Last Tuesday I took the day off work to run errands. Around 8:30 in the morning I was sitting in my boyfriend's car by a gas pump. Peter was inside collecting American Spirits and hot chocolate. "Wait, I don't want hot chocolate. Yes, I do. Wait, no I don't." I turned up the radio and took out my pressed powder. There were two men on the other side of the station with deep, dark voices and plenty of enthusiasm. They were pleased with themselves, ripping the airwaves with base male vigor and blithe energy. It's oddly stimulating, the way men talk to each other, their reckless, wild banter border lining on affectionate. I leaned in closer when I realized they were talking about transsexuals. The conversation wasn't serious, it wasn't a debate or terribly informative. In fact, it was closer to slander.
The hosts of 104.1, The Edge's morning show were discussing transgender women in public restrooms. It wasn't the main topic of their broadcast, but it took center stage when I tuned in. They were asking each other if a transgender woman should be allowed to use a female restroom if she was passable. The phrase they used wasn't "passable," of course. I believe the terminology was closer to, "she has the hair and she has boobs--she has the boobies..." I think the softest response was something like, "I can't speak for women, but...if he still has a penis--if she still has it, then she shouldn't, because that's still technically a guy." There were other remarks to pre-op transwomen being "dudes" and "having their manhood," which inevitably lead to joking and references to the movie The Hangover 2. The bottom line of their rhetoric is that transgender women are "technically guys" unless they've had their penises removed and shouldn't be allowed to use the female restrooms because it's not fair to women.
Men and women are entitled to crude assumptions and it's alright to argue or debate hot button issues like restrooms and gender. It's fairly acceptable to joke or speak your mind. None of us are above criticism or parody. My objection isn't to The Edge's crude nature. It's to the lack of research the male hosts performed before they misinformed people over the radio. It's obvious they were curious and openly discussing this strange minority for the first time. It's obvious they were still forming an opinion on a subculture. But while no one was holding guns to their heads and screaming, "read up on transgender women before you talk about them on the radio," they might of pretended to be adults about this and discover whether or not a transgender woman needs to have genital surgery in order to use a female bathroom (or be considered a legal female) before assuming and impacting the viewpoint of such a large audience. What really bothers me is the fact that this audience, a high percentage of them, barely know what a transsexual is.
I made a few notes when I got home. I reminded myself, hoping to spawn a longer entry, how easy it's become for me to forget that I'm a minority, to forget that I'm transgender, to forget that I'm a non-op transsexual, to forget that I'm a minority within a minority. Online, and in transgender support groups, we can't always agree on what regimen, or mindset, or surgery or document makes you a real transsexual. This is what we call trans-elitism. It's essentially another way of projecting your insecurities upon someone else. And so while it's true I can't tell you what a transsexual is canonically (aside from the textbook definition: a transgender person who is undergoing a physical metamorphoses using hormone therapy, surgery or a combination of the two), I can tell you what a male to female transsexual is not: It is not someone who appears to be a girl but is "really a dude." That, 104.1, is the misinformed mindset that murdered girls like Gwen Araujo. It is not someone who needs to use to men's bathroom to spare "real women" discomfort. It is not a gorgeous character in a movie who turns in to a heavy punchline. It's not someone who's trying to deceive you.