Originally posted 8/15/11 on the old My Life In Neon

There’s a common refrain heard by trans people from those around them with regard to transitioning in the presence of others: “Well, you have to give me some time to get used to it.”

On it’s face, this is a perfectly understandable request. For a long time this person has known me one way, and now I am asking them to think of me another way. I’m asking them to do this even when I know that I don’t look quite like a woman, and when I know they have religious issues with it. I’m asking this of them when I know they don’t have a problem with “the gays” but they don’t like how they can be all “in your face” about it.

Clearly, I am imposing my eccentric lifestyle on others, therefore, I should be thankful when they offer their patient indulgence because not everyone will. Because they are better than some ignorant folk who will never understand it. Because they know how much of a struggle this is. Because they’ve earned their invite to the tolerance party. And because they’ve been so close to me they should be allowed a little more time.

“After all, you are kinda asking a lot of us.”

Wrong.

What people who use this language fail to realize is that they are receiving the benefit ofmy patient indulgence. Because it’s never just them. To them, I am the odd thing they need to adjust to in their day, and I’m not on their mind all that often, so they expect a little patience when I’m around because they’re still catching up. But it’s a little patience for them. And a little for my friend at the bar. And it’s a little for my mom. And it’s a little for my dad. And it’s a little for my boss. And it’s a little for my hairdresser. And it’s a little for my doctor. And . . .

Eventually, I have none left to give.

If any of those I listed were ever misgendered, or called by the wrong name, they have every right to expect a simple correction to end the matter firmly and finally. If someone told them they needed to get used to seeing them as a woman(or man), they’d rightly feel insulted. If anyone ever referred to their style of dress as crossdressing or drag because they looked too masculine(or feminine), but excused it by saying it’s “growing on them”, who would blame them for scoffing at the sentiment?

What woman needs to be patient with people calling her a man? Who would not stand up and call that out as the misogyny which it is?

Why am I expected to be patient with you about it?

Here’s the facts:

  1. If you claim you are close to me so you still need time, someone closer is already on board with this. In fact, someone closer was on board from the start. Why aren’t you?
  2. I know what I look like, and we both know it is changing because I already know. (Duh, right?)
  3. I do not need your permission or your blessing. My gender and my identity do not exist at your pleasure.
  4. Mistakes are understandable and excusable. But if I see no effort I will not assume you have made a mistake. You are solely responsible for what comes out of your mouth. I cannot speak correctly for you.
I have yet to insist upon my name or gender being correct. I have not corrected anyone, and I will not for some time yet. It’s not my style.
But remember that this is my sacrifice for others; this is what trans people put up with for those who “need more time”. We should not be expected to be thankful for someone “making an effort” when they so clearly are not. The ones in my life who have made an effort have now been calling me by my new name for months, and most of them are people I don’t even see every day. I was quite patient with them and still am; they are getting used to things.
It gets easier for them every day because they have actually said my name out loud. They’ve joked about bras, and invited me for girls’ nights. I can see it in their eyes that I’m not passing yet. I still hear a hiccup of hesitation before my new name comes out. But they’re doing their best, just like I am.
That is what I am thankful for. I am not, will not, and should not be expected to be thankful for the “patient indulgence” of those who simply say they are adjusting; I am not lucky to merely have their tolerance when others have shown more acceptance in the first six minutes of me being out to them than these people have in the last six months of “needing more time.”
They’ve crossed their first Friedman Unit of acceptance. How many more “another six months” will it take? One? Two? Ten? And will it just be them? Or is it another six months for mom, and another six months for dad, and another six months for each of my professors, and another six months for each of my coworkers? How about another six months for each of the members of the trans community who won’t get it right until I’m post-op? How about another six months for each of the members of the LGB community who thinks trans people are really just confused gays?
Each thinks theirs is the only ball of intolerance I am juggling. Eventually I will get pushed over my limit, so if a person doesn’t want to be one of the balls I sacrifice by crushing to ease my frustration and lighten my load, they need to be part of the solution and not the problem. I can’t keep juggling well-meaning bigotry forever.
Post Script (12/25/12)
I wish I could say things have changed in the 15 months since I wrote this. My father still routinely gets it wrong, and repeatedly fails to correct himself when I am not in the room. I have to wonder if he has given up even trying, at times. He refuses to acknowledge that it is hurtful and disappointing. All the more disappointing due precisely to his insistence that it is wrong of me to be insulted because he didn’t mean it. How very Kantian of him, though it doesn’t solve anything.
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