Floggin’ Brews is an inclusive place, or at least as much as possible for a place frequented by actual human beings. But we make an effort to make sure all our guests feel welcomed and safe. That included the trans community, of course, which is a group I particularly respect for their unique expressions of gender.
Hey, I’m a theatre person. Gender’s a performance. Extra points for creativity.
But I was raised as a straight Midwestern kid. Changing my instinct about pronouns can be hard.
Take Wren and Teddy. Wren is a trans man, but looks to my eyes more female than male. The fact that he sometimes “felt femme” and wore dresses and makeup made his male status seem even less visually intuitive. But he identifies as male, and that is good enough for me, even if it is sometimes an effort to unlearn the visual cues.
Teddy is a friend of Wren. Teddy identifies as “queer” and looks more or less male. Teddy uses “they” and “them” pronouns. I must have internalized those pesky English grammar rules because referring to a single person as plural feels awkward to me. So mostly I try to avoid referring to Teddy as anything but “Teddy.”
Wren is a moderator for two community munches: Kinks in the City, and Fluid/Queer/Trans. F/Q/T is a group for those who identified as trans, queer, gender fluid, or some combination – in other words, those who aren’t satisfied with the single gender they were assigned at birth.
F/Q/T meets at Floggin’ Brews on the second Wednesday of each month. Because trans people are particularly at risk of being victims of violence, Mikhel always made a point to work during the F/Q/T munches, just in case there’s trouble. He’s a big guy and quick on his feet. I have no idea what specific skills he has, but no one who’s been tossed out of Floggin’ Brews by Mikhel has ever returned for a repeat engagement.
I should be more offended at the stereotype of the big strong protective guy, but truthfully I’m glad I don’t have to handle the physical confrontations.
Mikhel was at the bar when folks started arriving for the F/Q/T munch last Wednesday. A number of them headed up to the loft to set up the food – it looked like it was going to be Mexican today. Others stopped at the bar to get a beer before going upstairs.
A group of friends gathered at a hightop to study the beer list. Eventually, a suspendered young person called Bean came up to the bar for the group. “I’ll have an Emily’s Dream.” Bean gestured back at the group. “She’ll have a Fulton 300, they’ll have a St. Gail, and he’ll have a Day Tripper.”
All good local brews.
I punched the order into the system. “Would you like us to bring them upstairs for you?”
“Sure, that would be great. Oh, and Wren would like a Guinness.”
Ach, there’s a foreign beer in every crowd.
Bean pulled out a billfold and paid the tab. I pulled out a tray as the group headed upstairs, and Mikhel started pouring the beers.
“How many St. Gail’s?” asked Mikhel.
“No, more than one – she said ‘they.’”
“Trix wanted the St. Gail’s – Trix goes by ‘they.’” I said. “And I think Bean goes by ‘he.’”
“The one ordering the beers.”
Mikhel and I headed upstairs together; he had the tray with the five beers, and I had two pitchers of ice water. I set the water down by the take-out buffet and watched as Mikhel tried to sort out the orders.
“You had the raspberry sour,” said Mikhel as he set a glass of Emily’s Dream in front of Bean. “And he had the Day Tripper. . . “
“No, that was me.”
Mikhel looked confused. “I thought she said ‘he.’”
“He did say ‘he.’ ‘He’ is me. He/him pronouns,” said the Day Tripper drinker, a curly-haired person with horn-rim glasses. He looked a bit amused.
“The Guinness?” asked Mikhel.
“His,” said Bean, and pointed toward Wren who was talking to Teddy at the next table. Mikhel stepped over and put the pint in front of Teddy. “No, that’s mine,” said Wren with a smile.
Mikhel moved the Guinness to a spot in front of Wren and brought the remaining beer back to the group.
“Which of you had the Fulton?” he asked. A hand went up, the beer was delivered.
“So that leaves her with the St. Gail’s,” Mikhel remarked and set the glass down in front of the person next to Bean.
“Them,” said a chorus of voices.
“I go by they/them,” said Trix with a smile. They picked up the St. Gail’s and took a long sip.
“Whatever,” said Mikhel with a sigh.
That was almost as good as the “Who’s On First” routine.
Teddy saw that I was listening to the exchange and beckoned me over as Mikhel headed back to the bar. “He gets confused,” said Teddy.
“Yup,” I said. “Just about pronouns, though.”
Which is a bit odd, now that I think of it. I haven’t seen anything else that confuses him.
Teddy dug in their bag. “We’ve been thinking of getting pins. Not just for the munch, for everyday.” They pulled out one that said “He/Him.” “Here, give this to Mikhel. Tell him we’ll start wearing labels until he gets used to it.” Teddy smiled.
Boss greeted me at the bottom of the step, and I bent over to give her a quick scratch behind the ears.
“Hello, Boss. Going to go upstairs to check out the munch?”
Boss hopped up a couple of steps to indicate that she was. She reached up to check out the pin in my hand. I showed it to her. “What do you think? Helpful?”
Boss made a little chirping sound.
“She says we should order some,” said Mikhel from behind me. “What is she talking about?”
I handed him the pin. “It’s for you, from Teddy.” Mikhel looked blank. “The one Wren was talking to. They said they were going to order pronoun pins so people could wear them and it would be easier to remember.”
“Good.” Mikhel pinned it to his apron. “It would be better if pronouns weren’t gendered.”
“I suppose we could just start referring to everyone as Xe/Xir,” I said.
“That’s a thing?”
“Yes, that’s a thing.”
Mikhel gave a wry smile. “The tyranny of language. Estonian pronouns have no gender.”
“Yes, my first language. Pretty rusty now, though.”
“So what is he/him in Estonian?”
“Ta/talle. Same for she/her.”
“That is a lot easier.” I said and went back to work.
Later, I spoke to Teddy after the munch. They were happy to include “Ta/Talle” in the button order.