Something I’ve been meaning to comment on for some time is the fact that many of my sisters (not you, the mean ones who don’t read my blog) seem to be, well, extra special touchy about the whole trans thing. Let’s talk about that for a minute. I know I touched on this with the whole ‘Cissexist’ thing a bit back, but the idea needs a little more flesh on its bones, just like Courtney Cox. Seriously, she’d look way better if she went all Kardashian, whoever they are; I’ve never been sure.
I brought my mother-in-law, or former mother-in-law (or alternate mother – I really don’t know what to call my spouse or her family now), to a Spectrum meeting and my friend gave her an excellent pamphlet on some of the basics on etiquette towards trans people. It was well put together, but it also made me feel a teeny tiny bit uncomfortable as well. While it did have a relaxed tone, one could read it and come away with some nervousness if cisgender. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great and plan to use it, but with some caveats.
One of the biggest fears people have aside from sexually unappealing vampires, is fucking up. The pamphlet is very clear that a person is probably going to fuck up if they go with their natural instinct in terms of questions or interest. Yes, people do like to know how to avoid fucking up, but they get very uncomfortable if they are worried it is going to happen. “Yeah, we should invite Kim along, I but I’m worried I’m going to fuck up and call him…fuck!… her, Tim by mistake.” Just great, now poor Kim has to eat her sack lunch alone at her desk because someone is worried she’s going to go apeshit if she hears the name she went by for 40 years. How can we best avoid this?
The way I’m going with is to have a sense of humor about it and not take myself too seriously. I know, there is a fine line there between being a good sport and letting yourself get walked over, but it’s a better risk than coming off like a big prickly Petra. If people feel they can still joke around with you and not have to avoid the subject all together, it helps them understand you are still human and they can relate to you that way. Just be sure to make any attempts at humor about you and not them. For example, if you ask your old ‘muddin’ buddy Deke to come on over and you’ll make him look real pretty, he may take that the wrong way and no longer invite you into his jeep with the detachable roll bar. If, however, you do what a good friend of mine does and tell him he can bust your balls as long as you still have them, he probably will call you next time he goes down to the quarry. Just don’t wear a white pleather skirt. Not just muddin’ either. Ever.
The same general philosophy can be used on rude clerks and wait staff. If the counter jockey at Arby’s calls you ‘sir’ with a smirk you can do one of three things. You can feel ashamed and run out of there, but you end up passing on a delicious hydrogenated beef and cheddar flavored product. You can also call over his manager and ream him out until he cries in fear of losing his vaunted position. This, however, is sure to get you some extra special ingredients in your sandwich even more heinous than what is already there. Finally, you can surprise him with a line like, “Sir? Do I look like your dad or something? If so, she’s hot!” Someone inclined to be a prick usually won’t know what to do with this and try to get you out of their queue as quickly as possible and makes you come off as witty rather than someone who is easily picked on and has hissy fits.
I know, it isn’t right that we should have to be exposed to endless uncomfortable situations, make fun of ourselves, and hold our fury in the face of dumbassness. It’s also not right to be born with the wrong parts, but what are you going to do? We can be extra sensitive to language and our sense of pride and end up consigned to the transgender table, which if you live in a small community, is population: you. We can instead endure the unintentional insults, the intentional ones, have a sense of humor about ourselves, and integrate our true identities into circles of friends, work mates, and society in general.
When I pass out the pamphlet at work, I’m going to do so with a little speech that it is good etiquette in general, but that I am willing to answer whatever questions they have, not take offense when they stray into areas that might be a little too personal, and not fly off the handle or give them the cold shoulder when they mistakenly call me ‘Mike’. If I’m inundated with a thousand and one questions, so what? Eventually the fascination will fade and life will return to normal. In the end, this will serve me best. If I can make them comfortable with me, I’m going to be much more comfortable in the long run.