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


Some of these terms, such as cis*, have been invented several times with slightly-different meanings.

Other terms, such as transsexual and genderqueer, have been used in such a narrow sense, transsexual being used by binary operative trans people to exclude non-binary and binary non-operative trans people, and genderqueer being used by cafab trans people to exclude camab trans people [despire being coined by camab trans people], so people need new terms for everyone who is transsexual in the wider sense or transgender in the middle-of-the-range sense, for anyone who is camab and non-binary, and so on.


There’s always room for someone worried about how one’s tone is gonna piss some people off?! /s

I say fuck 'em!


It’s a direct quote. Scroll up.

No, it isn’t. If there’s a recurring pothole in front of my house I can call DPW and tell them there’s a problem without having to know anything about asphalt mixtures and steamroller operation.

Being handed a list of rules can rub people the wrong way, especially when those rules change from year to year and vary from individual to individual. It rubs me the wrong way. If you don’t care that you’re making an offputting impression of strident dogmatism to the very people who most need education on the subject, thereby increasing their resistance to said education, fine, that’s up to you, but don’t shout me down for pointing it out, and don’t act like the only problem is that they don’t appreciate being yelled at.

And you’re right, it’s not about me. I already know all this stuff. I’m not interested in ginning up creaky justifications to offend and disrespect marginalized people, I’m not trying to preserve my right to call people “transvestites,” I’m telling you what it sounds like from over here and what it sounds like is counterproductive. If you don’t care what Straight Cis Man has to say then feel free to ignore me. Not everything warrants a response.


It wasn’t even a proper tone argument. It was literally just “Hey, don’t share information that makes it easier for those who are not familiar with transgender and non-binary people to answer some of their questions, no matter how basic and inoffensive it is. Even having information about transgender people out there might piss someone off, and we surely have to kneel down to the lowest common denominator, so shhhh.”

And of course he presented in an oh-so polite tone, so isn’t he totally reasonable? Even though his entire argument boils down to “stop trying to educate people about transgender and non-binary people! It might make some people mad to be presented with information about transgender people!”


It is not a direct quote. You are seriously twisting my words and I explained why, and you ignored my points again and still haven’t really answered any of the points I brought up in response.

Being handed a list of rules can rub people the wrong way,

The fact that you consider this a list of "rules’ rather than information is pretty telling, though. And who gives a fuck i it rubs some bigots the wrong way??

And you’re right, it’s not about me. I already know all this stuff.

Ah, yes. I suppose we should just shut up and listen to the straight, white, cis male because he totally understands this subject, because he says so. He says so so it must be true.

Oh my god no. Stop. Stop digging that hole.

I’m not interested in ginning up creaky justifications to offend and disrespect marginalized people, I’m not trying to preserve my right to call people “transvestites,”

You know, I never said that’s what you were doing. But here you are. Reassuring me that you are a totally swell, awesome straight white male ally who would never use inappropriate language or terms. Why did you even need to SAY that? Why do you feel the need to reassure me? This isn’t about you, and yet here you are – making it about you and how awesome you are and how much you understand.

I’m telling you what it sounds like from over here and what it sounds like is counterproductive. If you don’t care what Straight Cis Man has to say then feel free to ignore me. Not everything warrants a response.

And just because you have an opinion, it does not mean you need to fucking repeat it, literally telling those in marginalized groups how YOU, a straight white man, thinks they should handle things in their own communities. And if you DO voice your opinion about a marginalized group, it would be helpful to actually LISTEN to those people rather than brushing them off.

But I suppose since you’re TELLING me, then I should listen, because a white, cis man has spoken.

You know, the whole fucking POINT is that cis, straight, white men have had the god damned center stage since forever. Maybe you should step back and let everyone else have a fucking say for one moment.


It’s tough to be on a BBS with a diverse population, isn’t it? Why, all sorts of people might express opinions about things! And you’re forced to not only read them, but to type up lengthy disjointed jeremiads in response! It’s okay, we’ve all been there.


If you need a thousand word essay on how to talk, you’re too damn sensitive.

Treat people the way you’d like to be treated. There I fixed it.

And don’t talk about her package.

Simple comic explains how not to derail conversations about gender identity

You do realize that many transgendered folks have been and continue to be actively discriminated against, often violently? I’m unclear why it’s such a shitty thing to do to discuss this in public given that? Do you honestly think that by saying “be nice” the violence against transgendered people will just sort of go away? While Caitlyn is on the cover of Vanity Fair, other transgendered people are being denied basic human rights:

FYI, I used to be friendly with Ashley back in the day… an absolutely lovely young lady then and I’m upset she’s being subjected to this.

It might be intuitive to you on how to treat people, but we have millions of people who have no clue. If you truly want to be supportive, how about not roll your eyes every time a topic like this pops up.


Sorry, I think you’re making assumptions. I don’t see GLAAD telling anyone “who can and can not be trans.” The article is to help people talk about trans people and the whole subject of transgender and transsexual people. I think it’s equally wrong for any transgender person to try to speak for all transgender people as it would be for one cis person to speak for all cis people. Every one of us is unique. Trying to make rules that fit all of us is self-defeating and inappropriate.


I feel like the article should be condensed radically.

As it is, it is akin to demanding that people read Eric “freaktrain” Raymond’s entire How To Ask Questions The Smart Way essay, which is a zillion tedious words, before they have the right to ask a question.

A better approach might be to show, say, 8 common guidelines, in bulleted list form of a sentence or two each, with quick examples of good and bad usage included next to each one. Bonus points if the good and bad examples are from real media sources.

It is not that a list of rules is fundamentally negative, it’s just that if the rules are presented as enormous, byzantine and full of deep, nuanced subtlety that you have to interpret and study like a tax code to get it right… that’s not going to reach many people.


And how is this unending essay on what to do in every discrete situation in excruciating detail going to accomplish that? People understand how they want to be treated. Convince them that everyone else deserves to be treated the same way and you have a powerful case.

Did I say it was a shitty thing to discuss this in public? No, in fact, I did not. I essentially said to connect it to the lives of the people you want to communicate with instead of engaging in an abstract diatribe that looks simultaneously condescending and self righteous.

It might be intuitive to you on how to treat people, but we have millions of people who have no clue.

Most people are going to find that claim extraordinarily arrogant. They will not feel they need your instruction on such matters. In fact, if you take that attitude, they will be motivated to instruct you on how to treat people. If you think defensiveness and arrogance is a successful strategy, then we’ll need to discuss the idea of stupid strategy too.


FFS, who is demanding that people read this article before asking questions?

If someone posts a question on Serverfault about how to enable HTTPS in Apache, wouldn’t a reasonable answer outline the basic process, then provide links to the documentation? Few people would demand that people read the complete Apache documentation before asking a question. Though I’m sure many would say it would be a good idea to read it. Does anyone ever suggest it’s somehow offensive that Apache has extensive documentation?

This is documentation. It’s handy to have around. No one forced you to read it.


I’m not getting the backlash on this either. RTFM, right?


Not entirely related, but I was recently thinking if making LGBT seem dull and mundane would improve matters. It is in a way the end goal. Might not be prudent yet, but in the future “I couldn’t care less” should be the correct response when someone starts discussing another person’s gender-identity etc. Like asking which sock someone puts on first in the morning or which way they put up the toilet paper roll in the bathroom.

Also, I know it’s a tiny minority that makes a fuss about using the correct 3rd person singular pronoun when discussing someone, but instead of making more pronouns wouldn’t it be better to move to less?


Oy. So right here. Caitlyn is a creep and that has nothing to do with her sexual or gender identity.

It is highly ironic that all the people wringing their hands on what words to use to avoid making anyone feel bad are applauding this person who has left a trail of emotional suffering and even death in their wake.

Where I don’t agree with you is your characterization of the “dressing up” as a fetish.


Oh dear. Please look up “crossdressing” or magazines like “Transformation”.

Drag queens crossdress for social amusement, entertainment and satire. They are typically gay men most of whom do not find doing drag sexually stimulating, although they do attract a certain kind of male admirer.

Crossdressers are usually straight but sometimes bi men who get an erotic charge from wearing women’s clothing, often with fantasies of submission, degradation, being “forced” to be a woman ie fetishistic behaviour. Some are fixated on particular types of clothing and will wear these items to focus on while they masturbate. Others are fixated on being a certain “type” of women. Many are also exhibitionists, some are hung up on the furtive aspect of dressing - like possibly getting “caught” in the act of dressing, some have criminal motivations, like Colonel Russell Williams, who was breaking into his neighbour’s homes to dress in their preteen daughter’s clothing while photographing himself wearing it - when he wasn’t murdering women: Serial Creeper

The former Bruce was certainly well off enough to have purchased women’s clothing for himself and had no reason to be furtively trying on or wearing his daughter’s clothing. This strongly suggests a pathological aspect to this behaviour. What would you think of your 65 year old dad or granddad trying on his daughter’s clothing for a sexual thrill ?

Edit: Some drag queens transition, and some crossdressers transition into a new identity as a transsexual. This may or may NOT involve legal change of sex documents, gender reassignment surgery and/or cosmetic surgery, name change, etc. The only 100% accurate way to understand which pronouns to use is to ASK the person. Currently there seems to be some hypersensitive expectations that not inherently understanding a gender identity - despite a radical spectrum of presentation - is inherently transphobic.


If it offends you so much, don’t read it. Keep ignoring the very thing you say you’re for here, which is reaching out to others to let them know how they’d like to be treated.

Given the continued discrimination that transgendered people face, I’d say it’s on the mark. But, yes, laying out the complexity of the terms around gender and sexual identity is incredibly arrogant, as is me pointing out that there is still massive discrimination against transgendered people. I’m such a tool.


Wow. This is veering off the rails really quickly.

In an article about how not to be a jacknut there’s an awful lot of people who are ignoring the basic premise.


Didn’t you know - it’s a waste of time for people to express how they would like to be understood and addressed. /s


Pardon my ignorance, perhaps someone here can enlighten me on this issue. I fully understand using the pronouns the person wants, but what pronoun do you use for them historically, before they changed pronouns? I ran into this with Manning, when they leaked they were a self-identified “he”, but now they are a " she". Is Manning now a retroactive “she”, or did he leak it, and she went to prison?

I feel odd with the retroactive pronoun, since she was a he at the time.

Talking about Jenner at the Olympics, did he win a gold medal? Or did she, despite the fact that she was a he at the time?

Also, in the list of rules I can’t help but notice that cross dressers aren’t invited to the party. I might be out of line, as a very traditional guy (I hate the term " cis" with a firey passion), but I find this a bit odd, and disrespectful. I’ve been friends with many people and communities of drag queens and cross dressers over the years, and I find it odd that they are left out. There is an aspect of gender identity there, not just “they dress like women for entertainment”.