Learning a Second Language – Broism
By Jude Samson
Okay, my trans men students – I’m going to start today’s linguists class with some examples of “man-speak.”
Dude, did you catch that game?
Bro wanna grab a beer?
Yep, this is the complicated language of men that one must learn if we want to blend in or “pass” as a cis-male in today’s society. Odds are you’re pretty safe if you drop a “bro” or “man” anywhere in a sentence while using “dude” a bit more sparingly as it isn’t as common anymore.
All joking aside, while many trans people are perfectly happy standing out as trans because they’re tired of the cis-het binary norm, other trans folks pray for the day that they could pass fully and not be clocked. I am blessed in that I do pass, even if they think I’m a gay male, they still see me as a male, one of the guys, part of the club, a bro.. and it’s extremely rare that I’m clocked. Passing or being clocked, however, is of no great concern for me and I live pretty open about being trans. I’m happy to educate, and help others learn more about the trans community, and I’m happy to be the trans person they know.
“PART OF PASSING, FOR THOSE WHO DO WISH TO BE MORE INTEGRATED AS A MALE, IS LEARNING HOW TO SPEAK.”
Part of passing, for those who do wish to be more integrated as a male, is learning how to speak. One great thing you can do is go to a place that is sure to have a lot of guys around such as a bar and just listen to how they speak to each other. Listen to each male person you know and queue in on specific verbiage and how they physically speak. Cis-men tend not to elongate words but will rather speak in short and clipped words. There are also words they tend not to use but that varies depending on how hyper-masculine to how easygoing they are.
As with any generation, there’s also bound to be slang – for better or for worse – that creeps into our daily lingo and for men right now it seems to be the overuse of the word “Bro.” This truncated word seems to be used by guys to say many things but most commonly “Hey, you’re one of the guys and you see cool.” When guys tend to drop the “bro” word they are often doing it in good spirits and it evokes a sense of camaraderie. This can often, but not always, be accompanied with a fist bump.
There are some interesting papers and articles out there that discuss how men and women speak differently, how they may be using the same words but use them differently, or how they accompany different body language to key in on what/how they’re speaking. They’re definitely worth a skim through for those who are interested, but overall many seem to miss the point on how men use different words when speaking to men directly. Overall, men attempt to make a connection with the person with whom they’re speaking, even if they’ve never before and likely will never interact again. It’s not an emotional connection, but almost in a sense of the <wink wink> <nudge nudge> we’re in the same club.
When I’m at work and I’m going through the same set of instructions about their pet and the vaccines or products they purchased that I go through with every single other client (regardless of gender, race, or age), I feel that many men shake my hand or fist bump me and “thanks, bro” me almost on the sly as if to infer that I, as a fellow dude, gave them a little extra side info. That somehow our “bro-ness” created a momentary bond during that exchange.
“THE BRO-LANGUAGE WILL EVENTUALLY FADE, BUT THE OVERALL MAN-SPEAK WILL REMAIN.”
It’s not something that one picks up on regularly, and it’s definitely not something most cis-men are aware that they do, but I pay very close attention to all things in my surroundings, especially how men act and interact. That’s just how I am and I’m told that sometimes it can overwhelm those around me or make them feel like they’re under a microscope, but I have found it to be a great life-tool. It has often served me well, and I have learned to incorporate a lot of manners of interaction as a result. The bro-language will eventually fade, but the overall man-speak will remain. It will morph over time as it expels the outdated lingo and absorbs new words with the changing of time. Keeping one’s ear to the ground is a good skill to have, especially if passing is important to you, but the more important skill is to use what you observe when and how you need it rather than just mimicking a fashion trend. Just because most guys are dropping “bro” every other sentence doesn’t mean you have to do that just to be considered a “real guy.” It’s simply a trend that will go the way all other trends do, but the thing to remember is that there really is no one way to be a “real guy” because there really is no such thing. Being fluid with your vocabulary to use certain words in certain situations like hanging with your buddies versus speaking to your co-workers is important. Being aware that what you say as a man can carry a lot of weight in a world where women are still considered second-class, so using words of empowerment and understanding towards all people versus following the trend of other tough-guy speech. If you pass and want to remain passing, you can still use your own words to encourage and enlighten cis-men about the greater world around them.
Take from them and their binary culture what you need in order to incorporate what you want in ways that will make you happy, but don’t feel you have to fall into the abyss of Bro-ness. Remember your voice and speak from the heart, regardless of what language you speak.