I think I’ve probably referenced before that one of my best friends is transgendered and the person who visits here in Denmark the most frequently is also transgendered. With the former, I’m the one he came out to and aside from talking about decisions to take testosterone or complimenting him on passing the “sniff test”, it’s not something we really talk about. I’ve known him since years before and he’s always been the same person. With my friend in Denmark, I’ve only known her post transition and since she’s on a waiting list for surgery, it’s a pretty big part of her life, so we talk about it a lot. She knows that I don’t believe in gender and generally think of transgender as a failure of society, though I leave room that there may be people who genuinely feel they were born in the wrong body. We don’t agree on everything, but we’re respectful and explore our points of view a lot.
I had another friend in college, we weren’t particularly close, but we’re both good at keeping in touch. Roughly five years after graduation she came out as bi (maybe she used the world pan-sexual? I’m not sure. It’s one of those terms I reject, because it implies there are more than two genders and while I get there can be a lot of nuance, especially if you’re intersex, I feel it’s just overly complicated and often has this whole sanctimonious side of people claiming they love the person and not their body parts, which is an offensive simplification of how heterosexuals and homosexuals feel.) and was engaged to another woman, whom I didn’t get along with, but, hey, wasn’t my potential life mate. They had some couples trouble and I made the mistake of referring to the financee as being a bad husband. My friend flew off the handle. Turns out the fiancee was transgender and so she took particular offense at the generally masculine word, even though I was using it like people use animal husbandry i.e. the person in the relationship who was being the bread winner as opposed to the homemaker. This lead to the friend saying a number of hurtful things to me about my heteronormative point of view and when I tried to step out of the fray by pointing out that, yes, I had a very 1950’s upbringing that effected my point of view and that every homosexual couple I knew were my parents age and had relationships indistinguishable from their heterosexual counterparts. I told her it was OK if she felt I was a bigot, but this was who I was, I was owning it, I could see her point of view, but hoped she could also see mine, or at least that both of us could try. She wouldn’t accept this. She told me my world view was unacceptable and I was hurting her by continuing to believe in it. So I dropped off the face of the earth i.e. I stopped answering any communications from her. This lasted for years, into the birth of my children, time to time she’d reach out and be answered with silence.
A lot happens in one’s life. My continuously deteriorating relationship with my siblings hit the point where they stopped answering any of my communications. It hurt. I had a friendship sour and the same thing happened, reach out and receive silence. This had me thinking about the college friend and I’ve always tried to live by “treat others how you want to be treated”, so I sent her an email. And I got an email back. Among other major changes in her life, she’d switched sexes, which I found insulting, because to me, going transgender is the ultimate gender binary conformation. By switching sexes, it’s saying that there’s only two sexes and if you don’t fit one you must belong to the other. It was obvious reconnecting was not going to go well and I tried to backpedal quickly, which turned into another round of emails of being bludgeoned over the head with sentences about how my world view was hurting her. This was further compounded by her insistence that she was now a gender non-conforming dude and despite me repeatedly asking her to define what gender meant, what dude meant and any of these other loaded and essential tones to her identity she refused to acknowledge and instead kept hammering on my refusal to address her by her new male name, though I will point out that I neither used her former female name either.
Now I realize that gendered pronouns are in a lot of ways just linguistic randomness and I’m perfectly happy to use whatever set a person wants, but in the case of someone haranguing me about being too much into gender binary, then switching genders, but muddying the whole concept by saying she went from woman to a dude, but not a masculine dude, is too much for me to handle and I just couldn’t do it. I don’t have any sympathy for people who vote to take away other’s rights, be it reproductive, romantic, religious or otherwise, but at the same time I feel like I suddenly have more sympathy for people who grew up with values and world views that are very different from the norm. If someone wants to live in their own little bigot bubble and not associate with people outside of it, as long as they aren’t voting to take away people’s rights, just let them be. “You hurt my feelings” shouldn’t be weaponized.