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Toucha, Toucha, Touchy!

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.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

8 responses »

  1. Something I learned a long while back, “If you can’t beat them with brains, baffle them with bullcrap.” 🙂 Self targeted humor is definitely a good approach. Way to go Sister!

    • Thanks Lynda! You can never go wrong making people laugh. Well, except when people with guns are the ones getting laughed at, but I try to avoid those kinds of situations. 🙂
      Love, Michelle

  2. I decided a while ago to let you handle the “honest mistakes” issue for me and I’m glad to see that you are still at it. Thanks for my laugh of the day in all this seriousness I am reading elsewhere. I’m blowing you a kiss. Deanna

  3. You scored again, and Tedie reinforced it well.

    For most of our circles, they are also transitioning to the new reality of us. I believe in cutting them slack as long as it is an honest mistake and not done maliciously. It is easy to tell the difference.

    For the clerk with the smirk, wit is always best, but hard at times to come up with something good on short notice. We are not all nearly as witty as you, but we try.

    I too have found that trying to make people feel comfortable with their own discomfort by accepting questions and mistakes that might make me a bit uncomfortable is a far better cry than sitting alone in the corner.

    Thanks for saying it so well.


    • Thanks as always Becky! Truth be told though, I’m only witty on paper, and only occasionally at that. In reality I would be one turning to run and slipping in someone’s spilled giant Frosty, landing in it on her butt, and finding out later what dried chocolate milkshake resembles to the casual passer by. It’s OK though, I’m always practicing in my head to pull out a good zinger at just the right moment. 🙂

      Love, Michelle

  4. Damn funny, Like, Tedie still likes pussy, Stick Puss, that’s a real crowd pleaser, I had to laugh at that one myself. The asshole that says sir with a smirk, I get that little gift after I open my mouth, I do need to work on my voice some more. Muddin, I’m usually sorting my sock draw when I get that call, just lucky that way. I’m glad you wrote this we will transition much easier if we relax and not take ourselves too seriously. That has been a big problem for me when trying to relate with a lot of my trans sisters. I will be me a you, well please just be you and don’t worry so much about getting it spot on because I guarantee you I won’t. It’s damn hard at times transitioning but I believe we can and do at times make it harder than it needs to be, I have been guilty of these things myself.

    • You said it sister! The less I take myself too seriously, the happier I am. Fortunately I now get very rare muddin’ calls anymore and also have a considerable number of mismatched socks at the time. 🙂
      Love, Michelle


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