Views » Savage Love

Savage Love

The word transgender is an adjective like "blue" or "tall": It's not a noun or verb.

comment

I recently wrote an article that described an MTF person I know as "transgendered." The article was positive about transgendered persons I have known (she is one of many). Upon seeing a draft prior to publication, this person flipped out so hard that I felt compelled to cut off contact with her. I also killed the article. One of her complaints was that I used the word "transgendered" to describe her, and she identifies as something other than that. Have you heard of this? What is the new term if it's not OK to say "transgendered" anymore?

Confused In Straightland

"Let's assume CIS got the subject's identity right (versus genderqueer or agender) and is being respectful," said Shadi Petosky, a writer, a trans woman and the cofounder of PUNY Entertainment. "CIS isn't showing respect for the English language." Transgender is an adjective like "blue" or "tall": It's not a noun or verb. So the correct term is "transgender man," "transgender woman," or "transgender person."

"It might help if CIS thinks about the adjectives gay or black," said Petosky. "You're a gay man or you're gay. You're not ‘gayed.' The president is a black man. He's not a blacked man. ... And to say that Dan Savage is ‘a gay' or Barak Obama is ‘a black' sounds homophobic or racist because it dehumanizes. If you are saying transgender or trans outside of ‘they're transgender,' you have to put man, woman or person (or human) after it. Because that is what we are."

If all you got wrong was that one thing, and your transgender friend blew up at you, that's unfortunate. An opportunity to educate a well-meaning ally was lost, a friendship was nuked, and a transgender angel didn't get her wings that day.

But trans folks have an awful lot to be angry about, from staggering levels of anti-trans violence to discrimination in employment to a lack of access to basic health care. At times, righteous trans anger seems to get directed at whoever is nearest at hand, however well-intentioned or supportive that person might be. (Cough, cough.)

But Petosky would like you — and glittery me — to keep that misdirected anger in perspective: "If CIS's friend recently came out, then he was dealing with a person who is probably going through a lot of trauma and anxiety. When I transitioned, I thought I was going to lose my business, kill my dating chances and end up homeless. Many trans people do. People called me ‘he' most of the time in those early months. My self-image was in shambles. I lashed out at some gay friends for saying things that were less than supportive. Gay men were actually some of the worst because they could be — they can be — sarcastic about stuff I was really sensitive about. It's not like trans people have no sense of who the real bad guys are. We're just trying to feel safe close to home first."

So something about your article rubbed your trans friend the wrong way — maybe it was the way you brandished her as proof of your own high-mindedness? Hopefully you two will be able to patch things up.

On a related note: Media Matters for America has covered the outrageous and damaging anti-trans bigotry that Fox News routinely spews. (These posts at MediaMatters.com will bring you up to speed: "Experts: Fox News' Coverage Contributes to Violence, Discrimination Against Transgender Community" and "Fox News' Transphobia Problem.") Far be it from me to give the trans-rights movement marching orders, but ... if a coalition of queer and trans-rights groups called for a big demonstration outside the Fox News studios in Manhattan, I would be there along with tons of other gay, lesbian, straight and bi cissies. How about it?

Follow Shadi Petosky on Twitter @shadipetosky.

I'm a 37-year-old male and I've never had a girlfriend. I lost my virginity when I was 25 and proceeded to have sex with dozens of women over the next five years, but none lasted more than a night or two. Over the next few years, I dated with the goal of finding a relationship, not sex, and found neither, then a few years of depression. Am I screwed? Will women my age be willing to date someone with no relationship experience?

Hope Over Personal Experience

There are tons of women your age who have similar dating histories — or no dating histories at all — and you won't be at a disadvantage, if you're willing to date them. Create a few online profiles, and be honest and unapologetic about your history and your desire for a relationship. State that you are looking for a woman understanding enough to look past your inexperience, and that you are willing and able to do the same.

Any tips on getting over unrequited love? I'm a male who fell in love with a girl who didn't want to proceed with a relationship. I have tried the gym, movies, socializing and dating other women, but I can't get her off my mind. To make matters worse, I will be running into her a lot in a professional setting in a few months. It has been 1.5 years, and I still haven't gotten over her.

She Moved On

For two years, I pined for a guy I couldn't have, certain I would never get over him. So I called him one day and asked him to have lunch. The plan: convince him to leave his boyfriend for me or, failing that, to resume cheating on his boyfriend with me. But five minutes into lunch, I realized I wasn't attracted to him anymore. It wasn't that I couldn't get over him, but that my ego wouldn't let me get over being dumped. With that realization, the spell broke. Maybe you'll have the same experience when you run into this woman in a professional setting? If not, keep trying the gym, movies, etc. until the spell breaks or your life ends, whichever comes first.

On the Savage Lovecast, family law for the polyamorous: savagelovecast.com.

Add a comment