Yesterday I did a bit of link clicking and found this blog entry by John Scalzi. In which he talks about why he tries to be supportive of transfolk.
I think it's a great piece to read, there are lots of home truths in there - even though when it comes to the transition itself I am aware that I have been so lucky and fortunate that it has gone so well for me, so far, that I can't comment on how hard it can be.
But the other points are still valid, the issues in your head and the pain that you go through to reach transition. The fear of the unknown, and the expectation that your world is going to fall apart.
This is the last paragraph, and I think that it sums everything up quite well:
Indeed, in a general sense “I want you to be happy” covers most of my response to the variation of human identity experience at this point. Is what you’re doing making you a happier and better person? Is what you’re doing hurting anyone else? If the answers are “yes” and “no,” respectively, then not only am I fine with what you’re doing, the fact of the matter is that my approval or consent should be entirely immaterial. Be the person you are.
But there is one sentence in there that bites me. It shouldn't have to be that way either:
I also readily admit to being a work in progress on trans matters. I occasionally flub the gender of the transfolk I know, which I feel bad about because even if it’s unintentional it’s still a poke, and like a lot of folks, there are probably times when I step in it and don’t know until later.
There is a bit of a paradox here for me. If you feel bad about it then you shouldn't feel bad about it. It's a mistake, it happens.
On the last night when my parents were here my dad, whilst tired, sleepy and making bed time drinks for everyone (I don't know why, but it has always been his job and whether in Holland or Scotland it still is...) he got a pronoun wrong. I can't remember it exactly. Probably 'sunshine', which they no longer call me - sunshine has always been for their sons. These days it 'chick' - Leicester term of endearment for a daughter, niece etc. Anyway I digress!
What I can remember is just how much he was beating himself up over it, and how much I really didn't want him to! I felt bad about him feeling bad (not that I want him to not feel bad because it causes me to feel bad as well).
No, the point is that it was a mistake. They had a son for 35 1/2 years (wow I feel old!) they have been beyond supportive in the transition, hell they called me Stacy on the phone before I transitioned, as far as they were concerned they had a daughter. They have no reason at all to feel bad about anything to do with my transition!
I told him this, it didn't help. So I told him about the 'Shame Sheet' that we had in the office. I work with jokers, and so when I transitioned someone cleared a quarter of the whiteboard in our office and made a list for when people got it wrong.
I insisted that my name was on the list too (I had also had 35+ years of being him and when doing things like introducing yourself or signing an email you can go onto auto pilot). I think that it helped them to know that mistakes can happen even to the person going through the transition.
Anyway, my dad was also a little shocked at this, and that I had two marks against my name in the first week (both signing emails, and both caught before I clicked send, but still). But knowing that did make him feel better.
I'm not saying that people shouldn't try. They should, it's common decency - just like trying to get the new guy or gals name right when they start at a new job.
But if you are trying then you have already got there, as far as I am concerned. You are trying, you are doing your best. There is nothing more that you can do, and I think that should be the important bit.
Of course if you are not trying and deliberately getting it wrong then that is something else entirely. But, thankfully, that is something that I have yet to come across!