Totes awks

By , December 27, 2009 3:10 pm

My mom and I had our yearly family Hanukkah party on Christmas Eve, with close family friends. (We’re off by a bit – so what?) We have the party every year, although usually not on Christmas, and are only allowed to bring gifts that didn’t cost any money. This began years ago, when all the parents were pissed that all the children were obsessed with expensive presents – the families agreed we’d still give ‘real’ gifts at other parties, but this party wouldn’t be about money. This quickly turned into a contest to see who could give the most ridiculous gifts, and every year gets sillier and sillier.

Last night, one of the gifts I got was a little ball-and-net kit, with a small basketball and a suction-cup backboard and net. The gifts are usually (loosely) thematic based on something about the person and what the giver thinks of them, and this gift seemed kind of unrelated to anything about me. I noted this, saying, “Oh. Well, this seems more like something for my older brother, but thanks!”

The gift-giver – the husband of a high school friend of my mom – said, “I didn’t want you to forget your roots.”

“My roots?”

“White boys can’t jump…?”

(Awkward pause.)

Aaaaand moving on to the next gift.

I can’t decide if he actually thought of that when picking the gift for me, or just didn’t want it to seem random when I called him out on it. The former would, quite honestly, be more frustrating. But I still don’t feel like shared history automatically gives permission to make jokes or comments like that.

It’s a difficult line to walk, to figure out who I’m comfortable enough with to allow that familiarity and casualness. And who, even though I’ve known them my whole life, doesn’t warrant that level of closeness.

Because I do have friends that, in comfortable situations with other friends, have made jokes or references to me being trans that have been totally fine. That I’ve found funny, even.

But this was a situation where I didn’t want to think about being trans. Where, because the evening had been so smooth and comfortable, I hadn’t been thinking about being trans. I was Rebecca, having dinner and a gift exchange with close family. The bulk of the moments where I thought about my trans-ness were when I consciously wanted to bring something up in discussion.

So having this family member cross that line was all the more frustrating.

(The subject is “Totally awkward,” for those of you who don’t speak teenage girl.)

2 Responses to “Totes awks”

  1. Yeah, that sucks. Humor can be a tool of domination and aggression, and it appears that this family friend was–at least unconsciously–using the “joke gift” in this way.

    BTW, here via Feministe SSPS.

    • Rebecca says:

      Welcome, Comrade PhysioProf, and thanks for the comment. I hadn’t thought of it that way, merely as super-awkward. But I think that makes sense – he’s behaved before in ways that make me think he’s uncomfortable with the transition, so calling attention to it (and having the power to do so) could be acting as a relief valve for him. Boo!

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