I was surfing around my Flickr feed Thursday night and came across a photo from someone I follow. I won’t mention her by name other than to use her first initial for reference, D.
D. takes a keen and active interest in the fashion world. D. also strives for acceptance as a transgender woman. Recently, D. was part of a little weekend fashion event, working as one of several hostesses. One of the photos she posted was a promotional flyer featuring D. and her fellow event hostesses.
Now, note I use the feminine form of the word there — “hostess” — because the original draft of that promotional flyer included the descriptive of “host.” That word may be acceptably gender neutral to some but… “host” created a minor argument, according to D. (the only real argument, mind you), as she and a fellow presenter (also transgender) wanted the flyer to use “hostess” instead of “host.”
D. and her friend got their wish and the flyer replaced “host” with “hostess,” although it took a tiebreaker vote, according to D. The situation got D. to ask a bit of an open-ended question: Why do some genetic girls (or “GGs” to use shorthand) insist on using the male descriptive of “host” rather than “hostess”? It got me to thinking about that, too. “Host” did originate as male-specific, but it has also been used in a gender-neutral manner as years have gone by. Other terms have gone gender neutral as well, either by natural progression or some people’s insistence of its use; the word “actor” to describe a female in show business who acts (and not “actress”) is a perfect example.
But why the gender neutral use? D. answers her own question somewhat by stating that she feels ecstatic when she’s referred to as a woman and all the pronouns that go with it (she, her). Sometimes, she says, one has to go to no uncertain terms to drive home that point (i.e. “I’m female; please consider me as such”).
And that got me to thinking… I’ve mentioned on here before (like, say, here and here) that I prefer being referred to in feminine pronouns when I’m dressed up as Allison; I’ve always felt it adds to my confidence in presenting as the female gender. But I admit I’ve never considered what job-specific or skill-descriptive words I would want to prefer. I mean, “she” and “her” are one thing, but words like “hostess” and “actress” felt to me like something else.
And then, I thought about D’s situation and view and I came to the conclusion that there is something empowering about being a hostess instead of a host. “Hostess,” to some, may be as archaic as hula-hoops and beehive hairdos. But that word still has an element of grace and strength, not to mention empowerment and, in D’s case, acceptance by others.
So, if I were in D’s high heels, would I want to be referred to as a hostess? Well, I’m starting to think that way. Just as much as I prefer “she” and “her” as pronouns, I would think “hostess” (and not “host”) would be a pretty powerful confidence-builder for me. Would I insist or demand that term? Well, perhaps. If I were in D’s situation and were part of an all-female (or all-female-identifying) host group, I would voice my desire to my colleagues to prefer that feminine term… but only if they would go along and do the same. That way, we would be more than just hostesses. We would be a team.
When hearing about D’s gaining her preference for “hostess” on her event’s flyer, I was so glad for her. Not only did it give her acceptance as a female, it also felt like a sign of teamwork and collegiality. Judging from her photos, it also looked as if she and her fellow hostesses had a good time at their event (perhaps that matters as much as the pronoun titles). If I were at an event with D. in one capacity or another, I would happily refer to her as hostess if need be. But more importantly, I would accept her as the female she presents and professes herself as. Way to go, D!