Thursday, September 3, 2015

Facebook Friends Vs. Real Friends. Also, Bathrooms.

Different people have different attitudes on who they let be their Facebook friends.  Some take the word "friend" literally, and only allow people on their friends list who they would also hang around in real life. Others treat their friend list like contacts in an address book, and will add anyone they ever might need to get in touch with. Some people insist that everyone they add shares their political opinions and morals, and will unfriend anyone who posts anything they find even mildly offensive or controversial.

I just don't know about that last one. I do think social networking should be an enjoyable activity, but it's also where a lot of people get their news these days.  If you only surround yourself with one kind of person, you're closing your mind to differing worldviews that help your mind grow. If you're like me, you'd have to cut out a lot of family members. Most of my family consists of Conservative Christian Republicans, and a few of them are homophobic bigots as well. But I can't just unfriend family.

I gave myself a headache today. A friend of mine, also named Matt, said something transphobic in a public Facebook post. This guy used to be my DM, from the "Tantris” campaign. It was an article about a trans student wanting to use the girls' restroom. His comment was, "If the genitals are still male the proper word is he, i don't care what you feel like you are. Also if male genitals are still the they should use the male facilities".

I guess it could have been worse (and it's far from the worst comment in the thread), but it still bugs me for several reasons. First off, I know he's an atheist. Not that all atheists are enlightened about all issues, but removing religion from the equation sometimes gives people one less reason to hate on the GLBT crowd. But I don't know if he's anti-GLB, all I know is he doesn't seem to believe in the T. I can't say I knew him that well when he was my DM. We never talked about anything "real", and he moved away after just a few months. Still, after all this time, finding out he's transphobic, it makes me feel... oddly betrayed.  I wonder if our campaign would have lasted as long if he'd known I was transgender.

It also bugs me because I'm used to D&D players being more inclusive than most people. Oh, I've met a fair number of Conservative D&D players, but on the whole I've found gamers to be a diverse group. And since RPGs allow you to live another life for a while, the hobby probably draws its fair share of transfolk. Heck, technically my own table has two, and we didn't plan it that way.

Another thing that bugs me is just that there's now more than 200 comments, and only a handful of them supported the teen. I thought society was farther along than this. This is what happens when I stay in my bubble and avoid alternate news sources. After all the support for Caitlyn Jenner I saw on my Facebook feed, I really thought the world was heading in a better direction. And then I see how many people publicly hate on this teen, and I realize I was wrong about all the progress we've made.

And finally, I just feel like I'm an outsider to both sides lately. It's been years since I've dressed en femme.  A few days ago I was yelled at by a transperson (which was probably just a misunderstanding but I'm still not over it).  And now this former DM of mine posts something I find hateful. I don't know what to do about it. Should I unfriend Matt? Reply to his comment? Send him a private message? And if I do write him, do I try to educate him or just curse him out? I'm writing this blog to work out some of my anger, but I don't think it's going to be enough. I'm sure Matt doesn't think what he said was hateful; knowing him he probably thinks he's just being logical. But I don't think I have the right words to change his mind.

It wouldn't be a big thing if I just cut him out of my life. We don't still talk, we never really connected much in the first place, he lives in another state, and other than D&D we have don't have much in common. But I don't want to be the kind of person who unfriends people just because they have different beliefs. Everybody has a different set of opinions, and it would be rare to find two people who believe exactly the same thing on every possible issue. If I start cutting people for that, there goes most of my friend list.

And yet, certain beliefs are more important to me than others. This one in particular makes a jab at my very existence. He's not just making a statement about a group I identify with, he's making a statement about what I am. But if I cut him, does that mean I also have to cut my homophobic aunt? My cousins who are very sweet but also very Conservative? My own mother, who loves me and always helps me when I need it, but who is also a huge believer in Fox News?

So anyway, now I have a headache. I feel a combination of betrayed, shocked, sad, confused, and angry. All these emotions bumping into each other make my head hurt.

Regarding the bathroom issue, I have to admit I'm a bit torn on that one myself.  Personally I wish people would worry less about who uses what restroom. Everyone is in there for the same reason, and it's not sexual. But I'm also bathroom shy; I don't like going if other people are in the restroom. I can totally relate to being uncomfortable, and I can see how it would be more uncomfortable if the other people were of the opposite sex. Of course, the whole point of this is that transpeople are NOT of the opposite sex; that is, they want to use the restroom that matches their mind.

But let's face it, a lot of cis people aren't comfortable with trans topics. I could see how a woman would be uncomfortable with a man in the next stall. Even if the man self-identifies as a woman. While I personally consider a transwoman to be a woman, I know not everyone agrees with the concept.  While I’d like to say, "That's her problem, she should accept transpeople as their mental gender,” in this case my belief is keeping her from successfully going to the bathroom.  Even bigots deserve to feel safe when voiding their bladders.

Again, I'd like to say, "Where does it stop? What if she's uncomfortable using the restroom with a black woman in the next stall? Should we go back to segregated bathrooms?” But she's had all her life to get used to other races. Transgender issues are new to some people. Sure, there have been famous sex changes since before I was born, but most people still go their whole lives without meeting a transperson (as far as they know). So it's harder for them to get used to.

But while I'm sitting here being all wishy washy on the subject, somewhere there's a transwoman who really needs to pee. She's currently staring at the two doors, wondering which one will get her in less trouble. She's not trying to make a political statement, she just wants to avoid wetting herself. Going into the men's room, dressed as a woman, is likely to get her beaten to death. Going into the women's room might cause someone to scream "pervert"... alerting men to come beat her to death.  Heck, just being transgender at all can get you beaten to death, even if you only pee at home.

So, yeah. On the one hand we have cisgender people getting pee-shy because they suspect the person in the next stall might not have matching genitals. On the other hand, we have transgender people getting murdered. As much as public restrooms make me nervous, I'm going to have to call that a "First World Problem" when compared to the people who are getting killed. In a perfect world, they'd build more unisex restrooms where each stall is its own private room. But until then, I think transpeople should be allowed to use whatever restroom makes them feel safer.

But of course, the original question was about a high school, which complicates things.  As much as I support the teen, it is a bit naive to to expect that many teenagers and their parents to be enlightened enough to allow this to happen.  I'd like to think that high profile stories like this will be enough to educate the general public, but the comments on this article already prove that one wrong.  So ideally, I believe the teen should use the girls' bathroom.  Realistically, I can't see that happening without public outcry.

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