They Them Their

I thought I was ready to encounter they, them, and their. I don’t pretend to understand all of the angles of transgenderism and gender fluidity, but I had thought I was on a live and let live track. I guess I’m still working through these issues, though. I’m willing to use people’s preferred pronouns, yet so far, I’m pretty sure I want women’s sports to be for women. Then, yesterday, I was slightly flummoxed when they, them, their appeared at a doctor’s appointment. 

Our medical assistant asked if a student doctor could see us initially, then our regular doctor would check in and review the visit. We said OK and soon Pat appeared with they, them, their below their name. Pat was not obviously male or female. I assumed Pat was perhaps non-binary, perhaps trans, but my friend thought Pat was male. 

I’m not sure where exactly Pat is in their medical training, but they seemed not to have mastered the art of efficiently managing an appointment. We fumbled around a bit with the items that had brought us to the clinic but slowly made our way down our list. But as things were winding down, my friend said, “So, since you’re a guy, I’d like to ask you a guy question,” and proceeded with the guy question. Pat looked somewhat startled, but handled it well, and tackled the guy question. 

The whole visit was far from the smoothest visit we’ve ever had. We’re used to doctors who get to the point and are clear about “the plan,” whether it be a prescription, referral, or just advice. This time, there was talk of a flu shot, a referral to podiatry, a page explaining an exercise that might help, and a change in an Rx. We left with none of that and had to turn around and say, “What about that flu shot?”… and all the rest.

Once we were home, I thought over my discomfort with not knowing whether the student doctor was male or female. I really don’t care whether my food server or plumber or mechanic or gardener or most other people I encounter are male or female or non-binary as long as they can do the job. But once society got past the tradition that all doctors were male, and I was able to choose a female doctor for primary care, I did so. Other women have done the same. I wonder if this choice will now be considered hateful.

I don’t much care whether my specialists are male or female or trans; last year I changed from a male cardiologist to a female on the basis of communication skills, not sex. He was a man of few words, whereas she is willing to talk with me until my questions are answered. But yesterday, I realized that, for now, I want my primary care doctor to be female; I’m not ready to accept a trans woman as female in that up close and personal position. 

A year from now, I might not care. But for now, I’m just not there yet. The mantra, “trans women are women,” which trans activists present as dogma, still require qualifiers for me. If a person walks into a women’s restroom and looks like a woman, I’m not going to raise her skirt to see what’s between her legs. If Dr. Pat walked into a women’s restroom, I’d go with my non-binary assessment and do nothing. If a person who looks like a man walked into a women’s restroom, my sensors would go on alert, and my response would depend on what signals I got. 

There are other places where some women are clear that trans women don’t belong. One is women’s prisons. Another is women’s sports. My mind seems to work more on a case by case basis. I’d agree that a person who seems not to have made any effort to actually transition needn’t be automatically treated as a woman just on the basis of claiming to be a woman. (I live in a “Self-ID” state; I don’t approve.) But I can also imagine that some men who have transitioned to female might be especially endangered in a men’s prison. (I’m pretty sure all men are in danger in a men’s prison.) As for competitive sports, I just don’t get why trans women need to be allowed into women’s sports which allow women to compete with a chance of winning. Let them compete with other trans athletes or play for fun without competing. 

Then, there’s the issue of women’s shelters. Obviously if it’s a shelter for women who are seeking safety from domestic violence, a man who hasn’t really transitioned could be traumatizing. Again, though, a trans woman could be in danger in a men’s shelter. Do we have to create special trans shelters? Or could we accommodate people on a case by case basis? I don’t work in a prison or a shelter, but I’ve read of women who’ve been abused in these settings. Still, I wouldn’t want to put a trans person in a setting that would be dangerous for them.

I guess trans rights have come to the fore because we’ve solved race, sex, disability, and gay rights. After marriage equality what is left to fight for? Well, obviously, we haven’t actually solved any of these issues completely. If I were a gay or lesbian today, I’d be wondering if the Supreme Court will soon take away what it so recently granted: the right to marry. Will women control their own bodies two years from now? I think we know that we have to continue to pay attention to situations that adversely impact people because of their sex or race or other factors outside an individual’s control.

I return to a post I made recently, positing that All Lives Matter. Please can our goal be to care for people as the individuals they are and try to enable to everyone to thrive!

P.S. This post is open for comments…

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