tmacias | Indy Week

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Re: “Gay slang and lessons from Chaz Bono

Love the column, Steven- thanks for putting these thoughts out there!

I think your comments on supporting trans coworkers, friends, and family are helpful and offer practical advice to people who mean well but just don't know how to react. People who, as you say, are "unfamiliar." I am still learning myself about trans issues, and appreciate the pointers i've gotten over the years. I especially appreciate this advice from non-trans people, because it frees up trans folks from always having to educate others- something i'm told can get pretty old fast.

Two points, though, and these are things i've been told by trans friends and have read in trans-support literature: (1) It's perfectly ok to ask a trans person, or someone you think might be trans, what pronoun they prefer to use. It should probably be done discreetly (i.e. not in a huge crowd or in the middle of a meeting), and in a matter-of-fact way. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that. I suppose if it can be done even more discreetly (checking placards and what not) that works, too. (2) Changing the way we think about gender is key to dismantling gender-oppression, but I disagree with how you suggest we think about pronouns- your suggestion has practical value but is also problematic. Encouraging people to strip the meaning of gender pronouns (so they're easier to apply more liberally) makes it too casual a process- it would be like telling someone to completely forget about race when hiring someone or giving them a traffic ticket. It can't be done, so we probably shouldn't try! Fact is, gender pronouns are important, even to trans folks. It's why people choose to switch them around, at great personal cost and inconvenience... If we're looking to be allies to trans people (something perhaps many people aren't looking to do, but i think you're hoping they are), then we need to engage with the idea as opposed to just accepting what folks want to be called in an uncritical hands-off kind of way. This runs the risk of treating trans folks as some kind of "other" category of person, people we don't need to understand but rather accommodate. For more on this theme, I suggest reading Dean Spade's essay "Once more... with feeling," paying special attention to category two near the second half. (here's the link: Following Dean's advice probably does make it harder to get it right- honestly engaging with our preconceptions about gender is no short-cut and isn't easy, but let's face it- supporting friends and family and coworkers (and whoever) that decide to come out is never easy right?

Thanks again for putting your advice out there, and for creating this forum, Steven-

Posted by tmacias on 08/27/2009 at 12:49 AM

Re: “Ayacucho, Peru

Nice watermark, Derek!

Posted by tmacias on 06/09/2008 at 9:27 AM

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