Human rights abuses against the waria of Indonesia

From the Guardian:

Stripped naked and beaten: transgender women flee Indonesian city in fear

Transgender people have been fleeing the sharia-ruled Indonesian province of Aceh amid fears of further violence, an exodus that comes in the same week the national parliament proposed criminalising gay and all extramarital sex.

In the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, scores of transgender people have fled following the arrest and public shaming of 12 trans women in neighbouring North Aceh.

The 12 women, known as waria, were arrested on Saturday night when police, accompanied by locals, raided beauty salons and forced them to strip off their shirts and have their hair cut in public.

In detention the waria were compelled to undergo an ad hoc form of “gender re-education”, which included wearing men’s clothing, physical exercises such as push-ups and sit-ups, and instruction on lowering their voices, until they were deemed suitably “macho”.

Sources close to those detained say they were also stripped naked and beaten by police, and upon release are suffering psychological trauma.

I found this BBC article explaining who the waria are. They are cross-dressing males: “the word waria comes from the Indonesian word “wanita” meaning woman, and “pria” meaning man.” This word reminds me of the word “he-she” that was used in the U.S.A in the mid-20th century.

According to the BBC’s information, the waria work as street vendors and some are in the sex trade. According to the Guardian article, some of them work in beauty salons.

It is common that men who are naturally feminine are homosexual, and it’s also common that such men are assumed to be homosexual whether it’s true or not.

From the Guardian article linked above, “A recent survey found that nearly 90% of Indonesians who understood the term LGBT felt “threatened” by the minority and said same-sex relations were not permitted in their religion.”

Interesting how people are so “threatened” by working-class men wearing makeup that they need to create laws against them and get police officers to torture them. How much power and influence do a small group of poor men have, that this level of state intervention is required to stop them?

In fact, the same thing has happened in North America. Cross-dressers, both male and female, were harassed by both police and private citizens and severely punished for being cross-dressers and for being gay, in the not-so-distant past.

The Guardian is calling these waria “transgender women,” which is certainly the way the Western world would prefer to label them. I am concerned that calling male cross-dressers “women” erases the likely fact that they are gay men, and I don’t like the erasure of gay people.

Indonesia is cracking down on homosexuality and feminine men because they are threats to patriarchy. The traditional family unit where a masculine man is in charge of a feminine woman and their children is essential to maintaining patriarchy. Feminine homosexual men, as well as masculine homosexual women, are a double threat to patriarchy because they break the rules of sexuality as well as traditional gender roles. They are also the most visible members of the gay community, since their difference is obvious and cannot be hidden. Targeting the most visible members of a community keeps everyone else in line.

It’s possible that some of the waria could be bisexual, heterosexual, or asexual, but that wouldn’t change my analysis of the reasons why they are hated.

The treatment of these waria is an abhorrent violation of their human rights. They should have the right to wear clothing normally designated for women, as well as the makeup and accessories that go with it, and wear their hair long, without being punished.

I do not believe the solution here is to pretend they are literally female. The solution is to stop sexism and homophobia.


From Trans Mission to Feminist Mission

A reader generously gave me a gift of the new book Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie. Bertie is a young trans man YouTube star who is making waves in the queer community.

The book was a quick read. It was a memoir of his life so far and description of his transition. At age 22, he hasn’t done much else with his life besides become a trans man. He has also become a graphic designer, but that is not an important element of the book. Trans Mission is aimed at a young adult audience, and provides a sort of “how-to” guide for other young people who want to become trans men. It contains Bertie’s personal story as well as information on being trans, such as what it’s like getting hormone shots and how to make your own binder.

I’m using the same strategy with pronouns that Holly/Aaron Devor used when writing Female-to-Male Transsexuals in Society, which is to use male pronouns when referring to the trans man after transition, and female pronouns when referring to her childhood. Although it may seem confusing at first, it acknowledges the reality of her girlhood as well as his post-transition lived experience in the social category of trans man, both of which are significant. There will be someone disappointed no matter what approach I take with pronouns, so at least with this balanced approach I will piss off everyone equally!

I was interested in reading this book because I have watched lots of Bertie’s YouTube videos and find him interesting. I am interested in the topic of female masculinity and strategies that masculine females use to survive in a sexist, homophobic world. I’m always hoping that trans people are going to answer some of the questions I have. I was curious about whether Bertie would rely on sex stereotypes to describe his trans identity, as so many people do, and whether I would find any reason to believe that he is a lesbian reacting to sexism and homophobia, as so many trans men seem to be.

I find every woman’s story of dysphoria and survival valuable and inherently worthy of consideration, regardless of her views on gender. I enjoyed reading Bertie’s book.

In terms of defining “man” and “woman,” Bertie presented it as logical to identify as a man despite being female. He actually admitted to being biologically female, which surprised me, and he also mentioned the word “lesbian” a couple of times in connection with his pre-transition self. In Bertie’s point of view there is no contradiction in being a man with a vagina. Lesbian was just the way he thought of himself before he arrived at his current identity of trans man.

Bertie did mention some things that relate to sex stereotypes, which is always something I take note of. As a child, she preferred boys’ clothing and boys’ activities, and she preferred the company of boys since they shared her interests. She felt uncomfortable with long hair and hated wearing dresses and makeup. As a girl she was expected to be only attracted to boys but instead she was mostly attracted to girls. Her classmates bullied her for being far more masculine than the average girl, and sadly, most of her teachers were not equipped to help her deal with the bullying.

The expectation that girls look and act a certain way is a part of the sexism that upholds patriarchy. Bertie isn’t the only girl to find herself unable to perform a feminine gender role—lots of us aren’t comfortable with this social construct that expects us all to be feminine and heterosexual. In reality, girls come in all types, and all of them are valid, even if they don’t conform to society’s expectations.

When young Bertie first cut her hair short, it was a monumental occasion that terrified her and she felt that she needed to justify her desire for short hair.

“During half-term break in year 10, I confessed to my dad how my long hair made me feel, armed with images (evidence) of girls with short hair. It was quite emotional – I think I ended up sobbing in my bedroom with pictures of Halle Berry up on Google. What a sight. The feelings were complex. At the front of my mind was guilt; considering I already wore ‘guy’s clothes’, I knew I was going to look incredibly masculine after the haircut, and I felt bad that I was incapable of being a ‘normal’ child for my parents.” (p57–58).

And an interesting comment from a few pages later reads:

“I must have had a very masculine-looking face, because after that haircut strangers called me a guy about 70 per cent of the time, and I wasn’t even trying to present as more masculine.” (p61)

Bertie did not report being uncomfortable with her body before puberty, and here she implies that having short hair and wearing boys’ clothes was not a deliberate attempt to be masculine. It sounds to me like in her early life she was just a girl who was more comfortable with short hair and clothing typically marketed to boys, and by wearing these things she was not trying to be a boy but was just trying to be herself.

She also felt distressed about wanting to wear boxers and leave her legs hairy. From a later chapter, after coming out to as “trans” to her parents:

“Suddenly I didn’t have to pretend any more: I could put my boxer shorts in the washing pile instead of sneaking them into the machine; I could wear shorts with my hairy legs on display; I could get my hair cut a little bit shorter. I felt free.” (p109)

This begs the question: why couldn’t she do any of these things before? Why didn’t she just go ahead and cut her hair, wear the clothes she wanted to wear, and refuse to shave her legs? Why did she have to declare herself “male” in order to do this?

As I sit here writing, I am a woman who has short hair, whose legs are hairy, and who wears boxer shorts, at least to sleep in. I literally am doing all these things right now, as a woman, without feeling like I need to explain myself or align myself with a gender identity. Any woman can do these things, even a femme!

It’s scary being a teenage girl and navigating a world that wants you to spend time and money looking a certain way and that teaches you that you are unacceptable if you don’t comply. I remember being a 16-year-old sitting cross-legged in the classroom one day while working on a group project. I was wearing shorts, and all of a sudden I noticed that my legs were hairy because I hadn’t thought about shaving them in a while. I immediately panicked and tried to find ways of hiding my legs. I placed my books strategically to hide the hair, and got up as soon as I could. It felt horribly embarrassing and I felt like I was neglectful for not shaving. I am not that 16-year-old any more. I never decided to use a “gender identity” to explain why I didn’t want to shave my legs, because this strategy didn’t exist back then. Instead, I did shave my legs for a few more years and then I became a feminist. Now I go around with hairy legs and I think that anyone who has a problem with it can fuck right off. I understand now that the shame I felt that day in the classroom had nothing to do with there being something wrong with my body, it had to do with being expected to do things I was not interested in doing just because I’m female and knowing that I was considered unacceptable for failing to meet people’s expectations. It’s scary to break society’s rules when you are young, but it gets easier as you get older and as you become more feminist.

So is Bertie’s transition just about sex stereotypes? Well, no, that’s not the whole story. Bertie does have body dysphoria. She was very distressed about her female body during her teen years, and not just to the same extent that all teen girls hate their bodies. She really felt like she couldn’t be seen in public with breasts and couldn’t live her life as a woman. Girls don’t all feel that badly. This is a serious condition that only some people get.

Trans activists want us to believe that they were simply born “a man in a woman’s body” (or vice versa) and that this is genetic rather than social. They want us to believe that the reason for their distress is the mismatch between their gender identity and their body, rather than the expectations held by society that people with their body type should act a certain way. I’m always carefully examining what trans people say about the reasons why they think they are trans and I often get clues that their dysphoria is coming from social causes (sexism and homophobia.) In Bertie’s case, I do not see evidence that she was born inherently dysphoric. She did not report believing she was male right from a young age. She reports having a happy childhood and being supported in her tomboyish ways by her family. She only reports hating her body starting at puberty, around the same time she developed an attraction to girls and felt increasingly under pressure to behave in a feminine way. There are a couple of interesting comments I’d like to report at this point regarding Bertie not wanting to be seen as a boy. In a letter she wrote to her father during her teen years:

“I can’t even bear the thought of going out in public with my own family in case someone mistakes me for a boy.” (p7)

From the letter from her mother near the back of the book:

“On one occasion in middle school, Alex came home absolutely furious. Once he’d calmed down, we realized he’d been in a difficult situation on the school bus. The children had been told to climb aboard, girls first. When Alex tried to get on with the girls, he was told off and asked to wait. Alex tried to explain to the teacher that he was a girl, but the teacher became angry…I was confused; he seemed to want to look like a boy, so I couldn’t understand why the mistake had made him upset. Looking back, it was an early sign that Alex had very mixed emotions about his gender.” p270–271

In Bertie’s quote from page 7, her young self was uncomfortable being mistaken for a boy, and in mum’s anecdote, Bertie specifically asserted herself as a girl and was distressed about not being believed. This doesn’t indicate the existence of an innate gender identity as male. It indicates that Bertie did grow up understanding herself as a girl and that she became distressed when other people saw her as performing girlhood incorrectly. It seems as though the problem wasn’t her body, at least not at first, the problem was that girls were supposed to be a certain way and she wasn’t like that.

I have a theory that is based on everything I have read so far about masculine girls with dysphoria. Girls who are not typically “feminine” and especially those who are attracted to other girls can have a very hard time understanding themselves as being girls, since they are not at all what society expects from girls. It’s very distressing being totally different from what is expected since humans are social animals and strongly desire validation and acceptance from our social group. Some people who are bullied for being different and who desperately want to fit in feel real trauma from this pain. A girl can respond to this trauma by hating her body parts that mark her as female. She blames those female body parts for being the reason why she can’t be herself, instead of blaming sexism, heteronormativity, and patriarchy. It’s common for mental illness among girls to be internalized. When things are wrong we tend to blame ourselves, and we tend to develop depression and self-hate rather than outer-directed mental illnesses like aggression and anti-social behaviour. I think that reacting to sexism and homophobia by hating oneself is in fact a typical feminine response.

I would like girls and women to learn to send their anguish outside themselves. Get angry about how you’re being expected to be someone you’re not, recognize those expectations as the problem, hate the bullies instead of hating yourself. Gender ideology moves in the wrong direction. Transgenderism is an approach that blames the body for the pain of being different when the body is not at fault.

I realize that dysphoria can run deep, and it won’t be easily untangled, and it can’t be wished away just by attempting a positive attitude. I am a person who developed depression at puberty and has had it ever since, and I know that “just cheer up” is not an adequate response. Neither is “just accept your body” an adequate response to legitimate dysphoria. I think major interventions are required. But I don’t think a masculine woman who hates her female body parts is literally a man, and I don’t think people benefit from pretending this is true. Honesty is very important in addressing mental illness and the best thing for someone to do if they are dissociating from their body is to reconnect, not to further distance themselves.

Bertie’s book has a lot of information about how to transition for young women who may want to do the same. It will likely have the effect of validating and motivating more transitioners. I see this book as a part of what I will call “social infrastructure” to steer young people toward transition. By social infrastructure I mean all those organizations, social media channels, medical clinics and preachers of the belief system that have been set up to promote transgender politics. There’s a whole system set up to make sure young people who don’t fit in and who hate their bodies are steered toward blaming their bodies and changing themselves, using medical interventions that are not entirely safe.

I am not interested in telling any specific people what to do with their particular situation, and I am not advocating for preventing anyone from making body modifications. But I do think that the politics and approach of transgenderism are going in the wrong direction. They blame the individual for a systemic problem, which misses the problem and reduces our ability to change the system. When teenage Alex Bertie asked for help with her discomfort, there was lots of material already in existence to train her to believe in gender identity, and no one steered her toward an analysis of sexism and a rejection of gender roles. No one can predict what would have happened in a different world, but perhaps in a world where Bertie was accepted as a tomboy lesbian, and where a strong anti-sexist culture was in place, she would have never developed distress about her body. Girls deserve to live in a world that doesn’t cause them distress.

When debating online with transsexuals during 2016 and 2017, I found that, to my surprise, some people have a very neutral attitude toward body modification. They don’t think it’s a big deal to cut off body parts, or to take artificial hormones that have unknown effects on the body. They’re confused about why I would find it to be a problem. I guess we all have our values, and people don’t have to value having an intact body if they don’t want to. I do try to explain as best I can that cutting body parts is an injury, and that injury can leave negative effects such as pain and numbness. This shouldn’t be the default treatment for mental illnesses, it should only be a last resort in rare cases, and it should only be available to adults.

We need to create more social infrastructure offering a feminist analysis of patriarchy. We need organizations, YouTube channels, educational materials, the whole works. There needs to be an alternative to gender identity ideology for people to turn to. Girls should have resources to depend on when they are hurting that let them know that society is messed up, but they are perfect the way they are, and can be any kind of woman they want to be. We need strong female role models demonstrating many different ways to be women.

If feminist women could create YouTube channels and organisations where they talk about their daily navigation of sexism and how to survive body hatred, that would be extremely valuable to young women. It’s New Year Resolution season, dear readers. Make plans to help girls in any way you can. They need to know how to fight back as they grow up in a commercialized misogynist culture that increasingly narrows the confines of what girls are allowed to be. The next generation is counting on us.

Not identifying with a gender can be so much easier than this

Articles about nonbinary people are always entertaining because they promise to explain and clarify what nonbinary is but they don’t; instead they contain nothing but extravagant nonsense.

The article I’m discussing today is called  What it Means to Call Ourselves Non-binary and despite the promise of the title, sadly and unsurprisingly it contains no definition of nonbinary. (Unless the word nonbinary does in fact mean rambling text and unnecessary labels.)

Let’s dive right in:

“Being non-binary or genderqueer is inherently kind of confusing because it depends on not identifying with a gender. Therefore, it’s definitions are wide and varying and complex. Here’s how just a few of us on staff think about what it means to call ourselves non-binary. Guess what? Our definitions are wildly different!”

Okay, I’m already rolling my eyes. And just to warn you right here, if you do plan to read the full article, please take a moment to stretch your eye-rolling muscles before you start, because you’re going to be doing a LOT of eye-rolling, and you don’t want to pull a muscle.

For some reason, “not identifying with a gender” is presented as complex and confusing. Why? I don’t identify with a gender, and I find it very simple and easy. Here’s what you do: Go about your day as usual. Wear the clothes that you feel comfortable in, and go about your daily activities like you normally would. While you’re doing this, don’t bother assigning a gender label to your interests and appearance. Just skip that step altogether!  Pretend gender doesn’t even exist and ignore any messages about whether your clothing and mannerisms are “correct” or not. If someone tells you that you should look or behave a certain way because of your sex, tell them they are shallow and sexist and that you disagree with their views. Tell them that people are varied and complex and we are not stereotypes and in fact, those stereotypes are harmful and need to go. You don’t need to tell them that you don’t identify with a gender, because there is nothing odd or unusual about you at all! There is just something wrong with them. They are being shallow and sexist.

I can sum up “not identifying with a gender” in one simple phrase: “I’m a person who doesn’t buy into sexist bullshit.” Done!

Simple! Easy!

However, folks who identify as nonbinary try to take something as simple and easy as “not identifying with a gender” and turn it into something very complicated, in addition to ambiguous and vague.

The first writer, Alaina, says:

“Non-binary is the easiest way for me to publicly recognize that my gender is not woman or man or anything really, and so I keep it around. For now. But like, what does it mean? I don’t know! It means that my gender is not on the binary. Which is not very specific at all. Very unhelpful, indeed.”

So I guess this article shouldn’t be called “What it Means to Call Ourselves Nonbinary.” Instead it should be called “People Who Have No Idea What They’re Trying to Say Jabber On About Nothing to Fill Space.”

“And like, I don’t know, maybe I’m too much of a Gemini or whatever, but my innermost self changes literally hourly…. How could I expect to find a gender that expresses that?”

Wow. Why would you need to find a “gender” that expresses your hourly feelings? It’s normal to feel different from moment to moment. We have different physical and emotional reactions to each event of our days. This is standard human experience. Why on Earth do you need a “gender” label to describe the normal experience of being human? WTF.

Also, isn’t it fitting that these writers decided to use language and vocabulary that sounds like a spoken conversation among teenagers? It’s almost like nonbinary is a teenage fad!

“I just want to be able to exist and like be a person who is just themselves and is only seen as that, an individual human being. Non-binary is the closest I’m getting to being able to talk about myself in that way.”

Again, I find I’m dropping my jaw in disbelief. You were already “just a person” who is “an individual human being” before you ever heard of gender identity theory. You were born an individual human being just like everyone else. All of us are individual human beings who are just ourselves. My question to you is “What is making you think that anyone is anything other than an individual human being?” All of us, even those of us who don’t identify as nonbinary, see ourselves as individual human beings. I’m flabbergasted as to why this universal truth about humans would require a label at all.

Here’s some advice: Just live your life as an individual human being, and if anyone you encounter has a preconceived notion that you should be something in particular that they’ve come up with, they are wrong. Either ignore them or prove them wrong, as appropriate for the situation.

The next writer, Cee, says:

“I’m definitely not an expert on this, but my understanding of nonbinary is simply someone who exists outside the two option male/female gender binary.”

You sure aren’t an expert! You don’t even know the difference between gender and sex, which is essential knowledge for this conversation. Let me help you out: sex is biological, and it refers to reproductive characteristics that come in two types: male and female. In rare cases there are individuals who are born with atypical sex characteristics, but the vast majority of us have typical reproductive anatomy and are easily classifiable as male (producing sperm) or female (producing ova.) Gender is a social construct that can mean many things, but primarily it means: (1) the attributes and roles that are socially assigned to people based on their sex, and (2) a social category that is not clearly defined but which corresponds with a set of preferred pronouns.  Now that we’ve got that cleared up, yes, there is a male/female binary. It exists in nature, it’s the way we’re born, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re comfortable with it or not because we cannot change it. Gender, on the other hand, can come in infinite types, since we can keep making up ideas about gender forever and ever.

Everyone exists outside the social construct of gender because we are material bodies that exist in the real world no matter what constructs we dream up. Almost everyone exists within the male/female binary because the vast majority of us are typically male or female, and even people born with intersex conditions can often be classified as one of the sexes, because they are similar to one or the other. If someone had equal amounts of male and female sex characteristics, then I could possibly agree that they exist outside the sex binary but this is something physical, not something you can “identify” as. And there is no “third sex,” by the way. There is no sex gamete besides sperm and ova. People who are unclassifiable are still variations on the two sexes, not another sex entirely.

Cee reports having certain preferences in dress and behaviour, and she reports preferring not to have breasts. This is totally normal and none of that means she isn’t a woman. Although there are lots of women who like having breasts, myself included, there are also lots of women who don’t like having them. It’s normal if you do and normal if you don’t, and in both cases you are still a valid woman.

The next writer starts off by apologizing:

“Not to start off on the wrong foot, but I’m terrified that everything I’m about to write is wrong. I am a white, afab, spilled-glitter-on-my-tie-of-center, liberal arts-educated human with money in savings and a Toyota Corolla. What gives me the fuckin’ right, ya know?”

Holy crap! Women have always been expected to stay silent, and it looks like what she has learned in SJW communities is more of the same. She literally thinks she has no right to speak. Sure, as a person with money, she isn’t qualified to write a piece about how it feels to live in poverty, and as a white person she isn’t qualified to speak about how racial oppression feels, but she is certainly qualified to write about her own experience.

“Like, I fully expect everyone else to assume I don’t have any real problems so I’m inventing a gender crisis to seem interesting.”

It’s interesting that she brought this up on her own. Now I know this is exactly what I should think about her.

“I assumed all women felt deeply ambivalent about being women. For the first quarter-century of my life I lived into the idea that “being a girl can mean whatever I want it to mean,” and I did whatever I wanted and cut my hair short a bunch of times (but never said I wanted a boy’s haircut, always a pixie — always one centimeter and a razor fade from having my head look how I really wanted it to). At my first A-Camp, all that suddenly felt like punkass bullshit.”

Wait, wait, wait—WHOA. What are you calling “punkass bullshit”? Because it sounds like you think that the idea that women can feel ambivalent about being women is “punkass bullshit” and it also sounds like you are calling your correct statement that being a girl can mean anything you want it to is also “punkass bullshit.” I’m not sure what else I’m supposed to interpret here besides that. It sounds like you started out a non-sexist woman who accepted herself as-is but then turned into a sexist when she learned genderist ideology. That wouldn’t surprise me, because genderist ideology is profoundly and shockingly sexist. So now you think that wanting to have short hair means you’re not a woman. The 1950s called, and they want their gender roles back!

“To be clear, being a girl can mean whatever you want it to mean.”

Okay, good. So please explain, on what basis do you believe that you are not a woman, if women can be anything?

“I know that in the venn diagram of gender there are many women who share many characteristics with me except that they feel really strongly about being women.”

Huh? Who feels strongly about being a woman? I’m not even sure what that means. I just know I’m a woman because I know what parts I have and I understand what the word woman means. A woman is an adult human female, and I’m an adult human female, so I’m a woman. It has nothing to do with a personal conviction.

“It feels more and more alien when people call me “ma’am” or “lady” or “miss,” which happens a lot here in Texas. That language is so far from the way I see myself that it makes my brain hurt trying to figure out how other people still see me that way.”

I’m not sure how simple forms of address used for all adult human females could possibly encapsulate “the way you see yourself.” How would they do that? They are just forms of address. They don’t express how I feel about myself either. These words aren’t there to express any personal feelings.

My brain hurts trying to figure out how you can have a university degree and still not understand basic human anatomy and basic functions of common words.

“She/her pronouns don’t make me feel much of anything, positive or negative.”

Well, of course they don’t. They’re just pronouns. No reasonable person gets emotional about grammar. I don’t feel anything about female pronouns either, or any other pronouns. They just exist so we can refer to the people around us when we talk.

“They/them pronouns make my heart click together, make my legs stop shaking in their subconscious effort to burn off my endless anxiety.”

Oh my gawd, why? What is it with these people and randomly assigning intense emotional meaning to neutral and insignificant things? Hearing a pronoun makes your heart click together? Fer feck sake, I’m gonna write an article for Autostraddle about how conjunctions and subjunctive tense verbs make my soul fly among the heavens.

The next writer, Cecilia, identifies as ALL of the following:

  • Witch
  • Knife-Licking Femme
  • Glitter Witch Femme
  • Cyber Femme
  • Child in a Miyazaki Film
  • Futuristic Ash Ketchum
  • Cis-Passing Art Hoe
  • Neutral Cis-Passing Take Me Seriously I’m A Capricorn Rising

However, even though all these descriptions apparently describe her, the word “woman” does not. How someone can be both female and feminine but somehow “not a woman” is beyond me. How a woman can consider herself a movie character but not a woman is beyond me.

She seems to choose her gender labels according to spiritual energies and artistic expressions. It’s fine to have spiritual energies and artistic expressions, and many of us have these. But there’s no reason why any of these require a “gender” label, and there’s no reason why anyone other than herself needs to take any interest in this. I feel a lot of resonance with certain artistic expressions too, but I just experience them without going around making other people validate them for me or change the way they talk about me because of them. There’s no need for that.

The last writer mentions having to explain over and over what nonbinary means, and yet she doesn’t offer an explanation in her write-up here. You’d think that if she was in the habit of explaining what nonbinary means, and if she was writing for an article about what nonbinary means, she’d at some point define what nonbinary means? Nope! She just offers a rambling account of her life that doesn’t add up to much of anything. She likes to wear a binder and doesn’t like her breasts touched. Okay, fair enough, so you don’t like having breasts. Not all women like them! You’re allowed to have boundaries! None of this means that you aren’t an adult human female!

I remain open to finding out what nonbinary means, and I will continue reading the articles I come across. But according to what I’ve read so far about being nonbinary, it can mean any of the following:

  • Being cool, special, geeky, or artsy; having feelings and experiences
  • Not fitting in with the popular clique
  • Being uncomfortable with certain body parts
  • Believing that normal human feelings require special labels
  • Requiring the people around you to refer to you by a label you like

Except for the obsession with labels, being nonbinary is no different from being any other human being. Genderist ideology requires that we apply unnecessary labels to normal human traits and take very seriously things that are neutral and unimportant. It’s a bunch of, shall we say, “punkass bullshit.”

I’m not buying it.


Video: Crash on the pressure to transition

Must-watch video.

Crash also wrote the full text on her blog if you prefer to read.



Non binary identity aka not fitting in with the popular clique

Here is a young woman who made a video called “How I knew I was non binary.”

Since this is the title of the video, I think it’s reasonable to assume that the things she talks about in her video are the reasons why she knew she was non binary. This is what she talks about in her video:

  • In fifth grade, a girl called her legs “gross” because she hadn’t shaved them, and she didn’t understand why her legs were gross. She hadn’t even reached puberty yet.
  • In middle school there was strong policing of gender by her peers and she felt depressed. She knew it was ridiculous to try and fit in by being as girly as she could, however, this is what she did.
  • A girl she knew put on lip gloss to kiss a boy she had a crush on but she didn’t like wearing that kind of lip gloss. (However in the video she has lipstick on, so….?)
  • She got up early in the morning to style her hair and do her makeup because she felt she had to do this to fit in. She considers compliments about her hair to be signs of “fitting in.” However, she didn’t feel like herself while doing this.
  • One day, she cut her hair short and wore androgynous clothes, and her mother expressed her disapproval because people might think she’s a boy. She thought it was okay if people thought she was a boy.
  • She remembers being happier and more extroverted when she was young enough that people hadn’t started policing her appearance.
  • In senior high school, she wanted to throw out all her girls’ clothes and buy all boys’ clothes, but she was dating a jerk boyfriend and wanted his approval, so she “pretended to be a girl.”
  • She felt validated while reading Tumblr posts about non binary.

Wow! Based on this information, being non binary means being a whole, unique person with a distinct personality who doesn’t meet the shallow, limiting criteria for behavior set by middle school kids. According to this explanation, I’m non binary and so are every person I’ve ever gotten along with, because we’ve also never met the dumb expectations of the popular clique. But I don’t call myself non binary, because I don’t think that’s a useful way to describe what’s happening here.

Non binary identity is an attempt to identify outside of your actual sex in order to avoid having sex-related stereotypes placed on you by other people. It’s not just a synonym for androgynous, which would make some sense, but instead it’s supposed to imply that the sex of your body doesn’t exist and you are neither male nor female (despite not actually having an intersex condition.) Actually, if non binary was a synonym for intersex, that would probably make more sense—if you didn’t have the usual sex characteristics that males and females come with 99% of the time, then “non binary” could describe that. But non binary is not about physical sex characteristics, it’s about the social gender role.

In this video, the young woman talks mostly about having her appearance policed by other people, (her peers and her mother,) and them wanting her to meet their current definition of how girls and women should look. This is a totally normal experience that girls go through as they’re growing up. Depending on how much sexism there is among the people they grow up around, girl children are taught to varying degrees that girls have to look a certain way in order to be acceptable. If a girl is lucky, and her family and peers are not sexist, then she’ll be allowed to be herself. But if her family and peers are sexist, as many people are, then they’ll teach her that she absolutely must look feminine or else she’s a failure as a human being. That’s what happened with the woman in this video. Her peers were very sexist, and it sounds like her mother was too, and that led to her feeling like she needed to style her hair and wear makeup in order to be acceptable, even though she didn’t feel like herself when engaging in these behaviours.

There are lots of reasons why kids and teens are sexist. They learn it from their families, their religions and the media, and a few developmental characteristics makes them very keen on enforcing the rules they’ve learned. Kids and teens are unsure of themselves and very concerned about fitting in. Since they are immature they haven’t developed the ability to find their self-worth from within, and they try to find it through superficial signs of acceptance from their peers. They don’t have well developed social skills and so they engage in bullying and other anti-social behaviours. Boys learn that they have to behave in domineering and aggressive ways in order to be acceptable as boys, and they enforce this on each other. Girls learn that they have to be pretty and pleasing to boys, and they enforce this on other girls. These sexist attitudes come directly from patriarchy, which all children are socialized into.

Lesbian and bisexual women are very likely not to fit the feminine gender role, since it’s entirely based on heterosexuality. However, there are also straight women who don’t fit into femininity. There are plenty of straight women who don’t feel comfortable being limited in life to wife and mother and having her whole existence center around pleasing her man. The reason why there has been a feminist movement going on for decades now is because large numbers of women don’t identify with the sexist expectations placed on us and the limited role reserved for us in patriarchy.

This particular “non binary” woman is attracted to men and eager for their approval, and she is struggling to find a balance between pleasing men and staying true to herself. Surely this is a common experience among all women who are attracted to men, especially when they are in high school.

When I see young women who are going through the normal experience of having their appearance policed by high school peers and believing this makes them literally not female, I realize that navigating a sexist, heteronormative high school social environment is just as difficult as ever and yet we are farther away from helping girls navigate it than we used to be. All these same things happened to me when I was in school. The girls around me had arbitrary, silly, nonsensical, strongly-held beliefs that I was supposed to wear certain clothes, listen to certain music, and say certain things, and if I messed up it was their job to punish me for my transgression. It was terrifying and confusing for me because no one ever explained to me ahead of time what the rules were, and I never knew I was breaking one until the punishment came. Completely random things, like a zipper being in the wrong spot on a pair of pants, or a jacket being “too shiny,” were cause for belittling people.

When I was in high school there was a different word for those of us who didn’t understand the social rules and couldn’t follow them. We called ourselves “outsiders.” We may have gotten this word from the excellent young adult book The Outsiders, actually. Whatever vocabulary young people are given to explain their experiences is the vocabulary they will use. In the 1990s, nobody was telling us that if we didn’t fit in with the popular clique then our biological sex didn’t exist and we had to take on a “gender identity.” The experience of not fitting it hasn’t changed a bit, but the way we conceive of our differences has changed into something totally nonsensical.

There are a few things that I would tell my younger self, to help her navigate the strange and scary world of middle and high school, based on my adult knowledge of the world. The first thing I’d tell her is that social skills aren’t what she thinks they are. I used to think that social skills meant being “cool” and popular, and knowing how to do and say the right things to not get made fun of. Now that I’m an adult, I know that I had good social skills all along, but my peers did not. I knew how to treat people with respect, honour differences, appreciate a person for her personality rather than her appearance, and be kind to my friends. The kids at my school who were bullies were the ones with poor social skills. They didn’t know how to get along with other people, they were shallow and superficial and mean. They needed to be taught better how to interact with their peers.

The second thing I’d tell my younger self is that it was good that I didn’t meet the dumb criteria set by the girls at school. It was good that I wasn’t so shallow that I thought clothing had to only be the latest styles by designer brands, and it was good that I didn’t make rude, snappy comebacks and put people down, because that doesn’t make you cool, it makes you an asshole, and it was good that I had interests in arts and culture and the humanities, even though this made me “nerdy” when I was young. All the things about me that the bullies didn’t like were the things that would make me the person I am, make me proud of myself as an adult, and save my life over and over. My interest in the arts has always been the thing that keeps me from being suicidal. It’s been the main thing that makes sense to me in life and the thing that makes me feel the joy of human existence. It was good that nobody managed to bully that wonderful blessing out of me.

I would then explain to my younger self that superficial approval from my peers in the form of them liking my clothes or hair didn’t actually consist of a meaningful friendship. Further, the people who are really shallow and superficial were not even capable of meaningful friendship. The deep friendships I had with a small number of other nerdy girls were worth thousands of times more than the superficial approval from shallow assholes that I kept craving.

I would also explain to my younger self that the reason I didn’t think I needed an expensive salon haircut and a push-up bra starting at age 13 is because I was a feminist who resisted being a sex object for men and who saw herself as a fully human person. This was a positive thing about me. One of the reasons I found a lot of my female peers’ behavior baffling is because I was a lesbian and I didn’t think the same way they did. I didn’t have this sophisticated understanding back then, but I had an instinct that being overly sexualized and dressed up was not for me, and didn’t make much sense for anybody. Those girls who were 13-going-on-20 were groomed by a sexist culture and they were entering dangerous territory. Some of them were hurt while trying to please boys in these shallow ways.

High school girls who don’t fit in with the popular clique don’t need a gender identity label, they need to be taught how to navigate bullying and sexism. They need to understand that this sort of bullying has been happening for a long time, at least several decades, and maybe since time immemorial, and their mothers dealt with it too. They need to understand what positive values and good social skills are and identify bullies and sexism as the problems. They need to understand that their natural personalities are not a problem and don’t cancel out their womanhood in any way, because women do in fact have a variety of personalities. Girls and women who resist sexist expectations are normal girls and women, and if they need to be given any sort of label, a really useful label would be feminist. Girls who take on a gender identity label are not exempt from sexist expectations, because they are still female and sexist expectations are enforced based on sex, not internally-felt identities.

The main thing the feminist movement has taught me is that trying to identify your way out of oppression by claiming to be “not like the other girls” doesn’t work as a strategy. The strategy that will work to end sexism and female oppression is the strategy of making structural changes to society so that women are freed from being sex objects for men. As long as women are oppressed based on our sex, we will be targeted for misogyny, regardless of how we feel we identify. The more steps we make toward the goal of ending patriarchy, the fewer girls there will be who feel extreme discomfort when they’re expected to meet the demands of femininity, which is literally the social role created to keep us subordinate to men.


Changing definitions

If you are reading this blog, then you likely know that there is a push to change the definition of the word ‘woman.’ This word has always been what we call female humans, much in the same way that we call a female horse a ‘mare’ and a female deer a ‘doe.’ We give specific names to the male and female members of species because sex differences are significant in animals that reproduce sexually.

Male humans who feel they identify as female humans want the definition of the word that designates female humans changed to include them. This would cause the word ‘woman’ to be synonymous with ‘human.’ In the transgenderist belief system, a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman. (This is a circular definition, and doesn’t name what a woman is at all.) Since identification with the social category of ‘woman’ is something any human can claim, regardless of their personal characteristics, there is nothing to distinguish the category of ‘woman’ from any other category. A fully-intact male with a beard and mustache who behaves with typical masculine socialization can call himself a ‘woman’ as long as ‘woman’ is a broad social category that includes anyone who makes a self-declaration.

Feminists disagree with changing the definition of ‘woman’ to accommodate human males for two reasons. As I have shown above, it makes the word ‘woman’ meaningless. In addition, violent males can legally declare themselves ‘women’ under this system, and that means they can gain access to sex-segregated spaces designed to protect females from dangerous men such as them. Those same dangerous males would also be counted as females in crime statistics, making it impossible to tell who is actually committing crimes.

One of the tactics that trans activists use to attempt to dismiss feminists’ valid concerns is to compare our not wanting to change the definition of ‘woman’ to conservatives not wanting to change the definition of ‘marriage.’ These are quite different situations. Trans activists want to present feminists as unreasonably rigid, old-fashioned, and prejudiced because we don’t want to update definitions. This is not the case.

I’d be completely willing to change the definition of ‘woman’ if it made any sense to do so. However, after giving it a lot of thought, and realizing that there is no other coherent definition of woman other than ‘adult human female,’ and considering the real-world impact on women of allowing human males to call themselves by our name, I cannot support this change.

The reason we have words is to communicate. If a word communicates absolutely nothing, then it’s useless as a word. I could go around calling myself a Ghrymk, but unless I define the characteristics of a Ghrymk, you will not understand what I mean. Having a word with no meaning is already absurd, and taking a word that has had a universally-understood meaning for hundreds of years and suddenly making it devoid of meaning is doubly absurd.

The change in the definition of marriage is quite another story. Marriage is a social institution whereby two people declare a commitment to each other and are legally considered a bonded pair. Changing the conception of marriage from between heterosexuals only to between people of any orientation doesn’t significantly alter what marriage is. It’s still a legal union between two romantic partners. It’s still a coherent concept, and in fact when same-sex partners enter into marriage their union is almost identical to the union of opposite-sex couples. The only difference is that the same-sex couple cannot produce children through sexual intercourse. Everything else is the same about the relationship—living together, being in love, cooking meals together, celebrating anniversaries, supporting each other through illnesses and hard times, spending quality time together and having sex. The opposition to this very slight change in the meaning of the word marriage has not made much sense. People argue that a union between same-sex persons is not a marriage because it doesn’t produce children, but there has been no movement to stop infertile or voluntarily childless couples from being considered legally married. People also argue that their belief in a non-existent mythological character means that homosexual persons should not have civil rights. However, this fails as an argument because people’s imaginary beliefs cannot dictate the law.

Since the definition of marriage remains coherent, and in fact not very different from before, and since opposition to the change has been nonsensical, this is a completely opposite situation from the change to the word ‘woman.’

I’d like to see anyone define a social category of person called ‘woman’ that includes both human males and human females. It would be gloriously entertaining to watch the attempt. What characteristics are shared universally among both human females and human males who wish they were female, I’d like to know? It isn’t biology, we know that. It isn’t thoughts or feelings because women have all sorts of different thoughts and feelings. It isn’t behavior because women engage in all sorts of different behaviours. What is it? If the definition of ‘woman’ is to ever change, then someone is going to have to name the characteristic that is universal to all ‘self-declared women,’ and I predict this will be impossible. And no, it can’t be that the person ‘identifies as a woman,’ because that phrase gives no indication as to what people are identifying as. They might as well identify as a Ghrymk.

Ironically, if trans activists do bully linguists into defining ‘woman’ in a way that includes males, that will likely result in another large wave of Peak Trans. That’s also a show I want to watch. I’ll be making a big bowl of popcorn for that one!


The gender-neutral teacher

My trans-critical colleagues are sharing this article about a gender neutral teacher who was removed from a fifth-grade classroom, and some of them are happy to see this teacher removed. Interestingly enough, I find myself supporting the teacher, at least in the sense that I don’t think she should have been removed from her position.

In case you haven’t seen it:
“Transgender teacher removed from classroom after some parents object to gender-neutral prefix ‘Mx.’

A Florida school district this week transferred a fifth-grade teacher from working with children into a classroom with adults after the educator requested to be addressed with gender-neutral pronouns.

The teacher’s preferences — using the prefix Mx. and the pronouns “they, them, their instead of he, his, she, hers” — had been met with support from some Canopy Oaks Elementary parents and complaints from others, including “a handful” who pulled their children from the classroom, according to a district spokesman. The Leon County school district said teacher Chloe Bressack’s transfer was a mutual decision.

“Given the complexity of this issue, we both agreed a different environment would be best for Teacher Bressack’s educational career and for the young students at Canopy Oaks,” superintendent Rocky Hanna said in a statement.”

According to the limited information given in the article, the parents objected to the very use of gender neutral pronouns, and that was enough to motivate them to remove their children from the class. I am unaware if there were other issues or concerns.

For the sake of conversation, let’s say that Bressack is an excellent teacher and a good role model and there are no concerns other than her use of “they/them” pronouns. In this case, I think it’s unreasonable and excessive to remove children from her class or to remove the teacher from her position. Although referring to people in the third person is silly and unnecessary, it’s also relatively harmless.

Teachers are whole human beings, not just robots with a chalk in their hand. Obviously they all have their own sets of beliefs, which will regularly differ from the beliefs of the parents of their students. One cannot ensure that their child’s teacher always shares one’s beliefs.

I have said that the use of gender-neutral pronouns is silly and unnecessary. I also think that belief in God is silly and unnecessary. I think that people who believe there is a man in the sky watching over us are just as crazy as people who don’t believe in human reproductive anatomy. But there are many religious people in the world and I can’t expect that none of my teachers will ever be religious.

The important thing is whether a teacher does her job well. Does she teach the subjects she is supposed to teach? Are the students learning? Are the students safe, supported, disciplined fairly, and treated with dignity? Is assessment and reporting completed accurately on the students’ progress? The personal beliefs of a teacher cannot be used to measure whether she is qualified or not.

I know my trans-critical colleagues will bring up at this point how harmful gender identity ideology is for women. Believe me, I have noticed! But many other ideologies are harmful to women too. In fact, the only ideology not harmful to women is radical feminism. It wouldn’t be practical to remove all teachers who aren’t radical feminists from the classroom. There would be very few teachers left remaining. We have to trust that all the teachers who believe in things like religion, gender, neoliberalism, capitalism etc, will do their jobs as teachers without spending all their time indoctrinating.

Here’s where we get to the other scenario. Maybe Bressack wants to spend all her time indoctrinating children into the belief that people can be any gender they want to be rather than teaching them the assigned school subjects. In this case, then she should be removed from her job, because she is not doing the job she’s been hired to do. She was hired to teach science and math, not queer theory. If her fifth-graders are learning to add and subtract fractions and name the planets and the continents, then she’s doing alright. If she’s teaching Judith Butler, then she’s not.

When I was in school, I did have some teachers who were Christians and who made that known. I had one teacher who spend a bit of class time talking about Catholic beliefs. It wasn’t very much time, but it was a little. She also did a very good job teaching her subject and I’m still good at it to this day. I really appreciate what she taught me. I never became a Catholic even though she talked about it briefly, but she did get to bring her whole self to the classroom, which I think was nice for her.

Bringing your whole self to work is a phrase I’ve learned from pro-gay materials designed to help gays and lesbians come out at work. If we can be our whole selves at work, shouldn’t everybody else too? (Within reason, of course. I’m not saying that criminals and child abusers should behave immorally at work.)

If I were a parent whose child had a teacher whose personal beliefs I found silly and unnecessary, my first approach would be just to have a gentle conversation with my child about it. I would explain that people have lots of different ideas about how to explain things. Some people explain things by saying that a mythical character called God made it that way. Some people explain things by saying that they were born in the wrong body. It’s natural for people to try to think of reasons why things happen to us and especially when we can’t explain something, we look for a story to tell about it. This is a good opportunity to discuss with your child what to do when someone has different beliefs. You respect them and treat them with common courtesy, despite their different beliefs, and you don’t make an issue out of it unless they start harming you in some way.

If this gender neutral teacher was doing things to make students uncomfortable, such as if she made all students share a washroom and incidents of harassment ensued, then it would be time to step in and complain. This is a definite possibility because trans activists tend to do this. However, people who are not trans and not using alternative pronouns or titles are also capable of desegregating facilities, and it’s wrong no matter who does it. It’s not the fact of believing oneself to be a different sex or neither sex that is the problem. The problem is the creation of policies that harm other people.

If the teacher was asking to be called “they” and otherwise not doing anything that created problems for other people, then this issue could be solved in one conversation. I’d explain to my child that some people don’t want to be referred to as men or women because they have an idea in their heads that men and women are supposed to think, behave and appear in a certain way, and they don’t think they measure up to that expectation. However, men and women can be any kind of people they want to be and we’ve never met up to the expectations that people impose on us. People have previously had other words for girls who didn’t measure up to expectations about what girls should be, such as “tomboy” or “androgynous.” The vocabulary changes with new generations, but the idea has always been there. It’s okay to be different, and it’s okay to express this with vocabulary that makes sense to you. That still doesn’t mean that you don’t have a male or a female body, because your body exists the same way no matter how you interpret it. This conversation should clear it all up.

If the teacher started creating policies that harmed students, then I’d oppose the policies of course. Mx. Gender-Neutral can be as nonbinary as she wants, but her students still have a right to safety and privacy in washrooms and locker rooms.

I don’t feel comfortable with a total ban on gender neutral teachers, because banning teachers based on their personal characteristics rather than their teaching skills is the wrong approach. Banning people because of their personal characteristics is just prejudice. Let’s not go down that road. The right approach is to balance people’s rights. Theoretically, if we had a sane, reasonable and nuanced conversation we could let gender neutral people have their space and also let men and women have their space. Sadly, the conversation about this has mostly been insane, unreasonable, and overly polarized, but at the very least, the end goal should be to accommodate everyone.