Columns Dec 10, 2014 at 4:00 am

Gender Solid


BiDanFan wrote in #51: Many people... have no interest in sports; don't drink, etc, and no one tries to force them to.

There's no element of culture telling people that enjoying sports is evil, sinful, dirty, shameful, and will cause you to be sent to Hell to be tortured for all eternity. If there were, we might consider that a person's lack of interest in sports is not natural but something inflicted on them.

Nobody's suggesting that the asexual should be forced to have sex. I just think it's taking political correctness and the concept of tolerance too far to refrain from even questioning the cause of someone's asexuality.
@314 Unless you are the person's therapist or doctor, what possible benefit do you think could be gained by questioning the person's asexuality? Because whether or not is inherent or forced by influences, I don't see how being anything other than supportive and accepting is beneficial. If someone isn't happy with themselves or their life, then supporting or encouraging therapy is great. But if they are happy, then who cares how they got there, so long as they aren't hurting other people. And it's hard to argue that it's unethical to not have sex with others. It's not like they're getting their happiness by kicking toddlers.
@273 nocutename: Agreed! Could I please adopt you as an online sister?

You too, @298 LavaGirl---you and your family are in my most heartfelt thoughts and prayers. I am deeply sorry about the situation in Sydney, Australia. I hope everyone remains safe.

Sissoucat---where are you? I'm ready to cyber-adopt a bunch of sisters (and brothers)!
LavaGirl: Please forgive me for my poor choice of words ("...I hope everyone remains safe..")! What I meant was expressing sincere hope that nothing more devastating happens at the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney or anywhere else, and after 17 hours of hell, the healing can commence. I am really sorry to read about what is going on there! I hope your sons (you had mentioned three of your sons there for Christmas), friends and loved ones are safe.
@317: LavaGirl: And I hope that you are doing well, too.
Hunter @313, no one is saying it would be "mandatory." Just usual & customary. Do you support "mandatory disclosure" of names during introductions?

Thanks Grizelda. You are a sweet woman.
I’m a fan of hasty gender pronoun assignment. I have my own life and set of priorities that nearly 100% of the time don't include spending time thinking about what pronoun to call people. I'll call you whatever you've presented most like to my eye.

Here's an analogy. “Ze's” in an airport, but needs to use the restroom. So, “ze” steps into the men’s toilet. Boom! He just made a hasty gender choice out of convenience, cultural norms, or habit.

That's me, but with language.
And you Griz, hope you're going ok.
@320, it's not that I think "preferred pronouns" is a great solution to the problem. It's awkward, and I'm dubious that we're all going to remember these pronouns.

But it's a good faith attempt to cope with a real social problem: people who don't feel that the default pronoun others choose for them is the right pronoun.

In your posts here, you seem to be worrying about poor non-gender-typical Johnny, who might feel pressure to say a pronoun. I agree that's a problem, as did the professor who blogged about it. But is it better to have everyone assume the wrong pronoun for Johnny?

Or are you worrying about poor cis-male Johnny, because saying "he, him" is just too too painful and embarrassing?
Here's the thing: It's awkward and cumbersome to add the "my preferred pronouns are . . ." or ask "and what pronouns do you prefer?" to introductions, but this is what happens when/if we do:

1) Someone who identifies as agender or genderneutral, or genderfluid can be included.

2) Many people who have never even considered that not everyone is exactly like themselves will ask what that means and why it is necessary. And they'll learn something and learn it in an environment that is one seeking enlightenment and tolerance. So it helps to further greater understanding and acceptance.

Of course, if you are in the majority you don't see the necessity for it. Naturally, you might say that it adds time and seems like oversharing and who cares and it's the whole "I'll be your gay waiter Sean" thing and why is it so dang important. But you might feel differently if you were in the minority.

I'm a cisgender straight white woman and therefore generally in the vast majority, so I can't really begin to know what if feels like to be in the minority. But I am also Jewish (the closest analogy I can make), and even though I've experienced relatively little prejudice and oppression--though, yes, I've experienced some--and even though I'm not at all religious--in fact quite secular--the first time I stepped off the plane in Israel, I had the experience of being in the majority. It felt like I could breathe fully freely for the first time, and I hadn't even been aware I was holding my breath.

Now, just identifying which pronoun you prefer won't exactly do that, and acknowledging that non-binary-gendered people exist won't necessarily put them in the majority--though I bet there are lots more than we typically realize, so there may be the not-at-all irrelevant collateral effect of letting people realize that they're less alone than they thought they were--but it will maybe help to loosen the things that keep them from breathing freely just a bit. To that end, it's worth it.

I, for one, would be happy to make such a small sacrifice of time and awkwardness to help achieve that.
@6 Well stated. I am a weirdo, constantly trying to pass as normal in society. ;-)

I get the gender thing, I think, and I have many trans friends, but I think there is a point at which there are indeed a few poseurs and attention-getters. And it does seem to be that younger generation.
Thankfully none of my friends fit that category, so I have all the time in the world for them, and I think for a cisperson (mostly), I do have a reasonable grasp on gender dysphoria.

I also have a few gluten-free friends that are genuine too. But, same. Some are just fad-eaters with dieting disorders, jumping on the latest thing.

I would say gender was always fluid for most of us, but the part of me that is not a woman, (and there is a part, for sure), isn't bothered by gender identity, I guess because it's not the dominant part of me. If it was, I am sure I would feel very different.
My genuine trans friends do feel strongly about it, with good reason and I support that. That's why I don't identify as gender-anything, because there are some people out there that really do have a strong feeling about it, it's a huge deal for them, and they are not attention-whores and drama-lamas, they really have been through hell and back for the cause.

I like that these lids are all coming off our boxes though, it's great!! :D

I think with gender, as with sexuality, women's lib, racism, etc, there have always been front-runners and people who have forged the way for the people behind them to be more free in what they do and how they live.
Perhaps these younger generation are just lucky that they have had these forerunners in the trans community who fought the battles for them already, to some degree? Just a thought.
Re: 315: Uncreative, if someone has only ever consumed bread and water and they're happy because they don't know what they're missing, is there no benefit in suggesting they try pizza?
@323 LavaGirl: Thank you so much! I'm doing okay---I love the holidays dearly---but communicating effectively with my older sibs continues to be an exercise in futility. I am still having a hard time shaking off the unwanted ongoing melodrama of my oldest sister's stubborn insistence of playing self-appointed helicopter mommy. Luckily, red wine helps keep me comfortably numb.
@327 If they've never heard of pizza, sure go for it. But I doubt you'll find an adult in the US identifying as asexual who hasn't heard of sex and given thought to whether or not it is for them. It comes across much more like a Chick tract where the main reason people aren't Christian is that they grew up in the US and never actually heard of Jesus or Christianity and were just waiting for somebody to tell them it exists. I doubt that scenario happens much in real life (adults do convert, but not because they hadn't ever heard of Jesus in the first place), and I doubt it happens with asexuals either. Sexuality can change or you can learn more about your own as you age, and there's nothing wrong with that. Somebody may identify one way and later another way. But good luck finding asexuals who just hadn't ever considered that they might want to try sex.
@ uncreative (esp #269)
Although the older the person is , the more I give them a pass. Since I do understand that it becomes harder to understand new concepts as you become older.

I'm here to urge you to not give up on "older" people, using myself as an example. When I was 40 and met several gender non-conforming people, I was - frankly - stupid. And inwardly opinionated. Because, after all, it was ALL about my bias and perception. Thankfully, now that I'm 64, I'm a much wiser, better-informed (thank you, internet) and more accepting person.

Thank you for picking up the reins to be such a (gracious, patient) teacher. You have sown the seeds.
@330 I know many older folk who have made fantastic strides at greater understanding and tolerance at advanced ages. I know many can and will. But also... it seems it really does become harder for some people. I think it's variable. And I'd rather err on the side of patience and acceptance, in case it really is a matter of limits that the person can't really help.

Sometimes, even someone who used to be patient and kind ends up having difficulty remaining so with advanced age and health problems. It really varies a lot. So,I use a bit of a sliding scale. I also don't think of forties and fifties as that old these days. But starting in the sixties, I start to give people a bit of a pass. In the seventies I give them a large one. And if you're eighty or beyond, I'll be impressed if you are still learning and growing and becoming more accepting, but I'm not going to really expect it. That's just my rough heuristic.

I also give children a pass, since they are mainly influenced by their parents and very limited life experience. I think it's only fair to give them time to mature, learn, and experience things for themselves. Children are expected to pretty much just believe authority figures for a while, and then once they start questioning, it does take a while to sort through what is still worth believing and what is not.
Using the gender pronoun "their" means in one sense or another: Don't define me by your flawed gender paradigm. This could be a political statement as much as statement about the persons identity.

FUCK THE CURRENT GENDER PARADIGM - it serves no one, furthers rape culture, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. Gender is a flawed lens to view people through. Few people completely fit in the gender boxes society tries to place us in, and resisting theses definitions too much, or being female, places us at risk of social rejection and violence. I want to live in a society that has moved beyond gender, and lets us all be ourselves no matter what genitals we're born with.
Beyond the leafy liberal arts colleges, how do people with all these increasingly odd gender specifications go through daily life? A good 70% of Americans didn't attend college so I'm fairly certain that they aren't up on the nuances of "gender queer" v. "transexual" v. "transvestite" v. "gender neutral" v. "homosexual". What goes on at the bank? Pharmacy? Job interview? Dry cleaner? Mainstream restaurant? I think there's a hysterical comedy movie in here somewhere...
I'm a multiply (multiple-ly) gendered person and on the rare occasions that people ask about pronouns, I inform them that any pronouns are fine. In fact, the supposedly offensive pronoun--"it"--is one of my favorites for myself personally, though I don't think anyone's ever actually going to use that one.

90% of the time I go through life as an assumed cisgender man. 9% of the time I manage to work in being transsexual/female-bodied when something related comes up in conversation, because I like to be out and spread awareness/education. 1% of the time someone seems to genuinely want to know *all* of my genders enough that I explain the multiply-gendered thing.

If that makes me a poseur, well, I'll just have to add "poseur" to the list of gender-expressions I embrace, Dan. :-P
Cue the "Dan is transphobic!" trolls if they haven't found this already.

Also, LW2, "Aren't we all a little gender fluid?" would be, I think, an annoying thing for trans people to hear coming from a cis person. In the same way, when a straight person says "Aren't we all a little gay?" it annoys the hell out of me, since a straight woman acknowledging that Jennifer Lawrence is attractive is not the same gay as me eating pussy.

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