The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: R is for “Real”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

R is for ‘real’

The idea of realness is often levied against trans people. The misuse of the word ‘real’ by cis people is actually one of the reasons why we need the word ‘cis’, because without a word to identify the group of people who (basically) identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, people commonly default to describing such men and women as ‘real men’ and ‘real women’, thus implying that trans men and women somehow aren’t real (or rather, that their man- or womanhood isn’t real).

Cis people seem to think trans people(’s identities) aren’t real because they’re different from what some doctor announced when we were born, and even that our names aren’t real because we may not have the same name we were given when we were born (though we at least have that in common with a majority of married women (somehow), and they aren’t often asked what their real name is, or if their current name is their real name. I wonder why that could be?*)

I know that sometimes this misuse of the word ‘real’ (especially with respect to names) is fairly innocently intended – I know because on the occasions that I have questioned people’s use of the word in these contexts, they’ve  been clear that wasn’t what they meant and have fumbled for a more appropriate word.

For names, the phrase you want is “birth name”. Some trans people also refer to their birth name as their “deadname”; I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s never ok to ask someone what their deadname was, because when people use that term, it is giving you an idea of how they feel about that name, ok?

For people, if there is some reason why you need to specifically denote the subset of men and/or women who had their gender (basically) correctly identified at birth (and for the record, unless you’re talking about their privileged position relative to trans people, you probably don’t), the word you want is ‘cis’ (or ‘cisgender’ if you want to be formal about it).

Stop implicitly invalidating trans people in this way. And call out other people you see doing it, too.


*Rhetorical question. I know it’s because of cissexism. And heterosexism. And, to some extent, plain old misogyny. Triple whammy of nesting/intersecting oppressions!

Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: Q is for “Queen, Drag”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

Q is for ‘queen, drag’

The persistence with which cis society in general continues to conflate trans women with drag queens is infuriating. But also admittedly complicated. I am not even going to attempt a thorough cover of this topic. The purpose of having this post in this series is really just to say: trans women are not drag queens, (unless they are performing as such in a drag show.)

“Trans woman” and “drag queen” are entirely different concepts.

Trans women are women whose parents/guardians thought they were boys when they were born, and usually for quite a long time after that.

Drag queens are people who have developed a flamboyant lady persona for the purposes of (usually comedic) theatrical shows. The overwhelming majority of drag queens are cisgender men (so, neither trans, nor women!) And in fact, drag shows are often misogynistic,  anti-femme, and/or trans-antagonistic, although I don’t think they are inherently any of those things.

The vast majority of drag queens are not trans women. And the vast majority of trans women are not drag queens. Stop conflating these two, very different, categories.

Kthxbai!


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Words, identity politics, and a case of the blahs

Over the last year and a half or so, I’ve been steadily moving away from describing myself as genderqueer and toward just using non-binary. I deliberately avoided the word ‘genderqueer’ entirely in my coming out message at work, just because ‘non-binary’ seems less intimidating somehow? I’m not even sure.

Genderqueerness definitely feels more inherently political, more inherently “fuck you and your entire gender system” than non-binary does, to me at least. Because queerness itself is kind of inherently political, about rejecting existing systems either by struggling to get by outside them, or by trying to build your own.

And, a few years ago, that was why I preferred to call myself genderqueer. Because I was still in the process of figuring myself out (I mean, to some extent I always will be, in all kinds of ways, but when I was first coming into my non-binary/genderqueer self, there was a lot of things all happening at once in a way that no longer applies. At least for now.) Because that shit was hard, and scary, and it seems pretty clear that leaning into that fear was part of how I coped with it. Because my defensive instincts often take the form of a strong offense, really.

But I haven’t really been feeling that way lately.

I kind of just want to be able to exist as my gender (or lack thereof, or whatever) and have that be ok. Or rather, I suspect that the fact that I have carved out some pretty significnat spaces in my life where I d ofeel that way is very seductive. It’s nice to feel that I can just be me and that the people around me aren’t going to interpret that as a political move. I am so lucky, and so privileged, to be in that position so much of the time now. I want other people to have that, and I know that means I need to keep fighting, and keep making this a political issue so that one day it won’t have to be for anyone, but also, maybe I am just falling into a gentler version of that fight?

I don’t really think it’s because I have de-radicalized in any particular ways, although I think the last year or so has softened my distrust of the average person, and I definitely have more emotional resources for dealing with people who actually mean well, but just don’t quite get it (whether ‘it’ is related to trans/non-binary issues, or whether it is about other social justice values, either specific or general). To some extent this just means that my approach to advocacy has shifted from ‘angry queer’ to ‘nice, friendly, forgiving queer’. Which, I think both approaches are valid and valuable, so maybe I should just stop worrying so much about which one I happen to have the resources for at any given moment?

At the same time though, I am worried that’s a cop oiut. Because I think I have definitely been tired of it all, for quite some time. Even my writing here lately has quite had the direction it used to have (though I don’t know if that’s something that’s coming through, or if it’s just how I’ve been feeling about it. I am pleased with the Shit Cis People Say alphabet either way.)

I hope that being tired is all it is, anyway. My regular seasonal-changeover depression has settled in (though mildly, thankfully), and I haven’t been taking as good care of myself as I should be, so the compounded impact of not quie enough sleep and kinda crappy eating habits definitely aren’t helping.

I am also thinking that I may be a little bored of focusing so stringently on gender issues in my writing here. I used to cast a broader net and talk about other feminist/social justice issues more often, so maybe all I need to do is let myself feel freer to write about whatever I find myself drawn to for awhile! I mean, I already started doing this with last Wednesday’s post about coloring sheets, anyway.

Hopefully those of you who read this blog regularly will find my various thoughts interesting!

Other things I’ve been writing: February-April 2017

A compilation of my non-Valprehension-based writing from the past few months! It’s books all the way down again:

Blog Posts

Falling in love with books again! This time, it’s paranormal

Interview with a Queer Reader [that’s me!] | Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

Book lists

Canadian LGBTQ+ Authors

Chilling Campfire Reads” (list made to specifications for our adult summer reading program)

YA Historical Fiction

Environmentalist Picture Books

My Fave Nonfiction Read-Aloud Picture Books

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: P is for “Phase”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

P is for “phase”

I wrote about this before, when someone close to me expressed a concern that my non-binary-ness was a phase.

For some reason, cis people are very concerned about the stability of other people’s gender identities, and seem to have decided en masse that unless they are sure that your gender and pronouns are never going to change again, then your preferences aren’t real and don’t have to be – or possibly even shouldn’t be? – respected.

You’ll see this particularly with children; cis people spend a lot of time hand-wringing about whether simply recognizing and respecting your child’s stated identity may – somehow – harm them if they later decide to identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.

I am here to say: it literally does not matter whether a person’s currently stated gender turns out to be a temporary ‘phase.’ It really doesn’t. It’s none of your business in the first place, for one thing. If a person changes their mind about their gender, or if their gender changes later, then that’s what happens and it’ll be fine. Why do you even care?

More importantly, even if this is a phase, what makes you think that you somehow have the magical ability to know what that person’s gender is or will be after the phase is complete? Defaulting to pronouns based on birth-assigned gender simply because you think someone’s non-assigned gender might be a phase is nonsensical, to be honest. It always makes the most sense to go with the best information you have available, and the best information available always is, and always will be, the information you get from the first-person perspective of the person whose gender you’re worrying about.

So, honestly, just stop worrying about whether someone’s gender is a phase! If it turns out to be one, they’ll let you know, and you can handle it then!

 


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

Librarian rant incoming: Coloring sheets have value, darnit!

One of the little things I take care of as a part of my job is coloring* sheets. The library keeps a selection of coloring sheets and crayons/colored pencils for children (or adults! whatever!) who want them. I make sure we maintain a good stock, replace broken crayons, and change over the picture selections every now and then. Pretty straight-forward, really, and not one of the most compelling parts of my day-to-day.

Last month I received a decree from on high (i.e. from the head of children’s services) suggesting that we start “scaling back” our offering of coloring sheets, in favour of activity sheets that call for more imagination/creativity and “complex thinking” (think ‘complete the image/story’ style prompts). To some extent, this is a fine idea, of course! And I am more than happy to include sheets like this alongside my more traditional coloring sheets.

I took umbrage, however, with the implication that coloring sheets can’t/don’t inspire creativity, and also with the unspoken implication that they don’t have value beyond the level of creativity they may or may not inspire.

There is, I think, a lot to be said for learning how to be creative within prescribed limits – it’s a stretch of an analogy perhaps, but some of the most celebrated acheivements in poetry were created within prescribed forms like sonnets. Artificial limitations sometimes beget *greater* creativity. And anyway, it’s not as if children can’t choose to add to a coloring sheet scene without being explicitly prompted to do so.

Even setting that aside though, I feel like this ‘new direction’ I’ve been pointed toward actually misses the real value of coloring sheets for young children (and I should clarify here that we are for the most part talking about pre-school age kids here). There are so many vitally important skills that are renforced and built in the simple activity of coloring things in!

Fine Motor Skills
Honestly, more than anything else, what coloring provides for very young children is an opportunity to practice moving their hands with some level of precision, to learn to have better and more precise control over their bodies. This isn’t something we are born with, and a kid who has practiced a lot of coloring in their early years will likely have an easier time with things like learning to write when they hit school age. This stuff is important! And for the very young, coloring is easier and potentially less frustrating than drawing.

Patience, Focus, Determination
Getting ‘good’ at coloring (in the sense of being able to stay in the lines) takes practice,  and it takes determination. And once you’ve honed the ability to stay in the lines, actually doing so still requires patience and focus; if you’re not paying attention or if you rush, you might mess up! These are all important skills to cultivate early!

Knowledge
Coloring is an opportunity to teach children the names of colors! This may seem minor and silly, but also, they’ve got to learn this stuff somehow, and coloring provides an actual motivation for learning these words – how else can you ask your friend to hand you the crayon you want, and be sure they know which one you mean?

Any way you slice it, coloring sheets add value to young children’s lives. I mean, heck, they add value to adult’s lives as well. Activity sheets that call for more complex thinking are great too, of course! But children need to develop basic skills first, before they can start applying them to more complex tasks. So don’t malign my coloring sheets!

 


*Yes, I spell color the American way, despite being Canadian. Yes, this is particularly strange juxtaposed with my use of “favour” in this very same post. I just… think that “colour” is ugly, while I actually think most other cases of this spelling variation are prettier with the ‘u’. So yeah, for me it’s neighbour, favour, honour, color. Deal with it :P

The ‘Shit Cis People Say’ Alphabet: O is for “Only two genders”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

O is for “only two genders”

 

Can it be that I’ve gotten so far into this alphabet without covering this one? Yes, but only because I planned the alphabet out in advance to avoid being forced into repeating myself for some of the more difficult letters :P.

As with last week’s post, there is some overlap here with F is for “fake genders”, but calling some genders fake isn’t necessarily the same thing as claiming there are only two genders (even though most people taking the former stance are doing so because they believe the latter).

To be honest, the claim that there are only two genders is honestly just massively egotistical. In order to make this claim, you need to seriously believe that you know more about how this gender stuff works than every non-binary person who ever has and ever will exist. It’s also a culturally chauvinistic/colonial claim, given the huge number of recognized non-binary gender categories have existed and continue exist in cultures all over the world and throughout history.

Gender is not and has never been stable or static. No gender classification scheme is ever or ever will be definitive or objective. If you think it makes any sense at all to insist that there are only two genders, you’re just plain incorrect. Seriously.

 


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!