SocietyMade possible by

Congratulations, She’s a Boy: How to be friends with me

We’re back for month three of Congratulations, She’s a Boy, a monthly column following Felix Desmarais’ female-to-male (FTM) transition.

I’m sorry I’m late, dear readers. I’m just continuing a long tradition of being a disappointing white man.

Calm down, #notallmen. Eye roll emoji.

Seriously though, September was a busy month so apologies to my niche but nonetheless very thirsty and demanding audience. Bless you.

I seem to have caused quite the little Facebook storm with my last column. Some Conservative Party guy commented on the post saying – and I paraphrase because his comments have been deleted – that people like me deserve compassion and love but that we can’t normalise transgender people because it threatens a ‘natural family’.

*Jay-Z in ‘The Story of OJ’ voice* …Okay.

That is some paaaatronising shit. And we saw it echoed by Israel Folau on Twitter this month:

I think I speak for a lot of queer people when I say: doooooo fuck off Israel Folau.✌️❤️🙏

Let me say it clearly for the old timers in the back; if this were Twitter there would be clap emojis in between each word:

You cannot say you love and respect people, that you have compassion for them, if you don’t support their rights.

Honestly I prefer bigots who are just straight up assholes. Own your assholery I say. As my mum says, if a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing well. Just don’t try to kid yourself that you’re a good person. You’re not.

In other news I’m so manly now. Remember Manly Jack from What Now? That’s me. So far, so oily. Call me Martin Sheen cos I have to carry anti-bacterial face wipes in my bag at all times.

The other day I felt my chin hairs in the wind like fields of wheat. Oh goodness me.

I’ve also got my first consultation for top surgery (boobz b gone) this week!

On the 26th I celebrated being on testosterone for three months. Time flies when you’re simultaneously menopausal and pubescent. I’m not gonna lie, it’s definitely hard sometimes. But I thoroughly recommend going through puberty in your late 20s. My pimples were a little sore the other day, and I didn’t even write an angry poem in red ink about how no one truly ‘gets’ me. Glow up, amirite?

I never used to smile with my eyes like that though.

This month (well, last month cos this is late but shhh) I thought I’d talk about how to be friends with trans people. That is, how not to be a dick around or to us.

I used to feel a lot of anxiety about interacting with trans people when I thought I was cis. It all came from a well-meaning place, because I didn’t want to offend anybody or be called out. But tbh you need to get over it.

I do get it. What if I get their pronouns wrong? What if I use their old name? I’m here to help quell your fears and guide you through that – or at least alleviate that anxiety. And do please remember, trans people aren’t a burden so don’t pretend like we are.

Jeez, that got sassy quick.

Best movie of all time. I’m so serious

How to be friends with a trans person – specifically, me, Felix

I write this with the assumption that you’re not a complete dick and you wanna do the right thing. So nice one mate, I appreciate it. But be aware, this is the bare minimum.

As always, I stress that I do not speak for all trans people – but this may be a useful guide. If you have a trans friend, ask them about any specifics, since every person is different. It bears mentioning too that because I’m a white trans guy that my voice may not be representative of people with non-white and/or trans feminine experience. So it might be worth listening to some other voices. Like Kat Blaque’s, because she’s amazing.

NB: I’m using trans through this to refer to transgender and non-binary people.

Pronouns

  • In English, pronouns are he/him/his or she/her/hers or they/them/theirs. ‘It’ is also a pronoun but it refers to non-persons so should never ever be used to refer to any person. Some people also use variations such as ze/zir/zirs. Pronouns are especially important to trans people because they are very symbolic of how you view us.
  • It’s best to not assume. I always use the rule that if I’m not sure of someone’s pronouns, I’ll use ‘they’ until I know for sure –usually by subtly asking them, one on one, when I know it won’t put them in any danger or under any stress. Or just wait and listen. You usually find out. Failing that, just use their name instead of their pronouns.
  • There’s a lot of talk of ‘preferred pronouns’. I’m not a fan of this phrase because cis people don’t have ‘preferred pronouns’, they’re just pronouns. Same with trans people. It’s not that complicated.
  • If you mess up a person’s pronouns, for the love of Kris Kristofferson do not make a big deal about it. I know you’re sorry, you don’t have to yell it across the room repeatedly in front of everyone. The best way to show us you’re sorry is to correct yourself immediately and carry on with whatever you were saying. If it was interesting.
  • In a perfect world, no one would assume anyone’s gender based on their appearance. That’s why a really great and super easy way to support trans people is to normalise giving your pronouns. If you go to an event that requires a name tag, pop your name and your pronouns on there. Encourage other people to. Pop them on your twitter bio. Little things like that. Because when cis people start doing it too, it no longer means that a person is outing themselves as trans when they have to do it. It’s so easy and will make a big difference. It also shows that you give a shit.
  • You can also try to not use binary language, like “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” or using ma’am or sir. Pro tip for other trans guys though, if someone ‘ma’ams’ you just pretend they said “man”. Works for me.
  • Some people use non-binary or gender neutral pronouns, like ‘ze’ or the singular ‘they’. But hang on, “‘They’ as a singular pronoun is not grammatically correct.” Yeah, because everything you say is grammatically correct, wiseguy. We don’t have any other gender neutral pronoun in English. And it actually is correct. Imagine if you received a letter addressed to someone with a gender neutral name, let’s say, “Alex”. If you were to refer to Alex, not being sure of their gender, what would you call them? I already answered it for you. Saying ‘they’ is not grammatically correct is just you trying to excuse your laziness and disrespect with a sudden concern for the English language. Big ole NOOOOPE. Don’t be a dick, oi.

Names

  • Often, when trans people come out, they change their name. I realise it can be hard to switch if you knew my old name. For me, all that matters is that you genuinely try. I don’t mind if you go Hey Fr-Felix! – in fact, it means a lot, cos you’re clearly overriding an old habit out of care for me. Again, like pronouns, if you get it wrong, just correct yourself and move on. Don’t make a big fuss. It makes me uncomfortable and makes being trans harder. Stay chill, be cool.
  • There can be a bit of time between changing a name ‘informally’ and changing it on a birth certificate. Sometimes that means you might find out our old name. Keep it to yourself. I will probably find out if you share it, and it really hurts.
  • Don’t ask what my ‘real name’ is. Felix is my ‘real’ name. It’s realer than the one I was born with. You wanting to know our old name is super disrespectful. Some people don’t mind people knowing their old name, that’s cool too. But it’s our right to decide who knows, not yours.

Outing us

Fuckin’ don’t.

Junk

  • My private parts are private just like yours. Don’t ask me about them. It’s none of your business (unless you want it to be your business, eyyyy). Don’t ask if I’ve had ‘the surgery’. First of all, there are lots of surgeries, and second of all, it’s none.of.your.business. My bits, like yours, are only relevant to me, the people I sleep with and my doctor. And my incognito mode.
  • Don’t assume our sexuality either. Just like cis people, some trans people are gay, some are straight, some are bisexual, pansexual, sapiosexual, heteroflexible – whatever.
  • Sometimes trans peoples’ sexualities can change when they transition. It’s probably because we’re suddenly much more comfortable with who we are, so we can explore aspects of ourselves that we never knew existed. For example I used to identify as a lesbian, but now as a man I’m think I’m pansexual (I like people regardless of their gender). I realised I like guys – but only in a gay way. There’s a difference between the dynamic between two men and a man and a woman.

Don’t think trans people aren’t sexy or lovable or married either.

I am DEMONSTRABLY husband-material

  • Trans people are usually not keen on being fetishised (some people don’t mind, good for them) in the same way most people aren’t keen on being objectified either. But we are cute, we are handsome and we are beautiful. And not just when we fit a cisgender ideal, either. Look up the tag #transisbeautiful on Instagram. Try not to walk away thirsty as f.
  • Don’t ask how we have sex because I’m going to tell you now – probably better than you do.

Bugbears

I know you mean well, but…

  • “You’re so brave” – honestly this is a weird thing to say. So much so that it’s literally the name of a podcast by two trans guys. It’s hard to explain why it’s so strange, but saying that trans people are brave kind of implies that transgender people are weird, and that is is brave to show that weirdness. But a) We’re not weird, we’re just trans and b) Being trans is not brave, it’s usually just survival. So don’t call me brave. Call me trailblazing, call me articulate, call me handsome, but don’t call me brave. I’m just being myself. It’s also just kind of patronising.
  • “You’re transgender?! I would have never known!” For some trans people (but not all), myself included, ‘passing’ is important. That is, I like to be read, like most men, as a man, because that is what I am. So I get that some people think saying this is a “compliment” – but it’s not.
  • Being trans is not some secret we are keeping from you. We’re not ‘undercover’. We just are. Saying you would have never known is like saying you know what trans people look like, and trans people don’t look like anything in particular, we’re just human beings.
  • “I just see you as one of my bros” – saying this reveals that you actually don’t. You’re singling me out because I’m different. You’re also revealing that you treat men and women differently which is a bit shitty huh.
  • “I could never be transgender” Yeah, that’s probably because you aren’t. Go away.
  • An accessible toilet does not pass (lol) as a gender neutral toilet. Trans people are not differently abled (just by being trans) and it’s very problematic for able-bodied trans people to be using the toilet designated for people with special abilities. Some trans people literally get UTIs and kidney infections from holding it in because of toilet issues. So yes, actual gender neutral toilets are essential. Make them happen.
  • Remember that being trans is not a sexuality. I know, it’s confusing, cos it goes L.G.B.T… Lesbian: sexuality. Gay: sexuality. Bisexual: sexuality. Transgender: gender identity.
    Pro tip: sexuality is who you want to go to bed with. Gender identity is who you want to wake up as.
  • Don’t speak for us. I don’t care how woke you think you are. Shut up when trans people talk about being trans and listen to them. Try to actively learn about experiences that differ from yours. You will probably learn something and it will help you to avoid embarrassing yourself.

Share this. Spread it far and wide.

So, I was late with this column but I hope I made up for it by making it a bumper edition. I would love to hear in the comments on the Spinoff Facebook page if I missed anything out.

You might have noticed that the key thread is to be kind and treat us like human beings. Buzzy eh.

Some of these things might be hard to get your head around, because they’re not things you’ve ever really thought about before. But my friend Jaden recently performed this incredible poem and I think it perfectly illustrates how important it is that you try to be a good ally to trans people.

We’re not a burden. We exist. We don’t just deserve to survive, we deserve to thrive.

40% by Jaden Brooks

[Subtitles available!]

This month’s column is dedicated to Kit. Rest in peace pal.

@felix_desmarais

Hot off the press extra! My top surgery date has just been confirmed for 7 November – more on that next episode.

Catch up on Felix’s first and second columns here and here. Subscribe to Felix’s videos here.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.