I have been pleasantly surprised not once, but twice, today by “gender” related news! That’s a record, so I’m sharing.
First, HuffPo is covering a story about a boy who got in trouble for wearing make-up to school. See here for more. How stupid is that, right? Sex stereotyping alert! Let the boy wear make-up already! But the tyranny of gender normalcy bears down on all those who dare to be different (trans-identified or not):
Chris’ mom Katelynn Martin took to MoveOn.org and started a petition in the name of change. She argues that the school’s principal, Claud Effiom, “expressed his own belief that boys wearing makeup is ridiculous, unnecessary, and distracting.”
Well, no more ridiculous and unnecessary than girls wearing make-up! But that’s beside the point. The point is that Chris’s desire to wear make-up is not because Chris is a “girl on the inside” or “trapped in the wrong body.” This is a critical distinction. Fashion and personal expression do not have biological causes. We must challenge social perception instead: if make-up is ok for girls, then it should be ok for boys too. It’s that simple. As I have said before: “Framing the individual as aberrant legitimizes conformity to sex roles as the correct way of being; it normalizes oppressive social conditions that are intolerant of any diversion from heteronormativity.”
Let the boy wear make-up! And let’s not circle back around to insisting that it must be because he’s “really a girl.”
In other news, the City of Boston’s Police Commissioner recently issued a special policy on the treatment of transgender people. While the first page of definitions are a total mess, it is significant that there are no negative implications for females. Most administrative policies about transgender individuals require the users to treat trans people according to their “preferred” sex. This means that, for example, a male must be housed with females whenever the male demands it as a function of his subjectively defined “gender identity.” I object to this.
Fortunately, in Boston, this is not the case. The issue of breaching sex-segregation is carefully side-stepped with the following language:
Sec. 6.4. Conditions during Holding
Whenever possible, a transgender prisoner shall be held in a cell without other prisoners. The Booking Officer and Duty Supervisor shall make all efforts to ensure that the prisoner is held without other prisoners, including looking at availability in any and all other district stations.
Despite the administrative burden, I think this sounds like a pretty good deal. Hell, I might even try the trans-identity card myself if I ever get arrested so I can get a single too. Nevertheless, we should still expect some dissatisfaction because of the isolation inherent to single-cell holding and the failure to “validate identities.” But that’s the catch-22 created by those who demand that subjective identification with gender roles should override classification on the basis of biological sex and socialization-from-birth.
And lastly, I note that one’s legal name must be recorded in addition to preferred name; it is not arbitrarily cast aside in by Boston’s new policy.
Sec. 6.2. Booking
The Booking Officer will process transgender prisoners, including persons held in protective custody and juveniles held in custody, according to normal booking procedures as outlined in Rule 318. When booking a transgender prisoner, the Booking Officer will include the prisoner’s adopted name (i.e. name that the individual uses in self-reference) in the booking, either as the primary name or as the “also known as” (a.k.a.) name. The transgender prisoner will be booked under the name appearing on the prisoner’s government-issued identification, as well as under an a.k.a. name where applicable.
My emphasis. The government has an interest in consistently tracking people according to existing documentation. In the interest of preventing fraud and identity theft, the government also has a valid reason to track sex because it is a relatively immutable identifier that rarely changes over the course of one’s lifetime– it is more stable than weight and more difficult to camouflage than eye color. Sex is also the basis on which individuals are socialized into the gendered system that gives rise to male violence. So there’s that too. But all in all, I have very few reservations about this new policy because it does not require incarcerated women to accept males in sex-segregated spaces and it does not require sex to be displaced by “gender identity.” And that’s awesome.