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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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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?

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 09:29:25

I didn't mean that it's trivial, Countess, I don't think I explained it very well tbh. I just don't think it's comparable.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 09:48:13

I am female.
Trying to answer your question honestly - it would probably be mostly '?????' if someone who had met me called me he because I don't know of a set of beliefs that would lead to that happening, so I'd want to know what on earth they were thinking that led to it. When I have been assumed to be male by people who haven't met me, on the basis that IRL I am Dr Fitzdotterel, that grates a hell of a lot less than people calling me Mrs DH'sName.
If someone called me 'he' in order to deliberately piss me off then of course I would be upset, just as a trans person understandably is when people use their previous name for malicious reasons.

FloraFox Wed 21-Oct-15 09:57:36

I'm not male so it would be odd for someone to start calling me "he". I'd think they were odd but it wouldn't particularly bother me.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 09:58:08

Thinking some more about that, Wheresmyburrito, I suppose I could imagine it happening a few years down the line if the current trend towards gender identity being related to acceptance of gender stereotypes continues to grow. So if it was a normal thing for people to start saying 'Oh, the Countess must be a man because she wears DMs and has short hair and is good with computers.' And yes, that would piss me off massively and I would feel erased by it. But my problem would be with the world view that led to that, and I would consider it to do with the people who believed it being wronger than a wrong thing on wrongness day rather than them being bigoted. I think the current trend to using the word 'bigoted' to mean 'someone whose worldview I disagree with' is really problematic.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:00:39

Actually, come to think of it, it is happening a bit already in that I have seen transactivists claim Cathy Brennan must be a man because she is a lesbian and has short hair etc. I am now pondering whether they are doing it just to piss her off or whether they really believe it at some level.

Gowditay Wed 21-Oct-15 10:02:15

I think anyone who really worries about what other people call them and spends a long time navel gazing about how they appear to others doesn't have enough to do. Fgs there's some real tragedy going on in the world without having to worry about whether you've offended someone who has deliberately taken a convoluted and antagonistic stand about their own gender.

Bigbiscuits Wed 21-Oct-15 10:02:39

I know someone who came to the UK in 1956 from Hungary (Hungarian does not have pronouns)

He still sometimes gets pronouns wrong when he speaks in English. He can be happily talking away for 10 minutes before it dawns on me that "he" is actually his sister.

IShouldBeSoLurky Wed 21-Oct-15 10:28:38

Countess has summed up very well the issues I have with the idea of deadnaming. Obviously if someone refuses to acknowledge the name by which you're now known, that's offensive. But denying the existence of your previous name of rewriting history to suggest that Caitlyn Jenner was the Olympic medalist for eg, seems highly disingenuous to me.

I also totally agree with the point about implying that one's self-declared non-binary status makes everyone else either high heels and lipstick or pints and football, and if you're neither then you too must be non binary, as opposed to just being a woman who likes football.

welshHairs Wed 21-Oct-15 10:34:29

Yes I think the 'dead naming' thing is weird. I understand getting upset if someone purposely calls you the wrong name and pronoun after you've asked them not to/told them the correct name etc, but the complete denial that any other name was ever used or that you were born a different sex, well that's bizarre.

welshHairs Wed 21-Oct-15 10:37:27

Did Laurie Penny also 'come out' as something? I dont know if I imagined that.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:40:05

I don't know why it matters to anyone other than Jack Monroe how Jack Monroe chooses to identify and what pronouns they prefer? confused It makes no odds to anyone on this thread other than perhaps having to make a bit of effort to remember to use the pronouns requested.

I will happily admit it does feel a bit awkward and clunky to use "they" instead of "he" or "she" but do you know what? That's my problem. I'll get over it and get used to it.

As for the crap about "language doesn't work that way" do you know anything about linguistics or language development? Because that is exactly how language evolves and develops.

I also thought the "special snowflake" bit in the op is quite offensive. It clearly matters to Jack and clearly has bog all impact on you to accommodate Jack's wishes because how Jack chooses to identify is about them not about you. So get over it and show some respect by respecting Jack's wishes as a person to choose how they are addressed and regarded. It won't make your life harder but might make their's easier and more pleasant so that has to be A Good Thing.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:44:11

Fgs there's some real tragedy going on in the world without having to worry about whether you've offended someone who has deliberately taken a convoluted and antagonistic stand about their own gender.

What an odd assumption to make. Why have you decided that Jack's feelings and attitude to their own body and identity are "convoluted and antagonistic" rather than just, I dunno, being her feelings that matter to her?

They could only be consider convoluted and antagonistic if they had the slightest bearing on anyone else which of course they don't. Jack's identity does not diminish or impact on your identity, my identity or anyone else's in any way. They just are; Jack just is.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:45:29

Bugger. I put her when I meant "their" and "them".

Still, I am trying and learning at least smile

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:45:46

'I don't know why it matters to anyone other than Jack Monroe how Jack Monroe chooses to identify and what pronouns they prefer?'

Not at all unless we are being told what language we must use when discussing her. What Jack calls herself is her issue. What we call her is ours.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:47:16

Surely wanting a mastectomy for non-medical reasons counts as having an antagonistic attitude towards one's body? If not, I don't know what does.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:47:35

Why shouldn't Jack own their identity? You own yours Countess so why shouldn't they?

What gives you the right to decide?

WindyMillersProbationOfficer Wed 21-Oct-15 10:48:01

Not Jack in particular, but the idea of identifying as non-binary has huge repercussions for feminism. Whilst Jack's individual identity doesn't directly affect me as an individual, the concept of a non-binary identity in general does affect the idea of a female identity. And that's something that affects me - a female.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:49:34

Surely wanting a mastectomy for non-medical reasons counts as having an antagonistic attitude towards one's body? If not, I don't know what does.

But that's Jack's right and has zero impact on anyone else. We all should have the right to have autonomy over our own bodies. Isn't that rule #1 of feminism?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:50:12

You will need to unpack what you mean by 'own your identity', Movingonup.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 10:52:46

It's fairly obvious that no-one on here is saying whether or not Jack has a mastectomy is anything to do with us - if it's what she wants, I hope it works out for her. I just don't see why we are forbidden from noting that wanting one looks like an antagonistic attitude towards her body.
Are we not allowed to discuss the stuff she has made public in her New Statesman article?

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 10:57:45

Now that's an interesting point Windy. And one borne out of an actual argument rather than "different to me is wrong" which a lot of this seems to be on this thread.

I suppose I don't feel threatened personally because I'm only a feminst until we have equality and feminism will be redundant will probably never happen. Equality would by default include all groups including non-binary identities.

I can also see as a marginalised person (a woman) the impact of othering so I can't really do that to others and deny their right to an identity because it is different to mine.

So is it a threat or just different? I feel the latter because I'm still a woman and still a feminist and the issues haven't gone away just because some people do not identify as women. There have always been those that don't identify as women - men - and that doesn't stop me being a feminist or a woman.

I'm still a woman and still a feminist and Jack's decisions and those of people like them don't change that at all.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 11:00:00

You will need to unpack what you mean by 'own your identity', Movingonup. In what way?

I haven't said anyone can't discuss things. I'm just challenging some view points I disagree with. I believe that would count as discussion smile

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 11:09:24

Yes, discussion is fine, and I think this is a very interesting one (and still constructive and civilised, which is nice). I think it helps that many of us taking different positions to gender identity on this thread actually rather like and admire Jack - I certainly do- so the irritation and hostility that appears when we talk about gender identity issues in relation to certain other people isn't there.

'Why shouldn't Jack own their identity? You own yours Countess so why shouldn't they?
What gives you the right to decide?'

I can't answer unless you explain what you mean by 'own your identity'. What does 'own' mean? Does it mean have the power to control what everyone says about you and the terms in which you are discussed, or just not be stopped from living your life in accordance with it? (And are those things separate anyway?) Does 'identity' in this context mean all aspects of your identity or is gender qualitatively different?
It seems to be clear to you what you mean by the deceptively simple phrase 'own your identity' but I genuinely do not have a clue what you mean by it and I would like to answer your question but as it stands I can't!

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 11:26:12

By own your identity I mean you get to choose how you present to the world and what name and pronouns people use to address you because that is your right as an individual.

I would think (like me) you'd probably find it at least odd and more likely disrespectful if people started calling you he instead of she or even "it". If people started using a different name to the one you'd them told was your name that would be rude - you just have to look at some of the threads on here where people have had their name shortened without their consent to see how it upsets people.

Our identities are chosen by us to a greater or lesser extent even if they are influence by society (typically pronouns) or our parents (typically names). We can choose to accept or reject those (lots of people go by a different name to their full birth name) and decide our own identity with things like how we present ourselves (our "look") what title we use and other very important signifiers of identity. We choose those, we own them.

Primarily it's just good manners to address someone in the way they have asked you to regardless of the wider implications of disrespecting someone's perfectly legal wishes.

Sadik Wed 21-Oct-15 11:50:39

A bit ot, but I actually think if they/their took off in general as a replacement for s/he hers/his for everyone it would be great. I don't see that it's relevant to most people in most circs (given that I'm in a long term relationship, so not out on the pull) whether I'm a woman or a man.

And yes, I agree with a pp that it is perfectly possible for language to change in that way. Just as it's really common these days to refer to a fire fighter / police officer / bin collector (ie not fireman/ policeman/ bin man) whereas when I was younger it would have been definitely only something weirdy lefty types would have done.

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 12:21:22

MovingOnUp, you've said what I was trying to say in a much less stroppy way wink thank you!

AllMyBestFriendsAreMetalheads Wed 21-Oct-15 12:43:49

I read some of this and thought, well that's like me. If pushed, I would say I have a non-binary gender, because that seems to be where I fit within the terminology that is used. I don't feel female and I don't feel male, I have interests that are both stereotypically female and stereotypically male but I just see them as 'my interests'.

It's the jump from non-binary gender to being neither a woman nor a man that I don't understand. But I presume this is where gender dysphoria comes into it, a feeling of 'wrongness' for want of a better phrase, which I don't have.

But reading it makes me feel more strongly that gender is bollocks, and think why can't people just wear what they want to wear and do what they want and call themselves whatever they want and anyone who thinks someone is not ladylike or manly enough can just fuck off. It's not trans people that should feel they have to change, it's the rest of society that has the problem. I just want to say 'it's not you, it's them. And actually yes, you are a special snowflake, don't change yourself to try and fit in with their crappy boxes'. Having said that, I do accept that life is easier if you conform in some way.

sakura Wed 21-Oct-15 13:02:13

Here's the thing; calling a boy a "girl" is a major insult. If a man calls another man a "woman" he's mocking him. The female gender are objects of daily ridicule.

So in light of this, some women would say, well the pronoun "she" should be regarded as an honorific, women shouldn't be ashamed of the fact they are subject to constant shame and ridicule for being female. And so "she" can't be interchangeable or equal to "he". It means something entirely different.

Now, whether we wear high heels or not or "think like a man" (whatever that means--- women are bright articulate and frighteningly intelligent, which is "thinking like a woman" as far as I'm aware) should've have any influence on the "she".

All it means is there are lots of different kinds of "shes" in this world.

Snossidge Wed 21-Oct-15 13:08:06

I don't feel female and I don't feel male, I have interests that are both stereotypically female and stereotypically male but I just see them as 'my interests'.
Isn't almost everyone "non-binary" in this case? It seems like some of the only people who are truly binary about their gender are transgender people confused

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 13:22:41

Thanks Burrito smile

Interesting idea sakura and all your examples are misogyny but it does happen to other groups too. Deliberately calling someone the wrong pronoun (and I mean wrong by what they designate themselves) it is always meant as an insult.

For example, I've been referred to as "he" on threads where a poster has tried to rubbish me instead of disagreeing with me. It happens a lot on Mumset where (arguably) the default and dominant assumption is that posters are women.

Of course it must happen to some groups more than others and in different contexts and to different degrees but I cannot think of a single occasion where someone deliberately chooses to address someone by the "wrong" pronoun to be anything other than to insult and/or hurt someone. And that's regardless of the sex or gender of the people involved.

Bad behaviour and disrespectful treatment of others is always wrong and doesn't diminish the lived experience of others who may have slightly different experiences with the same intent to hurt, belittle and insult.

FloraFox Wed 21-Oct-15 13:59:18

By own your identity I mean you get to choose how you present to the world and what name and pronouns people use to address you because that is your right as an individual

I don't agree with this at all. I am obviously a woman no matter how I "present" and society treats me as a woman, a member of the female class. I don't choose that any more than I chose my name nor how the English language uses pronouns to identify male or female.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 14:06:29

So you're ok because you conform to the norm and never mind any body else who might be different eh Flora?

Just out of interest have you ever been married Flora? And did you change your surname? Or your title (eg Mrs)?

FloraFox Wed 21-Oct-15 14:11:51

Eh? How did you get that from what I said? I look like a woman no matter what I am wearing. That is not "conforming to the norm" it is a reflection of the fact that a person's sex is generally obvious as a result of their biological sex characteristics. I don't get to choose this.

My point is that your statement about owning identity is nonsense. The statement has no meaning.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 14:16:44

In your opinion. I happen to disagree.

As the person doesn't get to decide I am going to refer to you with the "wrong" pronoun. I think I will choose "it" for you. Because your wishes are irrelevant and mine are more important; that is essentially what you are saying. The old "I'm natural, you're unnatural" argument that gets used until society cops on (see gay rights etc etc).

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Wed 21-Oct-15 14:18:16

Gender is not innate like sex btw, it's a social construct.

If anyone could explain that to it better than me I would be grateful wink

Branleuse Wed 21-Oct-15 14:19:11

Im quite happy for Jack to feel however Jack feels, and to respect their feelings about their identity.

I wont pretend to understand it, nor do I have a massive desire to wish theyd shut up and simplify something thats obviously important to them.

I think in time, with increased knowledge, it will just become naturally simpler, and im really happy for people that are finally being able to put a name on how they have always felt, instead of living a lie, becoming mentally unwell, or topping themselves, which I think is what has tended to happen in the past.

I dont believe that sex or gender is binary. I dont feel like im particularly female, apart from a general feeling of unsafeness and vulnerability, but i am sure thats not what being female is supposed to be about.
I also dont feel shit about being female or identified as such either, so I cant relate to how transgender people feel. Im happy to believe them though and try and adjust my language when its appropriate to do so.

MyFavouriteClintonisGeorge Wed 21-Oct-15 14:21:14

I don't feel female and I don't feel male, I have interests that are both stereotypically female and stereotypically male but I just see them as 'my interests'.
Isn't almost everyone "non-binary" in this case? It seems like some of the only people who are truly binary about their gender are transgender people

Well, pretty much, yes.

DriverSurpriseMe Wed 21-Oct-15 14:26:16

What intrigues me is how Jack's experience differs from being a transman, because on a fundamental level (other than not wishing to adopt male pronouns) there isn't much that differentiates Jack from a transman.

Although, as a lesbian in a committed relationship (although I'm not sure if Jack is still in a relationship) and a mother, it must be very difficult to declare oneself male because then you'd need to redefine your most cherished relationships.

Anyway, just thinking aloud.

OTheHugeManatee Wed 21-Oct-15 14:26:22

It does seem to me as if this 'non-binary' business is a byproduct of increasingly strict demarcations of what is or isn't gendered behaviour. Like it starts with boys' and girls' EVERYTHING being either pink or blue, and just develops from there. So anyone who just feels like 'meh, I'm just me, I don't feel very strongly anything' has to make a big palaver about being non-binary.

Surely we could achieve the same effect by just having less rigid ideas about what it means to be male or female?

FloraFox Wed 21-Oct-15 14:30:05

I think I will choose "it" for you.

Fine but since I am female I am not an "it" and you will look foolish.

Because your wishes are irrelevant and mine are more important; that is essentially what you are saying. The old "I'm natural, you're unnatural" argument that gets used until society cops on (see gay rights etc etc).

No. Some things have a material reality, like sex, and others are a matter of psychology expressed in behaviour (eg being a lesbian). Being a lesbian is not unnatural. Just because people in the past thought one thing was wrong which we now disagree with (that being a lesbian is bad) doesn't mean that everything we used to think is bad is not bad. Paedophilia is less tolerated now than in the past. Incest is still not tolerated. Those are behaviours though. Biological sex is a material reality. Therefore there is no inconsistency in saying lesbian relationships are positive life experiences but women and men are different sex categories.

I like the quote that if the shoe doesn't fit, one should change the shoe not the foot. If society forces people to conform to constructed norms of behaviour, change society. Don't change your body to fit the norms.

LibrariesGaveUsP0wer Wed 21-Oct-15 14:33:20

Sakura - that's an interesting point. And one I've raised quite a few times on the baby names board. People say how cool it is to have a unisex name 'like Elliot' on a girl. Or ask what people feel about X boys name being used for a girl. No one ever, ever, ever thinks a boy could be called Alice or Clare and have that be a unisex name. I do think that there is a point around this topic about female (and feminine) being an insult. Jack has chosen a 'unisex' name in a similar way.

Like a pp, I also think the terminology of 'deadnaming' is fairly horrid. The person you were has not died. The person you were existed, and that may not have accurately represented you, and of course it would be wrong to refer to Caitlyn Jenner as Bruce. But, if you are talking about, for example, sporting achievements, then she competed as a male and (unless you assume massive background knowledge of the person being discussed, which I guess you could for her), you're going to need to reference the past.

CoteDAzur Wed 21-Oct-15 14:37:58

Can someone explain what it means to be non-binary transgender?

If one doesn't feel like one gender or the other, what does it mean to say "I am transgender"? From what to what are they trans, then?

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 21-Oct-15 14:43:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

OTheHugeManatee Wed 21-Oct-15 14:43:39

Cote - in plain English, 'non-binary transgender' translates as 'special snowflake'.

CoteDAzur Wed 21-Oct-15 14:46:43

Very helpful, thank you smile

OTheHugeManatee Wed 21-Oct-15 14:47:13

As an aside, if anyone is interested in the whole gamut of genderqueer stuff rather than the more rigid 'trans' politics that have been rather done to death on MN before, check out The Lovers & Fighters Convention. It's put together from a set of performances at the Transfabulous festival in 2008, (disclosure - it's directed by a friend of mine) and is very watchable and very eye-opening, whether you are 'pro' or 'anti'.

LibrariesGaveUsP0wer Wed 21-Oct-15 14:48:19

And what Buffy said!

Branleuse Wed 21-Oct-15 14:49:24

how patronising :|

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 21-Oct-15 14:49:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AgeingArtemis Wed 21-Oct-15 15:04:42

This is a really interesting discussion, I'm glad it came up.

I don't really believe in gender. I wish society in general was entirely gender neutral, as far as possible.
I have a female body, but I dress in "mens" clothes, have a "mens" haircut and have mostly "mens" interests- although I do like baking and I am bored by watching football.

Sometimes I wonder if I am transgender. When I was a child, every night before going to sleep I would pray to wake up a boy. If I could have a magic wand that would turn me into a boy/man, I would probably do it. I'm not sure.

I don't want a penis though. Not especially (although it would be practical grin ) I used to hate my body, really hate it. Puberty was mildly traumatic and made me have depression. but now I have come to terms with it. I consider myself "lucky" though, that I have a naturally boyish body shape, and I am trying to get more muscular. I would hate to be more curvy, but I am comfortable with having a vagina and womb (Periods suck, but come on you can grow a BABY in there if you wanted! That's fucking AWESOME!)

I think I can pinpoint 2 main things that made me happier in myself
1) I went to an all girls school from 11-16. While it might seem counter intuitive (and I was annoyed that there were fewer people to play rugby with), with hindsight it meant that I didn't have to struggle to fit into the box of "boy" or "girl". Everyone was female but there was a huge spectrum of "femininity".

2) I was an army cadet, and the word "female" was generally used instead of "girl". I know it's very old school, and some people may even find it offensive, but it was in the context of when it was biologically relevant ie "we're going to need a separate tent for the female cadets" (instead of "for the girls") and otherwise we were treated exactly the same as the boys, we were all just cadets, or kids. It helped separate in my mind being a "girl" (which I didn't identify with) to being "female", which was a fact, and had no gender expectation connotations.

I do sometimes worry about transgender kids. I'm not saying it's not real, but it's no wonder that in society at the moment we have an increase in trans young people, when everything seems to say "girls do/like/wear/play with this, and boys with this, but don't worry if you're a boy who likes pink, because you can become a girl"

I wish we could just let kids be kids, without imposing gender, and let them do whatever they want. Ideally surgery and hormones should be only to ease your own personal suffering at being in the wrong body, not to make you into a "man or woman" in the eyes of society, because there should be no difference in the way that male and female people are treated. I mean that Jack Monroe should be able to be called by whatever name and pronouns they want, and bind their chest, without having to "come out" as anything.

Well, that was much longer than I anticipated, and I'm not sure if it makes sense. Oh well smile

AgeingArtemis Wed 21-Oct-15 15:08:12

Manatee I agree 100% with your post at 14.26

shovetheholly Wed 21-Oct-15 15:26:08

I am not a gender essentialist - I do not believe in a gender binary that is universal and true for all time and irrevocably tied to biological sex. Tied to that, I don't believe in an 'inner' identity - I think identity is largely constructed relationally, outside of the person, in a social context and that it is inevitably shot through with power relations, because at any given time there is a horizon to what it is possible to think.

However, I do believe in the existence of a cultural binary, that we have inherited and that has a long and oppressive history. (And we all have ample evidence from our own lives and this forum that it continues to be very active - girl and boy party bags, anyone?) And I do think that this is part of that social domain in which identity is constructed. So (thinking aloud a bit here) I think I'd tend to see actions like this not as attacks on any holy cows of my identity, but as allied help in dismantling a system of thinking about gender that I find personally constraining and historically repressive. And I am happy to return the favour by using whatever pronouns they want.

I'm also mindful of the fact that how we "feel" is a relation of dominant power. I don't feel white most of the time. Until I hang out with my bessie mate who is black, and see the totally different reactions that we both get from random strangers, and I realise that she can't count on a lot of the things I take for granted. I'm not saying that this is analogous to gender (I think different kinds of discrimination tend to operate quite differently, and we're only starting to get more sophisticated at analysing this), merely casting some skeptical shade over the idea that we can always judge from the strength of the feelings we experience in relation to our own identity to the legitimacy of the feelings of others. (Or, indeed, that those feelings are deeply personal and inside and not cultural and social in nature).

BertieBotts Wed 21-Oct-15 16:18:09

So this has come up on facebook for me and a lovely friend has done a really nice post about accepting people, which I love smile And I'm now feeling anxious because I want to talk to her (privately) about gender and sex and trans* but I don't have time currently to write a long post/email to her. In fact, I'd like to post on facebook directly but I'm not brave enough yet.

I wish that the two groups - those who think gender is bullshit and oppressive and ought to be scrapped and those who think gender is important/real but that the binary is oppressive and ought to be scrapped could see eye to eye.

PlaysWellWithOthers Wed 21-Oct-15 16:19:20

I don't believe in gender. Sadly, gender seems to be focussed on believing in me, in constraining how I can act, what I can do, how I can behave all the time.

Sex is biological, without changing your DNA, your sex will be your sex from the womb to the grave, on the whole, sex in humans is binary, with very few exceptions. And, as intersex people are generally completely over the whole TG argument, I'll pay them the respect of not bringing that into the discussion.

Gender roles are the mechanism by which women are held back and subjugated. Getting rid of all gender roles would free men and women to perform their lives as they wish, without fear of censure or violence.

Dysphoria is something completely different from "feeling" like a woman. It is an acute and devastating mental illness, and is simply awful for the sufferer. If JM is suffering from dysphoria or dysmorphia, then I have nothing but the deepest sympathy for her.

None of those things equates to anyone "being a man". Men are adult human males, they have recognisable primary and secondary sex organs that develop due to the genetic make up.

Calling JM by whatever name or pronouns she desires may or may not be good manners.

WheresMyBurrito Wed 21-Oct-15 16:23:54

PlaysWell, of course it's good manners. How could it be anything but?

Also, Flora, your point that

Fine but since I am female I am not an "it" and you will look foolish.

Well, Jack Monroe has said they're not a woman but you're happy to still refer to them as one. How is that any less foolish? hmm

almondpudding Wed 21-Oct-15 16:49:03

Most people are unaware/only vaguely aware of this whole gender identity concept so haven't stated what their gender identity is.

I assume I'm agender but can't really know that in some kind of social vacuum. When (if) other people widely start claiming to have various gender identities, I'll get a feel for what each one is and know for sure.

I know for certain that I am not in the same group as Jack Monroe. All the stuff that they finds very important in terms of gender sounds irrelevant to me, but I respect that it matters to them.

I still want their to be role models in the world who are the same bio sex as me. I think that wanting their breasts removed makes them no longer a role model for me personally.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Wed 21-Oct-15 16:49:54

Thanks for answering, Movingon - am just catching up with thread (was called to get ds1 from school just before you posted so may not have a chance till tomorrow).

almondpudding Wed 21-Oct-15 16:52:42

Can people not refer to others as it?

Calling people it has a long, dehumanising history.

I agree with Dan Savage that we should not call people it, even if they choose that as their own pronoun, because it is distressing to many minority groups who have been called it.

MyFavouriteClintonisGeorge Wed 21-Oct-15 16:58:40

All these initially interesting positions seem to have a habit of degrading gently into 'Oh no, I'm not one of those..."wimmin" thingies, I'm much more interesting than that'. It is sad.

PlaysWellWithOthers Wed 21-Oct-15 17:04:43

Wheres... I mean from a MHP point of view.

George.. I think part of that is because of the imposition of gender roles on women that subjugate them and imply they are 'inferior' to men. Why on earth would any woman choose to be seen as inferior? IYSWIM?

I'd also wholeheartedly agree with Almond, where she says that the use of the word 'it' as a pronoun is deeply problematic, given it's history of being used to dehumanise the 'other'. Ffs, it was used as a dehumanising device in Silence of the Lambs... not a good look really.

almondpudding Wed 21-Oct-15 17:07:29

I don't know if people do find it interesting George. The social phenomenon of gender identity as some kind of political movement is interesting, but people describing their individual gender expression is incredibly boring.

I mean, who cares that sometimes Jack Monroe likes to wear vintage dresses and stilettos and other times they like to pose in only boxer shorts? Is it really interesting enough to warrant a New Statesman article?

MyFavouriteClintonisGeorge Wed 21-Oct-15 17:14:27

The social phenomenon of gender identity as some kind of political movement is interesting, but people describing their individual gender expression is incredibly boring.

Well, that's certainly true. I find it interesting only as a springboard to this kind of discussion. But solipsism is now our culture's defining characteristic, so expect lots more of this kind of thing.

CrayonShavings Wed 21-Oct-15 17:16:46

Yy MyFavourite the article made me wonder if Jack considers woman to be a dirty word.

WindyMillersProbationOfficer Wed 21-Oct-15 17:18:00

I disagree with the idea of non-binary because it positions everyone who doesn't explicitly identify as such as an adherent of either male or female gender roles/expression. Which is bullshit.

PlaysWellWithOthers Wed 21-Oct-15 17:19:46

Hmmm, I think I might have got the wrong end of George's post, and for that I apologise.

MyFavouriteClintonisGeorge Wed 21-Oct-15 17:23:05

No, I don't think so. I'm not cross either way, so no harm done.

PlaysWellWithOthers Wed 21-Oct-15 17:26:01

Phew! grin

FloraFox Wed 21-Oct-15 18:02:35

Well, Jack Monroe has said they're not a woman but you're happy to still refer to them as one. How is that any less foolish?

Because Jack Monroe is a woman. She is an adult human female, of the biological category the produces eggs and bears children. That is a material reality not a philosophical notion of what it means to be a woman.

welshHairs Wed 21-Oct-15 18:05:05

I just think gender is a load of bullshit. I suppose you could say I'm 'agender', but if you did I wouldn't be happy as in doing so you're supporting the existence of gender as being the default.

Gender is a bunch of made up stuff and all this non-binary nonsense panders and enforces it. It needs to disappear, people need to be free to do whatever they want and express themselves how they want, and ideally not announce it to the world because it's not that interesting.

MyFavouriteClintonisGeorge Wed 21-Oct-15 18:16:32

It makes me feel old. Not because I disapprove, just because gender is now conceived and discussed so much more prominently and in a completely different way from how it was when I was younger. It is discombobulating.

And now I've started to sound like my mother, so I think I will log off.

ArcheryAnnie Thu 22-Oct-15 08:05:10

If Jack Monroe is not a woman, why have they not withdrawn from the "Woman of the Future" award they are nominated for, and which they mention oh-so-casually in the NS article where they insist at length that they are not a woman?

ArcheryAnnie Thu 22-Oct-15 08:08:24

"Jack's identity does not diminish or impact on your identity, my identity or anyone else's in any way."

If Jack's identity only impacted on Jack, this conversation wouldn't be happening at all. The only reason I give a stuff is that Jack's declaration of their own identity came along with Jack's expression of a whole lot of sexist, gender-essentialist and homophobic attitudes, presented as cool and progressive attitudes, all of which impact very negatively on my life and the loves of a lot of other women.

(I like Jack. I am really horribly disappointed that they've gone down this homophobic route.)

ArcheryAnnie Thu 22-Oct-15 08:41:06

*lives, not loves. Though loves, too.

shovetheholly Thu 22-Oct-15 11:33:18

I don't think she's being essentialist at all. She says in that article that she is revolting against 'the society-imposed candy pink and baby blue'. SOCIETY-imposed being the opposite word. Every thing about her article sounds non-essentialist to me: this is gender as social construct, not gender as inner nature - but it's a social construct that was not only historically oppressive, but continues to be enforced (which is the point of her mentioning being chucked out of nightclub toilets for looking male, and of discussing the uniform for her passing out parade). What she seems to be celebrating is freedom from that socially-formulated binary, to find all kinds of positions that are inbetween the old polarities.

While I find the whole 'rebel' think kind of old, this is probably because I'm too cynical and too goddamned privileged to recognise that this cynicism comes from being around a pretty liberal bunch of people for whom this stuff is old news - though it wasn't even that long ago that I was working for a boss who was a sexist dinosaur, rating the women in the office on their figures, complaining about those who turned up in trousers, talking salaciously about his DIL's look in a bikini, etc. He would never forgive nor forget being challenged on any of it, and would find ways to make the life of anyone who stood up to him absolutely miserable. There are many girls and women stuck in positions (families, jobs) where deviation from 'girlishness' is still punished.

shovetheholly Thu 22-Oct-15 11:41:41

*operative, not opposite.

God I am hungover this morning grin

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