Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Trans Folks and Privilege

I had a rather random conversation with a retired math prof today.  I don't quite remember how it came up, but the math prof started talking about how unfair she felt it is that a trans person could grow up as a boy, then identify as a woman, and be allowed to apply for, say, a women's scholarship in math (a field where women are historically underrepresented at the university level). 

She worried about her (hypothetical) 9-year old daughter, and what if she identified as male, what would she do.  (I suggested she be supportive and loving of a child whatever their gender identification.  She seemed surprised by that.)

Then she expanded her discussion, to talk about how unfair it would be if a bunch of men decided to identify as women and "take all [the women's] privileges."

I have to admit I was shocked.  I guess I'm pretty insulated, because in most of my conversations about trans-related issues, we're talking about how we can be more supportive and educate ourselves and our students to be caring, respectful, and supportive.

Once I caught my breath, I asked her what women's privileges she thought men would be standing in line to gain?  The wage gap?  lack of paid maternity leave?  and so forth.

I just don't think many men are going to give up their male privilege just for the fun of it.  And if they do, who cares?  Maybe if all men identified as women, the wage gap would actually disappear?  And married folks would share housekeeping and child care equally?

At the end of the conversation, she said she'd think about what I said because she'd never thought about these issues in that way before.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you -- both for keeping your temper, and for responding rationally.

    I'm having a hard time doing both these days. People, my colleagues and my students, who I'd previously thought of as decent, rational people, are losing it over this. My kid has given me permission to use her as ammunition in my discussions with them, which is somewhat effective, when I can keep my temper, at least.

    One of my students (who is in a relationship with a trans woman) pointed out, "They just don't know any trans people. If they had any real experience, they wouldn't be acting like this."

    "We can hope," I said.

    [My kid is genderqueer, not trans; but she has trans friends, as do I. I think Bardiac knows that -- just adding it for anyone who doesn't. :)]