Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Transy Christmas arguments with the family

Last year around this time I wrote a mopey post titled Christmas in the closet. Since I'm no longer in the closet to my parents, this year's post is somewhat less mopey, though not exactly mope-free, as we shall see.

I spent the 24th and 25th at my parents' house, as did Carson and Jamey, my brother and sister-in-law. My parents live in a small basement suite, and with the five of us humans there, plus their two dogs and one cat, no one gets much personal space.

Every year mom and dad insist on making a huge deal out of the holiday. We have to have an elaborate family meal on Christmas eve, then a large traditional breakfast Christmas morning, and finally a traditional turkey dinner Christmas evening. The result is that, with the exception of the gift exchanging, we spend nearly all our time in the kitchen, frantically preparing food or washing dishes. By mid-afternoon on the 25th we're usually all a bit snippy and short-tempered.

It was during this mid-afternoon time of snippiness that I went to put some music on with my mom's laptop. "Play something by what's-its-name," she suggested.
"Mom," I said, "I think I know who you're talking about. And that's not cool."
"Well, using 'they' is too confusing," she countered. I was right about who she meant.

My mom's really into indie rock. Recently I'd introduced her to music of Rae Spoon, which she loves. Rae is an Alberta native (though now living in Quebec) who, in addition to making some really groovy tunes, happens to have a non-binary gender identity. They prefer the pronoun "they."

"Who are you talking about?" Carson asked.
"This person is a transgender person who doesn't belong to either gender," mom explained. "It wants to be called 'they', but I think that's too confusing,"
"But mom, you can't call a trans person 'it'," I said, "that's cruel!"
"Yeah," Jamey added, "that sounds really de-humanizing."
"Well, what am I supposed to say then?" asked mom. "I'm not saying 'they'."

I sighed.

"Look mom, I totally agree that it's confusing, but I'm willing to call them 'they' in spite of that, if that's what they want. That's just being respectful."

For the record I'm not a huge fan of singular 'they' and I'm personally hoping that 'ze' or one of its variations (zie, xe, etc.) catches on instead. Even so, I believe that respecting other peoples' pronouns is more important than my private linguistic pedantry. Amazingly, I managed to correctly use Rae's preferred pronouns throughout the entire argument without a single slip-up— I think I deserve some kind of tranny award for that. :)

"Fine!" mom decalared. "From now on the pronoun I want to be called by is 'dumbass'. Unless you're calling me by name, that's what you have to refer to me as."
"Oh god," I said, facepalming. "Mom, come on..."
"Well, see? Just because you tell people what to say doesn't mean they actually have to say it."

I guess what she was trying to do was to use humour to illustrate a point, or something? That's not what it felt like though: it felt like she was just mocking me for being trans. And mocking the enitre community I belong to. Stunned, I sat down on the couch and fought back a few tears.

When she noticed she'd hurt me she came over and apologized. I said "okay," but I still felt pretty awful for the rest of the evening. I suppose I sulked for a while, though I don't think I meant to— I'm just really bad at pretending to not be sad.

After dinner I left with my brother and sister-in-law and we went to hang out at their apartment. All three of us had found Christmas to be generally stressful and unpleasant this year, and it was really helpful to be able to talk about it with them afterwards.

While I was there my dad called me to make sure I hadn't driven home and hanged myself, (of course he didn't say so, but I could tell that's why he was calling)— my parents are certainly aware of the stats about trans people, even if they could stand to learn a little more about pronoun etiquette. I assured him I was fine, and he sounded very relieved when I told him I was with Carson and Jamey.

I spent a good chunk of Boxing Day relaxing and sipping coffee, and felt a lot better about everything after that.

On a lighter note, Carson and Jamey got me nail polish for Christmas! After I unwrapped it, my brother was careful to point out that the two of them had chosen the colours together— in other words, that it wasn't just his wife shopping for the "girly" stuff. He's so cool.

Yay! They obviously know me pretty well. ^_^
I love my family, and I like Christmas. But I'm sincerely hoping that next year my parents can be convinced to celebrate it on a smaller scale, for all our sakes.


  1. I've been sharing this article to help family members understand the importance of pronouns:

    Happy Holidays!