Gendered Language Pt. Two
Regarding the Binary
1 0 0 1 0 0 1
1 0 0 1 0 0 1
1 0 0 1 0 0
After I began transitioning, I stopped referring to the woman I am married to as my ‘wife’ (a word with various etymological roots all going back to the very simple original meaning: ‘woman’). She is my spouse as I am her spouse. The rationale? I was no longer her ‘husband’ (a word that essentially means ‘male head of household’). Husband and Wife. The graduation terms for Groom and Bride I suppose — why do we say “Bride and Groom” until the wedding when the primacy shifts to the male and we say “Husband and Wife”…Mr. and Mrs.? Is the Bride the most important party up until the wedding to make her feel special before she enters an arrangement that will traditionally sublimate her?
My spouse changed her name when we married. She kept her ‘maiden name’ (unmarried surname) as a middle initial. Before we were married, we joked about creating a hybrid of our surnames and sometimes I regret not doing that. When I legally changed my name, I added my spouse’s unmarried surname to mine. It only seemed right. We are married spouses, partners in life. Gender only comes up when we are introduced as Mrs. & Mrs. I may pursue a Ph.D. in the future at which point we may be Mrs. & Dr. (Or does the Ph.D. holder always go first? Discussions will happen I’m sure).
Then we get to our children, our son and our daughter. Son being the child we assume is male based on physical signifiers and the fact that, as a child raised in a household with a trans woman, has shown no indication that he is anything other than male. Daughter being the child we assume is female based on physical signifiers and the fact that, as a child raised in a household with a trans woman, has shown no indication that she is anything other than female. In online discussions of them, I refer to them as “The Boy” or “The Girl” and only in that order because that is how they arrived.
And for the record, I don’t refer to them as the “Cis Boy” or the “Cis Girl” in the same way I do not refer to anyone, in general, as such just as I don’t refer to my trans friends as my “Trans Friends” as they, along with my cis friends are my “friends”. I only use modifiers for clarification or when they are necessary.
Boy and Girl. Daughter and Son. Are these words triggering? Do they reinforce the Binary? Should they simply be Child A and Child B? Thing 1 and Thing 2? My daughter is proud to be a Girl Scout. Should I discourage that activity because the Girl Scouts, while trans inclusive, reinforce the Binary?
Reinforcing the Binary. Sounds like a programming trick or something that happens during a climactic scene in a cheesy Sci-Fi film.
Language is mostly bi-gendered (is that a thing?), often explicitly so. It may seem oppressive to those who exist outside of the Binary, who believe that if we can remove gendered images and terms from the vernacular then the entire system, which sublimates the female in the majority of circumstances where the female can be sublimated, will collapse and reform into a genderless egalitarian utopia.
On online quizzes meant to allow one to self-test their gender (such as the COGIATI), there are often questions about living in genderless utopias and if we lived in such a place, would we still seek a medical transition. I would never think but to answer yes. Would I want to live in such a place? The part of me that wants an egalitarian utopia says yes, but only so long as the clothes are loose. Most sci-fi utopias are all about the weird spandex bodysuits. If I’ve learned anything from attending conventions with cosplayers, it is that very few people should attempt to wear weird spandex bodysuits.
Even with the current move in language towards inclusivity and respect for difference, the kind of sea change necessary to excise gender from language isn’t like to occur anytime soon and certainly won’t in the current political climate, where every demand from one side is met with a reactionary wall of anger and pushback from the other. It is no longer about the words themselves, but the combativeness. Everything is a fight and there are winners and losers (a far more destructive binary).
This is not to say competition is negative. What is negative is that so much of our culture is steeped in taking and defending a side. We do not operate from the positive position that we are made stronger by our differences. There is no allowance for alternative thought. We actively seek out confirmation bias because it is easier than being intellectually open minded (which does not mean to suggest that all positions are viable, but to understand why a position has been taken and attempt a reasoned and persuasive discourse).
Not all positions are in binary opposition. Intersections are everywhere. Just remember to look both ways before you cross one and not see a four-way stop as a game to be won, but as an opportunity for cooperation. Politely giving way (and politely accepting an invitation to advance) allows everyone to reach their goal without injury.
Oh, and ‘Cis’ is not in binary opposition to ‘Trans’ because not all binaries are in conflict. Sometimes, embracing the other side is the only way to achieve balance.