The Alphabet Soup of Gender Identity

Written by Joan Stevenson—

Let me start of by saying there are probably going to be some of you who will not like what I’m going to say here, but in the name of free speech, I am allowed to express my opinion. These opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the publisher.

I was recently involved in an Internet incident, a tempest in a teapot that caused me a moment of introspection. I’m writing about this to gauge a wider audience perspective on this subject and because I really would like to express my opinion on this.

This happened on Tumblr a few months ago. Long story short, someone made a post expressing his or her theories or opinions about an event in a particular fandom. I commented on said post offering my two cents on the incident, as I am part of the fandom in question. It was nothing inflammatory or disrespectful, just me chiming in with a theory of my own just like thousands of people do on Tumblr every day. But this person took umbrage at my opinion and they pretty much told me in no uncertain terms to fuck off and questioned how I dare add anything to their post. Never mind that it’s a public forum and everyone is free to express his or her ideas. Well, when someone comes at me like that, I fire back. I came back a little frosty at this person; as a result all hell broke loose. I was deluged with hate mail because how dare I disrespect this person? I’m like what disrespect? Okay, I admit I called the person a prat, but these people that came at me were not upset about that, they (and said person) were upset because I called this person “she.” When I made my replies, I called the person “she” because I assumed that they were female (the majority of fans in this particular fandom are). I was then hit by a wave of angry Interneters with torches and pitchforks. That I did not expect. I was called transphobic and a bigot because I did not refer to this person with the designation that they preferred (fae). Bear in mind, I had no idea that this person referred to themselves as such – how could I? They were just a user name on my blog dashboard feed. As I said, I was called transphobic; the person at the center of this drama called himself or herself a trans person. What exactly are they transitioning to? I was also harangued for using the term “butt hurt” in an un-ironic way.

I apologized and said that I meant no “gender” disrespect because I have never heard those terms before. The posts took on a life of their own, as this person and their minions started to attack me because I wasn’t following the current protocol which is bowing down to a set of letters that this person chooses to call themselves by. I did a little research and asked around about this and the information I got about this particular set of pronouns (fae/faer/faers/faerself) was not what the person who uses them subscribes to. The information I was given about this particular set of letters was that it applies to someone who views himself or herself as that of a mythical faerie gender. I was then skewered about this as well. People of that ilk are called “otherkin.” The person in question is not that and they and their minions continued their barrage of hate mail and abuse. It seems that different people have different definitions for their pronouns. I was not aware of this yet I was attacked for it. This person dropped into the victim mode very quickly as in, “why are you doing this to me?” or “Why are you misgendering me?” I was called out for bullying. I guess the default position now is if someone gets their feelings hurt, all of a sudden they’re being “bullied” (cue Flight of the Concords).   That did not stop the crucifying throng of teen/young adult Interneters from going after me about my age. Plenty of age bashing was thrown about. If anyone was being “bullied,” it was I. I was called grandma and told to go off and knit something. Didn’t I have better things to do instead of harassing teenagers on the Internet? I made my apologies but they fell on deaf ears. I did have some supporters though. I had one person send me this note: Please don’t start an argument with a big blog in ******* fandom. It only gets worse now. You’ll receive all sorts of hate mail, regardless of how polite you try to be or how much you apologize…It doesn’t matter what you say, because now they’ll be only protecting their friend and hate on you, there’s no convincing them that you meant no harm. This happens often in the fandom. I had another note from someone who knew this person tell me not to bother because this person was using the incident as a grab for attention and that they do this a lot.

Back to the main point: There was a great deal of anger directed toward me because I was constantly misgendering this person by calling them “she.” How dare I? I guess I will blame my age on this one. When I hear the word gender, I subscribe to the actual definition, which is what I have experienced in life.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Gender as: 1. the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones) 2. Grammar (In languages such as Latin, Greek, Russian, and German) each of the classes (typically masculine, feminine, common, neuter) of nouns and pronouns distinguished by the different inflections that they have and require in words syntactically associated with them. Grammatical gender is only very loosely associated with natural distinctions of sex. To me that also includes transgender individuals, male to female, and female to male and those of androgynous observance. That to me is what the word Gender applies to. Now Urban Dictionary has a variety of definitions, but the ones that I thought made the most sense are these:

  1. One’s internal sense of self in relation to the social constructs of masculinity, femininity and androgyny; 2. Something you made up one day to feel special.

That last definition struck a nerve. When I was going through this ordeal, I went to my Facebook page and threw out some questions about this gender label thing, and a friend of mine offered a valid point. He said, “I think this is teenagers looking for another way to be weird.” I think that’s a very valid argument for the situation I was going through. There are some who strive so hard to be different or believe they are above it all so as not to deal with the realities of their everyday lives. Let’s think about that for a moment. It could be a ploy to seek attention (as I was informed by associates of this person). The problem I have with calling everything a gender is just that, everything is not a gender. Persons such as these are classified as gender queer.

Gender queer is the term for these individuals: denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions, but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders. Gender queer people have a variety of letters by which to designate them:

tey/tem/ter/temself

ey/em/eir/emself

e/em/eir/emself

thon/thon/thons/thonself

fae/faer/faers/faerself

vae/vaer/vaers/vaerself

ae/aer/aers/aerself

ne/nym/nis/nymself

ne/nem/nir/nemself

xe/xem/xyr/xemself

xe/xim/xis/ximself

xie/xem/xyr/xemself

ze(or zie)/zir/zirs/zirself

zhe/zhir/zhirs/zhirself

ze/hir/hirs/hirself

sie/sier/siers/sierself

zed/zed/zeds/zedself

zed/zed/zeir/zedself

ce/cir/cirs/cirself

co/cos/cos/coself

ve/vis/vir/verself

jee/jem/jeir/jemself

lee/lim/lis/limself

kye/kyr/kyne/kyrself

per/per/pers/perself

hu/hum/hus/humself

bun/bun/buns/bunself

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more are being created every day. Some young people seem to be ascribing to these designations. To them, all these designations are a gender. Just pick what set of letters you want to go by. It can all be very confusing, especially when someone gets upset that you don’t refer to them with the letters they want you to use. How do you know? It’s not like they’re wearing a t-shirt that says I’m fae-gendered; call me that. The last thing I want to do when I meet someone is ask, “What do you want me to call you?” I’m not doing it. With so many designations and more on the way, it’s easy to see how this could be construed as something to set someone apart so that they can classify themselves as different. Like atheists or vegans, they want to make damn sure they beat you over the head with their choice and want to shame you into accepting it or try to come off all superior because they think they’re right, or even better than you.

What this all comes down to is that my beef is with those who use this as a means of trying to gain attention. There are enough individuals who are truly struggling with gender issues who have enough to face from society without those who are just “playing” making acceptance and understanding of these issues more difficult.  If you want to label yourself that way, fine. Just don’t expect automatic acceptance or compliance. Understandably, you are going to be met with confusion. When you’re in your teens and twenties, yeah, you are passionate about your identity, sure it’s cute to call your self XYZ, but by the time you get to your 30’s and get a full dose of the real world, I’m betting that all those letters and classifications that you’ve come up with won’t seem very important any more. That will be the telling point between those who are really going through a life change and those just trying to be trendy or “different” for the sake of being different.

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