- Robin Abcarian, writing for the LA Times, published a transgender article on March 6 describing how Sam Brinton, 29, used the female restroom at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood during the Oscars show.
- In the United States of America, it did seem like after gay rights were won, the next battleground would be transgender rights.
- A Fantastic Woman director and Oscar Winner Sebastian Lelio described the current climate for transgender people as a crisis testing the limits of empathy.
A gender-fluid LGBT advocate using the ladies bathroom during the Oscar became the highlight of an LA Times writer’s article that illustrated the current political climate and cultural shift regarding transgender Americans.
Robin Abcarian, writing for the LA Times, published a transgender news article on March 6 describing how Sam Brinton, 29, used the female restroom at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood during the Oscars show.
Instead of protest or discrimination, Brinton, educated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in nuclear engineering and worked for suicide-prevention group, the Trevor Project, was welcomed.
“I feel safe in a women’s restroom,” Brinton, who wore a red dress and Jimmy Choo shoes, told Abcarian. “It’s the farthest you can get from ridicule. I was on the red carpet and Jane Fonda was literally, ‘I have to get a photo with you.’ This is a dream come true.”
In the United States of America, it did seem like after gay rights were won, the next battleground would be transgender rights.
For instance, former President Barack Obama mentioned transgender rights in his 2015 speech, a first ever for any sitting president to do so. Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner came out a few months later and then the Pentagon announced it would open the military for recruitment of transgender service people.
When President Trump came into power last year, he overturned Obama-era policy by announcing his intention to ban transgender people from serving in the military, putting the careers of more than 15,000 trans members into limbo.
However, the ban was challenged at the federal court. Rulings by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and Judge Marvin J. Garbis put a stop to the implementation of the ban. By last month, the military confirmed it has received its first transgender recruit.
The administration has also removed key legislative protection for transgender people. For example, it issued guidelines to schools to disregard Obama-era initiatives that guarantee transgender students to be able to use the restroom that match their gender identity.
Crisis of empathy
Furthermore, Abcarian wrote that many took issue with the use of the pronoun “he” when referring to Brinton in the article.
While mulling over the intricacies of language, Abcarian met Sebastian Lelio, Chilean filmmaker, who won the foreign film for his transgender feature-length film, A Fantastic Woman. Also making history was Yance Ford, who was the first openly transgender director nominated for his work Strong Island.
Lelio claimed he began filming four years ago when transgender rights were gaining ground before it was halted abruptly.
“The world shifted 180 degrees politically — toward the Middle Ages,” he said. “The right wing in Europe, Brexit, Trump.”
In addition, he explained, “We are going through a crisis that has to do with the limits of empathy, and the question of whether there is such a thing as ‘illegitimate’ people, or ‘illegitimate’ love.”
When the writer met Brinton in 2014, Brinton preferred the masculine pronouns “he/him”. Now, Brinton preferred the plural pronouns “they” or “them”.
Abcarian still struggled with the use of the plural pronouns to describe an individual even with the knowledge that language is a living, ever-shifting thing.
However, she later wrote that addressing people the way they prefer is a tenet of respect, a journalistic principle called Muhammad Ali rule. The Muhammad Ali rule came about after boxer Cassius Clay changed his name and newspapers followed suit.
The rule applies to the use of preferred pronouns of transgender and non-binary people, which may be mind-blowing. But after the initial reaction, it is hoped that the country can move forward and take up on the challenge of granting civil rights for all.