One of the hardest decisions a woman has to make in a multitude of situations is “which decision should I make here to be safe, or at least safer?” We’d all like to believe that harm isn’t surrounding us at all times, but with the emboldening of hatred, aggression, and sexual assault, every decision can lead to further danger regardless of intention.
Sometimes particularly defensive men are quick to point out the woman for assuming danger and perhaps crossing the street to avoid walking by them on the sidewalk. Or perhaps taking other precautions that are visible and acknowledged during a first date or encounter. The defense mechanism often triggered is the assumption that they’ve already made up their mind and have therefore grouped them in “with the rest of those men.”
Everyone knows the “Nice Guy” platitude, the one who constantly laments how all women want jerks and put them in the “friendzone,” which is a term that needs to be changed into “I had different intentions than she was willing to give me, so it’s her fault really,” but that’s not as catchy or simple to say. These same mannerisms and verbal tics are triggered by women talking about their sexual assaults. Take, for instance, the hashtag that followed that movement of outpouring… #NotAllMen
On the surface, we are all eager to dispel assumptions about ourselves that categorize us with an Other we deem less respectable than we are. It’s a psychologically-fulfilling need to feel better than other people in some capacity, and we all do it. The news and reality TV have in common their main-running narrative: “Look at how bad this is, be grateful it isn’t you. You’re not stupid or in dire straits. Don’t you feel better about yourself now? Yeah, you feel better about yourself now, take a nap.”
In addition to wondering if anyone I know is going to attack me for being open about myself, transwomen in general have a different worry, especially those of us who don’t “pass” necessarily by society’s standards. We have to constantly make additional decisions that wouldn’t cross the mind of most white cis people: “Will I be safe if I do this thing?”
The election of Drumpf only heightened those fears, and put more weight on those very decisions for our own personal safety. If you’re wondering why I wrote a book that started with saying “fuck you” to anyone who voted for that narcisstic clown, there’s a good start. The guy ran a campaign on the idea that “it’s everyone’s fault but straight white cis Christians,” and suddenly people are surprised when they believed it. It’s almost like if you give people an Other on whom to blame all their problems, it makes them bolder or something. Perish the thought.
Every single day, I have to make multiple decisions based on how safe I might be. Sure, I’m going to be safe at University, or am I? What if someone sees me walking into the women’s room and doesn’t know? I have to walk through the ESL hallways in order to do so, and while I’m sure they’re more exposed to alternative lifestyles, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to pay attention. I’ve asked people to walk with me into the bathroom because I’m too scared to go there by myself, and that’s on my own college campus where I pay an exorbitant amount of money for a piece of paper to say I’m smart. LOLSAFESPACE!
When I travel, I have to base how I’m going to dress on where I’m going and what might happen on the way. If I wear a dress and makeup, presenting myself as I truly feel, will I have to use a rest stop? Will I have to stop for food? Will I have to allow anyone else to see and judge me? What part of the country am I traveling in?
Recently, I’ve made two trips to Florida by car. On one of them, my cis female friend Monica had to pretend that we were a straight cis couple in order to stop getting evil glares… at a fucking McDonald’s off 95 in North Carolina. It’s that goddamn terrifying just to be someone who may look different when stopping for food off one of the most traveled interstates in the country.
On the same trip, I didn’t dress to my true heart’s desire, despite going to a place where everyone was okay with it, and meeting up with friends who were eager to meet the real me. Why? I have to go through several states that aren’t exactly known for being open-minded toward LGBT people. Can I risk using the bathroom without being followed, bullied, or worse? What will I do if it happens? Can I be confrontational, or will that get me in deeper with enforcement? Will I be made an example of because I’ve somehow threatened their fragile masculinity by existing?
Regardless of your stance on the bullshit bathroom debate, acknowledge this before anything else: We didn’t start it, conservatives did when they lost the same-sex marriage fight. They found a more vulnerable Other to blame for the decline of the country’s morality because Caitlyn Jenner made the mainstream, and slightly altered the narrative of their RFRAs to accommodate. What happens? We get blamed for Clinton’s loss because acknowledging us as people is considered a “boutique” issue, despite them being the ones who started this whole stupid thing in the first place.
Do you know what transpeople were doing before that argument started? That’s right, using the bathroom that best suited our presentation. Holy shit, the world is ending!
It is absolutely fucked up that I have to make conscious decisions literally every single day about how I look, where I go, and what I’m doing because someone out there might be emboldened enough to attack me for existing. I don’t care where your politics lie; if you’re in favor of an American citizen having to be scared to use the bathroom in their own fucking country, you need to re-examine your priorities.