The Corner

Transsexuals Vs. Derb

A reader (one of several expressing the same sentiment): “Why do you play

along with this person’s [i.e. Lynn Conway’s, the male-to-female transsexual

who put up that ‘Derbophobe’ web site] pathology by calling him a “she”? As

a woman, I can tell you one thing for sure: He is not a woman, just a poor,

deluded amputee.”

In my opinion, this is not an easy call. You can make a polemical

point–and, if the offending theory is true, be technically correct–by

referring to Lynn Conway as “he.” I think my own preference for “she” just

derives from a strong, old-fashioned attachment to good manners.

Now, you could argue that, given the vituperation heaped on my head by Lynn

Conway, she has forfeited any right to good manners on my part. I just

don’t agree. If she considers herself a woman, and has gone to all the pain

and expense of having an operation to make her feel more like a woman, I

think common courtesy dictates that we call her what she wishes to be

called, however deluded we may think she is. To start referring to her as

“he” just seems a bit spiteful and nyah-nyah-ish, even if technically

correct. Perhaps I’m not making a good case here; perhaps I’m not sure

about this; but that is kind of the point. When in doubt, stick with good


This is related, in some way I can’t be bothered to figure out, to the

question of whether to pronounce your enemy’s name properly. I used to work

with a woman who was perfectly detestable–everyone detested her, she was a

sneak and a suck-up, incompetent and lazy, but highly skilled at

ingratiating herself with management. Her name was “Diane,” which in

England is pronounced “die-AN.” Well, she had this big thing about how she

wanted everyone to say “DEE-an.” Naturally we all referred to her as

“die-AN.” Now, twenty years on, with the sage maturity of my years, I think

I would have said “DEE-an,” while working very hard indeed to get her fired.

[By the way, “Derbyshire” is pronounced “DAH-bi-shuh.” That’s

“DAH-bi-shuh”–everybody got that?]


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