There’s been some recent furor within the community of us who have a vested interest in obtaining public accommodations rights in Maryland for gender identity and expression. It all boils around a picture that Equality Maryland posted on their Facebook page with a quote from Robert F. Kennedy.

As a pre-operative full-time transsexual woman who has been in a battle with Equality Maryland over their position on HB-235 without the public accommodation provision, I am extremely appalled and deeply offended by this appearing on EQMD’s Facebook page. Not because of the image, but because of the timing.

There have been previous acts of “bad timing” in a time that is critical due to pending votes in the House on the bill and both the HB-235 with P/A and the HB-235 without P/A camps are trying to ward off a common enemy, the fear mongering washroom warrior “man in a dress will rape your little girl” crowd.

As a transsexual woman, I am offended and I posted comments opposing this photo:

The haters are going to have a field day with this pic. Again, mocking the trans again. So, so, cis.

Remember, this is the same organization that uses drag shows to raise funds to push legislation that is against the wishes of the people who they are actually trying to protect.

…and I stand by those comments. But now, I look at this issue from the eyes of an analyst. Alex Hickcox, who is currently the only trans member on the EQMD board defended the posting of the photo:

An absolute adherence to binary gender normatives is why we are stuck here! Cis Men (assuming this person is in fact cis which I am not!) crossing the gender thresh hold and being comfortable in their own skin is a testament to what we are fighting for. Until our social ideals of what is ‘male’ and what is ‘female’ is brought down we will continue to fight for a place in this world. I cannot for the life me begin to understand why anyone who is transgender would honestly condemn this!!!! He’s only wearing a skirt for goodness sakes. ITS A SKIRT! And hell if I will stand aside and not vehemently stand up for the rights of ANYONE to express themselves as they wish!! It’s called the 1st Amendment! It’s called freedom of speech! This person nor anyone who supports his bravery deserves to be admonished. This is not an affront to transwomen nor is this playing into the real oppositions hate speech. It is time for us to be offensive and not defensive. No one should have to hide in a closest to appease the opposition. Asking this man to stand down his skirt wearing ways does nothing to advance our cause or change the perception of society. Many cis gender women are freely allowed to wear men’s pants, men’s shirts and leave their makeup at home. Why should that be largely excepted and men choosing to feminize themselves is not? There is not a damn thing wrong with he is doing and there is not a single person who will change my mind or stance on this.

I can see in a way where Alex is coming from here. The person depicted in this photo is someone who is symbolizing the distortion of the gender binary and raises the question, why shouldn’t men wear skirts? Where does this expectation that men must wear clothing that covers both legs and wraps around the crotch come from? While I feel I maintain that there should be a separation of gender identity and gender expression where it comes to legal and social issues, I do have an open mind of where the gender expression side of the house is coming from.

Outside of following GLBT issues, I am very involved in Japan with J1 Radio and a part of that is my exposure to the fashion trends in Tokyo.

In Japan, skirts for men are the rage!

Men Go For Skirts JapaneseStreets.com

Some men swapping pants for dresses Japan Times

Cross Gender A Japan-based online shop for skirts for men (in Japanese)

In Japan, straight men wearing skirts is an acceptable fashion statement.

The climate in Japan is becoming more tolerant to gender expression as well as transsexualism. Transsexual celebrities, such as Ai Haruna are household names there.

But I can also see where the opposition to 235 “as written” community is coming from on this. EQMD’s decisions where it came to this legislation and the sudden change in strategy where it came to reaching out to the trans-woman community has disenfranchised those in the transsexual/intersex woman community, a group who feels that they have been underrepresented by EQMD during this entire proceeding. Like I said earlier in my comments about the drag shows, which I have heard good arguments for and against, the timing was bad because it can be perceived as giving into the fear of some who are in the true opposition (the washroom warriors).

In the eyes of some, EQMD’s handing of 235 has been far from considerate to the entire trans community. So far, we have seen:

  • Censorship of posts and comments.
  • Campaign promises without backing (MCHR’s supposed shelter policy)
  • Fewer resources given to 235 than to SSM (the “lack of hands” at the hearings)
  • Playing SSM to be a far more important issue with 235 on the backburner.
  • The canceling of the transgender working groups until after the legislative session.
  • Incomplete information (case law on shelters)

I am an analyst by nature and I call things as I see them. I don’t always agree with the EQMD side but I don’t always agree with the 235-as-written side. But now, if I was to take this picture and show it to a transman, a transwoman, a genderqueer person, a crossdresser, a cis lesbian, a cis gay male, a Japanese newhalf, a Thai third-gender, a straight man and a straight woman, I am sure I would get 10 totally different perceptions. Perhaps if we all learned more about each other, then perhaps those 10 different perceptions may get reduced to about 3. I will never say that we will all have the same perception as we are human and we have common but differing beliefs.

I am not going to back down from my previous statements, but I will say perhaps we need to stop and think that we are all different. Some show it out the inside and others, like the person depicted in this picture, show it on the outside. Isn’t this what diversity is all about?

Let’s be nice but still stand our positions, wherever you stand on 235.

Michiko Ota

Michiko Ota

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