Column: Transgender people are also humans

Shelby Niehaus, Copy Editor

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You can be honest with me. I am sure, at one point in time, you looked at a person and read them instantly as transgender. Immediately after, you pondered over their gender– were they a man? A woman? Neither, both? Something else entirely? All equally valid options, you may have said to yourself, but I simply cannot tell which gender (or lack thereof) this person aims to emulate.

The experience lived with you for a while, puzzling you at times when your mental faculties slowed down and allowed you a little time to think freely about nothing in particular. Again, you asked yourself, what were they meant to be? Maybe you saw a tall person with long, curly blonde hair, a skirt, heels, and a scarf– but a jarring five-o-clock shadow.

Be honest. Did this upset you?

It’s alright to say yes. But understand: transgender people are not obligated to pass for you, nor for anyone else.

You are not owed the right to know a person’s gender (often a complex and personal thing) on first sight. No person, especially a transgender person, owes the world a clear gender distinction. Their inability, disinterest or opposition to passing as any gender is not an offense.

On the contrary, the notion that every person must pass is a telling indicator of the remaining gender binarist stranglehold we still live under. The people most outcast in our gender landscape are the ones who are not easily readable as some gender.

For what reason do we outcast those whose genders are not readily available for our viewing and analytic pleasures? It is several reasons: we disdain change, diversity, and variety chiefly, which is a heinous crime against the beautiful spice that is human difference.

Furthermore, we have in our social conscience a notion that all people must fit a certain standard of beauty as defined by able-bodied, normative white people. This is the major root of all cosmetic problems in the western world– this is what keeps people of color labeled as exotic as best, unattractive at worst. The same notion that keeps large women and small men from being recognized as attractive keeps transgender people who don’t pass as objects of disdain rather than humans who look different.

The very idea that transgender people should be required or obligated to look like any one gender is an idea that reflects a thoroughly broken system. Transgender people are allowed to look like anything they wish to. After all, they’re humans. No person must look attractive for any other person’s purposes.

Think back to the last time you could not place a person’s gender upon seeing them. Reevaluate how to deal with people whose cosmetic or gender presentations do not meet your expectations. Will you dislike them? Or will you understand that they are only obligated to themselves, that their faces are not for your consuming pleasure?

Shelby Niehaus is a junior English and English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].