Appropriate Pronoun for a Drag Queen

No, I don’t think you do. I think these people you know are clearly far more polite than you are, and just let you believe you get along.

I hope you don’t have kids.

“No, kid, don’t call that man Santa. He’s just an ordinary person pretending to be Santa.”

“No, kid, don’t call that person Mickey Mouse. That’s not a mouse, its a teenager in a costume”.

AFAICT, this analogy is appropriate for drag queens but not for actual trans people in ordinary life. Yes, a drag queen is deliberately dressing up as extravagantly female in the same way that a teenager dresses up as Mickey Mouse: as a performance, to present themselves as a different (or at least wildly exaggerated) persona.

So as matt_mcl noted, refusing to use “she” to refer to a drag queen in costume comes across as more ill-natured party-pooping than actual bigotry, just like your examples of a hyper-literal parent teaching kids not to call people in costume “Santa” or “Mickey Mouse”.

But refusing to use “she” to refer to a transwoman in everyday life, for example, is rudeness on a whole different level. That’s saying not just “I don’t want to play along with your make-believe while you dress up as somebody different”, but rather “I’m telling you to your face that your sincere innate experience of your personal gender identity is nothing but make-believe.”

I sympathize with the confusion of people who still get gender and sex mixed up, and honestly don’t understand how a person can sincerely identify as a member of the gender opposite to their anatomical sex. But confusion about the underlying biology and psychology, which is admittedly complicated, does not excuse ignorance or disregard of the appropriate etiquette, which is simple.

Namely: In polite society, you use gender pronouns for another person according to that person’s expressed gender identity and/or explicitly stated preference, not according to what (you imagine) their crotch looks like naked. If you insist on doing otherwise, you’re being impolite. Simple as that.

Lately I have been wishing we had more common gender neutral pronouns, and could use them without it being an issue.

I needed to talk about a a situation at work without identifying the person involved. Using he or she would have narrowed it in half. They and them got me by, and in this case made it obvious I was protecting the identity, but it was awkward.

More recently I met someone VERY androgynous. I have met them twice, and I still am unsure on their biology and also unsure on which gender they are presenting. They have a weird name that doesn’t offer a clue. Weird enough I can’t remember it. Maybe I’ll make a note of it next time, and see if Google can offer a clue. And it is not just how to refer to them in the third person. In some languages and cultures it is formalized, but even in english, in America, there is a way you speak to a lady, and a slightly different way you speak to a man. Another really obvious one is how you shake their hand. I am straight, but try not to be narrow, and it makes me very uneasy not to know which gender someone is presenting. Hope this is close enough related not to be a hijack.

“Wow it didn’t take this thread long to derail did it? I read it as an honest question rather than a call to political debate but whatever.”

Didn’t really mean to derail. Sorry about that.
FWIW I have two friends who had the surgery, became women. Them, I call “she.” Seems right to me as they have the bona fides.

As to the OP: Sorry. I obviously don’t have the answer.

It is? I’m female (straight bio-female, in case anybody gives a hoot), and I shake hands with both men and women pretty much the same. Is this the thing where guys are traditionally taught to shake a woman’s hand more gently than a man’s so her rings won’t hurt her fingers? Or do men (or women, for that matter) expect a woman’s handshake to feel different from a man’s (besides the typical difference in average hand size)? I’ve never seen this discussed before, and I’d be interested to know what the differences are.

Sounds reasonable to me, and I quite agree it can be awkward not to know what set of gender pronouns or forms of address (e.g., “sir” vs. “ma’am”) to use for somebody. AFAICT, there’s nothing contrary to etiquette in discreetly asking a third party what gender the person in question identifies as, or even asking the person themselves if a situation comes up where you really can’t avoid a gendered reference.

Somebody who presents socially in a very non-gender-specific way needs to be prepared for other people sometimes guessing their gender wrong, and needs to correct them politely without making a big deal of it or making them feel bad about it.

Seems right to me too, except that I’d say (and AFAICT etiquette prescribes) that the time to transition to feminine pronouns is when they openly start identifying as women, rather than waiting till they’ve officially had the big snip.

It seems more respectful and less intrusive to gender-classify people according to their own expressed preferences than according to what one knows or guesses about their intimate anatomy. Demanding (or inferring) a status report on the current state of someone’s genitalia before considering them to be entitled to the pronoun of their choice would come across as kind of judgmental and nosy.

Seems like this could be a thread of it’s own, so rather than hijack, I started one.

Yeah, I wish there were a third party. It is a situation where the person comes alone, and I could see other people avoiding conversation because they didn’t know either. I just dove in and figured I’d work it out as we spoke, but that didn’t happen.

You can dress it up in polite language, but asking ultimately boils down to “soooo…I’ve been wondering, do you have a penis?”

You are right though, you probably don’t hit such a gender neutral target in terms of dress, grooming, and overall appearance without aiming for it. They really should be expecting the question to come up.


He’s a guy, no matter how he dresses.

Dame Edna is a she. Barry Humphries is a he.

Never mind. Sorry about that. Wrong forum…

It’s a character. React accordingly. If I get into a drunken altercation with Yogi Bear at a theme park, I’m going to refer to him as “he,” even if there’s a woman inside.

Of course, if it’s Big Bird that starts picking on me, it’s a more difficult question.

Are people having trouble differentiating between a Drag Queen and a transvestite/ transexual? This topic was clearly intended to be about Drag Queens, a fairly standard character type in stage shows.

So when my all-male high school put on Romeo & Juliet and they decided to go for authenticity rather than find girls to play the female characters, you’d have referred to Juliet as “he” just because someone with a dick is portraying her? Totally logical…

Yeah, that’s weird. I’ve played “pants parts” in community theater Shakespeare productions, false beards and all, and I sure as hell wouldn’t appreciate the audience calling the character I’m playing “she”.

If I’m going to stick a beard on my chin and strap up my chest and otherwise work my butt off to present my character as male, I want him to be regarded as male in the context of the play. And it makes sense to me that drag queens feel the same about having their slinky sequined dolled-up alter egos regarded as female.

Yeah, but if you wore it offstage and, say, into a local bar…

Don’t mean to derail the thread (again); but how did we get this far without someone suggesting “it”?

OK, I guess I am trying to derail the thread! :smiley:

Because “it” is pejorative and not polite or proper at all, whether you’re referring to a performing drag queen or a genuine transgender person.

I forgot that this board was filled with polite proper people. :dubious: Sorry! :slight_smile:

Then you still call someone by the name or pronoun that they wish to be called. It’s simple courtesy. Seriously - why intentionally aggravate someone over something that matters not a whit to you, but clearly does to them? What could you possibly gain by being a jackass to them?