Welcome to Friendzone, Jezebel's column devoted to dealing with the valuable people in your life who you're not humping. Got an issue and looking for guidance? Email email@example.com.
I have a very good friend getting married at the end of this summer. She and her future husband aren't rich, and neither are their families, so the plan is to have a small, intimate ceremony and try to stick to a budget — this is why I (sort of) understood when she invited me, but not my boyfriend of 5 years, to the event. She knows my boyfriend (in fact, I met him through her!), but "not well enough" to warrant a "very close friends and family" type invite. Okay, fair. But then she invited another friend AND that friend's boyfriend after only knowing them a few weeks. And she and her guy still expect my boyfriend and his buddies to throw the bachelor party! And I'm making her a cake for free (I'd normally charge $600, as this is my business). Basically, I'm not even sure I want to go to this wedding anymore. Is it too late to rescind my offer for the cake and decline the invitation?
Look, if you want to ruin your friendship with this chick forever, go ahead and pull out of the cake situation and the entire wedding. If you want to salvage it, do the cake, grit your teeth about the boyfriend non-invite, and move on. Your boyfriend is under no obligation to spend a dime on this bachelor party, but you already offered to do the cake thing. Don't offer to do anything else. Don't bring a separate gift. Do your duty, and if you want nothing to do with this woman after the wedding, well, that's your right. Remember, if you ever decide to get married, you'll be in the driver's seat with regard to the invitation list. But right now, if this gal feels no emotional connection to your boyfriend and doesn't want him there, well, that's her prerogative.
One of my friends came out as transgender in late 2012, and went through gender reassignment surgery last August. Mark is now Marina. We've all been very supportive. The issue is this: our friends often go to a Korean bathhouse and spa. We went last December and didn't include Marina, though she has been invited to some of the other girls-only outings since she came out. This led to quite a bit of tension within the group. We're planning to go again this month, and she has said if we don't invite her, she will cut everyone in the group out of her life. The problem is, pre-coming out, she once had a relationship with one of our friends who always attends these outings. It just makes things awkward. In those days, Mark also frequently hit on me and was so lewd that I had to have one of our other friends act as an intermediary to get Mark to stop. How do we explain to Marina that we don't feel comfortable with her joining us?
Okay, there's a lot of stuff going on here. Because I'm no expert in issues to do with transgender awareness – and in fact am just learning about this myself thanks to public figures like Janet Mock and LaVerne Cox – I am going to focus on the manners here. And in the spirit of good manners, I am going to do my best to use terminology that I've seen some trans folks use in online discussions. If I miss the mark, trust me, it's not out of lack of respect. I know different people have different preferences with regard to lingo, so I'm going to try and speak from the heart while using appropriate language.
When we talk about Marina and Mark, I don't think we are speaking of two different people – a "before" person and an "after" person. Rather, we're speaking of one soul (if you believe in such things) in a body that has undergone some physical changes to match Marina's true nature. And just as we celebrate her (hooray!) we have to remember that we don't do Marina any favors by treating her differently or excusing impolite behavior on account of the fact that she went through gender reassignment surgery. That's weird and condescending and just silly. A person is a person is a person.
The way I see it, we've got two issues here: the bit about the ex, and the bit about Marina's past behavior toward you.
Let's start with the ex situation. Ask yourself this: would you exclude Marina from the group if, say, she were a cisgender woman who'd had a romantic relationship with another woman in the group? If the answer is yes, then I think you're being fair to exclude her. Perhaps this is a safe space for folks who've only ever had platonic relationships with each other. Perhaps this isn't a place where people feel comfortable getting nakey (yes, with a y) in front of an ex. Explain to Marina the rules of the road. Fair is fair.
Now, if there are exes within the spa-going group and everybody just deals with it, you ought to consider why it might be unfair to ignore Marina's desire to have fun and be part of the group. If other women within the group have had romantic/sexual relationships with one another in the past, I don't see why you can't include Marina. But ultimately, it is up to the ex to address that particular issue.
Now let's talk about your personal relationship with Marina. You say she used to be rude and lewd to you. In that case, I can absolutely understand your not feeling comfortable with her seeing you naked! Did she change her ways and apologize to you sincerely? Or did she continue with her comments and attitude? In the latter case, I don't care if he is a he, she is a she, ze is a ze, they is a they (I see you Jiz Lee! Xoxo) or anything else under the sun. I don't want you to feel any more uncomfortable than you already will while getting roughly exfoliated by an old lady.
I suggest you sit Marina down and have a frank discussion with her. Express your concerns about the past rude/lewd behavior. Talk it out. And if you personally still don't feel comfortable with Marina coming along to the bathhouse, tell the group. Although I have to say that if the rudeness has continued, I don't see why you are still friends with Marina in the first place.
A couple of years ago my girlfriend's BFF married a guy who has a habit of making racist comments and 'jokes'. Despite being shot down numerous times by everyone in our friendship group he seemed genuinely oblivious to what he had done wrong. Most of his comments were directed at brown-skinned folks, and as a half-Indian man this made me feel massively uncomfortable. In the end I could barely conceal my contempt for the goon and would greet him with outright hostility (classy, I know). Inevitably the whole thing came out and we have stayed out of each other's way since. The problem I'm having now though is that I am trying to organize a mega-awesome-super surprise party for my GF's 30th birthday. I want to invite her BFF, who is very nice on her own, but I know that she will bring her other half. I don't want to alienate her by asking her not to bring him, but at the same time I cannot guarantee there won't be another flare up if he starts spouting his bullshit.
Invite the BFF and let her know that the invitation is just for her. If she asks why, say, "I'm uncomfortable around Donnie because of his racism, and I don't want to expose my guests to his behavior. I respect you and care for you, and this invitation is for you alone." If she can't handle it, that's her problem. She's the one who married a fucking racist douchebag piece of shit. You are throwing the party; you are paying for the party; you are the host of the party. You don't want him coming up in your TGI Friday's bash, knocking back a few Jack-and-Coke-aritas and dropping N bombs, do you? Dude is ignorant and stupid. Fuck that noise.
Okay, if you want another option, here it is: make it ladies-only. Send everyone to a spa or something. Or hold it at an American Girl Doll store. I think you're totally fine to just be honest and not invite this asshole, but if you want to concoct an elaborate plan in order to save people's feelings, there are ways.