That’s why everyone agrees that the world is flat, that pizza from Oklahoma is supreme, and that my neighbor Jessica is actually God. That’s why the world doesn’t collapse every day.
Speaking from a purely scientific standpoint, there is a crap ton of tangible evidence to refute flat Earth conspiracies. From a rational perspective there are points to be made about the quality of a pie from the panhandle. Spiritually, it would take a hefty amount of faith in Jessica’s party hosting skills to believe she’s the messiah.
But you don’t need to subscribe to the exact same fundamental truths as another human being in order to treat them with decency. The standards of behaviour we hold ourselves to should not falter when we react to a stranger expressing that the best pizza they’ve ever had was from Stillwater, Oklahoma. Our morality doesn’t slip when a friend admits to thinking the world is flat. When your neighbor proclaims they have risen from the dead to save your soul, you politely leave their housewarming party claiming IBS.
It is not right in any form or fashion to confront, harass, or demean members of the LGBT and genderqueer community. I am SURE you would love to have a spirited debate with someone about how there are only two genders. I can also assure you with utmost certainty that the person you singled out in line at Starbucks because they had short purple hair does NOT want to have that conversation right now.
When I am in a comfortable position to inform someone in my life that I identify as non-binary/genderqueer I always brace myself for painful questions. I know that the brain reacts to being introduced to uncharted fields of information by reverting to primitive tactics.
Monkey brain says there are only two genders.
Okay Jeff, no problem I’ll just explain to you real fast that gender is actually a spectrum. Gender by definition has more to do with societal and cultural differences rather than biological differences. Gender is different than sex, which refers directly to someone’s genitalia.
HA! Monkey brain says there are only two sexes.
Okay Jeff, I tried to veer our conversation off a creepy path by using the word genitalia instead of penis/vagina. I digress, intersex individuals, meaning people with reproductive or sexual anatomy that differs from the typical penis or vagina situation, do exist all over the world in staggering numbers. It’s really weird to be discussing sex organs with you in this environment since we are in a platonic/business/professional relationship and I want you to respect me.
At this point, whoever ‘Jeff’ happens to be to me in that moment (boss, family member, friend, or my neighbor Jessica) is just as uncomfortable as I am.
All I wanted from Jeff was to be treated with respect. I wanted to let Jeff know that I trust him, and would appreciate him acknowledging my preferences surrounding my expressed gender. It could be as simple as asking Jeff to refer to me as they/them or by my name from now on. Or maybe I am uncomfortable with the way Jeff interacts with me on the assumption that I am female or that I subscribe to a specific gender identity.
I’m not asking Jeff to change his opinion on the matter of gender. I’m not even asking Jeff to google “gender identity vs. gender expression” or learn any new definitions.
I would just like Jeff to treat me with the same respect and dignity he would treat any other person with. I want to be afforded the decency that any other good-meaning person deserves.
Me opening up to Jeff or “coming out” to him is not an attack on his beliefs, his opinions, or his religion. Wanting to be called by my name and not referred to as a female is not my way of forcing the gay agenda onto Jeff and/or his family.
In any business environment, your colleagues, associates, and bosses expect a level of professionalism that requires a bit more than just common decency. If you notice that you exhibit Jeff-like behaviours when building relationships with your contemporaries, you might want to rethink your approach. At least before someone less forgiving than I sends your interaction in an email to HR. It could cost you your career.
I’m writing this as a formal warning to all the Jeffs currently traversing the bureaucratic hellscape alongside me. I used to be one of you.
A long time ago I had no idea what the word transgender meant. All I knew was that my insurance premiums were high, and that the screeching banshee of a newscaster on TV said it was because people wanted sex changes for free.
Obviously that sounded a little too hateful to be true so I googled transgender for myself. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want sex realignment surgery. At that point in my life I very much disregarded the idea that anyone could be anything other than the gender they were assigned at birth. I believed that, even though in my heart I felt so strongly that I did not want society to label me as either of the two most popular genders.
It took one of my close friends coming out as trans to really kickstart my empathy for their community, and that’s horrible. It shouldn’t have taken that for me to behave like a decent human being.
Since I was already so interested in the idea of gender I should have researched the topic. I should have reached out to trans people and asked about their experiences. I should have educated myself and responded with empathy when I learned about the pain and suffering that afflicts trans communities everywhere.
So here is a warning to all the current Jeffs of the world—times are changing. If you want to be a part of the aggressors, the people who make living harmoniously in this world so very difficult, continue on as usual. Just Jeffing it up left and right.
But keep in mind that being a Jeff might cost you a great deal when you get called out for your behaviour.