Transphobes are targeting cis people now. That should be a wakeup call 

OPINION: You cannot “eliminate transgenderism” without deeply restricting the gender presentation of all people in society 

With just hours to go before her graduation ceremony from Harrison Central High School in Mississippi, a trans girl referred to in court documents as “L.B.” found herself on the receiving end of one of the more ridiculous conservative legal rulings in recent memory. On Saturday, just hours before the ceremony, a Trump-appointed judge decided that the girl must attend her high school graduation wearing male clothes under her graduation gown.

Despite having attended all four years of high school as a girl, school officials told L.B. that she must abide by the school’s graduation dress code, which stipulates that boys must wear a white button-down shirt, black tie, black dress shoes and a tie.

During a call between the student’s mother and Harrison County School District superintendent Mitchell King back in early May, King told L.B.’s mother that her child was “still a boy,” and that she “needs to wear pants, socks and shoes, like a boy.”

In response, the family, along with the ACLU, sued the school in federal court. The ACLU, who took on L.B.’s case, argued that the school’s dress code policy violates the 1st and 14th amendments—which protect a person’s right to free speech and expression and equal protection under the law respectively—as well as Title IX, which prohibits education discrimination on the basis of sex. However, U.S. District Judge Taylor McNeel, who was appointed by former president Donald Trump in 2020, ruled in favour of the school district, forcing L.B. to miss her own high school graduation.

I wish that were the end of the story of the Harrison Central graduation controversy. However, minutes before the ceremony was due to start without the trans girl, a cis girl at the school who was wearing pants under her graduation gown was singled out by school officials and ordered to take off her clothes. Because she didn’t have a skirt, the girl was told she would have to walk in her underwear under her graduation gown. She too opted out of her graduation.

This series of events was entirely foreseeable to anyone who has been following the increasingly unhinged trans panic being embraced by the right. 

“A set of grown men essentially ordered a teen girl to undress in order to conform to their own notions of how gender works.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that a cis girl was hurt by a policy put in place to police the gender presentations of trans people.You cannot “eliminate transgenderism” from society—as many on the Christofascist right have said they want to do—without deeply restricting the gender presentation of all people in societies. It’s time to wake up to what’s happening around us.

 

Trans people aren’t a “problem for a sane world,” we aren’t a “tricky set of questions,” we’re not “undermining biological reality,” we’re just normal people who want to be left alone by fascists.

So far, many cis people who consider themselves progressives have largely ignored the growing attacks on trans people. Conservatives’ biggest victory in this area has been positioning trans lives as subject to “reasonable debate,” which has opened the door for them to completely dehumanize us in their rhetoric and policy.

I suspect that cis people would really just rather tune out the political fights over trans rights, thinking it doesn’t apply to them. But the creepy administrators at this Mississippi school district show just how far the right wants to go in controlling how you dress, even how you think about gender.

A set of grown men essentially ordered a teen girl to undress in order to conform to their own notions of how gender works. This is what they want to do to “protect the children”? Give me a break. There is NOTHING good or right about this entire situation. 

In truth, the transphobia alone should be enough for others to act. I realize, however, that in this situation, the real outrage is how the cis girl was treated by school officials, while the discrimination against the trans girl was “more reasonable.” But grown adult school officials controlling the gender presentation of literal children in order to stamp down on trans lives should be enough to spark us all into action.

Trans issues aren’t just about trans people, they’re about freedom. If the government can force a teenage trans girl to wear a tie to her own graduation, that, my friends, is tyranny.

I’m done expecting a mass swell of popular support for trans lives—that ship has already sailed. Conservatives have succeeded in appealing to the prurient interest cis people have in gawking at trans people in order to radicalize the masses against us.

The only question now is how far will you let them go in building the Christian Fascist state and society they desperately crave?

Katelyn Burns is a freelance journalist and columnist for Xtra and MSNBC. She was the first openly trans Capitol Hill reporter in U.S. history.

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