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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?

ArcheryAnnie Mon 02-Nov-15 15:59:15

That's boodleoops, right? I love boodleoops!

BuffytheScaryFeministBOO Mon 02-Nov-15 14:42:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

welshHairs Sun 01-Nov-15 19:31:36

Aren't some of these gender identities more like sexual preferences?

Yes demisexual is a sexual preference not a gender identity. It seems to me to be part of the same trend of having to stick a really specific label on every aspect of your personality.

TribbleNamedDave Sat 31-Oct-15 22:05:50

Iknow I do lean towards your way of thinking. I also wonder what the long term effects are of puberty blockers and then a body being given false hormones to make it do the opposite to what it's designed to do. Especially on a developing body, would their reproductive organs develop? Or would they stay in a prebusent state as there is no other system for the 'given' hormones to act on. What about the endocrine systems of a developing body as well.

FinglesMcStingles Sat 31-Oct-15 20:22:02

* Likewise, I don't think that women's underwear would cover a man's genitals comfortably*

Actually, you might be surprised there. Obviously depends on the cut of the undergarments in question, but if they're sufficiently spacious rather than a couple of strands of dental floss, they not only hold everything in, they also hold everything neatly in place, reducing the need to constantly rearrange and also reducing the possibility of accidentally sitting on parts that should not be sat upon.

Or so DD's father tells me. And he ought to know, having eschewed men's undergarments many years ago.

IKnowIAmButWhatAreYou Sat 31-Oct-15 19:52:46

So if it's possible to be a female and have a penis, is removal of that penis for cosmetic purposes Female Genital Mutilation and should any practitioners that carry this out be prosecuted for such?

And would we then have to prosecute for Male Genital Mutilation for F2M surgery?

I only ask because I'm genuinely uncomfortable with young people being irrevocably mutilated rather than coming to terms with the fact that their body is part of who they are.

I'd rather we dealt with the issues that made them feel they can't live with or without a certain set of genitals, than just remove them and believe that this solves the issue....

TribbleNamedDave Sat 31-Oct-15 18:04:21

The thing is, being transgender and having cancer are two completely different things. I do think she's doing those who have suffered from cancer or chosen to have preventative mastectomies a disservice. She's doing it to pass as a male, those who have had mastectomies did it to stop cancer.

Thanks for the screechy comments though, thanks for tailoring the insults to the female gender.

EmpressKnowsWhereHerTowelIs Sat 31-Oct-15 14:44:34

Jack has also bought into the myth about Tara Hudson's safety being more important than that of any women Tara ends up in prison with. Really disappointed sad

ArcheryAnnie Sat 31-Oct-15 13:31:55

Just came back to say that Jack has read this thread - though not apparently very well as she repeats the strawman about cancer masectomies.

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/29/binary-gender-feminism-transgender-womens-award

She also calls us "trolls and naysayers", and describes people who disagree with her as "screeching".

Nice use of gendered insult, there, Jack. Good to see you are proving every stereotype about the misogyny and homophobia of so many (not all) extreme trans activists there.

Pixi2 Tue 27-Oct-15 07:58:28

I haven't read the whole thread but I will go back and do so. Just wanted to say on one hand it's very encouraging that we can use the word binary to describe someone that wants to be neither sex, but on the other hand, it's equally depressing. Our genitals may dictate our sex, but people are diverse and different. I'm trying to teach my DC to be PEOPLE and not a girl or a boy. I thought we lived in a world where women can like dresses, heels and rugby, where men can like nail polish, football and ballroom dancing. Where people are just that - people. Not defined by their sex but accepted as who they are as individuals.

BuffytheScaryFeministBOO Tue 27-Oct-15 07:58:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

VashtaNerada Tue 27-Oct-15 07:57:06

There is a lot of confusion (on this thread and generally) between sexual orientation and gender identity. I think we're now talking about both Buffy. Gender identity is only really male/female/both/neither although things like drag and cross-dressing come under the trans umbrella too.

shovetheholly Tue 27-Oct-15 07:54:51

"People who buy into gender theory expect that everybody else believes in gender as well, and if somebody questions the "gender spectrum" they assume that it's because they think that everybody's gender must match their biological sex when that is not the argument. I'm not arguing that gender must match. I'm saying that the idea of a spectrum with masculinity at one end and femininity on the other is totally arbitrary. I'm guessing on that spectrum, that nail varnish is on the "feminine" end, while engines are on the "masculine" end and a cup of tea is firmly in the middle....But in that case, gender has NO biological or natural basis, there is NOTHING except the expectations and ideas that we as a society have built up over millennia, it's not based on anything, except perhaps old sexism. It's arbitrary. It makes no sense to keep pretending it exists as a way to somehow free ourselves from the chains of it. Eh?? That just reinforces it! Surely?"

This is a great point. about the arbitrariness, and one with which I completely agree.

However, I think there are powerful interests at stake in upholding an essentialist, biological view of gender that make it very, very difficult simply to 'free' ourselves from it by suggesting another model. Because we don't construct ideas of gender, race, sexuality in isolation - but as members of a culture that precedes us, and there are forces in that culture that are deeply invested (in all senses of that world) in the mode of an essentialist gender binary. This sense of historicity, of sedimented relations of power that are constitutive of these kinds of aspect of our identities, can't simply be 'unthought' and - POOF!- they vanish. They act as inertial or directly inimical forces against that kind of change.

In short, ideas have social agency - they are not will-o-the-wisp mists of thought, but very much engines of power.

BuffytheScaryFeministBOO Tue 27-Oct-15 07:08:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NiNoKuni Mon 26-Oct-15 22:36:02

Gender just seems more and more to mean 'personality', doesn't it?

welshHairs Mon 26-Oct-15 22:25:28

"A demisexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone."

Surely that's just a fairly standard way of being for a lot of people. Is this because the norm is now to be 'easy' so anyone who isn't up for it 24-7 thinks they're wrong for being like this? (Am not judging with use of 'easy', couldn't think of another word.)

There seems to be this new fascination with categorising absolutely every aspect of your personality. Is this just like the subculture de jour or what? I'm 28 but starting to feel so old.

BertieBotts Mon 26-Oct-15 22:18:57

And also because clothing from the women's aisle is made to fit and flatter female bodies (perhaps not always successfully...) better than male bodies - they have space for breasts and hips which men's clothing doesn't, unless you want to buy something which is so baggy it doesn't need to accommodate anything - and baggy clothing isn't usually considered appropriate in the workplace. Likewise, I don't think that women's underwear would cover a man's genitals comfortably, and most women need to wear a bra for their own comfort. There is a reason for differently gendered clothing in that we have different shaped bodies, though there's also an argument for producing unisex clothing in addition, and it could be argued that most casual clothing sold as "men's" is actually unisex.

But yes - I buy clothing from the women's aisles predominantly not because I want to express that side of me or because I want to look feminine but because of a vague sense that this is the area I'm allowed to buy clothes from. I do wear men's clothing occasionally but it tends to be DH's clothing, although I did once buy a hoodie from the teenage boys' section because they didn't have the colour I wanted in the women's and it was exactly the same shape. It's not that I don't want to look there, but more that I don't really think to look there most of the time. Though I own a pair of baggy jeans marketed as "boyfriend style" confused

Obviously I can't know this, but I am fairly sure that if I had been born male I would have shopped in the male section in much the same way - not really thinking to look at women's clothes, assuming that they wouldn't appeal to me or fit me properly.

Doobigetta Mon 26-Oct-15 20:25:58

I find this whole debate incredibly depressing, but also irresistible because it really does seem to strike at the heart of everything that I believe as a feminist. It seems as though what we (or maybe more our mothers and grandmothers) fought so hard for is being undermined. Many other posters have expressed what I think with far more clarity and articulacy than I could, but I am so sick of this binary gender bandwagon. Hardly anyone fits into the neat little boxes labelled "men are like this" and "ladies are like this". Hadn't we as a society reached the point where most of us accepted this? Why does anyone want to change that acceptance?

On a lighter note, I was moved to google "grey-ace" and "Demi-sexual". Am enormously gratified and slightly surprised to learn that being a bit meh and can't-be-arsed about shagging half the time makes me part of a special minority group. I thought it was just something that came to us all sooner or later.

welshHairs Fri 23-Oct-15 22:50:23

Gender expression is the way somebody presents their appearance in terms of masculine and feminine appearance. For example stilettos used to be a masculine item of clothing but are now considered feminine.

I don't think everyone dresses to express their gender though. Like I tend to dress in clothes from the women's aisle, because that's what I was brought up to do. I don't do it because I want to express my gender. It's just what I do. Sorry if you aren't talking about everyone and I've misinterpreted.

whatdoIget Fri 23-Oct-15 22:29:56

That's quite frightening Obsidian. Puberty blockers seem to be being marketed as being harmless. Do you have a link to the site please?

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Fri 23-Oct-15 19:29:55

I agree regarding children/teens getting labelled trans and especially getting hormone blockers
was reading a site recently and it said that the research indicates that lots of children who feel trans grow up to be not trans but not Hetero. And this is the argument for puberty blockers - that it can be reversed if the child passes through feeling trans. But puberty blockers entirely reverse this trend - ie it's puberty that manages/cures gender dysphoria in such children so by giving puberty blockers you make the likelihood that the child will pass through the phase into pretty much zero.

Egosumquisum Fri 23-Oct-15 18:10:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BertieBotts Fri 23-Oct-15 18:02:24

Yes - that intrigues me - but it's less of an issue to me when adults are modifying their adult bodies in a way which makes them happier, than it is that there is this huge wave of encouragement for children, teens and very young adults to transition surgically or medically, especially when such things aren't totally reversible.

I know it's not as simple as not realising that being a blokey girl or being an effeminate guy is an option, clearly that's not something which is a secret. I do think though that it's probably really, really hard to go against the expectations that much, to the point that I can understand why wanting to go through some quite drastic changes in order to "pass" as the opposite sex would be appealing. And really, people are just trying to live their lives, not make a political statement. Most non transgender people do adhere to gender roles some of the time in order to make life easier for themselves or stop short of breaking some gender roles because they know it would cause hassle and/or upset. So it's not as though transgender people are the only ones upholding gender roles nor that their reasons for doing so are unsound.

I get the strong impression that most transgender people also would love to live in a world where there is no such thing as "girly" or "manly" but it does get confusing when this binary/spectrum stuff comes out because to me that contradicts this entirely.

VashtaNerada Fri 23-Oct-15 17:36:11

Thanks Bertie, you're right I was overly simplistic. What makes it even more interesting are people who are trans and see gender as a societal-imposed nonsense idea. A transguy I know totally agrees that there aren't boy toys or girl toys, and that it's really important we teach children there's many ways to be a boy or a girl. But... AFAIK he's had surgery to become more 'male' and uses a male name now. I don't pretend to totally understand it but the surgery and name change has made him much happier in himself so I suppose that's a good thing! I don't think it's because he just didn't realise being a 'blokey' girl was an option. It's all really interesting! smile

almondpudding Fri 23-Oct-15 17:13:17

Ego, gender identity clinics are there to help people who have a variety of health issues around sex and gender. I don't see why we should offer help to one distressed group rather than another.

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