You know that feeling you get when your food arrives at a restaurant and there's so much of it, you don't even know where to start? We kind of felt the same way when we saw Washington mom Kristi Merritt's transphobic post on Facebook. Except this, uh, feast for the eyes has absolutely no taste at all. Merritt posted the below photos, captioned: "A man in women's clothes does not make him a woman. Men should not get to be in our bathrooms or lockers! #JustWantPrivacy #BeBold." The point of the post, presumably, is to support HB2, North Carolina's bathroom bill that discriminates against trans individuals. The law states that trans individuals must use the restrooms that correspond to the biological sex they were assigned at birth — regardless of the gender with which they identify. The law also affects cases of discrimination based on everything from race to religion to national origin to biological sex. In her photos, Merritt is seen decked out in Party City's finest garb, holding hand-drawn signs scrawled with a few versions of the question, "Does this make me...?" ending with a character or a stereotype (ie. "Does this make me a pirate?" accompanied by a pirate costume). Merritt is somehow equating gender identification with, say, being a football player.
We're guessing this is Merritt's best stab at exercising her right to freedom of speech; in the post's comments, she writes that this is "just her opinion." Her outfits range from racist to...as racist as they come. There's a football player, a pirate, and — "a Mexican" drinking Corona? Things that shouldn't need to be said: Simply "dressing up" doesn't make you into a different person, and being trans isn't merely dressing up. It's about identifying differently than you present outwardly — which should have no bearings on your basic human rights. A trans individual's right to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender he or she identifies with should not be infringed upon. Legislating where people do their most intimate business would be a hurtful and dangerous overreach of the law. Also, it should go without saying: Trans people are not second-class citizens, and legislation like this sure makes it look like the U.S. thinks they are. "All of these people are angry. They are upset. They have been left out of the democratic process," activist Micky Bee told reporters at a protest outside of governor Pat McCrory's mansion in North Carolina last month. "Our communities are strong, our communities are resilient, and our communities want solutions that include them. This is hate and bigotry."
Merritt's post is as much a socio-political problem as it is a fashion one. Forget the fact that Merritt's outfit in the last photo (in which she asks if a dress, a purse, and high heels make someone a woman) looks like it was fished out of the clearance bin at a T.J. Maxx located at the end of the Earth. Forget the Taco Bell-brand salsa. Whether your personal style defines you or not, a person's decision to wear gendered clothing means whatever that person wants it to mean. And it's not up to anyone else — especially someone who doesn't seem to have any meaningful contribution to make to this conversation — to judge that person based on gender identity or gender presentation. Ever. Last year, fashion blogger and activist Alok Vaid-Menon gave it to us straight: "There is a material consequence to me presenting feminine, and there's not a material consequence to me presenting masculine," Vaid-Menon told Refinery29. "The minute I wear lipstick, or the minute I put on earrings, or the minute I’m wearing a skirt, my entire reality shifts. How peculiar a world is it where what we wear has such politics that it could mean that you could be killed for what you’re wearing, right?" The adage "think before you speak" seems especially applicable to Merritt: If she wakes up one day and doesn't identify with her own body, then, let's talk. But until then, she (and others with similarly narrow mindsets) ought to be doing her research. Merrit, you're the true fashion victim here — not the transgender teen who's debating suicide because she doesn't feel or look like people like you.