A Sensation of Helplessness

CN: Transphobia, politics.

You may have heard that North Carolina passed a really awful anti-trans bathroom bill this week. There are 14 other anti-trans bills in the legislatures in other states currently, with more coming up all the time. Usually these bills have not passed but the North Carolina situation shows increasing likelihood of more of these bills passing, creating serious every-day problems for many transgender people.

In most situations this kind of injustice makes me really angry. Usually I feel a strong drive to fix the problem, to call legislators, to participate in protests, and to blog about the injustice.

These bathroom bills, though, have left me with a deep sense of helplessness. There is something different, and very personal about the nature of this kind of bill. The bigotry is SO thinly veiled that it feels very much like being told directly “You do not have a right to public spaces.” Defeating them is a win in the sense that people can pee, but it doesn’t really do anything to fight the idea that we’re just not welcome in society.

I think part of the cause of this hopelessness is my total invisibility. These bills are a direct, vicious attack on trans women, with little or no recognition of the existence of trans men. Clearly these laws are more dangerous for my trans sisters than they are for me, but there’s harm in invisibility too. The proponents of these laws insist that they don’t want men in women’s bathrooms – then require me to go into women’s bathrooms. The lawmakers and proponents of the laws often seem completely unaware that trans men exist.

Many would argue that this kind of law doesn’t really impact me much, even if it applied in my local area, because no one is likely to enforce it with me. But the real impact of the law is on alienating non-cis people from society – trans women by labeling them as predators, trans men, non-binary people, and intersex people by erasing our existence, and all of us by misgendering us and restricting our identities to the sex we were assigned at birth.

Hopefully I will get my anger back. Anger is a powerful tool for fighting injustice, and in my experience one that is necessary. For me, anger can only come in the absence of helplessness and hopelessness, and today I just feel helpless.

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A Sensation of Helplessness
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2 thoughts on “A Sensation of Helplessness

  1. 1

    I felt a similar sense of numb helplessness when George W. Bush was reelected and constitutional marriage bans passed simultaneously across half the country at once, with no guarantee that we’d be able to fix the damage from either.

    If anything, the NC law is even more chilling. It’s so cruel, so callous; it calls peoples’ basic humanity into question. It makes it feel like Romer v. Evans never happened, and queer people are back in the battle of convincing others that they deserve to exist.

    And it’s brought me a new feeling of anticipation and dread: If it tabled and passed in NC (and NC avoids massive repercussions), it can table and pass in every other state crushed under the yoke of Republican rule, like the amendments a dozen years ago; one domino after another. Even though I’m cis, this makes me want to leave Wisconsin because I no longer feel safe there (not that I’ve felt that safe in the last 5 years as it is).

    I wish I could get out and fight. But what do you do when you feel overwhelmed?

  2. 2

    I know what you mean, Benny. Y’know, I once heard a Christian theologian say maintaining hope in the face of despair is an act of protest. So I guess sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.

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