The cleverest part about painting a political enemy as irrationally sensitive is that it creates a filter through which everything they say is perceived less credible. Before they even open their mouths, the baked-in contempt has you rolling your eyes and preparing to advocate for the devil.
Through that lens, I don’t know how to write about what’s happening to trans people across the country without causing you to detach your retinas, but I’m going to try.
Last week at CPAC, Daily Wire host Michael Knowles called for transgender people to be “eradicated.” Another Daily Wire host, Matt Walsh, tweeted language literally used by Joseph Goebbels in Das Reich in 1941, claiming transgender people “wanted this fight…now [they] have it.”
Sometimes people need to be able to talk about what we experience without first mitigating the skepticism of those who don’t have to wade through the same piles of bullshit we do just to get through the day. When we humans feel like someone doesn’t see or understand us, it’s hard to get back to baseline until we find people who do.
But this is a newspaper column. And, for all I wish there were some other, better-equipped trans columnist who could help folks understand the flies floating in the narrative soup that’s been swirling around trans people, my dumb ass is the closest this country has ever come to letting an openly non-binary person into the U.S. Senate. One time I tried to hold a skillshare for non-binary lawyers dealing with bias in courtrooms at a National LGBTQ+ Law conference, but we couldn’t even scrounge up enough openly non-binary litigators to form a panel. Despite people’s fears about “social contagion” or whatever, there just aren’t that many trans folk wielding powerful positions or platforms.
Which means I have to do my best while fully preparing for an inbox full of hate mail. So, here’s my pound of flesh:
I recently learned I was never actually “bad at math.” I’m bad at memorizing formulas because my brain cannot be bothered to retain what I know how to locate easily elsewhere. It’s not a comprehension issue; it’s an indexing and storage issue.
If I had been taught to explore the theory of mathematics rather than being forced to uncritically regurgitate stuff any practical user would just look up? I think I might have loved it.
But I grew up hearing that girls aren’t supposed to be as good at math as boys. I was so desperate at the time to signal femininity in a world that told me again and again I was not any of the things a “girl” should be (pretty, slender, demure, etc). If being “bad at math” meant I could be more like the idealized “girl” I was supposed to be, not trying to learn math was an easy way I could comply with standards that, on the whole, were virtually impossible for me to meet.
It’s weird how I grew up believing I had no choice but to be a “girl” because I was born with “girl parts,” but was also constantly reminded of all of the ways my femininity was insufficient.
Transphobes love to howl about how young girls are harmed by making space for transgender people to exist, but I can say with 100 percent certainty that I was harmed more by the idea that my worth as a person was tied to how well my appearance and behavior aligned with my genitals.
I don’t have enough space to tell you exactly how much pain would have been saved, but it’s not histrionic to say that I got abducted out of a bar at the age of fifteen because I wanted so badly for someone to think I was a pretty girl that I’d have done anything for someone who told me they did. That’s just factual.
If someone had come into my school and told me I didn’t have to be good at being a girl in order to be good or lovable overall? That I had other options? I would never have been such an easy target.
So tell me: who is really sexualizing and grooming children here?
Bre Kidman is an artist, activist, and attorney (in that order), and the first openly non-binary person in history to run for the U.S. Senate. They would be delighted to hear your thoughts on the political industrial complex at firstname.lastname@example.org.