Today The Guardian has an article titled, “Top 10 books about gender identity”. It is written by a cis person, for cis people. Here’s why.
Let’s start with that photo, which gets bathrooms wrong in just about every way possible.
No, wait, let’s start with the fact that it’s a picture of a bathroom being used to illustrate an article about books. OK, so I have been guilty of reading on the loo from time to time, but surely books and toilets are not that closely related, are they? No, of course not. Trans people and toilets, on the other hand, well there’s your word association test right there. Mention trans people and what comes immediately to mind for way too many cis people? Toilets. That’s what we are about: threatening their toilets.
Next up, why is this a combined trans and accessible toilet? Accessible toilets are there for a reason, because some people need them. Putting a trans sign on the accessible toilet will mean lots of able-bodied people using that toilet when they don’t need the special facilities.
And the sign, what does it mean? As far as I can see it says, “this is the toilet for trans people, because we don’t want you perverts in our toilets.”
Look, I have been using women’s toilets for over 20 years. No one has complained. I have not sexually assaulted anyone in the process. I do not appreciate being told that I now have to use a different toilet because trans people are suddenly in the public eye and loads of people have become obsessed with bathroom panic.
Of course there are some trans people who do identify outside of the binary, and would prefer a separate toilet. That’s fine, but that’s not what that sign says.
It does of course say “inclusive”. As far as I can make out that means “inclusive of all the icky people we don’t want in our toilets”. I am only mildly surprised that there wasn’t a little picture of a woman in a hijab along with it.
On now to the article. Top ten books on gender identity, eh? Are any of them written by trans people? Well if they are there are no names that I recognize. Those books I do know about are written by cis people. I’ve only read one of them, but it is #1 on the list, and it is a book I absolutely do not recommend as being good about gender identity.
There is a trans person in Luna, by Julie Anne Peters, but the book isn’t about her. It is about Luna’s sister, Regan, and how hard it is on a girl to have a trans sibling. There’s no question that Regan is the character we are supposed to sympathize with, and given Luna’s behavior at times that’s not hard to do. Thankfully for Regan, the book has a happy ending. Luna comes into some money and is able to leave home. Great.
Looking at the descriptions of the other books, most of them focus on how awful trans people’s lives are. Which of course they are at times, but the message I’m getting here is that trans people are pathetic individuals whom we should all pity because they are so tragic. Could we maybe have something a little bit positive?
This is probably a good point to give another recommendation for Vee’s great article on the “acceptance narrative” that informs so many books about trans people. That narrative is popular because it allows cis people to feel squicked out by trans folk and tells them that’s OK. That’s the sort of book about trans people that cis people seem to want to read. It is certainly the sort of book that publishers want to publish, which perhaps says rather a lot about the attitudes of commissioning editors.
That’s really what this is all about. In the same way that many men won’t read books about women, many white people won’t read books about non-white people, and so on, many cis people don’t want to read books about trans people. They might want to read books about cis people having to come to terms with the existence of trans people. That’s what The Guardian means when it talks about books being good on the subject of gender identity.
Oh, and to all of those people thinking, “but we must have an easily understood sign for a toilet that can be used by anyone,” what’s wrong with a little picture of a toilet?