Saturday, January 26, 2008

Planes, Trans and Automobiles

On Invisibility and Vulnerability

OK, admit it, you either read "Trains" in the title of this essay or you thought I'd made a typographical error. Gotcha! :-)

Part one of this entry concerns how invisible society places us, or how we place ourselves. People simply do not want to see us, want to know about us. We are fired from our jobs, disconnected from our families, abandoned by our friends and shunned by many religions. We do our best to "blend in" so that others don't "see" us, but it isn't always possible. "Passing" is a sad reality for transgenders, especially male-to-females.

As noted in an earlier essay, many of us prefer to go "stealth" in our lives. I'm not into forcing people to live their lives to my standards, but stealth transgenders, for me, acquiesce to these societal pressures and deny other transgenders a possible role model and deny the general society to actually "see" us. We are not ogres and monsters.

I also wonder just how much of the LGB part of the "community" wishes we were invisible as well. The non-gender ENDA flap exposed some very deeply help - maybe even widely held - transphobic sentiments with the other parts of the acronym. Recent attempts to patch things up indicate a continuing lack of respect, understanding or esteem for the T part.

Part two has to do with our legal identity. Most people don't understand that transgenders lose legal standing and rights in our country when they transition. For instance, a person cannot be discriminated against in employment if they are male or female. Yet it is perfectly legal in most of the country to discriminate - even terminate - those that must change from one to the other. How did that happen? Transitioning itself isn't illegal. Only those that commit crimes are denied some citizenship rights....at least that's what we learn in Civics classes.

As our nation progresses inexorably toward a national ID system, many transgenders will get caught in the middle. That means we would likely be prohibited from flying on passenger planes - our ID may not be suitable or complete. (Legal identification change is a complicated and qualified process, not an all-at-once design). Similarly we could likely be denied driver's licenses, or at least required automobile insurance.

Amazing isn't it? You do nothing illegal. In fact, you do precisely what the law says you can or should do. In fact, you do precisely what Medicine says you can or should do. And you become less of an American. I don't get it.

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