When I was 11, I was physically barred from a bathroom on the basis of my apparent gender presentation.

As hard as it is to believe, before I hit puberty I was skinny, a real Q-tip of a kid. And for about a year while I was 11-12, my hair was cut very, very short – a boy’s cut, really – because I had been yanking out strands of it and gave myself some bald spots. The haircut was to break the bad habit, and to give my hair time to grow back. And, on this particular occasion, I had slept over at a friend’s house and borrowed some of her brother’s clothes, because he was about my size.

So being mistaken for a boy on this particular occasion was an understandable thing, I guess, when I went to the girls’ bathroom. I was at a 4-H event in a high school, with my friend – I don’t remember why, it’s a silly detail, but I do remember the blonde girl who stretched her arms out in the doorway of the bathroom and told me I couldn’t come in. Fortunately, the standoff ended when my best friend, who was much taller than I was, came and vouched for my gender (and threatened to move the door-blocker physically if necessary). My friend’s name is Madeline, and we should all be lucky enough to have friends like her.

There were several incidents during that yearlong period before my hair grew out where I was mistaken for a boy, but that one was by far the worst. My stomach still twists thinking about it.

That’s just a tiny little taste of what transgender people have to deal with, every day.

Currently, the federal government is picking on transgender people. I assume this is because trans people are an easy community to target – there aren’t that many of them, and issues involving gender tend to make people uncomfortable. And apparently, targeting transgender people – kicking them out of the military, making it easier to deny them health care, allowing private businesses to discriminate against them (and the whole LGBTQ community, for that matter) – plays good politics for a small sect of conservative Christians, who just plain don’t like transgender folk.

When I was growing up, my mom taught me that if I didn’t like someone, I should do my best to politely avoid them, not deny them insurance funding for their hormone-replacement therapy or ban them from homeless shelters.

As anyone who has been to middle school knows, a bully needs two things: a target, and a receptive or passive audience. Transgender people and their legal protections are the target. And I, for one, refuse to be a passive audience. Bisexual and transgender people make natural allies, I think. As a bi person, I have loved across gender lines; trans people live across them,

And, of course, it’s a personal issue for me, not only because I’m a member of the LGBTQ community but also because one of my very best friends happens to be transgender. (She is also smart, funny, extremely good at video games and a huge nerd.) (And, for some reason, her cat hates me, even after I bought her half the cat toy aisle at Target to try to bribe her.)

Demographically speaking, most of my column readers are cisgender: This means that you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth (from the Latin phrase “cis,” meaning “on the same side of,” as in Cisalpine Gaul and Transalpine Gaul.) You may not know any trans people. (Or you may think you don’t.) So maybe you think you don’t have a dog in this fight. But you do, because if nobody stands up to a bully, they just expand their target list.

Maine has four elected officials representing us in Washington, D.C., and to protect our transgender neighbors, we need all of them to take stronger stances – especially Susan Collins, who likes pretending to be a Republican senator who cares about the LGBTQ community. And on the ground, in everyday life in our communities, where the real changes will be made, we all need to step up. Friend make a crummy, hurtful joke? Let them know it’s not OK. Workplace discriminating? Don’t let them get away with it. See harassment on basis of gender identity and presentation happening, anywhere, any time? Step up. See something, say something.

Sunday is the last day of June. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up Pride Month than by continuing to fight for justice all year round.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

 


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