It was bad enough when the New York Post ran the transphobic article "Wedding Crashers" which erroneously describes a trans woman and her cis male partner, Kimah Nelson and Jason Stenson, as a gay couple and how they "duped" the government into giving them a same-sex marriage.
But then the Advocate repeated the story uncritically parroting the same anti-trans message. After some complaints, they've removed the male pronouns referring to Kimah but rather than replacing them with female pronouns they opted for no pronouns.
However, the article still uses Kimah's birth name rather than her preferred name, still describes them as a same-sex couple, still dehumanizingly describes the status of her genitals, and still claims that the couple "fooled" the officials, perpetuating the transphobic fear that trans people are "fooling" people when we say we are the genders we identify as -- the very same fear that gives rise to the trans-panic defense for hate crimes and murders. The effect is clearly visible just by reading the comments this story is generating. Do we seriously need a GLAAD action alert before the Advocate will retract this anti-trans framing of the story or even just follow Associated Press guidelines for reporting on trans people?
The Advocate goes on to admonish the couple with the odd statement that "Regardless of gender identity, same-sex marriage is illegal in New York," which seems to forget that there is no separate legal status of sex and gender and that opposite-gender marriage has the same legal meaning as opposite-sex marriage.
The truth is, governmental agencies never have found a consensus about how to define sex. Kimah represented herself, truthfully, as a woman. She showed an adequate form of identification, which listed her as female. The bureaucrats had no policies demanding further identification. She did everything she was supposed to. When some of your ID marks you as male and some marks you as female what else is someone supposed to do?
While the couple's critics -- both in the Advocate and the more traditionally anti-trans press -- condemn the couple for their so-called deception, I'm left wondering how they would react if she had presented ID marking herself as male and married a woman then announced herself as a part of a same-sex marriage. Presumably, they would be equally upset about the "deceptive" and "fraudulent" marriage.
I'd love to say that the critics can't have things both ways, that trans people have to be allowed to marry people of at least one gender, but that's often not the case. Immigration officials have gone back and forth, but often refuse to acknowledge marriages involving trans people regardless of their partner's gender. And opposite-gender/sex couples involving trans people may receive marriage licenses, but always have to be concerned about a transphobic legal attack to annul them.
It's true that legalizing same-sex marriage will benefit trans people by removing these barriers. However, such a simple perspective doesn't address a major issue. The public attention on same-sex marriage over the past several years is what led to the denial of this couple's marriage rights. A decade ago, this never would have made the news and their marriage would likely have remained unquestioned.
Now, it'd be selfish to suggest that would be reason in itself to abandon the marriage fight (there are much better reasons out there). But when it comes to the fight for same-sex marriage, it's important to remember that trans people have much to lose and not much to gain. You could say that we're taking one for the team here -- except some might question if we're on the team, have decision making influence, or have the choice not to. Incidentally, when was the last time you saw a political fight that benefits trans people at the risk of hurting cis queers and not the other way around?