Cissexist vocabulary

I have a very specific set of vocabulary I use when discussing gender variance and trans issues. Although it has tweaked and developed over time, I don’t always stop to explain my reasoning for why I use one particular term and not another. Florence Ashley reviews some of the vocabulary used commonly in the media, and explains why other terms are preferable.

Prioritisation of cisgender embodiment

Terms such as “biological woman”, “genetic woman”, “chromosomal woman”, “woman-born-woman”, “biological sex”, and “real woman” are common. This terminological family prioritises cisgender embodiment by associating gender to cisgender anatomy, erasing the possibility of transitude, or relegating it to anomalousness or liminality.

These terms — let us take the term “biological woman” as an example — insinuate that trans women are not biologically women. Cis women are designated as women in every aspect, whereas trans women are excluded from the category of “woman” in some aspects of their being. If cis women are biological, genetic, chromosomal, and born women, it must be that trans women are biological, genetic, chromosomal, or born men. Quite contrary to terms that are closer to trans realities, such as “assigned male at birth”.

By affirming the invariable character of gender and by privileging the experience of cis people, trans women are relegated to the background as quasi-women, sometimes-women. The lived experiences of trans women who have identified as such since childhood is ignored. An artificial and undue division between trans women and cis women is created, weaponising the body of trans women in a way that excludes them from sisterhood.

Read more here.

-Shiv

“In practice, cis people are never satisfied by the sacrifice of trans people’s dignity”

The UK’s current system of acquiring a legal gender change is needlessly onerous, and absurd in its implied assumption that a council of disinterested bureaucrats can determine the “truth” of an applicant’s gender. However, after the proposal to make the process less difficult, TERFs and the media have responded by grossly exaggerating what these updates to the Gender Recognition Act entail. Heather explains:

In fact, none of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act pose any risk to any of the cis women in the UK. The changes serve only to benefit transgender men and women who, for whatever reason, would be unable to prove they meet the current criteria to the satisfaction of their local council. While it certainly is a lot easier to access a counselor or other medical services in the UK than it is in the USA, there’s never a guarantee that said professional would be willing to diagnose a transgender person properly and there is no demonstrable need for this barrier in any case. Exactly zero overly impulsive cis people have been stopped from making silly mistakes. The hurdles in place serve only to satisfy the anxieties of cisgender people. In practice, transphobic cisgender people are not satisfied anyway and the sacrifice of transgender citizens’ dignity and agency so far has been in vain.

Since threats to cisgender women have already been addressed and in changes to these protections aren’t actually a part of the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, the clown car vomiting op-eds and TERF concerns can and should be easily ignored by members of government reviewing the proposed changes. It cannot be ignored by transgender people in UK and anywhere else they might be subjected to the dialogue. It is neither necessary nor acceptable for the conversation on transgender rights to be dominated by noise about crimes that cisgender men might commit as though transgender people are enabling them. Law abiding transgender people are never to blame for the crimes of cisgender men.

Read more about the UK media’s fever pitch here, and why it’s baseless scaremongering.

-Shiv

I thought the Section 28 boat set sail already

Section 28 was a British law until 2000 that required government authorities to censor and omit any information on homosexuality. Nearly two decades after its repeal, gay Brits lambasted the law for the damage it caused it in their youth–the deafening silence of the resources available to them led many to believe something was inherently wrong with them. Its heinous effects haven’t deterred the press from quoting Section 28 arguments verbatim, only this time against trans people.

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Dr. Becky, PhD

A teaching assistant at Wilfrid Laurier University was recently disciplined for making the dignity of trans people the subject of a debate. Lindsey Shepherd–or Dr. Becky, PhD as I’ve come to call her–recorded audio of her meeting with the administration, and leaked the subsequent recording. Since then, a horde of tedious dudebros have followed her every tweet, and Dr. Becky has taken up the reactionary dipshit speaking circuit. Whatever benefit of the doubt I might have given her before vanished once she signed up for generously paid speaking circuits to lambast the evil transes.

Her fans sound suspiciously similar to Jordan Peterson’s, for reasons that should be transparently obvious.

Still, I didn’t feel the need to respond myself because there has been nothing I’ve said about J Pete that doesn’t apply to Dr. Becky, PhD. But Florence Ashley looked at the typical frozen peaches lobbed in the name of ceaselessly litigating my humanity, and I’m sharing what she found:

Free speech only benefits those who have a voice. If you’re not invited to speak, freedom of expression is pointless. Those who have a platform don’t concern themselves with the difficulties of obtaining one as much as those who don’t have one.

When free speech is reduced to a justification for one’s intuitive reaction or opinion on a given case, it is instrumentalized in defence of those we agree with. It becomes a mere shadow of the right we have enshrined in our Constitution.

There is much to be said about balancing free speech with other human rights, such as the right to equality. But even for free speech absolutists, a lot more can be done without talking about other rights. The distribution of outrage and the equality of access to platforms are free-speech issues.

Read the rest here.

-Shiv

I know what the antis will say before they’ve even said it

It’s become something of a running joke in the tran hivemind:

Kent Host: Hi, and welcome. Today, we’re discussing transgenderismology. We’ve got our experts, Miranda Nimby from Concerned Mums Who Have Never Met A Trans Person, and Professor Doctor Barry Scienceman (area of expertise: Astrophysics).

Miranda: Thanks, Kent,

Barry: Great to be here.

Kent Host: So, Miranda, why don’t you start by outlining your concerns?

Miranda: Well, Kent, I just think that all these things are moving too fast. When I was a child, I loved reading about George in the Famous Five. But did you know that if George existed today, she would be forcibly bundled off to a Gender Reassignment Camp, force-fed hormones, sterilised, have a beard superglued to her face, and then indoctrinated into the patriarchy?

Kent Host: Wow, that sounds dreadful. Barry, what’s your perspective?

Barry: Well, as an astrophysicist, this isn’t really a subject I’m qualified to comment on. But if I were to wildly speculate, I would assume that this is the end of civilisation as we know it, and a probable contributor to the heat death of the universe.

Kent Host: So if I understand you correctly, the existence of trans people could be the end of life on Earth?

Miranda: Absolutely.

Barry: That is a very strong possibility.

Read more here.

-Shiv

The real transition regret

Cis journalists are notoriously shitty at having this conversation. They often bias their piece, badly, by selecting specific interviewees to paint their twisted narrative. Nowhere is this more clear than transgender children, where journalists notably omit actual clinicians who work with transgender children.

Zinnia Jones reviews what the research actually says. A more common regret than transitioning? Not transitioning young:

However, one phenomenon of gender identity development in youth is far more substantiated than these concerns about transition regret, while receiving far less attention: cases of de-desistance (or “re-persistence”). These youth express gender dysphoria in their childhood, report that their dysphoria desists in adolescence, but later find that their dysphoria has not desisted and go on to seek out transition treatment.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Our bodies are not ours

The premise of pro-discrimination laws is that not only can another person unilaterally dictate where you can be with your body and what you can do with it, but that they should do so. North Carolina’s House Bill 2 is one such example:

Although House Bill 2 (HB2), or “The Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act,” is known as “The Bathroom Bill,” it is about so much more than bathrooms. In February 2016, thanks to the efforts of local queer and trans community organizers, the city council of Charlotte, North Carolina passed a nondiscrimination ordinance extending legal protections to LGBTQ people. By law, Charlotte businesses could no longer deny someone service or a job because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The ordinance also granted transgender people the right to use public bathrooms marked for the gender of their choice. While the new law itself did not include any protections against many of the systemic barriers trans women of color face – like discriminatory access to housing and medical care – conservative rich white state officials clapped back.

Almost overnight, North Carolina then-governor Pat McCrory and his cronies in his legislature began drafting a state bill to shut down the nondiscrimination ordinance in Charlotte, and prevent future anti-discrimination bills from arising on the local level across the state. HB2 had five points:

(1) Transgender people must use the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth, regardless of their gender identity.
(2) City governments cannot pass laws protecting LGBTQ people from job discrimination or from being denied service because they are queer or trans.
(3) City governments cannot pass laws protecting working people under 18.
(4) All pre-existing laws passed by city governments protecting LGBTQ people, as well as local laws about worker wages and benefits no longer exist.
(5) People can no longer sue for any type of discrimination on the state level.

Through these five points, HB2 attacked LGBTQ people and annihilated all workers’ and marginalized people’s rights. With one law, North Carolina’s state government granted businesses and employees the right to discriminate against people. Most people in our cities had no idea. To most, it was simply “The Bathroom Bill” because Governor McCrory, as well as local, state, and national news sources built traction for HB2 by marketing it on their hatred of (and fascination with) trans people, in particular trans women of color.

Read more here.

-Shiv

 

Did you need a “safe file”?

When I’m hosting a seminar on gender questioning, gender variant, and transgender youth, probably the one item met with the greatest degree of shock is the concept of the “safe file.” Parents supporting their children–that is, not subjecting them to discipline or psychological torture–in their gender questioning process are often met with specious accusations of abuse. The “logic” is that gender variance doesn’t exist, so any child exhibiting it (or even thinking about it) must be, by definition, an abused child. The safe file is the parents’ one stop shop for all their documents proving the child’s health and, if relevant, their gender dysphoria diagnosis, and it’s necessary to argue to the State that you are, in fact, doing what the medical consensus says supports your child best. It’s only necessary because the bigots take their “won’t anybody think of the children” shriek to meatspace, and report these families to children’s services.

Now, it would be bad enough to report someone for not torturing their kid, but the scary part is that family court has occasionally concurred. An Alberta family judge ruled that a parent’s custody was contingent on ruthlessly policing what their child wore, and this ruling was not overturned for half a year, and only came after the mother was unjustly stripped of custody. Mermaids UK has also covered British examples where single-mothers following the medical consensus had their custody stripped under arguments as ridiculous as “your child can’t be a trans girl, he likes Spongebob,” and explicitly mandated conversion therapy should the child ever question their gender again.

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Coerced into assimilation

Content notice: anti-fat discrimination.

Trans people being rejected healthcare options for specious reasons is just the background radiation we live in. Kiva Bay, however, has a more detailed report on how fat trans folks are seen as “less real” because of their weight, and how this links to their healthcare service denials.

Fat transgender people face significant barriers to medical transition, including HRT and GRS, often in the form of surgeons who refuse to work on them, or doctors who feel they won’t make “proper” men and women. For this reason, transgender people have the highest rates of eating disorders, even higher than cishet women, yet another life-threatening danger.

In their essay No Apology: Shared Struggles in Fat and Transgender Law, Dylan Vade and Sondra Solovay explain how fat and transgender people are coerced by the legal system to assimilate to cisnormative standards: “When attempting to overcome these barriers by using the legal system, not only are fat and transgender people expected to share a goal of assimilation, but they are coerced into reinforcing fat-phobic and transgender-phobic norms in to secure basic legal rights enjoyed by their non-fat and non-transgender peers. This is a cruel cycle: oppression necessitates the legal intervention, yet the person must participate in that very oppression to receive legal protection.” They go on to explain, “Winning cases generally adopt a legal posture that reinforces societal prejudices. Cases that challenge societal prejudices generally lose.” They illustrate this with two cases of fat discrimination in California, John R. of Berkeley and Toni C. of Santa Cruz.

Both were seeking damages for weight related discrimination in the workplace. John R., who talked about his fatness like it was a problem he could not cure, won his case. Toni C., who was unapologetic about her fatness, did not. Toni rejected a medicalized view of her fatness, and her argument was entirely unapologetic. Refusing to locate the problem on her own body, locating it instead in a fat hating society, Toni lost her case.

Read more here.

-Shiv

Your editorial guidelines on trans people need major surgery

The few corporate media outlets out there that are even slightly not-hostile to trans people routinely make egregious editorial choices when they write about trans people. Publishing our prior names (especially if we were not a public figure before we transitioned), objectifying our bodies, pigeon-holing us, focusing on surgery (especially when the trans person’s personal life is irrelevant to the article–e.g. Chelsea Manning), not respecting our boundaries or requests, not consulting us on how we wish to be referred to pre-transition, or just in general not consulting us at all as participants in your piece–this is just a short example of the ways these marginally not-hostile outlets dehumanize their trans subjects, even if their slant is intended to be sympathetic.

So here’s another editorial guideline. GLAAD has one but doesn’t explain why its provisions are important. The Radical Copyeditor spells it out for you.

The purpose of this guide is to help people of all gender identities and experiences practice more care toward those on the margins. Trans people must be understood as the authorities on ourselves and the language used to describe us. Not only does this mean that cisgender (non-trans) people need to practice humility and care toward trans people, but it also means that trans people—particularly those with educational, financial, and/or racial privilege—need to practice humility and care toward other trans people—particularly those who are folks of color, low-income, less educated, and/or elders.

If you are trans, I highly recommend inoculating yourself against the temptation to police other trans people’s language by reading “words don’t kill people, people kill words” and the glossary introduction “there is no perfect word,” both by Julia Serano, as well as “I Was Recently Informed I’m Not a Transsexual,” by Riki Wilchins.

A final note: Like all style guides, what follows is about language usage, not definitions; for a comprehensive glossary of transgender-related terminology, check out this one from Julia Serano.

The short of it is: Actually ask us what language we use to refer to ourselves. Not so difficult.

Read more here.

-Shiv