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On Gender, and Giving Talks

October 31, 2010

I have a talk I have to give on Tuesday. I’ve written it already (it was that, or re-format my CV). And just writing it has made me think about how much I don’t want to do the talk, how much I shouldn’t have to do the talk, how pointless this talk is going to be.

So, here’s what I won’t be saying on Tuesday.

Howdy Folks. I’m Kit, and as you can see from what I’m wearing, I’m already running late for a party. I’m not the only speaker going, and we would never have scheduled this event at this time. We weren’t consulted.

I am what’s known in the trade as a non-binary, that is someone who when told to tick one of male and female, just sticks two fingers up at the questioner. I’m neither, but of course there are folks that are both. There are more Things on heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.*

I am a Thing. I identify as such. I’m an it, an in-between, a neither, a why the fuck do I have to tick a box just so I can play computer games?

What folks fail to realise is that the Things are also People**. People need to do a lot of things. They need to go to the toilet. They need to get a job, oh yes I need a job. They need a bank account, two forms of identification and a recent utility bill, or maybe that’s just the job centre again.

They’d also like to do a lot of things. I’d like to go to the swimming pool. I’d like to try clothes on in the shop. I’d like people to respect the name and pronoun I give them. I haven’t gone swimming in four years – swimming was the first hint that something wasn’t right about how other people saw me.

I don’t like people seeing me at all. People make assumptions based on my voice, my height, the fact I have a whole two skirts in my wardrobe, each of which I’ve worn outside the house only once. I like living on the internet, where I can give as few or as many hints about myself as I like.

I have to lie a lot. I lie to my family, don’t tell them that I was hurt that the christmas card I received from my grandma had been “corrected” to the gender my aunt thinks I am. I lie to potential employers, because their online application forms force me to choose a title from a list of none that I would choose. I don’t like lying. I much prefer only revealing the data that is required.

Here’s some data for you: If you wish to talk about me, call me They. Or It. Lots of people get upset about being called It, but they aren’t me. Don’t call them It, just as you wouldn’t call me He or She. It is something used about objects, not real people, they say. Well, if I’m not a real person, that means I can get away with more. I am just a construction of the internet, an idea, the monster under your bed. And I can be everywhere.

Don’t claim I don’t behave like an It should, that I’m really being a He or She. I behave the best way for anyone to behave – like themself. So perhaps I cross more lines than is socially acceptable, but the lines can only be moved if people cross them and pull those lines after them. Some lines need erasing completely, and I’m working on that.

I’m an It, a monster, a Thing, the reason society doesn’t work. I’m going to keep poking society until it does, because all people have the right to have society work for them, and as said, the Things are also People.

And now, I’m off. I’ve got a party to go to.

*Someone probably called William Shakespear, in Hamlet

**Douglas Adams, in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 2, 2010 02:28

    I love this.

    I want to scream at everyone who says that “it” is inherently offensive and dehumanizing.
    My view on it is this: How can a term that I choose to apply to myself as an act of empowerment be dehumanizing? The only way is if I am already inhuman. Because then it isn’t the pronoun who is dehumanizing me- but the person objecting to the pronoun who is. (it’s also an awesome way to justify misgendering, if you think about it. LOVE seeing trans binaries do it for that reason… eurgh.)

    Have you read the questioningtransphobia post about being a monster? I can’t find it right now, but it was really cool.

    • November 2, 2010 08:38

      I’ve never been entirely sure that I’m human. Monsters get all the fun. My basic argument against saying any pronoun should never be used because some people find it offensive is “Theo finds it offensive that people refer to him as She, does that mean no-one should use the pronoun She?”

      I haven’t read any posts on QT about being a monster, but having spotted that little light contributes towards QT these days, I think I’ve probably read something similar at her blog.

  2. December 11, 2010 14:12

    In the end, I think your actual talk contained much of the sentiment of this talk, even if it was toned down.

    Y’know what’s really “dehumanizing”? People using the wrong name or pronoun for a trans person is dehumanizing. Whenever someone puts their own ideas about who we should be above our human needs to be treated with respect, that person is dehumanizing us (and usually a whole group of other people at the same time by implication).

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