Do you know if I’m a boy bunny or a girl bunny? Well, I’m not going to tell you because frankly, how does it matter? Back when we were kids, everyone around us would say, “You can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.” But what happens if you are a boy who wants to be a girl or vice versa? Transgender people of all ages face intense bullying, harsh judgment and unsolicited ‘advice’, occasionally from complete strangers. It hurts most, when it comes from our fellow rainbow people. Many trans people feel excluded and uncomfortable even in LBT safe spaces.
“I find it a little odd because, in an LBT space, I’m surrounded by people who are either women or have been or intend to be female at some point in time in their lives. Yet I find them to be ignorant and insensitive,” says Reshma a male-to-female transperson. “I have walked in every pride and I love it when all these girls complement my clothes and makeup and want to come take pictures with me. But I find their questions about my private parts and my sex life rather intrusive. Some of them refer to me as ‘it’ instead of ‘she’! I’m human too,” she asserts.
Other transpersons have also had similar experiences. But 33-year-old Mridul says, the issue isn’t just about physical LBT spaces and that transpersons face various other forms of discrimination as well. “When we say safe space, we are not exclusively referring to physical spaces. What about the mind-space, the political sphere where most dialogue takes place?” Mridul adds that though most LBT spaces are welcoming of transpersons, in some feminist circles Female to Male trans-persons are excluded by LBT feminists because they have a newly acquired ‘male privilege’ that supposedly insulates them against the problems faced by women. “Even when it comes to Male to Female transpersons, the argument is that they would never understand what a woman goes through as they grew up with male privilege and their femininity is largely cosmetic” laments Mridul.
Recently, Nigerian-American feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie stirred a hornet’s nest when she claimed that women who were assigned female at birth were different from trans-women. She bases her argument on how women experience the world differently from men, therefore, a sexual transition does not equip them to understand the female struggles as women do. But Riley J. Dennis, a trans rights activist and video blogger, counters this, “When people say that a trans woman is biologically male, they use that as a way to attack trans people. They use that as an excuse to exclude us from bathrooms, locker rooms and other women’s spaces.” In fact, she has been arguing that both sex and gender should be treated as social constructs. You can watch the full video here.
In India, these days homosexual and bisexual women have been trying to widen their cause by aligning it with mainstream feminism as intersectionality has gained importance over the years. Perhaps it is time to make feminism more inclusive by adding transpersons to the movement.
Bunny feels, often even well-meaning people can end up sounding or behaving insensitively due to ignorance. So here are a few Bunny’s Rainbow Rules to follow when interacting with transgender (TG) people.
- Don’t ask TGs about their private parts. It is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! When someone tells you they are a woman, they are a woman. You don’t need to equate their gender preference with their body parts.
- Don’t feel disgusted if they use your washroom. Your pee and poo are equally disgusting and natural.
- Don’t presume all TGs are sex workers. Even if they are sex workers, it is not an excuse for you to compromise on your respect for them.
- Don’t stare at TGs, especially at their curves. Don’t you hate it if someone ogles at your ass?
- Never question if a TG is man enough or woman enough. These are redundant and ugly gender notions and simply distasteful!
- Don’t assume pronouns. trans people use/prefer a variety of pronouns for themselves. for instance, he/him, she/her (in line with their preferred gender identity, not necessarily the one they were assigned), they/them, ze/zir, it, hir…etc…if you are not sure, it’s better to politely ask.
- The pronoun ‘they’ can be used if you are unsure or if a person is gender queer. Some people prefer ‘zhe’ and ‘hir’ instead of he/she and his/her.