When drag queens are the focus of the local GLBT organization's Halloween Bash. When the MC asks where are the gays and where are the lesbians and where are the straights but doesn't mention trans* people. When the fact that drag queens "look like women but don't have vaginas" is shouted by the MC. When I am afraid at a GLBT event to use the woman's restroom because I feel like I'll be treated as a "man in a dress".
It's hard for me to express these concerns when there's no one to stand with me. There's no trans community in my city. There are other trans people here but we aren't all friends or even acquaintances. In fact I don't have any local friends who are transgender.
Yesterday I was in a store and I walked into a metal hook. A woman nearby asked me if I was I ok. I checked my arm, said yes and walked a short distance away to continue browsing. After a couple of minutes, the woman came over and the following exchange happened:
"Ma'ma? It is ma'ma?"
"Yeah, sure why not," I replied a little flippantly not sure where she was going with her question.
"It's just that I called you he but I wasn't really sure. Is it ma'ma?" suddenly I felt kind of bad because I could see she was being sincere.
"Yes, I prefer ma'ma."
She smiled and said, "Ok."
I think we exchanged a couple more sentences before I walked away.
I talked about this with me roommate. We also talked about how she had asked me if I wanted her to use feminine pronouns for me. In both cases I felt accepted by the asker. Being asked how you want to be referred to is vastly different than being asked what one is.
Are you a man or a woman? This type of question is meant to put a person into a box, so that the asker doesn't have to wonder what the person they are talking to is. It excludes anyone not binary identified. It's also dehumanizing by asking 'what' a person is rather than 'who' they are.
What pronouns do you prefer? Here no one is excluded because there are no options given in the question. The point of the question is to learn how a person wishes to be talked about. It's like a hand palm up outstretched in friendship. The other question is like a hand held palm out to ward off something.
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