Month: August 2015

Take it down to brass tacks: Connecting “I’m non-binary” and “this is what this means for you”

actualtransjaymerrick asked:

I’m 13 and I want to come out to my family/friends as non binary. My friends I know will be more accepting, but I’m not too sure about my family. My mom tells me that I’m too young to decide my gender/sexuality. It stresses me out..

Hello there actualtransjaymerrick!

This sounds tough and I’m really glad that you got in touch. I think there are many reasons why a parent can react like your mom did – check this out as it may be helpful. In that post I talk about many reasons for parental reactions, including that parents often have trouble feeling like they don’t know about something we know about, or like they don’t know us as well as they think they do. Sometimes this can make them react in difficult ways when their heart might actually be in a better place than their reaction indicates.

More specifically, I can tell you that if my 13 year-old kid told me that they identify as non-binary and want to come out to friends and family, I would probably respond like this: “I am 100% here for you and support you however you would like to live and be recognized by others. Now, I can support you until the cows come home, but let’s talk about your concrete needs in relation to your gender identity. What kind of changes do you want to make / have others make to reflect this? What do you need from me (name, pronoun, do I call you my daughter/son/kid and to whom does this matter for you, do you have new or different clothing, hair, grooming or other gender expression needs)? What do you need from family members (everyone to know and to shift their practices around, or only the people you see often/at all)? Are there some family activities/traditions/etc. that are hard for you or that you don’t want to participate in because they are gendered?What do you need from your school (a big one – see this post for an idea of how gender can play out at school)? Do you want me to talk to your teachers or help you to talk to them, or talk to the front office to have your name/gender changed on the school record? Do you feel like your school is a place for you to be ok? Where might it be unsafe to be out, and what can we do about that? Do you need other supports outside of me and friends, like access to similarly-identified peers?” Yada yada!

I offer this laundry list/monologue because, actualtransjaymerrick, I want to emphasize that most parents have absolutely NO IDEA what non-binary means. Like, ZERO. I do, so I know that this kind of gender shift means very concrete things like clothing, who can/needs to know, whether the teacher or principal needs to have a visit from me, etc. Most people do not. So I strongly suggest that you bring it down to very basic real-life things that you are asking for, and that you prepare for a conversation with your mom by listing the ones that are most and least important to you so that you can give her concrete ideas of what you need from her and from others: what is non-negotiable and what is more flexible.

Lastly, I would also say this to my kid: “I know that, if I turned around some day and said ‘well, I actually feel more like X (insert whatever) these days and less like a genderqueer non-binary trans spectrum person who uses singular they as my pronoun’ that you would do your best to go there with me and accept that people grow and change. And so, I want you to know that I support regardless of whether you feel this way for now or forever.” This is not the same thing as saying “you’re too young” but does recognize that we can and do change. The most powerful and important authority on you and what’s going on with you is YOU yourself. And I think that there is a lot to be said for understanding ourselves as ALWAYS in progress and changing and growing everyday. This most certainly applies to me and I’m 32 soon and some kind of doctor.

I hope this helps, friend. Write back if you need to.

Lee

Advertisements

‘But they don’t know I know…’ – Outing a gender-neutral pronoun user?

the-little-white-mermaid asked:

My sister doesn’t know that I can see her tumblr blog description that describes her as bisexual, agender, “them” pronouns. I want to refer to her as she wants but I also don’t want her to know I know since I don’t actually know who she’s told. How?

Hello the-little-white-mermaid!

Rock on – you are a sensitive and supportive sibling and I truly appreciate your question; I’m sure your sibling would too, if they knew that you are being so careful and conscientious.

Your dilemma seems to be: how do I support my sibling without violating their boundaries? The bare fact fact that you want to act from an affirming place by using their pronouns is, to my mind, an excellent reason for sitting down with your sibling and just coming clean about what you found and how. The very best energy – i.e., how you approach the conversation, with kindness and openness – and best intentions – which you have – can work wonders.

It seems, though, like you’re worried about your sibling’s reaction to you knowing. Without more information about your situation, I can’t be sure why. One reason I can guess at is that your sibling might be an intensely private person who keeps their gender and sexual identities away from family. If this is true, then part of the conversation would hopefully involve you acknowledging that there are reasons why your sibling did not tell you and validating these reasons, or, “I totally get why you wouldn’t want to share this with me and that’s cool.” Make it really clear that you understand why this choice was made, and that you are only bringing it up because you want to make them as comfortable as possible around you. The conversation will also have to address how to behave around other family members, including whether or not you should use your sibling’s chosen pronoun with others.

Another reason for your worry could be the quality and the history of relationship you have together. In deciding how to move forward, your best guide will be this relationship. Do you generally support each other in other family issues? Do you ‘share the spotlight’ well in your family gatherings and conversations i.e., do you fight for control or attention of other family members? Do you have a history of trusting each other or breaking each other’s trust? Do you share friends or interests or other common ground? I ask these questions because gender stuff never happens outside of already-existing relationships. The reason why a sibling or a parent might refuse to use one’s pronouns, for example, can be about an old hurt or bad dynamic and not about pronouns at all, in my view (see this). Same thing: the reason why you might be worried or why your conversation might be challenging might be because of your history with your sibling that makes any big conversation challenging, and not because of its topic.

In either case / for either reason (apologies if I’m completely off-base and please feel free to write back), I think it might be helpful to plan the conversation in a way that makes it very different from how you usually interact and spend time with your sibling in order to make it clear that this is different and important. OR, take advance of a fun and familiar ritual that you do together or place you go. These are different tacks, but they both send the message that you are being intentional, thoughtful and caring (more tips here).

Good luck, and take courage from knowing that you are already being a really lovely ally in seeking out resources and asking questions.

Hope that helps,

Lee

We are all they: On getting rid of all gendered pronouns, altogether

gardenspiderfeeling asked:

Hi! I am agender and the only correct pronoun to use for me is ‘they’. The more i think about gendered pronouns, the more they ALL seem unnecessary to me. a pronoun is a word used to refer to somebody without describing them in any way.(?) I’m all about knowing and acknowledging a person’s gender identity/experience/expression to the extent that they’d like me to,but i feel like pronouns are not the place to display anything about gender/race/personality. Can i rightfully call ALL people ‘they’?

Hello gardenspiderfeeling!

What an interesting question. Language is inadequate for almost everything, in my view (which is something I look at in my academic work on social justice education approaches). However, we need it, so why not just get rid of specificity and refer to everyone as they?

I have two lovely friends who have made the decision to use they pronouns for everyone they ever talk about (even, you know, their old mums and dads who are decidedly she, she, he and he). I think this is a lovely gesture because they have made the decision to privilege people who might be uncomfortable with she or he and NOT the status quo. They have completely reversed the equation: if someone wanted to be called she or he they would have to ask my friends to make the change, and my friends would have to work at it. Isn’t that something?

In the beginning, this resulted in some rather funny moments where I thought that someone my friends mentioned was ‘one of my people’ (e.g., ”I didn’t know THAT PERSON used they as their pronoun! OMG that’s so exciting!!!” I exclaimed) only to remember that, well, everyone is ‘they’ for these people. This happened about five times. Eventually I adapted and didn’t hear or care about anyone’s gender who they brought up in conversation. It was and continues to be rather nice!

Of course, I believe that people have a right to the gender (or gender-neutral) pronoun of their choice including he or she or hir or xim. Trans people who have struggled for acceptance as he or she could of course feel invalidated when ‘they’d’ by people with the best of gender-inclusive intentions. I definitely see where you are coming from, gardenspiderfeeling, but many people really do love their pronoun and do feel like it displays a lot about who they are (me too, I guess).

Absolutism of any kind has its risks, but that’s where we are today: where people who don’t want she or he have to do more work. Imagine if it was the other way around? What would change? What would be eerily similar?

Food for thought!

Thanks for writing, and be well,

Lee

‘What about IT?’ When someone uses ‘it’ as a gender-neutral pronoun

Anonymous asked:

“Hey, a friend of mine ( who is in GSA with me ) wants me to use it/it’s for their pronoun. I’ve always been told to never use that pronoun, as it dehumanizes people, but my friend claims that they identify as an object. I’m not really sure what to do, as I can’t find any resources on it :/”

Hello Anonymous!

So glad you asked. This is a tough one. Yes, most of the time, it/it’s is considered to be dehumanizing. In fact, I don’t know anyone who uses this pronoun in an affirming way. I think it’s very risky because it invites people with no knowledge of gender diversity to associate someone with a pronoun that has a horrible history as an instrument not only of homophobia and transphobia, but racism and ableism, too.

That said…if this is what your friend wants, and this makes your friend feel comfortable, this is what is required from you as a friend and ally. (Nerd moment: there is a whole school of social theory on neo-materialism and post-humanism where scholars think about ‘inanimate’ objects as far more than that. This school informs my own academic work, and if you or your friend want more on this write back some time.)

THAT said…I have a comparison to offer. When I was 17 and newly out as queer my much older brother (a straight masculine dude) asked me how he should describe me to friends. I wildly preferred queer or (at the time) dyke to gay or lesbian. However, I knew that my brother – this was about 15 years ago – would probably be looked on as possibly homophobic for using the terms queer and dyke in largely heterosexual contexts. And so, because I wouldn’t be there to hear it and because it didn’t feel like the biggest deal to me, I said “ok brother, call me gay if you have to.”

What I mean with this comparison is that someone who hears you using ‘it’ for your friend could possibly have a negative reaction that catches you up in the crossfire. You will likely have to do a lot of explaining to almost everyone with whom you ever discuss your friend. This could be another reason why it feels uncomfortable to use it, for you. While this is not a reason to disrespect your friend’s choice, it IS a very valid reason to have a conversation together about these kind of situations and your feelings/need for more guidance.

I hope that helps, and thank you for writing!

Lee

Beyond mummy or daddy: Names for non-binary parents

shecallsmethey asked:

“Question that came about after telling my brother I’m Genderqueer (It still amazes me how well he’s handled all of my coming out moments): Is there a word for parents who go by they/them? Is it up to the parent?”

Hello shecallsmethey!

So glad that your brother is amazing you and is amazing! It’s always lovely to hear about people who are taking things in stride and asking really compelling, thoughtful questions like this one.

There seem to be two secondary questions here: the first is what word can be used to describe someone who parents but who is non-binary, and the second is what can children call their non-binary (or genderqueer, etc.) parent? For the first, I think the word parent is the fairly easy answer, and works here just like partner or spouse (check this out). The much harder question is the second question. What children call their parents (e.g., Mum, Dad, etc.) is of course up to the parent, but getting others onboard if one chooses something out of the ordinary and/or non-gendered will be challenging.

This question is very timely in my own life as I’m getting ever closer to the decision to have children as a non-binary transgender person. What would my kids call me? What might the repercussions be if I am not called Mum, Dad, etc. particularly when my children are little and unable to explain the nuances of my identity to people who are unsure of who I am in relation to my child? Obviously, I imagine strange, awkward or otherwise sad-making situations where my little one is upset because they learn that other people think me, them and our family structure is/are weird. Or, when they learn that other people think I’m not their real parent or something because they don’t call me Mummy or Daddy. I try to move past these things in order to find something my children can call me that I love and they can say, and not just something that would pacify the imaginary chorus of others. It’s tough.

While I don’t have an answer yet, my partner and I have talked about two approaches that feel good to us:

1) Instead of saying “you have a Mum (my partner’s choice) and a TBA” we would say “you have two parents and one is called Mum and one is called TBA,” so making our titles personal and less tied to a particular role. This would require much repetition over time.

2) Getting rid of titles altogether and using our names with our children until something organically arises from their own efforts with language and sticks around long enough to become a nickname. This is how I came by the lovely little name that my nieces and nephew call me: Wizzie (for real).

Both of these will provoke interesting and challenging situations for us and our children, but they feel better than the alternative.

If you are a GNP user or non-binary-identified person or someone who for any reason doesn’t use Mum, Dad, etc. with your children, please let TIMP know whether in comments below or on Tumblr (via non-anonymous or anonymous comments)!

Thanks for the question, shecallsmethey!

Be well,

Lee