People handle startling news in many different ways. Some withdraw in order to process, others seem to handle almost anything with great stride, while others tend might laugh or joke when it’s really not appropriate to do so. We see it all the time during a breakup, hearing the news that a loved one passed on, or even when someone comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. When I initially came out in the early 90’s as a lesbian I got the completely unoriginal statements from guys such as “Hey, I’m a lesbian too,” or “I’m a lesbian trapped in a man’s body,” and each one thought they were original and funny. They were neither.
“JOKES CAME STREAMING ACROSS SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS, MOSTLY AS MEMES, THAT TARGETED TRANS PEOPLE IN GENERAL..”
There’s been a long history of gay-related jokes and most of them are at the expense of a gay person and usually are pretty offensive. Now that trans people are gaining so much visibility and so many folks are coming out as trans or non-binary at unprecedented rates (YAY!), it’s only inevitable that jokes were quick to follow. A large portion of them seemed to be focused on or about Caitlyn Jenner given the prior fame and titles she held as an athlete. Jokes came streaming across social media platforms, mostly as memes, that targeted trans people in general, specific trans people (i.e. Jenner and Laverne Cox), or issues relating to trans people such as the ongoing bathroom bills.
Sometimes, though, the jokes are personal and come at you, specifically, from people around you. I came out to my family, and very shortly thereafter we all boarded a cruise ship. They had very little time to process anything, and the changes weren’t overly apparent as I made sure to shave to help ease everyone into the changes over time. My brother, a man not known for being emotional, was trying to come to terms with this new information and opted to coin the term “Bro-ster” for the time being. Admittedly, I found it clever and gave it a laugh and I suppose at that point in time it was actually fitting. It was short-used as eventually, the family (minus my father) got on board with using my name and eventually using my pronouns. Other people, however, have thrown jokes my way thinking they’re clever and original much as the heterosexual men did back in the 90’s. Just as it was then, the jokes aren’t funny now either. When you out me as a result of your joke; when you use my personal hardship as a joke; when you diminish the obstacles and challenges I undertake daily to just simply live as a trans person; the jokes are not funny.
“I HAVE SOME PRETTY THICK SKIN WHEN IT COMES TO MY TRANSITION AND MYSELF. BEING DEADNAMED OR MISGENDERED PISSES ME OFF, BUT IT DOESN’T TRIGGER ME”
I have some pretty thick skin when it comes to my transition and myself. Being deadnamed or misgendered pisses me off, but it doesn’t trigger me. Hearing an inappropriate joke is annoying (although sometimes angering) but it doesn’t go skin-deep for me. I do know, however, that many trans and non-binary folks are significantly impacted, sometimes they are triggered, and sometimes it can cause a vicious spiral of emotions. While I may shirk off the idiots and their ignorance, I do realize that it’s also my responsibility to call attention to it. I feel that we all need to call out these derisive attempts at humor that are really just thinly veiled mockeries. Perhaps the jokester learns what they’re doing is unacceptable. Perhaps they won’t, but usually those around that person, the laughers, will become uncomfortable and when the laughs stop the joke disappears.
I do want to encourage trans and non-binary folks to embrace humor. Life is going to be riddled with negativity all on its own so bringing humor into your life is a great way to combat that. Sharing that humor with others helps spread laughter and joy and is a great way to counter the ignorance. Get out there, smile and laugh, and don’t be afraid to put the jokesters in their place.