Help an editor out!

Greetings all! I need your help!

I am editing this story, which I think is quite cute and harmless on the surface. However, I fear that the last line might unintentionally ruffle a few feathers:


Story:

Public Transport, Sweden

I drive passenger trains for a living. One day before departure when I was leaving the driver compartment to fetch a cup of tea an older female passenger stopped me.

Passenger: “Excuse me, do we have to buy our tickets in advance, or can we do it on the train?”

Me: “On the train is fine as long as you can pay by card or [mobile application].”

Passenger: “Great, can I pay now?”

Me: “No sorry, I’m just the driver. My colleague will come by later after we depart.”
Passenger: “A female train driver? That’s so great! If I was younger, I would become a female train driver.”

She kept talking about how great it was for a few minutes but ended with:

Passenger: “I keep telling my grandchildren that they should become female train drivers.”

Passenger’s Grandson: “It doesn’t matter how much you say it grandma, I can’t be a female train driver.”


The NAR editors are of the belief that gender is something that can be different to what was assigned at birth, so this makes the grandson’s final statement false; he indeed COULD be a female train driver when he is older. I know that’s not the point of the story, but we’ve received strong complaints for less, so I feel the need to tread carefully.

Is the story okay as a cute interaction, or should we address the final line maybe in the title or a disclaimer? What do you think?

I’d say it’s ok. In this case, the person saying “can’t be a female train driver” is the sole arbiter on what gender they are. Even if they change their minds later, their opinion now that they can’t be a woman is totally valid. I think it would be different if someone else had said it. Ie. if the grandmother had said it, that’s assuming things. If the train driver had, same deal. If I say “I’m not a woman” I think I should be believed as much as me saying “I am a trans woman”.

… On the other hand, yeah I just re-read and the punchline is pretty much laughing at the idea of a boy not being a woman.

Actually I change my mind :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
Yeah, I can see now how it’s a bit on the nose as if we’re supposed to laugh at the concept of someone being a different sex or gender, like it’s immutable. … Regardless of who said the thing, the OP is posting this with that punchline so what is their aim? To get us to agree that gender is binary and unchangeable? We’re all supposed to smile and nod our heads knowingly as if we’re in on the joke too?

Eh, it’s one of those “you had to be there and know these people” things I think. Funny to one person, not necessarily funny to everyone else.

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Another possibility: the grandson is actually transmasculine or AFAB masculine-appearing non-binary. That would make this a lot less cute.

The line sounds like the grandson is an adult, not a child. Or at the very least, late teens. While it is definitely still possible for someone not to realize they’re trans until adulthood or even late adulthood, Sweden is pretty gay-friendly and fairly trans-friendly (the laws need some work), so an adult in that situation would probably be able to tell sooner. Given that, maybe specifying that the grandson is an adult would help. Changing the opening paragraph to say that the passenger is traveling with her adult grandson, for instance.

Other than that, I don’t think it’ll be too much of a problem if you don’t put in a disclaimer on this particular story. You still can put in a disclaimer or statement of support, but you’d probably need to ask for feedback on that to make sure it isn’t unhelpful or patronizing.

That being said, you have the opportunity for a great pun here. “Not Trainsitioning To Driver”. Or “Not A Trains Woman”. Something along those lines.

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Yes gender can change. However it doesnt change randomly. Meaning the grandson would be the one to decide that change. Thus if the grandson is the one saying it wont change then it wont change. Unless you are suggesting you think the grandma can somehow talk the grandson into changing their gender which is a whole other can of worms.

Also this gets into the overall goal of the editors. If you guys go from cleaning up typos and editing out some names to changing dialogue that is maybe not PC then thats not editing thats curating. And websites that go down that path stop being public forums and become circle j**ks real fast.

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Pretty sure the editors already curate the stories here. If they didn’t, we’d probably be reading a lot more offensive content (whether that’s about abuse, porn or however you want to define it). In this case, they’re trying not to offend a section of society who are struggling to have their rights, lives and experiences taken seriously. You can complain about curating the site to be “PC”, but I hate to tell you this… they’re already doing it. They have round-ups for Pride, they post content warning tags, they regularly post things about bigotry. The editors are ALREADY doing it. And unless I missed it (I read on and off), they don’t post stories where the OP is proudly racist or happily screwing a customer who is gay. In fact, all of them seem to be from an inclusive, anti-bigotry perspective.

I can agree the editors shouldn’t fiddle with the wording of a story (outside of typos or clarifying language), but they definitely are and have been curating content.

Also, it’s not a public forum. It’s a privately owned company, which has every right and responsibility to curate content in whatever form they wish.

Personally, as someone who is part of a few minority groups, I always welcome companies that are inclusive and attempt to treat myself and others with the basic human respect and not reproducing harmful attitudes. It hurts no one to be careful and ask, whereas it hurts everyone (including NAR’s bottom line I’m guessing) by stigmatising groups of people.

I’m glad they asked. It made me think about why we tell the stories we do and what we hope to get from our audiences.

(Also, gender fluidity is a thing so no, the grandson can’t necessarily say that he isn’t a woman and that stays true forever. It might, it might not)

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I know you usually try to keep conversations accurate but perhaps just change ‘can’t’ to ‘won’t’.
It keeps it pretty much the same but takes out the possibly offensive aspect.
Ie: It makes it a matter of preference, rather than impossibility while keeping the surface meaning the same.

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I would say changing “can’t” to “won’t” seriously changes the meaning of the entire line. It also changes the personality of the grandson, which means not just that we aren’t we reading the same story, but that the people in it are different as well. I think since stories on NAR are supposed to be quotes from submitters you cannot replace such a key verb. If it were pure fiction it would be an entirely different matter.

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While the site’s central idea is that the stories are true, I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of made up stories on the site.

I’d say it was okay because they’re talking about themselves and not what other people can and can’t do.

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