On gender, pronouns and other uncontroversial topics

I admit upfront that I’ve not always been left-aligned on issues of gender identity. In the dim and distant past of my student days, I had friends who attended BiCon every year and I used to make fun of them when they came back with their namebadges covered in stickers to allow them to fully express every aspect of their special specialness. At that time I very much believed that expecting anyone else to remember the made up terms you’d invented to differentiate yourself from the herd and make clear how unusual you were was the height of arrogance, an assumption that everyone around you was just as fascinated by your journey as you were.

I don’t think I ever expressed this to anyone who might have been offended by it, but if I did, sorry.

Now that I’m very very old, I can see that this total ambivalence to an issue which for many people is vitally important (sometimes literally life or death important) came mostly from the fact that I didn’t understand it. In many ways I still don’t. I’m very late to the party on disclosing pronouns because I do not care about them – it doesn’t matter to me if someone misgenders me because I don’t think about gender as a particularly significant part of who I am. I’m happy being female but I think I would’ve been equally happy if I happened to be male (setting aside the fact that JTA would not have been interested in me and it’s hard to imagine that version of myself being as happy as this one). I think that ambivalence is a large part of why I’m bisexual, too – I’m not particularly fussed about other people’s gender either. I’m not outing myself as non-binary here, just non-interested in the whole topic.

But the crucial thing here is that just because it’s a fight over something I don’t understand and seem to be on some level incapable of understanding, doesn’t mean I get to stand in the way or cause unnecessary pain. I care about lots of things that don’t affect me directly. I gave myself a pass on this one for such a long time because as a polyamorous bisexual I’m already well onto the queer scale and therefore I guess I thought I was ally enough just by existing. I was wrong. I’m going to do better. I’m even going to start putting my pronouns in bios because it’s not about me, it’s about the people who aren’t able to be themselves and those people deserve support.

One reply on “On gender, pronouns and other uncontroversial topics”

Nicely done, and nicely put. We’re all growing, all the time, and it’s nice to acknowledge that.

I had a similar moment about the importance of respecting people’s pronouns even where I thought that “singular they is perfectly good” as a universal non-binary (long before I realised that perhaps it’s not always). The realisation helped me to work harder to check and use people’s pronouns and telegraph my own (insofar as I care: like you, I’m pretty unattached to my gender identity… although I don’t know to what extent that’s just because I’m in the privileged position of presenting as a binary that happens to come with an identity I’m comfortable with – it’s not like I’ve ever seriously tried another!).

Anyway: great growth, great reading. Thanks for sharing.

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