Columns Jan 8, 2014 at 4:00 am

Gayed, Blacked, Transgendered


I don't think I agree with the response to L1. I think a better response would have been to tell the LW, for their own safety, to not touch trans issues, not even with an eleven foot pole. Not because they screwed up, but because that community is experiencing a lot of upheaval and they seem to attack everyone and everything when the mood strikes (and it seems it did) as a way of building their space, their culture. (Subcultures do.) If Trans people want to be written about, let them do the writing, I think. The world at large can write about it later when the community has matured and become strong internally and there can be dialogue and synergy. Right now.... it's just not a good idea.

LW#3 -- good luck. I've come to realise that 16 years later, there are people I STILL miss.
re: to Hope Over Personal Experience, I suggest David Mitchell's "Back Story," both because it's a great book and because it's a very sweet example of someone in that situation finding love.

Perhaps describing your friend as a transwoman will work. Or, perhaps, simply a woman.


Work on being comfortable in your own skin. When you proceed through life by enjoying it, it is amazing how much more likely others will want to share it. That, in part, is how my wife got me.

I'll admit it, I chuckled at the phrase, "Dan Savage is 'a gay'". Possibly because I read it in my head with Margaret Cho's "mom" voice: "He is THE GAYYYY?!"

But part of it is because I miss the "Hey Faggot" days. Dan has learned (and helped me learn) so much since then, and I love that he's more open (especially re: bisexuals and trans* folks!), but I kind of miss the raw cynicism of his early columns.
"We're just getting tons of shit thrown at us all at once and want some minor wins."

Yeah. Like chasing off your allies with a fucking huge tantrum. Sounds like a "win" to me.

"We're just trying to feel safe close to home first."

Sure you are, by lashing out at the people closest and safest to you. That pretty much describes perfectly how children will misbehave horribly for Mom and Dad in a way that they wouldn't dare to do with a stranger, because Mom and Dad are the only animals on the planet that they are sure beyond a shadow of a doubt aren't going to turn without warning and eat them. You sound like a little kid.

Not that I am any sort of expert, but this is the first time I've heard that "transgendered person" is the sort of term that "only an ignorant person or bigot would use." Fucking Eye Roll. Last I heard, "transgendered person" was the correct and respectful formulation, while the unforgivable T-word was the one that rhymes with Granny. And there are plenty of examples of adjectives that, while not referring to humans, do indeed end in "ed," from "striped cat" to "whipped cream" to "open-ended question," so that particular grammarian gambit about it being syntactically Bad English is bullshit-encrusted pendantry. The language is nowhere near as simple and unambiguous as you make it out to be.

Sounds like someone over there would be best characterized as "an assholed person."
As a transgender person, I read the first letter differently. I could care less about the semantics or part of speech used. My thought was that his friend may not have wanted to be "outed" as transgender. She may be trying to live under the radar. Also, some transgender people don't actually identify as "transgender". They are just a man or just a woman and don't consider themselves as "trans-" anything.

Since there can be many different ways people within the transgender community identify, and since personal safety is a HUGE issue to anyone within the transgender community, it might be safest to ask someone how they identify or if they want to be the subject of an article before you write one for publication.

Just my two cents.
Thank you, avast2006.
One of her complaints was that I used the word "transgendered" to describe her, and she identifies as something other than that.

This sentence led me to believe that the mistake was something a little more complicated than accidentally adding an "-ed" to the end of a word. What exactly is the "something other than that" CIS's friend identifies as? CIS makes it sound like it was a word he/she had never heard of despite, presumably, having had conversations with this friend, as well as other conversations with other transgender friends.

If that's the case, the friend apparently blew her stack at CIS for not being psychic.
Oh my God, I've been gayed and blacked. Or glacked. Or blayed. You know, it's actually really annoying to have your identity turned into something that "happened" to you. But I'd still like to think a conversation is a better means of resolution than a freak-out.
Thank you, Avast2006, for saying what I was thinking. I have transgender friends (am I allowed to write that?) and they have always gone more for dialogue and less for tantrums.
Because of the -ed at the end of "transgender", it sounds like something that has *happened to you* rather than *something you are*, which I believe is the crux of the issue with "transgendered". "Trans" is acceptable as an adjective, but they would like you to treat them like you would a "normal" person, and not a peepshow.

Is my understanding, as a cis woman.
SMO's letter could have been from me, with a few minor details changed. I also have a longstanding, pine-y crush that seems impossible to get over, no matter how many distractions I throw at it (and it's really embarrassing, considering that I'm a grown-ass woman and not a teenager).

So this - "my ego wouldn't let me get over being dumped" - is the most useful fucking thing I've read in the last year. Thank you Dan.
Dear Ms. Petosky and CIS's former friend,
CIS is not the enemy.
If you find his way of referring to you belittling or offensive, recognize that the error was one of ignorance, and calmly and politely explain that you find the term offensive and then tell him what words you prefer.

And perhaps it would be a good idea to reconsider who the real enemies are.
I love you Avast.

Can we get off the freaking nomenclature train already? Between the trans, poly, queer, whatever-the-fuck-else name wars the column is getting way boring. Not every inclination, inherent trait, whatnot needs a proper and PC-vetted name. Fuck the protocol, just be nice to everyone. See? Problem solved. Can we get a letter about a transgender dominatrix who can't get her slave to climax without a cheese grater or something now? Pretty please?
Am I the only one who wonders if the transgender person in LW1's letter is a trans man and fed up wit the LW for still calling him a woman?
SMO, just don't do what I did when I saw my unrequited love- sleep with them, then declare your undying love via text message. After that disaster I'm probably disqualified from giving anyone advice again, but let me just say it could be worse. These things have a way of working out eventually if you don't draw them out. So don't worry.
@11: I am "left-handed." I am also "brown-haired."

This attempt to draw a distinction of "ed" meaning "something (presumably something objectionable) that has happened to you" simply is not supported by the evidence of the language.
Hi, I'm CIS. Just to clarify:

- the person who freaked out on me was labeled as male at birth and has transitioned to live as a woman, so the problem was not about my calling her the "old" gender.

- To the best of my knowledge, she never did tell me what the term other than transgender was supposed to be. Then again, she sent me the demand in a series of emails totaling 3000 words in response to my article draft, which was less than 1200 words long. She might have eventually identified the term she preferred, but her verbal onslaught was so extreme and bizarre that I could not get all the way through the emails.

-I was just wondering if there is another, more respectful term coming into common use. I would have been happy to use it if there had been.

-Sorry for the grammar error, everyone. I don't think that makes me anyone's enemy, but in any case, I am ashamed. (Ha.)
A note for HOPE: you also have a major selling point in that you haven't had a history of relationships from which to pick up bad habits. While there are definitely skills and good habits to be gained from experience, there's something to be said for developing your relationship style organically to better "fit" whomever you end up with.
Dear CIS
I think the most appropriate term for your friend is a 'nasty cunt'.
RE the trans thing. I am a gay person of some colour. I am extremely left wing, I donate money and my time to queer endevours. I have had some dealings with trans folk and while I completely understand that they are possibly the most discriminated and marginalised people in our society, I really don't understand why they want to lash out and hurl abuse at people who get pronouns wrong, or adjectives or whatever. People who are your staunchest allies. We are not perfect, but give us a break. I don't know how you identify unless you tell me. If I get it wrong, don't bite my fucking head off. I am not your enemy.

Bring on the hate...
Hey HOPE -

Just a quick rhetorical question for you. How are you in bed? Because, honestly, if you can get them into bed that means your personal hygiene is probably okay, and that your personality is probably tolerable. I've dated and dumped guys after a night or two because they were three-pump chumps and didn't seem to be interested in acknowledging that fact and/or improving. Or they were really selfish in bed.

Just the perspective of someone who's dated scores of men. YMMV.
@5 Walk a mile, you know what I mean?
I get it that the trans community has decided "transgender" is correct, and "transgendered" insulting, and as with any community, we should all use that nomenclature. But linguistically it makes no sense. The analogy to "gay" and "black" isn't apt. If we called people "gay-oriented," or "black-colored," those would still be adjectives; the concept being modified is simply implied rather than stated when we say "gay" or "black." The particle "trans" by itself is ambiguous, and says nothing about WHAT is being crossed--it needs "gender" to be a complete idea. By the rules of English, the adjective should be "transgendered." To say that an -ed suffix always means past tense is demonstrative of illiteracy.
I think Dan's advice is all good...

While I take @23's point, I'm also with Avast on this one - it gets tiresome - the level of drama/vitriol/emotion is disproportionate to the offense. Yes, labels are important as totems of identity and yes, it's important and serious to (re)take control of them (see: n-word, faggot, queer, etc.) but for Pete's sake...lighten up sally. While one understands that people lash out where it's convenient and (IMHO) where they feel they can safely lash out, it also gets tiresome being abused by someone who's team/side you're on. It just gets old.

For @HOPE - the only thing I'd add is: do some serious reflection about why none of your budding relationships ever thrives. That's a long string of 2-3 date starts - and if women are willing to fuck you, then you aren't completely repulsive and hopeless, but if they are vanishing after a quick romp, then there's something going on. People do start to pre-judge you as having a defect of some kind when you reach approximately your age and - if I read your letter correctly - you have never had a single long-term relationship. Seriously...where there is smoke there's fire...or something...this is not an unreasonable pre-judgement.

I have a sibling (now age 43) like you - and another sibling, who like me, has had a couple of marriages. The first sibling was heard at my most recent wedding to lament aloud that both of her siblings had found someone, not just once, but twice, and still she hadn't. There are lots of issues...she's fair enough looking, smart, insightful, and yet all but the absolute worst social rejects run about three minutes after she says hello. Nobody blames them (either the ones who run or the rejects) or is surprised. We love her, but like CIS's friend, the lashing out at friendly folks (to name just one thing that drives men away) gets really old, really quick. What are your friends telling you that you are doing wrong? If they haven't said or you haven't asked them, do so. Be ready to hear something (and do not get defensive, even if you think they're completely wrong) you don't like, and then be ready to seriously consider how you would change that perception of you.

@SMO - For every former SO I've moved on from (whether as dumper or dumpee) as Dan says: the trick is seeing them differently. So long as they are just the old image in your mind - the perfect imagined lover (and jeebus there is a ton of literature on falling in love with the idea of the person, not the person) - you will never get over them. In fact, obsessing will just guarantee that you carve that groove (the image of your perfect mate) just a bit deeper.

If you're lucky, you can meet with them and then see their defect. If you aren't, you'll have to make a conscious effort in your own mind to see them differently. You need to spend some time focusing on her flaws - the things you didn't like. That sounds like a lot of negative energy, but it works. The whole business of actively taking control of your own thoughts (and feelings) by consciously re-framing this is the heart of CBT and it really does work. Good luck.
Not inclined to be on anyone's side in the CIS debate. The only non-negative spin I can devise for the response is that an ally who can take such a tirade in stride is well worth keeping. But the letter came across as a bit coy; my initial response was that writers of articles can do at least a little better. Sooner or later in a world of ever-changing terminology, one is bound to be behind the times, but the astonishment makes me want to devise an Elton Award.

Ms Cute and, let us hope, the vast majority of the assembled company will recall the conversation on the occasion of the new Mrs Elton and her caro sposo calling on Mr and Miss Woodhouse at Hartfield for the first time. Mrs Elton expresses that her sister and brother-in-law will be enchanted with Hartfield when they visit, claiming that people who have extensive grounds themselves are always pleased with anything in the same style. Emma (who has a great idea that people who had extensive grounds themselves cared very little for the extensive grounds of anybody else [I made an acrostic on that line once]) contents herself with declaring that Mrs Elton, on seeing more of the county, might think she had overrated Hartfield, as Surrey contains many beauties, adding, when Mrs Elton quotes, "Surrey is the garden of England," that it would be unfair to rest a claim on that distinction, for many counties are called the garden of England as well as Surrey.

Mrs Elton fancies not. "I never heard any county but Surrey called so."

"Emma was silenced."

At that point in the novel, it might be reasonable to expect the reader to enjoy someone being able to silence Emma one way or another, Mr Knightley not having been able to manage it.
Since I know many people browse this with unregistered comments off, I wanted to repost 6 for more visibility:

As a transgender person, I read the first letter differently. I could care less about the semantics or part of speech used. My thought was that his friend may not have wanted to be "outed" as transgender. She may be trying to live under the radar. Also, some transgender people don't actually identify as "transgender". They are just a man or just a woman and don't consider themselves as "trans-" anything.

Since there can be many different ways people within the transgender community identify, and since personal safety is a HUGE issue to anyone within the transgender community, it might be safest to ask someone how they identify or if they want to be the subject of an article before you write one for publication.

Just my two cents.
Posted by kolakona
Thanks, Tal. I had missed that one.

The article was fully anonymous for all the transgender people I mentioned (the friend who flipped out was one of several I have known, including bosses, colleagues and a former roommate). I did not give names, describe physical characteristics, or state locations of any individual. Nor did I give the name of the organizations I had worked for or the city where all of these relationships occurred.

In my professional life I have done IT work involving personal health data, and I used the experience to pick a level of anonymity made identifying any individual virtually impossible despite their rare gender identity. I did this because I recognize the potential safety risk and psychological impact on these individuals.

So, no, I did not endanger anyone or bust anyone's under-the-radar lifestyle.

And any person can identify their gender as they choose. Does that entitle them to sending a voluminous stream of insults to someone who acted as an ally? Nope. I have choices too, and I don't have to roll over and take that.

Thanks for asking.
Take comfort in this CIS - if you *had* written or re-written your article in a way you ex-friend was comfortable with, several dozen complete strangers would have descended on you even more viciously because you didn't write it THEIR way.
As an additional note about anonymity: the article was written for publication in another country, where none of the people mentioned anonymously have ever been. Seemed pretty damn safe to me.
@ 17 In the instances of "left-handed" and "brown-haired," the -ed is added to change a noun into an adjective, and to avoid ambiguity. "I am left hand" is not nearly as functional a sentence as "I am gay." I'm not sure what I think about your underlying point, but I think your use of these examples of -ed adjectives is misplaced.
I would think the real problem in letter one is that somebody wrote an article about somebody without first asking how they felt about having their life written about in an article by somebody else (even if safety and anonymity is assured, not everyone wants to have to be held up as an example or talking point) and it was done by somebody who didn't even know enough to know how the person correctly identified. Why didn't the letter writer talk to the people the article was using as examples (who are presumably friends, so this should be easy) and say, hey, I want to write an article about trans issues, do you mind if I use you, anonymously of course, as an example, and if so, do you have any pointers that I should make sure to keep in mind when I do so? It just seems a bit of a breakdown in basic courtesy to be told a friend is planning to publish an article about you after it was written and without being consulted. And I think this would hold regardless of what minority that friend belonged to or even if it was just some article about some incident in that friend's life. Not everyone likes to share the details of their life publicly, even in a public, but anonymous way. And when somebody else shares those details, it's always going to feel a little different than the way it felt to the person who actually experienced it, which also feels a bit weird.
I agree with #5 avast2006... it's confusing to me, too.

Identity labels can change faster than Ignorant Minds can keep up.
@CIS: Someone who lashes out viciously only at people they know they can hurt without being hurt in return is a bully, not a friend.

I don't know what the respectful term is (in your zipcode, this week), but I do know you're better off without that person.
I agree with @1 and @33 -- at this moment in history, trans people are not likely to appreciate cis people trying to write about their trans experiences. I would advise any cis author who is minded to write about this topic to bring on a trans person as a co-author early in the process. That won't shield the piece from criticism (hey, the point of writing is to spark a conversation), but it should reduce avoidable issues.

Re SMO, I wanted to say that it took me about a decade of never setting eyes on the person before I got over the feeling that he was the love of my life.

Even falling in love w/ & marrying someone else didn't affect the delusion. And now, twenty years later, I would be nervous to see the crush again, lest the feelings start up again. Humans are weird.
Hold up a second... The tantrum unleashed on CIS was probably a severe overreaction and improperly targeted, but calls for the transgender community or whomever else to lighten-up seems to be coming from overreaching privilege.

Until we manage to make things reasonably good, why wouldn't we put up with sometimes petty insistence that we make things better, even in what appears to be ridiculous ways?
I will confess that I am a bigot against trans women of a certain age. At this point I assume the worst unless their behavior shows me otherwise. I date crossdressers, and the level of vitriol that some trans women harbor against crossdressers (and me) is eye-popping. I know it's what they've had to endure their whole life and I suspect also the hormones contribute and often they are heavy drinkers too, a toxic mix. I do have compassion, but I also have an expectation, a stereotype, borne of experience.

I had one trans woman accuse me of being a killer because I had given her some mild criticism (she had asked for critiques), and she said that after what she had lived through, any criticism whatsoever would drive her to suicide.

So yes, in my experience, overemotional, extremely wordy, easily wounded describe many trans women over forty. I don't know the age of the woman CIS describes, but I'd wager she's not young. It's a black mark on our society, and thank goodness younger trans women don't seem to be like this at all.

I have to disagree with dan. (Or, to be more specific, Dan's opinion as written right here.) I think that dating is really all about making a good first impression, Especially on the first three dates. I think that despite everything, it DOES make sense to hide anything that the "average normal opposite-sexed person " would find shocking or alaming or unuusal or even just plain strange. You can present eccentricies in a confident, cocky way, but anything about which you genuinely feel shame or that you genuinely know will be misunderstood, you should hide until you've established your relationship a bit more.
SMO: I got the chance to get together with a woman I could not forget for over two decades. We met just for old time's sake. We dated briefly and slept together a few times. A lot of old anxieties resurfaced. I realized that as much as I wanted, we were not compatible. I moved on. After dating a few women, I am now about 2 1/2 years into a relationship with somebody very special and compatible. It could never be this good with the other woman.

Why did I crush on this woman for two years? Ego, like Dan said. Somebody else got her. They had a horrible time of it, but I lost and that hurt. All the relationships, or crushes, I could not forget or get over were all about my ego.

Funny, when somebody cuts in front of me while driving and I get mad? My ego again. If somebody pisses me off at work? Usually my ego. Funny how that all works.
@32: My point is that perfectly functional adjectives exist both with and without "ed" endings, and that it is fatuous to torture the language in an attempt to create some bogus, fictional grammatical rule that declares the ones with "ed" on the end offensive by fiat.

In other words, the whole "You wouldn't say 'gayed' or 'blacked,' would you?" thing is both tortured logic and shitty grammar. Language is far more subtle, varied, and flexible than that. If anything, language is being "blacked and whited" by this sort of misguided orthodoxy.

Likewise, the thing with articles being verboten. I am "male." I am also "a male." Similarly, I am "heterosexual" and I am also "a heterosexual." Gee, look, words that are both noun and adjective! Putting "a" in front to form the phrase "a male" or "a heterosexual" does not dehumanize me. You could say the same thing about Dan: he is "homosexual" and he is "a homosexual" and there is nothing ridiculous about using either construction. There may be historical connotations that make "a gay" sound dehumanizing to our sensitized ears, but it certainly isn't a function of the grammar.

The worst thing that can be said about the phrase "transgendered person" is that it is apparently somewhat out of date. (Which was news to me.) If a community is going to evolve its language usage both rapidly and subtly, and then turn around and declare anyone using the next most recent terminology as "ignorant and bigoted" then then clearly the world they are actively trying to create is the one where they continue to be a misunderstood minority in perpetuity. Asking for acceptance is one thing; asking the rest of the world to chase a set of constantly moving goalposts where failure to keep up defines one as "ignorant and bigoted" is another thing entirely.

There are people who give offense; there are people who take offense; and then there are verbal highwaymen who waylay others and forcibly relieve them of any offense that might be found on or about their persons. Throwing a hissy fit over something as subtle as the difference between "transgender person" and "transgendered person" is an example of the third.
To Hi_It's_CIS,

I love it when letter writers show up in the comments section! Honestly, I think that (as much as I love the column) the comments are often some of the best part. If you're still here, I have a comment and then a question.

My comment is that (without having seen either your article or her response) going into this, if I had been you and I was planning on writing the article and then showing my friend the final product, I would have contacted my friend in advance and asked her permission to mention her and then confirm what term she preferred.

The reason for this is that, as an active member in the GLBTQ community, people with a certain degree of frequency will share their gender identity as something that I would not have guessed (ie, trans people who are still presenting as their birth gender, as well as people who I would have thought were trans who use a different term) so I actively work with the knowledge that I have no idea where someone is coming from and absolutely never apply a term that didn't come from them directly.

The politics of identity are complicated and highly personal and therefore highly emotionally charged, so I would definitely know to tread lightly and ask the subject of a piece for their preferred term, first.

The other reason to have checked in first if you were planning on sharing the finished article with your friend is that even if what you said was accurate, it's likely to be something extremely personal. If someone decided to write an article about people who had experienced anti-gay violence and included me in it without asking, even if they got all of the facts right and didn't use my name, if it wasn't something I knew about and had signed off on, I'd feel exposed and possibly betrayed to have something so deeply personal about myself appearing in print even without my name.

And finally, my question, which I'm really dying to know, is what term did your friend prefer over "transgendered"? Was it something like genderqueer, or was it less immediately definable, or was that not the source of the problem?

Best wishes,
Sweet G
@36: First, if the friend did not want to be written about, they chould have said so without 3000 words of vitriolic email.

Second, I'm not sure you get a veto. Writers write about experiences they've had and people they've met. The subjects usually know nothing about it ever, or at least until it's published.

CIS could have asked whether it was ok to write about friend, sure. But then the friend could have asked not to be included in the article instead of freaking out, too.

Finally, CIS did not say the friend's inclusion was the problem. How the friend was described seems to have been the source of the flare up. If friend had stayed reasonable, CIS may have not only learned something, but maybe even written a piece *on the subject of the semantics around transgender people* which might have taught many what is preferred and done some good for the cause.
CIS' (should that be CIS's?) "friend" is catching a lot of flak. I would encourage people to stop and think about the kind of emotional trauma someone would have to go through in order to get to the point where they acted like that. Sure, the behavior is cunty, but good people can act like assholes sometimes, and a little compassion goes a long way. It takes a lot of abuse, or mental illness, to bring someone to the point where they lash out to such an extent at the slightest hint of offense.
@45: Your position would have some basis if there was any evidence that CIS' douchebag "friend" actually did lash out at the slightest hint of offense, rather than that the douchebag only does it to people she can get away with bullying.

I'm pretty sure that someone who actually was so traumatized that she lashed out with 3000 words in response to someone using the word "transgendered" would not have the freedom to abuse LW this way. Uncontrollable trauma-responses are not made solely when the "response" can be made at no risk to yourself.
@42: "...and then there are verbal highwaymen who waylay others and forcibly relieve them of any offense that might be found on or about their persons."

@45 - Sorry, but there's no excuse for cunty behavior. Not abuse, not mental illness. We all have our personal crosses to bear and there's NEVER an excuse to dump them on other people's shoulders. I agree it's nice to show compassion for other people's asshole actions when we know they come from a place of pain, but that doesn't excuse the asshole actions themselves.

That said, I'm loathe to cast judgment on CIS's friend without seeing the article itself. There's a good chance CIS put something in there that was legit offensive (albeit unintentionally so.) That's why it's generally a bad idea to write explicitly about people you know, at least without getting advance permission and including them in the writing process.
@45 and others who make the same point: Yes the "friend" has gone though a lot of trauma, but CIS was her friend, who apparently made an honest and well-meant mistake. The torrent of vitriol unleashed on CIS was unwarranted. If the friend objected to a descriptor, she should/could have simply told CIS what she prefers.

She's taking out her understandable frustration and anger on the wrong person; she's alienating an ally; she's behaving like a crazy jerk.

It seems in this political/cultural climate we have an attitude that says only people who belong to a specific cultural/ethnic/racial/religious/gender/sexual-orientation group are qualified to write or talk about anything pertaining to that group. Others--particularly anyone affiliated with a mainstream, privileged, or majority group--are not allowed to write about anyone not like them, or risk being excoriated.

While I get the "only family members are allowed to make fun of my family" thing, it's important to distinguish people who are insulting a minority or disenfranchised group from those who are simply acknowledging the group's existence or illuminating for others some of the issues or challenges the group contends with or faces. Once we say only trans-people are allowed to write about trans people, we end up with something like this:…

Avast makes some very good points about those who seem to want to find offense @42.

As as for the language issue, don't get me started: I'm too old-fashioned to want to have to get all teachy on Shadi Petosky's ass.
@37 - That does make one wonder if they really might be the true love of your life. I have an exgf like that - I never felt that way about her, but she does for me, and I we are "friends" but I do not like to visit because her husband does not like it (and I don't blame him).

@41 - yes, I'm sure you are correct: it is an ego wound. Same here.

@39 - you've mentioned this before (that you date crossdressers) and I'm seriously curious about what draws/attracts you to them? I wonder the same about "admirers", or femme women who only date super-butch women. I get being attracted to the "masculine" or the "feminine" but (and I'm sure I'm exhibiting normative-het-cluelessness) aren't the 'reference implementation versions" of masc/femme more attractive? Perhaps (if this is indeed true) if you explained how/why a transwoman isn't attractive, and yet a crossdresser is...or maybe the reason you don't date transwomen is they don't want to date you?
@41 - Well put. Someone once told me they were never cut off in traffic. When I asked how that was possible they said "Easy. I just let everyone in and leave a lot of space between me and the car in front of me." It was eye opening for me.
Also, why was CIS (who is apparently straight) writing an article about trans people? What was the context and purpose? Where was the article going to be published? Did the people agree to be part of the article and if so, how much were they included in the writing process? "A draft prior to publication" sounds late in the game, and I'd be pretty upset if a friend sprung something like this on me prior to publication even WITHOUT the offensive content. I work in social sciences research and in my field its unheard of to write about human subjects without getting their advance permission AND allowing them to set limits on how they will be portrayed. I'm not willing to jump on the "CIS's friend is a hypersensitive asshole" train without more clarifying information.
HOPE strikes me as someone who's sexual experience is with prostitutes. I have a hard time fathoming that someone could remain a virgin til 25, have dozens of one night stands once he lost it, and not know how to have a relationship. If you have the charm and personal skills to pick someone up, what anxiety would suddenly assert itself to make him unable to ask for a second date?
Terrible, TERRIBLE response to CIS by Shadi Petosky and a failure by Dan Savage for not stepping in as an umpire. CIS is trying to be supportive and enlighten the public at large about transgender issues and asking why an effort of his generated a friendship destroying backlash. Shadi takes this effort to HELP reduce trans invisibility, latches on to his use of "transgendered" as opposed to "transgender (X)" as an insult comparable to a white person using the n-word to describe the President. Considering that "gendered" is a word, it seems like a minor slip-up. By contrast, Shadi's response is not quite Godwin level, but it is damn close.

As a side note, I would like to point out that knowing how someone wants to identify and label themselves is not evident up front and many people's self applied labels would be offensive to others. Dan occasionally has people calling into the podcast suggesting that all LGBT people simply use the umbrella term "Queer." Well, not only does that very general term not give you much information, but many people assume calling someone "Queer" is comparable to calling a gay man a "faggot."

Furthermore, consider the following scenario:
1) A man dressing in drag goes through the checkout line at a grocery store. The cashier says "have a good evening sir" and no one gets upset.
2) Next person is a trans-woman who still has many masculine characteristics to their appearance. The cashier not realizing this is a trans-woman uses the pronoun "sir," and the trans-woman declares herself insulted.
3) Then a cross dressing male goes through the checkout stand. The cashier uses the pronoun "ma'am" and the cross dresser takes it as a compliment to his ability to appear like a woman, but does suggest that if the cashier is uncertain about a customer's gender, the he should ask the person what gender pronoun they want used.
4) Then a masculine woman (butch) comes through the checkout line. The cashier asks her whether they want to be referred to as "sir" or "ma'am." The woman is offended, thinking that the cashiers question is a passive aggressive insult about the woman's appearance.

Bottom line: There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach that is guaranteed to not offend anyone. Lashing out at someone who fails to guess correctly the first time is counter-productive to trans-acceptance.
"Transgender women" often have psychiatric issues along with their gender identity issues. No matter what you say or do, you will be wrong.

There, I said it.
@48 I'm not excusing the behavior. I acknowledge that it's cunty. Note that all I did was encourage people to think about where someone was coming from. People are no different from other animals when they feel threatened - they can lash out irrationally. If you approach a wolf caught in a trap and get bit trying to free it, you can spend all sorts of energy yelling about what an asshole it is. You can also learn from the experience.

@49 - I don't disagree with you really, I just would replace your first "but" with an "and".
@50 Dan had an article a while back about a guy who was interested in non-passable crossdressers. It had a name, which I probably should remember since that's my fetish, but I can't remember it now.

I am on the low end of the Kinsey scale. The idea of even kissing a woman roils my stomach a bit. So crossdressers with any sort of body mod beyond hair removal turn me off, and even if they are close to passable undressed and with no makeup, I'm less interested. I like everything about the male body; I just like it tricked out in women's clothes. I also like the female persona--most crossdressers I have met are two-spirited, with both genders inside. I find men without that feminine spirit kind of boring.

I used to not know my taste in this, and the universal response from drab men I had sex with was that I "acted like a man in the bedroom".
@ 48 nocute--While I get the "only family members are allowed to make fun of my family" thing, it's important to distinguish people who are insulting a minority or disenfranchised group from those who are simply acknowledging the group's existence or illuminating for others some of the issues or challenges the group contends with or faces.

This. And if the non-trans writer does always avoid mentioning transgender(ed) people, then he's "disappearing" them, as other transgendered people will doubtless inform him (in the process of lashing out viciously at a safe target).
@49, anytime you say/write anything publicly, you "risk being excoriated." Because other people get to say what they think about what you wrote.

If you want to reduce the chances of being excoriated, do more research first. Reza Aslan had done his research, which is why he came out of that looking good. If CIS wants to post his/her draft of the article, then we'd have a better understanding of whether CIS's friend overreacted.
AFinch @50, well, but the guy in question didn't think so, and I'm happier now that I don't think of him that way.
@59--Yes. I think the overarching point here is that excoriating people who have good intentions and are trying doesn't condition them to do more research so much as it conditions them to ignore excoriation.
@57 - thanks for the reply - and if you don't want to say more, please ignore this but...

I am on the low end of the Kinsey scale. The idea of even kissing a woman roils my stomach a bit. So crossdressers with any sort of body mod beyond hair removal turn me off, and even if they are close to passable undressed and with no makeup, I'm less interested.

Right, this makes perfect sense to does this:

I also like the female persona--most crossdressers I have met are two-spirited, with both genders inside. I find men without that feminine spirit kind of boring.

which seems to perfectly compatible, but not this:

I like everything about the male body; I just like it tricked out in women's clothes.

Because...if masculinity is hot to you...doesn't highly feminine attrire wreck it? I do remember you oohing and aahing when Dan posted the link to the lingerie for men maybe it's just that the super-feminine adds contrast? I can kind of connect to that with the pinups of half-naked women in grease and garage overalls that I remember from my misspent youth; I think there are a lot of women & guns, etc., memes of this type.

I realize this is like asking someone why they like, I dunno, Brie cheese or the color blue. Feminine clothing is wonderful (and much more interesting than male), but it strikes me as very feminine. I know, a tautology at best.

I used to not know my taste in this, and the universal response from drab men I had sex with was that I "acted like a man in the bedroom".

Herm...does this extend to role-reversal? Now I'm confused again...I'm sure some pantied man in a skirt is super-grateful however!
@60 - yep, even reading that back to myself it sounds dumb. Nobody who fails to return the feeling is the love of your life.
@5 thank you!!! My blood was simmering reading that response!
@59 (EricaP): Of course, anything one writes or says publicly puts him/her at risk for criticism--and that should be the case. I was talking about what I see as an unreasonable criticism stemming only from an attitude of you're not one of us so you shouldn't be allowed to write about us, which is the response that many people seem to have. This attitude is voiced both by people in whatever "us" group is the subject (exemplified in this case by Shadi Petosky) and those who aren't in the group urging others not in it to not write about the group (examples here include #s 1, 33, and you @36), lest you insult them, because only those with lived experience of a particular condition can possibly be expected to have anything significant to say on the subject or an ability to be enlightening. That's not only untrue and ignorant, it's useless and I think it is a response to people who get hyper-vitriolic (like CIS' "friend") and have therefore scared others away.

It's also counter-productive. if it were only black slaves who objected to slavery, that institution would likely still exist; it took the force of many, many white abolitionists and a war to stop it. If the only people who worked for marriage equality were gay, the progress we're seeing in legalizing same-sex marriage wouldn't be happening. Most of the people who are voting for same-sex marriage are straight; most of the judges who are ruling that not allowing same-sex couples to marry is a form of discrimination are straight. It's not that gay people don't have valid and persuasive points, and it's not because they aren't capable of speaking up for themselves and their issues or rights, but because they constitute a significant minority of the population. There's no reason why a cis-gendered person can't write about trans people or the challenges they face.
@59: On what do you base the judgment that CIS hadn't done his/her research?

As always, we only have one side of the situation, but nothing CIS has said, either in the original letter or in the comment thread, makes me think that s/he hadn't done enough research. The only thing that the "friend" seems to have objected to was the designation "transgendered." Nothing CIS says suggests that there was a different objection (though of course there could be, and either the "friend" wasn't clear about what it was she was miffed about, just as she wasn't clear about what term she prefers, or CIS is leaving that information out of the messages we're reading).

Just because the "friend" takes offense at being called "transgendered" instead of something else--what, I still don't know--doesn't mean that all trans people object that strongly--or possibly at all--to the term. Trans people aren't a monolithic entity; just like everyone else, some people take offense at something which doesn't even register on another person's radar. Look at the comments made upthread about words like "queer." Look at how different members of the black community feel differently about use of the words "nigger" and "nigga." To some, the first is offensive, and the second is not (and may even be an endearment). Some have different reactions to the second word depending on the race of the person using it. Some find it offensive in either form, no matter who utters it. Grammatically, "transgendered" is different from "transgender," "trans-woman," or "trans person," but rhetorically it's the same.
Are we who identify with the same gender with which we were "assigned" at birth allowed to register a complaint about the "cis" term?
It's "Cic" now; "cis" was the acceptable term last week. This week, anyone saying "cis" is a bigot, and must be attacked with thousands of words in an angry email.
@66 - "...just as she wasn't clear about what term she prefers, or CIS is leaving that information out of the messages we're reading."

CIS said @18 that the information might have been conveyed in the emails the friend sent, but he couldn't bring himself to wade through all the crazy to try and find out what the preferred term actually was. (If it was in there at all.)
@5 avast2006 & @7 nocutename: Thank you both, too! I agree.

@34 hazmat: BINGO! For the win!

@42 avast2006 & again, @49 nocutename: Thank you, yet again! You both beautifully summarized CIS's situation infinitely better than I ever could, and I'm not the least bit transgender individual phobic, despite my unintentional past misuse of terminology in a previous Savage Love column.

Good luck to HOPE and SMO.
@68: Could you be dying of sheer boredom?
It's possible!
@ 67 - I can think of at least one instance when we had that debate here, and it appears that the trans crowd won and we are morally obliged to call ourselves "cis" even though we might not want to. Or else they'll get all butthurt or something. Ironic, isn't it?
@73: Oy-vey. Don't get me started. I'm with nocutename (@49) on
being language / politically correct. As far I'm concerned, the world has gone batshit crazy with a labeling gun.
@74: And guns---period.
@62 I won't tire of posting about this, but everyone else here might get tired of me posting!

There's a difference between the male body and masculinity. Masculinity, at least in our culture, is tied up with all sorts of bossy things like being in charge, being active, being a sexual subject rather than a sexual object. I like my men passive, ornamental and submissive (I'm dominant).

So for a man to be wearing clothes that a woman would wear to signal

...hmm... going to raise the ire of feminists--I am not saying that women who wear slutty clothes are asking for it, but in the context of a relationship, oftentimes when a woman dresses up it is to signal her openness

...I'm going to get into trouble no matter what I say here. I like the connotations of passive sexual availability.

partner is very grateful, and enjoys doing housework when dressed--added bonus!
For "She Moved On"

Oh, fuck dude, I know that feeling. Got my heart broke in my early 20s, and it took a year and a half to start to get over all of it. And then I met someone new. And the someone who is now someone who I'm going to marry (thanks MN for finally making that shit legal!). To quote Dan Savage--it gets better.
@61, I disagree. In this case, excoriating CIS led CIS to kill the article, rather than to ignore the criticism and move forward with publication.

@65, yes, outsiders can bring good perspectives to bear and are often useful translators of an issue for other outsiders. But there are times when the issues are so fraught with tension that a writer is well-advised to solicit input from an insider.

Obviously, however, writers are free to write whatever they like. No one is censoring anyone. Just giving advice.

@66, didn't say CIS hadn't done the research. Just advised that the more research one has done, the less likely criticism is to stick.

@73 it's not a moral obligation and there are other ways of conveying the same information. But it's now part of our language, just as the verb "to google" is.
RE “blacked”: see “colored.”
@ 78 - It's not part of the language of anyone I know in real life. Not even trans people's language. The trans folks I know like to be called "women" (since they are all MTF) and they have the strange tendency to call me a "man". It's weird, I know, but I don't see why there should be a need for me to question or redefine their identity, or for them to question or redefine mine.
Also, RE “gayed”: see “perverted,” “same-sex attracted.”
Ricardo, if “cis” serves no function then neither do “trans” or “MTF.”

@80 should read:

“@ 78 - It's not part of the language of anyone I know in real life. Not even people's language. The folks I know like to be called "women" (since they are all women) and they have the strange tendency to call me a "man". It's weird, I know, but I don't see why there should be a need for me to question or redefine their identity, or for them to question or redefine mine.”

That’s better!
@82 lol. yes, the people who disdain "cis" always sound to me like the people who used to resent being expected to use "Ms." just because some women were so sensitive. Or the people who found it hard to give up saying "Orientals."

Language moves on, and some people have a hard time adjusting.
Or, “I don’t think of myself as white, I’m just human.”
Ms Cute - A regular reader of Mr Savage's column would know that "transgendered" had ceased to be (if it ever was) the generally preferred-by-the-T-community term. Granted, someone who has known and admired many people who present as T may happen to have encountered individuals who happen almost entirely to present as "transgendered", and I can see the mistake as an honest one, but an honest mistake is highly compatible with insufficient research.

Besides, the letter almost giggles. Read it with your feminist glasses on. If this were my novel, I'd never let a character ask Mr Savage, "Have you heard of this?" I'd give such a phrase a Warrender Award, being much too much, in the way Fleur Talbot changes Proudie's declaration about Marjorie in Warrender Chase from "It's affected her beautifully," because "beautifully was much too much" and Fleur can only conclude she'd been reading too much Henry James.

Now I am perfectly ready to give you credit for not reacting the way XF did to CIS' column when you had to sit through your one million and first mansplaining, and I would agree with your king's right to look at a cat and opine on his findings. I don't think taking a little care to be sure of refraining from splaining is a huge ask of someone with majoritarian privilege. (Yes, it would be nice to have the article available.)

I'll chalk this up as an example of power corrupting. In an ideal world, for instance, questions of abortion would be decided entirely by women. Unfortunately, I can't think of any issue off the top of my head where the oppressor class doesn't have a say in the matter (although I am a bit stupid this evening, having injured my shoulder today more seriously than I realized). One of the slipperiest parts of the insult of people's lives being put up to popular vote is the sense of entitlement that can creep into allies. You say, let people start saying that only X can write about group X and you get the Fox schemozzle over the book on Christianity, which is fine. My counter is, put private minority issue up to majority vote and right-thinking members of the majority draw ridiculous comparisons assuming a nonexistent level playing field (per Mr Monic).
Mr. Ven: You say that a devoted reader of Savage Love should know or remember that "transgendered" has been succeeded by "transgender." I guess I wasn't keeping up enough. But I ask you or all those who are offended by the addition of the "ed" what the difference is. Both words can be adjectives, and while "transgender" doesn't need a noun or pronoun to modify, that seems a minor point. Is it really worth getting so angry about?

And even if the difference is a significant one to the person being thus described, don't you think a simple statement "You used the term "transgendered," but I prefer "transgender," would have been an acceptable and maybe better response?

Additionally, I take issue with your use of the phrase "oppressor class." Just because someone is in the majority, it doesn't mean s/he is automatically an oppressor.

Oh I'm definitely White, as in "The sun is trying to kill me and my body is surrendering".

Transgender(ed)? As a past tense verb (with the -ed) it describes something a person did. Now, she is just a woman. Transgender as an adjective indicates an ongoing condition attached to her gender. Is the latter what the community really wants?
@89 (Holmes): Yes the -ed can signify the past tense of a verb. It is also a way of making an adjective. As an adjective, it functions exactly the same way that "transgender" without the -ed does. A person can be transgendered or transgender; it's the same thing. Denotatively; clearly, not (for some people) connotatively.
@ 82 - No, it's not better, it actually makes no sense at all. I know many "folks" who aren't women. In case you were trying to be clever, you failed miserably.

Besides, my point (@ 73) is that, since there are trans people who don't like to be called certain terms (which I thoroughly understand, and as I pointed out, I like to call them "women" if they identify as such and "men" if they identify as such, it makes everyone's life much simpler), I believe no one has the right to decide that people who identify with the gender they were born with should be called "cis" if those people do not wish to be called that way. It's just as insulting as calling someone "tranny". (And don't start accusing me of discrimination because I MENTIONED the word, that's just stupid American PC bullshit.)

Finally, as of January 8, 2014, "cis" hasn't made it into mainstream conversations. "Trans" has. You can invent a term or decide of a new use for an already existing one, but you cannot force people to accept it. And you, personally, don't get to decide which terms are useful ("if “cis” serves no function then neither do “trans” or “MTF.”" WTF???). General usage does that. Please remember that you are not every English speaker.

Once "cis" enters our daily vocabulary, if it ever does, then we'll all be using it, and it won't really matter what was said today here on Slog. Till then, I'll continue to believe that it's a highly contrived term which is unlikely to catch on outside of the rather small triad of the trans community, the social sciences community, and some unbearably PC sloggers. But there is the possibility that it does become a common word. I am not every English speaker, and I am not saying it never will. I'm just highlighting the irony of a given group doing what it complains about when it's done to them by others.

@ 83 - I've used "Ms." ever since I discovered the term. It's actually quite practical, as it filled a void to describe a new way of thinking about women, i.e. not in term of their marital status. I just don't think "cis" is that useful - people are generally doing quite a good job of describing non trans people without it in daily conversation. Language does move on (I studied linguistics, I should know), but not necessarily the way a given group wants it to. And although some terms do become part of the mainstream vocabulary through constant pressure by a group, they can also disappear just as quickly. Remember when the alphabet soup was neatly summed up by "queer"? Sure didn't last long.
@76 - I dunno about everyone else, and perhaps I've been lax about keeping up with the conversation, and I'm definitely not trolling or otherwise trying to get you in trouble with the peanut gallery, but I appreciate the response.

...I'm going to get into trouble no matter what I say here. I like the connotations of passive sexual availability.

This I get, completely. I asked because I often get the impression that women who desire "masculine" want, as you put it, "bossy things like being in charge, being active, being a sexual subject rather than a sexual object", and that's where I see the contradiction. More power to you, and the housework, dressed or not, is a bonus.

Thanks again for giving/sharing your perspective.
Ricardo, no one says that ciswomen should be called "ciswomen" 100% of the time, nor that cismen should be called "cismen" all the time.

The idea is that most of the time women (cis and trans) would just be called "women." And men (cis and trans) would just be called "men."

But on the rare occasions when it's important to be able to distinguish the two, then we have a word for each. As you say for "Ms.", it's actually quite practical.
As long as you're talking about terms, "dignity" is something one has regardless of the "respect" they're shown (or not) by others. You can't give or show someone dignity. They either have it in the face of adversity or they don't. You can, however, give and show respect.
This is the guy from the letter posted to Dan...

So I watched the movie "Don Jon" and realized that girl was pretty much like scarlet johansson's character in the joke. And after reading your input about ego and all, I am over her now and its a great feeling. Wish that movie was released 2 years ago and wish I had posted 2 years ago. I guess better late than never and this is a great way to start the new year.

Thanks Dan and thanks all for the kind words of encouragement.


So just before all the regulars are once again taking over the comments section and argue endlessly as to which gender should be responsible for birth control… (hint: it’s always the opposite camp)…

As a part-time transgender-person, something I myself still curious as to what it means but-thankfully-not-struggling-with-it-anymore, I think the advice to CIS was great! I also think that all of us in the “glbtqpatynynot-whatever” community should aim to EARN our respect rather than DEMAND it. This is the best way get accepted, though I’m fully aware that I’m extremely lucky to live in one of the most progressive metropolitans in the USA.

Mr. Savage, we haven’t met yet but we certainly should! Don’t worry, I guarantee you will be disappointed!!!
very unfortunately too late now! They're already out there at each other's crotch and nothing- NOTHING!!!- will stop those "regulars"...

So glad I'm an irregular
I'm trans--and I try to just say 'trans' at all times if there's any chance that the people in the conversation will understand what that signifies... for this very reason. 'Transgendered' is the word that naturally rolls off my tongue otherwise. I think in a way I DO think of it as something that has been done to me, rather than my natural adjectival state. It's something that was done to me by nature or birth or whatever, but that's how it has always struck me.
ah, oops. Submitted before I was finished. Anyway, I was just going to add that this isn't a problem exclusive to non-trans people. They don't embed a chip in your head that keeps you up to date with the terms people on tumblr use when you start hormone therapy.
To HOPE, perhaps you should see the movie Don Jon? I doubt that you have the issue with port that he did, but there seems to be some similarities there.
The quoted comment in the answer that "CIS isn't showing respect for the English language" (etc.) is rude and ill-informed about language, as some have mentioned here. By the usual patterning of English, "transgender" is a noun just like "gender", and "transgendered" is an adjective like "blue-eyed". (See a bit of informed discussion by googling "Language Log transgender"; these comments block hyperlinks.)

The crucial point is that most trans people wish to be referred to as "transgender" without the "-ed". That's all that one need say, and it's respectful to follow this preference; but it's a distraction to offer mistaken grammatical justifications. Even if these grammatical misunderstandings played a role in the development of the term, the preference now exists and should be respected.

@100 CMS, SMO mentions Don Jon as well.


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