The World at Large

Moving to the US

Tuesday, April 05, 2016


Anyone who knows me is aware that I am transgender. No, I didn't really want to be. I just am. I hid it as a child, but mental and physical health issues as an adult made me finally confront it last year. But despite not discussing it on this blog before, I'm not actually here to talk about that.

I’ve been looking at all the anti-LGBT bills around the US, and I realize that I haven’t been as shocked by them as I expected to be. I suppose it’s because the bills (that I know of) aren’t “anti” LGBT, so much as they simple allow people to be anti-LGBT. But that doesn’t shock and upset me like it does so many.

I come from Queensland in Australia. Growing up, homosexuality was illegal for people with a penis (to my knowledge, gender identity not being recognized) until I was nearly 19 years old. The penalty for sex was a 14 year prison sentence. To this day, this is still the penalty for anyone under the age of 18, despite the heterosexual age of consent being 16. When I was 14, new laws were introduced to require any premises that served alcohol to expel "perverts, deviants, child molesters and drug users" the first 3 of these groups being the description given to anyone LGBT.

Anti discrimination laws were finally introduced in 1991, which also affected the transgender community. These laws have never been documented to ever having been enforced. Most people discriminated against don’t bother pressing charges. Abuse and assault stats today (not when I grew up, but now) are astronomical - e.g. over 90% of trans women have been verbally abused. The stats for various groups (gay men, gay women, trans men, physical assault without a weapon on each group, physical assault with a weapon) are all distressingly high.

Why discuss all of this history? Because that’s the environment that I think of as being anti-LGBT: actively hostile to LGBT people. I contrast this with these recent laws in the US (passed in NC and MS, proposed elsewhere) which merely allow people to be hostile, without getting in trouble for it. All these laws are doing is legalizing the same discriminatory behavior people already do. At least they don't require discrimination.

Fighting these laws, feels to me like asking for special privilege. i.e. "We are allowed to exist, but it's unreasonable to require people to not hate us." But that's because I grew up in an environment that made me hate me. It therefore seems reasonable for others to feel the same way. Preventing people from acting on their "natural" feelings in this regard is an imposition on their rights, right?

Having to "out" myself as transgender is a stressful experience, and one that I avoid or procrastinate about all the time. I've put off lots of things, including taxes and medical appointments because of it. It usually goes OK, but when it doesn't the fear is redoubled. Similarly, being inadvertently identified as transgender is humiliating, and in the wrong circumstances can be dangerous. It would be nice to have a life where I can just be myself without this fear. Those who fight these new LGBT laws believe that such a life is actually a right, with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment provides that right. With my background, I find it hard to have this faith, but I hope they're right.