Archive for the ‘Damned binaries’ Category

People’s minds tend to run a lot on patterns and associations. When someone says a word, we can generally summon up a bunch of connotations from our experiences and the messages we’ve imbibed from our culture. If I try this with a random word generator and get ‘chat,’ I think, ‘room, little, office, experience of the words ‘wanting a chat’ preceeding a lecture that I will squirm through and not dare speak up in.’ (I think this means that I never caught on to using the word ‘chat’ when talking about ringing someone up to talk…)

This gets really important when the words we use impact on people. Words and the way we use them are really influential when it comes to the way we think, especially as we are growing up and learning how to weave those words into expression. We learn them through communication and connotations, which means that the things we associate with a word will forever have an impact on how we perceive what that word is attached to. I had a slight negative reaction with ‘chat’ because it appears I’ve mostly come across it as a prelude to earnest conversation directed at me that I felt very uncomfortable being a part of. That’s what I associate it with; squirming in my seat and feeling silenced.

So what happens when people-words get bad connotations? Those connotations generalise to the people concerned, and negative, prejudiced attitudes creep under the carpet of people’s minds. Also impacted by negative presentations and cultural messages, these negative attitudes are generally at the root of discrimination. Where inequality is legislated, it comes from the underlying prejudices of the people who created the legislation, the people who passed it, the people who elected them and so on. Where inequality is tolerated, that comes from discriminatory behaviour striking a chord with those same underlying prejudices. Language, presentations, culture – they’re important. There is other stuff to fight for, big stuff, solid stuff – but these underlying currents are where they come from. When the big stuff gets fixed, it’s unlikely to stay fixed until the culture changes, as the underlying attitudes find new ways to mess the marginalised up or push the big stuff back to its original position.

It’s very uncomfortable to see people-words get bad connotations, and yet it happens all the time. ‘You throw like a girl,’ makes ‘girl’ the object of contempt, something to be avoided, something lesser. And negative attitudes towards women and girls and those perceived as such are reinforced. I… may be overstepping myself here, since I’m white, but ‘acting black’ troubles me since I’ve generally seen it used against people who act in a way seen as negative – thus enforcing racism. ‘That’s gay,’ one of my own little hobby-horses, associates gayness with something pathetic, contemptible, useless, bad – thus enforcing heterosexism. Slurs work this way. Longer messages, such as the many that enforce rape culture, work this way.

And the worst thing is, it looks like nothing. It’s hard to correct, because you’re seen as being pedantic and petty-minded. And to be honest, merely, ‘don’t say that word’ is unlikely to work. We need to examine the reasons why we’re saying what we’re saying, and the message that sends out, and consciously work on changing it. It’s definitely important to salvage the stuff floating out of reach, issues that have a concrete impact on our quality of life, but one can’t ignore the little eddies and swirls that show the current beneath the surface, the current that could eventually tear the solid stuff out of our reach.

Now, there’s plenty about the stuff in this article (technology to ID online avatars) that worries me, but I’m neither tech-savvy nor feeling well enough to articulate most of it. However, there is one bit of it that I am going to tear a large hole in.

I notice that the main interviewee remarks that ‘Working out if [the avatar’s] controller is male or female has an obvious commercial benefit.’ What obvious commercial benefit? Oh yeah, so that an oversimplified binary view of humanity can be even more starkly entrenched. And how on earth can this stuff tell that anyway?

Tip – you cannot know a person’s gender (or the gender of a person’s online avatar) unless they tell you. There is no ‘male’ behaviour or ‘female’ behaviour, the binary system of sex/gender is far too simplistic and erases large sections of the population, the idea is a minefield when the fact that non-cis people exist is taken into consideration and this whole thing is gender essentialist pile of failure with the supposed ‘goal’ of further entrenching the kyriarchy and capitalism. Gendered ads should not be gendered; enforcing a strict division between ‘men’ and ‘women’ hurts everybody, binary or not. It enforces sexism, can easily contribute to cissexism and is binarist in its very nature.

I don’t know that I like living in the outside spaces. But the fact is, they’re the only place I can.

‘The outside spaces’ doesn’t refer to outdoors. The term refers to being outside people’s knowledge, outside of gendered spaces – not outside of perceptions, because there is no outside to that, but outside of the boxes that confirm or deny the gender others think one is. Personally, I hate leaving the outside spaces. It may be uncomfortable to not know what gender a person thinks I am, but it’s more uncomfortable knowing that what they think is wrong. It may be uncomfortable going without the toilet for – well, my record is 15 hours – but it’s worse for me to leave the outside spaces.

But what happens when the outside spaces close down – when the bed I sleep in is gendered, and there’s no friendly home with a neutral toilet? That’s horrible. I’m lucky in that I can, just about, swallow and get on with it – but I shouldn’t have to.

Binarism, implicit and explicit, is heavily tied in with other kyriarchal notions. To take the example of gendered housing, there’s a lot tied up in that. Heterosexism, cissexism, sexism, rape culture.

So again we find this individual thread supported by a web of others, all so hard to cut and fight.

What we can do, in the absence of a flamethrower with which to burn away the entire web, is to try to expand the outside spaces as far as is within our power. The spaces where gendering oneself is not compulsory, where a person can be themselves without being required to lie. I’m appealing here to anyone in a position of authority, to anyone who is a creator or a moderator or a poller or whatever – don’t force people to make the lie-or-leave choice by placing your sphere inside the gendered spaces.

Lying is what I have been doing. I spent a week doing things that I love with great people, but I had to lie on the form to go there, I had to lie every time I went to my room. I may not have chosen to do so, and it is a perfectly valid choice for safety’s sake (and in fact I did remain closeted for the first couple of days until I felt a bit more settled and safe), but it was still a lie. I still lied by staying in gendered accommodation, by using documentation with the old gendered name on. I don’t mind lying in a good cause – like safety – if I have to, but I resent being forced to it.

To live in the outside spaces is to be vulnerable. Because at any point, someone might come along and start shrinking them, demanding people leave the outside spaces. Or you could be forced through a door into a place that you couldn’t see, and find yourself somewhere where there’s no way into the outside spaces. And because the outside spaces are deemed unnecessary, there’s nothing to stop peple closing them off, shutting them away.

After all, they think, it’s not like the inside spaces are too small. We don’t need that extra outside space. And of course everyone will be fine in the inside spaces! Just look at the little letter on the passport, check the associations of the name, and send them in. Ignore the people pounding at the walls, pounding to get out –

– the walls must be broken down.

Forcing people out of the outside spaces who need them to survive is an act of erasure, bigotry and violence. And it hurts people like me. Like us.

Meta stuff.

Posted: July 17, 2011 in Damned binaries, Personal

Almost certainly going to be unable to access this blog until Friday, I’m afraid. I should, however, get a few post ideas during that time and with any luck I’ll be back to a decent publishing schedule in time for the blog’s anniversary which is sometime in August.

I’m going to be among total strangers this week. I really hope I’m not being naïve for thinking that it should be all right, that people should be able to refrain from being transhating, misaheterist, binarist bigots. And I really hope I’m being oversuspicious for thinking otherwise and mentally readying myself for conflict. Meeting new people with no friendly backup is terrifying…

I’m being really bad with this blog at the moment. Not that that’s anything new. Hopefully I will reinvigorate myself sometime soon, but till then all I can give is my apologies and what posting I can do.

As a non-binary person in a binarist society, I find myself thinking about my (non)gender a lot. How people are reading me, how to come out, how people think of me once I have. Whether I can go to the toilet, talk to someone, take an action without negative consequences. All sorts of things. Little worries, huge worries. Was that weird look I got the end of the issue, or are they going to spew hatred at me? Is this person I’m talking to now going to go all weird on me when I tell them who I actually am? How much longer can my bladder last? (The answer to this last is generally ‘as long as it needs to’ – I’m lucky). Will dressing in a way I’m comfortable with mean that authority figures will think less of me?

It’s a huge part of my life. I sincerely wish it wasn’t – I would love my lack of gender to be a non-issue – but it is. Sometimes it seems like I’m overthinking things – but when I hear about people who are similar to me getting hurt because other people are bigoted shitspits, it doesn’t feel excessive at all. The worst part is, I know that it’s futile. The actions of bigots are not the fault of the oppressed. Privileged, bigoted people are responsible for their acts of bigotry.

We should not have to hide to protect ourselves. Mostly I try not to because mostly I figure that I can deal with the consequences of living openly. That said, I still lie by omission. I still allow authority figures to make incorrect assumptions about me, because I am afraid of their power. I shouldn’t feel that fear. Nobody should be afraid to stand up and say, ‘This is me’ – but the kyriarchy makes so many of us afraid to do so, with extremely good reason. It hides us. We cannot be blamed for refusing to walk into the firing line, but that doesn’t change the fact that there should be no fire. We should not have to second-guess everything to try to keep ourselves safe. Our safety, our rights should be guaranteed by the fact of our existence.

I hate not being able to forget. I hate being reminded that I am different, that I am Other, by the slightest things in society. And I hate that it makes me second-guess myself. Thinking about gender so much makes me wonder all too often whether I am who I think I am. So I look inside – and there’s still no crash-crash-crash there, and it still feels wrong when I try to think of myself with gender. And I think, yeah, I’m right. This is who I am.

Ten minutes later, someone will say ‘Ladies and gentlemen’ or I’ll need the toilet or whatever – and I’ll be back to thinking about it.

Because the reminders are always there. There is no space away from them. There’s no space to just exist, as a person – I have to exist as an armoured fortress to protect that which makes me abnormal.

Has it really been nearly ten days since I posted here? I am so sorry. Just… stress, and a couple of days out of town, and… yeah, I’ve got no excuse really.

Also I have no inspiration. I’ve written barely anything for a week or more. Again, I’m sorry. I promise I will put up a proper post, with substantial content and social commentary, up on Thursday. Hopefully if I say it I’ll do it and hopefully I’ll buckle down to it then because I have a day off.

I hate microaggressions. I really hate them. It seems like absolutely everything in my life is out to get me or other marginalised people. I’ve had dyadist and binarist statements from authority figures, rape jokes from people others have invited into my ‘safe circle’ of people. I’ve sat through sexist lectures about clothing, had to interact with people who’ve been really shitty towards me, listened to ableist remarks go unchallenged, had my non-gender misrepresented persistently.

Doesn’t help that the abnormally hot weather is making my body dissonance ten times worse since the heat means I can’t wear the normal layers to disguise the shape of my body. I dislike heat at the best of times, but with body dissonance around sweaty bits that rub on each other it’s utterly intolerable. And it makes me feel really bad about my anosmia – I literally will never know if I’m stinking the room out. Which means that everything is awkward because I’m always thinking, ‘do I smell, do I smell?’

I don’t really hate being anosmic. I hate that people assume I can smell, and the idea of smell scares me… but I’m generally all right with not being able to. I’m just more all right with it in winter when I know it’s unlikely I’ve been sweating enough to smell. Or at times when I’m not actually going to be around people. The body odour negativity thing, I dislike it, I don’t see why we try to eradicate something that just happens naturally, but I realise that I’m not someone who has to be smelling it.

Trigger warning. Transhatred, misohomy, dyadism, slurs, transmisogyny, discussion of abuse, victim blaming, ableism, biological determinism, ageism, discussion of violence.

In my travels through the Internet, I sometimes find things that are really, really fucking terrible. Such is a file being distributed by reactionary Catholic groups at the UN. I strongly advise nobody to click on the link, although I’ll put it here (http://www.couragerc.net/Transsexual_Issues/Sex_Reassignment.pdf). The trigger warning lists most of what they manage, but I’m pretty sure I’ve missed out some awfulness. Put it this way, they quote and support Janice Raymond… Yeah. This post is mainly referring to binary trans people – I am actually glad to be erased, and that’s something I never thought I’d say. However, I am grouping myself in with the trans label for the purposes of this post, even though I prefer non-cis.

I am not going to let this go past my radar unargued. It is really terrible. Frankly, we could play transhatred bingo with this. Only I think we’d have to have more squares than normal.

They accuse us of living in a fantasy world – and yet, they believe that sex is a binary. Their world is rather more fantasy than ours is – and their fantasy has been supported by blood and by murder, by hatred and by mutilation (such as they condemn). They also believe that the genotype can be told from the phenotype, which is again a fiction, a fiction you’d think they wouldn’t believe since I’m pretty sure you need to have some kind of biology qualification to be a psychiatrist.

They also have no idea of cause and effect, or the mechanisms of oppression. Their privilege is showing, and it is incredibly disgusting. Trans people experience high levels of abuse, bullying etc because of society’s non-acceptance of being trans. Not because experiencing those things makes one trans. Transhatred (and misohomy) is a real problem – and it’s a problem which their arguments have illustrated perfectly.

Besides this, they appear to believe that the so-called ‘trans panic defence,’ the defence often given by partners of trans people who have responded to the fact of their transness with violence, is evidence against our validity rather than evidence for the unacceptable level of transhatred and misohomy on the part of those reacting like that. Transhatred and misohomy that they are helping to support. The real ones supporting others in their fantasies are them; they, who support the oppressive delusions of the bigoted privileged rather than the people who are at risk and vulnerable. The non-acceptance of trans people means nothing about the validity of our gender/s/non-gender/s, but everything about the existence of hatred. Victim blaming is never okay.

As is par for the course for these people, they also believe that they can determine cisness from looks. Thus, they hold trans people up to an impossible standard of performing their gender that many cis people do not reach, and justify that solely on the basis of birth assignation. Everything will be interpreted by them as evidence of the trans person’s assigned gender being their true one, every. little. thing. Everything that cis people are never scrutinised about. Everything. And then they blame us for failing to live up to their unethical level of scrutiny. We are not actors, to be caught out in a mistake. We are people. We cannot fail to be ourselves, even when we are forced to lie by the pressures of a cruel world, of which they are a part. We seek the surgeries we seek – if we seek them – because we know what we need, because we are ourselves, we are more ourselves than our bodies are, and we are hurt by our body’s fundamental wrongness.

We cannot be spoken for by the cis gatekeepers of the medical process. While they continue to make us jump through hoops for the surgeries we need, they can never know our experience. And their voices can never replace ours, especially when they speak to discredit us.

And we are not mentally disordered. We are not unfit to make decisions. We know who we are, and we have made a commitment to telling the truth about that – and can any of those who hate us say the same? No, since they insist on upholding the lie that we are inferior – and supporting the lie that people who do not fit their narrow standard of ability are inferior.

Our youth are not incapable of knowing who we are. I would like to know at what age those who hate us knew that they were cis – and then I would like them to imagine that the world turned against them for it. We are the only people who can know who we are, what we are, and no other person, especially people who have never experienced what we do, can speak for us in that. The only person who knows us well enough to know our gender/s/non-gender/s is ourselves and those we have explicitly told.

Dissonance cannot be trivialised in this way, by calling it an ‘autogynephilic desire’ or the like. This is not a paraphilia. You will never know dissonance until you feel it, and when you feel it you will know why those of us who do seek the surgeries we do. Dissonance is pain. Dissonance is pain, and all society and hateful ‘medicine’ like this can offer is hatred and more pain. We are not making this up.

Neither are we motivated by a desire to deceive. We are motivated by the precise opposite.

We desire to tell the truth.

That’s more than one can say for those who hate us, who spread their lies to discredit us. Who accuse us of victimising ourselves, rather than looking within to see the true source of that which oppresses, hurts and kills us.

Who is causing harm? I think they should remember that ‘first, do no harm’ applies to us as well – and it harms us to hate us and to deny us the accomodations we need. It actively benefits us to align our bodies with our selves. The true breach in ethics lies with those who would knowingly deprive a large group of people medical attention they drastically need on the grounds of irrational hatred. As does the true inappropriacy.

They call our selves disordered. No human being can be ‘disordered’ in this way. Different, yes – needing accomodations that our cissexist, ableist society does not readily provide, yes – but disordered? No.

Our selves are valid, legitimate, good and true. And only we can know them.