Originally published by The Antioch Review
Those who choose to alter or even mask their gender merit full protection under the law merely because their decisions, while they may divest them of breasts and birth names, do not strip them of their humanity. TGs face violence, murder, mass unemployment, homelessness, poverty, rampant HIV infection, inadequate healthcare, depression, and, at alarmingly high rates, suicide. Many commentators have singled out tolerance for this most vulnerable part of the population as the final frontier of civil rights, a new contest against bigotry and homophobia, one it would be irresponsible for both politicians and everyday citizens not to address.
And yet just as the issue has come to the fore of public awareness, TGs have ambushed the debate and entangled us in a snare of such trivialities as the proper pronouns with which to address them, protocol as Byzantine and patronizing as the etiquette for addressing royalty. They insult us with the pejorative term “cisgender,” which they use to describe those of us who accept, however unenthusiastically, our birth gender, as opposed to the enlightened few who question their sex. Moreover, they shame us into silence by ridiculing the blunders we make while trying to come to grips with their unique dilemmas, decrying our curiosity about their bodies as prurience and our unwillingness, or even inability, to enter into their own (often unsuccessful) illusion as narrow‑mindedness.