"Who's the bride, and who's the groom?"
"Who's the boy, and who's the girl in the relationship?"
"Are you a boy or a girl?"
You may not remember these questions, and maybe, if you're lucky, this is your first time hearing them. Unfortunately for elder millennials in the LGBTQIA+ community, it's branded on our hearts. Sure, in the last five years, society has focused on learning more about the world outside their bubbles––and we've made incredible progress too! Yet in the "Alphabet Mafia," there is one letter brushed aside and ignored—T is for transgender. The amount of transphobia in society is heartbreaking; what's even worse is how deeply rooted it is in the wedding community.
I'm not transphobic––this thought might pop into your head. Can you, without a doubt, confirm you aren't transphobic? Maybe you have that little rainbow flag on your website and you celebrate everything gay on your Instagram in June. That's what a good ally does, right? Well, there's more to it than just that. A good ally is constantly questioning themselves and the normalization of harmful things like transphobia or racism. So sit back, buckle up, and drink some water because we're going to dive into the most common transphobic rhetoric in the wedding industry and what you can do to enact change.
The Origins of the Term Same-Sex
Let's think about the term same-sex and what it means. When was it used the most? Actually, not too long ago. This term reached its pinnacle usage during the years of legalizing same-sex marriage. After federal recognition in the U.S., the term began to fade and slowly morphed into LGBT, and now it's LGBTQIA+. I refer to the term "same-sex" as a bridge. It connected hetero cis-gender relationships to LGBTQIA+ relationships but under a less "muddy" term. Could you imagine society using LGBTQIA+ seven years ago? Same-sex was an easy label for everyone to digest as massive changes occurred. It stayed within binary lines, which makes most people more comfortable. Yes, most people.
Even nowadays, the idea of something existing outside the binary construct confuses people. Some can fathom their beloved pets having a spectrum of emotions but humans having a range of identities is simply unfathomable. Even in the transgender community, there are intense debates of whether or not even non-binary humans are transgender (and every individual has the right to make this decision for themselves). The argument? If you aren't a binary-type transition such as male-to-female or female-to-male, you aren't trans.
Definition: Transgender, adjective
- Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.
Facts About Gender and Birth Sex
1. Gender and birth sex are not the same thing. Gender is a construct i.e., something humans made up because we love labels. A while ago, a man argued with me that gender and birth sex are the same thing, insisting it can be proven by just looking at dogs. He claimed that because dogs have penises and vulvas, there is such a thing as binary genders. I asked him when the last time he asked a dog what their gender was, and of course, he couldn't answer me. Insert joke about assuming gender here.
2. The ownership of genitals exists. This is absolutely a biological fact. Our genitals exist to procreate (in the very base sense). All animals have bodily appendages to procreate. However, a female praying mantis is not actually female, in the general human sense of the word. Yes, one insect accepts the sperm (or species equivalent) of the other insect (then devours it), which results in offspring. But they don't recognize the terms female or male. Humans provided that label/construct. A female praying mantis could easily be a male if we had labeled it so.
3. There are three human sexes: Penis owners, vulva owners, and Intersex human beings. In fact, Intersex humans can be divided into four categories as well.
4. Gender is a construct. Pizza could have been named soup if language had evolved that way. An airplane could have been named a bus if the inventors had drunk a different liquor or read a different book. The term female could have easily been male if language had evolved differently. Humans take what they can see and wrap constructs around it. People thought the earth was flat for thousands of years because they could never see past the straight horizon. Civilizations labeled natural occurrences as godly emotions and actions because they needed to label them. Gender is no different. You see a penis and a vulva—give it a label. Humans not only gave birth sexes a label, they then added personality characteristics, outfits, relationship roles, and lifetime expectations onto these labels.
However, despite that fact, let’s keep in mind that words might have been chosen for random reasons and creations, but they still hurt people. We create constructs because humans need them. The meanings behind constructs will always matter—they can evolve though. We are more powerful and smarter than those humans from the times of Galileo. We should all aim to be better than all past versions of ourselves, as a species and as people.
The Term Same-Sex is Transphobic
Now that we've talked about some foundational pieces of education, let's get to the point: same-sex is a transphobic term. Do you require a genital check when booking a client? Same-sex implies that two people have the same biological sex. How do you know? Especially nowadays, with HRT and the ability to wear whatever the hell we want, how do you know they're same-sex? Because they both wear dresses? Because both have beards? Facial hair and fancily crafted clothing don't define gender or biological sex. Raise your hand if you know a cis woman in your life that shaves her mustache. My point exactly.
When you use same-sex in your branding jargon, you're alienating millions of people. Even if you do somehow know your client's genital ownership status, using the term alienates everyone else you don't. Another question often asked is, "well, what if I know for sure everyone in the room has these genitals?" It doesn't matter. If you don't remove the term from your vernacular, you're going to slip up and hurt someone eventually.
On top of that, if you keep using the term same-sex on your website, your blogs, or anywhere else, you're alerting people in the LGBTQIA+ community that you aren't actually involved and aren't actually an ally. You're just pandering. I said what I said.
Other Transphobic Terms
Since I'm really into facts, let's take a look at the root of these words.
Bride: This word derives from the Old English word bryd, which derives from the very, very old Proto-Indo-European word bhreu, which means to brew up that soup for the husband who bought you from your dad.
Groom: Jokes on all of us, this word isn't what you think it is. As a noun, it's someone who takes care of magnificent four-legged beasts i.e., horses. As a verb, it means to train (like for pedophiles) or clean (like dirty hot messes). The word you're looking for is bridegroom. Now let's inspect that word: bride groom. Did you just do a double-take too?! You mean that the man was meant to train his bride? *gasp* Who used to be around the age of twelve?
Both terms exist within the binary spectrum and are therefore transphobic (and misogynistic AF). Period. What terms should we use instead? I contemplated this for days, and I've settled on Bacchanalian Reveler and Bacchic Merrymaker. After all, who wouldn't want a wedding full of salaciously drunk revelry? Rock, paper, scissors for who gets to be the reveler or celebrant, y'all!
Mrs. & Mr.: These are abbreviated forms of mistress and master. *shifty eyed* So, um, that's all the information required. We won't even mention how it assumes gender in the first place. Plus, Miss means a woman is unmarried. Ms means they're either owned or unowned—cough—I mean married or unmarried. Has anyone else noticed how men only need one label? They aren't defined by marriage status.
Looking for a solution? When a pronoun is unknown, but a more formal title is encouraged, I use Mx. as an addressment. There’s no doubt it’s thrown people off, but change is weird and sometimes confusing. That doesn’t mean we don’t try, right? Or try this on for size: “Please welcome the newly married Reveler and Merrymaker Doe!” Or the term "Marriers" coined by Equally Wed will do just fine!
At the end of the day, words do help humans understand everything around them. One might say it separates us from animals. It’s entirely valid that humans thought the world was binary, just like they thought the earth was flat until they learned it wasn’t. As we move forward, language and understanding of the world around us will continue to evolve. This piece isn’t meant to make anyone feel bad. At one time, we all thought Nickleback was a good band and that women were not smart enough to work. Rapid consciousness evolution is a prime example of human superiority—let’s flex that.
Avoiding transphobia is going to be a long hard road. It’s built into our society, just like racism, so dismantling this prejudice will take time and patience. The best piece of advice I can give is to be full of grace when you're corrected or when you're wrong. Don't make someone else responsible for your mistake or embarrassment. Transhumans are just people. We want to matter just as much as you do. Let's just focus on arguing about pineapple on pizza and treat one another with respect. Oh, and smash the damn patriarchy.
Hero photo courtesy of Jenna Avery, Creatrix Photography