Amid the expanding trans "umbrella wars," to borrow a phrase from Gemma Seymour, I have striven to provide objectivity and compassion to all sides, as I have sympathies for both transsexual people (of whom I am one), and transgender people (of whom I guess I am also one since it includes practically everyone), and crossdressers (of whom I once thought I was one), and genderqueers (a term mostly for younger people, of whom I am not one), and the miscellaneous other fabulous queers.
But there comes a time when one must take a stand. See this picture? This man allegedly wore the outfit on an airline flight, and does so regularly, "for fun," according to quotes attributed to him.
See, now I have a problem with this. No amount of "gender expression rights" talk is going to pretty this one up. I do not support this man's right to fly clad only in female underwear.
It's entirely possible, also, that this is a hoax to have a bit of innocent fun. If so, it's not in good taste. It frankly undermines the whole movement.
I respect the right of everyone to dress how they wish, but only up to a point. Why draw a line, you ask? Am I not engaging in dressing behavior, as a transsexual, that was once not only considered improper but illegal?
Yes, I am. But that doesn't mean there are no boundaries whatsoever. True, the boundaries are artificial, socially created constructs. But I live in a real world, not a theoretical one. I dress like a 50-year old female academic (in law, not fashion or the arts), and, frankly, I look like one. The years haven't been all that kind. I'm no Candis Cayne or Calpernia Addams. I understand that a bikini is not kind to me, and that the answer to "does this make me look fat?" is Yes.
There are, however, more serious issues here than simply one man's poor taste in clothes. It gets complicated quickly when one has to account for issues of racism and crossdressing, as in the story about Deshon Marman, a 20-year-old African-American student and football player at the University of New Mexico was bumped from a US Airways flight at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on June 16, 2011 and later arrested over allegations he refused to pull up his baggy pants. The two cases have some significant parallels, but with strikingly different results. That's a problem.
In addition, I do not take my right to fly while transsexual for granted, and legal rights are serious things. When older gentlemen demand the right to fly while dressed only in female undergarments, it undermines the argument that gender identity and expression are serious issues deserving of protection, because the demand stretches the concepts involved beyond all recognition. It's also only because this man has white privilege that he can do this. A black man who tried this would be in a lot of serious trouble.
Many transsexuals have a great deal of trouble trying to convince our legal system -- police, lawyers and prosecutors, judges, drivers license bureaus, vital statistics agencies -- that their identities are legitimate and to be respected. I have been denied proper government services because of my gender identity, and I have fought the good fight to help others in similar situations. It is heartbreaking to me to think of all those people who have worked so hard simply to have the plain dignity and respect that every human being should receive, to see this man playing dress up on airplanes "just for fun." This isn't subverting gender norms, it's strengthening them because it makes gender variance ridiculous. He can go home and put on his suit and command instant respect from all sorts of business and government officials. I have to work hard to convince people that I'm not insane, despite my credentials. I don't get to ever go home and put on a man's suit and command instant respect. Frankly, I'm livid. He won't even give his name, because he doesn't want to really take on the stigma of non-normative gender. It's all just a bit of fun. He doesn't want to spoil the fun.
Is this what ENDA is going to mean -- that he can come dressed to work like this? Is this what we're asking employers to support? I am not fighting for that. I do not find it fabulous, and I do not find it amusing.
I'm not advocating arrests of crossdressers, and I uphold anyone's right to dress however they want in private. But I'm not defending this one. Is this what all my work on including statutory protections for "gender expression" comes down to? This makes me rethink that. Very seriously.