May is Dedicated to Gender Identity: The Personal is Political and the Political is Personal

Photo Credit: Washington Post

Photo Credit: Washington Post

The Personal is Political and the Political is Personal

By Alexa Tennyson, MA, LAMFT

As a person who has transgender loved ones and works with transgender clients, the recent spate of laws regarding transgender bathroom use has been on my mind. It is hard for me to understand why one would want to ban a person from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Some argue that it is for the protection of those who use those facilities, but there has yet to be one documented case of violence from a transgender person toward a cisgender person in a bathroom. In fact, often the opposite is true: transgender people are more likely to be the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators. Forcing a trans woman or trans man to use the bathroom of their sex at birth only makes them more likely to be targeted.

Recently, a friend in the legal profession shared with me the opinion of one of the judges in the Gavin Grimm case and I'd like to share it with you as well. Gavin Grimm is a high school student in Virginia who has been in a legal fight to use the bathroom that aligns with his gender identity while he is at school. Gavin was originally awarded the right to use the boys bathrooms at school, but with President Trump overturning federal guidelines about transgender bathroom use in schools, this decision has been vacated. Two judges in this case wrote an opinion supporting Gavin's struggle for justice and placing it within the current and historical social-political context.

A brief excerpt of the opinion is below. You can find the full piece here.

"It is unsurprising, of course, that the burden of confronting and remedying injustice falls on the shoulders of the oppressed. These individuals looked to the federal courts to vindicate their claims to human dignity, but . . . the judiciary’s response has been decidedly mixed. Today, G.G. adds his name to the list of plaintiffs whose struggle for justice has been delayed and rebuffed; as Dr. King reminded us, however, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” G.G.’s journey is delayed but not finished. G.G.’s case is about much more than bathrooms. It’s about a boy asking his school to treat him just like any other boy. It’s about protecting the rights of transgender people in public spaces and not forcing them to exist on the margins. It’s about governmental validation of the existence and experiences of transgender people, as well as the simple recognition of their humanity. His case is part of a larger movement that is redefining and broadening the scope of civil and human rights so that they extend to a vulnerable group that has traditionally been unrecognized, unrepresented, and unprotected."

I am reminded by these words that I became a therapist to support those who are marginalized by society in their "burden of confronting and remedying injustice." I also have a responsibility to use my privilege to assist in remedying this injustice. Should you wish to learn more about the fight for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, check out these resources:

GLAAD

ACLU

MN Transgender Health Coalition

Outfront Minnesota

If you identify as trans* or are exploring your gender, we have a gender identity group starting in June. Check it out here