“Progressive” binaries still fail us. Why? What’s the solution?

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A quickly drawn/designed image by me. An angled tanish rectangle with the words “Biological Sex” in quotation marks on it and an asymmetrical outline has the start of a blue flame on the top left corner. the outline of a lighter has a reddish-pink flame starting to burn the paper. title of the piece in the upper left corner of the whole image.

[While I encourage you to read the entire essay I understand you may just be looking for my suggested alternative. The sections you’re looking for are the last two, at the end of this piece]

Binarism and Spectrum-Binarism

A lot of people, regardless of who they are, still believe there is an inherent distinction between people’s lives, bodies, and experiences that can be summarized in language with words such as “male” or “female”. Even when people denounce or reject the gender they were assigned at birth, they often continue to lean hard into “binarism” in different forms to replace that dichotomy. Binarism is a mode of thought which approaches structures in an over-simplified world of opposites. Within binarism, the world is whittled down to endless binaries where something is either x or it is y. It may have some purpose in childhood education, to explain the concept of opposites, but it doesn’t really map well to all human experiences. Especially once an individual has matured beyond childhood, and is at a point where they are learning about social experiences, instilling binarism becomes detrimental but is often kept within education to keep citizens unquestioning and compliant. In America, much of the structure of general education was constructed around the time period where a child was expected to go from sixth grade into physical factory labor. …


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two non-binary students at a desk looking at a document with pencils. the one on the left is a black individual in an olive sweater and the one on the right is a white individual with blue hair cut into a bob with bangs.

School can be a stressful environment for trans and/or non-cis students. Whether you will be such a student, their classmate, their teacher, or a member of the faculty who will interact with them, you should be aware that these students are often placed in very difficult situations. One of these situations is having to navigate being named and gendered correctly by those they attend school with. Below you fill find an email formula for trans and/or non-cis students to fill out to inform their school members of correction that they may not be able to issue through the options the school provides. …


Masculine terms are not inherently gender neutral.

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white neon light that says “anatomy is not destiny” on a wall

I get it. You’re from California and everyone is a dude to you. You live in the Midwest and default to “you guys” without thinking. I understand to you these terms are gender neutral in your life but they are not to me. I cannot make you feel the same way about these terms as I do, but it is a basic engagement requirement that you do not misgender me. When you call someone who is not a dude a dude, or who is not a bro a bro, even if you consider these terms gender neutral in your world, you may be implying to them a masculine connotation or masculine gendering that is not something you can do with them. …


Printable forms for trans/non-cis people who want to simplify introductory discussions.

All pages come with a teal border option or a plaintext option. To download check out the Dropbox file here. Previews are shown below, as well as examples of a filled out form. Forms are captioned at the end.

‪Please keep in mind that some trans women and trans men who use only she/her or only he/him do not find asking them about their pronouns helpful, and can find it as uncomfortable as misgendering them. You’re implying they “look trans” which can be stressful for them. Intentionally referring to someone who uses she or he exclusively with they is also misgendering. …


Gender Neutral and Nonbinary-Exclusive Language; A Small Guide

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the word ‘Suffix’ with a line under it. Three boxes. One Mr., one Mrs., and one Mx. Only the Mx. box is checked.

I have a job where I interact with thousands of customers every day. They know me by name and sometimes I run into them outside of work. By special nature of my work’s location, I know a good half of the public transit drivers and office workers. One of these bus drivers lately has responded very positively to me coming out as nonbinary to him. This is not usually the case with a good deal of my customers. For this reason I feel strongly motivated to answer the questions he has for me the best way I can. …


Apologies, Misgendering, and Pronoun Practice

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Dear Vin,

So one of my girlfriend’s good friends is a trans femme, and I’ve only met them twice. [They use both she and they pronouns for herself]. The first time we met, I accidentally misgendered them before hearing their pronouns, though I should’ve known better, and I didn’t make a big deal of it and apologized and actively tried to do better throughout the night. The second time, I got their pronouns right this time, but I used the words “dude” and “bro” a lot while talking to them. …


A conscientious writer reached out to me about a character she’s drafting and whether she needs to make some changes.

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Dear Vin,

I’m currently writing an outline for a webcomic. The story is set to be a medieval fantasy but it’s one that focuses on feminism, diversity, and what it means to be a woman.

One of the secondary characters is a trans girl (who is also mute), and I want to show the audience that she is trans without having to say it explicitly but in a respectful way, but I’m unsure how to do so.

One idea I had is to have her cis sister explain why they ran away from home, saying “Our parents said I didn’t act enough like a girl, and that my sister didn’t act enough like a boy.” While this line is spoken, there would be a flashback panel showing both sisters when they were younger, and the trans sister would be shown wearing typical boy’s…


Paste these everywhere you can. Print them out and hang them up.

In light of the Trump Administration making it clear they intend to roll back any protections some trans people had as well as define trans people out of existence, here are some posters to hang around your city. They are simple, legible, and printer friendly. They get the point across and call for direct action. Please contribute to the fight for trans rights! Credit to the creation of the “TransCrowdFund” hashtag and resource goes to @jskylerinc on twitter. They are a nonbinary trans person of color who has done so much for the community. …


A supportive and confused spouse reaches out to me about dysphoria.

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Shin KwangHo 신광호, 2015, cropped

Dear Vin,

Thank you for being willing to educate. I know it is not your job and can be exhausting. I’ve done a ton of research on this and can’t seem to find an answer. My spouse is super dysphoric about their genitalia. They feel gross about having the genitalia they have and if they could magically replace their current genitalia with the opposing norm, they would. That said, they’re not trans or androgynous. They are firm that they are their assigned gender, though at home they’re a little more gender non-conforming in expression . While they have no intention of getting surgery as of now, or of coming out in any way, we’ve grappled with how to categorize their feelings and what their sex/gender may be. Are they trans? …


Part One

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Dictionary definition of ‘Writing’

The beauty of language is that it is always evolving. Not even in terms of decades. The meaning of a word or a sentence can change in a second. As we age and communication moves past us, it is easy to miss out on some of these changes. We don’t always intend to, but we can easily harm others with the use of language. This is what makes comprehensive understanding of language important. How do we convey what we truly mean while being competently understood and causing not even accidental harm?

Being able to clearly communicate a point and thought process without damaging the world we are writing into is one of the most tell-tale signs of a genuinely talented writer. No one is saying it’s easy, especially if you’re new to the topic. But the more you practice it the more intuitive enhancing your writing in this way will become. Beyond a sense of respect and human decency, learning how to write inclusively objectively makes your writing better. Removing unnecessary rewording and antiquated verbiage helps a passage flow. It opens up new doors in the world of language. It also makes pieces more welcoming and accessible to the most marginalized within society. Anytime writing acknowledges the least heard voices it often ends up being recognized and heard much farther than the writing that doesn’t. …

About

Trans Style Guide

A comprehensive collection of writings by @hologramvin curated to act as a guide to non-trans individuals about inclusive language and trans issues.

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