allyship

Brief thought/PSA of the day: you’re not helping

A little pet peeve of mine is when parents respond to their child coming out as LGBTQ+ (i.e. gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, asexual, etc.), or simply exhibiting non-normative behaviours associated with these identities, by being worried about how their child’s difference will “make the child’s life harder”.

I get that to some extent this is a natural reaction. Of course (or at least, hopefully!) you want what’s best for your child. You want their life to be full of good things and free of badness. And I can’t tell people what to feel. I get that.

But here’s the thing: when you say that you would rather your child not be [X: fill in your own blank here] because people who are [X] have harder lives, your priorities are way off base.

For one thing, when you tell your child you feel that way, whether you want to or not, whether you mean to or not, you are telling them that you wish they were someone else. So no matter how much you may think or feel this way, the kindest thing you could do is not tell them.

Instead, redirect that worry into something productive!

It’s important that you understand that the hardship in your LGBTQ+ child’s life will not be directly because they are LGBTQ+. Or rather, it is not a natural consequence of being LGBTQ+.

It is a consequence of being LGBTQ+ only in the context of a society that harbours anti LGBTQ+ biases. And it’s toward those biases that you should be directing your energy and your worries.

If you don’t want your child’s life to be harder than it needs to be, put action where your worries are and try to make the world a place that is safe for them (instead of wishing that they were the kind of person who is relatively safe in this world). Get involved, speak up.

Actually, do those things regardless of whether you have a child who is LGBTQ+.

Stop wishing for fewer LGBTQ+ people. Start working toward reducing the number of bigots in the world instead.

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: V is for “valuable ally”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

V is for “valuable ally”

Somehow it seems like the only time cis people really talk about how valuable they are as allies as when y’all are threatening to stop. As in, “Why are you trans people so rude? You’re going to lose valuable allies that way.”

The thing about this phrase is it seems to misunderstand what allyship is in the first place, and what makes an ally valuable.

So first things first: simply believing that trans people have the same right that cis people have to go through life as the gender they identify as does not an ally make. All that qualifies you as is “not a virulent transphobe”.

Allyship isn’t about your personal beliefs, it’s about actually fighting alongside us and taking actions to make trans people’s lives better now and in the future. This can be something as simple as calling out people who say transphobic things, or doing work to educate your fellow cis people on trans issues (thus taking the burden of education off our shoulders), but it has to be something you’re actually *doing*.

Second, if your allyship (or, as is often the case, your “allyship” in the form of believing that trans people are worthy of dignity and respect) can be lost because a trans person (or even more than one trans person!) was mean to you one time, let me tell you: your allyship ain’t worth shit.

All people are worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of how they treat you. If trans people’s basic human rights are being offered to us at the cost of us being nice to cis people all the time, then what you’re talking about isn’t even equal rights in the first place. What you’re talking about is extending trans people the privilege of being treated as well cis people, as long as we behave correctly.

Cis people don’t have to deal with any of that shit, and neither should trans people.

Real talk: if you were actually a valuable ally, you wouldn’t be wasting your time telling us how to act, or making sure we know how valuable you are. You’d be doing the work, and your actions would speak for you.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 3: In-person interactions

Did you miss the start of this story?
Part 1: How did I do it?
Part 2: Email reactions

In all honesty, this is the point at which I must admit that at some point in the last couple of years I may have slipped into a bizarro alternate wonderland universe of warm fuzzies, because I have no other explanation for just how easy this whole coming out thing has been for me.

Though this is partially because I front-loaded a bunch of affirmations and assurances into my coming out message itself, the thing that I am most amazed by is that since coming out I have not been asked to do a single iota of emotional labour around it.

I mean, when I decided I really did feel comfortable coming out at my work, it was because I figured that the level of potential push-back/invasive questions/insecurities about messing up that I’d have to deal with would be totally manageable. But I never imagined there would be none at all!

So, what did happen then?

The moment I walked into work on the Monday, now three days after coming out, the first person who saw me said: “Kasey! Thanks so much for the cookies! They were so great! I was going to bring in rainbow bagels [apparently this is a thing? But also, relevant context is that the cookies I brought in were rainbow-y] today, but I didn’t have time.”

Which, to me, this is just the sweetest way of making it clear that I belong and am loved? Just adorable, basically. I don’t even care that I didn’t get to experience rainbow bagels.

On top of this, when I eventually got around to checking my work mailbox, I also found a little hand-written note from the same (non-email-having) co-worker, which for the most part echoed many of the sentiments I had gotten in emails – she said she was glad that I felt comfortable enoguh to be open with them, let me know that she had previous knowledge/awareness of non-binary people via her daughter (who also works in our library system), and let me know she would do her best to watch her language, basically. It was a very nice thing to find!

Other than that, most people have just been business-as-usual with me (which is exactly what I would have asked for, to be honest.) One colleague who had offered a hug (that I accepted) in her email response literally jumped up the moment she saw me to deliver on it. Another person who hadn’t sent an email response thanked me in person for the email, basically said that she appreciated the reminder to continue working on the ways in which she uses gendered language, asked me if it had been hard for me to do, and said she’d appreciate recommendations to read more about non-binary people.

Because I have a pretty good sense of her literary tastes, I recommended she read Ivan Coyote’s most recent two books (Gender Failure (written with Rae Spoon) and Tomboy Survival Guide). She actually recognized the name, and we determined she’d seen Coyote perform in a storytelling festival at some point.

But I really want to get back to the italicized bit above! So, not only has no one asked anything of me (beyond accepting my explicit offer to provide resources), this one co-worker made herself available for me to emotionally process with her if necessary (which wasn’t needed, because holy wow this whole process has been so easy I can’t even, but was very much appreciated!) Another example of real allyship.

So, that’s my coming-out-at-work story! Somehow ‘changing’ my gender at work was less work than changing my name (both times I have done this in a workplace it was exhausting). I mean, different work contexts is a big part of that, but also who would have ever guessed it could work that way?

And this will be the end of the story for now! I may revisit to let you all know how pronouns go moving forward – most people do seem pretty interested in putting the effort to use ‘they’, even though I gave them an out. We’ll see how it goes!

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: N is for “Not seeing gender”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

N is for “Not seeing gender”

Although it’s rarely phrased in quite this way, the idea of “not seeing gender” is one that crops up among well-meaning cis folks sometimes. Why can’t we all just get along, and stop worrying about what gender everyone is, anyway? Aren’t we all really just humans, and can’t we all just treat each the same?

And like, ok, yeah, it would be nice if we could eradicate gender discrimination, obviously! But let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist; let’s not pretend that people’s genders and gender expression don’t impact pretty much every aspect of their lives in ways big and small, implicit and explicit.

Refusing to see a person’s gender (if such a thing were even possible) means that you are refusing to see *them*, period. It means you are refusing to take on a very relevant piece of information about them that has informed their experience in this world from day one.

In short, it’s not a good thing.

So, yes, the goal of treating people with the same level of respect regardless of their gender is a great one, and one that we should all be working on all the time. We should never let a person’s gender be the *only* relevant fact about them, and we must not let gender obscure the incredible diversity and special characteristics of individuals. But that doesn’t mean we begin by erasing their gender. It means we need to recognize that their gender is just one of many things that makes this particular human the whole person that they are.


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

I came out as non-binary at work! Part 2: Email reactions

Did you miss part 1 of this story (how I did it)? Get it here.

So, I sent off an email and ensured that a card would be available for those without email on March 31st, a day I wasn’t actually working. I was also off work for April 1st and 2nd. But, I can access my work inbox from home, and you can bet your biffy I was checking it from the moment I woke up on the 31st (I actually sent the email around 10:30, before I went to bed the night before.)

When I woke up, I already had an email from my manager, sent about an hour after my email!). She handled it with what I can only describe as professional-loveliness. She thanked me, acknowledged that she’d definitely been one of the folks ‘lady’ing me in the past, apologized, admitted she didn’t know a whole lot about non-binary people (though it wasn’t entirely a new concept for her) and took me up on my offer to provide resources. That was that!

Over the course of the day I got a handful of emails from various co-workers, all very positive, and generally very short. The strongest theme was that the cookies I had left for them all (birthday cake flavour Oreos) were completely unbelievably delicious(!), and beyond that people mostly thanked me for feeling comfortable enough to be open with them.

My co-worker with a non-binary sibling-in-law (I wrote about her here) though? Came right out of the gate with some A+ allyship. She replied-all in the thread to say that “as somebody with a non-binary family member” she wanted to let everyone know that while changing pronouns might seem hard or awkward, it really only does take practice, and “mistakes get made, but surprise – nobody bites your head off when it happens!” She also made a point of mentioning that the process had made her more aware of just how often we really all use the singular they on a daily basis.

Basically she just went ahead and warded off some potential pushbacks on my behalf, and implicitly identified herself as someone that folks could consult/process with on the whole thing if necessary (thus potentialyl reducing te amount of emotional labour I might have to do around the whole thing.

There were a few more emails that came in over the weekend, just variations on the same theme. In general, though, it all added up to me feeling calm and collected when I finally went into work on Monday.  You can read all about that here!

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: J is for “just so curious”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

J is for “just so curious”

If  you are a trans person, and if anyone in your life knows that you are trans, this one is pretty much impossible to avoid. Cis people find trans people endlessly fascinating. So much so that they keep on writing stories about what they imagine trans people are like, and then giving each other awards for them.

And look, ok, I admit it; curiosity is a pretty normal human thing – we all most likely wonder what it would be like to different from how we are, in so many ways. And when ways of being that we haven’t thought about before are brought to our attention, we wonder about those too.

So, I don’t think cis people’s curiosity about trans people is wrong, for the record. I mostly think it’s just something y’all prioritize really badly.

You curiosity it valid. But it does not now, nor will it ever, trump trans people’s right to privacy. It isn’t rude for us to get annoyed when you ask us intrusive questions; it isn’t rude for us to decide not to satisfy your curiosity. We don’t owe you information.

You don’t have the right to have your curiosities satisfied, about our genitals (what they looked like in the past, look like now, or may look like in the future), about the sex we may or may not be having, or anything else.

The thing that actually bothers me about cis curiosity, though, is this: it so very often comes with the implication that our personhood in other people’s eyes, that the validity of our very genders, depends on how well or how comprehensibly we can answer those questions.

Cis people, know this: the satisfaction of your ‘curiosities’ about trans people cannot and will not ever be an acceptable prerequisite for your support and acknowledgement of trans personhood, and of trans identities. If and when you stop seeing trans people as strange experiments, when you forge real relationships with us on the basis of our personhood, when you have built trust with us, when you have demonstrated that your questions are not simple prurient, but actually coming from a desire to better understand trans struggles, only then should you even begin to consider that you might be worth the time and energy of answering your questions.

And even then, you are never entitled to any individual person’s time or labour. Ok? ok.

 


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: D is for “Devil’s advocate”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

D is for “devil’s advocate”

This one isn’t actually specific to cis people – it’s the sort of thing that people in a position of relative privilege love to pull out in the face of any marginalized person or people fighting to make their lives better.

Privileged folks love to play ‘devil’s advocate’, and it’s sort of a softer, more plausibly deniable version of someone starting a conversational point with ‘I’m not transphobic, but…’. You know that nothing good is going to follow, and you know that there is a (approximately) 100% chance that whatever it is will be blatantly anti-trans, cissexist ignorance.

With devil’s advocacy, the only difference is the person who is about to spew cissexism at you is carefully distancing themselves from that cissexism. The implication of devil’s advocacy is supposed to be ‘hey, *I’m* one of the good ones, but you know, there’s probably someone in the back who doesn’t get this, so I’m going to ask this question on their behalf’, or something, I guess.

But it’s really just so much bullshit. The devil doesn’t need an advocate, and there are plenty of cissexist folks out there who are already vocally advocating for them, thank-you-very-much.

So, like, don’t.


Check out the rest of “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!