A Word In Edgewise: Strangers Say the Darndest Things

Doctor listening to her patient.
Photo courtesy of Bigstock/rocketclips

You never know when you’ll have one of those eureka! moments; you could be checking out kumquats at Cub, strap-hanging in a subway, or supine on a gurney. The latter vantage point pinged my latest enlightenment.

I’d just been prepped for a pre-op procedure and was chatting with the anesthetist, answering questions when I asked something I’d had on my mind for quite some time: “Why is transgender listed as ‘Problem’? Why gender dysphoria and not euphoria? He was saved by the bell as staff arrived to wheel me into the hands-on procedure room.

I’d just been settled in when one of the three nurse attendants asked, “About that ‘trans’–if you don’t mind, would you say something more, when did you know or…” I replied that back in the ’40s and ’50s, the word wasn’t even in the vocabulary, so there wasn’t much to know, and a kid certainly didn’t ask at the dinner table.

Then, “What was the most important thing you noticed?” “That’s easy: people listened to me now.” All three burst out laughing.

“So you’re familiar with that?” More laughter. “Every time, the car repair guy talks to my husband when it’s my car…” Before the conversation built any greater momentum, the major players entered, injected the anesthesia into my IV port, and the world went dark.

For full disclosure, other’s attention wasn’t the main reason, but it’s certainly a major benefit. The first eureka! moment was the realization that the other and I were having an actual back-and-forth conversation; facets of an issue were being considered by all involved, not leaving the y-challenged out of the loop.

Interesting, too, that the focus on the more exotic “trans” was overridden by something that had affected all three of the questioners, and on back through the generations and populations. Not every female everywhere, of course; I doubt Nefertiti and others who could be named suffered fools gladly–or at all.

Googling  back to ancient Egypt, it seems that women, at least those of the upper classes, had the right to own property–buying or inheriting–to administer and bequeath that property to whom they chose. They could travel independently, own businesses and represent themselves in court. Edgewise hasn’t the scope to adequately cover this broad and contentious topic, but essentially, in 1974 BCE, many women had rights that American women were still short of attaining in 1974 CE.

Equal pay (often still a chimera) was passed in 1963, and finally, in 1974, the ECOA (Equal Credit Opportunity Act) allowed women to have credit cards in their own names to obtain a mortgage without a male co-signer, and other means of independence.

If one is raised to believe women can’t think or be trusted with autonomy (or that they’re dangerous if they do) one is less likely to heed the female voice. It’s not all about women: In Craig v Boren, 1976, the Supreme Court, ever vigilant, deemed it unconstitutional for 18 to 20 year-old females to be allowed to drink beer while denying men of the same age.

In a few days, I’ll be returning for further medical repair; if I have occasion to resume my earlier conversation, I’ll make sure to add that I find mine a unique vantage point from which to view both sides.

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