The strange phenomenon of saying pointless yet hurtful things

The fact that Dune -Ya takes our side is a great things. She posted a lot of awesome messages about transgender inclusion, and I thank her for that, but as she said in a later tweet, she got really mean replies to that message, and didn’t know why people are so mindlessly cruel. And I don’t know either.

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Today, I came across this tweet (I put the transcription under the tweets in case they get deleted somehow):

 “trans women r .. women .. if ur a straight boy attracted to trans women u r still .. straight . quick maths — dune -Ya (ya ya ) (@dounia)”

The fact that Dune -Ya takes our side is a great things. She posted a lot of awesome messages about transgender inclusion, and I thank her for that, but as she said in a later tweet, she got really mean replies to that message, and didn’t know why people are so mindlessly cruel. And I don’t know either. One reply that caught my eye was this one:

“Trans women are not women they are….trans women. Trans men are not men they are….trans men. Just because you decide to change how you look doesn’t mean you can relate to/identify with people who were naturally born that way. — M (@fiyamayaa)”

And because it wasn’t clear enough, she followed up with that:

“Like I said, they can turn into whatever they want to be but they cannot relate to me as a female woman. No matter how hard they try. This doesn’t mean they deserve any disrespect or pain but they aren’t female women. They are male women. — M (@fiyamayaa)”

And the fact that she says that we don’t deserve any disrespect is quite funny when she basically shits on excludes us in the same sentence. Also, she posted a handful of other mean tweets after that, but I don’t think I need to show them all, I guess you got the idea.

So, I don’t want to go into the debate of this very binary view of gender, because it’s not the point and anyway, when we do that, it’s like punching air. Bigots are just not receptive. No, I want to talk about another part of her message, when she declares that trans-women cannot relate to cis-woman (and changing “trans” and “cis” by “male” and “female” doesn’t make it more accurate, just fucking rude). And I’m sorry to break it to you, but of course, I wasn’t born with a woman’s body, and I didn’t grow up being identified as a woman, so obviously I didn’t have to experience what women get when they grow up. Also I don’t have some of the annoying things that come with the female body, like periods. That’s one thing hormone therapy or surgery doesn’t provide, and unless they come up with a way to shove a functional uterus in a trans-woman’s abdomen, it’s not going to happen anytime soon. I had problems of my own, you know, growing up with the wrong body, and even though I identify as a woman, I’m not asking cis-women to relate to it. And don’t think I would hesitate a second to trade everything for a fully functional female body, so people would genuinely see me as a woman. I’d do it in a heartbeat.

But I wonder. Why state the obvious? I know I’m trans, and not cis. Why bother telling me? Who are you trying to convince? Transphobes are way beyond recognising it, they’re straight out calling us “male with a face full of make-up” (2). And tolerant people already know that, but they’re not saying it. Because they know we know, and that saying it to our face is just rude. You can’t say that people don’t deserve any disrespect, and be rude at the same time. They don’t cancel each other. Disrespect beats respect to a pulp.

Now, I can’t relate to what a cis-woman have experienced as a child or as a teen. I totally agree with that. But… can you? And don’t misunderstand me, you may have very similar experiences with your neighbour, or people who were in the same school, even the same country, but beyond that? Do you think you can relate, even in the slightest, to a girl born in a slum in a third world country. Or a woman from the 18th century or earlier? What do you have in common? If you were even to meet an early 20th century woman, she would probably think you live like a man (3).

So, how is the fact that I can’t relate to a white woman from my neighbourhood important? How is it different from the fact that said woman can’t relate to another woman who doesn’t fit her very geo- and chrono-centered definition of a woman’s life? Who can just tell what it universally feels to be a woman? I sure can’t. I know how I feel, but I have no idea if there is one person who feel the same way I do. I don’t even know if I feel the same way as any other trans woman. It’s like trying to explain a colour. We all see blue (4), but we have no idea if it looks the same for everyone nor we can explain it (we know the wave length, and yet we can’t describe a colour). We just know it’s blue because one day, someone pointed at it and said “this is blue”, so we matched the colour we saw with the word we were told. And that’s that simple.

So, the bottom line is, I know that I feel like a woman, because I am one. And sorry to break it to you, but there is no debate about that. It’s maybe not the same way another woman feels, but there is no point in comparing something we can’t explain. No one else than me can know how I feel, so no one has anything relevant to say about it. I can’t relate to everything a cis-woman have experienced, but you can’t either, and I’m still a woman. End of story.

(1) A lot of us would love to have a baby, but have to freeze their sperm before starting hormones, so they can have a baby with their own genetic heritage later. I’d rather adopt, because I don’t really care about the genetic part, but that’s down to a personal choice at this point.

(2) Real transcription of a comment I heard yesterday coming up Granville Avenue (in Vancouver, BC), and it’s only a small sample. I was in for a treat. People are mean.

(3) In “The Marvelous Mrs Maisel”, which is set in 58, there is a running joke at the beginning, that parodies this, where Susie is constantly called “young boy” by people who actually think she is a man because she dosn’t conform.

(4) If we are not blind or colour-blind, but that’s not the point here.

How [not] to react when you misgender someone, and they tell you

I’ve been playing RPG with a small group of people for a few months and we are having a lot of fun. Except when they start misgendering me, which usually is just a “slip”. It’s inconsequential, right? RIGHT?

[…]

I’ve been playing RPG with a small group of people for a few months and we are having a lot of fun. Except when they start misgendering me, which usually is just a “slip”. It’s inconsequential, right? RIGHT?

Well, you know what I’m about to say. It’s bad, really bad.

I’m a very tolerant person when it comes to isolated events. Sometimes, someone uses the wrong pronouns. If I know them, I will tell them, they apologise, and we move on. If I don’t know them, the effort is not worth the result and even if it’s hurtful, I can’t blame them, especially since I don’t go out of my ways to look more feminine (and if I do and they still misgender me, they’re just assholes who don’t even deserve that I spend time on them).

I am more tolerant about my friends and family; they’ve known me for such a long time that they’re deeply used to the way it used to be, and it’s genuinely hard to get used to the new pronouns. But when I get into a group, and introduce myself as female, I expect people to get it right away, and after 6 months, the “slip” should be a thing of the past. It shouldn’t happen. My RPG group falls in that category. They’re people who only know my female identity, even if they know I am transgender (I joined them before starting HRT), so they should use the right pronoun all the time, without even thinking about it.

I probably should have enforced it more from the very beginning; I let it slide too many times before I started HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), but now I definitely need to correct them every single time, and if they get annoyed by that, then it will stick in their head. Because this week, it reached an apex. They kept misgendering me, I kept correcting them, and only one of them realised it and apologised (even sent me an email, thanks). One had the complete opposite reaction, so he made the case for the worst behaviour ever (well, the worst before violence):

  1. I misgender someone. No big deal, they didn’t notice, let’s move on (1).
  2. I misgender again. That time, they correct me. Ok. Got it, you noticed. Let’s move on.
  3. I misgender once again. They correct me. That’s starting to get annoying, but I don’t want to make a scene, so let’s shut up.
  4. After we split, they come to me, and they ask me to be more careful. Shit, what have I done wrong. It’s just a slip, it happen, relax a bit, it’s not like it happens every time.
  5. I run away before they can actually explain why it’s problematic to misgender someone.

It happened exactly like that. I’m not making that up. So here is why it is problematic to misgender someone. It has been explained by many other people who probably said it better than I do, but here is my take.

First, I just want to stress out that if you misgender someone, even if you apologise, it’s still hurtful. But at least you acknowledge that you made a mistake, and the person can still respect you after that. It’s like stepping on someone’s foot. It hurts, and you can’t change that, but if you don’t apologise, you’re a dick. So apologise.

Now, what happens when someone gets misgendered. It goes beyond simple respect. It’s a very personal thing. When someone uses the wrong pronouns, I just feel like my treatment is not working, that my efforts are pointless and that I’m that far away from my objective. I know how I look, and I know how people see me, that doesn’t mean I want them to remind me every time they get a chance. Calling me by the gender I choose shows that you acknowledge that I am a woman, even thought I may not look like one (2). It builds confidence. Using the wrong pronouns, you take that confidence away. My life is subjected to an never-ending tidal wave of confidence (3).

  • If you misgender me, you’re telling me that you can’t go past my appearance.
  • If you do it several time even after I correct you, your lack of effort means that you don’t understand how important it is; and if you don’t realise that I’m getting gradually upset, you have a cruel lack of empathy.
  • If you don’t apologise, that means that you don’t care about my feelings at all, which puts you straight in the asshole category.
  • And if you act offended, I completely lose respect for you. You’re hopeless.

And the appearance thing is bullshit. There are people out there who don’t know me, and get it right even when I don’t give any information (not even my name). Some people actually told me they didn’t know I was transgender before I told them. The physical value of gender is way overestimated. If you just tell people your gender before they can really judge it by themselves, they have to mentally fight to go against it. It’s not worth it, so they comply. Tell them you are transgender, they only see that. Tell them later that you are transgender, and they will tell you (and convince themselves) that they totally saw it. It’s really not worth telling people.

So, here is an advice for when you misgender someone you know:

If you notice right away, correct yourself, and apologise. If they correct you, apologise. And DON’T. DO. IT. AGAIN! Seriously!

But staying silent or, worse, getting offended when you’re corrected is never the right behaviour.

 

(1) FIY: I always notice, even if I don’t say anything.

(2) I am a woman, there is no debate here. I don’t have to argue about that and you don’t get to disagree.

(3) In this analogy, the Moon is “misgendering”. Sorry Moon, I don’t have anything against you. You’re just playing the villain here. I promise you’ll get a better role next time.

Emotional Wasteland; how to tear down the stronghold defence

I’ve been living in an emotional wasteland for more than 15 years. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel anything, it only means that I’ve been forbidding myself to let a particular set of negative feelings affect my life. Of course, it didn’t go as planned, I did feel a lot of stuffs, but by denying those feeling, I created a situation where I forgot how to recognise them.

[…]

I’ve been living in an emotional wasteland for more than 15 years. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel anything, it only means that I’ve been forbidding myself to let a particular set of negative feelings affect my life. Of course, it didn’t go as planned, I did feel a lot of stuffs, but by denying those feeling, I created a situation where I forgot how to recognise them. And as I pointed out in my previous post, it becomes problematic when it builds up and I can’t see the threshold being atomised. I should be able to identify the early signs of distress and take preventive action, or at least prepare my defence. But to know why I have so much problems with this now, I have to come back years and years before.

When I was in middle school, I was quick to cry for any stupid thing. And when you grow up as a boy, your peers are quick to shame you for being so emotional. Heck, in the 90’s, even the girls were shaming you for that by calling you… a girl (not sure that changed actually, but I’m not in middle school anymore). After that, high school was a boring hell hole where every one but me was in a group, I started my college years with my first big “romantic” deception, I’ve been mugged a couple times, and by the time I was 20, I was fed up of being emotional and victimised. So, I basically decided to change all of that, trying to be more the person that people want you to be. But it turns out, when people want you to conform, they don’t mean that you should behave like a cold anti-social butthole.

After a few years of being like this, and refusing to feel anything, or to be vulnerable in front of someone, your body gradually accept the changes, and stop giving you any warning signs. You live like nothing can get to you. It’s boring, and lonely, but even that doesn’t feel as bad as it sounds, because your body stopped giving a rat’s ass about your feelings anyway. But, of course, it’s only illusion. If you have as much empathy as I do, you can understand how this wall is just a prank your mind loves to play on you, and all those feelings build up until the illusion crumbles and you as well.

And that’s where the weirdest thing happens. You would think that after a breakdown, you’d get a wake-up call and decide that all this was a terrible way to deal with your problem, and you should start working on it but no, you just go full 2nd amendment on it and you decide that you need more of your stupid idea to protect yourself. Mix it and shake it for a few years, and here you go, you built yourself a gigantic fortress full of cracks and, ironically, you end up an inmate in a prison you designed. And it’s the kind of prison where you can smuggle anything in, but nothing comes out. So you keep feeling, but to other people, you still look like a cold anti-social butthole.

Jump-cut to 2015: Crap! I’m transgender. I knew it already (1), but hey, now it’s messing with my sanity, so I really need to do something about it. My shrink tries to break into my defence, but she does that by finding workarounds. Bad luck, my wall is designed against that kind of evasive action. However I realise it fails in the face of direct action. Who would have known? I’ve always been honest, and somehow I was always waiting for someone to notice and reach out. So ask me a question bluntly, I will answer the same way, try to go around, I can play for hours, and we’ll both waste time.

So I realise that I need to let my guard down, but I have two problems: first I can’t just withdraw everything because, since I’ve now come out as transgender, I shifted in a particularly unsafe category of people, and I need to be careful. And second, I forgot what feelings feel. As I said, my body stopped warning me, so I have no idea what to let through, because I don’t receive relevant emotional inputs. I only know when it’s too late, and that puts me in annoying or embarrassing situations, to say the least.

So now I am trying to dismantle that wall, but it’s really complicated. It’s a piece-by-piece project. I need to really think about what constitutes a feeling and how it is supposed to trigger me. To give a bold example, when I experience something that is supposed to be sad, I have to tell myself that it is sad, and I know that an appropriate response to that feeling is crying. So I may try to force myself to cry. Think it’s messed up? I actually do it for real. I have some cues that gives me the tears right up. It’s kind of a cheap trick, but after learning some basic neuroscience, I realise that it’s a good way to reinforce a behaviour (2).

However it’s a very long process. It’s not a one-off thing. You don’t get it when you do it once. It’s like any other trained behaviour, it only reinforces when you do it enough times that it becomes natural (like driving, or flipping crèpes without folding them). And most often, you forget to do it because you’re too busy already to notice the stimulus. So I’m in for years and years of remediation. Hopefully, I’ll be prepared when Death comes knocking at my door. So when He says “I DON’T HAVE ALL DAY, ARE YOU READY YET?”, I can say proudly “I saw that coming!”

 

 

(1) Actually I knew since I was about 15, without really putting words onto it. But society puts so much pressure on you to conform that it’s really hard to accept it, or to find help. Especially back in the 90’s when Internet wasn’t yet the go-to place to find useful information. And as my friend Bria says: 

 

(2) There are some stimuli that have never failed to make me cry, and I think it’s because of some things I cared for when I was a kid, like the dog my family used to have. Shit, just writing about him gives me tears. And it actually makes me cry every time something sad happens to a pet (and that’s why I have a hard time with animal deaths in movies). So thinking about this when another supposedly sad stimuli comes up helps associate the response to the stimuli. And then it reinforces by itself, since crying when the stimuli happens makes me realise that the stimuli is something sad.

To be a freelance translator (or not to be)

I am a freelance translator, meaning I translate stuff for clients respectful of my skills and experience while drinking coffee and watching Youtube from my home computer wearing only my panties, right? RIGHT?

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how2bto2bcalm2bdown2ba2btranslator

I am a freelance translator, meaning I translate stuff for clients respectful of my skills and experience while drinking coffee and watching Youtube from my home computer wearing only my panties, right? RIGHT?

FUCK NO!

Well, while some of it is true (I do work in my panties sometimes and watch Youtube instead of working), it’s not the joyful and peaceful ride everyone tend to think it is (that is, everyone who’s never worked from home). Matt Inman made a comic a few years back describing pretty accurately the pros and con of working from home (and it’s funny too, so you should check it). But I want to focus on one particular bad side of that kind of work: stress. Not the good stress that increases adrenaline levels and makes you more focus and causes the work high of workaholic people. I’m talking about the one that, if you build it to unreasonable levels, leads to anxiety and depression.

It’s a lot due to the social side of the work. In the translation business, work is mostly done via Internet, so I never meet my clients. They contact me by email to offer me a job, and we negotiate the rate and deadline until we agree on the terms and I do the job for them. I can also contact them out of the blue to whine about not having jobs, but ultimately, they are the ones offering. But that’s the thing, even if I work a lot for some clients, if they don’t have anything to offer at a certain time, I won’t get paid and they won’t give a single crap whether I manage to find some other gig. That’s a huge source of stress. And worst of all, I worry about that even when I’m overloaded. I can’t help but think that it could end right after the project I’m currently working on.

And it’s cumulative with the fact that sometimes, I go on vacation, so it’s a week here and there when I don’t get paid. I could also get sick, which would reduce my productivity and therefore my income depending on how sick I am. The other day, I went to my  part-time job (which I do because if I were only to do translation, I would never go out and never see the sun have a social life in a city where it’s already so hard to make contacts), and I got upset by something that normally wouldn’t trigger me, but I realized that I had built so much anxiety in the previous weeks that just a small thing could make me breakdown.

And there is something about translation that nobody usually know. It’s supposed to be a very interesting job, but really, it’s a crappy industry, and it’s not getting any better. It’s a disrespectful industry, where the translator’s skills and experience are not valued as they should. It’s like a food chain, and the translator is at the bottom of it. They get fucked from every direction, and they can’t do anything about it, because they have literally no mean of leverage against the companies they work for.

To understand that, we shall see it from the perspective of the translation company. Those companies never hire translators, because it’s not financially rewarding. It’s more interesting for them to give projects to freelancers. It’s cheaper, and they can go for different project types or language pairs without being specialized in it. So they hire project managers, who contact clients and then find a freelance translator who can do the job. So the translator can start negotiating, but ultimately, it’s the company that decides the price (you can accept it or refuse the job) because, like in any industry, there is a huge competition (obviously, the price also depends on the type of content, and the language pair, so it’s interesting for the translator to specialize).

So, now, how do companies assess the skills of the translators. Well, they follow strict regulation to meet the ISO 17100:2015 standard… just kidding! (1) Well they say they meet the standards, and their client are not gonna check that, because it’s way too complex. But, for example, standards specify that one can only translate to their mother tongue. I have translated to English for some companies, so I know that’s bullshit (2). Another one says that editors should preferably be experienced translators and specialized in the project content; well, nobody likes editing, so the experienced people refuse it, and it falls in the hand of the rookies. Again, I know that because those were almost the only jobs I was getting when I started. And how do they know if the translators are skilled enough?

032-2bultimate2btest2bfor2bintern2bproject2bmanagers

Now, let’s talk about Internet. It’s a progress that has awesome and horrible consequences in translation. It’s great because it makes things so much easier; you can contact clients rapidly, get work, annoy and/or block people, and you don’t have to actually meet anyone. But the flip side is that just anybody can now say they are translators and nobody can tell if they’re bullshitting. And there are a lot of bullshitters.  Actually, it’s pretty easy to know if someone is a crappy translator: they usually don’t have a proper registration (meaning they work illegally), but the translation companies don’t check that, and it’s not because they can’t, it’s because by hiring illegal workers (or, if you prefer, by looking the other way…), they drive the prices down (3).

The current situation is so bad that in France, some people in the translator’s union wish to implement licensing for freelancers and standard prices. For the record, I am totally against that. I don’t really want to develop on that because it’s not the topic (and it’s pointless anyway since it’s an international business), but the point is that the companies should be more respectful of their freelance collaborators.

There is a problem that makes me look at other line of work: there is virtually no career path. You can’t progress because there is no hierarchy (4). The only thing you can do is train yourself to get another specialization, and you’re always behind the trend because you can only react to the change in your specialization topic. Seriously, would you do a work if you knew it would not change at all in your entire life?

And then, there is technological advancement. The killer of many industries. It’s not gonna kill human translation. At least not in the next decade. And right now it’s actually helping in many areas. One thing happened with Internet was that it made industries work faster, which resulted in higher loads of production, and therefore documentation, that need to be translated. So a good thing about technology, is that it takes care of all the boring, repetitive stuff, so you only have to focus on the more important parts. Well, almost. A new thing that came out is called Post-Editing. Basically, it’s an editing job, but you correct a translation made by a machine. Exactly, like Google Translate. It’s paid a little better than usual editing, but it’s way under translation rate, although you often have to rewrite everything because, well, you know why. Once, I’ve got a company that asked me to do a “fast” post-editing: meaning I didn’t have to write well, I just had to make it “understandable”. I drew the line there. You don’t get to ask me to write like shit so you can barely pay me.

So there, this job is a stressful hellfest, because it’s hard to be respected, and I tend to always work with the same people since we develop an understanding and it makes it easier to work together, and they supply me with a consistent load of work. But I can’t help but worry about my future in this industry, and sometimes, I break.

 

(1) There are other standards for various specialties, that tend to be respected, especially in legal or medical industries, because a translator error can lead to terrible outcome (let’s say some people can die in clinical trials due to a bad translation).

(2) It’s a sound rule, but one can translate in a different language, especially in technical translation where it’s very codified. It’s more complicated in literary works where style is very personal.

(3) Illegal worker don’t pay tax, so they can accept lower income. Even the most respectful companies I work with never asked me about my registration number (but I put it on every invoice).

(4) You can get hired as a project manager or expand your business to make it a normal company. But then you’re not a freelancer anymore, and you have to go by company rules, so you don’t enjoy said advantages of being a freelancer anymore.

*Comics illustrations are from Mox’s blog. It’s hilarious, go check it out