Sin Nombre wrote about the interplay of cis privilege, homophobia, and transphobia:
This is based on a true story; some details have been changed but none of the events have been changed.
A cis guy and a trans guy who is misgendered more often than not (i.e., he doesn’t pass as a cissexual, cisgender guy) go into a women’s restroom in a mall because the men’s room is closed, the women’s is empty, the mall is minutes from closing and they don’t know their way around. Security comes and starts yelling at them. The cis guy leaves, but the security guard starts banging on the stall where the trans guy is using the restroom, threatening to take the door off the hinges. After multiple requests to do so, the guard allows the cis guy to go use the men’s room, which had been closed before, and the cis guy does his business and leaves. The security guard starts asking the cis guy what gender his friend is.
During the commotion, a group of cis guys hanging outside the restrooms start to harass the trans guy, and offer to physically assault him for the guard. The guard keeps asking the trans guy ‘what gender are you?’ even after seeing his ID, which hasn’t been changed because he can’t afford to do so due to long-term unemployment and no family support. The trans guy doesn’t answer because he isn’t legally obliged to do so and it’s none of the guard’s damn business. The cis guy is never asked what his gender is, in fact he’s seen as more credible than the trans guy himself is. In the course of all of this, the cis guy is yelling and swearing angrily at the security guard, refuses to provide ID, and is extremely uncooperative.
The two are escorted over to the security area of the mall; the guard physically grabs the trans guy and takes his bag and accuses him of ‘getting smart with [him]‘ even though all he’s said is that he doesn’t consent to a search and has asked if the guard is an actual police officer. The cis guy remains untouched even though he is being loud and throwing out every profanity he can think of.
Another guard in the security office asks the trans guy about his genitalia, saying ‘do you have a penis or a vagina between your legs?’. Eventually the cis guy is able to talk them both out of the situation when the supervisor comes over to figure out what’s going on, after changing his tone and saying that he’s a student at a top 20 private school, that he’s trying to go to med school and is due to take the MCAT next month and that it’s ridiculous to threaten his chances of med school over something like this, that he just really needed to fucking pee and that he knows it was stupid to do that. The supervisor asks for, then looks at, his college ID. They get to leave with a ‘verbal warning’ shortly thereafter.
What’s wrong with this situation?
If you don’t know, then perhaps you should take notes on what I’m about to say.
1. Obviously, the cis guy had no business being in the women’s room in the first place. One could argue that the trans guy didn’t either, but he had more of a right to be there than the cis guy. In any case, he’s in a catch-22: according to the security guards, who believe that they make the rules, one has to use the restroom that one’s genitalia/ID dictates.
2. The reason the guard started yelling at both of them, it’s later revealed, is because of ‘homosexual activity’ that apparently takes place in the mall. Never mind that the mall is also a popular place for people to smoke illicit substances and even openly carry them…cis straight people must be protected from gayness at all costs. Never mind that they were in two different stalls, which the original guard had to have known because the cis guy came out of one stall and he walked to the other one.
3. This situation was a perfect storm caused by the confluence of male privilege and cis privilege–the guy who ‘looks cis’ is literally left untouched even though he gave the guard all the provocation in the world to be violent towards him (I’m not advocating victim-blaming, but I hope my point is clear here). The trans guy, who may have been a butch lesbian as far as the guards were concerned (and he stated this after the fact), is threatened and physically assaulted and basically asked to prove his femaleness just to take a damn piss. That he isn’t female is not the point.
Btw, the cis guy in this story was actually trans, but no one saw the unchanged gender marker on his license, making his trans status irrelevant at that time. After all, if a cis person ‘believes’ you, you’re granted the privileges that come with cisdom, even if they are temporary and fragile at best. He escaped the violence even though he should never have been in the women’s room in the first damn place. So add cisgender/’passing’ privilege to the list of what’s fucked up about this whole situation, as well as the bleedingly obvious transphobia and homophobia. This is not a knock on people who are stealth; I myself am stealth. But there comes a point when one’s gender is taken more seriously than others of the same or similar status, particularly when one is binary-IDed or perceived as such.