Posts Tagged ‘Binarism’

Trigger warning; cissexist/binarist erasure, sexist rhetoric, discussion of reproductive coercion

Oh now this is encouraging. Not. The Government caving in to plans to reduce abortion rates by adding another layer of counselling. A lot hinges on the word ‘offer’ – is it being used to mean a service that is there if wanted, a compulsory ‘service’ or one that may as well be due to the level of throat-shoving people receive? However, I’m going to post independently of that – my personal opinion is the latter option, but I don’t know. And anyway, it doesn’t sound like the extra counselling would be from anyone good. I’m not the biggest expert on abortion issues (I’m staunchly pro-choice but don’t follow the discussion as much as I should because there’s often an unfortunate degree of erasure of uterus-having non-women), so I will probably miss a facet or two. EDIT – such as the demonisation of abortion providers implicit in the idea of trying to stop them doing the counselling.

So basically, boil this down to the bones and we get the claim that abortion-seekers (of any gender/s/non-gender/s, although no doubt the introducers of this are thinking purely in terms of ‘women’, sigh) need extra counselling, need to have the process slowed down, because they can’t be trusted to know what they want for their own body. Great. That really shows dedication to people’s welfare, doesn’t it? Ha ha. As if most of these abortion restrictions are even about welfare. They’re about control. They’re about asserting the power of the kyriarchally-privileged over the marginalised, about restricting the marginalised’s agency, about controlling them.

There’s this delightful quote from Dorries on the issue; “The abortion process is so fast – seven to 14 days. Women who do have doubts or niggles are on the other side before they have a chance to think it through. The majority may feel it’s fine but there are a growing number thinking it wasn’t what I wanted to do. As it gets faster and faster more women are falling off the edge. This is a women’s rights issue.”

Translation; Women don’t know what they want and are too emotional and weak to deal with things happening at this pace, they need everything slowed down for their tiny little ladybrains. Abortion is wrong and I’ve pulled some vague stats out of nowhere, and now I’m going to use emotive language and completely ignore the fact that there is a kyriarchal component to who is most likely to be pressured into aborting. And besides this, I’m incredibly cis privileged and will continue to erase the selves of anyone who might need an abortion who isn’t a woman.

We’ve seen so much of this stuff from the USA, and these ‘additional counselling’ things so often end up being barely disguised attempts to discourage abortion. There are people who get pressured into abortion, but that sort of thing is not the way to help. As for the people who choose it – their choices are valid. It’s their body, their choice.

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.

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.

Sarcasm mode : enabled. Sorry…

Hey, I’m really happy for the people who find my lack of gender funny. I mean, it’s just comedy genius, isn’t it, that I would ID this way? You know, I spent hours working on that gag and then dressing so that people would ask me ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ and I could respond with ‘neither’. So utterly hilarious! I should be a stand-up comic, shouldn’t I?

Sarcasm mode : disabled.

But seriously, it’s not a joke. And if you think it is a joke, you’re a foul piece of shit who needs a lesson in basic human decency. This is my fucking life, my self. I can’t change it, I can’t escape it. Frankly, I don’t want to – what I want to change or escape is this terrible binarist society I live in. And you know what isn’t funny? Being a person that the world sees fit to erase, sometimes forcibly.

Yeah, this happened. A person with a history of asking ‘Are you a boy or a girl’ loudly and in public sees me, I think decides to put on a display for friends, asks and when I snap ‘neither’ back and move away quicker, everyone bursts into peals of laughter and start yelling something about ‘half a dick.’ Don’t even ask, I don’t know.

I just get so tired of it. It happens all the time, and then sometimes it catches me on a bad day and gets me down. Why the hell do people think it’s appropriate? Why do people think it’s acceptable? I’m just a person, for fuck’s sake.

Does it offend them, that I am outside of the binary? Does it impinge on their lives, does it affect their safety, does it even matter to them? No, it bloody well doesn’t. My gender or lack of it is my business – there’s no need to ask an almost-total stranger who doesn’t quite fit into your convenient little boxes. I don’t mind answering if directly asked – especially when the asker is both smaller than me and not between me and a way out – even if the person asks repeatedly because you know, minds change and that’s what I want them to, even though I don’t think asking loudly in public is ever acceptable or appropriate. It’s fucking dangerous. Just because I’m prepared to run the risk of answering doesn’t mean the asker gets a free pass.

But what is so funny about it? No, seriously now. I like a joke. I need more jokes in my life, since the world is such a shithole. I’d kinda like to know if there’s any genuine humour in the situation or whether it’s a ‘hahahaha different people are funny because they’re different hahaha let’s target them now haha’ kind of foke (not sure how you’d do the faux/joke portmanteau…)

If you think it’s a joke, and you think I’m the punchline, I think you need the bloody punchline explaining to you. Because I’m not a punchline.

Yesterday was the Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (referred to henceforth in this post as Misohomy and Transhatred, because oppressiveness =/= phobia), and I didn’t do a post. Now, there’s three main reasons for that and two of them are incredibly prosaic. One, I have basically given up on blogging for these ‘days’ because I can never think what to write other than ‘yeah, this oppression is bad, uh, yeah,’ and two, I had… other stuff going on that was sapping my energy. The third reason is that it’s just another day. I imagine most people affected by oppressions that have ‘Day Against’ events going on think this – for them, it’s not just a single day. It’s every day.

For me, it’s every day because along with binarism, misahetery/misohomy/heterosexism and transhatred/cissexism are the oppressions that crop up most in my life. I don’t have the privilege to dedicate a day to fighting them and then take most of the rest of the year off. I fight the damn things whenever they pop up because if I don’t, guess who they’ll end up hurting? That’s right, me.

I do it by existing. I do it by challenging oppressive views – not just against those few oppressions, if something bigoted pops up I try to tackle it, even though I do sometimes mess up. I do it by insisting on being recognised for who I am. I do it by eradicating oppressive language from my vocabulary, and tackling the oppressive attitudes in my own head that caused that oppressive language to surface. I do it by trying to lead others towards doing the same.

This is a constant, ongoing battle. It’s not something we can win with a day of positivity and condemnation of bigotry. All that will do is drive the kyriarchy underground for the one day, around the people who do it, and it will resurface very soon afterwards to continue its oppressive regime.

It’s not easy. None of this is easy. None of us can do everything. But we can all do something, and that something isn’t lip service on one day of the year. That something is work on our own minds. The great thing about anti-kyriarchy activism is that we all have that one area in which we can be incredibly successful, because our minds are our own. Each mind for us is a mind against the kyriarchy. Each mind against the kyriarchy is one brick gone from the wall, letting in one ray of sunshine, one glimmer of hope.

No condemnation on those who did blog yesterday – these days can be good times to get our thoughts in order about the ongoing struggle. The problem is the idea that one day – not just this day, any day – is going to fix all the problems, make our kyriarchal attitudes go away and make the oppression stop. Because it’s not. There’s things you can do that might make a difference on that day, but that’s really only as a catalyst for long-term change.

I’ve been called, in different terms, a wannabe ‘special snowflake’ for fighting for my non-gender to be recognised (hey, isn’t that an indictment of the binarism of society? Just ‘recognised,’ not ‘embraced’ or even ‘accepted’). I’ve seen other non-binary folks called that and other terms that mean the same for their fight to have their gender/s/non-gender/s to be recognised. I won’t link – the people don’t deserve the attention, and it’s bloody harrowing to read.

No. The ‘special snowflake’ idea does not apply. We’re not trying to be special. We’re only as unique, only as special, as anyone else. It’s just that society does not recognise who we are, so we have to fight for our selves to be recognised. That doesn’t make us special. That makes the ones who don’t have to fight for the same things privileged.

Any movement that is fighting the kyriarchy is not fighting for special status, not if it’s worthy of its anti-kyriarchy name. We are fighting for recognition as worthy human beings like any others. We are fighting for an end to unearned privilege. We are fighting to stop being trodden on by the ones who are privileged over us.

So no, we’re not ‘special snowflakes.’ We’re not inventing this stuff because we can’t accept that we’re men/women. We can’t accept that we’re men/women BECAUSE WE’RE NOT MEN/WOMEN. It’s really quite simple. Sure – if you’re (cis; trans binary folks should have a good idea) binary yourself, you’ll never know how we know that. But that doesn’t mean you get to invalidate our self knowledge. If that concept held, then you can’t possibly be a man because I’m not one. See? It doesn’t work.

Denying our self knowledge is an act of bigotry, oppression, and violence. Calling us special snowflakes for needing that self knowledge to be recognised is also an act of bigotry, oppression and violence. It implies that we are not human – that we do not know our selves – that we are not deserving of the rights of the binary majority. And we are.

I have no doubt that much of this holds true for other axis of oppression, as well.

TW – violent metaphor.

The kyriarchy, by definition, is all-pervasive. There is no escape from it. If you have privilege on an axis, any misstep you make is not ‘regrettable’ or ‘a problem’ – it’s oppressive. If you lack privilege on that axis, that misstep is treading on you. Hard. And it hurts.

It’s not conducive to great understanding between oppressor and oppressed. If the oppressed person is yelling ‘OW SHIT YOU HURT ME!’ and the oppressing person is yelling, ‘SHIT MAN IT WAS ONLY [X]!’ no-one’s really listening to each other. In a vacuum, it would just be an argument between two people. They’d shout each other down, maybe neither would back down – maybe they’d agree to differ.

But in a kyriarchy, in that situation, it is all too likely to end up with the oppressed person being squelched. Because that’s the nature of oppression. When an oppressed person is justifiably angry or hurt and the oppressing person feels that the oppressed person has overreacted, who has the weight of society behind them? That’s right, the oppressing person. Whose view is legitimated? The oppressing person’s. That’s one reason why the tone argument is bullshit. You just invalidated me – you caused me pain – you denied my selfhood – you contributed to my oppression – it is not my job to tiptoe around your feelings. And the other thing is, mostly, if we talk quietly and politely, we’re not listened to. I have had conversations online where I have told people gently that something was out of order and had them continue doing it – then I’ve blown up in their faces and made sure they knew exactly what the problem was and that it was a big fucking deal. It’s a weapon. And it’s a weapon that, deployed in the right way, can be damn powerful. But it’s also an automatic response that we should not have to apologise for.

The kyriarchy surrounds us, so much that it’s hard to even see it. It’s everywhere. Once you’ve come to consciousness, you find yourself being slapped in the face with it in every situation – pop culture, activities you enjoy, people you love, subjects you are interested in. There’s no escape from it. And that feels awful, a lot of the time, even when you only have an academic knowledge of some of the oppressions involved, even when you have privilege along some axes (as we all do). It hurts when that stuff hits you.

Yeah, sometimes it can seem like people blow up over the little things. But how little are they, when a thousand of them shred our skin each day, hammering at the barriers, giving us no safe space? From the kyriarchy, there is no escape. And when you’re ripped raw from scores of microaggressions, each one hurts a hell of a lot more than it would falling on intact skin.

How little are they, when they actively contribute to oppression? How little are they, when they actively harm people?

I don’t think they’re little at all. And we have a right to our feelings.

A cis guy I know told me this story to illustrate how accepting he is of gender non-conformity. It’s paraphrased, because there were a lot of interruptions from me.

Hell, I know a chick who I thought was a dude! Hung around her for years, I just thought she was a dude – dressed like a dude, acted like a dude, everything. Then one time she took her shirt off and… yeah.

My instant question – Did this person ever say they were a girl?

Well, she was [hand gestures] and – [interrupted by me. Ten minutes later, after a bit of wriggling…] She didn’t say it…

Then, my friend, how do you know? If this person truly identified as a girl, I’m not sure it’s likely you would have hung around with this person for that long without someone correcting you on pronouns, for a start. You can’t just make these assumptions based on anatomy. Sex is a broken category system anyway; we don’t know where things begin and end, we can’t generalise it to the whole population, we invented it based on a collection of symptoms, we originally used it to mean gender.

The whole story is playing into the trans/non-cis-people-as-deceivers trope. If this person is a man, my acquaintance was being profoundly disrespectful and harmful by misgendering him. If this person is non-binary, the same applies (with the added caveat that I really want to meet that person because I know no non-binary, and don’t think I know any non-cis, people in meatspace). If this person is a girl, well, that works out well for everyone because my acquaintance hasn’t been being cissexist and his friend hasn’t been misgendered – except for all the time before he ‘found out.’

So in honour of this acquaintance of mine, here’s a guide for cis (and non-cis??) binary people running into someone (name, here, of X) who doesn’t fit with their binary view of the world.

  1. Don’t get angry. Seriously. X is not trying to fuck with you. X is most likely looking like X does because X likes it. It’s quite simple, really.
  2. Don’t knaw at it. There is no reason why you should be assuming anyone‘s gender at first sight, whether they fit into your idea of the binary or not. X is no different.
  3. Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter. Honestly. In most situations, gender is totally irrelevent. If you don’t know X, gender may well be made clear during introductions and if not it’s not that important. If you get a pronoun wrong, apologise, remember the preferred one, and move on. If you do know X, chances are you’ve either been told or are in a position to ask.
  4. Don’t ask unnecessarily. Sometimes you seriously don’t need to know. Situations like these are when you’ve seen X on the other side of the road, going the other way. Or are passing X in the shop. If you’re never likely to have to talk to or about X, there’s no need to ask. However, if you are going to be more closely acquainted with X, by all means ask, but…
  5. Don’t be too loud about it. Asking is always the best, if you’re not told, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to walk up to someone and say, ‘What gender are you?’ at the top of your voice. You take X aside and say in a quiet voice, ‘Excuse me, I apologise if this is intrusive; would you be comfortable telling me what your gender/pronoun is, since I’d rather not get it wrong and make a dangerous mistake,’ or something along those lines. Do so in a non-threatening way – don’t stand between X and a way out of the conversation if X desires it. If X turns out to be cis and binary and takes offense, don’t put yourself in danger. There are some cis binary folks who can be quite aggressive when their privilege is called into question. Leave the situation, find a friend, stress that you were trying to be considerate, stand close to authority figures.
  6. Don’t mess up. Once you know X’s gender/s/non-gender/s and pronouns, remember them. If you slip, apologise and move on. Respect X’s self-knowledge. If X has chosen not to tell you, respect that as well.
  7. Don’t comment on genitalia. Ever. Unless you’re dating with an eye to a sexual relationship, and even then you should wait for X to be comfortable talking about X’s genitalia.
  8. Don’t ridicule, Other or police X’s self-expression. See the first point.

I have probably missed many things out, but it covers quite a few of the gross breaches of human decency I’ve come across myself. I’ve seen a lot of these tropes happen, mainly to myself, and read about all of them happening to other people. Ignoring these basic points leads to a lot of really shitty situations, including my acquaintance’s little story above.

At least I’m pretty sure he’s not seeing me as binary… I just wish he’d learn that I’m not an isolated case and that he needs to apply the principles he uses to deal with me respectfully to others.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Yay for a day devoted to consumer capitalist expressions of lurrrve… (heterosexual of course). Or rather, boo. Valentine’s Day, how do I hate thee, let me count the ways.

Firstly, well done for marketing the day as a day for everyone who isn’t part of a happy couple to sit in front of a TV crying. I’m noticing this among het cis female friends particularly – they’re using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to shame themselves for their looks, their weight and their personalities that somehow have prevented them finding a boyfriend, going off into the ‘forever alone’ idea. This discomforts me – I hate to hear people putting themselves down, especially in the kyriarchal, fat-shaming, heteronormative, misogynist, slut-shaming language they’re using. This is for anyone who is blaming themselves for the lack of companionship they desperately want;

You are worthy. No matter where you fit in our defective beauty standard, or our defective intelligence standard, or our defective gender standards, or our defective standards of worth; you are worthy. You are worth celebrating. If you want a companion and you are going to conduct that relationship in a respectful, consensual, enjoyable way, then you are worthy of one. And you don’t need to use the language that marginalises you, that puts you and others down. Leave the oppressive language.

Secondly, not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone is binary. Not everyone is monogamous. Outside of the internet, I have never come across any Valentine’s Day paraphernalia that acknowledges the existence of non-heterosexual folks. Seriously, Valentine’s Day, our love is just as worth celebrating as any other. Implying otherwise reinforces the heterosexist dialogue surrounding romance, the heterosexist dialogue that entwines itself in our lives from ridiculously early ages and poisons our youth’s minds. As for folks outside of the binary, we get relegated to our normal position in society – not existing! Isn’t it fun? And the same for polyamorous folks – polyamory doesn’t exist either! This is for everyone made invisible by the Valentine’s Day dialogue;

If you love, and you love consensually, respectfully and enjoyably, then your love is beautiful and worthy of celebration. No matter how many people are in your relationship or what gender/s/non-gender/s they have. No matter how you conduct your relationship. The erasure is wrong; a day for lovers includes you too. You too are a part of the rainbow of humanity.

Thirdly, not everyone wants a relationship. Relationships aren’t any kind of compulsory life step. They’re just one branch of the river that is life, and some of us will go down it, others will head off elsewhere. It’s not the end of the world, and it doesn’t make us freaks for not wanting it. This is for everyone who shakes their head in bafflement at all this stuff;

Don’t worry. You’re not a freak for not wanting what our entire culture says that you should want as a part of a normal life course. You’re another manifestation of the beautiful diversity of the human experience, and you are worthy because of it.

Fourthly, sexism. Gender essentialism. Guys can’t buy bras! Girls, don’t get too soppy! Guys, humour her! Girls, buy new underwear for your man! You should be having sex tonight, dammit, it’s Valentine’s Day, damn what you actually want! Shut the hell up, advertisers, writers, anyone talking about this in these terms. You’re adding to a creepy, misogynistic, binarist, cissexist, heterosexist culture, and that’s not good.

Fifthly, COMMERCIALISM! CAPITALISM! CONSUMERISM! We’re meant to become zombies to red-packaged, overpriced trinkets that are supposed to symbolise love, in all its weirdness and diversity and complexity. Talk about reductionism. You will consume, the media repeats, and we fall for it because we think that love is expressed by the box of chocolates when it is really the person handing over the box of chocolates that is expressing love. But then, in a capitalist culture, it makes sense to conceptualise love as something that involves spending loads of money on someone. Look, it says, I’m willing to spend the fruits of my slavery to capitalism on you. This is how much I love you.

Sigh. Comrades, if you want to do things on Valentine’s Day, do it and enjoy it. Just be prepared for the inflated prices. But remember, it’s really just another day. There’s nothing you can do on Valentine’s Day that you couldn’t do any other day of the year. The media Valentine’s Day machine is harmful, so do your own thing on your own terms. And remember to honour yourself and others, respectfully, consensually, enjoyably.

Trigger warning for homophobia, transphobia, erasure and discussion of suicide.

Browsing through the BBC News site, the four main Welsh party leaders have made videos for the launch of Stonewall Cymru’s YouTube channel It Gets Better… Today. The aim of this campaign, inspired by America’s It Gets Better project, is to tell lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers that they ‘don’t have to wait for their lives to improve – they can be great now,’ (from Stonewall Cymru) and that ‘they don’t have to wait for life to improve as bullying is being tackled’ (from the BBC).

If it really is a start of a concerted push against homophobia from politicians and media figures, then that’s obviously a good thing. As far as I can gather, one major failing of the It Gets Better campaign is that there’s little or no concrete action going on, and it’s based on the foundation of ‘hold on, then later on things will get better.’ This one seems to counteract that by saying, no, you shouldn’t have to wait. Which is good, although empty if there’s no action taken. And by the way, action doesn’t mean posters; my old school had the SOME PEOPLE ARE GAY : GET OVER IT posters up everywhere and I still experienced quite a bit of homophobia, despite not even being out to myself as any kind of queer, and I still wouldn’t have been comfortable speaking to teachers about it.

BUT. I addressed the positives first because that’s my normal essay style. (do you agree ‘yes because… NO NO FUCKING NO because THIS, GODDAMN IT, THIS!!!’)

BUT. What about transphobia? Stonewall has always ignored or denigrated the non-cis population. They have given awards to transphobes. Sometimes they have claimed to represent the T in LGBT, but they’ve generally done more harm than good. Again, non-cis people are being thrown under the bus, being ignored and erased utterly. In the UK, it was found in ‘the UK’s largest survey of trans people (N = 872)’ (http://www.nmhdu.org.uk/our-work/mhep/gender/transgender/) that 34% of adult trans people have attempted suicide. According to the LBGT Excellence Centre Wales, ‘the national suicide rate for Trans People is estimated at 3 in 100,000, 31% of this group. It is estimated that 1 in 7 of diagnosed Trans People attempt suicide at least once during their life. It is estimated that the main causes of “Trans Suicide” are harassment , denial of treatment, and absence of support. It is also estimated that 1 in 200 transsexuals commit suicide within 5 yrs of having Gender Reassignment surgery, as a result of depression brought on by harassment / bullying.’

So yeah, transphobia and transphobic bullying totally aren’t worth campaigning against, because, like, no-one gets affected by it…

Dear top politicians; you don’t just have a responsibility towards non-heterosexual people in your country. You have a responsibility towards non-cis people in your country as well. We’re hurting. We’re dying. We’re bleeding. Stonewall is not our friend, and by endorsing them you are signalling that you are not our friends either. And we need you. Damn but we need you. Don’t abandon yet another population. Begin to take a stand against the kyriarchy – all the kyriarchy – in our society. Then maybe faith in you will return. From someone who exists, despite everyone’s protestations to the contrary.

Transphobia is rampant. Possibly more than homophobia, although the two are so closely intertwined in most of the cis, straight bullies in schools that it’s very hard to tell which you’re dealing with. I’ve experienced both. As far as homophobia went, there was lip service towards its wrongness. There was lip service towards the wrongness of many other types of kyriarchy. Transphobia… anything to do with being trans… never mentioned. Ever. Except by the kids who saw someone different, and went on the homophobic and transphobic warpath.

*    *    *

On a side note, I think I, as a non-binary person, got explicitly included in a lesson the other day. In history, the guy that takes it said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, and anyone who isn’t a lady or a gentleman is welcome to participate too.’ He probably didn’t mean it the way I took it; he was probably being sarcastic, or facetious. But it gave me a warm little thrill inside and I really want to send him an email thanking him, but I daren’t because I’m scared of coming out to my teachers. It feels pathetic that I’m thrilled by these tiny, tiny, tiny things…

Seriously, though, unless he’s saying it to every class, what were the chances of him saying it in the presence of a non-binary student?

The idea of (cis) male entitlement to have (perceived) female bodies on display for them is a concept well-established. It’s a form of entitlement that leads to a lot of sexual harassment and assault, and is damaging for those read as female as their appearance and choices are policed by assholes who really believe that shit, who really believe the people they read as female have an obligation to present themselves in a way appealing to them.

There’re many forms of this entitlement, in which a privileged group feels entitled to police the appearance of marginalised groups because the marginalised groups ‘should’ be presenting themselves for the privileged ones. It happens along any line of oppression when the difference is visible in some way; race, ability, size… and gender.

Cissexist (cis) people often seem to think that non-cis people’s genders and expression of such are there to be judged by them. They set themselves up as the standard for their gender, and then think that every time a non-cis person so much as moves, they’re presenting their gender for inspection. These expectations for the behaviour and presentation of non-cis people are almost always founded on really narrow, binary, binarist gender roles – because what’s cissexism without an unhealthy dose of sexism?- and expectations. Because of course, every cis woman wears makeup and shaves and has long hair. Is the sarcasm-detector overloading yet?

And every little thing becomes a gendered performance – an idea that implies artifice. An idea that implies a false facade of gender over the ‘reality’ – which is always, in the eyes of cissexists, the person’s assigned sex, thus degendering non-cis people even further. The way the person does anything becomes gendered. No thought to ‘x sits like that because x finds it comfortable’, no, it’s got to be ‘x sits like that because x is trying to be a y, and so x must sit like the cis y people.’ The person becomes reduced to their ‘attempts’ to ‘be’ their true gender, despite the fact that they are already their true gender. And then the cissexists look at the person and say, no, you’re DOIN IT RONG. No matter what, UR DOIN IT RONG and the person’s body, appearance, choices become topics of conversation, to be ripped apart by all and sundry.

That’s just for binary people. For non-binary folks, every little action is used to prove that we’re actually binary – because everything is gendered one way or another, in our highly binary society. And they expect us to provide them with a perfect blend of gendered traits, or they say, no, you’re actually binary and you’re in denial, LOOK, you did THIS, that’s so BINARY. Then once they’ve misgendered us, they’ll attack us like they attack binary folks, by saying we don’t measure up.

Well, you know what, cissexists? We don’t exist to be looked at and judged by anyone, let alone you. We exist to live our own lives, to make our own purpose, to do our own thing. To look our own way. You are not the supreme authority on our genders/non-genders, and when we appear a certain way, we’re mostly doing it because we want to. Not because we want your approval. Not because we want your attention.

And while you’re at it, if you feel entitled to police, to judge anyone’s appearance because of your own privileged sense of entitlement – JUST STOP. You’re being an insensitive, bigoted, kyriarchal shitbomb. It doesn’t matter what oppression/s your sense of that entitlement stems from – it’s all unacceptable. We’re all human beings, with selfhood and a right to our own personal autonomy. And remember – if you’re judging others, they will judge you. If you tell me I’m not myself, I’ll tell you that you’re an insensitive, bigoted, kyriarchal shitbomb. And I’ll have a lot more grounds for that judgement.

Trigger warning for cissexism, binarism, transphobia and discussion of transphobic(/homophobic) violence.

So, a friend of mine’s been bleating about how hard it is for her to get used to my new name (which I changed yonks ago…) and how nobody cares that I’m agender…

Of course nobody cares (we’re talking in meatspace here). That’s because nobody acknowledges it as a possibility. Nobody cared that I was agender when they told me I was my assigned gender. Nobody cared that I was agender when I told them to stop using The Name That Shall Not Be Spoken and they didn’t. Nobody cared that I was agender when they insisted on me using gendered public toilets. Nobody cared that I was agender when they assigned me a gender at birth and tried to force me into it, in thought, word and deed. Nobody cared that I was agender when they objected to the way I dressed and used my body. Nobody ever cared.

And then when I told them they had to start caring, because like it or not I was this way, suddenly they cared enough to try to stop me. They cared enough to tell me I was just bizarre. They cared enough to tell me I was hurting myself with this delusion. They cared enough to wish not to know. They cared enough to try to force me back into my assigned gender.

If I’d never told anyone, nobody would have cared. Binary, cis gender is a custom more honoured in the breach than the observance. Nobody cares that I am because nobody believes that I am. They care that I am not like them, not that I am what I am. And so often, violence greater than I have ever known is inflicted upon trans and non-cis people – because people do not care for what we are (people; worthy, awesome, wonderful people), but for what we are not (cis, binary gendered, gender normative people).

And it’s hard for you, J.? It’s really that hard for you? It’s harder than coming out is, is it? It’s harder than explaining my name change, is it? It’s harder than dealing with people’s cissexism, binarism, transphobia and homophobia, is it? It’s harder than never being acknowledged to exist, is it? It’s harder than looking at everyone, wondering if someone will hurt me because I don’t conform, is it? It’s harder than hearing about people similar to me being killed, devalued, demeaned, raped, injured, denied their human rights, is it? It’s harder than knowing I’m vulnerable to that kind of thing too, is it?

No. It’s not. Quit trying to cissplain at me. And don’t laugh at my need not to be known as my assigned sex. It’s not a laughing matter. It’s a fucking crying matter, because due to people just like you, it’s not gonna happen. I made it as easy as I could on you. I didn’t demand a pronoun change (although it makes me cringe every time I hear the wrong pronoun). I don’t go to you for support and a shoulder to cry on over my issues, even though I should do because I need the help. I’ve never gone apeshit on your ass over the name thing. I’ve never gone apeshit on your ass over your cissexist, binarist bullshit either, for that matter, but one more time and I fucking well will.

Oh, the cissexist tropes. How you make me miserable. I just wish there was a hope in hell that you’d read this, J.

‘Passing’. Oh how horrible the term is. It is used to describe a binary trans person being accepted as a cis member of their true gender. For example; ‘He passed in the shop; the checkout clerk called him ‘sir’.’

It’s a word with connotations of deception, of the person hiding themselves in order to be taken for something they’re not. Which is self-evidently false, in the case of trans people; it is possible that it could be used in combination with the person’s assigned gender, but it’s not a word that I would ever bother with. Used in the context of the person’s true gender, it’s merely yet one more brick in the stereotype wall of the deceiver, the ‘trap’, the ‘not-real’ stereotype that many trans people get on the wrong side of every day. Let’s be clear here; a trans woman is a woman, a trans man is a man. Non-binary people tend to be left out of the equation as far as ‘passing’ is concerned; since society doesn’t recognise us, we can hardly ‘pass’ as our true genders/non-genders.

Another problem is that it sets cisness up as the default. In this ciscentric culture, cis men are seen as the benchmark by which manhood can be measured, and cis women as the benchmark for womanhood. Also generally, ‘passing’ implies taking the norms of any given gender to an extreme in order to be accepted as it. Why? A trans man, whether or not his body fits the social construction of ‘female,’ is as much a man, as much a male as any cis man. Some people do not wish to be seen as cis. Others are non-normative examples of their gender, and thus are set up to fail by the ciscentric, gender-normative standards of ‘passing’.

It also implies that the other people in the situation are totally passive, their brains not making the many neurological connections required to make an assumption like ‘this is a [cis] woman/this is a [cis] man’. It implies that the trans person does all the work which is then translated into a uniform result in all onlookers. This simply isn’t true. Everyone in every situation makes huge leaps in perception; most of us translate cues such as, ‘this is a person with long hair, wearing makeup and a dress that fits’ into the bald assumption, ‘this is a woman’ (cues are generally subtler and more numerous than that, and the cues I used as examples do not exclude people who fall outside that). Also, we all interpret cues differently and perceive the world slightly differently. A woman might be seen as a cis woman by one person and as a crossdressing man by another person in a single situation.

These days, a fairly mainstream and a better, more respectful and more accurate term is ‘read.’ In the example above, one person would have read her as a cis woman, the other as a crossdressing man. That is not her fault; the two people have differing perspectives. It places the onus on other people’s ideas and does not imply deception; she is a woman, no matter what, but some people perceive her otherwise. Being read is still ciscentric in as much as most people’s criteria for being read as a gender include the appearance of being cis, but it doesn’t need to be. Non-binary people are also read as things, although rarely if every as their true genders/non-genders, and it allows them to talk about this without the binary, deceptive, invalidating stigma of ‘passing’. It’s a word that, while not quite perfect, at least places the responsibility onto the bearer of ciscentric, binarist ideas. A world where we don’t read everyone as something, where we don’t make assumptions as soon as someone comes into sight would be far preferable, but that world will be a long time in coming.

Well isn’t JKBC a bloody stupid individual for voluntarily going through the entire archives of a radfem transphobic hate blog. I’m not going to dignify it with a link, but it is, like many other transphobic hate blogs, accessible on WordPress tags (which is how I found it). Normally I try to avoid these disgusting places, but… I arrived and then read on in fascinated horror.

I don’t understand, radical feminists. You are cis. You have cis privilege. You can’t talk about being trans. Being a butch woman is not being trans. To be a butch woman is to experience a certain amount of transphobia from people who don’t know you, but does not give you the experience of being non-cis. Whether or not people are reading you as trans, you are cis. Don’t criticise my walk without walking a mile in my shoes.

Our identity does not invalidate yours. We often have the same goals as you, because we recognise that being freed from gender inequality and oppressive norms is a good thing. Not just for us, but for everyone. But many of us won’t call ourselves feminists – because the small minority of feminists like you hate us, and make it an unsafe space for us.

Who are you to talk about body dissonance? You, who have lived all your life in a body that fits you – who are you to tell me/us that I/we should not change this strange, alien body to the one that feels right? Who are you to violate my/our bodily autonomy? Who are you to talk down to me/us? Who are you to invalidate my/our identity? Who are you to put your fingers in your ears and yell LALALA when we tell you we’re dying from your hate and from your and the patriarchal, kyriarchal mainstream’s refusal to grant us validity, when we are valid?

In this, you are collaborating with the patriarchy you profess to hate. You cannot fight one oppression while perpetuating another, because one, it makes your movement invalid, and two, it will come around to bite you in the arse. Feminism is the movement that brought me to consciousness and that allowed me to accept myself – but that is not your feminism. Your feminism is a hateful rhetoric that violates the very principles you hold dear. Your feminism is not my feminism. You work against your narrow definition of the patriarchy and actively support the wider patriarchy and the kyriarchy. That – that’s not feminism, actually. I don’t like being prescriptive, but you cannot support the patriarchy/kyriarchy and still claim the title feminist. FYI, that goes for all other oppressions as well. You can’t support those and still call yourself a feminist, either, because those oppressions oppress women, the people you profess to support.

Stop calling trans women male fetishists. Trans women are as woman as you are. Anyone who will stand up in this misogynist culture and say ‘I am a woman’ is a woman, and brave, and strong, and incredible. Also, you have never had to encounter transmisogyny – and you never will – and believe me, transmisogyny is a bad thing.

Stop calling trans men brainwashed women. Trans men are not women. They are men. They are not butch women brainwashed by the patriarchy’s narrow ideals of femininity. They are not mutilating their ‘beautiful female bodies’. They are making their bodies habitable for themselves. You know the idea of ‘my body, my choice’? Well, it applies to trans folks too. And frankly, unless you’ve experienced dissonance, STFU. Like you tell cis men, unless you can get pregnant, STFU.

I don’t even want to know what you’d all say about non-binary folks. For the female-assigned, I suppose you’d say that because of patriarchal brainwashing, female-assigned non-binary folks feel the need to create new genders rather than be non-normatively female. No idea what you’d say about the male-assigned. Fetishists who hate women too much to even do the fetishisation properly? It’s hateful enough.

Trans people are not a trend. We are people. We’ve existed since time immemorial, but now as the movement towards our liberation raises its head cautiously and more of us are able to acknowledge ourselves, you call us a trend. Don’t disparage us for finding the courage to come to terms with ourselves. You did it – remember how hard that was? Now try doing that underneath the millstone of transphobia, cissexism, binarism etc.

Don’t give us shit about the way we are. We can’t help our genders. The world has screwed us over forever, telling us that we can, that we must call ourselves words that aren’t right, that we must wear a body that doesn’t fit. You don’t get to tell us anything about our experiences. You don’t get to have a say in our bodies. You don’t know the gender that exists or not in our minds. You’re not us.

I’ve got a solution. Don’t like us? Don’t talk about us. It’s very simple. You have cis privilege – you can walk away. Do so, please. We really don’t need you around, and you evidently don’t need us around since you hate us so much.