Posts Tagged ‘etiquette

09
Jan
14

5 Things You Should Stop Doing To Your Post-Transition Trans Friends, or “Some things your trans friends might be too polite to ask you to stop doing.”

So, here I am falling into another terrible blogger cliche, and using the age-old internet crutch: the list article. There are all kinds of wonderful lists about things you shouldn’t say to trans people. Like this one from Matt Kailey at Tranifesto, and this one from Justin Cascio at One in Six Trans Men. But those are general, all purpose, “these are the things that make you look like a total asshole” lists…this is an area that I don’t think has been covered very much. While the medical part of transition can go on for years and years (depending on hormones, surgical choices, etc), there comes a point relatively quickly where the rest of transition is essentially complete. For me, that point really hit when my name change occurred. I was already living full-time at that point, and it really marked the point where the bulk of the “journey” portion of transition was over. When that point hits, it’s time to think about how you approach certain conversational topics with your trans friend(s), as the reality of the situation is often rather different than it as a few months (or a year or two) before.For those of you who have been awesome enough to stick by a trans friend through transition, or who met a new friend during an early stage of transition, the evolution of conversation can be difficult once they reach what I tend to call “post-transition”. Sometimes things that really were supportive and helpful early on start to feel a little overwrought or repetitive as time goes on.  So, with that in mind, here are 5 things you should definitely stop doing to your post-transition trans friends:

1. Stop introducing them as, or referring to them as your “trans*” friend. I know…when it’s early in transition, and we’re either not feeling terribly confident about our appearance or having difficulty “blending in”, it can feel necessary to give people a heads-up to avoid potential awkwardness. It’s still not exactly a great thing to do to even then, but I’ll give it a bit of a pass. But seriously, let go once things are settled down! I know it can feel like you’re embracing their identity and demonstrating your support by talking about (or introducing) them as your “totally awesome trans* friend,” but it’s kinda like introducing someone as your “totally awesome circumcised friend.” You’re sharing private information about our genitals to a stranger.  Not everyone in the world needs to know that we’re trans, and it really should be our decision when and how we disclose it.

2. Stop asking about “how things are going with the whole [transition/hormone/etc] thing” every time you see us. Again, this is one of those things that I know you probably feel is being really supportive. But we reach a point where we get tired of talking about transition-related stuff every time we see friends. It starts to feel like it’s biggest thing our friends see about us (which I’m sure it actually isn’t, but still). Once someone is living full-time and on hormones, there’s usually not a ton of day-to-day (or even month-to- month) news. Do you really want to hear “well, I think my breasts grew like a millimeter or two, and I have like 3% less body hair” every time we talk?

3. Stop telling us how brave you think we are for transitioning every time you see us. Honestly, it’d be nice if people would give this up after the initial “coming out” conversation. Once again, I KNOW this meant to convey support, but I’ll be perfectly honest…I don’t generally think of myself as brave. I think of myself as doing what I had to do to survive, and I’ve had other trans people echo this sentiment. I understand that from the outside, you might see it as a very brave act. I think it’s a perfectly fine (and often encouraging) sentiment to express right after someone comes out. But when it happens half a dozen (or more) times, it starts to feel like (for me at least) like I’m battling something like cancer. In any case, it’s definitely not something you need to declare every time you see us.

4. Stop commenting about “how far we’ve come along.” And definitely stop giving them a serious appraising look every time you see them. This is especially the case if you’re saying things like “Gosh, you look just like a real girl!” I know that personally, this makes me feel like I’m being examined and scrutinized, which is absolutely panic-inducing. Plus, it has a subtle hint to it that you previously thought they looked badly (or at least worse than they do now). It’s much better to let us point out the changes we’re excited about (if there are any) than to suggest that you were examining them looking for the changes that might have occurred.

5. Stop asking us what the “next step” is in our transition. This is one of those things that I think people say in order to demonstrate that they’re interested in this big thing going on in our lives. But for a lot of us, once the metaphorical dust has settled (i.e. we’re living full-time, our names are changed, etc), it’s just kind of…life. We might not be taking any more “steps” at all, or any other steps might be a long way off. In either case, it can make us feel a bit like “crikey, isn’t this enough?”. The early stages of social and medical transition are a whirlwind of change and process, and once we get through, we’re often burned out on thinking/talking about the process itself. Again, let US broach this subject if there is, indeed, a next step coming up for us.

So you’re saying “Shit, I’m so used to talking about the gender/transition stuff…now what do I talk about?” If you have a brain fart about what else to say/do in place of the above, try one of the following:

1. Tell them they look amazing (without qualifiers). By this I mean not “You look amazing for someone born a man!” or “You look so good for a trans woman!” and so on. Just give a sincere, unqualified compliment (i.e. “Wow, you look fantastic!” or “Gosh, your hair is gorgeous!”). It’s a nice little boost to our confidence without reminders that you’re thinking about our gender identity.

2. Ask them about something new or exciting in their lives not related to transition. Did your friend start a new job recently? Meet a new partner? Get a new cat? Finish a degree? Take a Hawaiian vacation? Take up the art of blind-folded flower arranging? They’re your friend, so hopefully you know about SOMETHING in their lives other than the fact that they’ve been going through transition. Everyone loves the chance to gush about the new thing they’re excited about, and it’s a reminder that you see them as a whole person.

3. Give them a genuine, unhesitating gesture of affection. Hugs are good, if you’re the hugging sort. Gentle shoulder touch, friendly punch-in-the-arm, air kisses, or intricate secret-society handshake are also options if they’re the sort of thing you and your friend are comfortable with. I definitely don’t advocate UNWANTED affection of any kind (seriously, they’re your friend…you should know what kinds of friendly affection they find acceptable/unacceptable). The genuine, unhesitating part is important! Even the best, most accepting of allies/friends can get a little weird/uncomfortable about how physical interactions with their trans friends work post-transition, and we can definitely sense that hesitation (or at least I can). Unhesitating affection signals a degree of acceptance that isn’t always easy to express through words.

Final note: This is not the sort of list that is meant to AT ALL belittle or insult the allies of trans people, so please don’t take it the wrong way and send me hate mail. Allies deserve a bajillion thank-yous for standing by us, and there’s zero implication here that doing any of these five things makes you a bad person…it’s just an opportunity to point out some things that can help make better allies (and friends).

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26
Jun
13

Texas SB5 is Dead, or “Wendy Davis -and all women- win, even after they tried to silence her.”

Texas Abortion Bill Filibustered By State Senator Wendy Davis Is Dead.

So yesterday I blogged about Wendy Davis’s incredible filibuster on the floor of the Texas State Senate to block the passage of sweeping abortion prohibitions in Texas. The entire thing was live-cast via YouTube and over 200,000 people were watching at one point, and the Twitter-verse was a buzz as the final hours clicked down to the midnight deadline for passage.

Just after 11:00pm central time, the presiding officer of Senate decided (wrongly and for the direct purpose of shutting her up, in my opinion) that Wendy had violated the rules of “germaineness” in her speech three times, and declared the end of the filibuster. A flurry of motions followed and extensive debate ensued on the nature of the rules of the Texas Senate, stretching the time down to the final 15 minutes. As the presiding officer attempted to call for a roll-call vote, the viewers in the gallery rose to their feet and created such a ruckus that the sheer noise prevented business from continuing. And they kept this up right through midnight, even as the Texas GOP tried to find a way around it. Eventually, a roll-call vote was taken, but it was announced this morning that it was officially recorded after the midnight deadline, and therefore invalid.

So despite the attempts of the Republicans to silence her, Wendy Davis won her battle yesterday, and the women of Texas retain their access to safe, legal abortions. Sadly, Gov. Rick Perry has signaled that he will yet-again call for a Special Session for the Senate to try to pass this bill. I can only hope that another brave Democrat will take to the floor, and that gallery is again packed with voices for women’s rights. Pay attention, Texas GOP. Those voices you hear in shouting at you from above are the people you represent.

I STILL Stand With Wendy!

19
May
13

On Disclosure, or “Why my genitals are none of your effing business.”

Something I seem to see to be being discussed frequently around the interwebs these days is difficulty of when a trans person is -ethically or otherwise- obligated to disclose their “trans status” to someone else. And it seems like a lot of cis-folks seem to have an awful lot of opinions about who is entitled to information about trans people’s junk. So, I’m just going to make this very, very blunt. NO ONE has any RIGHT to know ANYTHING about ANYONE else’s genitals. Sorry, but the fact that I was unlucky enough to be born with a brain that doesn’t match up with my body does not give people special privilege to details of whatever is, was, or may ever be in my pants. Now, I will grant one VERY VERY small caveat…but it’s with a great deal of reluctance. Trans folks who have not had GRS should think about disclosing to partners before everyone starts to get naked, but only because it’s a matter safety. It upsets me to make this recommendation, but the world is still a hostile place for trans people, and we still get beaten or murdered because someone isn’t happy with what they see when our clothes come off. But this SHOULDN’T be the case, and there is still no obligation to disclose. Still with me? Good, let’s go deeper (no pun intended).

So let’s get this out of the way…I’m not necessarily talking about being “stealth”. Some of this discussion may apply to those choosing to live stealth, but that’s a subject that can be a post all of its own. We’ll take this step-by-step. An individual’s right to privacy is well established in our country, even if it’s not necessarily always respected by our government or the corporations around us. Nonetheless, people are not required to spill the personal details of our identities to every friend, acquaintance or stranger we happen across. We do not have personal data sheets stapled to our shirts detailing who and what we are to anyone who cares to look. Furthermore, the even greater degree of privacy for our personal medical information is enshrined in law and common politeness. Both HIPAA and your parent’s admonishments that’s not polite to ask “what’s wrong with your _____” are testaments to this fact. Being trans is definitely a medical issue; we’re required to be under a mental health professional’s care for transition, and doctors and surgeons are folks involved in helping us change our bodies to match our brains. Sounds awfully medical to me. What makes being trans different? Why are those pieces of medical information somehow less worthy of privacy than others? Well, some might say, people who have STIs are obligated to share this information with potential partners. Yes, I agree, they absolutely are. However, that’s a matter of risk awareness. A person with an STI has the potential to do harm to others if they do not disclose. I don’t see any way that my choosing not to disclose my birth gender to someone has the potential to harm others.

Well, you might say, I have the right to know who I am having sex with! Sure, but hear me out. Let’s say you meet a woman, and you find her attractive, and you find that the two of you have chemistry and enjoy each other’s company. Eventually, you find yourselves about to get down, and the clothes start coming off. During the course of this encounter, you find that your lovely lady happens to no longer have functioning genitals. She was born female, but due to cancer or misadventure, her genitals were so badly damaged that she was left with essentially nothing functional. I would be a little offended by anyone who wanted to argue that she was required to disclose this beforehand. Furthermore, at no point do you have any obligation to continue a sexual encounter. If you find that whatever your potential partner is working with doesn’t rock your boat, then sail on my friend. Now if we take this a step further with the same situation…you do find a functioning set of genitals, and your encounter continues through whatever constitutes completion. Now, it happened to be that those genitals used to be shaped a bit differently, say…a penis…why should that make a difference? You still saw what was down there, and found it pleasing enough to keep going. Where is the difference between these two situations? Oh right, there isn’t one. But wait, you say, she didn’t used to be a woman! SO EFFING WHAT. She’s had GRS, so she’s almost certain also had her legal gender marker changed on all her government documents. So, she is legally female. Her hormone profile and genitals mark her as female, medically. You found her attractive enough to have intimate interest, so clearly you identify her as female. Hmm…if it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck…well, you might just be looking at an animal of the Anatidae family (you know…ducks). There is no logical reason to demand to know about her genital surgery, any more than it would make sense to demand to know if she had had a tonsillectomy.

Disclosure of one’s trans status is an intensely personal decision. It’s up to us to decide if or when to share this information with you. Period.




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