Terminology and the problem of unintended offense (Part Two)

Hi!  🙂  Still with me?  GOOD!  Let’s move on now to a very sensitive and very important understanding you need to have if you are a trans-ally and/or friend:  the misunderstanding that a transgender person is “changing genders” or “changing sexes”.  You simply have to get this right, because the proper understanding of this is what will give you the heart connection with the plight of transgender people, and begin to expose the presupposition that biology is the locus and genesis of gender.  If you need some information about why that is not so, it is readily available on line.

When you as an ally say to your other friend “I have this friend Charissa that I really love…she is changing sexes from male to female”, you think you are saying something affirming and supportive, right?  And I get that.  I do!  You want to help explain what is occurring in my life, you want to show an identification with my quest, and you want to support me.

But here is the problem:  from my standpoint I am not changing from male to female…because from the time I became aware in the world, I have never ever thought of myself as male!  And that is the core of the horror itself!

When you as my friend tell someone “My friend Charissa was sooo brave today.  He had the courage to be himself and paint his nails and wear his female clothes”, you think you are speaking of my courage and my grit…but you are actually wounding me very deeply by not really really grasping that your friend Charissa is not a he…and has never been a he…in spite of how I look.

I look the way I do because at puberty my body was flooded with testosterone…and if you are a natal female, the exact same thing would have happened to you!  Think about that for a moment:  imagine all your hopes and dreams as a young girl growing up, excited for the moment you began to blossom…and then instead you sprout, and sprout, and poke out, and other things worse…

Please…I am not trying to be a jerk!  I am not trying to be that shrill on-guard defensive lashing out at everything anyone says sort of person.  I am trying to let you know that if you really do care for your trans-friend or family member, your words will be life or death to them, regardless of the intent behind them.

I posted to the really good article on Gender Confirmation surgery in Part One…I want to say a little about my own feelings on this topic: it hurts me when people say to me I am changing sexes…even when they mean well.  It hurts when I am afraid to correct them because it might hurt their feelings.  It hurts me to not correct them because they will continue to speak the way they do in complete innocence but sadly rooted in total ignorance and will thus continue to wound not only me but any transperson they run across.  And it hurts the worst when they finally figure it out, and they are then horrified and wounded that I never said anything.

That is my dilemma…I feel like every option is a bad one for me, except for maybe the possibility of writing about it here in one of my interminable mewling whining posts that drones on and on…

I am pressing on:  it has been called “Sexual Reassignment Surgery”, and “Gender Reassignment Surgery”…but as you hopefully can see now, to me as a transgender woman that would be an inaccurate name, because I am not changing sex, or changing gender.

I have never identified as anything other than a woman.

So that was me…long winded and trying to be as gentle and kind as I possibly can, bleeding and feeling like it is an unwinnable battle…trying to educate on trans issues

Constance…I really am trying to help you…really, even though it seems like I am trying to school you or correct you, I am not.  And frankly, right now I just want to run away and never come back and let the world just roll on.

But I have pressed thru too many times of discouragement to not know that tomorrow is another day, and joy will always find a way.

So in the meantime:  your transfriend is who they say they are.  They want to be loved by you if you say you love them, and they want to be talked to the way you would talk to anyone.  If they are female, then they are not getting a sex change male to female…they are undergoing the medical treatments their body needs to live a fulfilled life (just as you would if you were natally female but you had a hormone disorder and didn’t make estrogen naturally, or you made too much testosterone)…

I am Charissa Grace…I am confused, discouraged, hard pressed…and I am determined to not go away and let the pain that has already been spent to all be wasted.

Sowing in tears, hoping to reap in joy, and seeing more clearly than ever that my name is my only hope

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9 thoughts on “Terminology and the problem of unintended offense (Part Two)

  1. I think this two part series is very helpful! I can’t tell you how many people I’ve come across who have it all wrong. They mean well. They really do! But as I correct them, I see that they don’t really understand. Sadly, I don’t think they really want to.

    I’m glad you wrote this. I think this is a very important part of supporting your transgender friend or child. I know that it must be awkward- just being the mom of a transgender person and correcting someone is not easy- can’t imagine being the person.

  2. “I am trying to let you know that if you really do care for your trans-friend or family member, your words will be life or death to them, regardless of the intent behind them.”

    This is hard for me because I believe intent counts. I have had horrible things said to me, and while they hurt, as words often do, I have always tried to look for the intent beneath the syllables. If something is used or said hurtfully/incorrectly over and over again, I understand. But for someone who is trying to understand/communicate/extend their reach and heart, I think a little grace is needed, on both sides (followed by, if necessary, some tender education).

    • Dani…such a good refocus here!! Thank you!

      What I was trying to say is that the hurt was always there. So often people will explain their intent and motive, and while it helps all too often they want the person to not be hurt any more because there was no bad intent. And I wanted to say that in the issues related to gender…I can clearly see when someone is speaking to me in kindness, straining to be just so supportive and good…and yet when they completely innocently say the wrong thing, it still hurts…does that make it clearer? Let me know, cus what you say is totally right!

      But it is absolutely true that the hurt is of a different odor and flavor when the intention was not ill or mal.

      I did not communicate that clearly. GREAT CATCH!!

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