Sunday, January 18, 2009

That's "Mr. Manners" If You're Nasty

This has been an all-trans action weekend. Full-on tranny. In your face trans-man. Shut yer tranny hole. Okay, not really, not so much trans. But a wee bit, petite trans.

I know I’m fixin’ta (as we say in Tejas) bust a bitch in the face if I don’t get some tranny respeck around here. What is up with people who see me, week after week, in the same motherfucking jernt, calling me “ma’am” or “Miss Sam” or “she?” Seriously, I have to have the same ridiculous conversation with the same people EVERY WEEK.

I have been the very model of trans-civility. I have gently corrected the people, or just observed, even, as they bit their tongue with a “D’oh!” and hung their head abashedly. I figured I didn’t need to shame anybody – we all seem to be plenty good at doing that for ourselves – and I understand first hand the difficulties of referring to me by my chosen gender. I forget too.

Here’s the thing: those who persistently mis-tag me haven’t known me for 40urkle years. They don’t have memories and events and experiences dating back to 1960murp of me as a girlchik, a woe-man. These people have known me for maybe two years, and now for nearly one of them I’ve been going by “he.” This obdurate refusal to acknowledge me on my terms sometimes seems deliberate and even passively aggressive, although I suspect it is mere self-absorption or laziness. It’s not that hard, people. It’s not, but it does mean paying attention to the world that doesn’t reside in your interior. Or in some cases, posterior.

My apologies. It’s been a rough morning. My friend Susan, after watching me get publicly “ma’amed” in front of 50 people today by someone who really, truly knows better, who even made a trans joke (either on my behalf or at my expense, depending upon how generous one is feeling), observed my stunned and rubicund expression and said “maybe now it’s time to get angry.”

Susan explained, “You’ve been so patient and great about letting everyone have their process with this, but maybe now it’s time to start correcting people that can’t ‘seem to remember.’”

I lowered my head, looked up at her and replied “It’s really hitting me today for some reason. It’s really pissing me off. I don’t know what to do; I don’t know what I need, and I don’t know what other people need to make this work.”

“I think being angry is okay now. I think it will help people remember,” she urged. “It’s completely appropriate to be mad.”

I’m sincerely grateful to know that – I don’t always have the maturity to understand when anger is appropriate and am thankful when others can validate this feeling. Plus, she’s a social worker, if you couldn’t tell, which somehow lends credence to her diagnosis.

My mind says “You’re failing. You don’t look like a man so why should anyone kowtow to your invisible party line?*” I don’t know how I could look any more manly than I do. I don’t have facial hair; my incoming foliage has been sparse, and committed to rather more outlier regions, like my ass-cheeks or my elbow. Yes, my elbow. Not both. Just one. Such is the random beauty of hormone therapy. I seriously have a patch of elongated monkey hair on my left forearm and elbow. It’s about a 2 inch square of arbitrary mammal signifier left unfettered. The thicket of my lower legs gets pants-cropped, by which I mean it’s so primate long, it gets pulled and snapped off by my clothing, perhaps in envy for its luxurious coverage.

No such thicket resides on my face. Yet. It’s only a matter of time. I wear men’s clothing, my voice is as deep as many a man’s I know; my gestures are neutral to spastic and I’m not sure what gender that reads as. Sure, there are the boobs, but as my big trans-brother observed yesterday, “You’re kind of okay there, now it’s winter. Big ol’ sweatshirt and who knows the diff? Spring’s gonna be hard….” he predicts wistfully.

The bottom (surgery) line is this: when someone asks to be called a thing - a new name, a new gender – it is proper etiquette to respect that. It’s the civilized thing to do. One doesn’t question; one acts politely. It doesn’t matter if I am sporting 3mm worth of lip gloss and a Farrah do, atop an off-the-shoulder peasant blouse and knee high stiletto boots: if I ask you to call me “he” it is gracious and correct to do so. After all, what’s your investment in this? It makes you uncomfortable? Eight years of George Bush made me uncomfortable but did I take it out on my Republican friends? Don’t answer that.

My transguy coffee date relates that his lesbian ex refuses to call him by his name. She will only call him his former lady-name. There’s something distinctly, wrong-headedly lesbian about that – it’s like when the lesbians were hating on the bisexuals. Why are lesbians hating on anybody? You know I’m speaking from personal experience here: why were “others” always so threatening?

Well, for me it spoke to my immaturity, my ungenerous spirit. I needed a rock to stand on, certainty, and if that rock was your back, and your face was underwater, well then so be it. Just don’t move.

Certainty is still my little mind killer. I’m always looking for stability, stasis even, for a predictable, secure outcome if it guarantees that I’m not alone and not scared. And the truth, The Truth, THE TRUTH is there’s simply no such thing. I can pine and long and suffer all the do-da-day and I do, often, but those things which gave me comfort mutate and change like a new trannyman on testosterone.

Will I be forgiving and compassionate then, to those acquaintances who consistently fail to “he” me, for whom my transition is evidently a challenge to their personal hegemony? If all things are mutating and changing, then yes, perhaps I will forgive out of compassion, because I will become forgiving and compassionate. I believe this to be possible. But for now, for today, I’m freakin mad.

*should it be "kowtoe a line?"


  1. That's above and beyond obnoxious. I love your analogy in regards to, even if you're feminine to all lipstick hell, but had a preference for 'he', it's curtious to respect that! Gar! Ahem, anyhoo, well put and good luck maintaining your patience.

    By the way, my name is Mel, and I'm transitioning myself. In Utah, of all places. I stumbled across your blog a couple days ago and have been following it ever since! Thank you for sharing your experience, especially the emotional side of things.

  2. Thanks VeganBattleBot! And thank you too, Mel! (I love VeganBattleBot. That's fantastic.)