I called myself Miss Amy for a while. Not to be formal and all… It’s become sort of a term of endearment.

I was frustrated – I didn’t understand why so many of my community seemed to be homophobic. Giving myself this name was “copping an attitude”. I wrote this short essay which got printed in the Emerald City Social Club’s newsletter in 2004. The Emerald City Social Club is a vital and ongoing part of  Seattle’s trans community. I got a lot of positive comments; someone wanted me to do an “Ask Miss Amy” column.

Well, okay – please remember that this is my opinions and perceptions – I don’t claim to speak for anyone else. From my point of view, things have changed a lot in 6 years. Please forgive my clumsy attempt at feminism…

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I’ve been calling myself Miss Amy. Maybe I’ll just start calling myself Miss.

I started calling myself Miss Amy sometimes because it is:  1. An acknowledgement of what I feel is my debt to gay culture as a transgender person.    2. More fun than plain old Amy. It’s camp.  3. An affirmation about gay sexuality; about effeminacy; and femininity, in general. 4. I associate it with feminism. And:

5. An idea that came to me from reading the book “Honey, Honey, Miss Thang: Being Black, Gay, and on the Streets” by Leon Pettiway. I was inspired by its depiction of an unapologetic, proud identification with femme sexuality within the trans community by people of color. They were sad stories. I found it harrowing but identified with the protagonists.

[It seems to me that there is a whole segment of the trans community that is too often invisible – the transwomen of color. And as in everything else about American culture, they have contributed so much. I have an impression of black transwomen being germane to the present day trans self-image; a very empowered persona that goes back many decades ; maybe, all the way back to Africa. Link:  ‘5 Black Trans Women Who Paved The Way’]

According to my dictionary, Mr., Miss, Mrs. and Ms. are all words added before a name as a  “title of courtesy”.

There is no information given in the title Mr. that tells us whether the man is married or not. One would think that it isn’t important; that it isn’t any of our business.

The title “Miss” is the closest real challenge to male prerogative. It is derived from Mistress, which is sometimes used to denote a woman in a position of authority. Look it up. (Actually, Mrs. and Ms. are also derived from mistress.)

Do I want to challenge the idea of male prerogative? Or should I simply seek to exist completely independent of it? There is something about femininity that seems to transcend this whole question. I love this about femininity. It is so not male. It is something else, altogether. It is powerful.

Ms. to me will always be a word that exists in relation to the word Mr.  It’s a made-up word; it was made-up to be the equivalent of the title “Mr.”  As such, it has no real identity or personality of it’s own; other than as a gender indicator that is not marriage-specific. It exists as a response to the male title, Mr.

As a gender indicator, I think it should carry a more independent meaning than that which is in relation to ; it should have more gravity. Why not an affirmation of something that is powerful about women? Ms. always seemed to me kind of frumpy and self-consciously PC.

Miss seems more empowered than Mrs., to me. You are still a commodity as a Miss; therefore, desirable.  It is socially acceptable to pursue someone who is a Miss.  It is much less socially acceptable to pursue a Mrs.; if acceptable at all. Certainly not so in ‘mainstream’ American culture; or in Muslim culture, for example.

And okay, let’s not commodify ourselves. I know that. It’s a whole different topic; maybe two or three.

How do culture and language objectify women?

Why can’t Miss mean the same thing as Mister? Why can’t a woman always be a Miss; which is what she starts out as, anyway? Why not; even if she is married? Whose business is it, anyway? It is apparently not considered “courteous” to give that information out about men on a casual basis. So what’s the problem?

More and more women are keeping their maiden names. Why not keep the same “title of courtesy?”  Why wouldn’t a woman want to be called Miss?

The truth? They do. Just think about it. Wouldn’t you like it if someone called you Miss?

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