I was reading this article the other day – Transgender Woman’s Selfie in a North Carolina Bathroom is the Best Selfie Ever – and the thought struck me that a large part of the reason that transsexuals are becoming more accepted today is because they are more visually convincing living as the opposite sex then they used to be in the past. (Quick aside, I don’t view the person in the article as dangerous in the least and am not real concerned about the bathroom issue).
Obviously people like us have existed throughout history, far before the medical advances of this last century. In the past, a man trying to live as a woman could not hide so easily. Because of this, it seems like most cultures either embraced people like us as some kind of third gender, or they punished/killed them for their behavior.
Today, the situation is very different. With our medical advances, transsexuals can actually really look like the opposite sex, not only in public, but even while naked alone with a lover. What our doctors can do now is simply incredible and hard to believe.
And yet, even with all of these medical advances, some transsexuals are much more convincing than others, and some of them are much more attractive than others. Now, think about this article. Would this article be as effective if the person in it was not so attractive? Would the article, the selfie, still work for the article if the person was clearly a man in a dress?
I want to argue that it would not. The reason the selfie works to make the point for the article is that the person looks very much like a woman and is even beautiful. It’s an emotional argument that basically comes down to, “don’t I look like a sweet innocent woman who is not a threat? Do I really look like a man?” And the obvious answer, which I admit is, “yes, you do look like a sweet innocent woman who is not a threat.” Yet what about the transsexuals who cannot afford the myriad of surgeries and hormones and everything else that this person probably went through? What if our medical science wasn’t so advanced? It seems odd that indirectly, in a way, transsexuals are arguing for acceptance, not because of who they are, but because of what our medical science is able to achieve.
I think that this is common for any kind of the transgender arguments that are out there today. The poster children, the poster adults, for this movement are the ones who are able to be really convincing and attractive as the opposite sex. They are the ones that make everyone else in the culture feel comfortable. People are more uncomfortable when they see someone that isn’t fitting all of their gender boxes, and looks like some strange hybrid of masculinity and femininity.
I don’t think this is a wise form of argumentation for the transgender community. I’m not only referring to this article and selfie but much of the emotional argumentation I’ve seen over the years. This is a sure fire way to isolate those who don’t pass as well. As if the standards of beauty in our culture weren’t terrible enough to make women go through eating disorders to live up to them, now transsexuals are using arguments and lines of reasoning that may end up coming back to hurt them, by forcing them to live up to strict standards of beauty. They seem to be using arguments that will make their acceptance contingent on looking exactly like a real woman (or man).
But my bigger concern is this. I think people in the wider culture are being duped. If people would not accept someone who looks like a man in a dress in a women’s bathroom, than they shouldn’t accept someone like the person in the picture either. It’s not consistent. The genetics are the same in each case. It’s just that one has a better disguise than the other.
Perhaps I should discuss the word acceptance. I think all people should be treated fairly and with respect. And I’m not sure what I think on the whole bathroom issue. I want all people, including transsexuals, to feel safe, comfortable, and protected. But what I mean by acceptance is the wider culture embracing transsexualism, celebrating it, and going beyond treating transsexuals with respect, to actually believing that they have truly changed their sex.
And this I think is just foolish. If you wouldn’t view a man in a dress as a real woman, is the person in the picture any more a real woman, just because he has gone through surgeries and actually looks like a woman? If you want to view transsexuals as people who have truly changed sex, that’s fine. There are some interesting arguments out there that are based on more than just how people look. But then be consistent, and use those arguments, not the types of arguments that come up such as in this selfie. I don’t think most people in our culture realize that they are basing their decision to accept and celebrate transsexuals by looking at only those who are very attractive and convincing.
What does everyone else think?