Libertarians and Trans Rights

I wanted to write about something positive today. I noticed that most of the things I write about tend to have a negative tone, but existing in a society saturated with cissexism will do that to you. Perhaps I’m internalizing the idea that too much negativity is a bad thing. But is it really? I don’t know. Perhaps not.

Why am I feeling so negative despite my desire to be more positive? North Carolina, Mississippi, Kansas, Tennessee, etc. It’s old news by now that the religious right is hellbent on removing transgender folks from public life with the endorsement of the Republican National Committee. It’s no secret that republicans are openly hostile as a party. But do you know what has me as upset, if not more upset? Most libertarians would rather talk about Bitcoin than about trans rights. I hear almost nothing from more prominent libertarians who say they are for social justice. Maybe it’s just the circles I am in. After all, just because I haven’t seen libertarians fighting for trans rights doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t. Maybe libertarians really aren’t as bad about this as they appear to be. Or maybe they are.

Why do I care about what libertarians think or say? That’s a really good question I keep asking myself. I used to call myself a libertarian and was quite passionate about it. For years, I was anti-‘big government’ and even considered myself a market anarchist for a brief period of time. But then I noticed how terrible a lot of libertarians can be about ‘identity politics’. Issues dealing with racism, sexism, or transmisogyny are rarely discussed. And when they are brought up, libertarians (primarily white and male libertarians) flock to put down the one mentioning the issue in the first place–especially when that person is a woman.

In her blog, Cathy Reisenwitz laments the existence of white fragility in libertarianism:

“…it pains me that libertarianism is so full of little flowers so delicate that the mere mention of the realities that other people have to live every single day of their lives causes them to be so triggered that they have to flee an in-group that is mostly openly hostile to and in denial of identity-based oppression for an in-group which actively and openly advocates for identity-based oppression.

“It’s not just libertarianism. White fragility is very real. When polled, most white people actually believe they are the real victims of racism in America today. The mere mention of any attempt to correct for racism causes white job applicants to get so nervous they throw their interviews. White people aren’t even strong enough to think about the realities black people live every day.

“I’m fucking exhausted. I’m exhausted by white identity politics. I’m exhausted by the fact that in libertarianism open racism and sexism by old white men is hardly remarked upon but a woman who is openly opposed to racism and sexism is angrily shouted down and told to leave their whites-only safe space.”

I’m exhausted, too.

Quite honestly, the fact that libertarians talk more about raw milk, taxation, and monetary policy than about my rights as a trans woman is enough for me to know that libertarianism isn’t for me. It’s great that some occasionally stick up for me, but I don’t see what the point of liberty is if it’s not for everyone.

Others (who shall remain anonymous) of marginalized groups who also happen to be familiar with libertarianism share similar sentiments:

“The fact that the vast majority writing articles for Reason and organizing Freedom Fest and Anarchapulco care more about the federal reserve than people actually aggressively losing their basic civil liberties and human rights is disgusting. I’m pretty sure the routine murders of [trans women of color] is a bigger deal than Bitcoin. That’s what turned me off so much. Actual lives at stake aren’t as important as money and taxes, at the end of the day.

“And not only are those high profile individuals ignoring that loss of life and increasing invasion of rights, they are belittling those who are speaking up about it.”
When posed with a serious question regarding how ‘freedom of association’ might negatively affect trans women, I saw one libertarian suggest that trans women should keep their identities a secret so they will not be discriminated against. I kid you not. Someone seriously thinks that’s a reasonable solution to private discrimination. Others not as overtly unreasonable responded that discrimination actually isn’t a problem from a rights-based or libertarian perspective. It was clear that many of them addressing the issue either didn’t care or knew next to nothing about how discrimination hurts marginalized people. This was actually higher quality discourse than I typically see in libertarian circles. Many are outright hateful and hostile toward trans people.
Fortunately, I do have some examples of libertarians who speak up for women, trans folks, people of color, and others. The Association of Libertarian Feminists Facebook page consistently does this. However, I struggle to think of others and that’s a problem libertarians should care about.
If you are a libertarian and you care about the rights and wellbeing of marginalized people, speak up if you are safe enough to do so. If you are a ‘celebritarian’, you are in a unique position to do so. If you are interested in keeping people like me around, it would help us if we knew you had our back.

My Trans Journey: My Legal Transition

A transgender person can transition in any number of ways. There are three primary modes of transition that I like to refer to: social transition, medical transition, and legal transition. A trans person may undergo all of these modes of transition, none of them at all, or any combination in between. A social transition involves changing the way one presents themselves and expresses their gender (or lack of gender) in addition to the way they relate to others and how others relate to them. They may change the way they dress, their pronouns, and the name(s) they go by. A medical transition involves certain medical interventions that treat dysphoria. They can include HRT, facial reconstruction, gender confirming surgeries,  breast augmentations, reductions, or removals, etc. A legal transition includes changing one’s legal name or legally recognized gender (or both).

I have previously written about my social and medical transitions, but I have not said much of anything about a legal transition. That’s because I was waiting until I had gotten to certain point in that part of my transition where I felt I could say something useful or interesting about it. It’s also the reason why I haven’t written anything for a while–I have just been so damn busy! But now that I am in a place where I am satisfied with my legal transition, I am finally ready to describe the process I went through and my thoughts on it.

Of course, my experience is mine alone. It is not intended to be a prescriptive set of step-by-step points that apply universally to everyone. For example, I live in the state of Arizona, which has laws that differ from those of Idaho, which differ from those of California, and so on. Also, my goals are not every trans person’s goals. I specifically set out to change my legal name and the gender markers on my social security card and driver’s license. Also, I have to acknowledge my privilege. I am white, middle class, and reasonably connected to people who could help me at my request. Most trans folks don’t have that. There are all kinds of barriers that make it more difficult for most trans people than it was for me. This makes my experience even less generalizable.

I started simply by looking up the legal name change process for the state of Arizona on the internet. There, I found a link that took me to the Superior Court of Arizona in Maricopa County’s website. I found out where to get a set of instructions and files I needed to begin the process. The first major step I took was applying for a name change and filing at the county clerk’s office. Once I did that and paid a $319 fee, I was given a phone number to call after about four business days. When I made the call, I got an appointment for a hearing. In the meantime, I was required to have my wife complete a notarized consent form and return to the county clerk’s office to hand in my ‘notice of hearing’.

On my court date, I dressed up in business casual attire–a black skirt, crimson red blouse, and black heels–and appeared before a judge who then made the order to change my name. After the hearing, I had to go to the county clerk and have the order be given its final seal of approval. Afterwards, I was able to take that order (in addition to a physician’s note) to the Social Security Administration office and the DMV to have them change my name and gender markers.

This is but a brief description of the whole process. It was relatively easy for me because I had the means and the time to do it. Not a lot of trans folks have the means, unfortunately. This should be right as should equal access to medically necessary transgender related healthcare.

It’s Not About Privacy

CW: transmisogyny and mentions suicide and assault.

Since losing the fight against marriage equality, the Right has shifted its attention toward the transgender community by attempting to repeal legislation protecting the rights of trans individuals. Sites on Facebook such as Just Want Privacy and Keep Locker Rooms Safe have sprung up urging people to resist progress.

Just Want Privacy’s stated mission is ,”to repeal WAC 162-32, the Washington Human Rights Commission’s rule mandating schools and businesses to open locker rooms, showers, and bathrooms based on the way someone claims to internally identify.” A recent effort in the Washington legislature failed to repeal WAC 162-32, but the fight still isn’t over. Opponents of the rule are still organizing in an effort to get it repealed.

Keep Locker Rooms Safe, “seeks to equip people with information and resources to effectively combat the Washington State Human Rights Commission’s recently adopted WAC, which compromises the safety and the privacy of residents across the state as it grants access to bathrooms and locker rooms on account of gender identity rather than anatomy.


Our stand is not against transgender people, nor do we believe they are sexual predators. Our opposition is to negligent and poorly written legislation that seeks to grant safety and privacy of a few by stripping it from the majority” (emphasis added).

 

In South Dakota, an anti-trans bill “that orders people in public schools to use restrooms that align with their gender at birth”in order to “protect the privacy of students” (there’s that justification again) was passed by the South Dakota Senate. The governor has yet to sign or veto the bill.

Is this really about privacy? Not at all. Are people pushing against trans rights against transgender people? Absolutely. How? Trans women are at a higher risk of assault than other groups are. If this were really about protecting the privacy of women and children, then they would not be fighting against the rights of trans women and children, they would be supporting us. Do these people even care about the facts? No, they don’t.

Trans women are not considered women. We don’t matter to them. They would rather we didn’t exist and they are doing everything they can to make the world even more intolerable than it already is. Never mind that 41% of trans people attempt suicide. You can quote that statistic all damn day long. They don’t care. That statistic could double and they still would not care. 

If you consider yourself a trans ally, do not be fooled by these transmisogynistic arguments. If you think trans folks should be considered equals while having a reservation about trans women in women’s bathrooms, you don’t think trans women are women and that they matter as much as cis women. Being an ally means being willing to support us and considering us full equals. Considering trans women equal to cis women would prevent the reservation from taking up any serious space in your mind for any serious length of time.

 

My Trans Journey: Understanding My Dysphoria

CW: descriptions of dysphoria, mentions of suicide.

Introduction

I have had a lot of time to reflect on my past experiences. In fact, it’s mostly what I do whenever I get a moment to think about something other than work or what’s happening in the present moment. I am taking the opportunity to write about it as a kind of self care that will help me gain greater insight into my past and my emotions. This will be a small view into my personal experience with dysphoria and hopefully it will help you get a better understanding of what it has been like for me.

Remember, not every trans person experiences dysphoria (and that does not make them any less trans), nor do those who experience it experience it the same way from person to person or from moment to moment. Thus, when I talk about my experiences, they are mine alone. How generalizable they are, I am not sure.

When I began to think about how to communicate my experiences to a cis (not trans) audience, I thought the best way would be through a short story. What follows will be a metaphor for my experiences.

A Tale of Two Identities 

I was born late into a July evening to two loving parents. I was a “male” and a “he” according to the doctor because I was born with a penis. Right away, I had an artificial identity imposed on me.

Deep within my brain were two identities. Charlotte was the original identity born with me, but nothing was wrong until the artificial identity Chet was created. The two originally tried to figure out how live with each other, but over time that proved to be impossible. Eventually shame made it so Chet became strong enough to overpower Charlotte. He tied her up and imprisoned her in a cage where she would remain for many years. She could make some noise every now and again when she had the strength, but the other parts of my mind could barely hear her, and they soon forgot all about her.

When I was old enough to recognize my name, Charlotte immediately was repelled and cried out, “Ugh! No! That’s not our name! What kind of name is ‘Chet’ anyway? We hate it!” Apparently Charlotte was loud enough for parts of me to hear her, because I felt some of her disgust at hearing my own name. It felt wrong.

When I was about five years old, Charlotte was able to access glances of my reflection. “No! We look so ugly! Why do we look like this?” I immediately became insecure with my appearance. Then Chet replied to Charlotte, “Shut up in there!”, but it was too late. The seed of insecurity was already planted and its growth was inevitable. At this point all Chet could do was tell me, “Look, I know you are unhappy with your appearance now, but you can’t tell anyone. Only girls care about their appearance, so people will think there is something wrong with you if you say anything about it. Got it?” And so I never spoke a word to anyone about it.

There were times when my dad took off his shirt and Charlotte would be horrified. “No! If Dad looks like that, then what are we going to look like? We do not want to have Dad’s body hair or physique, and buff guys are gross, too. What are we going to do? We are supposed to have soft, smooth skin and a hairless, slender body. This sucks!”

“Remember, we don’t want anyone to think anything is wrong with us, so you better stay quiet”, Chet whispered.

Every Christmas, I liked a lot of the toys I got, but I could also sense Charlotte’s envy at my  sister’s toys. Chet would immediately spring up “Those are girl toys! We’re not a girl!”

“Yes we are!”, replied Charlotte.

“Shut up!”, Chet commanded.

As I got older, I seemed to develop a sense of being out of place in the world. There was something about myself that didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. This became a much bigger problem when puberty began. Testosterone was a major game changer that upset the balance and created turmoil in my mind. It wasn’t built for this.

Anxiety and depression became the new normal for me and grew as I grew. Soon I became angry and cynical. I would rarely feel contentment and quickly forgot what happiness and self-love felt like. Whenever I wasn’t pained by depression, anxiety, or anger, I was numb. I could barely feel empathy, and rarely had strong positive feelings for anyone else. I was living in a personal hell that didn’t have any escape, and I didn’t understand why.

Little did I know at the time that puberty was wreaking havoc and that the only one who could do anything about it was bound up and imprisoned deep within my mind. My parents couldn’t figure out what was going on either. They recognized that I had become anti-social, would have occasional outbursts, and would often isolate myself from everyone else. When I was in the ninth grade, my mother approached me and told me about her concerns. I agreed to go see a school counselor.

After talking to my mother, I  worried about what was going on, too. I desperately wanted to feel better and to fit in with my peers. I realized something needed to change. “What should I do about this?”, I asked myself.

“That’s a great question!”, replied Chet. “You need to fit into the role that people want you to fit into. You need to be cooler and more manly. An easy way to do that would be to play sports again. What sport is the manliest and will impress girls the most? Football! You will get big and strong and you will fit right in! Oh! You should also quit being such a nerd, too. Stop worrying about your grades so much. You’ll be fine if you don’t get a 4.0. Just relax and live for once!”

And that’s exactly what I did. I struggled with it at first, but it got better. I got bigger and stronger, and started getting more respect from my peers, but it wasn’t everything I was hoping for. Something was still wrong. I started to feel a lot of pressure and became incredibly anxious about playing football. The anxiety became so intolerable, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I became so depressed, I experienced a strong desire to self-harm for the first time. “If I were injured, I wouldn’t have to worry about this anymore and my pain would go away”, I thought. I finally recognized that football wasn’t healthy for me and decided to quit my senior year. People told me that I would regret that decision, but no such regret has ever occurred.

I later went on to experience two other episodes of extreme anxiety and depression that almost ended in suicide. Something was clearly wrong, but what? I still couldn’t figure it out. At this point, I figured that I just inherited these anxious tendencies from my parents and that I would have to live with them for the rest of my life. My parents didn’t understand it either. They eventually concluded that I had Asperger’s and I came to believe that, too.

Things got better the next few years after I made a few changes. I moved out of my parents’ house, got married, had a decent stable job, and started developing my own identity independent of the influence of my parents and former friends. Things finally seemed to be better, or so I thought. I still didn’t really feel like I fit in well and felt as if something was still missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on what that was.

By this point, Charlotte was starting to get stronger and Chet was afraid he might lose control of her. The only way Charlotte could die was if the rest of the mind died with her, so the best thing Chet could do was imprison her. He was also aware that though the mind could not live without Charlotte, it could live without him. He could die, and the mind would be just fine without him.

One day, I just happened to see a video explaining the concept of gender and how trans people fit into that concept. “Is this what I have been missing?”, I wondered. “YES! Yes it is!”, Screamed Charlotte. “Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!” Charlotte began to struggle with a vigor that she never had before. She was able to eventually break out of her bonds, but she was still trapped in her cage. “Let me out!”, she screamed as she shook the bars of her cage.

“Shut up!” Chet answered. “You’ll never get out of there! You know why? Because we will never accept you. The world will never accept you. ‘He’ might already know about you, but you still won’t get out of there because there is no way in hell ‘he’ could ever be you!”

Chet was able to maintain control, but it was much more difficult for him now. Other parts of my mind started to remember Charlotte and were now starting to free her. Chet was able to fend them off, but he realized that he couldn’t fight them off forever. He was starting to become desperate. Then suddenly she was free.

I then started to spiral into another cycle of extreme anxiety and depression. It was happening again and this time I knew where it would end if I didn’t do something about it.

Charlotte had been let loose and she knew if she wanted to remain free and if I were to live, Chet had to die. She quickly found him and they fought. It was a long and grueling struggle that practically destroyed the both of them. Charlotte eventually killed Chet and I finally acknowledged that I was a she. I was Charlotte.

Final Thoughts

I hope that story was both entertaining and enlightening. Since coming to terms with being trans and embracing Charlotte, I have become much happier and at peace with myself. I now feel that I finally know and love myself for the first time.

Realizing and accepting my identity didn’t erase my dysphoria. It only changed how I experience it. I no longer have extreme experiences of anxiety and depression, but I do still suffer from occasional bouts of insecurity and low self-esteem about my appearance and other aspects of myself. Transitioning, especially starting hormone replacement therapy, has gone a very long way to help me cope with that and I look forward to the other wonderful benefits that transition will bring me.

Note: if you are interested in reading more about trans experiences of gender dysphoria, I relate a lot to this one, so I highly recommend it for greater insight into my experience and experiences like mine. 

Evolution’s Rainbow: An Excerpt

I am in the middle of reading a very interesting book called “Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People” by Joan Roughgarden. The author of the book argues that Darwin’s sexual selection theory is false. I intend to eventually review the book once I complete it, but I felt like I needed to write about a particular part that I just read that seems to have implications for my relationship with my mother.

CN: non-binary erasure.

“I envision gender identity as a cognitive lens. When a baby opens his or her [sic] eyes after birth and looks around, whom will the baby emulate and whom will he or she [sic] merely notice? Perhaps a male baby will emulate his father or other men, perhaps not, and a female baby her mother, or other women, perhaps not. I imagine that a lens in the brain controls who to focus on as a ‘tutor’. Transgender identity is then the acceptance of a tutor from the opposite sex [sic]…The development of gender identity thus depends on both brain state and early postnatal experience, because brain state indicates what the lens is, and environmental experience supplies the image to be photographed through that lens and ultimately developed immutably into brain circuitry.”

When I was a small child, I believed that my mother gave birth to me, and only me. I had a sister and I explained this away by asserting to myself that my father gave birth to her, not my mother. She was mine and only mine. From that early age, I sensed a strong connection to my mother that I imagine cisgender males tend to share with their fathers. If Roughgarden is correct, then it seems I focused on my mother as my “tutor” very early on as a trans female child.

Of course I also love my father, but I never felt a similar connection to him. He is my father, and I have always felt he was. I just never saw him the way I see my mother. There came a point when I became aware of the gendered expectations I was ‘supposed to’ adopt and adhere to. In a way, I felt somewhat obligated to develop that kind of connection with my father. It’s not that I didn’t want a special relationship with my father, I just felt like I was attempting to create an artificial one in order fulfill my duties as someone assigned male at birth.

Fortunately, I did have a genuinely special (yet different) relationship with my father. It’s not the same one I might imagine I would have if I were cisgender, but it’s a good one nonetheless.