I Have a Hard Time Understanding the Idea of Gender Neutral Pronouns

The last few days I’ve had a hard time finding TS/TG related material that I really feel like publishing. Maybe I’m just in a funk or something but a few recent posts sort of bother me. 

In the case of Drew’s post it just seems as though the pushing of gender neutral pronouns runs counter to the battle many TS/TG people are fighting to avoid being pushed into some sort of third gender or non gender ghetto. Gender neutral pronouns seem to run counter to the efforts to rid our selves of slurs like “shemale” and “trannie”.

Maybe it come with being a feminist post-transsexual of a certain age, but I have a hard time understanding a post by Drew Cordes on Bilerico:  Dehumanization & the Hegemony of Gendered Language.

The ways in which language reinforces the gender binary are familiar to many of us. The most immediate example being the lack of a gender-neutral singular pronoun in many of the world’s tongues. There have been many attempts to sidestep this limitation historically and in the contemporary queer/trans community, from the invention of new pronouns such as “zie, zir, yo,” repurposing the gender-neutral yet plural “they” for singular purposes, or not having a pronoun preference at all (the latter being my favorite because it forces other people to make a choice they’ve never thought about making before). At this point, none of these options has been able to do much more than carve out a niche of recognition within the small communities in which they were innovated.

I never got the rationale of third gender pronouns.

I have been using their as an inclusive singular as well as plural possessive pronoun for some forty years.  Transgender/transsexual folks had nothing to do with my working towards that usage.  They didn’t even enter my mind when I started adopting it. First it was seen a an idiosyncratic use, something pushed by feminists to corrupt the male primacy of the English language.

You see when I was growing up male egos were so fragile that women and girls were taught they had to accept male singular and plural pronouns as the universal and inclusive pronouns because it would insult men to refer to them using feminine pronouns.

I realize the last 30 years of  right wing backlash against the 1960s as well as the feminism and gay liberation of the 1970s has left us with some really perverted intellectual garbage when it comes to thinking about men/women and gender.

Fortunately we have started waking up. Men are not from Mars and women not from Venus.  We are both from earth and more alike than different.

Gender Studies is really pretty detached from reality and a Ph.D. in gender studies will prepare you for a career that includes knowing the difference between a grande and a vente as well as how much caramel syrup goes into a Caramel Macchiato

It’s all so retro, so 1990s, this post-modern gender studies crap that was always an exercise in intellectual wankery.

The obsession with gender transgression and intersex people.  It turned out the main proponent behind the intersex movement, Kiira Tirea (and many other aliases) was a total fraud, an attention seeking TS/TG person.

As we move past the academics who celebrated third genders in the form of Hijra and Katoey and all the other colonized and formerly colonized cultures we discover that those people too are basically TS/TG people who have many of the same aspirations as those sisters and brothers in the west.

Like the majority of sisters and brothers here they want to be accepted as members of the sex they feel themselves to be part of.  Like most sisters and brothers here they want to be able to live ordinary lives with dignity and respect, not lives filled with abuse, fear and degradation.

When actually sex reassignment surgery becomes available in cultures that have these niche categories, all of a sudden a large percentage of people living in these cultures become pretty much indistinguishable from  transsexual folks in the west.  The western concept of transgender has been appropriated by a large percentage of the folks in these niche cultures who didn’t migrate to the transsexual self diagnosis.

And why not?  It’s like gay liberation.  TS/TG people in the west formed movements, demanded rights and respect.  These are pretty much universally desired things.

It appears to me that most people, TS/TG people included are fairly comfortable with there being a sex/gender binary.  The matters being fought over are about equality and respect. At times there seems to be a lot less difference between TS folks who get SRS and TG folks who socially transition, live full time and do everything but get SRS, than there is between those of us who want to fit in with others of the sex/gender we transitioned to and those who see themselves as “gender queer”.

It always seemed to me that people transitioned to be more comfortable in their own skins, more comfortable with their internal gender.

In some ways that requires us to follow the rules of gender on at least a minimal level.  Gender is somewhat social and there are some who resist the notion of giving others the clues by which we commonly gender other people.

It’s a statement, what situationists called détournement a way of unsettling commonly held thinking.  In the right situation it is a cool thing to do.  But in the wrong environment it can lead to people winding up on that damned list we are forced to read each November.

And therein lies the problem.  People should be free to express these things. Yet I am concerned with the risks people take when they live gender queer lives outside the LGBT ghetto or the academic world.

That most of the gender neutral pronoun stuff is in the protective arms of academe is a good thing.

Outside the walls of academe TS/TG people are having to fight really hard to have their post-transition sex/gender respected and to have people use appropriate nouns, pronouns and adjectives.

Leslie Feinberg, Kate Bornstein and Riki Wilchins have said and done some very good things but I really have a hard time supporting them on the idea that TS/TG people are some other gender; not male/not female.

A significant portion of TS/TG people, myself included prefer virtual cis status to that of the gender queer population.

Perhaps it is because we have jobs, lives and interests beyond the TS/TG world and while supporting the TS/TG communities is still a part of our lives it isn’t the only thing that is important to us.

16 Responses to “I Have a Hard Time Understanding the Idea of Gender Neutral Pronouns”

  1. Michelle Gould Says:

    We are just simply who we are, humans.

    • Suzan Says:

      What I see as problematic is having a few TS/TG people pushing for gender neutral pronouns beyond the increasingly accepted “their” as both singular and plural possessive pronoun.

      We are subjected to the same sort of belittling and debasing labels and language that discriminated against racial minorities are. Thus part of the struggle for equality and dignity is combating this language, not inventing new forms.

      Personally I’d prefer to be thought of as an old hippie woman writer who happens to be transsexual or more accurately post-transsexual than have transsexual be used as an honorific and proceed both my name and anything I count as a personal accomplishment.

      I was late getting on board when it came to “trannie”, mainly because it seemed to have grown out of the trans-underclass. But I came to see the reason why it needed to be turned into our version of the “n-word” if we were to claim our full humanity.

      • michellejgould Says:

        Were simply who we. No word need but we need to fight for the right to be human sometimes. Political posturing does not work when you simply get to have people understand we are all individuals.

  2. SA-ET Says:

    I really have to wonder just how many of, and how much time is spent by, those who have fully transitioned thinking about such things.

    • Suzan Says:

      More than you might imagine. I’ve met a lot of sisters and more than a few brothers who dream of becoming Baristas with Ph.D.s in Gender Studies.

      With huge student loans that insure lives of poverty. Some programs, which are actually things people should be able to take as part of life long learning unfortunately have about as much promise of employment as any other career that employs at most a few hundred people.

      • michellejgould Says:

        But what of those who go stealth and forget about the rest of their sisters and brothers?

        • Suzan Says:

          That is their choice. Being TS and getting SRS has never required one to sign a contract to become a social worker for or social support provider for other TS/TG people. It doesn’t require one to foreswear sex work or be a decent person.

          At the same time being mean to other TS/TG people doesn’t make one realer than the person who does commit all or part of their lives to helping other TS/TG people.

          Consider this for a second. Suppose a post-op sister’s passion is environmentalism. should she forsake that passion for working to aid other TS/TG people. Particularly given how abusive many TS/TG people are to those who are activists.

          I would no doubt have a different take on someone whose passion ran to membership in the KKK or the Republican Party so I’ve trying to keep a sort of level field on which to make this comparison.

      • SA-ET Says:

        Oh, I don’t doubt that at all. I guess my age is showing. I probably still have an obsession or two hanging around, but pronouns just aren’t one of them. I tend to agree with Tina below and think it’s “The Young.”

        • Suzan Says:

          I’m actually friends with people who are involved in queer theory/gender studies and they are really nice people, very intelligent, witty and charming not the sort one would imagine from reading the convoluted jargon fill literature that is the stock and trade of their particular teaching field.

          Sort of makes me want to go poke, poke, nudge, nudge and ask if they honestly believe the stuff they teach or if they just need to pay off their student loans.

          It’s sort of a pity because it has become very difficult to get tenure, adjunct professorships are often the rule, with having to teach at more than one campus all too common. That and these departments are constantly under threat of the budget axe.

  3. tinagrrl Says:

    I sometimes suspect the need to earn a living is part of the reason some folks just happen to take some counter intuitive “radical” positions.

    Anyway, a lot of this stuff (for want of a better word) is the province of “The Young” (TM Applied For).

    I know that as I aged, my interests and causes became more diverse. So many more things affected my life. It does take youth to focus on just one thing — like a pronoun. Good luck with that.

  4. erica, ascendant Says:

    Heya, Suzan.

    Yes, Kiira was a total fraud, but Kiira wasn’t the only person behind the “intersex movement” as we knew it. Bo Laurent, for example, certainly isn’t a fraud. I do sort of understand why things were tainted by the involvement of Kiira, and later on the fact that the movement got hijacked by Alice Domurat Dreger and Kiira being all too willing to sell out to her, but the movement isn’t quite that narrow.

    Trouble is, Kiira was very good at behaving in a manner typical of TS separatists and appealing to those of us who were just plum stupid enough to believe that we weren’t like “those people.” What can i say? I was young, insecure, and totally isolated from any idea of trans community. The pitch was slick, her sockpuppets seemed real, and by the time you got completely conned, you were so ashamed you couldn’t figure out what to do about it. She dealt in shame and used a lot of classic abuser tricks to make sure you didn’t stray.

    I’m very sorry, and i mean this from the bottom of my heart, to anyone who Kiira hurt. Though i wised up fairly quickly, it took a while to realize the depth and breadth of the fraud. I don’t think i was complicit in hurting anyone, because i think everyone involved was one of Kiira’s sockpuppets, but if i was, i’m sorry about that, too.

    The sad part? The intersex movement is, as we know it, dead in the water. Alice Domurat Dreger pretty much has strangled the last bits of life out of it to further her own career and convenience, and i don’t know what Bo’s up to anymore. It’s strangled a lot of real talk that was going on about intersex lives and identity, and that makes me really sad, as the “Accord Alliance” bunch isn’t really by us or for us.

    • Suzan Says:

      You are wrong about Bo Laurent. Laurent aka Cheryl Chase aka, aka, aka is a fraud See Andrea James ISNA’s legacy of shame and secrecy: The Sextard Movement

      • erica, ascendant Says:

        …bloody hell.

        If you’ll excuse me, i’ll be over here in the corner kicking myself.

        • Suzan Says:

          Why? This pair conned serious medical personnel. They created a movement based on fiction. Further I tend to think most of the “I am intersex not transsexual/transgender” gang is made up of TS/TG people who are either delusional or self hating or both.

          • erica, ascendant Says:

            Because my burn from Kiira is personal and specific, i got much closer to looking for fraud. The case with Bo Laurent was not something i actively pursued because i had little contact with her and frankly found her rather snippy and unpleasant to deal with. Trouble is, i really should have pushed harder back then and not continued to believe maybe she was legit after dealing with the horror of Kiira, her lies, and her swindle.

            I am not delusional or self-hating, well, not anymore, but i identify as intersex *and* transwhateverthehelliam, as i really don’t even know anymore how this works. I know i’m intersex, and in a vacuum i know i’m transsexual, but that’s a label that you can’t take in a vacuum because it’s so heavily policed.

            But, yanno, when you get fooled, ya still feel like a fool. As a certain former president of an alleged global superpower once said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

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