Users Who Spiked
IS THAT A HE OR A SHE?
I am not a parent, but if I were, I’d hope to do as good a job of parenting as my friend, Ella.* Her engaging Facebook posts often include proud parenting moments and I was especially impressed by a story she shared recently:
“My ten-year-old daughter and I were at a restaurant tonight, and our server was transgender. I overheard our neighboring table (sitting behind my daughter) making remarks about our server…’What is that? Can you tell?’ I felt myself turning red and was hoping [my daughter] wasn’t listening.
But I guess she was, because as soon as one of them said ‘What am I supposed to call it?’ She turned around and said ‘I’ve been calling her ‘ma’am’ and she seems OK with it. But if you aren’t sure, you can just ask what she prefers.’
After stunning our neighbors into silence, she turned back to me, and rolled her eyes in an exaggerated manner. I told her how proud I was of her for being brave and speaking up. She shrugged and asked if we could leave a bigger tip than usual, because ‘I think her job is probably harder than most servers.’”
Ella never mentions the age of the people sitting next to them, but I’m assuming they weren’t children. Just adults acting badly. From time to time, I’m shocked to realize that people still behave this way; that there’s still stigma and racism and sexism. Then again, I tend to surround myself with like-minded people who don’t behave like bigots. And then there’s the fact that I’m not transgender. I think it’s safe to assume that people who are must be keenly aware of the prejudices of other people.
I’m not immune to sexist, racist, or bigoted thoughts. They pop up in my head from time to time. I’m not perfect at stopping them, but I’m trying. Recently, I went to a protest in town. As the crowd was breaking up, I passed a person who had facial hair. But, after a double-take, I realized it wasn’t hair at all, it was drawn on. Several thoughts ran through my head: was this a woman trying to pass as a man, why didn’t they wear a more convincing beard, maybe they’re not trans at all, but just came from rehearsing a play? I wanted to ask. If they’re trying to pass as male, I could give them some tips, I thought. And then I realized…
Wait a minute. Whatever the gender of this person was, it didn’t matter. Whether they were trying to pass as male or just had a bad makeup job - it wasn’t any of my business. So, I didn’t ask. I just smiled as I passed.
If a ten-year-old can grasp the concept of a transgender server, then why can’t some adults show the same respect? I can only think of a few circumstances in which the gender of another person should make a difference: if I were a healthcare professional who needed to examine them, if they were talking to me about their gender, and if I was interested in having sex with them. After all, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the genitals of my coworkers, fellow grocery shoppers, or the attendant at the gas station. So, why should I suddenly be concerned enough to wonder about the gender of this bearded stranger?
I love it when people introduce themselves and include their preferred pronouns. It’s great because it saves me from awkward assumptions. I also love it when my world view is challenged. It gives me a chance to grow and improve. For a while, I’ll probably continue to have racist, bigoted, and sexist thoughts. I wasn’t raised with prejudices against other people; my parents have never been overtly racist or homophobic. But, I grew up in an age where not many people came out of the closet; where my classmates made jokes about being gay. It’s in my programming; the stereotypes I’ve seen on TV, looking for girls’ toys in the pink aisle, and being curious about other people. But, I try my best not to act on these things. I have learned to stop and examine my thoughts. I think it’s made me a better person, but again, I’m far from perfect. The important thing is that I keep challenging myself to change.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
**Trans flag by torbakhopper via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gazeronly/)
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