Friday, February 15, 2008

You know what really grinds my gears?

Gender/Age profiling! Today I was stopped by a cop who thought I was a truant. Srsly!

This morn I was sent down to City Hall to sit in on a council hearing on CITY INFRASTRUCTURE. It was FASCINATING, by which I mean pretty boring on the whole.

But as I passed through security and started to walk towards the building, I heard a loud authoritative voice booming behind me, "STOP RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE!" So I stopped and stared at him expectantly (I'm like wtf why is this cop talking to me). And he comes, stands in front of my so my way is barred, and goes "DID YOU SKIP SCHOOL TO BE HERE?"

And, with less 'tude than I'd ideally hoped but more than I'd normally expect to muster, I said: Uh. No. No I didn't.

Quoth he: OH YEAH? WHAT GRADE ARE YOU IN?

Said I (more 'tude now): I'm an adult. I have graduated from college already.

He: OH YEAH? WHAT COLLEGE DID YOU GO TO?

And then I informed him of my alma mater, his police buddies started laughing, and looking a little sheepish he told me that I looked young, but I have a sense of humor about that right? I told him that sometimes I try to have a sense of humor about it, and he let me go.

Retrospectively, I always kind of fantasize about whether it could be productive to actually explain myself to police officers (security guards, etc) in such situations, eg:

"No officer, I'm not in school. You probably think I look young because our ideas about age in this society are heavily informed by gender norms, and since I'm a transgendered person who does not closely approximate the gendered stereotypes you associate with adults, you have assumed I am a child."

But I'm also lucky on little levels (I have an ID with my correct name and gender printed on it), and on big ones (I enjoyed the entirety of my exchange with the police officer draped in a protective layer of whiteness). I ROUTINELY drop privilege wherever I can in these kinds of situations. Once at a group I attended a young black transman recounted a comparable exchange-- only in his case the cop threw him up against a wall, snatched his wallet out of his hand, and started rifling through its contents. Unfortunately for the young man, his credit card--which he had been attempting to use to buy a metrocard--was under a different name than his drivers license (as is mine). As one can imagine, this did not make the cop happy. In his case though, the ultimate saving grace was not a tie and a university degree but a military ID card, which the officer eventually found as he perused the man's wallet (and cops really like vets, or something). 

If anyone has anything else to say about this that's more insightful than I can be, I definitely would like to hear it. Certainly trans activists have been vocal about getting proper identification for trans and GNC folks, and about gender profiling and enforcement more broadly, but I don't know if anyone has had much to say about how FTMs encounter ageism specifically, and how that phenomenon interacts with issues like racism and IDs and policing.

Anyway, that really grinds my gears.

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