There are two aspects to the transgender debate that trouble me most.
First is the all-too-frequent rejection of transgender people’s lives and experiences. Their very lives are discounted as unscientific and delusion. The counterpart in my world are those who insist I’m gay because I choose to be, like choosing tea instead of coffee. I can’t imagine transgender people would put themselves through all the medical rigors and social hardships they face on a mere whim. I trust there’s something deep inside compelling them, and science is looking at this.
The other aspect that bothers me deeply is the all-too-frequent assertion that transgender rights and women’s rights are mutually exclusive. It’s said the two cannot co-exist. Transgender people can have rights and protections in things like employment and housing, but not fully as women because they are not women and never can be according to this line of thinking. They will have to live permanent “split lives,” neither man nor woman socially and politically. To me that’s a life without hope.
I have a very hard time accepting this. I cannot accept that it’s impossible to find a way where all women, cisgender and transgender, can be equals — where the advance of one doesn’t have to come at the expense of the other.
I’m not a woman and so I acknowledge I lack a vantage point from which I can fully see their perspective. But I think we can all put ourselves in the place of the other. It just takes intention, attention and compassion.
There is absolutely no question that the advance of women’s emancipation to date is an historic conquest and essential prerequisite for the further advance of humanity. I don’t take this lightly. At the same time, I have to hope that somehow there’s a way this progress can be consolidated and advanced without relegating transgender women to permanent marginalization. That is not acceptable.
Title image is from the Library of Congress on Unsplash with 14-year-old striker, Fola La Follette, and Rose Livingston. Photograph shows suffrage and labor activist Flora Dodge “Fola” La Follette (1882-1970), social reformer and missionary Rose Livingston, and a young striker during a garment strike in New York City in 1913. [https://www.loc.gov/resource/ggbain.12397/]
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