Thursday, 8 March 2012

Dear Cis Friends

Dear cisgender friends and acquaintances,

Is it too much to ask, when I tell you that I am using a different name and pronouns now from the ones that you are used to, is it too much to ask that you just say "ok"? Must I every. single. time. hear how difficult it is going to be for you, how confusing it is to suddenly start using different words? Must I be told how supportive you are of my decision, and how brave you think I am?

Must you tell me every. single. time. that I must make allowances for you, and forgive you when you make mistakes, because it will be really. really. hard. for you?

Do you think you are special and different? Do you think you are the only one to say that to me today - this week - this month? Do you think you will show me how tolerant you are, by telling me that you will try your hardest but you will undoubtedly slip up sometimes, and I shouldn't be hurt because you're trying so very hard?

Listen, my lovelies, I know it's hard. I know I'm asking you to check yourself every time you instinctively reach for the words that you think identify me, and I know that it's a challenge and that you will fuck up. I even know that you know that, and that you mean so, so well when you tell me that it will be difficult for you. But how difficult do you think it is for me to hear that? Every time I tell somebody, I get the same response (when I'm lucky, and it's a positive response!). How difficult do you think it is to hear, over and over again, that my life is hard for you to rub along with? How much better do you think I would feel if you just said "ok Ollie" and then tried your best, rather than making sure that I know just how hard you're going to try? There's so much pressure there - so much weight. You know what I hear when you say that? "Ok, I'll tolerate this, if I must, but never forget that I'm doing you a huge favour, and make sure you make it easy for me by forgiving my errors in advance."

Now, I know that that's not what you mean. I know you are genuinely supportive, and genuinely conscientious, and genuinely worried that you will mess up and I will be upset. But can't you see the weight that puts me under? Can't you see how much you're adding to my load? I know you're going to mess it up sometimes. I'm not going to hate you for that, and I'm going to trust you when you say that you mean well and that you didn't do it to hurt me or deny my identity. I believe in your support, and your effort, and your love. Please stop asking me for constant preemptive reassurances that my identity can slip your mind with impunity.

Yours in hope,



  1. I noticed when my friend used a totally different name, it was easier. I kept "messing up" and I didn't mean to, I was SO embarrassed! Example (not the real example): If someone is already "Lee" and doesn't change their name when they transition, this may not *signal* the gender change to the outsider/cis-person. However, when she decided to go to a totally different name like "Susannah"--well, that signified (to me) a major change and I could easily do that. (I dunno why, maybe other people are the reverse?) But I have known lots of political folks who have decided they are going to call themselves "Fidel" or "Sedition" or something (LOL--really) and bikers who wanted to be "Ace" or "Shark" and I have never had any trouble with that kind of thing.

    I have had a more difficult time with another of my friends, not sure why, possibly because we met in a female-gender-specific place and now he is not that gender, but I keep defaulting (in my head). Perhaps I have just known more trans women than trans men; he is my first!

    These things take practice, especially if you are over 50, as I am. Trans people have of course been around forever (Pope Joan, yo!) but not where the rest of us have been part of the process. As Andrea Dworkin said, the community must also take responsibility for the transition.

    My very best to you! (kiss)

    1. Hiya Daisy, thanks for reading!

      Aah I know, I'm being pretty demanding with this, and I *do* appreciate the impulse to apologise in advance. It comes from a good place, I know. I think it's the 'major change' aspect of it that freaks people out - many of them know how they *ought* to respond and are scared of not living up to that, and hurting my feelings. So I get mad and write an angry blog post about them :-p