“The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises.”
~ Leo Buscaglia
What has become of us? Remember back In the day when you met people at a bar and only had to ask what their astrological sign was? Where the worst thing you had to deal with was whether their Pisces was compatible with your Taurus? And just knowing what their next drink was seemed to be good enough?
Now, we live in a world where every person is accompanied by a list of variables that need to be figured out before we can even engage in a serious conversation… or even know if we want to engage in a serious conversation at all. Even people who do not think they have labels are now labeled with a “cis-“ in front of their gender of man or woman. Man or woman… Gay or straight… he or she… these are tried and true definitions that most people don’t think about asking the people they meet these days. Those were the easy labels.
Now, a woman you meet at a bar may not be a genetic woman. She might have formerly been a man… she might be a man who has impeccable skills at the art of feminine illusion… she might be an intersex individual who is trans-feminine in her gender presentation or identity. Do you call her a ‘her’? Are they a ‘them’? There seems to be so many guarded gates around a person before you can drop your own guard in order to really get to know them beyond their labels.
I have attended many LGBTQ+ community events and support meetings. When you meet the people in the room or venue, you approach them to see their name and a preferred pronoun on their ‘My name is” sticky badge. Whenever I put one on my chest, it never seemed to want to contour to my dress… and I end up slapping my boob half the evening trying to get to to behave (of course, me seeming to randomly grab my boob ends up looking like I’m the one not behaving – lol). Of course, a name and a pronoun are just two attributes to what makes up a person, isn’t it?
A spoken name can still be very ambiguous, can’t it? Just check out the SNL skit, “It’s Pat!”, to see just how ingrained we are in society with personal names and our expectation of what we expect to see as the physical gender manifestation of the corresponding person. The spoken versions of Chris, Tony/Toni. Pat, Terry/Terri will always have us waiting for a voice or a physical presentation before we assign a gender to said person. And, now, physical gender presentation may still be a tough ‘read’. With the growing number of individuals in the trans-masculine, trans-feminine, genderQueer, crossdressing, and other transgender communities, it has become more difficult for cis-gender (and other TG people) to instantly know who they are talking to.
My girlfriend, Judy, always asks me questions about the people I/we meet during these events, social groups, and support meet ups. She asks me what their sexual preference is, what their pronoun is, were they originally a woman or man, where are they trying to get to in their identity and presentation. I usually tell her that I don’t know because I didn’t ask. She shakes her head at me because she wonders why I am not interested in those things, making me chuckle a bit. Unless the person I am speaking to volunteers their life story to me, I usually don’t ask. Unless they reveal their gender biology, gender presentation, gender identity, sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and preferred pronoun to me in conversation, I usually don’t think to ask.
Maybe its just me. Am I disinterested in understanding the nuances of a person’s various labels? I would have to say, ‘Yes,’ to that, only because understanding a person’s motivations, their aspirations, their wants and desires in life go beyond who they are on a gender our sexual level, doesn’t it? If a woman at the bar told me she wanted to be a CEO of the company where she was currently employed, should I limit her aspirations because she was a cis-female or was in a lesbian relationship? Should I focus on who she is genetically or focus on what her plans on for fulfilling her life goal of the big promotion to the corner office?
Trust me, I love a good life story as much as the next gurl. But, I also love to hear about who a person is in their heart and mind. We will all need to read the labels about a person, eventually. The name and pronoun are the most important facet to get right, up front. The rest of the labels will be revealed to you as needed (and warranted). Have affection and love for people above and beyond their labels, for those labels have a way of inadvertently putting people into little organized boxes. People are people… what other labels do they need to have?