I am What I amBy Gwendolyn Ann Smith
I recently violated one of the golden rules of the internet, and read the comments under a news article.
The piece itself was a follow up on the assault on Chrissy Polis, a 22-year-old post-operative transsexual who was assaulted in a Rosedale, Md. McDonalds for using the women’s restroom. The older of the two women who beat Polis, Teonna Monae Brown, was offered a plea agreement. In exchange for Brown pleading guilty to assault and committing a hate crime, prosecutors will seek a five-year prison term at the sentencing hearing next month.
As I scanned the plea agreement, my eyes fell to the comments below, where one poster argued against the hate crime element to the case by arguing that “any man could put on a wig and lipstick and go into the ladies room and be protected,” saying that if Polis “wants to be a girl he still has to use a men’s room if he is a man.” Others, too, pointed out that the fight started in the restroom, and that maybe “he” should not have been in there in the first place.
What we see here is something I first referred to some time ago as “the bathroom meme,” an argument used by foes of transgender rights. They claim that extending rights to transgender people—particularly those involving public accommodations—will allow non-transgender rapists and pedophiles to be shielded by the law when they prey on others in an opposite sex restroom.
For the record, no transgender rights bill, including those which cover public accommodations, will protect rapists and pedophiles who attempt to harm your spouse, family members, or children. Rape, molestation, and any other such illegal activity remain illegal. Meanwhile, such laws would allow for a host of rights beyond restrooms by providing equal access to goods and services at public establishments. You know, the ability to order a meal in a restaurant, or go to an emergency room, or do any number of things you might otherwise take for granted.
Yet the notion of potential attackers in the restroom remains the hot button issue—or more succinctly, male attackers in the ladies’ room. No one tends to address women wreaking havoc in men’s rooms, because this doesn’t provide those opposed to extending rights the correct sort of ammo.
Here’s the crux of it all, to me, the one thing that most transgender people understand, yet is so often lost on others. While transgender people do have a history and background that may well set them apart from others in their preferred gender, they are nevertheless the gender they present as. If a transman presents as male, there’s likely a good reason for it. Ditto for a transwoman.
Those who oppose transgender equality feel the need to believe that transgender people, in expressing their gender as they see fit, are being deceptive. Moreover, they need to equate this perceived deception with the actions of violent and criminal predators. Never mind that no one has been able to find a shred of evidence to support their suppositions.
Ultimately, we’re not out to defraud, we’re out to live our lives honestly, and shed whatever lie we may have been living previously. We are exactly what we say we are.