I read this article in a free Boston shopping/entertainment/nightlife magazine, Stuff@Night. I thought it was not only offensive, but I was also surprised at how forthcoming the author was about knowing nothing about her subject. Here is a link to it:
The sexual wave that's crashing down on me
BY JEANNIE GREELEY
SEXPLOITS is a continuing series of adventures through Boston’s sexier side.
LATELY, A WORD has been creeping into my vocabulary, and I haven’t the slightest idea how it happened. I suddenly find myself saying things like, "There were some trannies doing spoken word." Or, "No. I hear she only dates trannies." Or, my favorite yet, "Yeah, it was just a bunch of hipsters and trannies."
When I sit back and think about it, I don’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about. Substitute the words "ice fishing" for "tranny," and I’d probably be able to speak as eloquently about sitting on a bucket in the middle of a lake as I can about transsexuals. I can’t even discern the nuances among the transgendered, transvestites, and transsexuals, and they could all quite possibly be the same as far as I know. Despite that, I throw the term around loosely because it adds an air of . . . je ne sais quoi to my conversations, much like the terms GOP or truffle oil seem appropriate in conversations about politics or food.
My ignorance became sadly apparent a few weeks ago at a family cookout when my aunt’s girlfriend broached the subject of transsexuals. She’s fascinated with the trans community, she told me, so much so that she’s looking into volunteer opportunities at trans-support centers. She was spouting book and film titles, all the while looking at my blank face for a glimmer of recognition. It wasn’t there.
"I don’t really know that much about it," I admitted sheepishly.
After a moment of nodding with her chin in her hand, and some exaggerated brow furrowing, she said only, "I’m surprised at that." Get your socially unaware head out of your bloated, drunken ass, you excuse for a sexual being, is what I think she meant.
Just a few years ago, I thought it was enough to be hip to gay culture, to know at least one coveted member of Rise who could get me into an after-hours party, and to have a book on my shelf with the word "Stonewall" somewhere on its spine. I’d walk by straight girls in khaki skirts with this smug grin on my face, thinking, Girl, you have no idea what you’re missing. Everyone has a roof deck. And I do mean everyone. And the food? To die for! It was like I had been admitted to some secret society, my membership earned by my ability to provide canned laughter at people’s Joan Crawford impersonations, and to ingest enough ecstasy to kill a large farm animal.
Nowadays, I’m just trying to keep pace with what seems to have become the new sexual revolution, or the emergence of a long-present sexual subculture. Throwing around sexual catch phrases in an inarticulate manner is about all I’ve been able to muster in my failed attempt to gain footing. Now I’m the outsider envisioning lavish parties being thrown to celebrate successful sex changes, where pre-op and post-op photos are passed around and cooed over. Clubs are teeming with trannies and the women who love them, and I’m sitting home watching Gia and feeling my hip factor slip away one painful degree at a time. People are struggling with whether to have their genitalia changed, and the only alarming thing to me is that I might be missing a party.
I’ve tried to untangle the trans web before, albeit not nearly hard enough, I’ll admit. One friend attempted to explain to me how the trans community has introduced its own language to better define itself. Pronouns have been changed from "he/she" to "zi," and "his/her" to "hir," pronounced "here." Zi and hir. If this movement really takes hold, we’re all going to sound like Zsa Zsa Gabor in no time. Imagine the phone conversations: "Hi. Is zi there?" "Who is this, and why are you impersonating that midget from Fantasy Island?"
Another friend was detailing the intricacies of her friend’s M-to-F — that’s short for "male-to-female" — surgical transition. Call me squeamish, but I just couldn’t handle it. With every detail, my hands inched closer and closer to my crotch, as if some wayward surgical instrument was going to fall from the sky and begin hacking away at me. Stop! Stop! I’d plead. And then I’d beg her for just one more detail.
See, it’s not that I don’t care to know more about the trans world, or that I’m celebrating my ignorance. I just think it’s a subject people find painful to explore, or, more likely, completely unfathomable. I know several people with transgender friends who are frustrated with the fact that one day their friend is Mary, and the next day she is Michael, and they are just supposed to accept it. No questions asked.
Me, I’m a questioner, sometimes to the point of awkwardness. But with this one I’m stumped. I don’t know any trans folks personally. The only one I knew from the clubs at one time popped up at a restaurant the other night, and all I could do was stare at hir transformation when zi wasn’t looking. (Zee how difficult thiz pronoun thing iz, dahling?) Had I approached hir, I would’ve sounded like Molly Ringwald’s grandmother in Sixteen Candles when she discovers her granddaughter has reached puberty. "Look, Fred, she’s gotten her boobies," I’d say, asking for just a quick squeeze.
Two days later, I had a very sobering moment while working on this column, when I spotted the story of Gwen Araujo on the cover of Bay Windows. Araujo was a transgender teen allegedly murdered by three men when they discovered Araujo was born a biological male. Think Matthew Shepard for the trans community, to imagine just a part of the horror of this case.
This is what Araujo’s mother had to say in the story: "To be honest, as a family, none of us knew the correct term for Gwen . . . I didn’t know ‘transgender,’ but I could tell her we loved her. It didn’t matter to us. She was ours. She was one of our babies. I feel like maybe we should’ve done some more research, that we could have offered her help or information."
After reading that, I finally sat down to do some homework. It was comforting, proving that I’m not the only ignorant fool out there, which was actually also a bit discomforting. Trans Web sites even state that if you were to ask people for a definition of "transgender," you’re likely to hear at least three definitions, most of which transgender folks themselves will disagree with. Other sites kindly welcome you to "find out here what you don’t know about what you don’t know." With all this learning to do, I probably won’t even have time to think about all the party invites I’m not getting from all these people I don’t know a thing about.
Jeannie Greeley is a freelance writer looking for some transgender folks to interview for future columns. E-mail her at Jgrls76@aol.com if you’re interested. She promises she won’t ask to touch your boobies.