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Jack Monroe on being non-gender binary

(210 Posts)
IShouldBeSoLurky Tue 20-Oct-15 23:30:25

www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2015/10/being-non-binary-i-m-not-girl-called-jack-any-more-i-m-not-boy-either

I've got a lot of time for Jack and Jack's brave stance on poverty and honest approach to discussing it. I also think the the taunting Jack came in for when the Daily Mail took agin Jack was appalling (but then the DM treats everyone appallingly if they thing it's going to get them clicks).

But this article... I don't know. It seems to me it would all be SO much simpler if one were able to say, "I was born a girl and given a girl's name which I later changed. I'm a lesbian and a mother and proud of both those things. And I don't feel it's necessary for me to perform gender, because I think the things I enjoy like pushing weights and wearing high heeled shoes sometimes shouldn't be gendered things."

Instead we have this tortuous charade of writing copy that's confusing because individuals want to be referred to by a plural pronoun, and the massive shenanigans about deadnaming (of course it's offensive, but no more so than calling a woman by her husband's surname when she hasn't actually changed her name) - some of it might be bigotry but some might just be confusion. And some of it, like referring to the Olympic medalist as Bruce, not Caitlyn, Jenner, is just factually accurate.

I was talking to DP about it earlier and saying that almost all languages (all, maybe? I don't know) have been structured with gender as pretty fundamental, because when language was developing, a person's biological sex WAS significant in a way it perhaps isn't, or shouldn't be, now. What if language just wasn't gendered at all (eg if the phrase "Ladies and gentlemen..." were never used), and it was only necessary to refer to a person's biological sex when it was fundamental to the subject (eg pregnancy and childbirth)? What if we were all they/zhe/something else?

I'm sure this has all been gone over multiple times on here, but I find it so difficult. Part of me wants to give Jack the respect Jack deserves, and part of me is like, "Look, lots of us aren't comfortable with gender roles. Stop making out that you're some special snowflake who gets misgendered at every turn." And then I think maybe I'm just as out of touch and carmudgeonly as people who insist it's fine to call gay people "queers".

What do others think about all this?

emwithme Wed 21-Oct-15 00:06:32

I was thinking about this earlier. I am (present as?) a cis, straight ish female. My choice of pronoun is she/her. Growing up I was a "tomboy", had lots of boy friends (as opposed to boyfriends) because the similarly-aged-children of my mum's friends happened to be boys. I think that if I had been a teenager now I would've been very confused about the whole "identity" thing (especially when I <gasps> fancied a girl).

I really don't care about anyone's genitalia (except for my own and that of DH), but I don't get how anyone can "feel" female (or male, or neither, or both). I don't feel particularly female, I don't do "feminine" things (it is very rare that I wear a dress/skirt, or make-up, I can go to the loo on my own, and change a plug (and pre-disability could change a tyre) etc. I HATE with the passion of a thousand suns the "pinkification" of girls these days I'm sure it was far more rainbow-coloured in the 80s and the fact that there are "girl" and "boy" toys.

If it makes you an out of touch curmudgeon, then so am I. Bodge up on the bench, I've got biscuit and wine (or cake and brew if you would prefer)

IShouldBeSoLurky Wed 21-Oct-15 00:09:32

I am finding it hard to see past the winning combo of wine and cake emwith and I'll provide some flowers for you also.

Gobbolinothewitchscat Wed 21-Oct-15 00:16:54

You've both managed to write down what I've been thinking but wasn't sure how to express

Firstly - just because I'm a pedant - I hate all the they/their stuff. I do believe very much in live and let live but, on the other hand, if I like (stereotyping here) cars isn't that just part of my personality rather than meaning I'm non-binary transgender?

I do follow Jack on Twitter and I agree with some of her stances but I feel they (uuurghhh!) are veering towards losing the ear of people who had previously supported them (uuurghhh x 2) because this just seems yet another "label" where surely the best thing is just to "be"? Wear a chest binder or don't or high heels or whatever you want to on whatever day. Does everything have to be labelled nowadays?

DriverSurpriseMe Wed 21-Oct-15 00:26:19

but I don't get how anyone can "feel" female (or male, or neither, or both)

Totally agree with this. Although I respect and support any trans person when they say they wish to be known as another gender, I'll never understand "feeling like a wo/man" because I don't think such feelings can be defined.

Having said that, Jack's decision is interesting because it's a new definition of transgender, in a way. Most trans people wish to be unequivocally known as their chosen gender, and yet Jack is saying that Jack is neither? Or is this the first tentative step into coming out as a trans man?

Also, I'd never heard the term "deadname" before, so that was interesting.

cigarsofthepharaoh Wed 21-Oct-15 00:32:03

I've been in a relationship with "non-binary" people, so I can kinda see it from both sides. XP was very traditionally female, lipstick and dresses etc. She also played and fanatically followed rugby. During our relationship she started becoming more butch and dropped the lipstick and the other stereotypical signs of femininity. All of a sudden the rugby and anything else 'masculine' were signs of a more masculine identity. It drove me crazy, listening to this totally progressive feminist describing rugby and mud as things for men, and lipstick and dresses as things for women. It felt like she was denigrating my own gender - I'm certainly not the most feminine but I still consider myself a woman.

It just feels slightly regressive.

But equally, I saw how happy she was to have a label to describe herself by. She felt validated I think.

IShouldBeSoLurky Wed 21-Oct-15 00:34:16

Thinking about it a bit more, I have a real problem with the idea of deadnaming. It's like suggesting that Kate Middleton was born the Duchess of Cambridge confused. Okay, it isn't really. But it seems almost gratuitously entitled and cruel to one's family (assuming they weren't gratuitously cruel to you) to spit, "Don't you deadname me!" when auntie Hilda calls you Angelina instead of Arthur by mistake. And the rewriting of history just doesn't make sense.

TendonQueen Wed 21-Oct-15 01:29:27

The 'non-binary' thing to me is annoying because it seems to assume that the vast majority of people are 'binary' and living out their lives as some kind of masculine or feminine stereotype, when actually surely we're almost all non-binary to some degree? It seems to be a term that enables people to feel pleased about their difference from all us boring binary types, whereas perhaps we should be embracing the capacity everyone has to do and like all sorts of things regardless of how they're gendered.

VimFuego101 Wed 21-Oct-15 01:52:19

So how should we refer to Jack now? As 'they'? (Sorry to sound ignorant).

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 02:07:54

From the article it sounds like Jack's trans identity stems from more than just hating feminine stereotypes and involves some kind of physical dysphoria - wanting top surgery and wearing binders is a different kettle of fish from just not wanting to wear high heels, isn't it?

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 02:49:57

(of course it's offensive, but no more so than calling a woman by her husband's surname when she hasn't actually changed her name)

I really don't think the two are comparable, actually. I've had people assume I've taken my husband's name and it's annoying but it's a blip, it's pretty easy to brush off. It doesn't pose any threat to my actual identity.

But purposefully using the former name of a transgender person undermines their identity in a big way. It's basically saying "I've heard what you said but I don't give a fuck, my right to use that name is more important than having respect for your feelings".

Why exactly do you have such a problem with it?

Countess I'd absolutely agree, and I think it's incredibly offensive to Jack to assume that their being non-binary only correlates to them not wanting to subscribe to feminine stereotypes. I'm pretty sure I don't fulfil feminine stereotypes but I've never experienced dysphoria and wanted to bind my chest or have top surgery.

As for people having problems with using "they/them/their" pronouns, well... Why? What is your problem with it exactly? It baffles me that you can't just show basic decency without making such a song and dance about it confused

Gobbolinothewitchscat Wed 21-Oct-15 02:54:22

But why does that dysphoria equate to being non-binary rather than binary?

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 05:47:52

I don't know, you'd have to ask them that. I imagine it's a very nuanced, personal thing and that for some people it's not as simple as going one way or another.

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Wed 21-Oct-15 06:08:01

Because they and their are grammatically incorrect when used to refer to an individual. Language doesn't work that way - you can't coopt a word and declare that it means something new and expect people to start using it that way. Individual pronouns are he and her. It's incredibly difficult to change them completely to plural pronouns like they and them because that's not the meaning they are ascribed in our brains. We might be able to
Do it when concentrating really hard but she/he will slip back in.

CaramelCurrant Wed 21-Oct-15 06:50:07

Can I just ask a question about deadnaming. What is the correct protocol when referring specifically to the pre-era or when comparing contrasting the two era's e.g. Would Bruce have found Caitlyn attractive?

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 07:20:21

Actually, Obsidian, the singular "they" has been accepted within English language for quite some time.

See: motivatedgrammar.wordpress.com/2009/09/10/singular-they-and-the-many-reasons-why-its-correct/
www.dailywritingtips.com/is-“they”-acceptable-as-a-singular-pronoun/
www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/gender-neutral-pronouns-when-they-doesnt-identify-as-either-male-or-female/2014/10/27/41965f5e-5ac0-11e4-b812-38518ae74c67_story.html

I don't think there's anything wrong with slipping up from time to time - we're all human after all - but the respectful thing to do is try.

almondpudding Wed 21-Oct-15 07:21:28

I do consider people assuming I have taken someone else's last name to be a threat to my identity, as that would:

a. mean my children have a different last name to me.
b. have implications about my attitudes to marriage.
c. remove cultural information about my geographical roots which are in my last name.
d. disassociate me from my career where I use my last name.

They is not always a plural. I don't see the issue. Example:

Person A: My friend is about to arrive.
Person B: Are they coming on the bus?

Language changes. We'll get used to it. It isn't a big change. I like 'they.' I hope lots of people start to use it for themselves, regardless of their gender.

FloraFox Wed 21-Oct-15 08:48:18

I think demanding people use words that represent views they don't hold is disrespectful.

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 09:08:33

Seriously Flora? You'd find someone asking you to use "they" rather than "she" or "he" disrespectful? Have I understood that correctly?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 09:19:23

I think the idea that you can control what pronouns people use when talking about you (when you're not even present in the conversation) is all kinds of wrong, actually.
Like Flora I fundamentally disagree with the idea that gender identity is more important than sex (or than a different model of gender in which it is socially ascribed rather than a matter of individual will). To assume everyone else must buy into the same philosophical model as you about gender/sex is unreasonable. 'Pronouns=identified gender' is not a universal law, it is a function of a particular theory about sex and gender that is currently becoming the dominant one in neoliberal western culture, and we are allowed to dissent from that theory.

WindyMillersProbationOfficer Wed 21-Oct-15 09:21:03

IME, being a non-binary woman is often a way of avoiding some of the more vitriolic abuse spewed by the most misogynistic trans activists at 'afabs' online.

Being a non-binary man often means you're a straight 'cis' man in real life but want to slag off women with impunity online, and so hide behind 'bbbut I'm non binary! I'm wearing eyeliner in my profile picture! So if I want to call you a cunt it's totes not abusive, it's punching up!'

FloraFox Wed 21-Oct-15 09:24:01

I said demanding. How people want to live their own lives is up to them. How they want other people to respond to them is not up to them. If a couple wanted me to validate their BDSM relationship by referring to their partner as "your master/mistress" rather than husband or wife, I would not do it.

Whether I would use particular pronouns on request would depend on my relationship with the person in question but in general, I would not. Pretending something is true which is not is not good for society. In fact it is positively Orwellian.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 09:24:16

And I also smell a massive rat at the idea that women just have to suck up being called by their husband's name (even when that means total erasure of identity, as in Mr and Mrs Fred Smith) because it's trivial, but that deadnaming trans people makes you a bigot.

I agree that sometimes it is done to be deliberately hurtful towards the trans person, and of course that is cruel. But the idea that the situations are in no way comparable seems to me to have a lot to do with a history in which women's feeling are considered unimportant. If it was only women who transitioned I don't believe for a moment that 'deadnaming' would be considered as unacceptable as it is.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 09:26:03

WindyMillers, yes, I have seen that happen too.

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 09:28:08

Countess so going by that logic would you be happy for people to refer to you as "he"? (If you're female that is.)

To me, accepting and using someone's preferred pronouns is a matter of common decency and respect. It's not like it's hard.

If someone started calling me "he" I'd think they were a bit off. If I corrected them that it should be "she" and they disregarded that, I'd think that they didn't care for respecting me and wouldn't particularly want to associate with them further. Why should it be any different for transgender people?

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