Elmar and I went to Berlin last weekend. By coincidence, it turned out to be the weekend of the Christopher Street Day pride parade/political demonstration. And by fate, it was also the day in which, through a court case, the US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about dissertation topics in a more concrete way. Right now I’m thinking about examining the effect of drama-based instruction techniques in undergraduate foreign language courses on students’ transcultural competence, that is, their abilities to function across cultures. Specifically, I’d like to focus on students’ abilities to recognize their perspective from within their own cultural membership and to open themselves to the perspectives of people from cultures different than their own. While this may never result in complete understanding, empathy is an important trait of social interaction.
But I’ve also been thinking of another trans lately: transgender.
First, let’s talk terminology. To be transgender means that a person’s gender identity is different than the identity assigned at birth. Sexuality and anatomy are different issues. Gender/transgender refers to culture: social behaviors, identity and perceptions.
There was a Time Magazine cover recently titled “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s next civil rights frontier”. While the story by Katy Steinmetz was a balanced mix of background information, statistics, and stories about the experiences of a few diverse individuals, I found the most interesting quote to be a detail in parentheses: “(This article will use the names, nouns and pronouns preferred by individuals, in accordance with TIME’s style)”. That’s an important linguistic decision that shows respect and normalcy.
I too want to tell stories of three transgender women from my perspective as an outsider, a cis female. I offered to change their names to protect their privacy, but all three of these women gave me their explicit permission to use their real names. I like this, as I can write in greater detail without having to change their stories to protect their identities. Also, their willingness and relative nonchalance about being open indicates something good about the current state of US society.