Times — and opinions — are changing in our world. We have a growing awareness of what it means to be trans. Though as much as we change and learn to be more compassionate, transgender rights are still highly debated, and discrimination against trans people rife. We need to be part of the change to make understanding and acceptance the normal response instead of the exceptional one.
Photo via Wikipedia
Transgender people identify with a different gender to the sex they were assigned at birth. You will hear the terms transsexual, and non-binary as well as transgender when discussing this subject. A trans person is trans, whether they choose to have surgery and take hormones or not. They’re also just a person like those of us who aren’t trans; it really isn’t more complicated than that.
A whole new vocabulary?
Some people talk about the trans community as though they are deliberately being difficult or using language that we don’t know purely to get attention. Can you imagine waking up in a body you didn’t identify with and suffering all the prejudice and dysmorphia that goes with it for fun? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Equally, it doesn’t make sense that people get so outraged that others identify differently than the sex they were born with. What difference does it make to us as individuals who don’t have that experience? Why can’t trans people just be allowed to live without their existence being debated all the time?
If you are trans, you are trans, if you aren’t, you are cis; nothing changes about your existence because the person sat next to you on the bus might be transgender, or nonbinary. If you can’t look at a person and ‘tell’ which sex they are, then just smile and be polite; they’re a person just like you, not a puzzle to be solved!
Photo via Flickr
The difficulty with pronouns is how hard it is to use a preferred pronoun over a perceived or presumed one. So very difficult; or is it? If someone asks you to use a specific set of pronouns, all you have to do is… do it. You might slip up and make a genuine mistake; it only takes correcting yourself to change that. Why make life that much more unpleasant for someone by debating the pronouns they’ve chosen to use?
Especially if you live in an English speaking country! We already have a perfectly accepted pronoun for those who are non-binary or just prefer not to be identified with a he or she. They/them works perfectly in our language already; we use these words without realising all the time. So why is such a fuss made when people ask us to use them?
In languages without the single use of they, that can be more difficult. Though difficult doesn’t mean impossible, does it? You might use nin in Germany, though not everyone does. And in gendered languages like Spanish or Portuguese where word endings change depending on the masculinity or femininity of the person being spoken, well, that is vastly more complicated! You could ask, you could see how others address the person you are speaking to; everyone will feel differently and there is no blanket response in these languages. The only blanket response, really, whoever you’re talking to, is to be polite. Which isn’t hard at all, now is it?
Discrimination and change
Until trans people can use bathrooms without being harassed and assaulted, and can go about their lives without others hearing opinions on why their existence is harmful to others, we have work to do, to change our own perception as well as that of others. Until their I.D. cards, passports, driver’s licences, general mail, and so on uses the pronouns and names they want them to, legally, the rest of us should maybe take a moment to realise just how privileged we are. Most of us don’t have a fight on our hands every time we fill in a form, or go through life having to explain our existence. Trans people do. All the time. To give you the most simple example; if you get annoyed when the barista in your local Starbucks continually gets your name wrong, imagine having to deal with that everywhere you go, every day of your life, and people correcting you for it?
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