I have been taken to task lately – the same poster in both cases – about my use of words. On the one hand, questioning my inclusiveness: on t’other, sensationalist use of “rape”. We’ll get to the second in a moment.
I’m not sure if this is to become a regular habit..or just a quick fly-by. Not sure also how helpful some of this linguistic policing is. But it raises some quite important issues which I’d like to toss out into the ether.
First up is my use of the phrase “trans men and women”. That, my poster opined, is not inclusive of those who don’t abide by the gender binary. True. They had a point and, initially, I was inclined to agree.
Until second thoughts set in.
Expecting most from our own
First off is the old chesnut about how the community tends to pick on its own. Why me? Ah. Because broadly, I’m way out on a limb with what I write. I’m not so radical that I please all of the radicals all of the time: but compared to the average mainstream cis writer, I’m not bad.
Unless someone wishes to come along now with some argument about how as representative of blah group I need to be better than good.
Otherwise, I doubt that this individual would be penning outraged letters to the Times, Grauniad et al every time some mainstream writer uses what for 99.9% of the population is a fairly innocuous, believedly inclusive, phrase.
Yes: I have some definite and possibly controversial views (within the community) on the noun-adjective thing. But otherwise, I do try. I’ll identify gender according to know wishes where an individual is concerned (with one egregiously stupid instance of forgetting to do so in the last week…): and I’ll go for the neutral or inclusive where I don’t know precise wishes.
The prob is, the more the community pins this down, the harder it is to find acceptable circumlocutions. “Trans folk” is a personal favourite, though it risks making us out as perhaps some distant relation of Steeleye Span (that’s showing my age!), as opposed to gender variant. Individuals? People? I use all those. But still, “men and women” adds one more possible.
But true. Its not inclusive. So just ditch it? No, actually. Which was my second thought, for two reasons. First, because its actually a political erasure.
A lot of trans men and women are PROUD to be their identified gender. So just as some feminists took the route that gender should be excluded from mention, others took the line that erasing gender altogether was a retrograde step. That the key was to INCLUDE it.
I am a trans woman/woman of trans history…so I’m not altogether happy to be asked to lose that gender identity.
There is, perhaps unthinkingly, a political agenda here: which is the erasure of gender binary, which is a fair objective, quite sensible within a gender queer framework – but NOT what many in the trans community are about.
I don’t mind that: I think that both positions can co-exist. That it is silly, harmful to our joint cause to fall out, when we have so many bigger enemies – and fish – to fry. Still, its worth being aware that there is a danger of a zero-sum game being played here.
Being nice to the gender queer risks offending the non-gq. So what’s the solution. One, I’ll now add, is not using the “men and women” class when talking about those who do identify as gq. That’s obviously wrong.
But otherwise, I’m genuinely asking: true inclusivity here is NOT about discarding a particular phrase, but adding an alternative. And I don’t know the answer.
Anyone care to suggest?