I had the unfortunate experience today of being the punchline of someone’s joke.
There was more to this story than just the following statement, of course, but to give you a small taste (I changed the names he used to avoid any sort of issue): “It was funny because Bob was so confused when we told him, ‘well yeah, but you know that *Justin* used to be *Justine*’ and he was just so confused! We had him really going.”
The person telling this anecdote thought it was funny, and the people he was telling the story to certainly laughed. I immediately went silent as I pondered whether or not to say anything. In the end I kept my mouth firmly shut, swallowed all statements, and just went about my business. I’m not confident enough in my ability to remain calm in these situations yet, so it ended up being better that I refrained from comment.
I am not a joke. Being trans is not a joke. Making a joke out of anyone’s sexuality, gender, gender identity, race, religion, or whatever else it is that makes them different is not appropriate or entertaining in any way. If people laugh, it’s either because they’re as small-minded as you are or because they’re uncomfortable with what you’ve just said. Don’t mistake their laughter for entertainment, because it likely wasn’t.
I try to just let these things go. I try to just let it roll off my back and acknowledge that the person likely had no ill intent when a) joking with whoever he was joking with in the story and b) telling the story in the setting that he did. But this person is well aware of my situation, and where I come from. He is well aware (or should be) how seemingly insignificant comments like this can affect someone. This is not the first time I’ve had this conversation. Unfortunately, I also know that it will not be the last time I have a conversation such as this, or write a blog post about it. That is a sacrifice I make each and every day.
I have worked hard to build safe spaces for myself throughout my transition whether that be my home, my workplace, or the public spaces I frequent; each and every space I occupy regularly must be a place I feel safe and included. That was taken away from me today, at least in part. It wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t directed at me, but it happened nonetheless. Casual transphobia is real and it is hurtful. It doesn’t matter if he “meant” to be transphobic or not, the fact remains that it was.
I implore each of you to think very carefully about what you speak of and to whom you’re speaking. All it takes is one misplaced comment and you could truly tear someone’s world apart.
Until next time.