Back in 2016 the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) published a guide to “not offending trans people” which is linked here in all its glory. Because this phenomenon is not going away, I’m looking for evidence that the discussion around “not offending trans people” has matured into something we can all live with.
But firstly, the definition of trans. The 2016 article suggested this: “A person whose gender identity differs from the one assigned to them at birth.” The use of fighting words (“assigned”) didn’t help in 2016, when most people would have bitten back with: “Someone whose gender identity differs from their actual gender.” It seems we’ve settled on a John Lydgate-esque compromise in 2021: “A person whose gender identity is opposite the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth“. I know, I know, it’s splitting hairs.
In 2016, identifying the right pronoun to use was like tiptoeing through a minefield. We were exhorted not to ask for a preferred pronoun, “because then it almost sounds like a choice”. Instead, we should memorize a script: “I’d really like to be respectful and clarify what pronouns you use.” In 2021 we’re just careful to use names and gender-neutral pronouns until we get a hint. We should all be relieved that the ‘ze’ and ‘hir’ thing never caught on.
In 2016 it was considered rude to ask a trans person if they’ve “had the op” because it’s frankly insulting and none of our damn business. The advice: Wait until the person brings it up (if they ever do) before gently satisfying your curiosity. In 2021 this hasn’t changed much. Nobody asks whether you’re considering surgery to correct your micropenis, or whether labiaplasty is the answer to your giant clam. Trans people aren’t there for entertainment.
The practice of “dead naming” was oficially declared verbotten in 2016. You weren’t permitted to call hir ‘Bruce’ anymore, it had to be “Caitlyn” for fear of public exsanguination by a shrieking Twitterstorm of SJW’s. Ellen Page is now a transgender man called Elliott who’s happy to pursue his ‘authentic self’ whatever that means. Let’s see if it translates to more movie offers for Elliott because in 2021 this is a bit passe. Nobody except Elliott’s parent’s care if he wants to cut his tits off and wear baggy jeans.
In 2016 there was an outcry against non-trans people “speaking on behalf” of trans people. Germain Greer copped it big-time. Asking anybody not-trans to comment on trans issues was extra double-plus inappropriate, like a white girl wearing goddess braids. Appropriation alert!! But it’s totally okay for Black women to straighten their hair, just sayin’. While the dissembling continues in 2021, there are now so many trans voices baying for attention that Others, even those as qualified to comment as Ms Greer (and feminism) can finally retire.
The last point in the 2016 guide was censoring “negative” trans stories. The unbelievable suicide rates of trans folk might discourage a confused 11-year old from amputating his penis, so let’s not publish them. A buried report by the American Society for Plastic Surgeons shows that sex-reassignment surgery grew by 155% 2016-17, with trans men (+289%) dwarfing trans women (+41%). Obviously it’s easier to be-penis than de-penis. Girls want to be boys more than boys want to be girls. I get it. Nevertheless, I see the destruction of women’s sports, and a binful of dicks.
Sorry if that is insulting or disrespectful. Women’s sport may survive. I actually don’t care about the whole trans thing. Live and let live. I’ll only wake from torpid slumber the day ‘guides’ become ‘recommendations’ become ‘procedures’ become ‘policies’ become ‘regulations’ become ‘law’. When the law mandates I call somebody whatever-the-fuck that individual wants to be called that day, I’ll announce that I’m a large, rainbow-coloured starfish called Greer and let you work it out, respectfully.