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?

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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.