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The Free Speech Bus fiasco

by Faye Seidler | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Culture | April 12th, 2017

“It’s Biology: Boys are boys…and always will be. Girls are girls…and always will be. You can’t change sex,” is the slogan written on The Free Speech Bus. This bus originated in Spain as a protest to trans acceptance and was later brought to America through funding from Anti-LGBT groups such as National Organization for Marriage or International Organization for the Family.

This bus hoped to bring media attention to anti-trans talking points meant to disenfranchise and erase trans individuals. Specifically, with trans bathroom issues at the legal forefront, they wanted to influence voters against trans acceptance.

However, from the very start of their tour, this bus was heavily vandalized, criticised, and mocked for what it was; a hate bus. The cities they tried to visit rallied together against the transphobic narrative. We saw mayors standing with the LGBTQ+ community and making statements about how the bus infringed on civil liberties. We saw people putting up signs of support, holding events against it, and protesting the bus if it arrived.

Nothing since marriage equality has energized individuals so much -- both inside and outside of the LGBTQ+ community -- to unite and fight against oppressive ideology disguised as free speech.

At one point a radio show called to interview the Free Speech organization and got a trans activist using a parody account instead. The activist said, posing as them, “I think we just want to get back to where it’s not a part of the conversation because it’s the easiest way to disenfranchise this very vulnerable and marginalised community...Well, the free speech notion is really just an attempt by us to provide a groundwork for lawmakers to see if larger First Amendment grounds for denying rights to this community is possible.”

The bus and the people involved came ready with a plethora of talking points that are important to talk about.

The bus wanted to bring up the science of biological sex to disprove transgender individuals. There is often some assertion that they have the science to back up their arguments and that trans individuals never have an answer in the face of it. I’ve heard that so many times, but I’ve never actually seen any proof on their end.

On the other hand, there is a plethora of scientific research that supports gender identity being a thing. In more concrete terms, this research supports the notion that trans people are biologically how they identify. Developmental psychologists have found that our sense of being female or male develops around three years of age; that it is a neurological and unchangeable component not dictated by our chromosomes or genitals.

Another straw man they use is that if a trans woman identifies as a woman, then why can’t someone else identify as a car, a cat, or a millionaire. The easy answer is that there are 1.5 million trans individuals who have come to their identity, so maybe there is something worth looking at with these people? But more importantly, we have already vetted this question through the history of treatment we’ve faced. Our people have been put on countless medications, endured electrotherapy, attempted suicide, had conversion therapy, and tried everything else possible to cure them of being trans.

The only thing that has ever worked to improve a trans person’s state of being is allowing transition. Ironically, people try to say trans individuals are mentally ill, but we have to get vetted as mentally stable by a therapist before we can even start hormone therapy, which is a treatment that trans people nearly universally report a feeling of completeness with because their endocrine system finally matches their neurological biology.

There is also fear-mongering over trans people using the bathroom, using the age-old “won’t someone think of the children” approach. The fear is that predators would use trans-inclusive laws to get into the wrong bathroom and do horrible things. The interesting answer is that there hasn’t been a reported case of trans people harassing others in the bathroom or of predators abusing these laws, but there have been three reported cases of Republican lawmakers being arrested for sexual misconduct in a public bathroom.

Trans people just want the right to use the bathroom that makes sense for them for the intended use of the facility, that’s it and that’s all. And not allowing trans people to use the correct bathroom, means you get trans men in the ladies room, which is something legislators tend to forget about.

Most of the people making these arguments have never met a trans person, they haven’t had their views challenged, or they have an agenda. If anyone is looking to actually talk about these issues and learn from a trans person who does research, I’m always open!

[Faye Seidler is the North Dakota Safe Zone Project Spokeswoman]

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