Trans etiquette: nosy person edition
June 13, 2014 5:58 AM Subscribe
I googled my new supervisor at my volunteer gig and found out that this person is trans and doesn't identify with a binary gender. I don't know how I should refer to my supervisor now. Some questions about how to proceed.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I recently started a new volunteer gig. I'll be volunteering once or twice a week for a couple of hours at a time. A few days ago, a new person was hired on to supervise volunteers. This person will be my primary contact from here on out, although I will mostly work independently. When I met my new supervisor, I assumed, I think for no good reason, that my new supervisor was a woman. (That is to say, I don't think that anyone said anything to make me think my supervisor was a woman, and my supervisor has a totally gender-neutral name, looks androgynous, and was wearing neutral clothes. Nothing I have found out subsequently has made me think that my supervisor has ever identified as a woman.) I was curious about this new person who I would be working with, again for no good reason, so I googled. The first hit was a recent article in an LGBT publication in which my volunteer supervisor talks about being trans and not identifying as either male or female. The little author blurb used the pronoun "they." It also linked to my supervisor's personal blog, which is pretty personal. There's nothing there that's at all embarrassing, but there's stuff about struggles with body image that I could see someone not feeling comfortable sharing with some random lady from work. On the other hand, the article was published under my supervisor's full name, and the author blurb on the article linked to the blog. I don't think anyone's making any efforts to be anonymous.
So now I have to figure out how to proceed. I can think of two choices. The first is not to say anything, try not to use any pronouns until someone else does (which could get awkward, as the previous paragraph probably demonstrates), and to see if my supervisor or someone else addresses it. The second is to send my supervisor an email, say "hey, I hope this doesn't seem too creepy, but I googled you and found this article. Is it ok if I ask you what pronouns you would prefer I used?" Or I guess I could just not mention google and ask about pronouns, but I think that might be weird, because it honestly would never have occurred to me to ask if I hadn't googled.
Because I'm sure someone will ask: I am 100% sure that the author of the article is the same person as my volunteer supervisor. There was an accompanying photo, and the author bio mentioned some pretty uncommon identifying details.
Short version: I don't want to misgender anyone, but I also don't want to out anyone, and I don't want to seem like a creepy google stalker. Also, I have social anxiety and tend to overthink things and generally act like a dingbat in awkward social situations, and I hate the thought that my awkwardness would cause unpleasantness for my new volunteer supervisor. Thoughts about what, if anything, I should do?