Trans etiquette: how bad is this?

ETA: To put it another way, the clear distinction between speech and (literal) violence lies at the heart of the Enlightenment values of freedom of expression and Constitutional freedom of speech. The illiberal elements on the left who are “confused” about the merits of freedom of expression are not just equating speech and violence figuratively, but have a more sinister agenda in conflating the two.

If you want to address that someone is transgendered, there are respectful ways to do it. Given that transphobia is extremely common and extremely pronounced, yeah, it’s a dick move to out someone without their permission, even if you meant well. And meanwhile, I’m sure transgendered individuals could tell you about the problem with deadnaming, or you could figure it out yourself. From my understanding, the problem is often that there never was a “Joe” in any meaningful sense; Jane spent much of her life living a lie.

As someone who spent a lot of his childhood being bullied, I can’t really understand your perspective. Verbal violence is not a new concept. Words matter. Someone saying something to you might not break your arm, but it could ruin your day, reinforce that you are part of the outgroup, entrench depression, or make you want to kill yourself. Words aren’t violence? Spend your entire childhood having your classmates telling you to kill yourself and that your life is worthless and see if you feel the same way. Or, as XKCD puts it: “Well, remember: sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can make someone else feel happy or sad, which is literally the only thing that matters in this stupid world?”

Impressive hyperbole.

Keep . . . talk . . . easy.

No . . . hard . . . words.
Violence is a term that is difficult for some folks to understand because it has various meanings rather than just one.

To the OP:
I’m summarizing and I could be way off, but saying that you knew somebody before they transitioned seems a LOT like saying that you knew somebody else back before they had their cleft palate repaired. Unless the person brings up the subject on their own, then it might be best to act as if the flaw never existed and never had to be corrected.

It was probably more than just a faux pas. It was most likely a very painful blow to her peace of mind. Don’t ever do that kind of shit to trans people. It’s a despicable way to treat people.

Your quotes were using the word “violence” metaphoricaly in reference to attacking an argument. These people are using it as a literal act of violence against a person. (And I say “these” as a plural because I have seen another instance of it recently as someone writing a book had an editor “correct” “theys” in a manuscript into gendered pronouns, and this was decried as “an act of violence.” My eyes are still sore from so much rolling.)

As I said, I knew it was wrong and I didn’t do it.

Also, Jane wasn’t present so there was no immediate blow to her. But I feel that now that this is out there, it may become generally known. And I’m divided on that. Should I tell Jane what happened so she isn’t blind to the situation? Or would I just be causing her to experience the blow you described? And if I told her what somebody said, wouldn’t I be passing on hurtful gossip about the person who said it, which is the same thing I’m condemning?

I’ll admit my inclination is to just stay out of this and not say anything to anyone. (Except for here on a public message board where it can be read by thousands of people.)

If I were you I’d give her a heads up that this person is outing her behind her back. So she won’t be under any illusions about that jerk’s hostility to her and so she can take pre-emptive action to avoid the asshole. A hidden enemy is more dangerous than an open one, like a snake in the grass. But you know her and the situation, which I don’t, so judge accordingly.

Let it slide, man. You didn’t do anything wrong.

Look, it’s tricky. I’m (again) not sure what the etiquette is. It’s probably not as bad as people are saying. I have an acquaintance on Face Book who is a transwoman, and she seems fine with the fact that people are quite aware of this fact. And I’ve seen comments from some of her friends who similarly have mentioned the fact that they are transwomen.

Now, what I haven’t seen is them refer to their previous first names, but the fact that they’re outly transwomen on a public FB account makes me think it’s not as egregious as some are making it out to be.

PM Una and ask for her comment in this thread.

But, I really don’t know

I know the individuals involved and I feel this was more a case of social cluelessness rather than hostility.

Having a good share of social cluelessness myself is the reason I started this thread. I like to see how people feel about an issue so I can guide my own behavior and try to avoid saying and doing stupid things in social situations.

Outing a person is rude and distasteful at minimum, to being a full blown scumbag at most, that is up to the person to do on their own. When it comes to etiquette on sexual orientation and gender descriptions, I am lost and get angry about its confusing nature, there is way too big of a list of descriptors to ever get it right, and when you get it wrong, someone may get pissed. I just avoid the topic altogether. Let someone else business be there own, live and let live.

Yes it’s a big deal, unless the person saying it absolutely knows that Jane is 100% OK with 1) being deadnamed, and 2) being outed to third-parties.

Otherwise it’s a pretty shitty thing to do. Along the lines of saying “Sarah looks so much thinner since she had that abortion.”


I’m pretty sure this was explained to you before.

Or she might be. Sometimes people talk and it gets in the wrong ear of people who weren’t aware of Jane’s past history. I personally know a gal who was fired just this April because someone leaked her secret to her employer, who fired her within 3 days after hearing (she also was subjected to constant taunting and verbal abuse by her co-workers for those 3 days).

It’s different from country to country though Una.

Canada is much more accepting. We were years ahead of the US in gay marriage, and I absolutely know we’re years ahead of the US in trans acceptance.

Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone getting fired in Canada for this reason. It makes no sense whatsoever.

Back when I was active on Wikipedia, one of the pages I maintained was for Wendy Carlos, who was probably as famous a trans-woman as anyone prior to Caitlyn Jenner. And not a month went by without someone coming through ans changing all the pronouns.

Carlos herself was very touchy about the issue, and objected to anyone referring to her previous identity as “Walter”, going so far as to create a fictional biography where she claims that she had to create a identity as “Walter” to be taken seriously as a composer and musician.

I just found out that a friend is transitioning. We’re not especially close, my wife and I show up every three to four months at the same event as our friend. I honestly hadn’t noticed anything until my wife pointed out that our friend, who we had known as a gay man…had breasts. I was hanging with our friend, and honestly the subject never came out, and I had no idea how to bring it up, nor would I have any reason to bring it up. “Hey, nice tits!” seems a bit rude.

My friend in Alberta was fired for that reason. I met her two weeks ago in Edmonton and she hasn’t found another job in 15 months. She lost her house and has had to give up custody of her daughter to her ex.

Statistically other countries may be ahead of the US. Doesn’t mean that it still doesn’t suck sometimes.

Alberta is way different from the ROC. Sorry to hear that. Alberta is like Texas compared to the rest of Canada’s Massachusetts.

For what it’s worth, I know that Jane’s employer has been aware of her transition for some time. It wasn’t by Jane’s choice though. She still had a lot of her records under the name John when she took the job. It was an unpleasant situation for her to have to deal with but she did get the job. And she doesn’t have to worry that her “secret” is hanging over her head.

No. That demarcation does not exist and never has. There have always been words that are viewed as violence. If I say I’m going to kill you, then I have committed a crime. I have assaulted you.

Freedom of speech, like every other freedom, has limits. Even the most ardent free speech supporter would freak out if you could follow them around in public and yell threats at them for their entire life. Most would kick you out of their house for far less than that. No one believes in this deified version of freedom of speech.

So this is just about where the line is drawn. You are just calling those who think it should be drawn closer “sinister.” Can you show where they have evil motives?

Remember, many other countries have hate speech laws with their freedom of speech. And they are generally fine with it. So you cannot assert that where you draw the line is the only line.

Words can definitely be violence. Words can hurt more than physical actions can. And that’s a pillar of morality: harm reduction. It’s just that it had to tempered with another pillar: fairness.

Do you know what’s not there at all? Freedom of speech. It’s just one method of ensuring fairness, and, much higher up, harm reduction.

And I’m someone who fights for jurors and off-duty military to have freedom of speech in ways I don’t believe they actually have. I’m no slouch when it comes to fighting for freedom of speech.