First in a series on my non-binary gender identity.
Late last year, rather abruptly, I came out as non-binary. It was National Coming Out Day and I decided I was going to tell everyone, just like that. I IMed my partner and told him first; he was as unwaveringly and lovingly supportive and understanding as he always is. Ten minutes later, I’d posted it to my Facebook wall. Thankfully, due to the self-selection and curation I’ve cultivated online for years now, I was met with congratulations and love and support. Outside of carefully-created spaces (or at least ones where I can block people), however, I’ve mostly kept my mouth shut about it. I don’t have enough fight in me to deal with yet another Othering aspect to my person.
It wasn’t something that I’d consciously thought a lot about or planned to do. It was more a slow and lurching realization, backburnered to everything else I’ve always thought and talked and written about. In a lot of ways, it resembled the way that I “became” an atheist: I didn’t talk or think too much directly about it, not even with those close to me, and didn’t want it to be true, but stopped fighting it and eventually submitted to the truth.
While the act of coming out was a surrender to what I’d known was true on some level for a while, a building up to a realization of something about me, there were markers along the way.
Disclaimer: Before you ask “Well, what did you expect, it’s Fox News?”, read this. Even if it fails to sway you, remember that asking that is condescendingly pretending that I’m the last person on Earth to understand that Fox News is full of crap.
In case you missed it, Facebook recently launched the ability for users of the American English version of its product to specify gender options other than Male or Female as well as to specify “they” pronouns be used instead of “he” or “she.” This is a long time coming and a huge step forward for people whose identities are erased or ignored. It also helps to prevent dysphoria in those who might be triggered by misgendering.
There are a lot of pros, as far as I can see, and virtually no cons. The only arguments against it that I have heard are Christianity-based (I don’t think the Bible mentions Facebook, either — deactivate your accounts, literalists) or sneers related to “pandering to liberal sensibilities” (one person’s pandering is another’s basic human acknowledgement, I suppose).
Then, there’s Fox News. Their anchors’ main argument seems to be “we do not know what these things are, therefore they could not possibly be legitimate.” Not to be that guy, but how is an argument from ignorance ever close to a sound one to make?
LOL, among the bogus list of new Facebook-approved genders is "Two-Spirit." Truth kicks fiction's ass every time.
As bad as the uninformed and racist Dan Gainor is, Tucker Carlson, Clayton Morris, and Todd Starnes take the cake on treating their lack of knowledge as holy edict against people’s identities and realities.
After reporting the story, host Elisabeth Hasselbeck threw to the network’s Clayton Morris, who she called “the male.” “No, I changed mine to intersex,” Morris joked in response. Tucker Carlson told “Fox and Friends” viewers that one of the new options was “intersex, whatever that is.”
Hilariously, it’s the God that he invokes which, if that deity existed, would be responsible for having created the intersex babies that are born every day, as well as the assigned-binary-gender-at-birth people who grow up into non-binary-identified people and those who are assigned one gender at birth but actually are another.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a self-described proud person with celiac. Until my second year of college, I had no idea celiac existed. Did her body not suffer the ill effects of gluten consumption until 2006 because I didn’t know it was a thing? My knee disease, synovial osteochondromatosis, is so rare and unknown that my primary care physician wasn’t aware of it when I presented her with my symptoms. Does that mean the bits of cartilage in my knee are figments of my imagination?
Arguments from ignorance aside, it comes down to basic human courtesy, kindness, and respect. Let’s say you, for whatever reason, don’t want to know about the identities of people who aren’t cisgender. Maybe you’re a Christian or otherwise really, really dedicated to the gender binary. You don’t want to look at the myriad guides that have been posted online and don’t care to learn. Even in said situation, how exactly does it harm you that Facebook has more than two options for gender identity? Moreover, what benefit do you stand to gain when you berate and belittle people’s identities on national television because a website moved in a direction you don’t and don’t care to understand?
It appears that when being a cissexist jerk just isn’t enough in some people’s quest to be the worst person that ever lived, adding racism, mockery of medical conditions, and overall scumminess is the answer.
[Update: After Jessica Wakeman of The Frisky covered my piece and tweeted her coverage tagging in STFU Parents, Blair Koenig aka STFU Parents clarified what was meant (and not meant) by the tweet. We conversed via Twitter (see the conversation). Basically, Koenig says that she considers herself pro-LGBT and pro-trans* and intended the RT to reflect on social media trends, not to imply that the trans* opinions contained in the compilation were absurd. In other words, she did not tweet with malicious intent although she found some elements of the compilation “amusing.”
While the intentions were not malicious, I do not personally believe that intention is what matters here. Therefore, on my end, the conversation has not changed my initial assessment that the posting of the compilation is problematic. Whatever the personal intentions of its founder, STFU Parents is a blog dedicated to mocking people’s social media entries. In light of that, an account called the exact same thing re-tweeting a compilation of people’s social media entries feels dismissive regardless of personal intention. This is especially true when the compilation lumps together trans* people’s pain with Monty Python jokes. YMMV, naturally.]
All the plebes are talking about it while all the cool kids are talking about not knowing, caring, or talking about it. I’m talking, of course, about the bonny new baby born to the British royal family.
Popularly gossipped-about news items are often used as opportunities for people to converse about topics that are of interest of them. While this can be considered in poor taste in the case of tragic events, this one certainly was no such downer of a story.
I noticed that many news outlets used the word “gender” in place of the word “sex” to describe the baby being assigned male at birth. Now, I am far more a descriptivist than a prescriptivist. I understand that people use the word “gender” in the place of the word “sex” for various reasons ranging from squeamishness (ew, teh sex) to ambiguity (i.e. the fact that “sex” can refer to genitals). The latter, however, reveals exactly the point: what we know is that the doctors in question examined the baby’s genitalia and determined that they think that the little one is a boy.
This is not a judgmental or political statement, it states the facts — unless you consider CNN to be a bastion of gender radicalism:
Using the information gathered from these tests, your doctor may suggest an appropriate gender for the baby. The suggestion will be based on the genetic sex, anatomy, and future reproductive and sexual potential. Usually, a family can make a decision within a few days after the birth. Parents should be aware that as the child grows up, he or she may make a different decision about gender identification.
CNN might have been talking specifically about babies whose genitalia don’t readily conform to what is considered definitely male or female by social and/or medical standards. Ultimately, however, this is what is done to all babies, just with less examination and consideration in the case of babies whose genitals aren’t considered “ambiguous” (and those babies aren’t exactly uncommon).
In this case, descriptivism and practicality are somewhat at odds. It’s useful to be able to talk about the concepts encapsulated within each of the terms “sex” and “gender” when those words are distinct rather than interchangeable.
Based on that reasoning, I tweeted…
YOU DO NOT KNOW THAT BABY'S GENDER. YOU KNOW WHAT SEX IT HAS BEEN ASSIGNED BY DOCTORS. THAT IS ALL YOU KNOW.
…to the great amusement, apparently, of someone whose followers await his RTs of silly post-modern liberals in the hopes of pouncing on us. According to a friend who mods r/LGBT, someone parodied the tweet in such a way that the offender was banned from that particular subreddit. In responding to my tweet, people took the most issue with my use of all-caps (fair), my alleged attribution of malice to the doctors in question (citation needed), and my daring dictionary-thumping attitude towards the words “sex” and “gender.”
The assholes of the Internet didn’t stop their fun with a dictionary-thumping, capslock-using cis girl, though, and that’s where it gets really ugly.
Collection of Royal Baby tweets by people who are angry about Prince George being assigned a gender: http://t.co/iEQIJKlKPt
All of the people in that tweet compilation aren’t necessarily parents. More importantly, some of them are trans* and spoke up and out about their pain and struggles. This, apparently, renders them just plain hilarious in the eyes of STFU Parents and its readers. The last time I checked STFU Parents, it was filled with people complaining about TMI status updates from parents regarding the bowel movements produced by their precious bundle of joy, not a bastion of transphobia. Another formerly adored humor page bites the dust.
Though it might annoy some, it’s not reprehensible to take a popular gossip item and use it to talk about serious issues that affect you and/or other human beings (though it might be to use all-caps). Using people’s disclosures of the pain of their lived experiences to mock and deride them, on the other hand?