Hello, fellow women and that includes trans women and femmes: We’ve come a long way [the ‘baby’ is silent] — we’ve come a long way language-wise, and as far as respecting each other.
I started this “twenty years ago this week” series of “Dilettante” posts to offer readers a glimpse of San Francisco nightlife from my column at the turn of the century. Little did I know I’d find an ugly selfie.
Welp, here it is. The nightmare all writers above a certain age face, right there in print.
In 1998, I was still new to the big city, and there was no Internet to tell me what transgenderism was. So, having never met an out trans person, when I saw this dancer in Vegas, I just thought … well, it doesn’t matter what I thought. I made a sentence in my nightlife column that misgendered someone, and was ignorant, and probably hurt someone’s feelings in 1998. So, please allow me to apologize and ask forgiveness.
Basically I said the dancer was a man, when she was really a trans woman. Between then and now I’ve educated myself about the wonderful world of gender fluidity and continue to do so. Yall can start with this primer from GeekDad or Them magazine if you’re interested.
Twenty years ago, the offending comment got past all my editors too, which tells you something about 1998 levels of wokeness even at America’s wokest weekly paper. Hey, gay marriage wasn’t even a twinkle in Gavin Newsom‘s eye yet, much less a sweeping worldwide rights-acknowledging wave of beauty and love.
So, for the record, trans women are women. In the past 20 years, the good side of humanity has learned from the internet how to empathize more fully with people not like us.
Let me tell yall some of the other things we have learned since 1998 about not hurting people’s feelings. (This includes putting an aster*sk in slur words so people know you’re not ‘saying it out loud.’)
– “Esk*mo” is a slur that means “whale-eater” and we should say “Inuit” instead
– Native American headdresses are a no-no. Full stop.
– “G*psy” is a slur too. Say “Roma” or “Romani people” instead.
– We say “enslaved persons” now and not “slaves,” which is dehumanizing and disrespectful to the dead.
– Call them “little people” and leave the slur “m*dget” alone.
– “Tr*nny” isn’t short for any word you’re allowed to use. Did you know you can’t say it as a catch-all shortened term? It’s a slur that’s been hurled with hate and injury, so nope. Also ‘tr*nsvestite* is an old, perjorative, vague term so we can be more specific and kind now.
– Say “native American” or “indigenous person” because Christopher Columbus only called them “Indians” because he was LOST and thought he was in India.
– This one will be unpopular but how about not saying “bitch” when you mean “woman” unless you ARE a woman and/or horsing around with your friends.
– With all the slurs, you might wonder why you can’t say it even though they’re saying it to each other. The answer is they’re taking back their power by using that word — a word that has been used to disempower and abuse them for so long — and you still shouldn’t say it. As I say about the term “bitch,” how bout don’t call me one if you aren’t one.
Also if you’re confusing this mini-style guide with infringement on your free speech, welp no, that’s not how it works. Free speech can be answered with more free speech, and fascists often warp the meanings of words and phrases (like “free speech” and “free thought”) to use them against others.
It’s called “doublespeak,” a term from the book 1984. (Orwell’s acrid example slogans are “War is Peace” and “Freedom is Slavery”; this writer would add “Free Speech is Intolerant Speech”.)
So again, trans women are women, hope we can still be friends, and you better believe I’m wincing in case I find any other ignorant one-liners in my columns from twenty years ago.
Other than that, here’s my piece about going to two … adult shows in Las Vegas. Say, that reminds me, we kind of don’t say “prostitute” any more because what they are is humans with feelings and their job is “sex worker.” Also “stripper” is gauche and a bit demeaning so the term “exotic dancer” is preferred.
*rainbow emoji* The more you know!
Click through to read “Vegas Baby Vegas – part two of four,” originally published in the SF Bay Guardian on April 27, 1998.
This is the sixth entry in my “twenty years ago this week” project from when I was a nightlife columnist at the Bay Guardian, once the country’s largest family-owned weekly newspaper. These “Dilettante” clips, compiled on my portfolio page, create a serial portrait of San Francisco culture at the turn of the century (1997-2001).
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