I’m publishing my letter below, because after two weeks, all I received was a “we accept your resignation” letter from the club. I’m pursuing getting my dues refunded separately, and I also sent the below to their club quality department. But I thought I’d let my readership and the general public know that Toastmasters, or at least their local clubs, are not necessarily a safe place for transgender folks.
Dear Officers of the H — - Toastmasters Club,
With this letter, I am resigning from the club. I have a definitive reason for doing this, which I will share below.
At the last meeting I attended, which was sometime in March I believe, I was very surprised and upset to hear E —, the VP of Education, refer to me as “He/She”. From what I could tell at the time, I was not the only person who had a strong reaction to this terminology. E — explained herself by saying that she was “confused” and she didn’t “know how this stuff works” and that she didn’t mean to offend. I was horrified, but at the time, I accepted her explanation for the sake of moving on and not prolonging the issue.
Since then, I have felt very uncomfortable, have attended no further meetings, and have been turning over leaving the club in my mind. When I gave my icebreaker speech in the club some months ago, I knew of course that I was taking a chance, as any LGBTQ+ person does when coming out to a group. However, up until that one remark, the feedback I had received was 100% positive. This remark, this terminology, came out of nowhere from my point of view.
Aside from the actual icebreaker speech, there was never any reason for any member or officer of the club to assume I was anything else but a man. Before I gave that speech, or for anybody who wasn’t present when I gave it, there was no reason to know I was transgender. Zoom has a feature that allows a person to share their pronouns, and I have used that feature since I first signed up for Zoom, but that alone is not an indication that a person is transgender. E — was present for my icebreaker speech, so of course she did know, but I was very clear in that speech that I am a man. Not a single member of the club, has ever known me as anything but a man — a transgender man, perhaps, but a man.
To refer to a person as “He/She” has never been anything but a slur, in this society. There has never been a time in the history of the United States when it has been considered “okay” to refer to a transgender person as “He/She”, certainly not in the lifetime of any member of this club. E — ‘s excuse, that she was “confused” and didn’t “know how these things work” was nothing short of disingenuous from a person who is the Vice President of Education for the club, and a Distinguished Toastmaster. E — knows both the importance of diction, and the importance of self education. If she did not understand “how these things work”, it would have taken less than half an hour of her time to educate herself on the subject. If she didn’t already know that “He/She” is a slur, then she would have found it out in that half hour (but it’s difficult to believe that she didn’t know it, since it’s never been used any other way).
Absolutely the only excuse for using this term that I can think of (and which she implied, but I seem to recall did not state at the time) is that E — has stated in the past sometimes has problems reading the screen. Since my pronouns, through the pronoun sharing feature in Zoom, are visible on the screen, perhaps she somehow thought that “He/him” was “He/she”. This possible excuse is actually why I had not already left the club. I have been extremely uncomfortable with E — since she used the “He/She” term, and more so every week as I receive emails from her about club business, but I’ve held off until now because of the possible excuse of not seeing the screen well.
However, it’s really not much of an excuse. I myself have vision issues resulting from my chronic illness. In order to combat the problem, I magnify web sites, etc. For persons who have chronic vision problems, all operating systems and most applications, including Zoom, have accessibility options. In addition, if E — was unable to read my pronouns, she could have asked, rather than making an assumption that a term which has always been a slur was what she saw.
To strengthen my words, I’ll refer to a paper from Alberta (Canada) Health Services, (https://www.albertahealthservices.ca/assets/info/pf/div/if-pf-div-terms-and-phrases-to-avoid.pdf) which states in part:
Tranny, She‐Male, He/She, It
These are defamatory words which dehumanize transgender people and should never be used.
The criteria for using these derogatory terms should be the same as those applied to other
vulgar words which are used to target other groups such as those protected under the Alberta
Human Rights Act such as race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender
expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status,
source of income, family status and sexual orientation.
(I realize that this is from another country, but there’s no reason to think that something like this would not also apply to the U.S.)
Defamatory: “she-male,” “he-she,” “it,” “trannie,” “tranny,” “gender-bender”
These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be used.
In this day and age, for anybody who considers themselves a part of society, and especially an officer in a club dedicated to outreach and education, there is never any excuse for not being aware of the fact that “He/She” is a slur, and so, after turning if over in my mind for the better part of a month, I cannot assume innocence on E — ‘s part. Because of this, I cannot continue as a member of this club. I’m sad to leave, as there are several people in the club whom I’ve enjoyed talking to, but my discomfort level is too great to continue.
I would like to ask, since I am currently unemployed, if my dues to Toastmasters, which I am also leaving, can be refunded.