A Primer on Trans-Courtesy

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Photo by LGBTQ Portraits Project 1x1.trans - A Primer on Trans-Courtesy

This is How Trans-Courtesy is NOT Done

I work at a homeless drop in center, right? It’s a violent, not very safe place, though we work hard to make it safe for everyone. This morning we didn’t succeed, on many levels. One client for reasons known only to him, suddenly decided to attack another man who was checking in at the front desk, for no apparent reason. Really weird, actually, since the guy he attacked hardly ever says a word and spends most of the day drawing.

Well, the fallout of the attack is that the guard got the attacker out of the building, two bystanders were slightly injured (one had her hand shoved against a wooden railing, and the other fell on a knee that had been shattered about a month ago), the guy he was attacking was just fine, and the police and ambulance responded to our 9-1-1 call (the woman whose hand was injured had requested the ambulance).

We thanked the police for showing up, but explained that the assaulter was long since gone. Then we pointed out the woman who was injured and explained that we had called 9-1-1 for her, not for the attacker. Cop #2, is quiet at this point. Cop #1 gets on his radio and talks about needing an ambulance “for this individual” and referred to her as “he”, even though we had given him any cues he needed by identifying her by her (very feminine) name and referring to her as “she”, the way she prefers.

At this point, taking their lead from the cop, one group at a table (we had about 70 people in the room at the time) decides to start loudly and belligerently protest that the injured woman was not a woman and that “anyone could see” she was a man. The woman at the front desk, a substitute, stood up and spoke to the loudest man. “I call you a man and don’t expect you to show proof. Show the woman some respect”. I loved that line and intend to steal it for future reference. I added that it was none of their business and we needed the room to quiet down so that the ambulance drivers and police could do their jobs.

This wasn’t the first time this particular client has taken this abuse. It won’t be the last. Right now she’s the only inter-sexed person to use the center regularly, but there are about a half dozen who wander in and out. Like homosexuals, people who are transgender have family safety nets that are are especially fragile due to societal expectations, so our clientèle is disproportionately homosexual and transgender compared to the general population.

How to Do Trans-Courtesy Right (Hint: Its the Same as Courtesy-Courtesy)

  • If you find that a person’s sex is indeterminate, you wait for a cue. If it’s not offered, and you really need to know (not just want to) you ask, as politely as possible.
  • Whether or not you agree with that person’s self identification, you respect it. Period.
  • If a person with a four inch beard and four inch heels to match chooses to call herself a woman, by God she’s a woman. (And one with amazing balance. Four inch heels are not for walking in by ordinary mortals.)

It’s not contagious. You will not catch teh gayz. Or the gurlz. Or the boyz. Really.

Let’s just hope teh gayz can’t catch ignorance from bigots.

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