Friday, 10 July 2015

Teaching and sisterhood

This story starts off on kind of a sour note, but it has a good ending so figured I wanted to share it with you guys. Remember about a month ago when the whole internet was abuzz with Caitlyn Jenner and that magazine cover photo of her?

Oh God, there's Jenner everywhere!!

Yeah I'm glad that's over too. But anyways, right around the peak of that, a cousin of mine wrote a very unpleasant anti-trans rant about the whole thing on Facebook, stating among other things that "Bruce" would never be a "real lady." This particular cousin happens to be someone I generally like so I resisted the urge to simply comment "Fuck you, [name]" and unfriend her. Even so I figured I should still address it somehow.

By the time I got around to commenting, several others had called her out on it and she had already apologized for the tone of her post, if not exactly it's content. I responded the only way I really know how to respond to these sorts of things: by making a joke. "Well that's a shame," I wrote, "I'm sure when Jenner began this transition her fondest hope was that some random ass person on the internet would think she was a reel wummin."

After that I made a few brief comments addressing some specific things that had come up in the massive thread which had by then been spawned. I didn't explicitly say I was trans but I did use the word we to refer to trans community so it couldn't have been too hard to figure out. And then I left the thread, because it's not my job to educate people and I had more important things to do with my time than write an essay on why trans identities are legitimate.

But then something interesting happened: my brother started commenting on the post. Now you need to understand, Carson almost never does anything on Facebook. The most recent item on his wall is from... *checks* ... January of 2014. So it was pretty unusual.

His first comments seemed to be more along the lines of "Being a decent person and respecting someone's pronouns is more important than whether someone's really a man or woman." (Which is nice but like, I dunno, maybe a little patronizing??) Carson's always been totally supportive of me and has always accepted the fact that trans-ness is a thing, but I feel like up until this happened he'd never really made a huge effort to actually understand it. But now he was trying to explain it to someone, and he needed to know what he was talking about, so he started texting me questions. And I did my best to answer them.

He and I ended up having a long texting conversation over the course of a couple days, going over a lot of the details of what being trans is and why it makes sense to consider trans people as the genders they say they are rather then what they were assigned at birth. I think he gained a much better understanding of the whole thing, and this understanding was reflected in his continuing comments on the ever-growing Facebook thread. He ended up quoting one of my texts (saying it was from "an actual transwoman" he knew), as well as linking to this academic paper which I'd sent him.

And he got through to her.

The next day there was a PM in my Facebook inbox from the cousin who'd started the whole thing in first place. I won't quote all of it, but to condense it somewhat, she wrote:
I feel I owe you an incredibley earnest apology. I spoke from my emotions when I posted that status and didn't give it nearly enough thought with respect to how it would come across and how it would disrespect you and many others. [...] When I realized just how much my comments had the potential to hurt, I felt, and still feel, so wretched. You are so gracious to even respond, honestly. [...] I would love to hear your thoughts on this stuff. To hear it from someone who lives it is really, I think, would give a clearer picture to someone like myself.
That's nice, eh? I thanked her and accepted the apology, (while being careful not to downplay how hurtful the original post had been). She specifically mentioned in her apology that Carson's replies had helped her understand things better. I think it's really cool how I had the opportunity to teach my bro and he in turn was able to teach our cousin, not to mention anyone else who may have been following the thread. It was also nice for me to not be the one on the front lines, so to speak.

But the perhaps the best part of the whole thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that during the course of Carson asking me questions, this happened:

(And yes, I took this photo with my camera 'cause I couldn't figure out how to just take a screenshot with my phone. Don't judge me.)
I've been thinking for some time now that at some point I would have to address with him the issue of whether I was his brother or his sister. I was kind of hoping it would just come up naturally, and it did! Definitely glad about that. :)


  1. Hi Ashley. Yeah, the Caitlyn thing is getting out of control, isn't it? I'm really not sure if all if this is helping or hurting the trans community, but from the looks of this post, it did indeed help.

    I featured the post on T-Central.


  2. Hi Ashley, I havent checked in for a while so have just been catching up on your posts. Im glad to see that Pride went really well and there was a sense of normality of being out and about as a woman, and additionally that your friends took it in their stride. As for this post, well it appears your brother has your back and is prepared to fight your corner if you need to. He seems very open and understanding, your very lucky to have someone like that in your family.