Sunday, 30 December 2012

Do I have to say sorry?

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!


  1. One of the biggest landmarks for someone transitioning is when they start to relax about accidental misgendering, most people who knew you for any length of time have deep set habits which take time to break. When we do it to ourselves we just feel dumb!

    1. Whilst I never got annoyed at someone accidentally getting it wrong, I can't deny that it had a bit of a sting in the beginning. These days if someone makes a mistake and doesn't realise it a raised eyebrow is enough (to be fair others usually correct it for me).

      As for when I got it wrong, yup, an absolute 'Doh!' moment :)


  2. Stace

    I agree.

    I couldn't have said it any better if I tried. :)


  3. Too true, hon.

    I have had the odd incident of deliberate misgendering, mostly with strangers and in the main with male shop assistants.

    If I am correct, it's because in their eyes they have "sussed" a trans-person, and feel they need to demonstrate some kind of resentment that they are supposed to "be PC" and treat us as "members of the opposite sex".

    I've had it a couple of times at work too; men who insist on calling one "mate" when they call the other girls "love" or by their first names. I ignore it but often feel anger, mainly as their rudeness.

    For that is what it is. Rudeness. And some folk are just rude sods, when all is said and then.


    1. That is really not good! As I said deliberate is just plain wrong and rude.

      I have always said that I cannot expect much from people for my transition. Not understanding and not support (I hoped that I would be, and have been, lucky enough to get it - but it is not something that I could expect).

      What I can, and do, expect from people - either those I know or those I don't - is respect. It's the base expectation and right of everyone I think.

      It's a shame that not everyone sees it this way.


  4. My parents still manage to get my name wrong and misgender me, after all they've spent over 40 years calling me one name and now have to get used to calling me by something else or shortening it to just my initial, so its still a learning curve.

    Still Mum, bless her heart, does manage to get it wrong in style like yesterday in the supermarket when she was talking to someone that she knows and then called to me using my old name as I was stood with my son, she did then correct herself as I wandered over. Her friend didn't bat an eyelid and explained how we knew her when Mum tried to explain.

    As for getting it wrong ourselves, caught myself saying he as I was saying something quietly to myself yesterday and then corrected myself.

    1. One of the things I love about my mum is that she corrects people very firmly (and wow, can she be firm when she wants to be!)

      Apparently not long after I transitioned she was on the phone to her aunt (who had heard it on the grape vine obviously) and she said 'I heard about what [old name] is doing blah blah he blah...' She corrected her immediately with 'No, Stacy is doing this and my daughter is doing the right thing for her'

      I love my mum! (And again, shows that she does not need to stress when she makes a mistake!)


  5. Fear of the unknown, yes, now that's rather familiar.

    I've signed with my initials for years, fortunately.

    1. Yes, unfortunately I can imagine and sympathise there. Sterkte.

      But, signing with your initials is cheating! ;p