You’re Using the Wrong Pronoun
Posted by caitlinate on May 4, 2009
I’m angry, really angry.
There’s this article up at my favourite place, The Age, this morning. It’s titled: “Court lets girl, 17, remove breasts” and already they’ve ruined my day. Guess what? The court did not “let a ‘girl’ remove ‘her’ breasts”. The court let a (trans) male remove his breasts because they don’t fit with his gender identity.
Throughout the article they consistently use the wrong pronoun in describing “Alex”. Once or twice they used he, they repeatedly used his name to avoid using a pronoun and most of the time just went with ‘she’. When quoting the Justice that ruled on the case talking about him, and using the correct pronouns, they put his name in brackets afterwards. You know, in case any readers got confused with all this he-ing and she-ing. This is something that happens repeatedly in the mainstream media when reporting on trans issues. Think about how frustrating and silencing it is to see the word ‘sex’ being used instead of rape in the papers. Now imagine how it would feel if every time you read a report on trans related issues in the paper your entire identity was mocked, maligned and completely disrespected. It is silencing and hurtful to use the wrong pronoun when referring to a trans person. Sure, people make mistakes. A syndicated newspaper being lazy in checking in on that kind of thing? It’s not a mistake, they made a fucking choice and it’s an oppressive one and it’s not good enough.
The article also publishes examples of times when the Court has made a decision in regards to acts related to gender identity for minors that may have not turned out so well or when someone who has altered their biological gender regretted the decision. Yet no mention of the thousands of people who have changed their gender or reject gender or are happily and healthily trans. I can’t imagine why, she says with a sneer.
The teenager had been diagnosed with “gender identity dysphoria”, a psychological condition in which a person has the normal physical characteristics of one sex but longs to be the opposite sex.
Why don’t you go read a book? Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein or Whipping Girl by Julia Serano could be good starting points. Bonus fuck you points for the emotive language of “longs to be”. I long for water when I’m thirsty. I long for gloves when my hands are cold. A person whose biological gender doesn’t align with their gender identity does not ‘long’ to be the ‘opposite sex’. They want to be and are sometimes able to be and in the process face institutional and personal hate and discrimination. Oh and p.s. sex does not equal gender. Sex is fucking or making love or ‘sexual intercourse’. Sex is something I generally do with another person. Gender is an ambiguous, fluid and nebulous concept that is regarded in some quarters as socialised and performative. It has nothing to do with my cunt so please stop trying to force it to.
But ethicist Nick Tonti-Filippini said mainstream medicine did not recognise hormone treatments and surgery as treatment for gender dysphoria. He said it was a psychiatric disorder qualifying under American guidelines as a psychosis because “it’s a belief out of accordance with reality”.
Having a gender identity that differs from your biological sex is not a disorder. How many times must this be repeated? If by mainstream medicine in America he’s referring to the American Psychological Association then he is referencing the group that only finally stated that homosexuality wasn’t a disorder in 1975. What a trustworthy and knowledgeable group they are. Plus, Nicky, could you maybe clarify exactly what your concept of reality is? Sarah Palin running for Vice President of the United States of America seemed completely removed from any kind of sane reality to me. The fact that you can get pancakes in a spray can is something I find hard to believe. There are millions of people around the world who are completely adamant that there is a dude who lives on a cloud in the sky and makes decisions about their lives – shall we rush them off to the sanatorium too then? Since when does anyone get to make decisions about other peoples lives and, not only their choices about how to represent themselves, but their self-knowledge of who they are and who they want to be?
Fuck Nick Tonti-Filippini, fuck the mainstream media and fuck mainstream medicine.
I sincerely hope you understand why I am writing about this here. If not:
A million years ago Simone de Beauvoir said: “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” Trans men and women are punished and dismissed and beaten and murdered by our society because their gender identity doesn’t fit the ‘norm’. They are oppressed by gender the same way women are. Violence – whether physical or not – against trans people is a feminist issue. Get with it.