No offence

Aug. 13th, 2014 02:48 am
jewelfox: A portrait of a female anthropomorphic fox, with a pink jewelled pendant and a cute overbite. (Default)
[personal profile] jewelfox

Earlier, I realized that if someone tells me not to be selfish, it's usually because they want to keep the selfishness all to themselves. I'm now convinced that if someone tells me not to take offence, it's because they're going to start dishing it out.

Content note: Transphobia, religious abuse, brief strong language, and victim-blaming.

Today while I was at the psychiatrist's office, two people behind the counter referred to me using male pronouns. I was not presenting as female at the time, but it hurt, just like it always does.

I typed up a note on my phone explaining (in essence) that "I'm not a 'he,' just so you know ... " and discreetly showed it to the two. One of them just said "okay." The other one looked at me like I'd grown a new tail.


Her: What?

Me: *quietly* Please don't refer to me using male pronouns.

Her: What?

Me: I would really prefer that you use female pronouns for me.

Her: What?

Me: I'm not a 'he.' Please call me a 'she.'

Her: ... I don't get it. Why? What is this?

Me: *still trying to talk quietly enough that the rest of the room doesn't hear me* I am transgender. It is very hurtful to me, and makes my depression worse, when you use male pronouns to refer to me. Please stop.

Her: ... oh. Well, I mean, you can't BLAME me-

Me: I know. I am not upset with you [blatant lies]. I am letting you know so that you won't do it again.

After that I went around the corner to get water and take some medicine, and while I was getting it out I heard people laughing and talking about "pronouns" behind me.

Slow-motion replay

So, to recap the sequence of events:

  1. I took a risk in expressing my preference of pronouns, in the hopes that people working behind the counter at a psychiatrist's office where a trans woman is being treated would respect that.

  2. One of the people I voiced this preference to made me justify it to her, as though the fact that I'm not cis makes it any less hurtful and offensive to be publicly misgendered.

  3. I had to (quietly) out myself in front of a room full of people, before she would give me the same respect most people would show a cisgender person who pointed out she'd been misgendered.

  4. Instead of apologizing for misgendering me, this person at first refused to be corrected and then tried to justify herself by telling another woman, to her face, that she doesn't look female at all. Which is a) pointing out the obvious (in my case), and b) something that most people don't do unless they want to be slapped.

  5. This person did not even wait until I was out of earshot, before making fun of the fucking tranny who thought she deserved to be seen as a person. (This is not self-deprecation, but bitter, bitter sarcasm.)

Or in other words, if you want to look at it the way I was taught to in the church I was raised in and can't help remembering now ...

  1. Someone innocently made the reasonable assumption that I am the gender I'm presenting as right now. (I'll agree with them that it was innocent and reasonable, but I'll also point out that they would not say things like "presenting as" because they have no words for trans* people or concepts, except things like "sin" or "against the commandments." Basically, the same ones they'd use for murder, armed robbery, and masturbation.)

  2. I said something so bizarre and incomprehensible that they were taken aback, and needed to have me explain it to them.

You know what? I can't actually keep going with this. I'll just sum up by saying that for people who think this way, personhood is not binary. I.e., the question isn't whether you are or aren't a person, it's how much personhood you deserve.

Do they look like you? Act like you? Dress like you? Do they wear the same sacred underwear? Do they use words and phrases that mark them as part of your social group, or do they use profanity, drink coffee, or otherwise out themselves as being different from you?

To the degree that they don't, it's okay to make fun of them. To publicly question their life decisions. To express pity and sorrow for them, that they aren't a full person like you. To deny them basic rights, through legislation, discrimination, and simple jerkassery. To treat them completely differently from the way that you would a full person, like I tried to point out above, and to think it's their fault that you do so.

That's what makes crap like this so toxic:

[...] it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make [...]

In many instances, choosing to be offended is a symptom of a much deeper and more serious spiritual malady. [...]

One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”

This crap is toxic because it does matter. It matters that I was laughed at, and treated like less of a person. It matters that I was hurt in the place that I came to for help. And it matters that I spent hours after that hating myself, hating that I have to be this way, and wondering if this is what the rest of my life will be like.

"Choosing to not be offended" does not help. Not when it means being made to feel you're a bad person for having or expressing hurt feelings.

What helped us, in this case, was letting this person be wrong. Or in other words, realizing we're hurting because we are seeing ourself the way she does, when we should be seeing her the way that a just society would -- as someone who said and did something really hurtful and offensive, and who needs to apologize and be disciplined for that.

Instead of hiding my feelings from everyone, I vented them on Skype to my partners, and got hugs and ice cream and reassurance. We're also going to lodge a formal complaint against the person in question, in the hopes that this will not happen again. To us or to anyone else.

If that doesn't work, we may just switch providers again.

Closing thoughts

Mormon church leaders and other abusers don't want to let you "switch providers." They belittle you, and make you think you deserve to be mistreated ... that no one else could ever treat you so well. They're terrible to other people, and expect to be given the benefit of the doubt for their "mistakes" even when they do nothing to correct them, and demand that you beg their forgiveness if you do something they don't like. Which, for people that make a crime out of "taking offence," they are remarkably good at doing so themselves.

My family of origin thought I came out as transgender just to hurt them.

I should have told them to choose not to be offended.

Date: 2014-08-13 11:08 am (UTC)
burning_ground: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burning_ground
Yeah ISN'T THAT FUNNY that people expect other people to not be offended the offensive crap they say, because heavens forbid THEY get offended. D:

One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, “it mattereth not.”

I remember reading about how Jesus was huge on that. Woman about to get stoned? "It mattereth not." Money changers in the temple? "It mattereth not." HAH. Jesus never ever voiced offense!

But really, that's probably the most unrealistic expectation ever, of oneself or of others, if serious disadvantage is in the picture.

Keep on tellin' em! To hell with subservience-inducing dogma! And I hope you get a serious apology when those people behind the desk learn their lesson.

Date: 2014-08-15 06:14 am (UTC)
burning_ground: (Default)
From: [personal profile] burning_ground

You are more than welcome~ I guess it might go without saying, but, yeah...

I also hope something like this doesn't happen again at that office, but I'm still crossing my fingers for an apology. X)

Date: 2014-08-13 12:47 pm (UTC)
yourdeer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] yourdeer
Yeah, "choosing not to be offended," about certain things doesn't really work, for sure. One can sometimes have an easier time brushing things off if one is lucky or privileged, because it's way easier to say, "This offense does not matter," if other things are going well, like if one's family is supportive or one feels safe in one's workplace, etc. But if those other things are not going well, then offenses are going to have way, way more weight because they're yet another stone on a large heap, rather than an occasional lone pebble.
It's definitely unfair for members of a majority to assume that any member of a minority does have that luck and privilege and would thus be less likely to feel deeply hurt. (I see that around here fairly often, where public opinion is more positive towards LGBT issues - straight folks forget that not every LGBT person is/has been safe in their home or workplace, has friends and family who accept them, etc., and say insensitive things as a result. And then the straight folks act as though they're the ones who have been offended when an LGBT person indicates that the other person was being insensitive to their struggles or the struggles of other LBGT people.) And it's especially problematic coming from someone working in a mental health profession!
I'm sorry that you had to deal with that kind of crap and I hope your complaint makes a difference.

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