Do you know any transpeople? Meet Nicole.

NicoleMost of us are cis-gendered, whether we know that term or not. That means that our idea of our own gender is never questioned, by us or by anyone else. These days gender expectations are looser than they were in the past; my son can wear hot pink cleats and only get questions about the Susan G Komen Fund, and I can admit to just loving the brawny decisiveness of an air stapler (come on, “ka-chonk,” you know what I’m talking about). But these expanded limits don’t send much of a wake to rock our sense of whether we are boys or girls. So it can be hard to imagine what a transperson feels; how can you have a similarly solid sense that doesn’t match what the doctor said at our birth? And since the “rules” for gender expression are expanding, can’t transpeople just be tomboyish girls or sensitive guys and leave it at that?

As I think about the North Carolina bathroom law, comments from people like Governor Pat McCrory (“a basic expectation of privacy… in a restroom”) and Ted Cruz hinting of rape and assault dangers from transpeople, I wonder how many Americans have never met one. Or, more correctly, met an out transperson. (I bet you have met more than one and never suspected.) How many of us cis-people have really listened to their stories?  If you have not had a real human-to-human conversation with a transperson, I invite you to meet Nicole Maines. I wish you can one day meet her in real life, but in the meantime you can get to know her via her autobiographical TEDx talk.

She’s pretty famous for having won a civil suit against her elementary school district for forcing her to stop using the girls’ bathroom, and she has been in magazines and on TV, but the real reason you should see her TEDx talk is not her celebrity: it’s that she is a very real, down-to-earth young lady. And once you hear her tell her story, it’s easy to understand what the real “common sense” and “privacy interests” mean. Once you know a person… the differences lose their ability to scare. Meet a transperson, and let him or her pee in peace.

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