I met Becky at a mutual friend’s birthday party some years back.
A few hours before I was introduced to her, I’d been told under hushed tones that ‘Becky’ had ‘actually’ been ‘Ben’ just a few months prior and had recently ‘come out’ and ‘was now’ a ‘woman’.
Excuse the scare quotes. That was just pretty much how the ‘news’ was ‘dropped’.
And it’s pretty much how many – if not most – people talk about transgender people. Like trans women are not really women and trans men not really men.
And I’d like to have a conversation about that conversation.
You see, Becky and I became friends, and I asked her a shit-ton of questions.
At the time I had very little exposure to gender identities other than mine, which was straightforward cisgender: ie, my biological sex and gender identity match.
In my case, I have a female body and identify as female. Finish en kla’.
I knew a ton of people with wild sexual preferences sure – gay, straight, bi, fluid, lesbian, MSM, blah blah blah – but they were all cisgendered.
I knew about trangenderism, but got confused with transvestites and cross-dressers. Looking back now, the confusion seems ridiculous, but I know that this is still a real area of ignorance and confusion for many people.
Which is why I have compassion for people asking stupid questions.
Becky sat me down and educated my ignorant arse about being transgender (being born a biological sex that is the binary opposite of your gender identity).
She told me about the emotional and physical processes she’s undergone as a trans woman and about gender identity and expression.
She invited me to her support group for transgender people and their families. She helped me check my language, my privilege and my assumptions.
Without her, I would likely be firmly in the camp of the talk-show hosts flapping about and saying all the wrong things to people like Laverne Cox.
Cox, famous for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange is the New Black fame, was featured on Time’s latest cover for their article, ‘The transgender tipping point’.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that over the last five years or so transgender issues have started becoming part of the broader media discourse.
And the discourse is largely started by how ignorance talks about transgender celebs.
Cox was interviewed on The Wendy Williams Show and asked ‘Do you recall the moment in your life when you decided to go from male to female?’ (she was always female, it’s not a choice).
R Kelly’s teen son Jay (formerly Jaya) is constantly being referred to by the wrong gender (‘she’) now that he’s out.
We even got an education around it when J Lo’s ex, Casper Smart, was allegedly caught sexting trans women (gasp!) – is he gay?! (NO. because he is sexting women.)
The outrage brigade is up in arms about this ignorance leveled at the expense of the trans community, and it is shit. But my feeling is that every stupid question or comment presents the opportunity to learn – or to educate.
How else do we expect a more inclusive, sexually switched on and gender-aware community if we don’t open our mouths about it.
Naturally questions need to be levelled with respect and a healthy dose of STFU if someone doesn’t want you probing their business.
It’s called manners. And, after all, that’s what Google is for. But silence never started any revolution.
Someone asked me the other day (seriously) if I thought that our sexual immorality was breeding sexual deviancies like ‘gayness’ and ‘queers’ because there was ‘so much of it around these days’.
No. I don’t believe there are any more or less gays, queers, transgenders or lesbians now than there have ever been.
Society is just coming out of its collective closet and getting to grips with the fact that – surprise, surprise – humankind is a complicated curiousity whose blueprint for sexuality was probably not modelled on super hetero power couple Adam and Eve.
You can check your cisprivilege in at the door with your race bias and sexism. Time magazine didn’t call transgender issues the ‘next civil rights movement’ for nothing.