Some names are hard to say. My last name is usually unceremoniously slaughtered by people unfamiliar with it; about every speech coach in my high school district’s speech circuit was subject to having it shouted at them by a crazy lady in the audience after mispronouncing it. One German exchange student I knew eventually gave up introducing himself by his given name Sönke and exhaustedly told people just to call him Sam– and don’t even get me started on my Icelandic friends.
For us, this is little more than an annoyance, and occasionally good material for a stand up bit. But that’s because we’re not transgender. If we were, it would become an act of violence, because. . . equality?
At the Town Hall for LGBTeQality or whatever it was, trans woman Shea Diamond had a question for Julian Castro, whom I legitimately forgot until the time of writing this article still existed.
Henderson looked at the name Shea and introduced Ms. Diamond as “Shay Diamond.” BIG OOF, because it’s actually pronounced “Shee-a.” Not Shia, because it’s not as in Shia LaBeouf, it’s Shee-a, as in She a Diamond. Which I have to begrudgingly admit is genius and if I were going to change my name I’d definitely do something punny like that. But I’ll come back to that point in a minute.
Diamond’s reaction to the mispronunciation: “Umm, it’s Shee-a Diamond. Put that on the record.”
“Okay. It’s on the record,” Henderson responds.
Diamond goes on, “Yes, honey, it’s violence to misgender or to alter the name of a trans person. So let’s always get that right first.”
There’s so much to unpack here I don’t really know where to start, but I guess I’ll begin with the obvious: Mispronouncing someone’s name does not constitute violence. What WOULD constitute violence is if I took the dictionary she so clearly needs and smacked her in the face with it. But I would never do that, because I’m a non-violent person.
Second, as I alluded earlier, Diamond CHOSE this name. She wasn’t saddled with it from birth, she selected it as part of creating her identity as a trans woman. SHE spelled it Shea and pronounced it Shee-a. You know, the way you get a shee-a butter moisturizer at the spa. Don’t be ignorant.
But that kind of is the whole point, isn’t it? Diamond doesn’t live in a vacuum where she’s unaware of the worldwide proclivity to pronounce the letters S, H, E, and A in sequence together “shay.” She had to know this would be an issue in her life, and she chose to take that route anyway. Even worse, she chose to take up arms in response to it.
And that’s what people don’t like about the LGBTQ+ community (LGBTQ-munity, if you will). Most “evil Republicans” and “intolerant conservatives” don’t hate gay people for being gay, trans people for being trans, queer people for being queer. We just don’t want to be forced under threat of law to comply to the whims and demands of 4.5% of the population– especially when it’s a group that’s constantly pulling crap like calling a name mispronunciation “violence.” I don’t understand why we have to keep having this conversation.