Saturday, October 30, 2010

Transgender and Crossdressing

Disclaimer: I'm not a crossdresser, crossdreamer, nor a drag ace†. Clue by four.

"I would never want to be a woman. That would spoil all the fun of dressing like one." - Carly*

I don't know if anyone noticed, but I put up the definitions of the words I use (and feel free to mention if I need to add any more or you have problems with the ones I put up). I wanted to elaborate a bit more on why I define transgender as I do. Which is:
An adjective describing a person whose gender (part or all of it) does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender makes no assumptions about the person’s genitalia, sex, gender role, presentation in daily life, or anything else- only the disconnect between what the doctors assumed the person would be and what the person actually is.
Now, I know that's not how everyone uses it- particularly as an umbrella term. One thing that there tends to be some disagreement on is whether or not people who don't uphold gender norms (crossdressers, drag royalty†, etc) are included in this. And here's my take on it.

Some crossdressers and drag royalty are bigendered or genderfluid (or actually trans [wo/wer]men but haven't accepted that yet) or something along those lines- the "desire" they have to crossdress is the same as a werman or woman "desiring" to dress like a werman or woman, respectively. To me, that isn't really crossdressing. A bigendered maab who wears dresses to express her womanhood isn't "crossdressing" any more than a woman wearing a dress is- she's expressing her female gender by wearing clothes associated with females. The fact that she isn't always a woman or is also a werman doesn't devalue her female gender in any way. And even if this person is crossdressing, aka dresses like a woman when he's a werman even though he's a woman at other times, they still fit into trans because their gender both does and doesn't match their assigned sex- not because of the clothes. (of course, in the literal transgender sense of "across-gender", they might be the only ones who really are transgender, as they actually go across genders)

So what about the wermen, the people with only one gender and whose gender matches their assigned sex, who want to wear a dress? (or women who... whatever counts as crossdressing for women, I'm not really sure)

I don't think clothing has a gender. Now, yes, socially genders are assigned to clothing. But the bounds of what's considered "acceptable" for wermen and women are ill-defined and change with time. Are wermen who wear "skinny jeans" crossdressing? Are women who wear loose jeans? They aren't even consistent over all of US culture- subcultures, age groups, races, classes, and geographic locations can all have different limits of what is and isn't "acceptable" clothing for wermen and women, much less all countries. Is a werman who wears a kilt crossdressing? What about if he's wearing an unbifurcated garment designed for wermen? Now, people can obviously crossdress in the same sense as crossplaying- dressing up with the intention of dressing as a different gender, but I don't think it makes you trans any more than playing a character who's another gender  makes you trans.

A person can't express gender they don't have- I can't express my female gender by wearing a skirt because I don't have a female gender. Even if a werman (and, yes, this applies to women- but generally you hear about maab crossdressers and drag queens) is intentionally dressing to look like a woman, he isn't expressing his gender as a woman- his gender is still that of a werman. And, seriously, no one bring up the bi/multi-gender thing, I just spent a paragraph explaining that.

Similarly- I don't include otherwise cis people who have non-standard presentation/traits for the same reason. I don't think a werman who likes shoes is less of a werman than one who likes football (or that a person can't like both), and a woman who prefers playing rugby to getting her nails done isn't less of a woman either (and rugby players can enjoy getting pampered as much as anyone).

I also don't like the concept of clothes having a gender because people use it as a basis for discrimination. If a person is perceived as crossdressing, even if they're wearing clothing quite appropriate to their gender (just not assigned sex) or don't feel what they're doing is crossdressing, they can face a lot of problems for it. Last year a man was threatened with arrest for wearing a skirt in a courthouse (a skirt that would have been appropriate on a woman, based on the description). If that's what applying genders to inanimate objects gets us- I don't see any benefit in it.

For the time being; crossdressing, gender variant, and other people who have a gender that matches their assigned sex but don't entirely fit the gender roles/traits/expectations of that gender might  functionally fit in (at least with 'queer') in the sense that they can face trans- & homophobia for it, but I really don't like the idea that someone is somehow "less" their gender just because of the clothes they wear or the things they enjoy. And, of course, trans does not mean "less"- but why would we call a person who is otherwise cisgender "trans" just because of the clothes they like to wear? A person being trans implies that their gender is different than what cissexist society expects people with the genitalia zie had at birth to be, and that zie'll have a harder time being accepted as that gender because of that.  A maab werman has a gender that very much matches what society expects, people will rarely have a difficult time believing he really is a werman- even if he expresses that gender by painting his nails pink, strapping on 6" heels, and putting on a lovely dress.

It also causes confusion when it comes to trans people who have non-standard presentation or who enjoy crossdressing/playing, drag, etc. If a cis werman is transgender just because he likes to wear dresses (even if he does full-time)- what is a trans werman? Trans people already face far more pressure to fit their gender's roles/traits/expectations than a cis person is ever likely to face, saying that your presentation somehow effects your gender only adds to that.

*The quote is from "Too Much Information", a webcomic featuring a transvestite- Carly (born "Carl Lee"). It comes from this page, but I'll give a warning that I'm not sure if it's misgendering or not. It either says that he thinks Carly is a trans man, or that he thinks trans women are really men, Carly's reply implies the latter- and also mislabels the fact that trans women are women and says that they just "want" to be a woman, implying they're actually men or at least not "really" women. That 1-page slip aside, the comic is pretty cool- though adult and NSFW. I put it as a footnote to explain this, though.
†Drag Ace is a joke, but I like it. Basically my line of thought was "What would you call a neutrois in drag?", as most titles are gendered, and going over the face cards in a deck (one thought was "joker")- since 'ace' is slang term for an asexual, I liked it. Drag Royalty is because there aren't really non-gendered terms for queen/king, but both are royal titles. I think that one's more self-explanatory than ace.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Kimono sleeves"

Because I thought having a Dr Who scarf would just be the coolest thing, I got into knitting. And, because everyone and their uncle told me "Crocheting is easier" I got into crocheting and found out immediately after learning that there was absolutely nothing I wanted to do with it. So I found a book with a cool pattern. I still like the pattern- what I don't like is that the sleeves are referred to as "kimono sleeves". And, apparently, this isn't an uncommon term.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Color Blind

Some parents love to brag about how their kids are color blind- which is pretty interesting to me. Now, if you've got a kid with XX chromosomes who's colorblind, that probably is something worth bragging about because it's just so uncommon! And the rest of the time, well, I suppose it depends- like many things, colorblindness has its ups and its downs. My partner, for instance, has an easier time telling if colors clash or identifying two things of the same color but different hues than I do- it's pretty damn awesome. But they also rely on me for parts of video games where the colors are too close because, for a gamer, that's a problem. But it's pretty cool that parents are happy enough about their kids colorblindness to openly brag about it- hopefully it also means that they're willing to do work to help get more things, like video games, that their kids can see and enjoy as well as everyone else.

Oh, wait, what? They mean that their child "doesn't see" races?

Haha, oh, white people with our white privilege- we never cease to be a source of amusement! Oh, you don't see why that's silly? Well, first, because it's not true. You can't raise kids to be completely race-blind. Raising children by not talking about race, but talking about nebulous concepts of "we're all equal!" (without defining the inclusiveness of 'we') without actually getting down and dirty and using the "r" word? Doesn't work. Doing so produces racist children- and it's actually part of white privilege to be able to. Children of color? Painfully aware of race and where they stand (or they realize quick enough). White children? They see differences, but they don't know what they are or why, so speculate on what's up with these brown people with weird hair that no adults talk about.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Yes is the ONLY thing that means yes

"That's wrong- it's one of the most violating parts of this whole thing. It's like me walking in your bathroom while you in there with your pants down. It's the highest degree of disrespect." -Zakariyya (Zuh-CAR-ee-uh) pg 243, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

My college required "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" as summer reading. I've had a long history of stupid summer reading assignments (my last one, our professor said that he thought the book was trash). I'm still angry at my college for the wording of "What if Henrietta had been Henry?"- which I presume is supposed to be a cutesy way of saying "What if Henrietta had been assigned male at birth instead of female" (while also saying "It's completely unacceptable for an assigned-female to go by 'Henry', no matter what that person's gender", even though 'Henri' can be a nickname for Henrietta). So, I was not looking forward to it.

It was actually really good, I'd suggest it to everyone. One thing I adore is that the [white] author has done a good job at presenting the issue of race in a way that doesn't get white people's hackles up at being "attacked" by having their privilege pointed out. I now cringe to think of how absolutely stupid the white people in my 11th grade (~16/17 y.o) class were about the book we had to read- but I have to admit that opening a book by redefining 'racist' as "A white person who doesn't actively fight white privilege" (although, not in those words) and calling the Lion King racist because the black actors didn't sound black enough was not a great way to introduce white people to their privilege. And, of course, this is NOT a problem on the author's part. It's a problem on the part of the school who decided that a 301 level book was an acceptable way to introduce white people to the concept of white privilege- when most of us have grown up hearing people gripe about "reverse racism" and how affirmative action "just hurts white people".

One issue throughout the entire book, aside from race and class, is consent- namely, whether or not consent is required for doctors to take and test and sell our tissues (or inject us with cancer- that's cool, right? No reason anyone would say "no" to that).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

“Singular “they” and the many reasons why it’s correct” via Motivated Grammar

read the full post here
Suppose you were reading and came to the following line:
“She kept her head and kicked her shoes off, as everybody ought to do who falls into deep water in their clothes.”
Would you …
(a) continue reading, because that’s a perfectly acceptable sentence, or
(b) throw a tantrum and insist that the author is an imbecile speeding the wholesale destruction of the English language?

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’re probably answering (a). If you’re answering (b), I regret to inform you that you hate the writing of C. S. Lewis.

And if you’re the sort to answer (b), the sort of person who rages at the alleged grammatical buffoonery of your fellows, I’m sure it’s because you think you’re doing us all a favor, and that your condescending tone is justified because: first, you’re being helpful regardless of the tone you’re using; second, people only learn through negative conditioning, and so it is your duty, however unpleasant, to rub their noses in it to keep them from going on doing it; third, only a truly illiterate mouth-breather would be so moronic as to make such a mistake, and such imbeciles are below contempt and probably don’t even realize that you’re condescending to them anyway; and fourth, given the Heruclean effort you’ve put into learning the English language as impeccably as you did, it’s really only fair that you get to be a little self-satisfied and perhaps even gloat a smidge.

The only problem with this view is that all you’ve managed to learn about English is how to get your brain to release some satisfying endorphins every time you blindly regurgitate some authority figure’s unjustified assertion. You’re not helping; you’re just getting someone to pretend to agree with you long enough to shut you up. Or worse, you’re scaring people into submission to a point where they feel compelled to preface their speech with apologies for any unknown violence their words are committing against the presumed propriety of the language. Never forget, though, that language is the people’s. Your witless superstition will, by-and-large, be ignored by the speakers of the language, and the alleged impropriety will almost certainly win out in the end. Don’t mistake yourself for a brave defender of our language against the barbarians at the gates when, in truth, you’re nothing but a millennialist shouting about the end-times of the English language. Meanwhile, the world spins on, and the language flourishes, hale and hearty.

One great example of this situation is the shouting down of those who use singular they. I’ve wanted for some time to have one place to send everyone who complains about singular they, a single page that can debunk whatever junk they’re peddling against it. There’s been lots of great stuff written about why singular they is acceptable, but every time I want to smash the arguments against it, I have to waste time jumping through old Language Log posts and books and whatnot, so I figured I’d finally go about summarizing it all. Without further ado, here’s the evidence for singular they, and why you ought to stop “correcting” it.

This is a delightful read no matter who you are, and should be required reading for anyone who tries to use the argument that "singular they" is inaccurate. The full post goes on to point out 'singular they's historical usage, usage by good writers, acceptance by authorities, and a few other arguments used against this pronoun.

Personally, my view on singular they is this: As long as singular "you" is acceptable, so is singular "they". (yes, I do want to bring back thou)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why Adoption Hurts via Yoon's Blur

Read the Full Post Here
Do you tell a widow that she is being negative, ungrateful, angry, bitter, resentful if she still tears up or struggles with grief or sorrow over the loss of her first husband even after she has happily remarried? I would hope not.

Although adoptees--similar to a widow who has happily remarried--may have gained a family, you must keep in mind that the only reason they have so-called gained a family is that they first LOST everything. And when I say everything, I mean, everything.

They have lost their original father, mother, grandparents, siblings, extended family. They have lost their language, culture, and country of origin. They have lost any connection whatsoever to their beginnings, to their identity, to the most basic elements of who they are. They have lost any knowledge of what happened and why.

I think adoption is very difficult to understand for anyone who hasn't been through it- especially transnational & transracial adoption which have their own complications and can make it obvious that you aren't "really" your adoptive parents' child/ren. This was a really good way of explaining why adoption hurts, even if you love your new family.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"We Are Human" via Resist Racism

Read the full post here
But they want a tour guide. They want to watch somebody bleed. Pain as entertainment.

“Can you share with us a time when you experienced racism and how you dealt with it?” she asks, her eyes bright in a flushed face. “What was the worse thing that ever happened to you?”

I stopped relating my experience when I realized incidents that cut me deeply became cocktail-party chatter for others. When I realized that doing so caused white people to have a sense of false familiarity with me. When I realized that they recounted my life as if it were their own, as if they owned it, as if they owned me. When I realized they did so not to make others feel my humanity, but to reinforce their belief in their own.

Picnic lunches beneath a hanging man.


And yet it didn’t really matter. I am reminded of this years later, when a white woman in an upscale department store glares and refers to two nearby children as “dirty little things.” She thinks they are mine and that I am not “controlling them properly.” I look to see two extremely clean, well-groomed, very wealthy appearing Asian children, a little girl and a little boy, who are laughing and talking to each other. I mostly hate kids and yet I can’t see anything wrong with their behavior. But I see it in her eyes.

Their reflection: Dirty. Little. Things.

I grow up to be an upstanding citizen who yanked myself up by my bootstraps. I did not waste my money on anything that I could be criticized for. No rims on the Cadillac. No car at all, for that matter. No luxury items, shitty food, second-hand clothing, no-name shoes and generic cereal and I did all the proper suffering, working long hours at lousy jobs while going to school.

So when I achieved what most people consider success, I bought the car, the clothes were new, I sometimes bought luxuries and I traveled to other countries. And I was an uppity person of color who got ahead through affirmative action and some other form of cheating because nothing I had was earned. Or deserved.

When I am flying overseas, I get stopped and questioned: How exactly is it that you have the money to travel?

I am suspected of criminal conduct simply because of where I am: A four-star hotel. A tony neighborhood. A professional conference. A business. The upscale department store. Any old store, for that matter.

I am suspected of criminal conduct simply because of who I am.

And I learn the hatred of white people who have less than I do. Who resent wealth and education and nice clothing and a beautiful home. Because somehow this is not how it is supposed to be.

Because I am not human.

Because they are not really colorblind.

Because we don’t really live in a meritocracy.

Because the content of my character has never influenced white people’s thoughts in the same way that the color of my skin does.

Because I can insist on my humanity until the cows come home, but it will mean nothing until white people discover their own.