Random Observations and Musings

A while ago I put a particular book, “Just One of the Guys?: Transgender Men and the Persistence of Gender Inequality”, on hold at the library. When I picked it up from the holds shelf, I noticed that it was put in upside-down. This was not a mistake of accidentally putting it on the shelf wrong. See, they print out the last name of the person who placed the hold on receipt type paper and put it in the book (so that the name sticks up out of the book) before they put it on the holds shelf, so that the person who placed the hold will be easily able to find all of their holds. The paper was put in the book such that the book would have to be placed upside-down on the shelf for the name to be properly visible. So, if it was a mistake, it was made when the paper was placed in the book which, given that they presumably must check the title of the book before putting the paper in, seems like a less likely stage of the shelving process for a book to accidentally be placed upside down. My gut reaction when I saw that this book, and none of the others I put on hold, was upside down, was that someone must have done that (probably unconsciously) because the word transgender in the title made them feel uncomfortable. I could be wrong, though. But I find myself paying special attention, now, to whether any book I place on hold is right side up or upside down on the holds shelf, and, if it is, does the title stick out as something that people would be likely to find objectionable? It isn’t hard to imagine this happening with any of the books on atheism that I check out of the library, either.

The other day I ran into one of the many people on college campuses trying to get people to register to vote. I was not yet registered to vote in my state, so I decided to take advantage of this highly convenient method of voter registration. When it came to putting my name on the form and marking the gender box, I felt like a fake. I haven’t got any of my official documents changed yet, and voter registration seems like one of the forms that’s going to be checked against a database; if I put anything other than what will match the information they already have (or what can be checked against official sources), I don’t think it will go through. Worse, the person helping me was telling me what a pretty name I have (my birth name is hideously feminine). I refrained from telling her that I absolutely despise my birth name (precisely because it is hideously feminine) and wish to change it legally as soon as reasonably possible. I also refrained from correcting her obvious assumption that I am female. Letting a complete stranger who was helping me register to vote know that I am transgender just did not seem smart at all. There is just no way to predict a stranger’s reaction, and the information I put on the form, such as my name, could potentially be used against me (putting “[name] is transgender” on the internet is all it would take to potentially bring all sorts of harm to a transgender person). I pretended to be a woman for the entirety of this three-minute interaction, and I felt like such a fake.

My roommate assumed that since I am an atheist, I also probably don’t believe in stuff like ghosts. She is right, as it turns out, but the one does not necessarily follow from the other. There is a significant overlap between atheists and skeptics, to be sure, but not all atheists are skeptics, and not all skeptics are atheists. I happen to be part of the aforementioned overlap, though.

The cashier seemed to do a double take when she was swiping the “for men” shampoo that I had decided to buy. Also, why must they put the shampoo, including “men’s” shampoo, on the same aisle as feminine hygiene products? It’s not on the same part of the aisle as said products, but I imagine there are more than a few cismen who are uncomfortable with that, at least to the point of not wanting to walk through that part of the aisle. Also, while I’m on the subject, why are men so uncomfortable with buying feminine hygiene products if their wife/girlfriend needs them but doesn’t want to go out due to cramps or whatever? You would think that the willingness to buy feminine hygiene products for a girlfriend/wife while she is feeling like crap would be a much appreciated quality in a man in a heterosexual relationship.

EDIT- And, of course, even though I noticed the library book thing months ago, two days after I post about it, I notice another random upside down book on hold, only this one is just one part of a whole trilogy I put on hold (specifically, The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman). I guess I could see someone having a problem with the His Dark Materials trilogy, but it makes less sense that only one of the three was upside down (though they may not have all been shelved at the same time, or by the same person). It does seem like the upside down book thing is a lot more common than I initially assumed, though, which makes my initial hypothesis (that upside down hold books might reflect bias) both less likely and more difficult to test.


4 thoughts on “Random Observations and Musings

  1. They put the products on the same isle because it is more often than not the woman that does the shopping. Two birds, one stone kind of thing. Women do not appreciate a man that has no problem buying feminine hygiene products because the women have no problem buying male hygiene products and it seems silly to them for someone to be embarrassed about something so basic.

    Life is, especially human life, much simpler than the conundrum that it presents itself as.

    I don’t pretend to know what travails and perils a trangendered person must face, but I often think it skews the understanding of heterosexual folks. This is normal though since heterosexuals can’t fathom anything but their own orientation either.

    Life is like that. Every step is an adventure on a journey to mostly nowhere. Once you get there the adventures seem tame and petty in grand contrast to the discomfort of every step along the way. The troubles are mostly about people refusing to take the next step or failing to admit that they don’t know the way in the first place. Social iconoclasts are those that either don’t know they are different or simply don’t give a damn.


    • “I don’t pretend to know what travails and perils a trangender person must face, but I often think it skews the understanding of heterosexual folks.”

      I tend to think it’s my asexuality that skews my perception of heterosexual folks (and bi/gay/lesbian/pan/etc. folks), although even heterosexual trans people probably have a somewhat different experience of heterosexuality than cis people. I couldn’t really say how that affects their understanding of heterosexuality, in general, though. Gender aside, I don’t really “get” sexuality, in general. I can understand it on an intellectual level, sure, but I still don’t really get it.


      • I’m fairly certain that hormones need be overtly involved for sexuality to be a concern. There are those who are not driven by hormones and they take an ‘abnormal’ attitude to sexuality. I don’t think it is something you understand, more like it is something you experience. Something like trying to understand the latest greatest roller coaster without experiencing it.


  2. “I’m fairly certain that hormones need be overtly involved for sexuality to be a concern. There are those who are not driven by hormones and they take an ‘abnormal’ attitude to sexuality.”

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by this.


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