If you want to irritate a trans person and don’t want to put a whole lot of time or effort into it, simply ask them what they are supposed to be anyway. We hate this because generally speaking, aside from some of the more slovenly amongst us and goths, we go out of our way to make it perfectly clear what we are supposed to be. Isn’t it just a pickle of a thing though we turn around and do the exact same thing?
I was watching ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’ and one scene showed Hedwig on an open air stage with one fan watching with admiration. I immediately began wondering if it was supposed to be a man or woman due to the androgynous haircut and face, not to mention wearing what might have either been a long black skirt or those supersize Hot Topic goth pants. I thought they were cute and concluded their gender really didn’t matter to me. It did get me thinking a bit though.
I think we all do this, try to determine what someone is supposed to be, because it is innate. As a trans person though, it is particularly embarrassing when I get annoyed because I can’t figure it out. More than once at Spectrum meetings I’ve squinted at new faces in attempt to determine if they were trans or not, if so, what direction they were going in, or allies. The thing is, I’ve been wrong more than once, so I don’t have a lot of confidence in my own transdar. All the while I’m doing this, I feel like a tremendous boob for even thinking about it. I mean seriously, aren’t we all there specifically because this kind of thinking persists? I can’t even ask anyone if they do the same thing for fear of painting myself as someone who cares. I secretly like to think everyone does it; something that is probably going to invite a Texas toast load of “well I never!” type indignant comments.
Unfairly, I fantasize about people asking me this exact question. “So twinkle-toes, what the hell are you supposed to be, anyway?” They would correctly add the comma pause because only someone grammatically correct would even consider asking this question. My pat answer of course is, “your mom”. It’s much more polite than getting all pissy pants over it, and who doesn’t love a good ‘your mom’ come back? It’s just classic.
As humans go, this is simply built into the model. Upon encountering someone new, we immediately classify them by features of identity – gender, race, body type, attractiveness, and familiarity – all within a few seconds. Trans people happen to trigger the old “more information needed” directive right off the bat and tend to get a lot of stares unless they are really passable. I used to take this as a hint of transphobia until I read up on the whole recognition thing and understood better. This of course excludes those who continue to stare for tens of minutes with a scowl, sneer, or super seldom ‘come hither’. I don’t think I’ve gotten any of the last one, but familiar with the first two.
My whole point here is that we can’t take it too personally when people do this. Yes, it’s super rude of them to ever ask because with the exception of children, it’s a question that is really meant to convey, “I can see right through your little costume there, chief.” A lingering look, however, is just an old-timey software routine that hasn’t yet been deleted from the now well obsolete Homo Sapien Sapien 1.0 model. Someone really ought to update those things sometime.