make gender essentialist assumptions. When you argue that biological sex correlates to gender. When you view “real” trans people as only those who take hormones or medically transition. When you use science to back up your argument but ignore the science showing that gender and sex occur on spectrums.
It happens when you constantly invalidate my identity based on my appearance. When you assume that because I am traditionally feminine and not androgynous that I have to identify as a woman. Then you repeatedly ask me invasive and dehumanizing questions such as, “If you’re nonbinary, why do you still wear makeup?” or “Why don’t you change your name?”
You make these assumptions as if you think you get to decide my gender identity and know better than me. In reality, I deserve the right to define my body by my own terms. I refuse to accept that I have to narrowly fit into society’s notion of what it means to be transgender or nonbinary. Masculinity and femininity are socially constructed notions of gender expression that belong to every gender. Makeup, dresses and body hair have no gender. Sex, gender identity and gender expression are separate concepts that exist on spectrums, not as binaries.
But your transphobia has impacts beyond me. While I no longer choose to live in silence, I still have the privilege of whiteness and the ability to pass as cisgender. These prevent me from facing violence and harassment that nonpassing transgender people of color face daily. This is why, in the face of a transphobic government, this midterm election is so crucial. We need politicians in office who stand with us and fight for the most marginalized. We need politicians who will call out toxic human rights violations of our community. So, those elected into office during this midterm election must tangibly stand with the LGBTQ+ community.
What’s even more disturbing is that our campus is a microcosm of the current political climate. In the chance that Republicans hold control over political institutions after the election, we must stand passionately with marginalized communities and call out performative allyship where we see it.
Performative allyship is Student Action claiming that it supports LGBTQ+ people but not fully vetting the candidates it runs. Isabella Chow’s ideologies didn’t appear out of thin air — she was supported by the Berkeley College Republicans, who view being transgender as a mental illness. Performative allyship is also the fact that, from the ASUC Senate, only Senator Teddy Lake spoke out during Isabella Chow’s transphobic statements.
So, it’s time you do the work. If allyship is a verb, I want to see your action. Stand behind Chow’s resignation and use your platform to support us. If after these midterm elections our elected representatives are not protecting us from transphobia, then our ASUC and chancellor must do tangible things to protect the transgender community, beyond issuing affirming resolutions and statements.
I refuse to be erased — not by a toxic ASUC senator, not by the Cheeto in office and certainly not by your everyday transphobia that you refuse to recognize.