rax: (vulpix is not pleased)
So, gender!

For a while now I've been mumbling about maybe using gender-neutral pronouns or something because I have this discomfort with gender. My name is Rachel, and I present myself as female, and you might think I'd be reasonably happy about both of those because I picked them. And in some ways I am! Because damn, are they better than the alternative.

Except that "the alternative" is a false choice; I don't have to choose either or. I could pick preferred pronouns of "they" or "ey" or "hir" or "xyzzy" and most of you would respect it and a lot of you would even use it most or all of the time. That's pretty awesome! I could say that my gender was "neuter" or "other" or "awesome" and that would be great. It's something I appreciate about my friends and even some of my family that this is true. I appreciate it a lot, and I work to extend the same courtesy to everyone, though particularly those folks who ask me for it.

Problem is: I can't get that from strangers, and that's who I actually want it from. I don't care that much if my friends treat me as female, because I think it has way less impact on how they treat me overall; sure, there's some amount of ingrained gender bias and I did notice people treating me differently before and after transition, but people who know me well think of me as more than a gender, even though they do think of me as having a gender. And I am OK with that. I did pick it, after all, even though I picked it from fewer options than I realize now that I might have had.

What really bothers me is when strangers and acquaintances and use gendered language for me. I don't want to be Mrs. Dillon (which I've been called like ten times today) and I don't want to be Ms. Dillon either. Mx. Dillon is tolerable, at least; I'd rather not have a title at all, but if I have to I would like it to not be dependent on my vagina. [0] I feel similarly about pronouns and social expectations and all manner of things. But at the moment I don't really have any desire to declare my gender other or change my pronouns or change much about my presentation, because I don't think it would change the situations I really care about. I want people on the phone who I will never talk to again to not use sir or ma'am, because it shouldn't matter, and they make it matter and I don't like it. I don't care if people I know well use that kind of language, though. Usually. [1]

I don't really have a point here, other than this is more formed than my usual pointing at gender and going "Urgh! Meh!" and so I figured I would write it down. I realize that I could ask random people on the phone to not use gendered language, and I could enforce that in all social situations, but it isn't worth it for me right now; the effort threshhold of saying "I prefer you not refer to me as ma'am or sir" to the clerk at the store is higher, to me, than just dealing with it. I recognize that not to be the case for some people and I totally support that! It's just not me, right now.

This comes up in part because I've had people in my new department ask me pronoun preference and I said "she or they, whichever" and they were like "...whichever?" and I was like "Yeah, basically." Because that's where I'm at, right now? It's a moving target, who knows where if anywhere it is going. If you wanna call me "they" and "Mx." I am neutral to vaguely positive on that. "male pronouns are still wrong, thanks"

[0] Or more correctly the social expectation that I have a vagina, and thus a particular set of social obligations, based on the way I am presented and present myself.

[1] There's one coworker who calls me darling, who does not accept correction on this (when I asked him not to, he started calling me sir, which is worse). In basically all other ways I really like working with him. I'm mostly used to it, but it's kinda frustrating.

rax: (catgirl makeup)
  • Further Confusion is super rad, although oh my god my sleep schedule. But it has been wonderful to see many of my West Coast friends, especially the Seattle folks I missed last trip. And there is Race for the Galaxy! And there are tons of furries! It's pretty boss.
  • One disappointment: They canceled the pokemon panel, and I am missing the IU pokemon event to be here (SO SAD ABOUT THIS), so I have not gotten to dork out about Pokemon much at all. Luckily, I ran into a smashingly androgynous Silver cosplayer --- no one else recognized the costume, and we dorked out at each other for a while, and they fed Rik when Rik was hungry, and it was great. I'm a teeny bit tempted to do a Dawn cosplay now (since I could basically make my hair work if I just parted it to hide the pink) but I don't know if people at furry conventions would get it, and I don't know if I care enough to actually go to an anime convention just to have an excuse to dress as a Pokemon character. besides if I wanted to mack on people dressed as Silver I'd really need to do Kotone
  • I am actually getting reading done here! Not as much as I would at home but, hopefully, enough. This week's reading in one class is about non-academic feminism! It is reminding me why I prefer academic feminism. :( Although there are some really great things being said, this whole "second wave and third wave taking jabs at each other every chance they get" thing is just draining to read.
  • Also, Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism, published in 2007, which claims to make a significant effort toward intersectionality, and even has a chapter all about men? Does not contain the word trans a single time [0], lukewarm at best towards queerness, and handles race with gloves. I need to read it a second time in a different mood to see if there are things I like about it; in the mood I approached it in, I was just like ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh. But maybe I was looking for too much? Or at least letting my ugh get in the way of the things that are presumably good about the book such that we were assigned to buy and read it.
  • Restaurants are for other people, but between a normal grocery store and a Vietnamese grocery store I am getting to eat more than trail mix, and that is good. Orange juice. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

[0] And yes, it's a pet issue, I know, but come on. I'd keep a running count of the number of times "genderqueer" showed up, but it would be too depressing. Trans is in the national consciousness, the way so many authors pretend it doesn't exist is just maddening. There really is no excuse. 2007.


Dec. 25th, 2010 06:28 pm
rax: (kotone/silver hug awwwwwwwwh)
  • Catgirl Goth Rave was amazing. It wasn't super mad crazy packed, but that was good, because it felt like the right size for the venue. Go team Catgirl Goth Rave. So many people helped put it together and we had five different DJs and everything was wonderful and I did bring enough ears. I had sooooooooooooooooo much fun. I miss dancing while in a catgirl costume. Maybe I should do it more! Also I got to see a ton of friends I haven't seen in a long time, some for like six years, and I got to spend lots and lots of time with Rik and Krinn and that was super mega awesome good. It is nice to know that my friends are still my friends even when I am not around them all the time. I mean, I know, but it's nice to be reminded
  • I am actually relaxing! Mostly! Although I do keep talking about and reading about gender theory as you will see from the majority of this post. ^^;;
  • For example, I started reading a blog called Vegan Ideal at [personal profile] befitting 's recommendation and ran into this post about the use of the word "tranny" on Glee. That led me to this great post by Quinnae Moongazer on the topic [0] as well as this other post by Tobi Hill-Meyer following up on Kate Bornstein's apology and then apology-revocation. She keeps doing this. It's really rather frustrating. It makes me want to say this:
  • Dear Kate Bornstein, you are not my aunt. I have aunts, both in my chosen family and in my family of origin; you are in neither. Your attempt to put yourself into my family structure and the family structures of other trans and genderqueer persons is creepy and weird, and saying things like this: "And yes, you may call me Auntie Kate. I will positively burst into tears if you don’t." makes me feel queasy as to the possibility of real discourse with you. In order for us to be chosen family, we must both consent to that choice; I do not. In order for us to be family of origin, you're going to have to marry into my family somehow. This solution does not scale.  Also, "I pulled down my blog post saying I’m not gonna use the word tranny any more. I tried, and it didn’t work." ?? Try harder. [1] Oh and there was that whole anthology call for proposals. Yeah, I just. (On the other hand, all of the comments over on questioning transphobia accusing her of being a Scientologist and thus not worth listening to what the hell?)
  • Yeah so maybe I'm only sort of relaxing. But I keep playing Pokemon Mystery Dungeon! It is SUPREMELY ADORABLE. Spoilers )
  • Actually I am going to claim that I have been relaxing on the grounds that I have watched multiple movies in less than a week. Multiple movies!! That never happens. The last one I didn't even have a laptop out while I was watching it. It was How To Train Your Dragon, if you're curious, which is ripe for somatechnical theoretical intervention surrounding authenticity and prosthesis and animality and and and and and. If I were cool like [personal profile] chagrined  I could do an academic fanvid but I am not. The folks I am staying with are allowing me to work on an outline but have forbidden me from actually writing a non-required academic paper while on vacation. This is probably OK. ... I may start working on it when I leave here though ^^;;;;;;;;;
  • My dear friend Bea has written a great review of the new My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic show. You should read it, but summary: It's probably awesome. I need to watch it, but it is on normal television and not on DVD yet. Either I will figure it out online (it pops up on YouTube periodically) or I will be patient or I dunno. But oh my god it sounds so good.
  • Yes, I spend most of my time thinking about gender theory inside baseball and the rest of it with Pokemon and My Little Pony. I believe the appropriate Internet invocation is this:
  • Squirtle suggests that you should DEAL WITH IT.
  • <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 to everyone!

[0] She also has an interesting post about transphobia in academic theory that I have only read briefly because I only have so much care but it looks good and I intend to revisit it.
[1] While I'm nitpicking: "I'm old school, pal. I was taught butch and femme in the late 90s." ??? The late 90s are not old school for butch and femme identities. Just no.

rax: (klax rax)
So I gave my talk.

The auditorium was almost completely full and there were a bunch of people standing. I mostly recognized the teachers who knew me, but there was one who I didn't; she asked if I remembered her and I said no and she was really sad, but then she reminded me who she was and I was able to say "Oh yes now I do!" and that it was better for me to not lie because that way we could re-establish a connection. So that was OK. Hilariously, a couple of teachers came up to the front of the auditorium to talk to me while people were filing in, walked right past me, and up to the high school boy wearing makeup and girl jeans who had helped to organize the event. [0] ("What's she going to look like?" "It can't be that hard, just find the boy in girl clothes.") I don't know if that counts as passing or not. :)

I ended up doing about 30 minutes of direct speaking and then 15 minutes of Q&A. I stood at the bottom of the auditorium where I could lean against the stage if I wanted, held a microphone in my right hand, and held 4"x5" pink note cards in my left hand, which I tossed aside when I was done with them. (Audiences eat it up. Conferences, colleges, high school kids, doesn't matter. I'm not even sure why. It's so simple! I guess the first time they don't expect it --- who throws their note cards when they're done with them? --- and then it lends a sort of rhythm to the talk and gets people to pay attention.) I managed not to talk with my hands so much that I displaced the microphone, although I'm used to (preferred) not bothering with a mic or just using a podium. But using a podium for this would have been really distancing, and I wanted to establish as much rapport as I could.

I introduced myself and talked about how this sort of event would never have happened while I was in high school --- we never talked about any of this stuff. Then I laid out an outline and actually got through the whole thing. I tried to explain what trans was, inasmuch as I even know, and went over some basic terminology, like what it means if someone is a "trans man" versus a "trans woman." [1] I didn't get to get into passing, but that was OK; I explained that transition isn't just surgery and talked about language and presentation and legalities and hormones. I tried to explain why "What causes this to happen?," while interesting, is a dangerous question by talking about the John/Joan experiment, which seemed to get a lot of people's attention.

They'd focused in the all-school presentations on bullying and the perpetrator-bystander-ally-victim model. I explained some of the language they shouldn't use or it would be bullying (they got a real kick out of "shemale" being a "porn word" but I think it made the point). The thing I tried to get across that was trickier was that a lot of the time, with trans people, you can hurt someone a lot by accident if you use the wrong name or pronouns, and it compounds itself quickly if not controlled because other people start to do the same thing. I used the story of the teachers on Monday night who were genuinely friendly but kept flubbing the pronouns and how awkward that was and I don't know how much it got across to the kids but it definitely got the adults thinking. And to a certain extent I was educating the teachers as much as I was educating the students, so I think that's good :)

The question and answer session was difficult but actually really fun. I can prepare talks reasonably well and am OK to good at giving them, but I really like being called on to do and say things on the spot, and you can usually tell the best parts of my talks because I don't look at my notes for a while. Taking questions on trans issues is always difficult because people are absolutely going to ask rude and personal questions, everything from "What people are willing to sleep with you?" (my glib response is always "Bisexuals!") to "Does it feel different to have a penis or a vagina?" which I responded to with an explanation of how it's sort of like healing a broken arm. It's tricky to balance keeping the answers interesting and true without making the whole thing a referendum on my sex life; luckily a bunch of the questions were actually really good and I had prepped answers to some of the obvious questions so I was able to play it cool. I actually got spontaneous applause on a bunch of my answers, so I think I did OK.

After I got flooded by high school students thanking me and wanting a hug and wanting to tell me about how they were trying to start a GSA, which was awesome and scarier than giving the talk, I walked through the school for a bit. It's very different from how it used to be --- there's a second floor where there used to not be one! A group of boys laughed at me amongst themselves, one of them saying "Oh my god look at how he walks," and I just said "It's the shoes, and I can hear you" and kept walking. It's very nice to get made fun of in high school and just seriously not care. I'm sure some of the students came for the spectacle, to laugh at me and not with me, and that's fine. Some of them will keep laughing at me, and maybe I planted a germ in their minds, and that's all I can do.

That took more out of me than I expected, but I could do it again more easily, and I could do it again at a high school that wasn't my alma mater much more easily. So I'll probably keep those notecards, with a little shuffling, and maybe I'll get a chance to use them again. There's a videotape; if it isn't hideous, when I get a copy, I'll post it.

[0] Who looked astonishingly like Kevin Barnes.

[1] I'm always surprised how many people get this wrong. A trans man is a man who is trans, and could also be called ftm in a different set of nomenclature.

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