An Open Letter to Parents of Trans People

Dear parents of trans people,

I’m writing this on behalf of your child, as a friend and as a fellow trans person. It’s very difficult to advocate for oneself, especially with one’s parents, and this letter aims to help you understand and accept your child so that less of that weight is on them. I hope that you will better understand your child and be a better ally and supporter.

Your child is trans. In our society that means a lot, but you may not know what. Your child has done what all of us have, at one point or many, and come to understand themselves in a way that perhaps differs from your expectations or understanding of them. To start, let’s address what “trans” means. When your child was born—or perhaps before that, based on ultrasounds—someone like a doctor looked at your child’s genitals and determined if they had a penis or a vagina. That’s fine. Most of us are born with one or the other and it is, at times, important for medical personnel to know which hormones will be driving development. Where this starts to go awry is that, based on the presentation of their genitals, a number of expectations and assumptions are put on the fetus or baby based on the gender that is widely associated with those genitals. For many people, the binary gender assigned at birth is not an issue and, as they grow up, they feel comfortable as a boy or girl, man or woman. This is being cisgender and is absolutely okay and should be supported. However, for some of us, that arbitrary assignation doesn’t fit and leaves us feeling confused, unhappy, and without a sense of belonging. Those of us who, through whatever means, come to understand that our gender is different from what was assigned at birth based on genitals, are transgender (often shortened to trans).

This self-discovery can take place at any point in a person’s life. Some of us know at a very young age that we don’t fit in the box we were put into, others of us take years to understand and accept ourselves. There are internal and external factors that play into the process of self-determination and self-acceptance, such as being raised in an environment where the existence of trans people is acknowledged or not, whether or not the child is held to strict expectations based on gender and their enforcement, and how accepting the child feels their family and peers would be. As an aside, please note that none of these determine whether a person will be trans or not. While I don’t believe the “born this way” narrative applies to all trans people, being trans isn’t a result of a progressive or non-religious upbringing. I won’t speculate here about what makes a person cis or trans, because that is an individual story that can’t be generalized for convenience. Back to the main point: your child may discover, understand, or come out as trans at any point during their life, or at multiple points. Gender for some is static, for others it’s fluid.

What does this mean for you and your child? They may choose to transition, meaning that they may have surgery, take hormones, change their appearance, voice, name, presentation, and/or pronouns. They may also choose to do none of that. Whatever they decide, it’s important to remember that their gender is valid and must be respected. If your child decides to transition, you may be uncomfortable. Suddenly the child you gave birth to or raised is different, not only from what you were used to, but from what the world around us expects. This can be a very difficult thing for you to understand or accept, but the alternatives are to lose your child (whether you decide to ostracize them, they decide to distance themself from an unsupportive person, or through suicide as a result of not being loved and accepted for who they are) or hurt them  (through lack of support, disrespect, conditional love, or forcing them to be someone they’re not).

Consider yourself. Have you, at any point, examined your own life and found yourself unhappy? Have you ever tried to “find yourself”, questioned who you are, or realized that you’ve been living up to someone else’s expectations of you? The answer is most likely yes. Many of us, whether in our teenage years, during college, or in a so-called “midlife crisis”, have felt that some part of our life isn’t in keeping with who we really are. Most of us have then done something to change that and be true to ourselves, whether through changing careers, pursuing a passion, coming out as LGB+, getting married or divorced, etc. Being trans is very similar. We realized that who we are and who we were told to be were at odds and decided to do something about it. This is seen as radical and considered a much bigger deal than any of the things I previously mentioned only because it isn’t yet normalized in our society. Consider the stigma and significance attached to divorce, even just a few decades ago. As more people realized that their happiness and needs were of greater import than arbitrary social expectations, divorce became more acceptable and accessible. So, too, will being trans, though we’re still in the early stages of the process.

If your child comes out to you as trans, ask them how you can best support them. If their gender isn’t one you’re familiar with, ask them what it means. Ask what their pronouns are, then use them. Yes, you will make mistakes. Yes, you will use the wrong pronouns. Your child won’t love you less for that because you’re human and it takes time to change old habits. But sincerely try, as it shows love and respect. Tell your child that how much it means to you that they trust you with something so personal and important. Be there for them through whatever their transition is, and through the hardships they’ll face. Stand up for them against people who mock or demean them, disrespect them, and misgender them. Be proud of them for doing something as incredible as self-determination and self-discovery. Educate yourself, either through asking them questions, internet research, or reaching out to trans organizations for resources. As daunting as it may seem, your child will be grateful for the effort you put in and it will get easier over time.

What do we want for our children? Happiness, success, stability, love. We want our children to have more than we did, to avoid the mistakes we made. One way for parents to help ensure that is to accept and support our children for who they are, not who we want them to be. After all, trans or cis, is that not what you want or wanted from your parents? Love them, respect them, and trust that they know themself. Give your child the gift of being the parent they deserve.

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Responses on Dating Websites

Men often complain that women/women-read people have it easy on online dating sites and that it’s unfair for us not to respond to their messages. While I fully appreciate what a letdown it can be to not get a response from someone you’re interested in, there are oh so many reasons for not responding.

  1. Your message is creepy.

Guys, there are very few women/women-read people who want you to masturbate to their pictures or want to know that you are. The reaction to having a total stranger message us out of the blue that they’re getting off to our pictures is usually between *shudder* and *physically recoiling from the screen*. I loooove sending sexy pictures to my partners to get them going. I do not love having a random person masturbating at me and treating me like an object that exists for their pleasure. Gross. And, for the be-penised, women/women-read people don’t care about your size, how hard you are, or if you’re “throbbing”. Introducing yourself with “U into 12 inch rock hard cock” is not going to get you laid. Stop.

We are already aware that we’re pretty. If that’s all you have to say, step it up. Our names are not pretty, baby, babe, beautiful, mama, sexy, hot stuff, cutie, busty, bitch, etc. Don’t know someone’s name? Try asking! Also don’t start your message with “How big are those tits?” or “goddamn baby can I eat that ass?” Unless someone’s profile says that they’re looking for dirty talk or no questions asked hook-ups, they probably want to be talked to and treated like a human being.

2. Your message is completely unengaging.

I get up to 20 messages a day that consist of some variation on “Hi” or “How are you?” At best they include “You seem really interesting.” While there are some women/women-read people who have little or no information on their profile, a lot of us have SOMETHING you can use to start a conversation. I include a list of conversation topics in the first section of my OKC profile, and yet the majority of what I receive are creepy or meaningless. Communicating online isn’t the same as communicating in-person.

As a subset of this, I’m going to include your message is a copy/paste. Guys, come on. First, your generic messages make it really clear that you didn’t read our profiles or even try to relate to us as individuals. Second, there are entire groups, pages, and blogs dedicated to the shit we receive on dating sites. We see your messages. When someone posts an image and five women/women-read people respond, “Omg, I got that exact message!” we know you’re not worth responding to. And guys? Including in your message that your message is copy/pasta and you’re not willing to write something else because it’s not worth your time? Dude. Really?

3. You obviously didn’t read the profile.

For instance, my profile includes a very detailed description of what I’m looking for. Despite that, men constantly message me asking for hookups, nudes, or threesomes. It includes information about me being married and polyamorous, yet men constantly ask why I’m single. My profile says not to message me if you don’t live nearby, yet guys from all over the world message me a couple dozen times a day. If you aren’t willing to take the time to read a few paragraphs about someone, there is no way in hell that you’re worth their time.

4. Your match % is dismal.

Not all sites have the match percent, but for those that do…c’mon. Look at it. If you’re a 20% match/78% enemy? In what world do you think that’s going to make a good match? If you disagree with someone on a lot of things that matter to either of you, you’re probably not compatible. Yes, “opposites attract” is a nice adage, but it’s very rarely the basis for a successful relationship.

5. We’re not interested.

Yes, there are times when guys send messages that are decent and we still don’t respond. Why? Because we’re not interested. Why don’t we respond to let you know? Because SO MANY TIMES that isn’t the end of the conversation. It turns into “why not?” “You think you’re better than me?” “How do you know if you’ve never met me?” “Bitch.” “You’re fucking ugly anyway.” “Lol good luck getting laid you fat cow.” Or, my personal favorite, rape threats! Yes, I’ve gotten two of those. Even when we get nice messages, saying that we’re not interested is a crap shoot. If the guy is actually nice, maybe he’ll say thanks and move on. If he’s a jerk, maybe he’ll send slurs and insults. Not worth the risk. If you want to make it more likely that women/women-read people will respond to your message, call other men out on their shitty behavior. Don’t be the kind of guy who resorts to verbal abuse when you don’t get your way.

Another reason we don’t respond is the sheer volume of messages we receive. I get 10-30 on any given day; more when I upload a new picture, answer a new question, or change something on my profile. I don’t have the time or energy to address every one of you. For most of my women/women-read friends, it’s the same situation. We’re busy. We work, have families, friends, hobbies, lives. It’s preferable to spend time on things we enjoy than risk the vitriol that comes with turning someone down.

So what can you do to increase your chances of getting a response? Here’s a start. In a nutshell, read the profile and respond as if you’re talking to an individual you actually respect, not some set of holes you’re trying to fuck.

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Men and Messages on OkCupid

I hear/read lots of complaints from men about the lack of messages and responses they get on OkCupid. As a woman-read person, I get 15-25 messages per day. I respond to maybe 2 of those. I don’t have a few hours a day to dedicate to responding to people I have no interest in, and then dealing with “But why? You haven’t even met me!” I also don’t have days to dedicate to meeting every person who messages me on OKC. So here’s my best advice, guys, on how to maximize the chances of someone answering your message.

Read their profile.

We write profiles for people to read. They’re to help potential matches see if we’re someone they want to ask out. Our profiles include information that we think will paint a good picture of us a person and explain what we’re looking for. Read them.

An example: the first sentence of my profile says that I am only looking for people near me, and that people not in my area should not message me. I still get 5-10 messages a day from people in different states or other countries. My profile also clearly states that I’m looking for friends with benefits, complete with what that means to me, yet I have guys message me looking for one night stands or serious long-term relationships.

Reading someone’s profile not only shows the most basic level of respect, it helps avoid wasting anyone’s time by weeding out people you have nothing in common with, and gives you a great starting place to write a good message that will hopefully get a positive response! So do it!

There is a happy medium between 2 words and 8 paragraphs. Find it.

Most of the messages I receive consist of “Hey” or “What’s up?” or “Nice tits.” I have, in the past, tried to respond to these messages should the sender otherwise appear interesting. They haven’t gone anywhere. These days I clearly say in my profile NOT to message me if that’s all you have to say (before you complain that it’s too hard to compose a more detailed message, I give several topics that I would love to hear about) and yet most guys still send only those one or two words. Others go to the extreme opposite and are very nearly essays in their length and complexity. While I sincerely appreciate that you have read my profile, responding to every bit of information is unnecessary.

A good plan is to start with the greeting and then go into a few sentences about why you’re messaging the person. “Hi, how are you? You say you like museums. Have you been to the Nordic Heritage Museum? I’ve heard good things but haven’t gone yet. My personal favorite is the MOHAI, what about you?” It’s short but shows that you’ve read their profile, directly responds to one of their stated interests, indicates that it’s mutual, and expresses your interest in them. Depending on their profile it might also be appropriate to ask if they’d like to go to the museum with you (again, reading their profile is important).

Don’t use OKC as a debate forum.

I’d hazard a guess that 99% of people on OKC aren’t there for debates or arguing. If you see something you vehemently disagree with on someone’s profile, move on. Don’t message them to say how feminism is ruining the world or bisexuality doesn’t exist. Just move along. When someone declines to engage with you on a topic, don’t then insult or degrade them. It’s not going to get you a date or any favorable response.

Cool it with the “hotty”.

We all like to hear that we’re attractive. We don’t necessarily want to hear it in every message from every person. Treat us like people, not sex objects, and write about the content of our profiles instead of our breasts. If you call me babe, sexy, and beautiful in one message I am definitely not going to respond. Try showing that you read my profile and save telling me how gorgeous my eyes are for when we meet. Trust me, they’re even better in person.

Be respectful.

Part of this is—you guessed it—reading the profile! It will probably help you figure out what the person is looking for and if you have anything other than your choice of online dating site in common. Take topics from their profile to start a conversation with, and do it in a respectful manner. For example, don’t say things like, “Ha, you like soccer? LOSER.”  Not a good first impression.

Not everyone is going to be interested in you. Not everyone has the time or inclination to respond to every message. If someone tells you they’re not interested, either say, “Thanks for letting me know, have a good day,” or just don’t respond. It is never appropriate or winning to message back “You’re ugly anyway,” or “Lol I just felt sorry for you.” Very little is less attractive than sour grapes. It’s also not okay to say, “Yeah, but I am,” and then continue messaging. That’s not what “no” means.

Have a picture.

There are two main parts to this. We want to know what you look like. Most of us care about a person’s physical appearance and we’d like to know if there’s any interest before we meet you in person. Also, in my experience most guys who don’t put up profile pictures are trying to cheat on their partners. Some people are into that, a lot aren’t. Having a picture up will go a long way toward getting you messages or responses.

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Low-Wage Jobs and Employee “Worth”

Whenever there’s a discussion about raising the minimum wage people inevitably say that low-wage workers don’t deserve more because their jobs are “low-skill”. Setting aside that people deserve a living wage that allows them to afford food, housing, transportation, clothing, health care, and other basic necessities (and my own belief that people also deserve non-necessities because enjoying life is a right, not a privilege), let’s take at one of the low-wage jobs I’ve worked.

Target

I started working when I was 16. I got a job as a cashier at Target making minimum wage. To most people that probably seems fair. That I was saving for college seems unimportant to them, but we’ll set that aside, as well. When I started I was a cashier. I stood at my register and helped dozens of customers on an average day, a few hundred on busy days or during holidays. I was timed on the length of my transactions and that impacted my performance reviews (and could be the difference between keeping or losing my job). As a cashier I had to have 100% accuracy, process sales very quickly, know the general location of all of our merchandise, be able to explain store policies (refunds, returns, holds, coupons/price matching), know when deliveries were expected to arrive, know and explain the Target Red Cards, get people to sign up for those, clean the checkstand(s) I worked on, and probably more that I’m forgetting.

After a few months of cashiering I was moved to the sales floor. Toys, specifically. In December. With no training. So now I was responsible for being a backup cashier when the holiday lines got long (and meeting all of the responsibilities outlined above) but I also had to know exact locations of hundreds of toys, look up products to see if they were available at other stores when we were out, put products on hold for customers, restock products, pick up after the hundreds of customers and children who came through each day and left the aisles littered with toys, purchases they no longer wanted, AND discarded food/drink (usually half eaten), cover breaks and lunches for other employees, and know about all of the other departments because customers would ask me for help in any area.

After surviving Christmas I was moved to “soft lines”, or clothing and accessories. Here, in addition to being a backup cashier and helping out in the rest of the store, I worked in a dozen different areas and had to know them all. Sometimes I was the phone operator, answering and directing a multi-line phone. I had to know basic information about all of our departments and many specific products. I had to know all the extensions for the various departments, who was working when, when things were going on sale (and if they currently were), what popular products we had in stock or when we were getting them in if they were out, give directions from various places to our store or to other stores, AND all of that while being responsible for the fitting rooms.

That meant making sure people were only taking 6 items, checking to make sure they didn’t steal stuff, answering questions about brands and sizes, sorting and refolding/hanging clothes people didn’t buy, marking down all the products that went on clearance or were defective, cleaning the fitting rooms, reattaching tags that were torn off.

I usually worked across the various areas so I had to know all of the products in mens, womens, childrens, accessories, and shoes. I had to know where thousands of products were. I also had to know the differences between brands, styles, materials. Clothes had to be constantly resorted by brand, type, color, and size, not to mention the constant refolding. In the infant section I had to have pretty deep knowledge of the products and be able to help people with their baby registries. In accessories, especially costume jewelry, I had to know what the products were made out of and how likely they were to cause allergic reactions, what the watches were, which brands were good, what functions they had, how water resistant they were, etc.

After about a year I was trained in the fine jewelry department and it became my primary responsibility, although I still worked on the main floor regularly. Here, in addition to answering questions about the rest of the store (people stopped to ask me where everything else was), I had to know about different kinds of gold and silver, the clarity of diamonds, how hard or soft various gemstones are, the different types of pearls, how to not destroy pearl jewelry, how to change watch batteries, how to resize watches or change the bands, the merits and disadvantages of leather vs. plastic vs. metal, restocking the cases and displays, what each month’s birthstone is, cleaning all the damn fingerprints off the cases…

And that’s all without mentioning the rude, demanding, aggressive, demeaning customers I dealt with on a daily basis, or the times people used the fitting rooms as restrooms, finding and logging tags from stolen merchandise (which I could get in trouble for if it was in my area), or the myriad of other frustrating aspects.

So was my job “low-skill”? Is memorizing the layout of a pretty large store, the location of thousands of products, specific information about many of those products, being trained in almost every area of the store, etc., “low-skill”? Was I not working hard enough?

The assumption that any job is “low-skill” devalues the knowledge that each employee gains and builds upon. It erases the demanding nature of these jobs and the heavy reliance customers have on us to get through their day with relative ease. These “low-skill” jobs are often physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing with heavy workloads, little or no appreciation, and pay that is well below a living wage. It’s time to move past the idea of service jobs as inferior and recognize the depth and importance of these positions, as well as the dignity of those who hold them.

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Baltimore Protests

The genocide of black people has been going for centuries. It’s finally getting a little attention (a fraction of what it deserves) and people are so appalled and offended, not by the ongoing degradation and murder of black people, but by the gall of black people to start fighting back and raising hell.

If you’re white and have a problem with black people not following bullshit rules of respectability, sitting down, being quiet, and waiting for we white people to maybe stop being quite as racist and violent, you’re part of the problem.

The protesters in Baltimore and everywhere else have my full support. They’re not killing, they’re not raping, they’re destroying pieces and symbols of our white supremacist system that was built on the dehumanization, kidnapping, and murder of their not so distant ancestors, AND that relies on the marginalization and exploitation of those living now.

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How to be an Ally

I’m non-binary. I was assigned female at birth but am agender, and use they/them pronouns. There is one person at work who uses my pronouns, even though I’m open and public about my gender identity. I don’t have the energy to explain it over and over to people who probably have never heard of non-binary identities and would likely misgender me anyway.

On Friday, one of my colleagues approached me. She is also new to non-binary genders but wants to do better. We have staff meetings where we all go around and introduce ourselves, with the next one being on Monday. She said that, if I were comfortable with it, she would like to ask the facilitator to include our pronouns in that intro section. She said she wants our workplace to be more inclusive and respectful but, since there aren’t, to the best of her knowledge, other non-binaries at the office, she wanted to make sure I would feel safe with that.

So what did she do right?

*She isn’t familiar with NB identities but accepted mine instead of questioning the validity or existence of being agender.
*She tries to use my pronouns and corrects herself/apologizes when she makes a mistake.
*She understands that me trying to educate the entire office on my own is way too much and wants to help.
*She understands that being misgendered all the time is hurtful and took it upon herself to find a way to stop or reduce it.
*She asked if I would feel safe and comfortable being totally out to our coworkers.
*She took responsibility for going to the facilitator instead of telling me I should do it.

For all the “But HOW can I help?” people out there, here’s a model to follow: Be respectful. Prioritize our safety. Come up with solutions instead of relying on us to tell you what to do every time. Make sure it’s actually a good idea. Do it.

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Cultural Appropriation and How to Avoid It

Cultural Appropriation and How to Avoid It.

Main point: Don’t be lazy. If something catches your eye, research it. Time and energy are the first steps toward being anti-racist and culturally respectful.

Example: Sushi.

Congratulations, you just ate sushi for the first time! You’re in love! Now what?

1) Research sushi. What’s its history? Does it have special cultural meaning? Is it usually eaten at particular cultural events or religious ceremonies? Is it a day-to-day food? How is it usually consumed? Do specific rolls have special meaning? Is it real sushi or a bastardized version that you’re eating? How is sushi made (rituals involved, is it made by religious leaders)?

2) Is sushi something that is actively shared with others or is it being taken? Were you invited to eat sushi by a Japanese person? Is it a food that Japanese people encourage others to eat or is it something that white people have decided is cool and are making/selling without regard to its background? Is it being sold by Japanese people because they’re economically disenfranchised and it’s one of the only avenues that they have for survival?

3) Where are you buying your sushi? Are you going to a Japanese restaurant owned and operated by Japanese people? Or is it a white-owned restaurant profiting off another culture? Can you buy it from a Japanese chef or restaurant?

Most of these questions can be answered by Wikipedia. And most people will immediately say “No! Too much work! Cultural appreciation! Racism against whites!” but for those who actually care about ending racism, imperialism, and appropriation of other cultures, here you go. Go forth and do better!

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