The legal rights of transgender people are often limited based on antiquated ideas and stereotypes of gender. In 2013, a girl was sent home from her Christian school saying that she had to start dressing more like a girl in order to follow suit with her “God-ordained identity.” In the same year, a 13-year-old boy was suspended from his school in Kansas for carrying a purse. And in 2015, a North Carolina school told a nine-year-old boy to leave his My Little Pony lunch box at home because it was a “trigger for bullying.”
Nutt illustrates how a rigid, old-fashioned acceptance of the gender binary hurts even those who are not gay or transgender. Even those who simply prefer styles, activities, and clothing associated with a different gender than people perceive them to be, often face the same kinds of discrimination and do not have the freedom to truly express themselves.
There are also some positive stories, such as a woman who complained about a transgender woman using the female locker facilities at Planet Fitness and had her membership revoked because her behavior was “inappropriate and disruptive to other members.”
The Planet Fitness anecdote stands in direct opposition with Nicole’s experiences at school. Instead of discriminating against the transgender woman for her mere presence, the gym refuses to allow the prejudice to continue and doles out a punishment accordingly.
There are also controversies in all-women’s colleges, who largely still consider only those who identify themselves as female on their applications. Some trans men, however, want to go to the school or transition while at school, arguing that they feel physically and psychologically safer at women’s colleges. Jennifer Finney Boylan writes that the only test for a person’s gender is “what lies within her, or his, heart.”
This is another realm in which society’s opinions are slowly transforming. Universities are reconsidering how to navigate questions of gender identity in the context of gendered institutions. Nutt’s conclusion, quoting Jennifer Finney Boylan, suggests that a person’s gender identity and where they feel they belong—particularly when they have been historically marginalized—should be taken at face value.