Air Transat: refusing to let trans women fly. Today.

AB Silvera was planning to travel from the UK to Canada early this afternoon to attend a wedding with her girlfriend. Instead, she’s spent six hours in the airport and is going back home.


Because she’s trans.

Here, in her words:

The situation is as follows: I am a dual citizen of the Italian Republic and the Republic of Argentina. Today, Air Transat has denied me boarding a flight bound to Toronto, Canada from Glasgow, Scotland.

I am a transgender woman. My Italian documentation was made before transition and uses the first name “Ariel”, shows an older photo, and a gender marker “M”. However, I have used it consistently to travel for the last 8 years, both within Europe, to the United States, and to South America, with no issue. This is the first time I have been denied boarding a flight.

I travel with supporting documentation because I have been questioned about my passport photo before. This documentation includes my Argentinean passport with the correct gender (and a recent photo), and a notarized sworn affidavit with a legalized translation. This affidavit is a binding document of the Argentine Republic declaring my change of name from Ariel to Ari Bianca, and declaring my change of gender.

When asked for documentation, I provided all three documents (two passports and affidavit) to an Air Transat representative. They spoke to a representative of the Canadian High Commission in the United Kingdom and told me that I can only travel on my Argentinean passport, but I wouldn’t be travelling today as I didn’t have a visa. I did not apply for a visa because it was not needed with my Italian passport.

The Air Transat representative called “Emma”, refused to give me her last name but phoned the High commission representative for me. The High Commission representative kindly explained this was a decision made by the airline at their discretion. In other words Air Transat made the decision to deny my flight, today, despite my carrying two legal documents, simply because I don’t look the same way as I did 8 years ago, before I began taking hormones.

I have not managed to obtain a new Italian passport yet due to the complex nature of gender recognition procedures through Italian bureaucracy. However, this decision is probably illegal under anti-discrimination UK law; it refuses to accept my valid Italian documentation, maybe breaking Canada-Italy travel treaties; and it fails to recognise my Argentinean sworn affidavit and its connection to my Italian passport as valid.

All because of a simple photo. A photo which, when provided with supporting documents, has never caused any airlines (Ryanair, American Airlines, British Airways, EasyJet, to name a few) from ever preventing me from boarding a flight.

I have contacted Air Transat on Twitter. After a four hour wait, they responded with a different story. In their new version of events the issue wasn’t my passport photo, but rather that since I’m Argentinean, I need a visa for Canada anyway, ignoring my valid Italian passport which entitles me to visa-free travel.

I believe Air Transat have changed their sorry to cover up the discrimination issue.

Let’s be clear about what happened here:

  • AB is an Italian citizen. As such, she is entitled to travel to Canada without a visa.
  • AB holds a valid Italian passport.
  • She also has an Argentinian passport. This one has a different gender marker to her Italian documents because bureaucracy is a massive, complicated pain.
  • She has documents confirming that she is who she says she is. Three of them.
  • She doesn’t look like she did eight years ago.
  • Despite her being AN ITALIAN CITIZEN WITH A VALID PASSPORT WHO IS ENTITLED TO TRAVEL TO CANADA WITHOUT A VISA, Air Transat refused her permission to board.
  • Air Transat refused her permission to board because she doesn’t look the way she did eight years ago and has a different gender marker. Despite her having all the necessary documentation showing that she is trans and confirming her identity.

This is a clear case of transphobic discrimination against AB.

It gets worse.

Here is what, in my view, Air Transat should have done, once the company discovered what its agents had done:

  • Apologised. Profusely.
  • Made immediate arrangements to ensure AB’s comfort and well-being. Airports have paid lounges. Nice ones. Gotten her access to there, straight away.
  • Apologised again for good measure.
  • Made immediate arrangements with her to get her and her partner on the next flight or set of flights to her destination. She has an event to get to.
  • Compensated her for the considerable distress they caused her.
  • Update company policies and get all customer-facing staff trained in basic courtesy towards their trans passengers as soon as possible.
  • Issue another apology, public this time, indicating everything they’ve done to prevent this from happening again.

That was not what happened. Instead? They left her waiting in the airport for hours on end. During this time they claimed multiple times on social media that they had been communicating with her. This text was sent to multiple people:

According to AB’s partner Eilis- who was with her at the time- that “messaging”? A single DM and then silence:

This wasn’t “messaging”. This was a single message which gave no information and then leaving them to sit in the airport for hours on end with no indication about what was going on. After seven hours of this, AB and Eilis went home. Luckily for them, AB’s home was close enough that this was possible. However, this could just as easily have happened if they were taking a flight that didn’t leave from her home city.

What happened next? Lies.

Here is what Air Transat claim: that this wasn’t about AB’s transness. No- it was about her Argentinianness:

Picture of several tweets from Air Transat, all containing the text "Mrs Silveira could not board her flight because she did not possess all required paperwork to travel(visa). JC"

This is, by the way, a lie.

Either that, or Air Transat- an airline who run regular transatlantic flights- are unaware of how visas, citizenship and passports work. In their world, if someone has dual citizenship then they’re only entitled to rights if both of the countries they’re citizens of grant them. I’m not sure why they think people bother getting dual citizenship at all in that case- since if you need two countries to grant you a right, you’d lose out straight away wherever you go.

Fortunately for the world, that’s not how it works. If you’re a citizen of two countries then you get the rights, privileges and responsibilities that come with both. If you have two passports, you get to decide which to fly with.

Because this is what Air Transat are trying to do: in order to get out of admitting that they made a massive, transphobic screw-up, they’re denying AB’s Italian citizenship. They’re pretending that it doesn’t exist, and that she wasn’t there with a valid Italian passport.

They’re also, by the way, misspelling both her name and her title. Impressive, when you consider that AB Silvera has been tagged in a few dozen tweets filling up their inbox, and that as she’s travelling with her girlfriend (who she’s not married to) it’s reasonable to expect that she’s a Ms, not a Mrs. I’m not mentioning that for petty reasons, by the way. I think that it’s a very visible sign of the abject lack of seriousness and respect that they’re giving to this situation. And the abject lack of dignity that they’ve shown towards AB.

Air Transat are trying to make it seem like this isn’t about transphobia. Like this isn’t about transphobia:

So let’s be clear about this:

  • Air Transat took issue with AB’s transness. They refused to let her fly because she is trans and because her documentation made that clear.
  • They told her that she should pretend to be a man in order to get on the plane in future, explicitly denying her gender.
  • They are now trying to make people believe that this is because she didn’t have a visa that she doesn’t have to have.

And now? Let’s add some extra insults to an already-hemorrhaging injury, shall we? Because at the end of that, after leaving AB and Eilis to sit in an airport for seven hours with no information on what they were doing? Here’s what Air Transat are going to do:

AB and Eilis should have flown out on Saturday afternoon. They have a wedding to attend on the other side of that flight. Air Transat care so little about this that they’re not even bothering to phone them until Monday. Assuming they do that.

Here’s where I’m going to ask you to do something: don’t let them get away with this. Please. Please tell people about this. Tweet @AirTransat and let them know that they can’t do this and sweep it under the carpet- and please keep it firm but civil. If you have a bigger platform or know someone who does? Tell them about this. Use them. Air Transat want to make this go away. Don’t let them.

Note: I have published an update on this topic which clarifies some issues which were unclear and also has some current information on the situation. Please read it before commenting hereThank you.

Air Transat: refusing to let trans women fly. Today.

An old friend died this week: where the personal and political collide.

I’m furious right now.

An old friend died this week. I’m mad as hell with him for doing it, even though I know he’d have some choice words for me around the topic of minding my own damn business. I guess that’s something everyone feels when something like this happens. It’s easier to be angry.

While I don’t know why he did what he did, I know this: LGBTI people in Ireland are three times more likely to attempt suicide than our cishet counterparts. The further you go along that acronym, the higher our risk of elevated stress, anxiety and depression. Trans, bi and intersex people are most severely hit. I know that we’re only human. A lifetime of microaggressions and macro oppressions leaves you raw. Wears you down. When life’s ordinary difficulties come your way, you’re that little bit less resilient. More exposed. More vulnerable. I’m furious that, knowing this, we seem to accept bigotry as just how some people are. I’m tired of tolerance. That measly little word puts our selves and loves on a par with someone else’s ‘right’ to proclaim us disordered.

I know this: we punish men when they are vulnerable. Insinuate that a real man could just power through, or wouldn’t feel that way in the first place. We teach each other that support, closeness and intimacy are weak. Feminine. Lesser. I know that when we do this, we put men in a double bind: to be respected, you shove those parts of you down. If you choose not to, there’s an ocean of internal and external shame to deal with. I don’t know if I could handle that. I’m not surprised that so many men can’t.

Do we even care?

I’m furious that in the face of hundreds of people ending their lives every year, our government wants to drain millions of euro from our mental health budget. Do those hundreds of lives simply not matter? What about the tens or hundreds of thousands of people who won’t kill themselves but who still need those services?

I’m angry that my friend’s death can’t simply be a private tragedy. I wish I could think about his loss to our community without being overwhelmed by how many others are going through something similar. I wish that him being a man, queer and trans didn’t slot his death right into one of the biggest suicide clichés of them all.

And I’m scared. Back in 2013 I knew how lucky I was that my friends and loved ones had survived another year. I’ve always known that, and a part of me always waits for the shoe to drop. For the phone to ring. I’ve had one of those phone calls this year. I can’t stop thinking: who will be next?

A year ago, the derby world was shattered by news that one of our youngest members- a 15 year old boy called Sam- had died through suicide. I wrote this:

Sam didn’t die because he was trans. Transness is a perfectly ordinary variation of what it is to be human, and there is nothing intrinsic about being trans that could make life not worth living.

Sam died because we failed him. He died because we accepted a world where trans kids- kids, people at the start of their lives who haven’t had a chance to develop the context to see how things can change and who don’t have the option to get the hell out of where they are- are forced to live in worlds and with people who tell them every day of their lives that they are worthless. He died because we didn’t shout loud enough, didn’t insinuate our voices into every single crack, didn’t object every single time, didn’t counter enough of that kind of hate and torture of kids with nowhere else to go and by not doing that we let it continue. We let people hound another trans kid to death.

Are you tired of this yet? Because I am. I’m sick and tired of seeing yet another headline for yet another person killed or tortured into killing themselves because of who they are. Yet another teenager.

And here’s something I said way back in November 2013 on the Trans Day of Remembrance:

Today, though, I do feel luckier than most. I wish that it didn’t have to be that way. Today is the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, you see, when we take time to mourn and recognise all of the trans* people who should be here with us today, but who have been killed by transphobia in the past year. Everyone who was murdered because of how their gender was perceived. Everyone who was driven to suicide by this transphobic, ciscentric society that we live in. Every year we do this, and every year I want to hold the trans people who I love just that little bit closer. Because we’ve all survived another year. Those I love have been spared.

Isn’t that selfish? I guess that we’re all a little bit selfish. We all love who we love, and though we care for those outside that little group, it’s the loss of our family, friends and lovers that tears at our guts and rips our lives apart. So every year on November 20th I feel a little bit lucky. The people I love are still here.

It’s a cruel kind of luck, and one that nobody should have to feel.

Like most of us, I’ve said goodbye to people I love over the years. They’ve died in different circumstances. Some after long years of illness. Some after short months or weeks. Some expected, some unexpected. Some peacefully, some in pain. The loss of every single one of them tore- and tears- my heart apart. But there’s one thing that is common to every one of them that I will always take comfort from. Every one of them died knowing that they were dearly loved. Everything that we could do to ease their suffering was done. They didn’t want for a hand to hold. They were cherished as they died.

Nobody can tell how each of us will end our lives. But that one simple thing- that in our last moments we know that we are loved and cherished, and that if there is any way to ease our suffering it will be done- is something that we can hope for everyone we care for. It’s the one thing that we can do.

Too many of our trans community are denied that.

Too. Damn. Many.

An old friend died this week: where the personal and political collide.

8 Things I Am More Afraid Of Than Trans Women In The Ladies Room

There’s nothing that scares some people more than the spectre of trans women in the ladies’ room. Queueing to pee. Peeing. Pooping, even. Washing their hands. Existing while having bodies.

Scary as being in a room with other women who need to pee is, I’ve got a few things that terrify me more.

1. Having to poop in a public toilet.

Where people could come in any moment. And know. That I poop.

Continue reading “8 Things I Am More Afraid Of Than Trans Women In The Ladies Room”

8 Things I Am More Afraid Of Than Trans Women In The Ladies Room

Germaine Greer is not a woman.

Germaine Greer isn’t a woman.

According to Germaine, you see, trans women aren’t women. Because trans women, she says, don’t “look like, sound like, or behave like” women.

Womanhood: how you look, how you speak, and how you act.

Germaine Greer isn’t a woman. She doesn’t look like a woman: I don’t know anyone who looks like her. Everyone knows that real women have side-mullets. She doesn’t sound like a woman: that Australian accent? None of the women I know speak like that. If people don’t sound like my friends they are strange and wrong. Women- proper women- have Cork accents. Bai.

She definitely doesn’t behave like a woman. A real woman would never be mean to Wee Daniel. Continue reading “Germaine Greer is not a woman.”

Germaine Greer is not a woman.

Anna? Gender fluidity is a thing. You and I need to talk.

Hi Anna,

You and I don’t know each other. I mean, you probably don’t know me. I know of you, of course- I was a teenager a year out of the closet back when you were one of the only out Irish women I’d ever seen on TV. That was a fairly big deal.

I know that it’s not fair to expect you to always know everything, or to never get things wrong. I get that we put huge expectations on our own community- especially when, like you, they’re well known. And as someone who’s recently started seeing my name in print(ish) I get how vulnerable that can feel. Particularly when, as a woman and as an LGBT person, you’re expected to hold to a higher standard of awareness than almost everything else.

That can be exhausting.

But I’m sure that you also get how exhausting it can feel from the other side. After all, you were one of the first openly gay Irish women on TV. I’m sure there were days when someone wrote an ill-iinformed (or outright malicious) column about you. Or about people like us. I’ll bet there were days when the last thing you wanted to be was the country’s token lesbian ex-nun.

That can be exhausting, too.

So: I’m going to take your column on Jonathan Rachel Clynch and gender fluidity, and the questions you ask in it, in good faith. You’ve said that you need to educate yourself. Let’s take it from there, and I’ll share some of the things I’ve learned over the years with you. A quick caveat before I begin, though? I’m not a trans woman, or an AMAB (don’t worry, I’ll explain that one) trans person. I’m just a bog-standard converse-wearing cis queer, whose social circles include enough trans people that I’ve had to do a lot of learning over the years. So if I say something and it’s contradicted by a trans woman or a genderfluid AMAB person? Don’t quote me, quote them. Continue reading “Anna? Gender fluidity is a thing. You and I need to talk.”

Anna? Gender fluidity is a thing. You and I need to talk.

Guest Posts: What Now? Thoughts as we celebrate the 34th Amendment

As a follow-up to last week’s Guest Posts for Equality series (read them!), I asked people to share their thoughts on two topics: what does the referendum’s result mean to them, and what comes next. 

Jon Hanna was born in County Down, but has lived in the Republic for all of his adult life, and Dublin for all but a few months of that. He once swore off activism on the basis that he doesn’t think he’s very good at it, but does still occasionally write things like this.


The strong sisters told the brothers that there were two important things to remember about the coming revolutions. The first is that we will get our asses kicked. The second is that we will win.

25 years ago, those words were part of the Queer Nation Manifesto handed out by the Act Up contingent at the Pride parade in New York.

At a time closer to the Stonewall Riots the parades commemorate than to today,
at a time when here in Ireland the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act, and the 1885 Criminal Law (Amendment) Act made sexual acts between two consenting men illegal,
at a time when one of the ways you could identify someone on television as gay was visible Kaposi’s sarcoma,
at a time when people ganging up with the clear and premeditated intent to kill a gay man, because he was a gay man, and doing so, could expect to be given a suspended sentence,
at a time not long after that had happened,
I began to realise I liked boys as well as girls.

The right to same-sex marriage isn’t a right I hope to exercise, because I still liked girls as well as boys, and the person I since met, that I want to spend the rest of my life with, is a woman. And we got to celebrate our love and our wish to be together recently, in a beautiful wedding.

But you are who you are. And I am who I am. And when as a schoolboy I came out a little over 20 years ago, I was lucky to have that received well by good people. And I’ve mostly been lucky to have other such good people around me throughout my life, whether I was married, single, dating a woman, or dating a man. That my life never ended up such that I ever wanted to marry a man, is far from the point, and that is the same for many others who are LGBT (and let us not for a minute forget the T, or anyone else that doesn’t fit the cis, hetero pattern that we’ve for so long been told is “normal”).

Not everybody has been lucky in that way. And nobody should have to be lucky that way. People need protected rights, protected not just by a few good people they are lucky to have around them, but by the people; that “we the people” don’t hand out moments of decency, but insist that all of us the people are treated with respect.

And those who are gay need to have their gay lives, and their gay loves or lack of them as those gay lives unfold, treated with respect.

And those who are trans* and those who are ace need to not have their lives forced into the mould of another’s.

And those of us who are bi need to have our lives treated with respect, with the loves that may come to us as our lives unfold neither allowed because they are straight enough to fit the norm, or allowed because they are gay enough to distance us firmly from the norm, but accepted because they are our loves and they are our lives, and we are all of cherished as citizens by all of us.

And we the people should have been able to legislate for same-sex marriage through our representatives. But when some in the Dáil insisted it wasn’t constitutionally possible without a referendum, that was what we the people had. And, on the day that would have been Harvey Milk’s 85th birthday, a million Irish people said that they think all of our loves and all of our lives should be given the same respect. And that brought with it something that no constitution can give the Dáil the power to deliver, something that goes further than the right to marry the person you love, or even the equality it still brings to those with no intention of such a marriage; it brought a genuine sense that we belong in this country, that we the queer people are indeed seen as part of we the people.

And in a moment of fear that we would lose, and that the loss would push us back grievously, I thought of the few rare optimistic words in the Queer Manifesto; “The second is that we will win.”

The strong sisters could tell the brothers that, because the sisters had been in other fights before, and they knew that we would win, just as they knew that we would get our asses kicked.

They were right on both counts.

And if it’s tempting now to think that we are near the beginning of the end, we need only look at the sisters’ fights to know that this isn’t the case (Repeal the 8th!). There will still be fights, and we will get our asses kicked, and we will win. As will the sisters. It’s not the end, but an Ireland where a million people vote to allow marriage to be lawful “without distinction as to their sex” — an Ireland where people will not only travel to their polling station to do so, but thousands will fly or sail into the country to do so — can be one where we might be near the end of the beginning.

Guest Posts: What Now? Thoughts as we celebrate the 34th Amendment

Guest Posts for Equality: The personal is political.

In the run-up to Ireland’s Marriage Equality referendum on May 22nd, I’ve invited a series of guest posters– people from Ireland or who live here, of many different backgrounds and orientations- to share their thoughts on the referendum, the campaign, and what it means to them. Contributions to Guest Posts for Equality are welcome- drop me a message

Cat McIlroy moved to Stockholm in 2013 to start a new life adventure with a Swedish person. Despite some bureaucratic frustrations and difficulties with the Swedish Migration Board and Tax Agency, life in Stockholm has revealed many wonderful new possibilities to live and love.


Over the past few months, I have been watching the Marriage Equality Referendum battles from the sidelines in Stockholm, reading online articles, comments and posts from friends. I travelled back to Dublin on Sunday for a number of familial reasons – birthdays, a surgery, and also very importantly, to vote.

On 12 August 2014, my partner, Ulrika, and I got married in New York. We had decided to go there for a holiday, planned to get the marriage licence, and do it quickly and easily the following day. It was just the two of us, with a friend, Maria, who acted as both our witness and photographer, along with all of the other couples waiting our turn.

I have to admit for the first 40 years of my life I was quite sure that I would never get married; it was not something that was on my horizon at all, not even something that I wanted or considered. But things change. I was Spouse A.

We were one of many queer couples to get married in the Manhattan Marriage Bureau that day. Slightly older dykes in jeans and matching waistcoats with rainbow-coloured roses in their lapels, their friends and families standing happily and proudly beside them – so touching to be there and be part of it all. And then it was our turn. Such a wonderful, memorable, surreal experience.

Our marriage is recognised in 37 states of the United States, and in a growing number of countries around the world, including Sweden, but not Ireland. There is still no legal recognition of trans* people in Ireland either. In fact, with the proposed gender recognition legislation, trans* people who are married or civilly partnered will be specifically excluded and prevented from being legally recognised. The on-going lack of recognition and respect for trans* people and our families is shameful.

This can change tomorrow.

I am Irish. I am trans*. And I am married.

It is time that my country recognises and respects that.

Guest Posts for Equality: The personal is political.

Another kid is dead. We need to stop this.

[tw: suicide, transphobia]

Yesterday I heard that the derby world has lost one of its youngest members. Junior derby player Sam Taub- #57 Casper to his derbs- was lost to suicide. He was only 15.

Let me rephrase that. He wasn’t lost. We failed Sam Taub. We failed to create a word where trans kids can see a future that includes them. We failed to give trans kids role models, people they could look up to. We failed to show them the path between where they are now, and a fulfilled life.

When I say ‘we’, I mean you and me. All of us. Us adults. Us cis people especially.

There are so many of us that credit derby with dragging us out of shitty situations. Me included.

Derby was supposed to save us. And while intellectually we know that this sport and this community are both imperfect (oh god are we imperfect) and also such a small part of life? Derby was supposed to be able to save Sam Taub.

I never met the kid. I don’t know what he could have grown up to be- aside from someone who could kick my ass on the track, because it’s not a secret at all in the derby world that the second the junior derby kids start growing up, our asses are toast. Crumbly, crumbly toast. He was supposed to be one of our tough, sweet kids who learn to love who they are through knocking each other over.

Derby couldn’t save Sam Taub.

He was part of our world- this derby world that works so hard to be a place that embraces the lot of us. Takes us as we are, builds us up, makes us into the strongest versions of ourselves. The derby world works so hard to be inclusive. It’s a space aside from the rest of our lives where we’re valued for who we are. It’s supposed to be enough. It can’t be enough.

It wasn’t enough.

Sam didn’t die because he was trans. Transness is a perfectly ordinary variation of what it is to be human, and there is nothing intrinsic about being trans that could make life not worth living.

Sam died because we failed him. He died because we accepted a world where trans kids- kids,  people at the start of their lives who haven’t had a chance to develop the context to see how things can change and who don’t have the option to get the hell out of where they are- are forced to live in worlds and with people who tell them every day of their lives that they are worthless. He died because we didn’t shout loud enough, didn’t insinuate our voices into every single crack, didn’t object every single time, didn’t counter enough of that kind of hate and torture of kids with nowhere else to go and by not doing that we let it continue. We let people hound another trans kid to death.

Are you tired of this yet? Because I am. I’m sick and tired of seeing yet another headline for yet another person killed or tortured into killing themselves because of who they are. Yet another teenager.

Over at Derby Frontier, Nillin Dennison has put together a list of things that we can do as individuals and as leagues to welcome our trans teammates, officials and leaguemates.

How You Can Look Out For and Support Your Leaguemates Who Are Trans

1. Reach out to the nearest LGBTQI+ centre, or pride organization, to inquire about Safe Space training or general sexual and gender diversity training. Make it mandatory for all members of the league to participate in this training.

2. Call out ANY homophobic and/or transphobic insults or harassment that you see either on the track or off of the track, even if the people doing it “don’t mean it”. Do not stand idly by while this behavior happens. Reality is that there are likely MANY people who are trans in roller derby who are not out to their leagues for any number of reasons, possibly even because they do not feel safe being out in such a sex segregated sport such as roller derby. As such, allowing the use of anti-LGBT language is just going to further hurt those people who are trans and reduce the likelihood of them ever feeling comfortable with being out.

3. Many mental health service providers offer suicide awareness, prevention and intervention training as well. Consider seeking out this education by contacting your nearest Canadian Mental Health Association, or health care provider.

4. Always use the name and pronouns that a person who is trans provides you.

5. If a person who is trans comes out to you, recognize what an incredible gesture they are making having shared such a sensitive, personal thing about themselves. Never out them to others by introducing them as being trans. Furthermore, if you suspect that somebody is trans, never ask others what they think. That creates an environment of rumors. Instead, if you are unsure of a person’s gender identity, speak to them privately and ask what their pronouns are.

There’s a lot more good stuff at that post. I highly recommend reading the rest of it.

And maybe-just-maybe, right now is a time to look at our leagues as a whole. At our representative organisations. Do we have policies in place to protect our trans leaguemates and teammates? Are those policies really based on making our leagues a welcoming space for trans people, or are they just fancily dressed gatekeeping and cisnormativity? Because if it’s the latter, then it’s past time that we changed that. We pride ourselves in being models of inclusivity for sporting communities. Let’s put our money (er, time and committee hours) where our mouths are on this one. Let’s create spaces where trans people and identities are not just accepted, but actively valued on an equal basis with cis people and identities.

And if you’re not a derb- what circles do you live your life in? How do those circles value cis lives over trans? Not do they, but how do they, because I can guarantee you that they do. Where can you change this? What are you going to do?

This is literally a matter of life and death.

Rest in Power, Casper #57.

Amd the rest of you? Don’t let another kid die in vain. This has gone on too long.

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Another kid is dead. We need to stop this.

Why Trans Exclusion Has No Place In Feminism. Or Anywhere Else.

Trans women are women. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. You can tell by the cunningly placed “women” in the label.

I figure that most of my readers are more or less on board with this one. Aside from a few of you (who in all honesty rarely get past moderation-seriously, you lot, read the comment policy!) I seem to be fortunate to have a rather sensible, reasonable bunch of people showing up here for a bit of a read. Much appreciated, by the way.

I’ll bet, though, that some of you simply haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about trans issues, or the inclusion of trans women in women’s and feminist spaces. There’s s lot of issues in the world and a lot of groups getting marginalised, and only so much time for each of us to spend thinking about this stuff. But given that it’s trans visibility week and just a few days after the annual Trans Day of Remembrance, I’d like to take a few minutes to sit down with you cis folks who might not be massively aware of your trans 101.

Because, you see, even within our supposedly progressive, feminist communities, some cis people do object to trans people- particularly trans women, because misogyny and transmisogyny are things- there are people who do think, for all sorts of (spoiler: bullshit) reasons, that trans women aren’t as entitled to a space in feminist and queer-lady communities as cis women are. People who are really, really invested in making sure that trans women are seen as, at best, guests whose welcome can be revoked at any time. At worst.. let’s not even go there.

The thing about the arguments they use, though? Not only do they not stand up to even the smallest amount of scrutiny, but they are also generally based on a horribly invasive sense of entitlement to other people’s lives and bodies. To the extent, by the way, that it feels vaguely icky and invasive just to counter them- I feel like this is stuff that is nobody’s business and we shouldn’t have to discuss it, never mind argue about it.

On the other hand? Like it or not, people are bringing this shit up. Let’s take a look at some of the arguments they put forward, shall we? And I’ll explain why they’re not as valid as they appear at first glance, and see why actively including trans people- especially trans women- is very, very important. Continue reading “Why Trans Exclusion Has No Place In Feminism. Or Anywhere Else.”

Why Trans Exclusion Has No Place In Feminism. Or Anywhere Else.

How To Not Be A Complete Douchecanoe To Gender Variant People: Pronouns Edition

We’re going to have to get something out of the way before I start this: I didn’t watch the Eurovision this year. Or last year. I think the last time I saw it was either three or four years ago. It was a perfectly pleasant experience, although I generally rather my rare moments of alcohol-induced patriotism come with less Jedward. What I’m getting at here is that while I completely understand the appeal of camp spectacle and national pride, I was perfectly content with my own decision to spend the evening knocking my friends (and bare acquaintances) over in stinky skate gear. We all have our hobbies, y’know?

I have gathered from the internet that this person likes to sing songs and also have fabulous hair on her face as well as on her head.

Anyhoo, even from where I was sitting it was impossible to miss that this year’s winner (or at least, the person everyone’s talking about) is Conchita Wurst. Unable to resist a palaver, I gave ‘er a google and a watch. Aside from having a daycent song (if you like that kind of thing, which I do), Wurst also presents as strikingly gender-variant. And also just plain striking (those eyes!). And while most people are cheerfully (and accurately) exclaiming about how great she is, there’s also the loudmouths who seem to have missed out on how to deal courteously and calmly with the fact that there exist people on this planet whose genders aren’t immediately apparent to bystanders.

This post is for them.

A little note before we start: I, your friendly blogger, am cis. This post is by me. If you read this and then talk to someone who’s not cis and they disagree with me, then for the love of all that’s cute and fluffy listen to them and don’t you dare refer to me to argue with them because I am significantly more likely to be wrong than they are.

That said, let’s go on.

Panic, Chaos, Dogs And Cats Living Together, Nothing In My Life Has Prepared Me For This!

I know it’s happened to you. You’re a person, right? You live in human society, which means that you come into contact with other people, probably on a daily basis. Chances are, a lot of those are people who you don’t know. People you’ve never met before. Near-strangers who you have to interact with every day. And because they’re (near-)strangers, you don’t know all sorts of things about them. What kind of house do they live in? Are they a cat person or a dog person or do they not like animals at all? Star Wars or Star Trek? Tyrion, Arya or Daenerys*?

Sometimes- even more of a shock, this one- you don’t even know what their gender is. Scary, eh? It’s easy to get scared by this one. We’re used to taking people’s genders for granted- there’s men and there’s women and you can tell by looking exactly which one someone is. We’ve even been saturated with tons of social scripts based on the genders of the people interacting with each other.

As a person who’s confused, scared and maybe even a bit annoyed- why can’t this person have a readily identifiable gender like all* the other people?- you might not know what to do next. It’s okay! Having spoken to many people with and without readily identifiable genders in my time and lived to tell the tale, I’ve put together a handy list of dos and don’ts. I’ve even explained why some things are Bad Ideas! The next time you’re confronted by someone whose gender you can’t work out within .5 seconds of seeing them across a crowded street, simply refer to this list and you’ll be interacting with other human beings like the non-douchecanoe we all know you are in no time!

Things Not To Try

1. Loudly talking to your friends about what gender the person is when they’re not there.

Talking about someone behind their back is considered rude, even if the person is gender variant! Especially if you’re not using your indoor voices. This is rude not only to the person in question, but also to any bystanders who might be trying to get on with their day and don’t fancy listening to you loudly discussing someone else’s personal information.

2. Loudly talking to your friends about what gender the person is, when they ARE there

Talking about someone in their presence is considered even more rude than doing it behind their back. And yes,  Basic guidelines of courtesy apply to people regardless of gender. Additionally, either your friends won’t know the person’s gender- in which case you’ve wasted valuable time- or else they will, in which case they will probably be feeling extremely embarrassed and awkward, and not want to spend time with you anymore. You do want your friends to want to spend time with you, don’t you? Don’t you?

3. Asking them “WHAT ARE YOU?”

This question could be considered both overly personal and confusing. You are not specifying the informaiton you would like to receive. Do you want to know if the person is, in fact, an android replicant? If they are, in fact, composed entirely of very small Lego bricks? If they are an accountant or a journalist? If they enjoy macrame? What on earth macrame is anyway? The likelihood of getting an answer that related to the person’s pronouns in this situation is extremely low. Particularly if you’re the tenth person to ask them that since they left the house this morning.


While this does have the advantage of precision over 3, it might be rather personal for the person in question. You are asking about something that could be rather complicated. They may not be a man or a woman! And also, it could be implied that you are asking about the shape and condition of their genitals, and that isn’t something a nice, polite person like you would ask a complete stranger. Is it? Also, they might have all sorts of feelings about their gender, the gender they’re perceived as, and how closely/often the two coincide, and they might not want to have to deal with their deep-seated feelings about things while they’re trying to get a latte or ride the bus to work or get through their second cousin once removed’s wedding or funeral.

Also, if you’ve been spending a lot of time worrying about near strangers’ gender identities, let me put your mind at ease. It turns out that someone’s precise gender identity isn’t actually a thing that you need to know! It might be convenient to know what pronouns they use, but that’s actually a completely different kettle of fish. The details of other people’s gender identities are like the details of their religious (un)beliefs or the relationship they have with their parents- a thing to be discussed over a few gallons of wine or tea among friends or blogged about endlessly online. Not really small-talk.

But if I can’t say that, what can I say?

You may think that if you can’t talk about a person behind their back or ask them intrusive questions, you’re without any means by which to communicate with them. It’s okay! Didn’t I tell you I’d get you through this ultimate test of your social abilities unscathed? Instead of the above, you can refer to this handy three-step guide to surviving situations where you don’t know what someone’s gender is. I’ve even laid them out in order of which to use first, so you’ll always have a backup plan. Win!

1. Don’t actually bring it up at all because it’s not relevant to the situation

It’s amazing how many situations you can navigate perfectly well without knowing what pronoun a person uses. The vast majority of shorter or more casual interactions can be nicely handled this way. The person making your coffee (or ordering a coffee)? The friend-of-a-friend who you’re briefly introduced to? Chances are that you won’t need to know their gender to order your vanilla soy chai latte or make awkward smalltalk about the weather until one of you finds an excuse to be somewhere else or a mutual friend shows up to rescue you both from uncomfortable silence hell.

But, you ask me, what if you do have to refer to the person in the third person? What do you do then? How do you get through the sentence without descending into a hopeless mess of confusion and embarrassment?

Don’t worry. I’ve got ya. All you need to do is this:

2. Use gender neutral pronouns until corrected.

“Oh hey, I think the barista’s made your coffee- they’re looking around and they’ve got a cup with your name on it”

“Yeah, I heartily dis/agree with that comment you made regarding NearStranger. I feel that they are definitely blah blah blah”

How easy was that? If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, just use a neutral one. There are plenty of neutral pronouns to choose from, but as this is a fairly 101 level article, I recommend using the singular they. It’s okay, grammar nerds, the singular they has been in use for centuries, dropping out of vogue in recent decades for some reason, but it’s perfectly correct. You can use it just like you would as a plural, and it has the advantage that you don’t even need to learn any new syllables. In fact, you’ll notice that I’ve been cunningly using ‘they’ to refer to people all the way through this post!

The vast majority of the time, Steps 1 and 2 shall get you through social situations nicely. Occasionally, however, it will become genuinely necessary to know what someone’s pronoun is. If you’re in this situation, then hightail it down to the next paragraph where the mysteries of politely ascertaining someone’s pronoun shall be revealed!

  • Super Surprise Possible Pitfall: You may think that as I’ve just recommended gender neutral pronouns when in doubt, that you can pick and choose any old neutral pronoun you like. While there are several perfectly polite options to choose from (they, zir and hir are three good ‘uns), it is never ever ever appropriate to refer to a human being who hasn’t explicitly asked you to do so as ‘it’. Ever. It is a word we use to refer to objects. People are not objects, and people who use this word to refer to people who haven’t asked them to do so deserve to go to the most special of hells. I ain’t kidding.

3. Ask them “Excuse me, what pronoun do you prefer/use?”

Remember how we talked above about how asking someone their gender is a complicated and personal thing that can open up all sorts of cans of worms? Asking someone their pronoun is far less fraught. You’re not looking for an exploration of their deepest identity. You would just like to know what set of one-syllable words to use to refer to them in the third person. Also, saying “excuse me” is considered courteous in most social situations, and you can’t go wrong with a bitta courtesy.

Now, sometimes people might answer this question with a pronoun you’re not familiar with. You know the basic ‘he’ and ‘she’, and by now you’re even acquainted with the singular ‘they’. Some people, though, use other pronouns- common are ‘ze’ and ‘hir’, but there are loads more. As long as you’re polite about it, it’s perfectly fine to as a person to briefly explain or confirm what pronouns they use. Questions like “just checking, is that spelled abc?” or “was that ze and zir you said? Thank you!”. When it comes to more personal questions (why they use that pronoun, for example, or where it came from), ask yourself if you really need that information about an acquaintance. Remember, you can always Google your general questions later!

..and that’s it. Easy, isn’t it?

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How To Not Be A Complete Douchecanoe To Gender Variant People: Pronouns Edition