Caitlyn Jenner stirred controversy once more this week when she received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs, an honor that some feel should have gone to someone else. While the attention and acceptance that Jenner has received are a net positive for trans people, you can count me among those unimpressed with the “tremendous courage” that folks are ascribing to her. Jenner came out on Trans-Third Base, and thinks she hit a triple.
However, one thing we can all agree upon is that intentionally misgendering Jenner, calling her “him” or stubbornly retaining the name “Bruce,” is a hateful move that excuses and enables the bullying and violence that trans people, particularly young trans people, endure in their daily, non-celebrity lives. Even “accidental” misgendering can wear thin, and isn’t really accidental at all in many cases, but the deliberate variety is an attack.
That’s why it may be tempting to stand up and cheer when you see how ace helicopter pilot and journalist Zoey Tur handles Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro when he smarted off at her on Thursday’s Dr. Drew show. During a panel discussion of Caitlyn Jenner’s Arthur Ashe award, Shapiro kept misgendering Jenner, then turned to Tur and asked “What are your genetics, sir?”
Tur grabbed him by his No. 2 pencil of a neck and set his ass straight:
“You cut that out now, or you’ll go home in an ambulance.”
Damn, that temptation was too strong.
“it’s not rude to say someone who’s biologically a male is a male,” Shapiro said, which, his fellow panelists pointed out, is not even true in, but let’s grant the premise anyway. Let’s say there is a factual basis under which Shapiro can argue Tur’s and Jenner’s sex and/or gender. In a much more accurate sense, there is a much stronger factual basis for Tur to call Ben Shapiro “Jew boy.”
Shapiro is, in fact, a Jew, and a boy, yet if Zoey Tur insisted on calling Ben Shapiro “Jew boy” throughout the segment, no one would doubt the provocation. If Shapiro threatened to smack her, I wouldn’t like it, but I’d understand.
In fact, one of the tremendously positive things about Caitlyn Jenner’s emergence was the widespread support and awareness about misgendering that accompanied it. One key exception was Bill Maher, who actually wrote a joke in which he pretended to accidentally misgender Jenner, just so he could take a shot at what he called the “pronoun police”:
”You know what, pronoun police, if you’re going to climb up my ass, while you’re up there, you can kiss it.”
You know what? Trans people have varying degrees of patience with accidental and/or passive-aggressive misgendering because that shit gets old as fast for them as being called “ma’am” would for Bill Maher, but if you’re going to deliberately misgender someone, then expect to get shit for it without whining.