Topless Transgender Women at Rehoboth Beach

A group of transgender women made a trip to Rehoboth Beach on Memorial Day weekend. They took off their tops, revealing enhanced breasts to other beach-goers. People complained to the lifeguards, who requested that the women put their tops on. They covered up before the police came, even though they were not doing anything illegal.

Delaware law states that only women can be arrested for being topless. Since these transgender women have male genitalia, they are legally men and cannot be arrested for being topless at the beach. In this situation, the transgender women were not guilty of indecent exposure.

While females cannot expose their breasts, “a male is guilty of indecent exposure if he exposes his genitals or buttocks under circumstances which he knows his conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm to another person.”

This story could be confusing because the transgender women are essentially fighting to be accepted — and treated legally — as men. Typically, transgender women fight to be accepted as women and transgender men fight to be accepted as men. So what were these women doing by exercising their male rights?

Regardless of their goals, their situation made light of the irony of the treatment of transgender people. A transgender woman who has not had genital surgery is not considered legally a woman. She can’t change her identification to reflect her gender, even if she lives full-time as a woman. Yet, when transgender women follow the laws that apply to men, and remove their tops on a beach (which wouldn’t be at all controversial or abnormal if they were men), it causes problems.

Transgender people cannot be denied the rights of both men and women. Society should accept that transgender women are women and that transgender men are men. But until then, what’s wrong with transgender women exercising their rights as legal men? Their genitals don’t determine who they are but if the law says they’re men, they should be allowed to do anything men can do.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons