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Quickie: Am I getting oversensitive, or am I just opening my eyes?

31/07/2010

Recently, a friend of mine, well, an ex-boyfriend of mine, made some mildly homophobic and cis-sexist jokes on Facebook. Basically, he called a friend “gay” for liking Dr. Girlfriend from the Venture Brothers cartoon.
Dr. Girlfriend is not even transgendered, but it’s a common joke on the show that her masculine, deep voice is confusing given her ultra-feminine appearance.

After I called him out on his statements, he defended himself by saying he “just wasn’t attracted to transexuals”

My response was this:
“I understand not being attracted to men. I understand not being attracted to transexual women. Nobody says you have to be. However, it is ignorant and insensitive to call somebody gay for liking transexual women. Your statements also dehumanise transexuals, by implying that they are fundamentally disgusting freaks. Furthermore, neither of the people in question are actually transexual anyway. Making homophobic and cis-sexist jokes is just as bad as actually saying those things seriously. If I say nothing, I am implicitly saying that your statements are acceptable and that it is acceptable to dehumanise transexuals. I tend to think of you as better than the rednecks who yell “faggot” from their pickup trucks at passersby. I’m starting to think maybe I’m wrong. ”

He then argued that Dr. Girlfriend was a man, and that therefore liking her was “gay.”

I countered:

“No, _____. Dr. Girlfriend is not a man. She’s not even transexual. The creators of the show did not write her as a transexual, it’s just a rumour on the show. And even if she were transexual, and a man were attracted to her, that does not make him gay. Not even a little bit. Again, your statement is ignorant and bigoted. I’m not saying you have to be attracted to transexuals. Or blonds. Or skinny women, or latino women, or big women, or anything else. My point is that trans women are no less women than cis women. Sure, the plumbing’s a little different, but if a uterus is what makes you a woman, than every woman who’s had a hysterectomy isn’t a woman either.
Also, accusing someone of being gay is implying that it is something to be ashamed of. Your words are meant to be demeaning, even if in a humourous context. ”

So, I can usually take a joke, but this line of joking just struck me as juvenile, crude and offensive.
Pending his final reactions to my possible overreactions, I may drop him as a FaceBook friend.

Am I being oversensitive? Or overreacting? Or am I justified in accusing him of being bigoted?

**Update**

After he tried to explain to me that it wasn’t homophobic to call someone gay for liking trans women, I tried to explain that trans women = WOMEN and I brought up that sexuality is a spectrum, gender being one of many aspects of a person that dictate sexual attraction. Also, I explained why calling someone gay jokingly is the same as yelling an epithet out of hatred: that it implies that to be gay is demeaning.

He then played the, Well my gay friend thinks it’s funny when I call him a queen, card and called me “100% nuts” for arguing otherwise. He also accused me of having a “bias,” implying that I must be gay for arguing against homophobia.

After rewriting my response twice, (I decided against using profanity and referring to his diminutive manhood), I informed him why I was unfriending him, and promptly removed him from my friends, concluding with, “You used to be a nice guy, you obviously aren’t anymore.”

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19 Comments
  1. 31/07/2010 5:03 pm

    Lets hope you have given him pause for thought 🙂

  2. 31/07/2010 5:56 pm

    Ah I see no thought arose 🙂

  3. 31/07/2010 7:36 pm

    …accusing someone of being gay is implying that it is something to be ashamed of…

    Exactly. Sometimes I have conversations with people that go like this:

    Oh, that’s so gay.

    You mean stupid, right?

    What?

    You mean that’s so stupid.

    Er, yeah.

    So essentially you’re using “gay” as a synonym for “stupid”.

    Uh…

    Never mind.

  4. UncaYimmy permalink
    01/08/2010 4:44 pm

    Yes, I think you are being overly sensitive. First, it sounds like it was just an off-the-cuff joke, not an official policy statement. It should be treated as such. Guys banter about being “gay” and that includes heterosexuals and homosexuals. We banter about a lot of things sexual and don’t mean much by it.

    Beyond that, your logic is unsound. You say calling someone who likes transexual women “gay” means that transexuals are freaks. Does that also mean anyone a gay person is attracted to a freak? Of course not. His comment was probably made in response to the fact that a transexual is still fundamentally the sex they were born with – surgery doesn’t change chromosomes.

    Sure, there’s a spectrum, but is it really worth getting all worked up because someone doesn’t accept someone else’s claim that they are of another gender? I mean, really, it’s just not the big deal you’re making out of it. You could argue that a man attracted to a trans-woman is not “gay” and somebody else could argue otherwise. Nobody’s right, but you seem to be utterly convinced that yours is the only correct position and any other belief is a horrible crime.

    As for your claim that calling somebody gay is demeaning, you’re way out in left field on that one. It’s an insult to everyone who self-identifies as gay.

    • Xopher permalink
      01/08/2010 11:58 pm

      It may be an oversensetive reaction to “banter” but I find it an entirely appropriate reaction to “homophobic and cis-sexist jokes”. So, as I prefer to accept the author’s assessment of her first hand experience, rather than UncaYimmy’s personally convenient reinterpretation of reported events, I hope she is feeling justified now.

    • emmajeans permalink
      03/08/2010 9:33 am

      “surgery doesn’t change chromosomes.”

      One out of every 1000 ‘males’ have Klinefelter’s Syndrome http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klinefelter_syndrome This means they have two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome. Or – by the understanding that sex (and therefore, apparently, sexuality) is determined at a chromosomal level – are these people ‘genetically’ female, but have a Y chromosome?

      What about people who have XXYY chromosomes? (1 in every 18,000-40,000 male births.)

      The issue of Intersex identity is well beyond anything so simple(!) as chromosomes.

      IMHO, to tie labels relating to sexual preference to genitals or chromosomes is ignorant at best.

      • emmajeans permalink
        03/08/2010 9:41 am

        I wrote ‘males’ because although the terminology is 1 in every 1000 male births, I have no idea how the people identify themselves… But reading back it seemed dodgy… Argh!

        No offense intended – happy to be corrected on this!
        😀

      • 03/08/2010 11:00 am

        “A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis.” — J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan;93(1):182-9

        Chromosomes are a good guide to sex. Most males have 46,XY ones, most females have 46,XX ones. But to insist someone is “really male” because they have 46,XY chromosomes is as silly as saying that everyone over average height is male because men are taller than women.

  5. noblecaboose permalink*
    01/08/2010 8:40 pm

    Allow me to clarify a point: I do not claim that to be gay is demeaning, or to call somebody gay is demeaning.
    My claim is that attempting to demean someone by calling them gay is demeaning to gay people.
    To use “gay” as an insult or accusation, is demeaning to gay people.
    I do not think it should be used that way.

  6. noblecaboose permalink*
    01/08/2010 9:01 pm

    Also, to back up my views regarding the rights of transgendered people and their right to identify as their acquired gender:

    According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 states that “transsexual person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender”

    According to the American Psychological Association’s website, their official policy regarding transsexuals is that ” the APA encourages legal and social recognition of transgender individuals consistent with their gender identity and expression, including access to identity documents consistent with their gender identity and expression which do not involuntarily disclose their status as transgender for transgender people who permanently socially transition to another gender role”

    • 02/08/2010 10:23 pm

      One problem with the recent UK legislation. The Gender Recognition Act may *say* that “the transsexual person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender” That certainly appears to have been the intent of it.

      But thanks to people like the ex-Friend, it’s no longer the case.

      The laughably misnamed UK “Equality Act 2010” makes it quite clear.

      From the explanatory notes:
      “A counsellor working with victims of rape might have to be a woman and not a transsexual person, even if she has a gender recognition certificate, in order to avoid causing them further distress.”

      A “woman and not a transsexual person”… and the much vaunted Gender Recognition Certificate is all just a bit of a joke, they’re not *really* women. It’s presence or absence is irrelevant.

      As for transsexual rape victims themselves, they’re out of luck:
      “A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.”

      “The transsexual person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender”? Hardly. It is to laugh.

      • 02/08/2010 10:29 pm

        And lest you think that they may have a point, that one should not be too precious about human rights if a masculine appearance might upset those in a fragile mental state who are deserving of an unreasonable degree of consideration….

        It’s not about appearances.

        See http://endablog.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/goodandbad.jpg

      • noblecaboose permalink*
        03/08/2010 8:49 am

        Wow. I was totally unaware of that. I wonder how I missed it?
        That’s incredibly offensive legislation. I find supposed ‘women’s rights’ activists who exclude trans women to be detrimental to feminism by excluding those women who suffer the most discrimination.
        Yesterday I read this article about this very sort of thing, and I had no idea there was actually legislation protecting a woman’s right to exclude women who don’t fit the biological definition of ‘female’.
        ‘For all purposes’ except rape counselling.

      • 03/08/2010 10:56 am

        This legislation has only just been passed in the last few weeks.

        The Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual community are fine with it.

  7. noblecaboose permalink*
    01/08/2010 9:08 pm

    I suppose it’s not a big deal….to some people.
    After all, issues of gender and race don’t make much of a difference to those who are lucky enough to be born with white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, male privilege.
    Why get worked up over something that’s not a big deal to those who don’t have to deal with discrimination every day?

  8. Alex permalink
    01/08/2010 9:17 pm

    “His comment was probably made in response to the fact that a transexual is still fundamentally the sex they were born with – surgery doesn’t change chromosomes.”

    The issue is about gender, not sex. If there is someone who wants to live as a paticular gender, why does this matter to us? Let them live as a woman/man if that makes them happy. By insisting that they are still their original gender you are belittling their identity and just being needless antagonsitic.
    Also, cromosomes have SFA to do with gender or sex.

    “As for your claim that calling somebody gay is demeaning, you’re way out in left field on that one. It’s an insult to everyone who self-identifies as gay.”

    Then why do people (young men) yell “fag” at me out of moving vehicles? Do they mean it as a compliment? It isn’t like I am doing anything gay when they yell at me.

    Finally, jokes often show more of what a person thinks than their more thought out statements, preciesly because they don’t take the time to make the joke socially acceptable. I think that this joke more accurately shows what the guy thinks.

    • noblecaboose permalink*
      01/08/2010 9:58 pm

      To back up your point about humour, I provide this article about a study about sexist jokes
      . From the article:
      “Sexist humor is not simply benign amusement. It can affect men’s perceptions of their immediate social surroundings and allow them to feel comfortable with behavioral expressions of sexism without the fear of disapproval of their peers,”

  9. 01/08/2010 11:12 pm

    Yeah, what he said was not cool, but your response was maybe a bit too formal and lengthy. I can imagine that his reaction wouldn’t be “jeez maybe I said something wrong” and more “she’s crazy”

    Of course you had to call him out though and I’m never sure myself where to draw the line between telling someone off and making a strong public statement that what they did is unacceptable, or playing it more tactfully and trying to open their eyes and educate them about issues they may be unaware of.

  10. 02/08/2010 12:04 pm

    You were not overly sensitive to react, but unfriending the individual on Facebook seems unnecessary and counterproductive. Unfriending people on Facebook comes across generally as dramafull and childish. If one has any chance at convincing people of something, unfriending them is going to completely blow it. Moreover, at a practical level, many of us have friends with views we don’t agree with. If I glance through my Facebook friend list, I see friends who have far more explicitly negative views about gays, as well as at least one friend who thinks that Obama might be a crypto-Muslim, another friend who has semi-seriously argued for neutering all theists, another who thinks that Jews have an intrisically holier soul than non-Jews (and could not understand why people might find this belief offensive), as well as many other opinions which are not nearly as extreme but have nearly the same levels of offensiveness as other items on this list. If I started unfriending people or not talking to them because of few particularly ridiculous beliefs, I doubt I’d have many friends left by the time I got through the whole list.

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