Trans People

17 12 2011

Earlier this week, I spent the day with a trans person for the first time.  Evan* had a male name, evidence of facial hair that had been shaved and answered to a daughter’s call of “Daddy”.  However, Evan also had a high voice, beautiful long hair and was dressed much more femininely than I with make-up, a colorful purse and super high heels.

Our interactions were wonderful and interesting, but I felt confused because I didn’t know what Evan’s gender preference was and I didn’t know if it was polite to ask.  I found my mind needing to ‘make sense’ of the situation and compartmentalize into the male and female categories particularly when deciding what pronouns to use.

I also found myself stumbling over lunch.  Evan’s daughter was writing a story book where each person writes a single page for the next person to take over.  The story was about a fairy and a fox, and I wanted to know whether to write “Mr. Fox” or “Mrs. Fox” in my part of the story.

I asked the child “Is the fox a boy or a girl or…?”  My voice trailed off.  Realizing that I might be being insensitive, I quickly added “Or maybe it doesn’t matter at all” and changed the subject.

I know that some people use “Ze” as a generic pronoun instead of “She” or “He”, but that hasn’t really caught on.  Have other people been in semi-awkward situations like this, or am I just outing myself as a newbie to interactions like these?

On an unrelated note, here are two more fashion-related photos that I snapped while cruising around San Fran:

Santas Flooded San Francisco Last Week

Santas Flooded San Francisco Last Week

...And Extremely Ripped Mythical Creatures Roam The Streets

...And Extremely Ripped Mythical Creatures Roam The Streets

*Name has been changed.

posted by ayo

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4 responses

17 12 2011
Cherie @Technomadia

You may not have spent gobbles of time hanging out with them, but you were camped for a week next to two trans people while at Camp Nomadia 2010.

I’ve found that most trans people (whether they’re transsexual, transgender or transvestite) don’t mind answering questions and sincerely educating others (once there’s been some friendship built) – and can actually appreciate someone being sensitive to their preferences for gender identification.

TG folks tend to very clearly make their gender identification known by usage of name, appearance and references to themselves. And I would not doubt that you have spent time with TG folks before, and just didn’t know it – especially those who have undergone hormone therapy and even gender reassignment surgery are completely passable.

TV folks, which your new friend may have been (based on the mix of dress and names used by his familiar), tend to identify as one gender and dress as another.

But I intentionally use the word ‘tend’ – as when it comes to gender ambiguity, it’s a very fluid subject.

BTW, terms like ‘ze’ and ‘zir’ are more used in cases when you want to refer to a person in third person without reveling their gender (and in many cases, their identity), not necessarily to avoid socially assigning a gender role. I have seen it used to refer to completely androgynous and a-sexual folks tho.

17 12 2011
ayo

Thanks for the informative response, Cherie. You continue to be my resident expert on these subjects.

Had Evan become a close friend or even just been someone who I hung out with a second time, I might have broached the subject of preference of gender identification. I just wasn’t sure it was the right question for a first-time encounter.

Do you find that trans people often shy away from applying gender labels to anything (like my Mr. Fox vs. Mrs. Fox example) or would that be too much of a generalization?

17 12 2011
Frugal Vegan Mom

WTF is that shirtless guy in the ram’s head doing? backstory please!

22 12 2011
ayo

Haha, okay. A made-up story is probably better than the real thing, but… There was a new apparel store or gym opening in town. This dude got a job as their mascot to celebrate the grand opening and was hired to walk around town looking mouth-droppingly absurd / fit to drum up publicity. Still a crazy sight to bump into! 🙂

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