• Marriage in Maine

It's complicated.

Anonymous's picture
Written by Anonymous
April 30, 2010 - 9:04am

Earlier this month the Maine Human Rights commission backed away from the drafting of guidelines for the fair treatment of transgender students in Maine schools. (Bangor Daily News article here.) They had come out with a draft which proposed access to bathrooms, locker rooms, and sports teams according to how students self-identify. Controversy erupted, with vocal input from both conservative and GLBT rights groups, and one senses in the commission's current retreat both the inadequacy of their first attempt to wrestle with the complexities of the issue and their startlement at how much fuss their draft kicked up.

The issues are complex, and just because I'm trans doesn't mean I have answers. I grapple daily to map my constantly morphing gender identity onto one of two little cut-out figures on a pair of doors, only one of which at any one time I can enter in order to relieve myself or change for a workout. But for what it's worth, I offer one trans person's perspective...and it's different, I think, for each issue: bathrooms, locker rooms, teams.

Bathrooms seem easiest to me. Consider: Last Saturday I served on a "meet a transgender person" panel at a church in Saco. My look included a full femme outfit with pink scarf, eye-shadow and lipstick, long dangly earrings, and a name-tag with "Lisa" on it...and I used the women's restroom. Monday morning I stopped for gas at a turnpike rest stop. I was wearing women's jeans but a man's shirt, a scarf in earth-tones, just a little mascara, and demur barely dangly earrings...and I used the men's restroom. There are stalls for privacy, both mine and yours...so may I please just pee as I present? Thank you.

Locker rooms are tougher. I work out at the USM Portland gym a couple times a week, and though I self-identify as female I'm still using the men's locker room. I'm going to be starting hormones soon, though, and that means I'll be growing breasts. The gym has thoughtfully provided some changing-stalls with curtains and private showers, so I'll be able to use those for a while...but I don't imagine I'll be completely comfortable. And then I'm planning surgery on both my face and lower down; I don't know which first. There could be a period in there where I have, say, the face and chest of a woman, and the voice and genitals of a man. I don't know if I would be comfortable in either locker room then.

My ideal would be a locker and shower of my own, in a room with its own door. In the unlikely event another trans person was using it, I'd be willing to wait...would that be too much to ask? I don't think so. We don't need a third whole locker room...just a place big enough so that the hook is far enough away from the spray so that my clothes don't get wet.

This plan would work for bathrooms too, actually...and yes, owners of public buildings and such will squawk about expense...but the truth that gender is not a binary seems to be percolating up at last into public consciousness...let's deal.

Teams. Hm. No personal experience on this one, but I can't shake an image of a six-two 250-pound trans-girl wreaking havoc on the rugby pitch. I'm zealous about rights, but this could be going too far. Male-born bodies simply grow bigger and stronger than female-born ones, and someone might get hurt. The hormonal element of transition does even the playing-field somewhat; an M to F transsexual gets to keep the height and bones, but loses muscle mass and strength. So, maybe team membership based on some reasonably clear standard of hormonally-defined identity could work? Arrgh, objections immediately arise...imperfect at best...I feel least able to say anything useful on this one.

See? Complicated.

The one thing I'm sure of within myself is that I am a feminine person, and I see the unwavering strength of that gender-conviction mirrored in the faces and lives of the other trans people I know. We are who we are, and, speaking for myself again, I don't want to cause a great deal of trouble, but I also want the equal access, the rights, and the basic human respect I deserve, just like anyone. I want to play the game, just like anyone. It's a knotty puzzle...and I'll be curious how the discussion goes if the commission decides to tackle it, which I truly hope they will. It won't be easy, but it's a discussion which needs to happen.

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