Brooklyn fashion blogger Rachel Tutera knows that you might not see her the way she sees herself. As discussed on PBS.com,
“There’s a weird tendency in people to panic when they can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman, or how you may identify,” Tutera, 29, said. “There are people who find me provocative in a way that I don’t exactly understand.”
“As a gender non-conforming person, someone who behaves and appears in ways that are considered atypical for one’s sex assigned at birth, Tutera said she feels constant stress and anxiety from the outside world.
“Whether I’m read as what I am, which is a masculine-presenting woman, or if I’m read as a feminine-presenting man, there’s a lot of danger there — physical danger,” Tutera said. “I’ve gotten shoved by guys, certain slurs.”
“Tutera has been the victim of gender policing, the act of imposing or enforcing gender roles based on an individual’s perceived sex. This type of behavior can range from banal actions, like a confused look on the subway, to more insidious behavior like getting thrown out of a gendered public restroom or fitting room, she said.
“Gender non-conforming people get harassed on the basis of not being the right kind of woman, a failed woman, or not being the right kind of man, a failed man,” said Professor Anne Pellegrini, the director of New York University’s Gender and Sexuality Center. Pellegrini said gender policing amounts to a form of cultural oppression.
“According to Pellegrini, in most states, transgender and gender non-conforming people are not protected from workplace or housing discrimination. Just a few decades ago, state laws allowed police to arrest individuals for impersonating another sex if the police deemed they weren’t wearing gender-appropriate clothing.
Last month, the fifth grade parent group at my daughter’s school had the first of many conversations about how to mark our children’s transition to junior high, writes Marianne Mollman on HuffPost Gay voices:
“Unfortunately, the issue we discussed — whether the kids would be wearing caps and gowns at the end-of-year celebration — sidelined a much more important issue: what the kids would be wearing under these gowns. (My daughter’s school had sent out a notice to parents that boys must wear one thing and girls another.)
“For many children, a gendered dress code may be just another imposition by adults, and to some it may seem small compared with decisions related to bedtime, computer usage, and the precise meaning of the phrase “clean up your room.” But to others it is a big deal. Indeed, clothing is such an essential expression of who we are that international law recognizes it as a human right to wear what we want, barring reasonable restrictions for the purposes of safety or to protect the rights of others.
“And it is precisely because clothing can project our identity so concisely that the clothing associated with particularly stigmatized populations is vigorously policed around the world. For example, several European countries and some North American jurisdictions place restrictions on head coverings. These restrictions are closely linked to discomfort with Islam and are based on the negative and erroneous stereotype that Muslim women are “oppressed” and “submissive.” In fact, even where headscarves are not explicitly prohibited by law, women can be fired for wearing them, and many are discriminated against even before landing a job.
“Likewise, many jurisdictions enforce strictly gendered dress codes in public by either requiring specific attire or criminalizing cross dressing. These restrictions are tied to stereotypes about sexuality and sex.