Navigating Genderqueer in Suburbia
I live in a Blue State. But the attitudes that I encounter here regarding anything other than hetero-cis-male/female are decidedly NOT along the lines of what most democrats/liberals usually are. While you can certainly have anti-gay Democrats, I kind of thought that the generalization was that most anti-gays are Republican. I guess not. But then again, I tend to ignore politics.
I encounter SO much intolerance here that it’s unreal. Finding sex blogs was an education for me in so many many ways because of how I was raised and the attitudes I grew up being surrounded by. Meaning, gays and lesbians and genderqueers and stone butches and anything at all against societal norms were giggled at. Stared at. Talked about. Feared. Shunned. I will possibly lynch myself here by saying that for a while (until I was exposed to other cultures and genders and attitudes) I didn’t understand butch lesbians. Or, more accurately, I didn’t understand the femmes who dated a butch lesbian. The very uneducated thought being “but if they like women, why are they dating a woman who looks and acts like a man?”. Acceptance can only come with education or a lack of UNacceptance growing up.
Kyle first addressed this (by first I mean in my little circle of blogs that live in my Google Reader) on his blog, talking about how strangers address him in public, which gender pronoun they assign…..his real-life name could technically go either way but is probably more used as a female name; while his outward appearance is nearly all boy. Transgendered folks beg and plead and sometimes demand acceptance, to be recognized as they want to be recognized and not shoved in the wrong box. But pray tell how do the rest of us navigate it? How the hell am I supposed to know if you identify as male or just like dressing like one? Is a cross-dressing straight male going to be offended if I use a male pronoun while they’re out in drag, or would they be more offended if I used a female pronoun? Do I say Sir or Ma’am? Of course the *lack* of gender-identifiers is obvious as well. If I were publicly talking to/about a cis-female, I would never say “this *person* needs help with something”. No, I’d say “this lady needs help with something”.
I spoke with Kyle / picked his brain about this and asked for his opinion. His suggestion is to just respectfully ask how they prefer to be addressed. I see that tactic going south, as well, if you happen to ask it of a person who does not see themselves as “genderqueer”, who are offended that you would question their gender.
Last spring it was very noticed that a transitioning MTF worked in our building. Any time they (and here I go doing it again, “they”) walked by, the stares came out and the talking and the giggling and the overall unacceptance. She was bravely going public in her transition but wasn’t quite “passing”. She held her head high though and ignored as best as one can tell.
In my new offices there is a FTM whose cubicle still holds his given (female) name. But until others corrected me when I referred to him as male, I wouldn’t have known that he is transgendered. Not a clue, since he passes very well. The people who don’t know are always corrected by the people who “know”. The looks, the raised eyebrows, the uneducated and unforgiving. But then…..then I think about it. And overthink it. If he was trying to pass as male….wouldn’t he have changed to a more masculine name? So does his lack of doing so mean he does NOT want to be referred to as male? I’m confused. I don’t want to offend.
But moreso than not wanting to offend that one person is my disgust with my co-workers and their reaction. All ages, male and female are doing it. Usually I keep my mouth shut, I don’t say a word to stop their bad behaviour. I need to start being better on that front. While I know damn well I don’t educate any of these people, I can at least do…….something. But I don’t know what.