Saturday, 24 May 2014

What I should have said

(Sorry, this post is going to be a bit of rant.)

Earlier this month one of my roommates moved out and a new guy moved in. This means I am once again no longer out to everyone I live with, which is mildly uncomfortable for me, but whatever. (This new roommate is from Ireland, which, in addition to my German roommate, means my house is filling up with Europeans!)

Anyways, a bunch of us were sitting in the living room chatting the other day. The CBC news was on the TV in the background, and Chantal Hébert came on to talk about some political thing.

Ms. Hébert is a fairly well-known commentator and pundit here in Canada, and she has a very distinctive look. By which I mean, she wears basically no makeup, no jewelry, has bushy eyebrows and keeps her unstyled hair tucked behind her ears. I'm not that interested in punditry, but I think she is awesome: here's a woman who obviously gives no shits about our culture's silly beauty standards, and yet has a successful career as a talking head on television. It's clear to anyone that she's there to discuss politics, not to be a pretty face.

"Wow," said the new roommate, glancing at the TV, "I'm sorry, but that woman looks like a transsexual."

Oh my goodness. What a thing to say. And do you know what I said in response to this? Nothing, I just shrugged it off. And now I'm annoyed at myself for that, so I'm going to write down my thoughts to get it off my mind.

Okay, first of all, there's a no such thing as looking like a transsexual: the range of what they\we look like is identical to the range of what anyone looks like. A pre-transition, closeted trans woman might be indistinguishable from a cis man, and a trans woman who's been on hormones for a while might be indistinguishable from a cis woman. And of course, the inverse applies to trans men.

Secondly, his comment clearly implies that looking like a transsexual is a bad thing, which is obviously so very offensive for, like, all the reasons.

And lastly, his comment seems to overlie an assumption that women ought to wear makeup and look pretty, simply because they are women. Which is, you know, pretty darn patriarchal.

So... there. I guess now if I hear a comment like that again, at least I'll know how to respond! In any case, I shouldn't be angry with him because it's clear he simply hadn't thought through the implications of that statement and was unaware of how stupid a thing it was to say. But that's precisely why I should be educating people when stuff like this comes up.


  1. Most people don't come up with a retort on the fly. I mean, I had that coworker scowl at a picture of my son and comment that he looks like a half-girl. My response was a surprised "okay". Damn, I wish I could go back in time and ask "which half?" but unfortunately, thanks to linear time, that's not an option. Truly witty comebacks and informative replies are either via writing (with some time for reflection and editing) or memorable because of their rareness. In real life, most of us either stammer something like "umm" or "okay" or lapse into complete silence. I'm sure you'll get another chance.

    1. Oh my goodness, asking "which half?" would've been so awesome. Friggin' linear time...

  2. And sometime in the future, because you have now given thought to the replies that might have been, you will find a way to quietly and gently educate. It should always be about leaving the situation improved. When you are taken by surprise like you were it is best to keep your thoughts private.
    Good post!

    1. Yeah, very true. Better to not say anything than to get angry and make things worse.