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.

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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.