Attraction to nonbinary people

Difficult survey questions

I’ve spent a lot of time making surveys that ask people about their orientation, so I’m familiar with the messy relationship between orientation and nonbinary genders. Gay and straight are labels that assume that a binary gender for both the subject and object of attraction–men who love men, men who love women, etc. If you’re a nonbinary person who loves women, or a woman who loves nonbinary people, “gay” and “straight” don’t really succeed in conveying that information.

Some nonbinary people, I’m aware, will identify as gay or straight anyway. For example, if you’re commonly perceived as a man, and your dating pool primarily consists of men who love men, you might feel that “gay” fits–or is at least useful–even if you don’t identify as a man. On the other hand, some nonbinary people would be uncomfortable with a label that frames them within a binary gender identity.

In any case, if someone fills out our survey, and they say they’re nonbinary and gay, I’ll say sure, that’s what they are. The survey isn’t there to judge, only to measure. But… I have no idea what genders they’re attracted to. If I want to know that information, I have to ask directly. Are you attracted to men? Are you attracted to women?

But isn’t it strange? In order to understand the orientations of nonbinary people, we’re asking about attraction to men and women. Didn’t we leave some other genders out? What about attraction to nonbinary people?

[Read more…]

It bugs me about Nimona

cn: Lots of spoilers.  Also a suicide mention.

Nimona is a recent animated film taking place in a futuristic medieval setting. Lord Ballister was a commoner who was plucked by the queen to become a knight. Knights are sworn to defend the city from monsters beyond its walls, but they basically function as cops. However, during the knighting ceremony, Ballister is framed for killing the queen, and becomes a fugitive.

He gets adopted by Nimona, who at first appears as a young girl, but is a powerful shapeshifter. She calls him a villain, and insists on being his sidekick.  Although Ballister is initially reluctant, they work together to prove his innocence. But Ballister learns that he needs to go much further, striking at the heart of the city’s corrupt institutions and entire mythos.

Nimona is celebrated as a queer and trans movie, and for good reason. It has a trans creator, overt representation (Ballister having a male love interest and Nimona being fluid in both species and gender), and subversive themes about overthrowing the social and institutional structures that oppress people.

And so, I am very sorry to play the role of media curmudgeon, yet again. I found the themes of the movie to be in conflict with what was being literally portrayed. This gave the impression of a movie that had a point to make, but was ineffective at actually arguing the point.

[Read more…]

On the retraction of an ROGD paper

I have a comment on the recent retraction of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria: Parent Reports on 1655 Possible Cases”.  I happen to have some expertise on this precise issue.

Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) is an alleged phenomenon where kids suddenly experience gender dysphoria. The hypothesis is that this is caused by social contagion and therefore the kids are not authentically trans.  The entire research area is fundamentally flawed because it’s based on the accounts of parents who frequent ROGD forums, instead of, you know, talking to the kids in question. The kids likely have a better idea than the parents just how “sudden” the onset really was.

But that’s not why the paper was retracted. The journal stated that it was retracted “due to a lack of documented consent by study participants”. The stated reason is not obviously connected to the real problems with ROGD research, so it sounds pretextual.

[Read more…]

The veil of gender ignorance

One of the common TERF talking points is, “If I grew up today, I would have (wrongly) believed I was trans.” As with many TERF arguments, there’s also an anti-ace analogue: “If I grew up today, I would have sooner believed I was bisexual heteroromantic than just gay.” I’m going to take an analytical approach to understanding and countering these arguments.

The veil of ignorance

We can start by borrowing an idea from political philosophy: the veil of ignorance. We imagine that we have the opportunity to construct a society however we wish. Afterwards, we get to take our place within the society. The catch is, we don’t know which place we will take. So we don’t want the society to unfairly favor one group over another, because we may end up taking the unfavored position.

The veil of ignorance is particularly well-suited to this problem, because it’s pretty close to what we’re actually doing. We choose the cultural and social messages that are conveyed to the next generation. And, in order to make that choice, we imagine ourselves in the shoes of the next generation. “If I grew up today…”

[Read more…]

Asexuality in rightwing media

I subscribe to Google alerts on asexuality and aromanticism, mostly as a way of finding the best articles to highlight in The Asexual Agenda linkspam. Recently I found two hostile articles from alt right sources. Such articles are rare; once I compiled statistics on the all the alerts from one month, and found that 2 out of 132 articles were hostile. But I still highlight these articles to showcase conservative anti-ace “tropes”.

Knowing what this is, it’s 100% okay to skip this one. I don’t post this on The Asexual Agenda because it’s too feelsbad for a lot of people.

[Read more…]

Trans representation in Tell Me Why

Tell Me Why is probably the highest profile example of a trans character in video games. Not the biggest game to feature a trans character, nor the game that places the most focus on trans characters, but something in the middle. A game with a trans protagonist, but not about trans issues, which was made by a medium-sized studio.

I didn’t think I would be playing this one, because I did not care for the writing in DONTNOD’s seminal game Life is Strange.  But, there’s a free giveaway for the month of June on Steam. Furthermore, I was intrigued by the controversy around the game, most clearly expressed by Dia Lacina’s review, “‘Tell Me Why’ Smothers Its Representation in Bubble Wrap“. Despite Lacina’s critical stance, it only made me more eager to form my own opinion.

cn: mild spoilers for events in the early game
[Read more…]

The contentiousness of womxn

cn: It’s about language, so don’t complain to me about wasting time with pointless semantics, it was your choice to read onward!

“Womxn” is a term that was intended to be more inclusive of trans women, nonbinary people, and women of color. It recently entered the news when Twitch used “womxn” in a tweet. This resulted in backlash, with people accusing the term of being transphobic. It is a term that inspires, shall we say, conflicting viewpoints.

I first heard about “womxn” in the context of TERFs complaining about it. I don’t exactly watch TERFs, but my husband, you see, likes to argue with TERFs on Twitter. Yes, yes, there’s no accounting for taste. In any case, TERFs would complain endlessly about “womxn”, seemingly in disproportion to its actual use. This is common practice in TERF communities, to highlight something said somewhere by some trans person, and amplify everywhere as an example of why the TRAs (their term for trans activists, intended to parallel MRAs) are bad.

[Read more…]