Tuesday 23 August 2011

More on pronouns.

In my earlier post on pronouns, I indicated a reluctant willingness to accept "he" (and therefore "him" and "his" too) as long as no assumptions were made about what "he" might mean. Thus, at the next Recreation meeting, I said I didn't really like pronouns but that people could use "he" for me. And this little statement got a nod of understanding.

But now I'm thinking about changing my mind, because I've just come across a post by Kate Bornstein: A Tribute to Mx Justin ViVian Bond, which includes the half-sentence "V (Justin ViVian's pronoun of choice)". Say what?! Going to Mx Bond's own site, there is this explanation:

Not long ago I was asked to speak on a panel at Columbia University entitled “Denaturalizing Gender and Sex”. Before introducing me the organizer of the panel asked how I would like to be “pronoun-ed”. I wasn’t quite sure how to reply. Obviously for the majority of my life I’ve been referred to as “he” or “him” and to a lesser degree “she” or “her”. I don’t usually think about it too much except when reading it in print where it has annoyed me to no end. I’ve never really addressed it because I have had no better suggestions to offer. For some time I’ve been familiar with the words zee, hir, or they as gender-neutral terms but I’ve never really liked them. So the fellow who was going to introduce me, upon sensing my dis-ease suggested “they” because “that’s Genesis P-Orridge’s preference”. I said okay thinking I might as well try “they” on… “if it works for Genesis….”

Well after introducing two of the other panelists I heard my name followed by “they” and I began looking around to find out who the other people were he was talking about, then I remembered that “they” was me. I got a good chuckle out of it but my pronoun quandary was clearly NOT solved.

So what I’ve come up with is “v”. Since my name is Justin Vivian Bond and since Vivian begins with a V and visually a V is two even sides which meet in the middle I would like v to be my pronoun.

For example:

Justin Vivian Bond was described in The New Yorker as “a bar of gold in the new depression”. V’s latest eponymous show at Joe’s Pub will be Saturday January 8th at 11:30


“Have you seen Justin Vivian?”

“Yes, V ran to the store to pick up the dress v is having altered.”

V covers it all.

In the future if I see or hear the words he or she, her or him, hers or his, in reference to me, I will take it either as a personal insult, a weak mind (easily forgivable), or (worst case scenario) sloppy journalism.

Ah, that's splendid! And v's descriptions of "Prefix: Mx" and "Gender: Trans" are also very engaging.

So, I guess my pronoun should be "J". As in: "Is Jonathan coming tonight?" "Yes, J said J'd be down at 6:30, but J'd have to leave by 9:00 so that J can catch J's bus home."

Okay, maybe not. Using "J" in there makes it all a bit convoluted and clumsy. But it's a nice idea all the same :)

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Jasper's Wardrobe.

Well, it seems I wrote Jasper off too soon in my initial post. Clicking the link therein on an impulse, I discovered he's restructured his site so that it functions in the blog world once more. Nice to see. Jasper is an interesting guy and an – perhaps the – original male femme blogger. Although... I do have problems with some of the stuff he posts.

For one thing, Jasper's identity seems to be defined, at least partly, in opposition to transactivists and feminists, with whom he has running battles. So you get headings like the recent "Women's Studies Made You Ignorant" and "Male Lesbians, Feminine Boys, Sissies, I Went Trans So You Don’t Have To". Okay, those are probably deliberately provocative with more than a dose of humour added, but still, for me they're a distraction. Feminism and trans theory are two of the most important branches of modern thought, our most serious tools in examining and reshaping the world we live in, when we're dealing with gender. Feminists and transactivists are – or should be – our allies and friends, not our opponents. We should be able to carve out our own space, own our identities, without sniping at theirs.

And then there's Jasper's interest in AGP. For instance, he reblogs Hontas Farmer: For a long time now many trans activists (...) have crusaded against the very notion of autogynephilia (...), or denied the very existence of autogynephilia. (...) The transactivist claim that autogynephilia is based on pseudo science. (...) That autogynephilia is just the work of a transphobic quack named Ray Blanchard.

I have to say I agree with the transactivists entirely. AGP is pseudo-science. It's a lame attempt to pathologize a particular area of human behaviour in the specific instances where it's deemed gender inappropriate. It's that supposed inappropriateness that we should be challenging. We don't need some gender-defending scientist to give it a silly name and tell us there's something wrong with us.

Similarly, in an earlier post by Jasper himself, there is: Anne Laurence (...) builds off of Blanchard’s theories of Male Femininity as a Desire Disorder. The theory has been labeled as “Evil” within LGBT because it sees both male crossdressers and MTFs as the same phenomenon of Becoming-Woman-Desire.

To me, a theory that calls male femininity a "disorder" of anything is just more pathologizing. Okay, I wouldn't call it evil, but I'd say it's at best obscurantist. It deflects us from debating the nature of gender, sets up a normative view of gender as axiomatic, and places us outside the discourse, as aberrant. Oi! Blanchard! No!

Furthermore, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion), male cross-dressing and MTF trans are not the same phenomenon – not in general terms. (For individuals they often can be, as the phenomena overlap, or as people struggle to reach their own understanding of themselves; but that's a different matter.) For those who are MTF trans, "becoming-woman" is not a desire, it's an imperative. Whereas for male cross-dressers – at least if we define ourselves as femmes – "becoming-woman" is a red herring, because we're not women. To use "becoming-woman" in our case merely reiterates a cultural – and false – correlation between sex and gender. For us as male femmes, the categories "man" and "femme" are not incompatible, and to throw the word "woman" in there simply confuses things.

But as I said, these are only my opinions. Obviously Jasper has his own opinions, and it is those which make his blog and his youtube channel worth watching. I shall re-add the Wardrobe to my blog list and enjoy the show :)

Monday 8 August 2011

Pronoun trouble.

Last week I went down to Recreation Nottingham for the first time. I'm always rather shy and tongue-tied around new people (not that I have much conversation at the best of times), but they seem like a nice bunch. One of the things they did, before getting down to any business, was go round the group and have everyone say their name and which pronouns they preferred. I'm (insert name) and I like "he", or "she", or "they" (gender neutral), or "ze", or whatever. It's a nice idea.

Actually we did this twice (once again after someone else came in later on). First time I said "I'm Jonathan and most people use he, but I'm not really bothered"; second time I said "I'm Jonathan and I use he, but whatever you like is fine", or something along those lines. But what I should have said was: "I'm Jonathan and although I take other people's preferred pronouns very seriously, I've never thought about my own all that much." So, I've been doing that now.

The pronoun "he" is correct for me, but, well, y'know. Occasionally I get called "she" – in trans company, or on trans forums (cf my previous post), or by mistake – and "she" is kind of nice. It recognizes my femme pronoun-wise, if only inadvertently. Whereas "he" doesn't. Using "he" is like ticking the "M" box on a form. I always want to append a "but" to it. Okay, I could get round any pronoun qualms by using a neutral one, but that seems a bit of a cop-out for me. My gender isn't neutral. And "she" is simply wrong, since I'm not female. No, "he" is correct. But then there's that "but" again.

And that "but" means this:

Just because I'm male and accept the pronoun "he", please do not assume that you therefore know anything else about me: how I think, how I feel, what I like, who I like, what I know, what I do, what I can do, what I can't do, what I understand, what I don't understand, how I dress, how I have sex, how I eat my breakfast ... anything. The gender "male", the pronoun "he", the ticked box "M" tells you nothing about any of this. I am not from Mars. Stick your gender stereotypes up your arse and set fire to them.

So, okay, that's settled then. You can call me "he". But...