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May 16, 2007 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Cutenewsfilter: Fresno, California high school crowns first transgender prom queen. Woot!
posted by serazin (150 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Falwell's dead one day, and already it's bedlam.
posted by aparrish at 11:36 AM on May 16, 2007 [27 favorites]


Falwell's dead one day, and already it's bedlam.

Maybe he's reincarnated.
posted by jonmc at 11:38 AM on May 16, 2007


Maybe he's reincarnated.

In Fresno? Well, then he is truly damned.
posted by phaedon at 11:41 AM on May 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


well I'll be damned.
posted by shmegegge at 11:45 AM on May 16, 2007


And people wonder how the Terminator got elected. Damn Californians.
posted by nixerman at 11:46 AM on May 16, 2007


Note to article author: you call transgender people the pronoun that they are portraying, not what their physical gender is.
posted by triolus at 11:46 AM on May 16, 2007


Boy howdy, all hell is going to break out in Fresno now.
posted by blucevalo at 11:48 AM on May 16, 2007


Absolutely no points to the Fresno Bee for referring to Ms. Vera as "he." But congratulations to the prom queen anyway!

(Back in college, we had a campaign to elect our friend Michael as homecoming queen. Michael wasn't transgendered, though, just flamingly gay and a habitual transvestite. He didn't win.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:49 AM on May 16, 2007


Do what'cha wanna do
Be what'cha wanna be
I love you
I love me
It don't matter if its straight
or a trannie.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:49 AM on May 16, 2007


Good on that school for being so cool about it, and good for her!

And she looks good in that dress, btw.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 11:50 AM on May 16, 2007


Next: locusts.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:53 AM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's the kind of world I want to live in.
posted by Floydd at 11:54 AM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


The only other California town this could have happened in that would have (pleasantly, I suppose) shocked me more is Bakersfield.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:54 AM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Vera prefers the pronoun "she," but most people at Roosevelt High refer to Vera as "he." Vera isn't too hung up on pronouns.

"You have to let the little stuff sweat right off," Vera said.

posted by Aloysius Bear at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Thank you triolus, that is what I was coming here to say.
posted by sneakin at 11:57 AM on May 16, 2007


well I'll be damned.

You're damned, I'm damned, she's damned, Falwell's damned, the river's dammed, and the damned are damned, dammit.
posted by eriko at 11:59 AM on May 16, 2007


He's a far cuter cheerleader than anyone I've seen on West Hollywood's squad, that's for sure.
[Not WeHo cheerleader-ist. They're faaabulous.]
posted by miss lynnster at 12:00 PM on May 16, 2007


This bit of news made me smile from ear to ear. Thanks for the link.
posted by gummi at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2007


Thanks for the link. This was a great story.

triolus: Note to article author: you call transgender people the pronoun that they are portraying, not what their physical gender is.

I'm as big a supporter of LGBT rights as the next... uh... boring vanilla Texan housewife (okay, maybe more so), but I don't agree with the argument that a transvestite should always be referred to by the pronoun his/her clothing indicates.

It's a news story. How is not editorializing, to do anything other than report the facts? The fact is that Johnny Vera is legally considered a male. Good on Johnny for winning prom queen, and I personally would say that to her face.

But when it comes to the newspaper, the issue should be one of journalistic style, and not political correctness or whether one is pro-LGBT rights.
posted by pineapple at 12:07 PM on May 16, 2007


"You have to let the little stuff sweat right off," Vera said.

I know she has more important things to care about than pronouns, and I'm glad she keeps her cool, but that doesn't mean I can't get pissed off on her behalf. I like a little righteous indignation in the afternoon.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:07 PM on May 16, 2007


I will, however, let somebody else have the pleasure of explaining to pineapple why Vera is not a transvestite.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:09 PM on May 16, 2007


Cute

I'm not sure that word means what you think it does.
posted by Big_B at 12:10 PM on May 16, 2007


I'm holding out for Tyler Perry porn.
posted by phaedon at 12:11 PM on May 16, 2007


I'm as big a supporter of LGBT rights as the next... uh... boring vanilla Texan housewife (okay, maybe more so), but I don't agree with the argument that a transvestite should always be referred to by the pronoun his/her clothing indicates.

She's not a transvestite. She's transgender. And we should call her what she wants to be called, not what we think she should be called.

Also, is there something in the water in Fresno? Cuz at Fresno High, there's an FTM kid who's running for prom king. Go Fresno!
posted by rtha at 12:13 PM on May 16, 2007


Note to Pineapple and other Texas housewives: transvestite ≠ transgender. There's a huge difference.
posted by luriete at 12:14 PM on May 16, 2007


Well, pineapple, there's a lot of real estate between transgender people and transvestites. Convention, legal status notwithstanding, is to refer to the former by their professed gender. Transvestites just wear the clothing.
posted by kosem at 12:16 PM on May 16, 2007


"We live in a generation now where dudes are chicks and chicks are dudes."

Girls will be boys and boys will be girls, it's a mixed up muddled up shook up world...

I'm amazed anybody knows what the hell they are anymore, but as a wise man once said: we're born naked, anything else is drag.
posted by jonmc at 12:16 PM on May 16, 2007


Lovely!

Needs a 'fabulous' tag ...
posted by carter at 12:16 PM on May 16, 2007


This is awesome. I need little hits of good news once in a while. :o)
posted by everichon at 12:17 PM on May 16, 2007


Girlfriend rocks that prom dress. Go, Johnny, go!
posted by Space Kitty at 12:19 PM on May 16, 2007


To luriete, kosem, et al.: Wikipedia says they are overlapping categories, rather than a "huge difference", "lot of real estate", etc. Is this a definitional controversy?
posted by found missing at 12:21 PM on May 16, 2007


and if the San Francisco Chronicle can manage to call a transgender person by the correct pronoun, I reckon the Bee can, too.

Newsweek has a surprisingly good article about trans people and the issues they face.

posted by rtha at 12:21 PM on May 16, 2007


as a wise man once said: we're born naked, anything else is drag.

At first I read that as "anything else is a drag," which makes sense as well.
posted by brain_drain at 12:23 PM on May 16, 2007


Go, Johnny, go!

in Northern California, up near ol' Fresno
where it's the California Raisins grow
the stood a high school made of concrete and brick
where the Prom Queen was a dude who liked to dress like a chick

Go, Johnny, Go...

he used to carry his lipstick in a Prada bag
and sit in the cafeteria dressed up in drag
The principal would see him hang out in the school
and hey whatever, he/she's cool

Go, Johnny, Go...
posted by jonmc at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that transvestites are people (usually men) who dress in women's clothes on a sort of part-time basis, and they don't necessarily feel they are women - they just like wearing women's clothing. Transgender is more of an umbrella term, but is used more to describe people who feel they are not in the "right" body, and live more or less full-time as the opposite gender, whether or not they have surgery.
posted by rtha at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2007


Is this a definitional controversy?

I'm fairly sure they are distinct identities and wasn't aware the two definitions "overlapped".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:26 PM on May 16, 2007


Look at her face, chick's totally stoked.
posted by The Straightener at 12:27 PM on May 16, 2007


But when it comes to the newspaper, the issue should be one of journalistic style, and not political correctness or whether one is pro-LGBT rights.

Gender is a different thing than sex, and pronouns are gendered, not sexed. Frankly, it's much more editorializing for political correctness to call someone who's gender is obviously female "he," simply because her sex organs are male. This becomes more clear in a cross-cultural perspective, where you'll have third, fourth, even fifth genders based on the various permutations. But changing the pronoun based on sex rather than gender, that's where you get into judgment calls.
posted by jefgodesky at 12:28 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


This really made my day. More so for the quotes the reporter received from other staudents...it just seems like a helluva more comfortable and tolerant high school environment than the one I experienced.

With that kind of courage and (pardon me) balls, Johnny's sure to go far.
posted by NationalKato at 12:30 PM on May 16, 2007


Diva J

She identifies as a he on his/her myspace page.
posted by The Straightener at 12:31 PM on May 16, 2007


Also, is there something in the water in Fresno? Cuz at Fresno High, there's an FTM kid who's running for prom king. Go Fresno!

Wow. If they somehow got together... Irony+++
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:31 PM on May 16, 2007


great story! good on vera.
posted by nihlton at 12:32 PM on May 16, 2007


found missing: Not a definitional controversy at all. I am a dude. If I wear a dress habitually, but maintain that I am a dude who just wears a dress, I am a transvestite. In this case, I'm a man who wears (what are traditionally considered to be) women's clothing.

If I am a person with a penis who feels that I am a woman, identify as "she" I am transgender. If, in this situation, I wear a dress also, I wouldn't consider myself a transvestite. I'm a woman wearing women's clothing. I was born with the wrong genitals.

They are not mutually exclusive, (because you might describe someone who has a penis but identifies as a woman and wears a dress as a transvestite and a MTF transsexual) but as my second example hopefully illustrates, there is a normative judgment involved in saying that a transgender person wearing the clothes of their professed gender is cross-dressing.
posted by kosem at 12:32 PM on May 16, 2007


Wow, cool school. Go Johnny.
posted by dejah420 at 12:33 PM on May 16, 2007


This is awesome. Congrats to her.
posted by dead_ at 12:35 PM on May 16, 2007


Why are all these transgendered transvestites 6'-4" "in heals"? My wife's school has one of those....

They made a big stink about it in the local paper because she was complaining that they busted her for dressing in skirts. Turns out that what they busted her for was wearing a skirt that was way too short (regardless of what equipment she was or wasn't hiding....)
posted by Doohickie at 12:35 PM on May 16, 2007


I'm curious, too. When the topic comes up on MeFi, et al, a big point is generally made out of how transgender and transvestite are different, but without explaining how. Then when I look it up, I always seem to find transvestitism as being a subset of transgenderism. Are they just different in the sense that a square is always a rectangle but a rectangle isn't always a square?

(Note: I understand that in this case, the person is not a transvestite, but, according to wikipedia, a transsexual. Is that correct?)
posted by Bugbread at 12:36 PM on May 16, 2007


Local news.
posted by carter at 12:37 PM on May 16, 2007


Woot indeed. Good for her. Good for Fresno.
posted by brundlefly at 12:37 PM on May 16, 2007


Wow, that made my day! This gives me hope that younger generations aren't reducible to the incoherent vileness one sees in youtube comments. If I could go back in time and present this article to my high-school self (a decade and a half ago), I wouldn't never have believed it, not in a million years. *wipes tear from eye*

On the pronoun thing, it's generally customary to refer to a transgendered person by the pronoun corresponding to the gender with which they identify. However, in this case, I'm willing to cut the Bee some slack given that this person still goes by the name "Johnny." In my experience, referring to someone by a different pronoun usually goes hand-in-hand with calling them by a new or modified name.
posted by treepour at 12:38 PM on May 16, 2007


Fresno just doesn't have the same ring to it as Transylvania.
posted by NationalKato at 12:38 PM on May 16, 2007


Sorry, long delay between when I wrote and when I clicked "Post Comment".

So am I understanding that the Wikipedia description of transgender is incorrect?
posted by Bugbread at 12:39 PM on May 16, 2007


Prom for a night, queen for a lifetime.

"Note to article author: you call transgender people the pronoun that they are portraying, not what their physical gender is."

Note to commentors: Style guides is style guides. Even with all the well-meaning political correctness y'all are spinning, expect a determination on this in about ten years from now. I mean, Christ, the AP still won't use two-letter state abbreviations because people might get confused. And the Internet will be capitalized forever.

Newspapers don't care what's correct or what's common parlance, but what's consistent.
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jerry Falwell just made his first 360 degree spin in the morgue. Wait 'til they place him in the casket. It won't be a "spin-free" zone, fer sure.
posted by ericb at 12:45 PM on May 16, 2007


There are also transgendered people who just prefer not to deal with gender in the first place, rather than artificially claim to their non-biological genders. In this case, which pronoun is used is usually more about social setting than anything.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:46 PM on May 16, 2007


Similar to what WolfDaddy says above, Fresno is one of the last places I've ever lived where I'd have expected this sort of openness. Thanks, serazin, for the heads-up. Although I'm here in Fresno, I tend to keep my eyes closed, so without MeFi, I'd have missed this for sure.
posted by cgc373 at 12:48 PM on May 16, 2007


Boy Who Would Be Queen - video.
posted by ericb at 12:49 PM on May 16, 2007


I know the difference between transgender and transvestite, thanks. I also noted that while the paper was quick to use transgender all over the place, the details of the story suggest that Vera does not present himself as a female all the time. Why was Vera named "Mr. Roughrider" at the homecoming? Why does Vera still use a man's name?

I also had to deal with this issue of the pronouns ad nauseam, over a piece I wrote years back about the Benjamin Brownlee / Tesia Samara transgender suicide case. The Austin American-Statesman got read the riot act for referring to 15-year-old Brownlee as "he" in their article on the case.

It's more complicated than what feels good. What a high school student, presumably minor, chooses to call him- or herself is not necessarily what is considered fact in the eyes of the law. I guarantee you that the Fresno school district is legally required to categorize Vera as a male.

We can feel in our hearts that if a teenager chooses to be female-gendered but male-sexed, then he damn skippy should get to call himself a girl and be referred to as "she" and that's just all there is to it! Wheeee!!!

But legally, factually, newsworthily, I don't see where the newspaper should be taken to task for deferring to the sex that Vera is born with. When Vera is an adult and decides to enter the LGBT rights fight full tilt, he can change the whole world if he wants to. But I maintain that it's a style issue. Really wanting it bad enough doesn't change that this is a news article, not an op-ed.

In the Gwen Araujo case, Gwen was definitely living as a woman. I think the SFChron stayed stylistically accurate there. I just don't see it the same way for this story.

For me, this is syntactical, not political. I think the Bee deserves credit for telling a good story, in a positive way, and not to be stoned for using he v. she.
posted by pineapple at 12:52 PM on May 16, 2007


Oh, and that all said— Way to go, Johnny! Our high school elected a guy as prom queen, but not a transgendered guy (I don't remember whether he was gay or not, this was like my freshman year of high school), and then it slipped into naming everyone prom king and queen. It was kinda funny seeing other schools in the area freak out about even letting two guys or two girls come together (or charging them a stag fee), when Commie High had sorted that all out years prior. I think they just abolished the royalty too, though it might be back (noting that kids there are more conservative now than when I was there).
posted by klangklangston at 12:52 PM on May 16, 2007


"I think a guy should be a king and a queen should be a girl, because I'm old-fashioned," Erica Cossio said before the vote. "But I don't think it's going to be surprising if he wins. It's not like some huge deal."


Well that's one naive high school senior right there. Your prom as far as the impact your high school activities have on the rest of your life is second only to your grade in Phys Ed.

She'll be a fry cook for sure. I blame the liberal culture of decadence.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:53 PM on May 16, 2007


This gives me hope that younger generations aren't reducible to the incoherent vileness one sees in youtube comments

"Even one of the other prom queen candidates didn't understand why there would be a fuss over Johnny winning.

'I think a guy should be a king and a queen should be a girl, because I'm old-fashioned,' Erica Cossio said before the vote. 'But I don't think it's going to be surprising if he wins. It's not like some huge deal.'"

There is hope with this Millennial Generation taking the reins.
posted by ericb at 12:55 PM on May 16, 2007


So am I understanding that the Wikipedia description of transgender is incorrect?

In conventional usage, I think most people, when they say "transgender," mean what Wikipedia means by either "transexual" or "genderqueer." It has to do with what gender(s) you identify with as opposed to what you happen to wear.
posted by treepour at 12:56 PM on May 16, 2007


a big point is generally made out of how transgender and transvestite are different, but without explaining how.

My understanding was always this: a dude who likes wearing chick's clothes is a transvestite. a dude who wants to be a chick is transgender. (for all the nitpickers: the same is true in the opposite direction)
posted by jonmc at 12:56 PM on May 16, 2007


XQUZYPHYR -- I actually interpreted that quote to indicate that while she considers herself to be "old-fashioned" she's tolerant of the situation and accepting of the fact that a transgendered classmate could/might win -- and others should not be freaked out by such an outcome.
posted by ericb at 12:59 PM on May 16, 2007


XQUZYPHYR -- oops -- maybe I need to adjust my satire or irony meter.
posted by ericb at 1:00 PM on May 16, 2007


pineapple writes "the details of the story suggest that Vera does not present himself as a female all the time. Why was Vera named 'Mr. Roughrider' at the homecoming? Why does Vera still use a man's name? "

Vera/Johnny didn't name himmerself Mr. Roughrider, s/he was named Mr. Roughrider. "It was an honor, but I don't like being called mister," Vera said.

There's no indication anywhere in the article that Vera calls himmerself "Johnny", either. All references made to Johnny are by other people.

pineapple writes "But legally, factually, newsworthily, I don't see where the newspaper should be taken to task for deferring to the sex that Vera is born with."

You're conflating three issues: Legal definitions, factual definitions, and newspaper definitions. Or, not even definitions, but nomenclature. Legally, Dick Cheney's name is "Richard Bruce Cheney". Factually, it is also "Richard Bruce Cheney". In newspaper nomenclature, he is "Dick Cheney".
posted by Bugbread at 1:02 PM on May 16, 2007


If I am a person with a penis who feels that I am a woman

I don't understand this clause. What does it mean that one feels like they are a "woman"? And for the record, I don't know the difference between tansgendered, transvestite, (or transsexual and transgendered), and wikipedia, while offering a clarifying definition, doesn't appear to agree with people here. So don't hesitate to explain it like I'm stupid, because with regard to this, I guess I am.
posted by Pastabagel at 1:04 PM on May 16, 2007


Okay. Tansgendered refers to bikini lines.
posted by found missing at 1:08 PM on May 16, 2007


(of course, transvestism would have to be at least somewhat a cultural concept since the efinition of 'women's clothes' and 'men's clothes' changes over time. a woman in pants and a t-shirt or a guy in long hair and earrings would at one point have been considered a transvestite or crossdresser, but now it barely raises an eyebrow. transsexualism is deeper and probably more biologically based (in my admittedly layman's opinion) in that the person believes that they are in the wrong body, not just the wrong clothes)
posted by jonmc at 1:09 PM on May 16, 2007


MTV: Putting the 'T' in GLBT -- Transgender: Least Understood of the GLBT Community.

MTV/LOGO Series: TransGeneration.
posted by ericb at 1:12 PM on May 16, 2007


If I am a person with a penis who feels that I am a woman

then it really does have a mind of its own.
posted by brain_drain at 1:13 PM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


There's no indication anywhere in the article that Vera calls himmerself "Johnny", either. All references made to Johnny are by other people.

If he lives as a woman with a female name and his parents supported the decision, Johnny could likely have changed his name with the school district. That happens all the time, esp in the case of children who formalize nicknames, or are adopted, etc. Yet, he did not. So, that the subject of the article didn't have the opportunity to address himself in the first person, doesn't make the case (for me, anyway) that Johnny actually uses a female identity but the paper missed it.

You're conflating three issues: Legal definitions, factual definitions, and newspaper definitions. Or, not even definitions, but nomenclature. Legally, Dick Cheney's name is "Richard Bruce Cheney". Factually, it is also "Richard Bruce Cheney". In newspaper nomenclature, he is "Dick Cheney".

Totally fair point. My intent was to discern between what the paper is going to write in a story of record, and what we all wish in our hearts could actually happen. But it remains that we have no hard evidence that Johnny has another name, that he lives full-time as a female, or that there are any extenuating circumstances that would stylistically mandate the newspaper using "she" -- other than the court of liberal public opinion.

p.s. totally agree about this post needing a "fabulous" tag.
posted by pineapple at 1:21 PM on May 16, 2007


himmerself

Himmerself? sounds like a German submarine commander.
posted by jonmc at 1:23 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


I don't understand this clause. What does it mean that one feels like they are a "woman"?

I think it means one feels that one's biological sex -- the sex of one's body -- is incorrect.

I doubt anyone could ever adequately explain exactly what it feels like to feel this, anymore than someone can explain exactly what it feels like to who one considers oneself to be.
posted by treepour at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2007


BTW -- related, but involving younger children --

New York Times: Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear. [registration-free link]
posted by ericb at 1:30 PM on May 16, 2007


To be more precise, the headline should read: Fresno, California high school crowns first known transgender prom queen .
posted by spock at 1:32 PM on May 16, 2007


methinks the pineapple doth protest too much.
posted by bruce at 1:33 PM on May 16, 2007


Would everyone still think it was neat if the majority of the class voted, not out of some activist or fairness sensibility, but because they thought the whole thing would be a great joke?
posted by spock at 1:34 PM on May 16, 2007


"In newspaper nomenclature, he is "Dick Cheney"."

Yes, because style guides on names go by what the subject prefers. Which is why you'll sometimes see transgendered folks called by the name they prefer, but not the pronoun.
posted by klangklangston at 1:35 PM on May 16, 2007


I feel that my race is incorrect. I know that I am a black man deep inside despite the caucasian features I was born with. I am going to have a hair transpant and some treatment so that I can fulfill who I was meant to be. I fully expect to be referred to as an African-American.
posted by flarbuse at 1:36 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


*denies flarbuse a loan*

close enough?
posted by jonmc at 1:37 PM on May 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


Don't the Prom King and Prom Queen traditionally share a dance or is that just on Saved By The Bell?

But if so, was that an issue?
posted by StopMakingSense at 1:39 PM on May 16, 2007


yes, it could lead to dancing.
posted by jonmc at 1:40 PM on May 16, 2007


I feel that my race is incorrect. I know that I am a black man deep inside despite the caucasian features I was born with.

Vice-versa.
posted by ericb at 1:45 PM on May 16, 2007


Well, god forbid. We'll have to get John Lithgow on it.
posted by StopMakingSense at 1:45 PM on May 16, 2007


Actually, I realize I entirely misread the actual article: I thought Vera was his female name, and Johnny his male/birth name. On reread, Vera is just his last name.

pineapple writes "But it remains that we have no hard evidence that Johnny has another name, that he lives full-time as a female, or that there are any extenuating circumstances that would stylistically mandate the newspaper using 'she' -- other than the court of liberal public opinion."

You don't have to have a female name to self-identify as female. If that were the case, Japan would have zero transsexuals, because name changes are not allowed here. So what's left is: does he self-identify as she? Do newspaper style guides say you should refer to transgendered people by their biological or mental genders?

In answer to the first question:
"Vera prefers the pronoun "she""
"It was an honor, but I don't like being called mister"
and no opposing quotes. So there isn't a lot of evidence, but all the evidence we have indicates that, yes, he self-identifies as a she.
(Note: I'm not going to count the newspaper's use of "transgendered" as another point of support for that, because there are two conflicting definitions, and I don't know which the author used when he/she wrote the article).

In answer to the second question:
I dunno. Presumably, each paper has their own style guide, so I think the odds of any of us knowing the Fresno Bee's style guide is pretty much nil.
posted by Bugbread at 1:49 PM on May 16, 2007


spock typed "Would everyone still think it was neat if the majority of the class voted, not out of some activist or fairness sensibility, but because they thought the whole thing would be a great joke?"

Not mutually exclusive. Ever been to a Gay Pride Parade?
posted by roll truck roll at 1:49 PM on May 16, 2007


jonmc writes "*denies flarbuse a loan*

"close enough?"


Random anecdote: A friend of the family, father from Algeria, mother from Texas, got turned down for an African-American scholarship for not being African-American.
posted by Bugbread at 1:51 PM on May 16, 2007


I watched this special by Barbara Walters the other night & I have to say it was surprisingly well done. It might give some people a little more empathy & understanding. Then again, maybe not.

All I can say is that when I watched the kids on that special, it was very very clear that they were not confused, it was the adults around them who were. The parents were the ones struggling with the sexuality of their children, the kids were the ones with the clear heads about themselves.

Nobody would ever choose to be transgendered. I've seen firsthand what the transition puts someone through and it royally, royally sucks. I can't imagine that even the biggest masochist on earth would find it enticing... ESPECIALLY a little kid. It's not just a whim these people go through. When people are supportive of their children despite their very natures being such extremes against societal norms & all they believe in, it's touching to me. Talk about unconditional love.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:54 PM on May 16, 2007


How is it a certainty that "Johnny" is and ever shall be only a male name? I've heard of girls nicknamed Johnny. If you're used to a name, why change it? Plus, personally I'd prefer "Johnny" over "Jonnie" with a heart over the I, or whatever it'd take to adequately "feminize" the name.
posted by Melinika at 2:00 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Joannie?
posted by Bugbread at 2:01 PM on May 16, 2007


(loves Chachi)
posted by Bugbread at 2:02 PM on May 16, 2007


If you're used to a name, why change it?

I'd think so too, but I suspect neither of us are transgendered. It seems that part of the process of publicly renouncing one's birth gender is to select a new name that is very masculine or feminine to clearly express the target gender. Gwen Araujo was born Edward. Brandon Teena was born Teena Renae Brandon. Billy Tipton was born Dorothy. Caroline "Tula" Cossey was born Barry Kenneth Cossey.
posted by pineapple at 2:18 PM on May 16, 2007


pineapple writes "It seems that part of the process of publicly renouncing one's birth gender is to select a new name that is very masculine or feminine to clearly express the target gender."

I'd think so too, but I suspect neither of us are transgendered.
posted by Bugbread at 2:50 PM on May 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


I think we all agree that newspapers should refer to people by the correct pronoun for their gender. I'm a man, an article about me shouldn't use "she"--even if I asked them to, for some odd reason. Even if I happen to like that pronoun--I'm a guy, I'm a "he". Up to this point, I'm in total agreement with Pineapple.

The tricky question is: how do you find out what gender someone is? If everyone had either male or female genitalia and if those genitals corresponded perfectly with that person's gender, well it would be easy enough to look and see which pronoun to use. However, it turns out that neither of those things are true.

One idea is that you can find out someone's gender by simply asking them. I believe that the lady in the story wouldn't have said "he".
posted by Squid Voltaire at 3:09 PM on May 16, 2007


"It seems that part of the process of publicly renouncing one's birth gender is to select a new name that is very masculine or feminine to clearly express the target gender."

I've known a lot of transgendered people, and most of them have gone by androgenous names. Some of the MTFs didn't even make an effort to look feminine, even after starting hormone therapy. So it's a mistake to assume that there's a checklist or common process that every tranny kid out there goes through.
posted by cmonkey at 3:09 PM on May 16, 2007


Wow. I'm probably the only other Fresno resident other than cgc373 on here, and I'm sure I probably would have missed this as well, as our local news coverage tends to be, well, balls.

I rely on the supple teet of the internets to bring me the news.
posted by Industrial PhD at 3:22 PM on May 16, 2007


From the Newsweek story:
Finally, the International Olympic Committee ditched mandatory lab-based screening, too. "We found there is no scientifically sound lab-based technique that can differentiate between man and woman," says Arne Ljungqvist, chair of the IOC's medical commission.
So, yeah, I guess the best way to find out what someone wants to be called is to ask them.
posted by rtha at 3:22 PM on May 16, 2007


"It seems that part of the process of publicly renouncing one's birth gender is to select a new name that is very masculine or feminine to clearly express the target gender."

My high school's transgender kid kept his name. It was a pretty cool coincidence that he happened to be given a name that sounded more masculine than feminine. I think he changed his middle name to something less girly when he transitioned, though, so there was still a symbolic "new start".

I've spent a lot of my life in Fres and I have to agree that I would have expected this to happen somewhere else first. I do wonder in what spirit a lot of those votes were cast, but I guess ultimately I'll take it at face value, and congratulate the community. I know that there have been problems in Fresno with high school officials harassing gay students, and I seem to remember that in 2003 or so a high school chose to shut down all clubs rather than allow a gay-straight alliance to form. Tough town. This lady has stones, that's for damn sure.
posted by crinklebat at 3:29 PM on May 16, 2007


Presumably, each paper has their own style guide, so I think the odds of any of us knowing the Fresno Bee's style guide is pretty much nil.

bugbread, you're almost entirely right, except that jscalzi used to be a movie reviewer for the Fresno Bee. MeFi's got tentacles everywhere!

jscalzi probably won't recall the Bee's style guide down to its dotted i's, though.
posted by cgc373 at 3:54 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


it's a mixed up muddled up shook up world

Jonmc: I know you're quoting the Kinks here, but in my heart of hearts, you're quoting Transvision Vamp.
posted by Sparx at 4:02 PM on May 16, 2007


Yes, because style guides on names go by what the subject prefers. Which is why you'll sometimes see transgendered folks called by the name they prefer, but not the pronoun.
In fact, I believe, the current AP guidelines require that transgender people be referred to as the gender and pronouns that they request.

I think few transgender people change their names to specifically get the most feminine or masculine names they can find. Most of us (yep, outed myself) just choose a name that feels right.

Also: the word y'all are looking for is crossdresser, not transvestite. Very few crossdressers I've known actually liked the term "transvestite", which tends to refer to a sexual fetish. Crossdresser is a more neutral, and less offensive, term.

"Transgender", for the benefit of y'all who are confused, is in fact a very confusing term. It's only a decade or two old, and is very much in flux. I use it as an umbrella term to describe anyone who differs significantly from society's sex and gender norms. It therefore includes drag queens, radical butch dykes, drag kings, genderqueer folks, radical faeries, crossdressers, bois, transsexuals, MTFs, FTMs and many, many more people. Note that I do not use it to mean people who wish to be another sex, which is a subset of transgender called Transsexual. Remember, though, that that's how I use the terms, and while a lot of people agree with me (and indeed I've tried to make my definition match what I've seen most people in the know using it to mean), a lot don't.

Did that help at all, pastabagel? And about your question about what it means to feel like you're a woman: Basically, some people feel more comfortable in a gender other than the one they were force-fitted into at birth. Some people who the doctor declared "girl" like themselves better with a deep voice, beard, big muscles, Harley-Davidson or whatever else it means for them to be a man; other people who the doctor slapped the label "boy" on feel more comfortable if they can speak in a soft voice, wear skirts and heels, have breasts or whatever it is that makes someone a woman. It's kind of like if your guidance counselor tells you to be a police officer and twenty years down the line you realize that there's something about being a police officer, and being seen as everyone as a police officer, that makes you uncomfortable, and you realize you'd really feel more comfortable being a construction worker. It goes much deeper than that, but it's the same kind of feeling.

Finally: Pineapple said
If he lives as a woman with a female name and his parents supported the decision, Johnny could likely have changed his name with the school district. That happens all the time, esp in the case of children who formalize nicknames, or are adopted, etc. Yet, he did not.
That really, really oversimplifies the issues inherent in changing one's legal name and transitioning to another gender. There are, as bugbread noted, many people who live as one gender and use one name and yet are officially known as a different gender and a different name because the legal system is not as evolved as it should be.
posted by jiawen at 4:04 PM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


seen by, that is. Grrm. Long posts hard to edit. Grrm.
posted by jiawen at 4:05 PM on May 16, 2007


I think we all agree that newspapers should refer to people by the correct pronoun for their gender.

No. jiawen's right. From the 2006 AP style guide:

transgender

Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.


NYT 2006 style guide:

Unless a former name is newsworthy or pertinent, use the name and pronouns (he, his, she, her, hers) preferred by the transgender person. If no preference is known, use the pronouns consistent with the way the subject lives publicly.

Perhaps *now* we can all agree on the proper pronouns to use when referring to transgered people..
posted by mediareport at 4:12 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


transgendered, I mean.
posted by mediareport at 4:12 PM on May 16, 2007


Yeah, AP and NYT style guides will do me fine.

pineapple writes "But when it comes to the newspaper, the issue should be one of journalistic style, and not political correctness or whether one is pro-LGBT rights."

Then we all agree that, given the little information presented in the article, "Johnny" should have been referred to as "she"?
posted by Bugbread at 4:19 PM on May 16, 2007


I wouldn't hit it.
posted by vito90 at 4:22 PM on May 16, 2007


flarbuse - I feel that my race is incorrect. I know that I am a black man deep inside despite the caucasian features I was born with.

Wigger, yo!

The majority of male transvestites self-identify (and behave) as heterosexual males. Wearing clothing styles identified as feminine can have, but not necessarily, sexual connotations. There are also some speculation that in some cases transvestitism (basically, "opposite clothing") is a misdirected courtship axiom (I came across a couple of cases in psych journals).

I love Ed Wood's comment, "No, not at all. I love women. Wearing their clothes makes me feel closer to them."

Transgendered often refers to people who's internal gender identification is inconsistent with their physical genitalia. Some will wear clothing associated with the sex that they internally identify with, but again, not necessarily.

It becomes much more complicated when some people's internal gender (brain gender) is inconsistent with their physical organs, but still exhibit sexual attraction consistent with their physical organs (ie., "lesbian trapped in a man's body" or "gay guy trapped in a woman's body").
posted by porpoise at 4:28 PM on May 16, 2007


Presumably, each paper has their own style guide

Addressed somewhat above, but The Fresno Bee almost certainly uses AP style.
posted by aaronetc at 4:41 PM on May 16, 2007


I prefer to be referred to with Spivak pronouns.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:54 PM on May 16, 2007


Yay Spivak. The annoying singular "they" is the one issue I allow myself to be prescriptivist about.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:58 PM on May 16, 2007


Fresno's come a long way, baby.

When I saw the headline, I assumed that the student body had elected Vera (it just feels more accurate to use that surname...so femme!) as a joke, or to be rebellious, but after reading the quotes within the article it beame obvious that she did spend every day at that school as a female. A cheerleader, fer crissakes! I wasn't girlie enough to play on that team, and I'm a gender XX. And popular, too!

All discussion of AP style aside, I think Vera has all the style and, yes, cojones needed to represent any student body as their queen. Granted, I was reared and socialized in San Francisco, so I may be more open-minded and quick to embrace fabulousness than some....
posted by squasha at 5:05 PM on May 16, 2007


before I get my own AP usage jumped all over, I *know* XX is a chromosome and not a gender, and also that the letter "X" is spelled "ex" and should be preceded by "an", not "a", but sometimes you just have to have a leetle fun with the language.
posted by squasha at 5:09 PM on May 16, 2007


Save Elect the cheerleader, save the world.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:16 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Roll Truck Roll -

I resisted 'they' for a long time, but I think it's the only neutral pronoun that is destined to work. It's a word we already use. People don't have to be educated into using it - it comes (sort-of) naturally in a situation where she or he doesn't work.

I think we just have to accept that 'they' now has an additional meaning. language changes. That's normal.
posted by serazin at 5:23 PM on May 16, 2007


As a little aside... the other night I had a very surreal moment. I went to see a friend sing in San Francisco, and after the show another friend mentioned that she'd never heard ME sing before but would like to. So we walked over to Martuni's House O' Cabaret Lounge & I walked right up to the piano & started belting out a tune. Next thing I knew, I was singing "Teach Me Tonight" to two completely enraptured (but not very pretty) transvestites in the front row.

Thing is, I later realized that I didn't even THINK about the fact that I had been singing very sexy lyrics to them until a few days later, and that has really made me realize just how far I have come on the open-mindedness scale for someone with Fundamentalist Christian siblings & a Reagan-loving dad. All that mattered to me at the time is that people were having fun & if I was doing a good job for them. Didn't even pay attention to what kind of people they were. I had fun.

And I think that's the key... just seeing eachother as fellow people & judging them on how nice they are... even if they are men wearing way too much mascara. Honestly, who really cares.

YMMV. As usual.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:28 PM on May 16, 2007


Your prom as far as the impact your high school activities have on the rest of your life is second only to your grade in Phys Ed.

Yeek! That's a scary thought, and I'm glad it's a sweeping generalization not a fact. My prom? I went with a girl, whose face I remember whose name I do not.

Congrats to Vera! WOO!


I feel that my race is incorrect. I know that I am a black man deep inside despite the caucasian features I was born with. I am going to have a hair transpant and some treatment so that I can fulfill who I was meant to be. I fully expect to be referred to as an African-American.


Oh! I get it. You're from Yorkshire! You guys make a great beer!
posted by smallerdemon at 5:45 PM on May 16, 2007


I represented a woman one time who was charged with possession of cocaine. She was discovered by the police masturbating in a car in a parking lot. She had a shaved head a beard that was fairly full. I imagine that over 95 percent of people would believe her to be a man. The first appearance I made with her in court she wanted to turn down a plea to misdemeanors with credit for time served (she would have walked out that day) so that she could stay in jail and ultimately have a trial. She seemed to really like jail. The jailers told me that the female inmates would freak out when they would put her in their cells because they thought she was a man.

Anyway, the most interesting part of the whole affair to me was when I received some jail mail from her which said, essentially, "I really didn't appreciate it in court yesterday when you kept referring to me as Ms. Smith. You are to refer to me either as Mr. Smith, or Miss Smith."

I still can't wrap my head around that distinction.
posted by flarbuse at 6:16 PM on May 16, 2007


Yeah, I'm what you call open-minded, but I am not down with your basic thoughtcrime of "it is politically correct to call people X and I shall be cross with you and correct you like your kindergarten teacher if you don't." Unless you think all of those frat boys who claim to be lesbians on the inside really are, I don't think claims are "it." I demand that everyone call me "The Pope." I just feel like a Pope on the inside, you know?

I'm not precisely sure what the best way is to handle it, but delivering some proclaimation of how it should be done, from on high, is not going to win me over. I've seen the politically correct mangle the language on the flimsiest of premises, for the worst of reasons. Anything I'm told to say is now automatically suspect.
posted by adipocere at 6:28 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'll call you "The Pope" from now on, adipocere. I have a high tolerance for unusual nomenclature.
posted by cgc373 at 6:34 PM on May 16, 2007


I don't think claims are "it."

What exactly does it hurt you to call someone what they want to be called? It's not like this is some huge imposition that's being put upon you. Why is it such a big deal that you have to choose to disbelieve what people are telling you seriously (that leaves out the "lesbian" fratboys, sorry) about who they are?
posted by mediareport at 6:40 PM on May 16, 2007


California has never seemed farther from Satsuma, Alabama.
posted by sklero at 6:45 PM on May 16, 2007


Sklero, if someone, personally, asks me to call them that, I shall consider it. However, when a gaggle of people, who do not know Vera, and who do not know me, tell me what to use, that I've got issues with.

Maybe it's the Oppositional Defiant in me. Maybe I've dug my heels in after getting falsely corrected on the "Inuit" thing. Perhaps the breaking point was being told that "oriental" meant "alien," and, as an ex-Latin student, I knew better. I just do not trust the bunch of people who left a department at my school stuck with Afro-American - took a decade to fix that little trainwreck. Blatant attempts to restructure people's thinking by demonizing word choice will always be Orwellian to me.

And exactly why are you excluding the lesbian fratboys? (Admittedly, my usual reply to "I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body" is "I have a carpet knife and can free you in a jiffy") Where are you drawing the line, and why there?
posted by adipocere at 7:02 PM on May 16, 2007


flarbuse : "I really didn't appreciate it in court yesterday when you kept referring to me as Ms. Smith. You are to refer to me either as Mr. Smith, or Miss Smith."

Er...aren't Ms. Smith and Miss Smith the same, like Mr. Smith and Mister Smith?
posted by Bugbread at 7:37 PM on May 16, 2007


Er...aren't Ms. Smith and Miss Smith the same, like Mr. Smith and Mister Smith?

No, the styling Miss should apply only to an unmarried woman. The styling of Ms. can apply equally to married or unmarried woman and is a title generally taken by choice. It is however used regularly to refer to women who are married but retained their birth names (i.e. Ms. Geraldine Ferraro) or those who are hyphenated (Ms. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos -- and yes, I know she isn't anymore) to take on a spouse's surname.
posted by Dreama at 8:17 PM on May 16, 2007


"Miss" means that you are single.

"Mrs." means that you are married.

"Ms." means that you don't think it is anyone's fucking business whether you are married or not.
posted by flarbuse at 8:17 PM on May 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


And exactly why are you excluding the lesbian fratboys? (Admittedly, my usual reply to "I'm a lesbian trapped in a man's body" is "I have a carpet knife and can free you in a jiffy") Where are you drawing the line, and why there?

Well, for one thing, gender dysphoria is radically different from being an obnoxious lout who calls himself a "lesbian trapped in a man's body" because he totally likes to fuck mad bitches, brah. But hey, keep on raging against the political correctness machine that is keeping you down or whatever.
posted by cmonkey at 8:22 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


"In fact, I believe, the current AP guidelines require that transgender people be referred to as the gender and pronouns that they request."

Yep. I was wrong. Good on the AP.
posted by klangklangston at 8:31 PM on May 16, 2007


miss lynnster: I saw that same special when I was in a hotel in New York a few weeks ago! And I was roundly mocked by my husband for choosing to watch a special on transgendered children while on vacation. *sigh*

On another note...
I've known a lot of transgendered people, and most of them have gone by androgenous names. Some of the MTFs didn't even make an effort to look feminine, even after starting hormone therapy. So it's a mistake to assume that there's a checklist or common process that every tranny kid out there goes through.

I've known quite a lot of trans kids and their gender identities ranged just as much as those of your typical non-trans males and females - some were very very conformist to their embodied gender, others, not so much. I lived with a trans guy my senior year of college whose hobbies included listening to musicals and singing along (as a soprano) and baking. Very extensive baking. Sadly, his hobbies didn't include doing the dishes, but that is neither here nor there. Yes, he changed his name and eventually went on hormone therapy, but if you met him your thought would be that he was a fairly short and effeminate guy, and not that he was trans.

I also knew a trans girl who also had Aspergers and never would you ever have guessed that she was, indeed, a she. I think that case the Aspergers got in the way of the social perception - she did attempt to look female, but... she just looked like a boy in a dress. However, if you met her, and talked to her for a while - she was definitely one of the most feminine people I've met in terms of behavior/communication/etc.

Trans people are just as different from each other as straight people, gay people, blue people, etc. To speak of "All trans people do this" is just as problematic as saying "All gay people like horses."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:00 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


But hey, keep on raging against the political correctness machine that is keeping you down or whatever.

WORD.

(I just thought that this really bears repeating.)

Also, if he and she are getting you down, there are gender neutral pronouns (ze/hir) that are widely accepted by gender warriors. This interview with Leslie Feinberg explains more about the pronouns, and transgendered-ness, and also, Leslie Feinberg is just freaking awesome.

(Also freaking awesome, Kate Bornstein. She came into my workplace once and I nearly died. I was all "HOLY COW, KATE BORNSTEIN! I LOVE YOU." and she was very polite and seemed to enjoy being a rockstar for five minutes.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:12 PM on May 16, 2007


adipocre,

i can easily understand why being told that oriental means alien would cause you to fall more on the "non-pc" side of things, but understand that the reason that asians might not want to be called oriental has nothing to do with that mistranslation. since oriental means "eastern" (as you well know) the reason that it's not all that kosher to call an asian person oriental is that it depends on a world view that views the americas (or europe) as somehow "central" on a planet that's round. it's not oversensitivity that leads to the idea of oriental being bad, it's more that there's no reason why japan (or any other non-european nation, frankly) should let america (or any other country) define the entire planet in relation to themselves.

the point is this: your worldview, (or even the worldview of the general population) does not depend on how other people view you. And that's as, ideally, it should be. Maybe you worry about what others think, sometimes, but their opinion doesn't define you. but there are plenty of people in this world whose ability to live their lives is directly affected by how others view them. Who they are would seem to be defined by how others, like you, would insist on refering to them. All they want is to say "I am who I believe I am, and what you insist is my identity has no bearing on who I believe myself to be." If you object to that viewpoint, that's your business, but rejecting it outright as some kind of logical falacy is foolishness, at best, and bigotry more often than not.

We either accept people as they choose to be, or we insist that their biology defines them as a person. the majority of human history has provided ample evidence that if there's anything we are capable of , it's defying our biology to make something more of ourselves. Agreeing to respect how a group of people would like to be called is simply a respectful acknowledgment of that fact. Refusing to respect that decision is just ignorance masquerading as common sense.
posted by shmegegge at 9:48 PM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Falwell's dead one day, and already it's bedlam.

HA! HA! HA! HA!!!!!!!!
posted by Roger Davis at 9:49 PM on May 16, 2007


It's not "keeping me down" (way to overinflate my point to make it seem as if I spend my entire time raging about this issue, writing angry letters to the editor, perhaps picketing some funerals). It's simply that, when I find someone being preachy (and the right certainly doesn't have a stranglehold on that), I'll occasionally call them on it.

I totally agree that gender dysphoria is radically different from being an obnoxious lout. In both cases, however, it's about what someone wants to call themselves (which is the criterion that has been brought up again and again in this thread). In one case, gender dysphoria, you accept the criterion. In other other case, uh, fucking mad bitches, you reject the criterion - even though they both have a desired form of address.

This says to me that there are additional, hidden criteria which have not been brought up. Is it transgender = cool, fratboy != cool? If so, please amend it to "people should be addressed however they like ... unless they are fratboys. Or white guys who say they are really African-American inside (and let's all thank Ralph Ellison for that). Or ..."

What about the permanently pre-op transsexuals? How about the guys who just get the orchidectomy? What about folks who never intend to even start transition, much less get the full SRS? Do they have to wear a dress? Precisely how often do they have to wear that dress, 24/7? Would you accept a white guy who you never saw outside of a suit and tie going around saying, "I'm a black woman?" Where are you drawing that line? Take the fictional character of Jame Gumb, from The Silence of the Lambs - should Gumb be addressed as a woman? We're told he's not a "real" transsexual. And yet he certainly thinks of himself that way. I know a real, and thankfully signficantly less disturbed individual who is currently claiming gender dysphoria (someone with a long and varied history of suddenly deciding "What I really am is ..." only to change later, not to mention lacking any of the opposite gender traits I've seen from the successfully transitioned). Does this person deserve a "she"? Does a psychiatrist have to verify the gender dysphoria before you can use that word?

Heck, I'm a leftie (and have been, amusingly, called "gauche" by some PC-types), which is definitely a fairly biological trait, despite what some nuns would like to think. Can I go around calling myself right-handed because I'm trying to "overcome" it? I'll bet I can come up with enough different, odd cases that no two people could agree on the same definitions for every instance.

Now, as to the "oriental" issue, I've heard just so many different justifications that it's a bit like the Iraq war: they decided to have it, and it's just a matter of finding some more reasons to do it. I heard the "alien" thing. I heard the "Oriental rug" argument (you know, only goods are Oriental, people aren't goods - nevermind what gruesome images come to mind when one considers "Asian cuisine.") My additional objections to it are that I don't see anyone calling Russians "Asian." They're in Asia. Nobody in America calls people from India "Asian," either, although I gather they do in the UK. Still in Asia. What gives? It's as if someone decided the word was offensive, scrambled about for reasons to call it offensive, and then replaced it with something that actually manages to have even less meaning than before. And let's all enjoy the rumors that "Eskimo" means cannibal to prompt us for another rewrite of language.

Then there was the absolute hysteria that ruled over the "niggardly" incident. At that point, I pretty much flushed PC down the toilet and decided that I was no longer going to be pensive about the endless hand-wringing over what the flavor of the day was for any given group. Rather than disappear down this post-modernistic rabbit hole of "What is identity? What is language?" I'll stick to my old, sad, plodding dictionary for now. Everyone can let me know when the dust settles.
posted by adipocere at 10:41 PM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


I just asked my gay friend who's sittin here if he likes horses and he said no so... yeah. Yer theory's shot to hell.

i am very drunk
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:46 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


It all boils down to good manners for me, adipocere. I don't lose sleep about accidental or well-intentioned gaffes, but I do adjust my language when I learn better.
Never quite understood what the fuss was about, and I notice far more hysteria bemoaning PC than the other way round, but maybe that's my bias showing.
posted by Abiezer at 11:50 PM on May 16, 2007


adipocere, perhaps you should call transgendered individuals by the pronoun appropriate to their gender identity because if you don't, it really hurts. It's just about one of the meanest, nastiest thing that you could say to them.

Now, if your disputation with what is very difficult to measure, even if recent science suggests a biological component, is more important than their feelings, then go ahead. Call them how you feel they should be addressed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm on your side. I think people are sick because they secretly want to be. So, I'm not going to demean myself by doing the PC thing and refer to my friend as suffering from cancer. I say he's a lazy asshole who wants attention.
posted by cytherea at 12:56 AM on May 17, 2007


While people often feel threatened by a critical dialogue on this subject, I just heard this awesome This American Life on the whole gay=crazy problem... and guess what? Psychiatry really is a science, no thanks to Freud, but thanks to the people who really dig the science.

That being said, here's wikipedia: Strictly speaking, gender dysphoria and gender identity disorder are considered to be mental illnesses, as recorded in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), the standard for mental health care professionals.

Gender is a mental construct. A penis, strictly speaking, is a penis. Therefore, thinking you are a woman (by gender) is a mental condition (regardless of sex) and having the sex of a male is a reality. Anybody can be any gender they want, doesn't bother me. Heck, gender as a concept is a limited time offering... and the more social acceptance we have the more profitable our society. But when we start talking about sex as "assigned" and cutting people's bodies up to suit their mental framework... I'm pretty sure that's crazy.

In this case, polite and style end up the same place: Call people by the gender they want to be called by.
posted by ewkpates at 3:28 AM on May 17, 2007


flarbuse writes "'Miss' means that you are single.

"'Mrs.' means that you are married.

"'Ms.' means that you don't think it is anyone's fucking business whether you are married or not."


Yes, but how would she tell you were referring to her as Ms. or Miss? They're pronounced identically. Was she talking about briefs or other submitted documents?

shmegegge writes "there's no reason why japan (or any other non-european nation, frankly) should let america (or any other country) define the entire planet in relation to themselves."

Minor niggling point (especially because you added the caveat "or any other country"), but the uses of "oriental/occidental" were not decided from a US perspective; if it were, the US would be the center, Europe would be the far east, and Asia would be the west. It was decided from a European perspective, back when the US wasn't even considered. Thus, it was defined in terms of Eurasia: the west (the occident) being Europe, and the east (the orient) being Asia.
posted by Bugbread at 4:07 AM on May 17, 2007


So, what do I call R., who thinks he's a transsexual, but really isn't?

If you give him an automatic pass to be called whatever he wants, you're not only feeding into his delusion, you're also trivializing what people who genuinely have it are going through.

If you say, "I think a genuine diagnosis from a psychiatrist is in order," it is no longer a question of what the individual wants to be called, it's a question of authority - in this case, the authority is someone with a copy of the DSM-IV and an M.D. on the wall.

As for the cancer patient, one can do a test and say, "Yup, that's cancer." The guy who says he's really African-American on the inside ... what do you have for that?

There's a great Catch-22 with the DSM (which only recently threw out homosexuality as an illness) ... if you don't call gender dysphoria a mental illness, you have an even harder time getting SRS, FFS paid for, unless you somehow scrape up the cash to go to Thailand.
posted by adipocere at 5:34 AM on May 17, 2007


Bugbread: Mih-z and Mih-ss are different sounds. They're very similar, a lot of people can't tell the difference, and some ways of speaking give the two enough overlap that there isn't a difference ... but in a 'neutral' American voice, they're different. Same as how th and tH are different sounds (those are the "th" in "through" and "the", respectively).
posted by spaceman_spiff at 5:54 AM on May 17, 2007


The guy who says he's really African-American on the inside ... what do you have for that?

Is there a plague of these people? They seem to have come up a lot in this thread.

If you give him an automatic pass to be called whatever he wants, you're not only feeding into his delusion, you're also trivializing what people who genuinely have it are going through.

I don't really see how. Many people refer to drag queens (when in drag) and crossdressers (when out on the town) with feminine pronouns, and I -- as a transwoman -- don't find that offensive or trivialising at all. After all, my greatest achievement isn't the Ms in front of my name; it's the way people treat me every day.

Besides, even if the person in question isn't "really" transsexual, they are quite likely to be transgendered in some way, so referring to them by their chosen pronoun and name is probably still appropriate.

spaceman: in a 'neutral' American voice, they're different.

Yep, in this Southern British accent they're different, too: Ms takes the schwa, Miss does not; Muz vs. Miss.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:07 AM on May 17, 2007


Adipocere— I find that it doesn't personally take me any more effort to humor someone on their gender identity pronoun, even if I think they're full of shit. Just like I generally call people the name they prefer, even if I think it's a retarded affectation. E.g. my acquaintance Sigh, or the kid I went to high school with who was born Ray but goes by Gray, or even honoring the pronoun choices of that girl at the Whole Foods who made a big deal about how she was a transexual FTM, picked out a new name and made a deal out of it, then about a year later decided she liked being a girl better and went back to her birth name. I think she's an idiot, sort of irrespective of the gender thing, but it didn't cost me anything to call her "him" for a while, or to switch back (though her coworkers found the whole thing insufferable).
And now that I know the AP ruling on transexuals, I doubt I'll ever call anyone by their birth sex over their prefered gender except by mistake.
posted by klangklangston at 6:16 AM on May 17, 2007


Then we all agree that, given the little information presented in the article, "Johnny" should have been referred to as "she"?

Absolutely. The AP/style mavens have come around (and me with it), and fair play to them. The Bee should have asked Johnny what pronoun was preferred.

(Thanks for the links, mediareport.)
posted by pineapple at 6:35 AM on May 17, 2007


Yes, but how would she tell you were referring to her as Ms. or Miss? They're pronounced identically.

Ms. is "Mizz" and Miss is Miss. The difference is the s/z sound. They're totally different sounds to me, and I would certainly notice if someone called me Miss or Missus rather than Mizz, as I would consider it a sign of disrespect. That's here in NYC where most women expect to be considered equals. Ten years ago I had the unfortunate fate of working as a telemarketer for a summer, and though we were told to address women as Mrs, I switched to Ms. to be polite, and got yelled at by angry housewives who thought I was dismissing their marital achievement. After a day or two I switched back to Mrs and sold them lots of crap. It was depressing. But if their kids are electing trannie prom queens, perhaps there is hope yet :).
posted by mdn at 7:21 AM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


mdn : "Ms. is 'Mizz' and Miss is Miss. The difference is the s/z sound. They're totally different sounds to me"

Ah, thanks. Mizz and miss are totally different sounds to me, as well, but I thought they were just different pronunciations of the same word (like poTAYto and poTAHto are totally different sounds, but the same word). I thought "Ms." was just the abbreviation of "Miss", like "Mr." is the abbreviation of "Mister". So, yeah, I can hear the difference, plain as day, but just thought it was a variation in accent, not that 1) they were two different words, and that 2) "miss" represented one of them, while "ms." represented the other.
posted by Bugbread at 7:51 AM on May 17, 2007


I'm with klangklangston - it doesn't do ME any harm to call someone by the name/pronoun that they choose. If some "fratboy" told me that he was a lesbian on the inside - ok, whatever, it doesn't really affect me in anyway. I don't think that it's "trivializing" lesbians in any way. I think it's actually pretty cool that we as a society have managed to get beyond "Oh no! TEH GAY! They are sick and dirty!" to the point where "fratboys" are joking about being queer on the inside.

To me, being politically correct is just about not pissing people off or making them uncomfortable. If some white dude in a suit told me he was really a black woman and would like to be addressed as such, what harm would it do me to do so?

I think far from "trivializing" what trans folk go through, it would break down the gender dichotomy to refer to people by whatever pronoun they choose, which would be pretty damned awesome. If we could get beyond this whole "two genders" thing to a society where all variations on gender are accepted, then much like gay people are no longer regarded by the general public as "diseased," trans folk will also be seen as one more variant, rather than an aberration.

But y'know, go ahead and pathologize it. The GLB's celebrated when homosexuality was REMOVED from the DSM-IV, and I imagine the Ts would do the same. You shouldn't encourage pyschiatry to recognize "gender dysphoria" if you want to be accepting, you should try to abolish it as a diagnosis and accept it as what it is - normal people with gender identities that don't fit the current societal norms.

Oh hi, my name is grapefruitmoon and I'm a closet gender warrior.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:20 AM on May 17, 2007


One way to simplify everything is to simply address everyone as 'Hey you!"
posted by jonmc at 11:26 AM on May 17, 2007


All I know is when I'm at a prom I will NEVER call one of those assholes with the crown on "Your Majesty." No matter what is, or isn't, hanging between the legs of said Sovereign.

Isn't it about time we ditched the Formal Dance Monarchy?

SIDE NOTE: It's weird that in the last few ten years or so suddenly I know, quite well in fact, four Trans-sexual people in Seattle. What are the odds of that? Thirty years go by... nothing. Then in the last few years guys I went to high school or college with are suddenly post op women now (The guys were all serious tough guys too).

One is STILL married to the same women. Oddest thing. I went to his/her wedding. Now suddenly I'm friends with a "lesbian"/Trans couple.

When I look at her, I see him... a guy I knew when I was fifteen. I person I have know for over twenty years. It really fucks with your brain. Messes with your frame of reference since gender is such a primary and instinctual identifier for all animals. You know? You may not remember somebodies hair color or height. But you always remember their gender, right?
posted by tkchrist at 3:28 PM on May 17, 2007


HMMM...

I kept on reading, and kept on reading, and kept on reading.

But pronouns aside, am I the only one who thinks there is something really HOT about all this transgender stuff?

I mean, women are hot, men are hot (but men), and crossing the two just sounds like a really good idea.

"Homo" just looks like so much more fun than it actually is.

Yet, being able to go to bed with a FTM transgender OR a MTF person kinda puts a really cool spin on everything.

I mean, in some sense, I'm still doing it with a woman, but in a kinky kind of way. So it's like drinking Diet Dr. Pepper. It's diet, but it's still arguably Dr. Pepper, right?

And if I were a woman going to bed with a man, I'd still be straight.

Whoaa. This sounds really REALLY good in some way...

~

Waitaminit. Did I just say all that aloud?
posted by humannaire at 2:40 PM on May 20, 2007


Yes, you did. Well, you typed it out loud anyhow.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:41 PM on May 20, 2007


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