The Ugly American: What Not to Say When Your Kid Comes Out as Gender Fluid

Travel Features

“Shut the hell up with your bullcrap modern-day phrases for made-up problems.”

“Really? You wanna wear a dress one day and cargo shorts the next? Sounds like your identity is dictated by the dwindling supply of clean clothes in your closet.”

“What pronoun do you prefer?”

They? You, a singular person, want to be referred to as they and them? No, you can’t have that pronoun. That pronoun is already taken. If you create your own gender identity, create a pronoun to go with it. It’s been done before. The Japanese language has 25 affixes for birds alone! I mean, yeah, Japanese is hell to learn—believe me, I tried. Once I was in Japan and thought I complimented a chef by telling him, “Sir, your steamed vegetables are delicious,” but then later realized I actually said, “Father, we must keep farting until all our eggplant is underground.” But here’s my point, I messed up because I was trying to learn. The chef didn’t accuse me of insensitivity, or racism (and since when is gender fluidity a race?), he didn’t burst into tears and begin writing his suicide note right then and there. He just smiled, understood I was an idiot, and accepted my intentions, which were good. Calm down.”

“Are you sure you’re not just a tomboy?”

“Are you super sure? I read a comment thread the other day about how gender fluid people are pissed because it’s getting popular, so they’re judging each other on who is truly gender fluid and who’s just trying to be trendy. I don’t blame them. I’d hate to have a true struggle all my life only to have it hijacked by popularity. Oh, wait. I do. It’s called being female. Jesus Christ! We’re all foaming at the mouth and falling over each other to keep from offending Caitlin Jenner when, let’s face it, Caitlin Jenner got to be a guy for the first 70 years of her life—a white guy. That is the most privileged demographic anyone can hope for. She could have crossed over earlier, but she didn’t. You know why? Because it’s awesome to be a white guy in this country. If I had a choice I would totally sign up for that. But I spent my first 50 years as female. If I decide that I identify as a man all of a sudden, I sincerely think it will be met with a lot less adoration and respect than Caitlin goddam ‘Call-Me-Caitlin’ Jenner. Chaz Bono didn’t get a goddam cover photo on Vanity Fair, did he? All he got was ridicule and a stint on Dancing with the Stars. But more power to Caitlin. Let’s see how she likes earning 70 cents on the dollar and being told by old, ignorant politicians that their penile dysfunction medication is more important than her mammograms.”

“What does your flag look like?”

Photo: lamdogjunkie, CC-BY

Hollis Gillespie is Paste Travel’s The Ugly American columnist. She is a writing instructor, travel expert and author of We Will be Crashing Shortly, which is on bookstore shelves now. Follow her on Twitter.

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