Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Gender-al Ignorance

Very recently, as I hear it, Facebook changed one of its features. Nothing huge and it wasn't across the board either, but apparently, for these people with "Engish (US)" as their language, Facebook has changed the options for selecting your gender. These people can now identify themselves as Trans Man or Trans Woman; but that's not all, they can also identify as Agender, Androgyne, Bigender, Cisgender, Genderqueer, Intersex, Pangender, Transfeminine, Transmasculine, Trans Person, Transsexual, Two-Spirit & many More.

Now, I want to make my position clear here. I identify as an ally to LGBTI issues, and I most definitely still consider myself as such. But I'm also an absurd word nerd, and I feel like some of this gender stuff is getting out of hand; because, a lot of people - even those who are transgendered - are ignorant of the language used to describe them, and what it means when they refer to themselves in this way.
I'm not saying that I have a problem calling a transgendered person by their identity. In fact, according to multiple levels of research, if a transgendered person is born male and has gender dysphoria, then she thinks like a woman. It's upsetting enough to be trapped in the wrong body, never mind what other people think, so I totally support this stance and I even believe that some of these people can be quite beautiful.

But there are some misunderstandings that I hope to clear up here and a lot of this has to do with a recent phenomenon that I totally disapprove of. lately, there has been this new movement to eliminate the so-called "Gender Binary". that is, they believe there are more than two genders, and that we all need to re-evaluate our understanding of gender to fix this percieved inbalance.
That's all fine. But I have a semantic issue with this, and that is, there are two genders, as far as I can see. So, as far as I'm concerned, the idea of eliminating the ideal of "two genders" is really, fucking stupid. The Word of the Day is: 'CISGENDER'.

Cisgender /sisjendə/ adj. Identifying with or experiencing a gender the same as one's biological sex or that is affirmed by society; being both male-gendered and male-sexed.

Now, I am not a proponent of Gender Binarism, because I do believe that transgendered people deserve recognition, as do intersexed people. These are states of mind and body, defined by science and they are unquestionable. If you force transgendered people to act cisgendered, they react the same way as non-trans people do when you force them to act like an incongruent gender, as proven with Chloe Sevigny crying when she had to wear a prosthetic phallus for Boy's Don't Cry, or even Dustin Hoffman in his role as Tootsie being upset by how people treated him as a woman, it's distressing being told that you're something when you're not. This is fundamental, it doesn't matter how you feel about it, because this isn't a choice, it's a fact; and the fact is, when you misname or mistreat transgendered people, you cause more harm than good. So to people like Todd Kincannon who calls transgendered people "disgusting freaks", I think you deserve to die in a fire. I hate this kind of bullying, transsexuals are people too, I'm not saying otherwise.
What I am instead saying is that, if we broaden our minds, you can realize that two genders, "man" and "woman", can cover all of our bases.

My issue is that I believe we're defining a lot of this wrong. There was a big, dramatic to-do a while ago with Mike Khraulik of Penny Arcade, talking about his opinion of transgenderism. Basically, if you were born as a male, but identified as a woman, he considered you a man. Now, reading his words I have to say, I appreciate his attitude (he's not transphobic) but he's very wrong in his use of language and this event informed my own opinion of the whole issue of language, based on the meaning of the words involved.
See, according to the dictionary a male has a penis & a female has a vagina. It's pretty clear-cut there . . . this is the definition of sex, it is defined by genitals. However, according to the dictionary, the definition of man is more loosely defined as someone with male or masculine qualities, and a woman is someone with female or feminine qualities; this is what defines gender, it is more open to interpretation, as it doesn't involve body parts so much as values, attitudes & all of that. Now, the way I define cis-/trans-gender is:
If you are cisgendered, then you are either a man that is a male, or a woman that is female. If you are transgendered, then you are either a man that was born female, or a woman that was born male.

Using this mindset, if you are a transgendered woman, when you sign into Facebook, you would select "Woman" as your gender. And I believe that is preferable to "transwoman", "MtF" or "trans male". The issue that I have with this new Facebook thing and its 50 gender options is that, to me, it implies that transgendered women aren't as 'valid' as cisgendered women.
  "You're transgendered? Well, then you're not a woman, you're a trans-woman. We don't want you thinking you're a real one," it seems to say. As far as I'm concerned, you deserve the same rights as a woman, which includes being labelled "woman", without an addendum or an asterisk.
Now, I appreciate that some people like to advertise the particularities of their gender identity, but I don't think it's relevant, because being transgender, to me, isn't relevant to your gender. It may be relevant to your sexual identity or your self-expression, but if someone asks for my gender, I wouldn't say: "I'm a straight male" or "I'm a smart male" any more than I would say "I'm a cisgendered male", because that's not what I'm being asked. What we should be asking is for a "Sex" option, as well as gender, rather than this 50 options for Gender nonsense.

That said, I agree with the concept of seeing gender as more than: What is your Gender? Pick Either M or F;
With Man represented as "♂, blue, hard, patriarch, hunter, strength, dominant & sword"
& Woman represented as "♀, pink, soft, matron, gatherer, beauty,  submissive & chalice"
I don't disregard these notions completely, but I do believe that our understanding of masculinity & femininity are evolving. At one point we had the tomboy and nancygirl, now we have a more diverse understanding of gender that includes the idea of once masculine traits becoming more feminine. Leadership, dominance and aggression these days can be seen as feminine traits; whereas kindness, beauty & even the colour pink can just as easily be seen as masculine.
Speaking of pink (and gender) Robert "MovieBob" Chipman once did a video in his The Big Picture series called "Pink is not the Problem", about Gender Binary. I mention this because I agree with the notion, but this video offhandedly refutes the Gender Binary, because "these constructs are outdated".

But see, I believe that to be the reason why gender binary is still relevant, to me. Because our understanding of gender is expanding to include these concepts. To remove that identification of gender identity is to throw out the baby with the bathwater. We shouldn't be getting rid of these foundations, rather we should be doing is re-introducing ourselves to what "Man" and "Woman" mean, because they've changed a lot in the last decade.
So, I don't really understand the need for terms like "genderfluid", "bigender", "genderqueer" and "agender", because well . . . gender is evolving to include everyone - even those of us that have all or none of these originally defined "masculine" and "feminine" traits.
I know that right now, in this transition phase, it feels like we're taking a while to get there. But this will take time, and steps, so we can't rush it. But even in this decade, I know that a man can still be a man in a dress; I know that a woman born male that plays sports can still be a woman & I know that a man with a vagina can still be a man.

So, as far as I'm concerned, if you can't be happy being called a woman or a man because you think they don't represent you, then you're not Gender Fluid, Gender Nonconforming or Gender Questioning; you're just Gender Ignorant. I know there are some genuine intersexed people that might find that a bit harsh. If you have a problem with that, then remember - I'm not telling you what to do, I'm just telling you what I think.
And what I think is, no matter how much you may believe we need more than these two genders, at the end of the day we all have to pick a pronoun.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd and until next time, ladies and gentlemen, I'm gonna be manning up for my next writing assignment by researching lipstick and bullets.

5 comments:

  1. 58 genders seems to be overkill in my opinion, even if they exist in real life. I think the important thing is acceptance with the self, and not needing to be so precise with labels

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  2. You've obviously never read any actual philosophy regarding queer and gender theory. I'd suggest starting with Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, published in 1990, the text which founded this entire school of thought. Then when you know what the history of this ideology is, you can participate meaningfully in our conversation.

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    1. This is the real world, not academia. I don't need to do research to write in MY OWN BLOG. The fact that I have said something and you have responded proves that I can participate in this 'conversation'.
      It's this kind of attitude of "classify, identify, treat accordingly" is the same attitude which I am refuting in this very blog post. Not all of the world is black and white, Anon. Open your mind.

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  3. Same anonymous here. I'll also say that your semantic defense of regressive ideologies is, well, pointless. The semantics of our language naturally reinforce the ideologies of oppression because that is how languages evolve. The goal should not be forcing revolutionary ideas to conform to a pre-extant language, but reforming the language to accommodate the world we intend to live in.

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    1. You have made a fundamental mistake; that is to say, a round argument. You have assumed that this language is revolutionary (and you assume this because you WANT it to be revolutionary), when in fact it is not. It's not revolutionary to create extra words for extra gender identities; it is in fact superfluous.
      As I have explained, you can be a feminine boy or a masculine girl. The only difference between these boys and girls and other boys and girls are the adjectives, but aspects of one's personality is irrelevant to gender. To me, it is the philosophy of the "anti-binary" that seems more oppressive.
      You are looking at these people and saying "You're NOT a man, you're not masculine enough" or "You're NOT a woman, you're not feminine enough"; which is just accepting what you've been lead to believe by the majority, that men and women have arbitrary aspects which make them men or women. You're the one enforcing the stereotype that there is an ideal "man" or ideal "woman".
      Adding more words doesn't resolve this, it in fact reinforces it. You're the one "othering" people. When I say "You're not genderfluid, you're a man", it's not because I want you to stop acting feminine on occasion, it's because I think that femininity doesn't exclude you from being a man. This isn't a form of oppression, it's a form of acceptance. If you can't see that, you're oppressing yourself.

      And when I say that I will never use these terms to describe a person, no matter how they choose to identify themselves, it's not oppression, it's pragmatism.

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Feel free to make suggestions, ask questions & comment . . .
I would love to read your words.