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The Coming Wave Of Oppositional Sexist Panic

November 12, 2010

Jos at Feministing has the story of the football player in Mississippi thrown off the squad for wearing pink cleats. He was wearing them for breast cancer awareness, not for gender nonconformity, and to most of us this reaction makes no sense.

Get used to it. This battle has already started.

Remember when a high school wouldn’t let Constance McMillen take her girlfriend to the prom? One of the less reported aspects of the story is that the school originally offered to let her take her girlfriend if she wore a dress and if they didn’t arrive together. Of course, she wanted to make an entrance with her girlfriend, like first class citizens. And she wanted to wear a tux. An even less reported aspect of the story is that the same school ran Juin Baize out of town on a rail, basically. Juin, at the time of the story, used male pronouns, but he dressed in traditionally female clothes, wore makeup and presented as gendervariant. He was suspended on his first day of attendance, and in the spot on the form where the school was supposed to say why, they did not provide any explanation. The ACLU sued, but when his grandmother kicked the whole family out they moved out of the district and the suit was dropped.

New anti-bullying laws sometimes contain not just sexual orientation but gender expression. As I and others point out, sexual orientation protections are not much protection if they don’t also cover gender expression: “oh, he didn’t beat you up because you’re gay, he beat you up because you’re effeminate. Under the statute, we don’t have any obligation to protect you from that!” So good antibullying statutes, and good antidiscrimination laws, should include gender expression.  Transphobes are terrified, because they know this makes the world safer for trans and gendervariant folks.

Some people see the world as they know it slipping away. They see a world coming where society doesn’t effectively enforce a bright line between masculinity and femininity, or force men for be masculine and women to be feminine. A world where someone assigned male at birth can wear a judge’s robes as a woman and someone assigned female at birth can take the basketball court as a man, and maybe even a world where people can operate in their daily lives without having to check a box. Something as small as a football player in pink cleats will send them into a swoon, and then paroxysms of rage. They’ll act like they’re fighting the last ditch effort to protect the world they know.

They are correct. They’re fighting to protect the world they know, the world of oppositional sexism (see here), where there are fixed, binary, opposite gender roles; where gender conformity is mandatory and violently policed. That’s what they’re fighting for, and they’re losing. They will lose. They will lose because, as Rev. Dr. M.L. King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Julian Morrison permalink
    November 13, 2010 7:32 am

    Rev. King is wrong. The universe does not have a preference for justice – quite the contrary, justice is a small target amongst a great many possible unjust outcomes, hitting it requires an intentional act. That’s important – we can’t expect justice, we have to make it, and expect thereafter to constantly maintain it.

    The haters might win! They aren’t very likely to, but it isn’t inconceivable. Progress has been lost before. This is a real war, not a slow-rolling victory, and we had better be prepared to fight it in earnest.

  2. November 13, 2010 9:36 am

    Great article. I present as bi-gendered “slob’ – on my good days. And get thrown out of every town where I stop for gas on my motorbike.
    Just remember, dearies, the old Neanderthals died off as well. (yes, yes, I know ‘new evidence’ points to their not be quite extinct – and judging from the house apes I see stuffed in their loud and tiny cars, I believe it, but overall, thank the good goddesses, they are pre-history.)
    The neo-Neaderthals are in their death throes. Now if only we could take away their loud and violent toys, we could get down to some real revelation quality debauching!

  3. November 13, 2010 3:56 pm

    One thing about “gender identity protection” laws is that they often have these really weird conditions and disclaimers which are… well, a kind word would be “counterproductive,” but a more accurate descriptor would be “fucking transphobic.” For instance, they may require that trans people still be required to use the wrong goddamn bathrooms… or that gender presentation must be “consistent,” i.e. no gender fuckery, no androgyny, no presenting as different things on different days, only presenting as good ol’ fashioned male or female is allowed. Which just fucking screws over all non-binary trans people in an enormous way. Also trans people who are still figuring out their identities and may be experimenting with different presentations.

  4. GallingGalla permalink
    November 14, 2010 9:56 pm

    This is very much right on, Thomas. I thank you for bringing up Juin Baize’s situation; sie was failed by hir school, by hir family, by the ACLU, by the LGB community.

    I want to amplify Asher’s comment. This is really fucking important, what with folks like Barney Frank demanding that trans folk use the bathroom that “matches their genitals” and his shit-talking crap about (paraphrasing) “I don’t want to see some dude with a full beard in a dress”.

    I am non-binary, and my presentation varies from moderately femme to quite butch from day to day. People have a right to present in whatever way works for them, without either cis people or binary-gendered people (cis or trans) dictating terms

    I think that Rev. Dr Martin Luther King was right about the arc of justice, but like Julian said, it won’t come without a fight. The cissupremacists see us as a threat just by our existence, and they have declared war on us.

    Nonetheless, there are those who insist breathlessly, endlessly, that they are. That our families are destroying their way of life. That our existing in public shocks and harms them. That attending school, sitting in a restaurant, having to hear at all that we exist is an affront that threatens to annihilate them. And they gather their stormclouds over and over, they teach their children, they shout from the pedestals and rooftops and radio waves that we are, by virtue of drawing breath, destroying them. That we are at war, and that our heartbeats are a sword at their throats.

    So I need to say that from my perspective (coercively-assigned-male-at-birth transgenderqueer femmbutchwhathaveyou person), well I’ve known this for years. I’m glad that some cis people are finally getting the message.


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