The most beautiful thing you can do for someone is to be kind. I don’t mean this simply as a gesture — masking what you’re really thinking — but to honestly approach and treat people with deference and love in the place of judgment. However, this is not always possible in the face of cruelty.
Mike Huckabee said in February of this year, “I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in P.E. I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.’”
Huckabee’s statement, other than being outmoded, ignorant and bigoted, parrots a transphobic ideology believing transgender people are in some way trying to scam their way into sexually dubious situations — spying in the restroom. This sentiment — while nothing new from many of the Republican candidates — comes from the same person who defended the actions of an admitted child molester, as having made a mistake. It is more a crime, in Huckabee’s logic, to take agency of one’s own life — making victimless personal decisions — than to habitually commit illegal sexual acts upon under-aged, sometimes related and non-consenting children.
The need for Huckabee and his ilk to preach about how a person expresses their gender identity is absurd. The cliché about people in glass houses aptly applies here to the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of morality — the same morality to which they often fail to adhere.
What these individuals refuse to accept is that gender identity is the personal and internal process of how one identifies related to their culturally assigned sexual identity and not necessarily to the presentation of the genitals. We all have a gender identity, and how we express that begins with how we perceive ourselves on a deeply individual level.
For people who believe they are living in the wrong physical body, the decision to change comes after years of suffering and feeling as though they have been trapped in a Halloween costume.
Imagine being stuck in one of the suffocating plastic costumes from the 1970s — the ones with the smock and rigid vinyl mask. You put it on and five minutes later it is unbearable — hot, sweaty — but your mother, friends and others tell you to leave it on.
After you take it off, you feel a great sense of relief. The air is cooler on your face and the humidity from your breath isn’t being projected back at you. You can see the world better because it isn’t hidden behind a plastic façade with cutouts for eyes.
If you can understand this feeling, then likely you can understand what it feels like for transgender persons being forced into lives that only match their sex organs and not their gender identity.
When Caitlyn Jenner appeared this past week on the cover of Vanity Fair, reactions were mixed. The majority of comments I saw were supportive — lauding her bravery and beauty.
Others refused to use her name and instead insisted upon calling her by the name of the mask she fought behind for 60+ years. The Internet was alive, as it often is, with meanness, judgments about her soul, questions about her motives and the ever-present people who simply don’t approve — Huckabee and his gang.
Two final thoughts:
First, I would like to take a minute to recognize the legacy that transgender individuals have in this country and particularly to acknowledge the struggles of those who have much less than Jenner. All LGBTQ persons are at greater risk of being homeless, unemployed or the victims of physical violence. If they are transgender, the risk of violence increases nearly 30 percent. If they are also people of color the risk is the greatest. To acknowledge the unmitigated risk it takes to survive as a transgender person and to appreciate the strength of those who find a measure of dignity is a must.
Finally, I want to point to the data and impress upon people like Huckabee the seriousness of why statements like his are harmful. Safety is a human right and the risk for transgender persons to use the bathroom of their gender assignment could prove deadly. I invite him and any of his fellow babbling jerks that think it’s a duty to discriminate, spreading the sickness of their diseased morality to do what they suggest of others: If you don’t like this America — the fair, just and humane America — then leave.