With the record-breaking amount of anti-trans legislature introduced in 2021, the policing of trans bodies is extremely prevalent today. News outlets have rightly focused on how these bills are obviously going to hurt trans people. However, it’s also necessary to explore how this type of policing is inevitably going to harm everybody, especially cisgender women.
An appeal to cisgender people
As a trans person, I’m acutely aware of the danger that I’m in as a result of the current legislation. Despite wanting to solely prioritize trans issues and wishing that everybody would selflessly care about them, the reality is that some will not blink an eye at a problem that does not personally affect them. However, these bills are just the beginning. An increase in the amount of body policing will result in reinforcing patriarchal values, a problem that affects everybody.
The most prominent example of this policing is occurring within women’s sports. Misleadingly named the “Save Women’s Sports Act”, bills like this are specifically targeting trans women under the guise of protecting cis women. Some argue that cis women will be harmed if trans women are allowed to play on the same team. Using fear-mongering as their main technique, the supporters of bills like this believe that the presence of trans women in women’s sports will result in unfair competition and limited opportunities for cis women.
Of course, lawmakers cannot cite a single example where this has been the case in the past. Ironically, there are several examples of the opposite happening. Below are 5 examples of girls and women who have experienced this discrimination as a result of breaking gender norms and stereotypes.
1. Mili Hernandez
While this legislation is solely worded against trans women, cis women are now being scrutinized for their gender expression. A great example of this is Mili Hernandez, a soccer player from Omaha, Nebraska. When Mili was just 8 years old, her team was disqualified from the Springfield Soccer Club tournament. Some accused Mili of being a boy due to her short hair. Even after Mili’s parents showed documentation of her gender to the tournament organizers, they were still disqualified. So, while legislators fail to cite any examples of trans athletes harming cis athletes, there are already cis girls who have been harmed from the stereotypes that these lawmakers enforce.
2. Christine Mboma and 3. Beatrice Masilingi
More recently, trans-targeted rules have harmed cis women in sports at the Olympic trials. Several cis women have been disqualified from competing in certain Olympic events because of their naturally occurring high testosterone levels. World Athletics ruled that Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi from Namibia were ineligible for the 400m sprint. This is because of a rule that caps testosterone levels for women in certain events.
4. Caster Semenya
These are the same rules that barred South African Caster Semenya from competing in the 400m sprint in 2018. Semenya’s case brings an additional component of gender to the table as many have tried to access her medical records to ascertain if she is intersex. The public has constantly scrutinized Semenya for defying gender norms despite being assigned female at birth and having naturally high testosterone levels. World Athletics told her that she wasn’t allowed to race because of the testosterone cap for women. Instead, the sports governing body said she would need medication to lower her natural testosterone levels in order to compete. While women athletes with high testosterone levels are allowed to compete in the 100m and 200m races, they are not allowed to participate in races that range from 400m to one mile.
5. Annet Negesa
Other intersex athletes have experienced similar problems with public scrutiny. One athlete even went so far as to have surgery to reduce her naturally high testosterone levels. Annet Negesa, an 800m runner from Uganda, was not allowed to compete in the London 2012 Olympics. Again, this was after doctors from World Athletics said her testosterone levels were too high. Devastated by this news, Negesa sought medical treatment so she could compete in the future. While having external female genitalia, Negesa also has internal male genitalia and needed a gonadectomy, a surgery that she claims doctors from World Athletics recommended. Her post-op recovery, though, was difficult and left her with physical and mental side effects, effectively ending her career. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, she also couldn’t return home to Uganda. To avoid persecution, she sought asylum in Germany. Thankfully, they welcomed her into the country.
Reinforcing a harmful narrative
The policing of trans bodies has already led to the gatekeeping of womanhood and gender. Instead of embracing the diversity within gender, politicians have decided to double down on the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. Like many other states, the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill that bans trans athletes from playing on the team that matches their identity. In addition, they legalized genital inspections for when an athlete’s gender comes into questioning. This means that any child who does not adhere to gender norms can be subjected to an invasive and violating examination.
When any marginalized group is attacked, it reflects a larger problem within that society. In this case, an attack on the transgender community should be seen as an attack on human rights for everybody. Everyone should be wary when a society starts to police how gender should be expressed. While it may seem limited to trans bodies at first, this type of body policing always leads to a larger scaled attack on gender itself. Whether that means the types of haircuts people have, the clothes they wear, or the stereotypes they break, no one should be limited by the harmful narrative that gender roles perpetuate.