trans

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: O is for “Only two genders”

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

O is for “only two genders”

 

Can it be that I’ve gotten so far into this alphabet without covering this one? Yes, but only because I planned the alphabet out in advance to avoid being forced into repeating myself for some of the more difficult letters :P.

As with last week’s post, there is some overlap here with F is for “fake genders”, but calling some genders fake isn’t necessarily the same thing as claiming there are only two genders (even though most people taking the former stance are doing so because they believe the latter).

To be honest, the claim that there are only two genders is honestly just massively egotistical. In order to make this claim, you need to seriously believe that you know more about how this gender stuff works than every non-binary person who ever has and ever will exist. It’s also a culturally chauvinistic/colonial claim, given the huge number of recognized non-binary gender categories have existed and continue exist in cultures all over the world and throughout history.

Gender is not and has never been stable or static. No gender classification scheme is ever or ever will be definitive or objective. If you think it makes any sense at all to insist that there are only two genders, you’re just plain incorrect. Seriously.

 


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: M is for “Making it up”

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

M is for “Making it up”

This week’s instalment is related to a previous week, F is for “fake genders”, and everything I said there applies, but this week I want to focus on the ways in which cis people’s perceptions of trans people’s identities and experiences as fake or made-up also effects binary trans people (by which I mean, trans men and women) as well as non-binary people.

For some reason, a lot of cis people are attached to the idea that trans people are just making this whole trans thing up, somehow. Like we’re pulling some sort of very elaborate prank on the world, or something?

And, honestly, I have very little to say to this idea, other than:

Why?

Why would anyone do that?

Why would someone who is actually a man and feels that way and believes it decide to make up a story about how he’s actually known his whole life that he was really meant to be a woman?

Why would he persist in this elaborate lie when faced with the intense bigotry and threat of violence inherent in that identity?

Why would he (potentially) face up against intense medical and psychological scrutiny and jump through years worth of hoops in order to undergo intense, invasive, and at least partially irreversible medical interventions to support this apparently totally made-up fantasy?

No really, why?

Even if you really, really refuse to listen to every trans person in the entire world when we tell you we aren’t making it up, surely you can agree that the simplest explanation for trans people’s efforts toward recognition and transition is that this shit is real, and it is important to us. Let Occam’s razor be your guide, if nothing else will do.


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

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: K is for “kinky”

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

K is for “kinky”

There is this thing cis people sometimes (often?) do, when faced with the idea of a cis person wanting to have sex with a trans person (and this applies especially when a cis man is into a trans woman): they see it as ‘kinky’.

I don’t know if it is immediately apparent that this is messed up, on a bunch of levels really, but it should be. On its face, it is invalidating of the trans person in question in more ways than one.

The most immediate reason for this is that if you see sex with a trans person as inherently different than sex with a cis person, that’s blatantly transphobic. If trans women are women, if you really believe that, then sex with a trans woman is just sex with a woman. Which may or may not be kinky depending on the people involved and what they do, but the kink isn’t because that person is trans.

Secondarily, though, when people jump straight from, ‘oh, Person A is into Person B’ to ‘Person A must be super kinky, otherwise they wouldn’t be into Person B’, that carries some pretty terrible implications about their opinions of Person B. If the only way you can picture someone being an object of desire is if they are someone else’s particular kink, then you must think really poorly of that person.

Or, as is more likely, you must be reducing the entirety of their personhood and what they have to offer down to a single aspect of their identity, as often happens to trans people in all kinds of contexts, and is never ok.

Sexual attraction is a tricky thing, and just because someone is into a person that you aren’t into, that doesn’t mean their attraction, different from yours though it is, is inherently kinky. I think most of the time people know this, but somehow that knowledge flies out the window when faced with people’s attractions to trans folks.

And it’s gotta stop, not just because it’s shitty on its face, but also because it is a symptom of a much larger form of cissexism, wherein cis people are seen simply as people, but trans people are mostly just seen as trans.


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

Gender Perspectives, Vol. 19

Hi all, it’s been a while, but I’m going to see if I can’t start pounding out those regular posts once again! The Shit Cis People Say Alphabet will be returning to its regular Friday slot, and I’m going to ease myself into posting other stuff with today’s new eidtion of Gender Perspectives!

download[In the Gender Perspectives series, I aim to highlight diverse kinds of personal narratives and reflections on gender, gender presentation, and identity, to broaden the gender conversation and boost a variety of voices. Check out the rest of the series.]

 

 

On being trans and out past and present selves | Life Writ Large
Germaine de Larch discusses their relatoinship to their previously inhabited gender/identity

…as my friend I’d want you to integrate my previous self and my ‘new’ self. They’re the same person. Read more…

Fluid Mom | Holding Patterns and High Tea
Caroline Frechette brings us a reflection of genderfluidity and motherhood, in web comic form.

I’ve always struggled with my gender. I dressed like a boy from an early age, and I enjoy it when people all me sir. Read more…

Hyper-vigilance in the Gender Machine: What It’s Like to Be a Trans Woman Who Doesn’t Pass 100% | transphilosopher
Rachel digs into the joys and pains of being a trans woman who is only sometimes seena as a woman by others.

Life as a non-passing trans woman for me means constant vigilance within the gender machine. Professional pronoun detector should be written on my business card. Constant awareness of all things gender defines my worldview. Read more…