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31 March 2015 @ 12:52 pm
International Transgender Day of Visibility  

I didn’t know when I got up this morning that March 31st is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, but I discovered it was when I logged into Twitter. Its purpose is to support transgendered people and to raise their profile to help cisgendered people to start recognizing that there are a lot of transgender people out there.

(Cisgendered: identifying with the gender one is assigned at birth. I’ve only come across this term in the past year or so, and I’m not particularly proud to admit that my first thought about it was “OMG seriously do we need a specific word to describe people who identify with their visible gender?” and then I thought “You’re an asshole, Catie,” and got over myself, because if I think combating racism isn’t so much being “color”-blind as making sure I learn to describe somebody as “a white guy” if I would say “an Asian guy” under similar circumstances, then yes, in fact, there’s an arguably excellent reason for “cis” to be in our gender vocabulary the same way “trans” is.)

I have close to a dozen trans friends and acquaintances, which has, for some time now, impressed upon me how extremely likely it is that most people have at *least* one trans person in their social circle, whether they know it or not. I mean, I’m a kid from small town Alaska, and if I have that broad a range of transgender acquaintances, how many do people from big cities have?

I remember when I made my first trans acquaintance. I was about nineteen, and I was STUNNED! *STUNNED*! I had NO IDEA there were transgender people! (I also recall her laughing at me, because I was SO SURPRISED. *laughs*) When I got done being stunned I was like “Well! Okay! Wow! Uh! Wow!” & then went on from there knowing slightly more about the world.

A while later, someone who was trans and whose family had put her through absolute hell (we’re talking electroshock therapy, the whole nine yards) re-joined a community I was part of. I knew who she was, because she’d been mentioned while she was gone, and I was friendly to her, because I’m a friendly person. Years and years later she asked me if we’d known each other before she’d been put through shock therapy. I said no, we hadn’t, and she was astonished, because she thought we must have and that the shock therapy had made her forget me, because, she said, I was always so kind to her that she thought she must have known me Before.

That confession still hurts my heart, because no one should have to assume kindness only comes from long acquaintance, but especially because her experience had been so difficult that she didn’t assume anyone who had only met her recently would be kind or supportive. I know a number of trans people who have had much more supportive transitions, but I don’t want *anyone* to have to go through that.

And it’s really just…it’s not that hard to accept people for who they are. It’s–if you can’t immediately assign a gender to someone you see, take a moment to ask yourself why it even matters. Easy gender identification gives us social rules to follow, but if our social rules were “No, really, just go ahead and treat everybody really decently” instead of “treat some people this way because they present that way and treat other people that way because they present that way” we’d all be in a much better place. I realize we’re a long way away from that, but it’s got to be the goal, or else what’s the point?

Fairly recently I was in a public space with someone I had known for a very long time, and we stopped to ask directions from a very tall person who presented as entirely female until she spoke with a *quite* deep voice. To my surprise, my friend spent the next half hour or so struggling to assign a pronoun to that person, and I kept saying, “She. Her. She. Her,” because it’s really not that hard. It’s really just not that hard.

So all of this is why a day designated for trans visibility is important to me, even if I’m a cis straight white woman. I want everybody to have my acceptance and advantages, and more.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

Deborah Blakedeborahblakehps on March 31st, 2015 12:14 pm (UTC)
As a Pagan, I tend to go to conferences and rituals and such where there are lots of trans people. I've never understood why anyone cares about the choices others make (or that are made for them by some internal mechanism) as long as those choices don't hurt anyone else.

So let's hear it for International Transgender Day of Visibility!

I see you, my brothers and sisters! I see you and accept you just the way you are.
Laura Anne Gilman: rosesuricattus on March 31st, 2015 01:13 pm (UTC)
I didn't meet an overtly trans person until I was in my 20's. Afterward, someone said "you know X was born a guy."
I'm retroactively pleased with my younger self, that my first, instinctive reasons was, "so?"

It's not that I'm naturally accepting, I'm just lazy. How you present yourself is how I assume you want to be identified. Not only is that not-hard, it's easier than trying to figure out "what they really are." They really are who they say they are. There, done.

We see you.

Edited at 2015-03-31 01:17 pm (UTC)
Merlin Of Chaosmerlinofchaos on March 31st, 2015 06:25 pm (UTC)
You know, I'd been wondering what happened to that trans woman you mentioned. I haven't actually interacted with her in awhile, but then I did a quick check and I have, she just changed names another time. I think I knew that, but subsequently forgot because details disappear from memory too easily. :(

Also your social circle predisposes you to having more trans friends, simply due to the acceptance within the sphere.

Lots of people have social circles without that acceptance. That predisposes them to not have trans friends, because they would not be accepted by their friends. So either it never comes up or they have directly rejected them in the past.

Edited at 2015-03-31 06:27 pm (UTC)
Geek of Weird Shit: sensualgows on April 1st, 2015 04:38 am (UTC)
To my surprise, my friend spent the next half hour or so struggling to assign a pronoun to that person, and I kept saying, “She. Her. She. Her,” because it’s really not that hard.

FWIW, the best thing to do is simply to ask what pronoun someone prefers. For examply, there are people who present as cis-gendered, yet may prefer opposite-gender pronouns. In a similar vein, a cis-presenting person may prefer gender-neutral (zie/zis) or plural (they/them) pronouns.

You're right in that it's really not that hard. Just fucking ask.
Tasha Rebekah Martin: Jennylietya on April 2nd, 2015 12:14 pm (UTC)
THANK you for this. The "there’s an arguably excellent reason for 'cis' to be in our gender vocabulary the same way 'trans' is." is the reaction I wish everyone had. :)

(And I know of at least one more trans woman who's a friend of a friend of yours, as I'm married to her. btw, teensy note because you're generally fantastic about this and I'd hate to see you get yelled at - "transgender" is generally preferred to "transgendered" these days.)
kitmizkit on April 2nd, 2015 01:05 pm (UTC)
I did not know that, and will modify the post.

And I know of at least one more trans woman who's a friend of a friend of yours, as I'm married to her.

A reader on Twitter said her youngest was trans, too, which adds two more transgender people to a one degree of separation sort of thing! Which--is really almost my point in a lot of ways. I accept that I landed in an online space a long time ago where it was safer for transgender people to be out, but half the trans people I know/of are not from that space. And if I'm acquainted with, however superficially, a dozen trans people, then *really*, it seems almost impossible that most people know *no* trans people, even if they don't know it.
Tasha Rebekah Martin: Jennylietya on April 2nd, 2015 01:25 pm (UTC)
It is an excellent point, and one I wish was made more often as well. People do this the same way they assume they know no gay people or atheists or whatever; they figure one of [whatever they consider to be] Those People will be easily distinguishable from "normal people," and that's just not true. And yes, plenty of trans people are perfectly ordinary and boring, so nobody has any idea unless they say something. :)

Also, wow, I was not asking you to edit anything, but that's another sign of how generally cool you are.
kitmizkit on April 6th, 2015 04:00 pm (UTC)
Yeah, exactly, it's very like the "but I don't know any gay people" thing. (And I've, like, Totally Shocked people in the past by absently mentioning that I'm an atheist. It always surprises me when people are surprised.)

Oh, I didn't think you were asking me to edit it, I just figured I could, y'know, take five seconds and get it right. On my blog, at least. I didn't go fix it on G+ or Tumblr, I'm afraid. :)
Al Pettersoneyelessgame on April 13th, 2015 07:18 pm (UTC)
That's interesting - because it is hard for me, and it was obviously hard for Kit's friend. I mentally and emotionally assign a gender to a person immediately, way before I remember their name or their face, and it is extremely hard for me not to forget to use the other pronoun if it's the one they want used.

There's a person whose blog/tumblr I read, who came to identify as male a couple of years ago. Chose a very clearly male name. By the time I started reading the blog his identity was, at least, not clearly female anymore. When chatting about him or something he posted, I use his name. Yet my first mental assignment was that this person is female, and I cannot seem to change the mental picture. My brain still drops in "she" when I'm talking, and I have to stop and correct myself. Years on.

So I have some sympathy for Kit's friend who found it hard to use the preferred gender.

I know why, in my case - lots of gender essentialism as I was growing up - but intellectually understanding what the problem is and changing my habits to fix the problem are two very different things.

And that's why a day like this matters. Because I'm not there yet, and I know I should be, and I need to do a bunch of exercises to get there. But as with all forms of exercise, it's hard, and I'm lazy, and it takes time, and it's frustrating because I can exercise and still not seem to get better.

But I will keep trying.
kitmizkit on April 14th, 2015 01:27 pm (UTC)
Huh. The thing for me was that the woman in question presented as entirely female (very tall, yes, but I thought nothing of her height until she spoke) until she spoke, and so the gender that I automatically assigned was female. The fact that her voice didn't match her outward presentation at all (and I've known some *very* deep-voiced women) startled me, but not enough to reassign a gender identity, because every other aspect said 'woman' and that was how I assumed she wanted to be perceived.

I think it's harder if you've known someone (virtually or in real life) before they've made or completed their transition, because, yeah, habit, but...huh. But continuing to try is the most important thing, I think.
Geek of Weird Shit: sensualgows on April 17th, 2015 04:28 am (UTC)
But as with all forms of exercise, it's hard, and I'm lazy, and it takes time, and it's frustrating because I can exercise and still not seem to get better.

*nod* I think exercise is a great analogy, but I still don't know if "hard" is really the right word. I mean, mentally catching pronouns and replacing them seems to qualify more under the "20 squats" heading rather than "Marine boot camp."

That being said, I used to work with learning disabled students in a program that helped create new neural pathways in the brain and teach the brain to favor them via repetition, so I know that mental retraining can be difficult and exhausting, especially when it is still in the "not automatic and a bit uncomfortable" phase.

I still have to occasionally stop and think about which pronoun someone wants me to use, or whether their partner is male/female/boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife/etc. But the more you do it, the easier it gets--just like exercise. And I totally agree with you on the importance of such practice and such a day.