How to talk about Caitlyn Jenner: how to not say asshole things about transgender people

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I’d prefer not to talk about any of the regular cast of that show about people who are mostly only famous for being on that show, but it is handy to have a guide for talking about transgender individuals. If in doubt, though, ask the individual what terms they prefer. If that’s not an option you probably shouldn’t be talking about them.

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Just to clarify:

The British English definition of transgender (dating from the mid 90s when London Lesbian and Gay Pride became LGBT pride) does include drag performers and crossdressers. This was a deliberate choice to stop those people being excluded from the march, as some people had already attempted to do that to bisexual and trans people.


Yeah, it’s rather unfortunate that one of the most publicized exemplars is also a narcissistic doof regardless of gender. ‘The Richard Dawkins Effect,’ essentially.


Here’s the best way to go about it:

“Oh, are they happy? Great!”


Gay’s and Lesbian’s Against Defamation think they can tell who can and can not be trans?
Of course they want trans/gender to mean the same as transexual.
Because if the actual definition of transgender: “people who challenge ‘traditional’ assumptions about gender” is used i.e the original definition that was specifically designed to be inclusive and not exclusive of drag queens, drag kings, crossderessers, transvestites, butch women, femme mean, androygnes, gender fuck and gender queer - it might include some of them and that would never do. We fought hard to include our diversity because trans people are diverse, because its impossible to say that person is really a transexual and that person isn’t. I remember when being a tranny dyke was a contradiction in terms. I was told over and over again by Lesbians and gays that people only had sex changes because they wanted to be heterosexual, that if a transexual woman saw her slef as a lesbian then she was really a transvestite. We fought hard for trans/gender inclusion in LGBT precisely to get away from all this better than thou bull**** So GLAAD can take their definitions and shove them!

Of course all insecure transexuals love the idea that the T in LGBT is just about them. When you have just lost CIS privilege and are casting around for any sense of power/privilege, feeling better about being a ‘real’ man or woman than the ‘fake’ transvestites, drag queens, cross dressers, drag kings etc makes one feel so much better. Of course they will dump the trans identity the moment they can pass and regain cis privilege. How do I know - because I been watching it happen for thirty years.
Oh and btw I am dyke - I call myself a dyke to reclaim the word from all the haters, which is why I am also a tranny - because I wont let that word be used by haters either.
Oh and I am proud of who I am and all the battles I have fought, often having to fight exclusive gays and lesbians like the people at GLAAD who think they can tell others - who and what they are!
How would GLAAAD like if i defined lesbian as women who only have had sex with women and gay as men who only ever had sex with men, and if they have ever had sex with the another sex then they were bisexual!
I would rightly be told that I was being offensive and how dare I think I can define what someone else’s sexuality is.
So how come a bunch of cis lesbian and gays get to tell trans people who we are and who is included with our community
can i suggest boingboing does a bit more research next time rather than going for the easy sloppy journalism route


The LGB movement did not get a solid foothold until pop culture started to recognize LGB folks (as more than just a joke). This is not a new thing, you know. It’s important that queer and transgender pop culture icons be recognized as such. Visibility has always been key, and it still very much is.

Caitlyn is also an Olympic medalist! Her story is so much more than the person she married, or who her children are. Who, by the way, have largely been EXTREMELY supportive.

This is a super fucking important moment. Denying it is not going to stop it from being really important.


I’m cis so I do not want to step on your toes, but thank you for sharing. I think this is an important discussion to be had, and I think you brought up some really strong arguments.

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When meeting people for the first time I find the inclination to ask how they prefer to be referred to as being… overbearing, quite rude, I guess. I usually go with ‘they’, ‘them’ until I know the person well enough through personal interaction to discover their preferences without being conversationally invasive.
As gender identity becomes more and more fluid and the spectrum opens up to a wider reality, I feel like this presumptuousness could become more of a problem. How to remain civil without being presumptive but still being accurate to the persons choice? Probably just a personal hang-up, the like of which will be laughed at by future generations.


I totally agree here. While I’m not a fan of the Kardashians, popular culture has power in our society and can do some real positive work. Plus, you’re right about her past accomplishments as an Olympian - which everyone seems to have forgotten.

I think that no matter what you think about this show, Caitlyn’s public disclosure on her identity has been nothing but positive.

And also, thanks to @Big_Kate for sharing. The more outspoken and proud people are, the more people can begin to understand the lives of others and to learn to treat others with respect no matter how they identify themselves.


I’m not sure that this is a major milestone in pop culture history. Renee Richards nee Richard Raskind was the pivotal moment.ée_Richards

I am glad that so much positive has happened with this just in my lifetime. When I was a kid, being transgender wasn’t even talked about - it wasn’t an acknowledged thing at all, and I suspect if someone in my hometown had come out as trans, people wouldn’t even begin to process it. It’d be like the mother in My Big Fat Greek Wedding saying ‘I cook you lamb’ when told someone is a vegetarian. If Caitlyn helps move the discussion forward, so much the better, I suppose.

A long list of rules about what you’re not allowed to say is maybe not the most constructive way to reach people who may be confused or ambivalent about unfamiliar concepts. It’s true that some of those people just want to be assholes anyway and will latch onto any excuse for their behavior, but there is also a significant percentage who will have a knee-jerk reaction against stern finger-wagging over things like “transgender” vs. “transgendered.”

Renee Richards’ story was definitely super important and perhaps one of the most pivotal early moments and should not be forgotten. However, Caitlyn was one of the most popular Olympic medalists. She was the first athlete to be on a Wheaties box (as Bruce Jenner). This is hugely important, too.

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So now we don’t expect mostly grown adults to educate themselves in a thoughtful and intelligent way? We really need to expect better of society. And I note that you don’t really have an alternative, nor do you really explain why it’s “not really the best idea”.

but there is also a significant percentage who will have a knee-jerk reaction against stern finger-wagging over things like “transgender” vs. “transgendered.”

…So? This seems incredibly insignificant. “Some people” (who?!) might (might!) object to something, so it’s suddenly not the best way to go about educating people, and yet you have no real other thoughts on how you think might be a better way…

Is this about everyone else, or is this really about you?

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“Oh wow. Did you see this Vanity Fair pic of Jenner?”
“Yep. I did.”
“How badly did that make you want to throw up?”
“Funny, I was actually just reading this article about how to discuss transgender roles without sounding like an asshole.”
“Here, I’ll send you the link.”


I’ve met plenty of grown adults, so… no.

I don’t think filing a bug report comes with an obligation to submit a patch. If I were to suggest a different approach, you would rightly be castigating a straight cis man for presuming to tell GLAAD how to run their program. If you really think it’s “incredibly insignificant” that an outreach/communication effort might be flawed and even counterproductive, then you may not be all that interested in outreach and communication in the first place.

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I thought it was a good post with lots of good detail.

Counter to the headline, I would say rather than being a dictate of how you should talk, it is rather an education of how people prefer to be identified. Since a good chunk of people do want to be respectful of transgender folks, the easiest way to do that is to learn about the concepts so you can apply them in conversation correctly. While most people will gloss over a slight gaff in what word you choose, choosing the right terms most of the time shows that you have taken the time to know what you’re talking about.


If you really think it’s “incredibly insignificant” that an outreach/communication effort might be flawed and even counterproductive, then you may not be all that interested in outreach and communication in the first place…

I never said that! Don’t act like a fucking martyr.

I never said that there aren’t flaws within the LGBT movement. I explained myself poorly about how i actually feel in response to your (still) unsupported claim, but I never actually said there are no flaws within the LGBT movement. That is not what I said, and it certainly isn’t what I meant. Your arguments are poor; that doesn’t mean there aren’t flaws within LGBT community.

The trans community is not always welcome in the larger LGB community, and that’s important to talk about. @Big_Kate made some really great points that I agreed with in which they criticized some of the information included in this “Transgender 101” document. It’s a good start, but it’s not perfect, and it’s important to allow transgender people a voice, rather than (once again) allowing cis people to take over the conversation. (I hope I am not coming off like that, Kate.)

As a queer woman, I KNOW there are flaws. Most notably bisexual, transgender, and other people who don’t identify strictly inside the lesbian or especially gay white male identity are sometimes erased. The movement is often rightly criticized for leaning heavily on issues that largely only effect middle-class white cis people. These are important issues, but it is not what you were saying at all.

Did I cover everything to your satisfaction, my straight man? Oh, I hope so! I hope you approve. (/s)

ALL you are saying is that by merely having information available online for people to read is going to cause a negative reaction because… no reason. It just is. and you don’t actually say anything else. It’s like a weird form of silencing and tone trolling. You’re literally telling us not to even bother helping people educate themselves for fear of offending someone (somehow, some way, I’m not even sure).

I even give you a chance to explain yourself, and you (a straight cis man!) merely moved the goal post a bit and then you accused me of saying something I did not say – as if I was merely attacking you rather than directly responding to your claims. You are not arguing in good faith. Why?

Christ. We are fucked if we do, and fucked if we don’t. If we don’t educate when people are Just Asking Questions by asking really loaded and often transphobic questions, we are being rude. If we create Traonsgender 101 information to share and make it easier four people to have their questions answered, and to educate themselves, then we’re being rude and we may alienate some terrible bigots who aren’t even willing to try to educate themselves.

Fuck 'em. This isn’t about them. (OR you, might I add!)

Honestly, I get the feeling that it’s YOU who is not really willing to put the effort into educating yourself about a group o people that you assume are very different from you.

It is not that difficult to be empathetic and understanding about people who don’t fit into your narrow little bubble of what you think human beings should be like! You can start by putting up some effort and reading. It’ll be good for you. You might even enjoy learning something new!

WHY do we go through this with EVERY fight? This is the same fucking bullshit that we’ve been going through since the dawn of time. I’m so fucking tired of it.


you would rightly be castigating a straight cis man

Also, i you recognize that, why are you even saying this to begin with? WHY do you think what you’ve stated is somehow better?? You’re telling people to not bother with providing information for people to educate themselves about issues that they may not yet fully understand. WHY? It is so fucking counter-productive and counter-intuitive and illogical. You have not presented a rational argument, and you certainly haven’t actually supported your argument with anything substantial, and I am quite rankly completely befuddle as to why you think it was an opinion worth sharing.

I’m also not sure why you, a cis and straight man, think it is appropriate to vaguely insult and criticize a movement you admit not knowing a whole lot about.

You admit that you shouldn’t tell GLAAD what to do, and yet, here you are. Telling them they aren’t doing things right. IT IS THE SAME THING.

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