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Blag Hag Grab Bag 8/22/2013

I woke up in a pretty bad mood, but thankfully I have Pixel who knows just the way to distract me: puking all over the carpet. Thanks, kitty.

Comments

  1. biogeo says

    My favorite bit of “Tips for Improving Street Harassment” was the Lisa Frank stickers, but the rest was pretty great, too.

  2. biogeo says

    Also, it seems to me like Chelsea Manning’s decision to identify herself as a woman while at the peak of her news visibility could have a very positive impact on media treatment of trans folk. The AP Style Guide’s language regarding the usage of pronouns is very confusing, and reflects the expectation that only trans folk who have “physically” transitioned are “truly” trans. Such a high-profile story may force them to address the problem. And while I certainly think the news organizations have an obligation to change their use of name and pronoun, I can also understand the problem that the Washington Post’s representative noted, that “the name Bradley Manning has a strong identification for our readers.” But if the Post and other news organizations do the right thing and adopt Manning’s proper name and pronoun, many people will be introduced to the idea that being trans isn’t aberrant, and that we can accept a person’s transition and still life (and the news) will go on. Of course, I imagine conservative mouthpieces like Fox News will probably be doing everything they can to present this as proof that Manning is a “deviant,” but I’m not sure we can hope for much on that front anyway.

    Anyway, I have mixed feelings about Manning’s leak of classified documents (her whistleblowing was important, but the indiscriminant nature of the leak seems to have put many individuals in danger; compare Snowden’s more targeted leaks), but it’s clear she was motivated by a desire to serve her country and humanity. I wonder to what extent her decision to come out at such a public moment, which could raise national awareness of trans issues, comes from the same drive. Or maybe she just took the very first moment she could without compromising her legal case. Either way, good for her.

  3. says

    Not surprisingly, a number of trans people disagree with the AP Style Guide and think it’s highly disrespectful to arbitrarily choose to override a person’s own right of self-determination (not so politely, I’d say as a policy it’s full of shit). I transitioned over a year ago, but I’ve only been on HRT for nine and a half months, and have yet to have surgery. My gender is who I am, but unfortunately it takes far longer for the body, the healthcare system, and the legal system to catch up with my changed circumstances.

  4. cry4turtles says

    Was the kitty puke strategically placed so that you had the privilege of stepping in it first thing in the morning? Story of my life, the best part being puke squishing up between my toes at 5AM. Hubby doesn’t like it for some reason. Hmmm…go figure.

  5. davidjanes says

    “Also, it seems to me like Chelsea Manning’s decision to identify herself as a woman while at the peak of her news visibility could have a very positive impact on media treatment of trans folk.”

    I think you are being entirely too optimistic here, but I am basing my conclusion on the reaction to this I have seen on my Facebook wall, which may not be representative of the general population. RIght now, it is not trending toward broader acceptance or a quest to understand. It’s all either “I am NOT going to pay for that, it’s icky!” at best and prison rape jokes at worst.

  6. says

    That street harassment comic is based on some tweets Mallory Ortberg did. She’s @mallelis and y’all should follow her because she’s hilarious and fucking on-point.

  7. says

    Why is this so hard for some people? …Oh right, privilege.

    Well, and, consequently, unfamiliarity. I had some honest questions about this. Like, if I were to write about something Manning did in the past when she was identified as male and went by the name Bradly, is it OK to refer to those events using male pronouns as well as the name Bradly? How would I use pronouns to describe events both past and present? Use female pronouns? Use both?
    I’ll freely admit I am privileged, but I also want to make sure I have that privilege held in check.

  8. gussnarp says

    I feel so bad for Celsea in so many ways. What she must have dealt with just being in the military and living as a man must have been awful, and then the way she was treated after her arrest was shameful. When I heard the judge had decided to shave a few months off her 35 year sentence to make up for abuse she suffered while in prison, I thought maybe we need a new rule: If you torture someone in jail for months before they even get to go to trial, then you have to let them go, regardless of the verdict. Torture = get out of jail free card. Now, if you have someone in jail for a crime that actually hurts people, instead of a heroic act of courage revealing the horrors our troops have been responsible for, the rule still applies. So you get to pick: do you want to protect society from a dangerous person, or do you want to get your petty revenge by abusing them? Seems like it might be a good deterrent to abuse.

    Now the really difficult question regarding her gender decision is how the government will respond. Will she be placed in a women’s prison or a men’s prison? I just don’t know how enlightened the courts and prisons are going to be on this. Hopefully they’ll do the right thing, at which point I’m sure when I’m at the gym and see Fox News they’ll be claiming this was all a ploy to get out of men’s prison. Ugh, I can see the whole ugly conversation now.

  9. says

    @biogeo #3 – “Also, it seems to me like Chelsea Manning’s decision to identify herself as a woman while at the peak of her news visibility could have a very positive impact on media treatment of trans folk.”

    Actually, she has identified as a woman since before her arrest: at trial, the defense made the case that her frustration at how the military treated trans* identified soldiers was a key part of her motivation to leak the documents. It was only after sentencing that she was allowed to make any kind of public statement, which is why it is hitting the news only now.

    As for this all having “a very positive impact,” sorry, I don’t believe that. Coming right on the heels of conviction on multiple counts of espionage and theft, her crimes will be solidly linked with trans* identity in many people’s minds. How long before we start hearing, “You’re transgender? Your kind should not be allowed to serve in the military, you will only betray this country. You should not be allowed to be a teacher, you will only teach children to hate America. We must never allow you to hold a position of trust.” Being the old, suspicious curmudgeon that I am, I strongly suspect that this is why the military allowed her to make a public statement, to stir up the wild dogs.

  10. biogeo says

    I think you are being entirely too optimistic here,

    Maybe, but I think the short-term and long-term effects of enhanced media visibility for minorities tend to be quite different. In the short term, the assholes tend to come out of the woodwork, as well as the fear and ignorance of otherwise decent folk. But in the long term, the fact that people are confronted with new perspectives makes them actually think about the issues, and some of the ignorance is treated. I also think that culturally we are more receptive to addressing trans issues than we have been in the past. The fact that we even have articles like this one discussing how media organizations are “challenged” by how to refer to Chelsea Manning suggests that individuals in the media who have the most power to influence how we as a society talk about trans issues are prepared to move past the “but he’s really a man!” crap. I’m not saying I think everything is great now, but I think there are seeds of hope.

    Actually, she has identified as a woman since before her arrest:

    Thanks for the clarification. I did not follow the Manning trial closely as it was ongoing, and while I’d heard that she was trans, I wasn’t aware of any public statement to that effect.

    As for this all having “a very positive impact,” sorry, I don’t believe that. Coming right on the heels of conviction on multiple counts of espionage and theft, her crimes will be solidly linked with trans* identity in many people’s minds. How long before we start hearing, “You’re transgender? Your kind should not be allowed to serve in the military, you will only betray this country. You should not be allowed to be a teacher, you will only teach children to hate America. We must never allow you to hold a position of trust.”

    I am certain you’re right. And again, I certainly don’t mean to imply that I think everything is all cream and peaches now. We need to be prepared to refute these ideas whenever we encounter them, and I’m sure they will come not only from ignorant individuals but also in a more concerted fashion from the conservative identity industry. But what I think the positive outcome of this will be is an overall shift in the Overton window within the media. Yes, many individuals will take this opportunity to express their fear, ignorance, and hate. But it seems that at least some major media organizations are being challenged by this story to change the way they report stories on trans folk more generally. I don’t think that those who are already opposed to equality for trans folk expressing their views represents much of a step backward, but if at least some major media organizations start presenting news stories about “Chelsea Manning” rather than “Bradley Manning,” and consistently use the pronoun “she,” I think that represents a significant step forward.

  11. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I woke up in a pretty bad mood, but thankfully I have Pixel who knows just the way to distract me: puking all over the carpet.

    Pixel does a good MRA impression. O.o

  12. John Horstman says

    @1: Nothing made me grin bigger than going to Wiki and seeing they were already updated and perfectly consistent. Suck it, asshats who think the lack of a single formal authority makes Wikipedia a bad info source (also, see this).

    @3: Manning didn’t put anyone in danger. The US military put a whole lot of people in danger, which they attempted to mitigate using secrecy, which is fucking stupid all around. A liberal democracy is (supposedly) governed by the collective will of its citizens. This is impossible if its citizens do not have access to complete information about every action taken by the state. Such a system necessarily means potential ‘enemies’ – including, perhaps, members of the citizenry itself – of the state have access to complete information about the state’s actions. The only reasonable way to act in such a system is to never rely upon secrecy for any state action. Things like “state secrets” and “black ops” and “classified information” are themselves antithetical to the concept of democratic governance, and any democratic government thus has no business using any of them. The problem here was with the actions of our military and government, not Manning.

    As a side note, this makes it difficult for a democratic state to wage an effective offensive war, and nearly impossible for one to engage in a drawn-out occupation, as this requires the sort of secret policing/spying system made impossible by a lack of secrecy (which should also prevent such behaviors domestically). These are all features, not bugs – truly democratic states have an extremely difficult time operating as police states, which is rather the point, or one of the points.

    @8: The jury’s out. In my experience, how any given person who has changed gender identity at some point feels about referring to past events using a previous name or previously-preferred gendered pronouns is highly individual, though it’s perhaps somewhat correlated to whether the person in question essentializes hir gender. For example, someone who believes ze always has been intrinsically of a given gender, irrespective of how ze identified at any given point, may well prefer universal use of hir presently-preferred name/pronouns, as ze takes the position that ze always was hir presently-identified gender and this is thus accurate. Even people who do not essentialize gender may prefer this for the sake of narrative simplicity, and many people (cis and trans) essentialize gender, so groups like GLAAD recommend defaulting to it. On the other hand, one may argue that a gender retcon erases some part of the trans experience, and may prefer temporally-specific pronouns. At any rate, it’s probably best to use the present pronouns unless gender is somehow relevant to the story, and even then one can still avoid confusion. For example, if I went to school with the person who was then known as Bradley Manning, and we were in the same fraternity, I might say, “I know Chelsea! She was in my fraternity in college – she identified as a man back then. She was quiet, but she was always willing to go the extra mile to help out [or whatever story I wish to tell].” A quick clarifying statement to explain the out-of-place gender indicators can avoid everyone’s confusion, and saying that she “identified” as a man accurately describes her behavior, while respecting her varied gender identities and avoiding a debate over gender essentialism by not asserting a property of the individual.

    If you’re unsure, you usually will be fine using a set of gender-neutral pronouns; singular “they” grates on my brain’s linguistic center(s), so I default to ze/hir. What’s categorically unacceptable is to continue referring to Manning in the present as “Bradley” instead of “Chelsea” and using masculine pronouns, as she has expressed a very clear wish to be identified as a woman.

  13. Greta Christina says

    Y’all are having these serious conversations, and all I can do is look at “For the benefit of those ladies who ask the right to smoke in public” and say: I so want to go to that bar. It looks like the lesbian bar of my dreams. (Minus the actual smoking, of course.)

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