so the “Traditional Values Coalition”, an anti-queer right-wing hate group with a long history of lying, has sent out an email to its supporters trying to raise money to stop the US ENDA, aka the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a set of legal protections for queers which would bring the United States closer to the protections enjoyed by queers in many other countries. so far it’s inclusive of trans people, and given the mess Barney Frank, an openly gay man who’s generally been an enemy of trans women (wonder why we don’t trust you, cis gays?) and the HRC got in for trying to throw us off the bus previously, i expect it to stay that way. i also don’t expect it to pass, but a girl’s gotta dream. anyways, this email is [TW: transphobia] casting trans women in a negative light, playing to stereotype, and saying that if ENDA passes, we’ll be teaching your kids.
guess what? i’m Erica, i’m a trans woman, and i already do teach your kids. while teaching is not my primary vocation, i’ve been a public school teacher, a private tutor, a nursery school teacher, and also a nanny. trouble is, my picture wouldn’t carry shock value…doe-eyed chubby butch girls really don’t carry a lot of danger in the minds of the American sheeple anymore, since through the media lesbians have been rebranded enough that we don’t form much threat…but once upon a time, it was indeed all “homosexuals” who were branded a threat when teaching America’s youth. Proposition 6, also known as the Briggs Initiative, was a 1978 proposal which tried to ban queer teachers in California. thanks to Harvey Milk and resistance from politicians like Ronald Reagan (whose editorial against the measure in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner is a thing of beauty to this day), Proposition 6 lost by a margin of nearly 17 points; every county from tip to tail along the California coast, from liberal San Francisco to conservative Orange, voted no. it wasn’t that long ago that there was an open war on gays teaching kids in a fairly liberal state in the US…for some time Oklahoma and Arkansas also banned all queers who professed or were known to have same-gender attraction from teaching.
but let’s get back to the “Traditional Values Coalition” and their new trick, something so odiously transphobic it got the HRC to stand up against it without the usual months of hemming and hawing it takes the HRC to ponder trans issues. needless to say they’re playing on a fear of a trans woman who doesn’t “pass” while begging for funds to oppose ENDA. while a group like the “TVC” hates all queers, they’re actually playing into something a number of cis queers use: the idea that trans women somehow are the lowest rung of queer society and represent the easiest point of attack, and then throwing your children into the mix of who is apparently threatened. the “TVC” is thus mixing up a number of social phobias and embodying them in a theoretical trans woman schoolteacher. i’m the reality of a trans woman schoolteacher, but given that Mary (if she actually existed, which she doesn’t, as she’s a “TVC” flunky with beard shadow and a cheap wig) should damn well be able to teach school if she’s good enough at it to merit the position, it’s important to tackle this the right way.
Mary is designed as a figure that one is supposed to fear for four reasons: she’s trans, she doesn’t “pass”, she is not especially beautiful, and she’s working with your kids. i don’t think anyone has ever shown conclusively that being trans is somehow a communicable condition. despite all the wisecracks i can make about anime conventions and women’s colleges, those institutions attract people who are already trans whether or not they know it, and seeing other trans people and realizing that transition is possible is merely spreading that you can be trans and be a whole person. i talk about this, um, a lot. i have a pretty good life aside from the things you’ve heard me bitch about before and despite my social class and prospective placement in life that stems from it, i’m having a pretty damn good time…the disconnection from community sucks but it’s not something i foresee a fix for in the near future so i gotta keep living, i suppose.
“passing” is so tired but it’s the crux of what this emailed plea for funds uses for shock value, and that’s kind of why it needs to be addressed. what the whole thing ignores is the inconvenient fact that plenty of cis people don’t really constantly pass as their assigned gender on a consistent basis. however, with cis people this isn’t used to subject them to the same kind of ridicule, often treated as a small and harmless joke rather than used to degender and thus dehumanize them systematically. the elevated importance placed on “passing” bears an entry of its own.
“beauty” is also beyond tired. if you’ve taught in a public school you know that maybe 10% of the women are “beautiful” in the Caucasian-patriarchal western sense. public school is hard on you in body, mind, and spirit, and there’s no easy way around this fact. it’s not a place you can maintain this ridiculous beauty standard even if you were born into it or bought into it. so playing beauty games is gynophobic anyways, since all the “beauty standard” consists of is the boot of patriarchy stomping on women, but playing it with a public school employee is preposterous. do you know how much unpaid work one does?
finally, access to your children. yeah, i do have access to your children…my point in life is to protect small people. it might not always be what i’m doing, but i am the oldest in my family, a woman who lived through some awful things as a child, and yes, that kind of broad-hipped sweet-faced girl who people assume is the mother of every child near her, so i get assigned this role a lot. i’m damn good at it from experience. i don’t want to steal your children, i want to make sure your children are as unhurt as humanly possible by the big stupid world when you entrust them to me. so if you have some weird social phobia that Mary is going to steal your kids, why don’t you have it about me?
the “Traditional Values Coalition” is doing what desperate people do: lying. they’re also playing into phobias inside and outside the queer community about what trans women look like and what we will do if left with your children. guess what, world? i’m betting all your babies i’ve burped and toddlers i’ve changed turn out just fine, and that the kids in high school i teach probably haven’t had a damn thing change because of what their 2nd period teacher’s gender assignment was at birth. guess what, “Traditional Values Coalition”? Mary doesn’t exist, but i do, and i’m your worst nightmare because all your scare tactics are worthless when it comes to me, but i’m doing something far more dangerous than what you intimate: i’m Erica, and i’m in your school, teaching your children to think, forgive, work, and be positive. and i like those traditional values a hell of a lot better than yours