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08 February 2013 @ 12:41 pm
I know no one person can speak for a community, but am I correct in my recollection that using 'shim' as a pronoun for transfolk is generally considered offensive? My boss just used it ("a shim") to describe a library patron (not within their hearing). I told her that was offensive in the trans community. She claims to have a lot of trans friends and that she learned it from them.

My thought is that its like using the n word in the black community- something they may do among themselves but offensive for an outsider to use. Am I wrong? Any transfolk care to comment?
Musings from the CZ unitcz_unit on February 8th, 2013 05:42 pm (UTC)
A shim? What the hell does that mean?

(Oh I see, she him. I was thinking shim like something you stick between two things to hold them level. Like a.... ahem).

I would consider "it" to be offensive, but I guess we can use that.


Edited at 2013-02-08 05:51 pm (UTC)
Madame Blue aka Pygment: WickedQueensweetmmeblue on February 8th, 2013 06:07 pm (UTC)
If a gender neutral pronoun was used to be respectful I can see that as ok, even if it is one that is out of fad. However, using is as "a" shim is being offensive. You wouldn't say, in response to a particular person, "A him from the library did...." It would be the equivalent of saying "A gender queer from the library..." you don't single the person out. BLEH!!!!
Mikhail Borg: madnessmikailborg on February 8th, 2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
I have never heard that term before, so I really couldn't say. I was called "trap" a few months back at an anime con, which I find offensive, but it was clearly meant as a compliment, so I ended up just nodding politely. People are weird.
Elletheletterelle on February 11th, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC)
I've never even heard of trap. What's that supposed to mean?

I love that Alice outfit. You look good. :)
Mikhail Borg: madnessmikailborg on February 11th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC)
A "trap" is a cross-dresser or transgendered person that passes as the other gender so well that someone with sexual intentions might not discover the truth until the pants or skirt come off. Implied is the idea that the cross-dresser is a cruel tease, a corruptor.

"It's a trap!"

So, as you can see, it's not a nice thing to say. Besides, I rarely shave off the beard, so I'm not much of a trap. However, the tone and context of the comment clearly suggested that even without passing, I looked really good in my outfit, and the observer admired it. So as I said, I tried to accept the intent.

And thank you. I do this for my own fun... but I can't deny that I enjoy compliments when I get them :)
Maureen Lycaon: holy onesmaureenlycaon on February 8th, 2013 07:17 pm (UTC)
This is honestly the first I've heard of it. Then again, I'm not very transgender-aware.
Elletheletterelle on February 11th, 2013 10:05 pm (UTC)
I remember using it (or hearing it used, idk) when I was a kid. Kind of that giggling "it's different therefore weird and wrong and to be mocked." That's why I couldn't believe that an adult person would have heard it from her numerous trans friends. If they exist.
daroosdaroos on February 8th, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC)
I always thought a shim was something you used to prop up your dresser when it leaned the wrong direction.
eaceac on February 8th, 2013 10:51 pm (UTC)
I have never heard this used anywhere, and I am not lacking in trans acquaintances. I conclude that it's not appropriate in mixed company, at least.

Also, if one can determine the gender identity a person is trying to present, isn't it always more polite to use that pronoun?
D'Glenn: TransSisterdglenn on February 9th, 2013 08:33 am (UTC)
I agree, "shim" is bad (it also smells more like a noun than a pronoun ... but I digress). And I emphatically agree that when you can determine -- or have a pretty good guess -- the identity they mean to present, it's polite to use the matching pronoun. Not so much "more polite than" something else, more like "polite at all", a baseline of polite.

"Shim" is obviously disrespectful of binary-identified trans folks, and personally I've never encountered a genderqueer person who approve of it either (though that is at least conceivable, so: yeah, bad.

(I have heard it used before. Always as a deliberate insult.)
Elletheletterelle on February 11th, 2013 10:12 pm (UTC)
YES, exactly. She asked me what to call them, and I said that.
JBjbsegal on February 9th, 2013 01:56 am (UTC)
Elletheletterelle on February 11th, 2013 10:13 pm (UTC)
*facepalm* I'm a fucking librarian and it didn't occur to me to jfgi. Thank you. :)
D'Glenn: TransSisterdglenn on February 9th, 2013 09:15 am (UTC)
Are you interested in the in-depth examination of why and how it's offensive, or are you just looking for confirmation that the reason's you've find obvious are probably right, as is your conclusion/recollection?

"Tranny" is the trans community's equivalent to the n-word -- that we can use among ourselves as a shorthand to communicate certain tones but upsets a lot of people even then[1], and raises hackles when used by cis folks. "Shim" is one I've never heard one of us use even in that way. (I won't rule out the possibility of some clique of trans people I've never run into who use it, but even if such a group exists, it's bad form to use it anywhere outside of said hypothetical group. It has a history of being used insultingly, and is one of those things we hear just before violence is directed at us.)

If you can tell someone's intentionally presenting as female or male, you use "she" and "he" (and "woman" and "man" when you want a regular noun) regardless of whether you can tell they're trans. If you can't tell which they intend, or if they're clearly intending a "genderfuck" and/or androgynous presentation, you pick "he" or "she" if you're not worried about being told you guessed wrong, or you use one of the gender-neutral/gender-unspecified neologisms (if you already use those enough to make it sound natural) ... or (safest) you use the singular "they"[2]. (Noun: "person".) Better, you find a respectful way to ask what pronoun they prefer, if you get a chance to interact with them.

I've just pretty much restated what you were pretty sure you remembered, right? If so, yeah, you remembered right.

[1] There's actually a whole 'nuther argument within the community to unpack about that, but to do so here would be a distraction.

[2] Which has been correct English for longer than I've been alive -- by at least a factor of eight IIRC -- regardless of my personal distaste for the singular/plural ambiguity.
Psyche: zombie drag queendjpsyche on February 9th, 2013 06:43 pm (UTC)
Since you seem to be very knowledgeable, is "tranny" acceptable slang for transvestite? Obviously it is offensive to transgenders.
Thank you!
D'Glenn: TransSisterdglenn on February 9th, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
First, a brief digression on terminology: as the word 'transgender' was originally formulated and as most commonly used, crossdressers/transvestites are considered a proper subset of transgendered people -- usage is shifting a little in some subgroups, but in trans culture as a whole, 'transgender' is still an umbrella term that includes within it transsexuals, crossdressers, drag kings, drag queen, genderqueer, two-spirit, intergender, genderfluid, and even agender, along with folks who don't have their own labels yet. Basically, everyone who isn't cisgender.

With that out of the way ... at least in the US, 'tranny' would be unacceptable for referring to transvestites (and I suspect similarly unacceptable in all English-speaking countries, but the one I actually know is the US). Quite offensive, and potentially confusing on top of that (since 'tranny' has usually been a slur that refers to transsexual people).

The in-group/out-group usage distinction still applies, but with more caveats than the n-word.
Fenrissfenriss on February 10th, 2013 11:08 am (UTC)
Hi, Glenn! (We used to know each other from cons... my legal name is Rachel, and I used to hang out with Lina Lee and Peter Topkis among others.)

I just want to add that in my neck of the Gender Woods, folks are starting to use trans* (with the asterisk) as a way of referring to absolutely anyone who isn't cisgendered, including transvestites who aren't specifically transgendered. I have to admit that I find that a bit cumbersome. I don't really care for the use of punctuation within terminology like this. But a lot of the people I interact with really insist that this is the correct way to refer to the non-cis community as a whole. FWIW.
Elletheletterelle on March 13th, 2013 06:52 pm (UTC)
Does one pronounce the asterisk? If so, how? Transstar sounds seriously cool, btw. :)
Mikhail Borg: madnessmikailborg on February 11th, 2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
I find it safest to restrict "tranny" to refer to a device which passes power from a motor to a driveshaft.
Elletheletterelle on March 13th, 2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
I'm always glad to hear from someone who knows. I'm sorry not to have answered sooner, but thank you so much for your explanation. I was hoping I'd hear from you. :)

I doubt she'll bring it up again, but I feel bolstered. *hug*