Today I attended the Sex Appearance and Gender Identity workshop at my university led by Dr Stenton Mackenzie (LJMU) and Dr Pieta Schofield (University of Dundee). The workshop was underpinned by a quote from Kate Bolstein’s, ‘just don’t be mean’, when meeting, working with, engaging with or socialising with anyone from the trans* umbrella. This is an extensive umbrella of inclusivity that includes trans* individuals, FTM and MTF individuals, gender queer, gender fluid, bi gender, third gender, transitioning male or transitioning female along with many others.
I was most interested in the discussion led by Pieta that looked at how humans have a desire to compartmentalise and categorise things, people, objects and anything in between – a little like the Victorians. However, she said that the human brain has an animalistic tendency that engages with the mentality of do we need to ‘
fuck it’ or ‘fight it’. If we need to fuck it then we want to engage with sexual activity with that person and potentially reproduce. However, if that person is a threat then we need to fight it to protect ourselves and our identity. Essentially, because trans* identities are different to what is the socially accepted ideal of living, then we are automatically threatened and don’t know how to approach, engage or reach out to that individual. I think that we are hesitant to not upset an individual or say the wrong thing, because there is a lack of solid education, understanding and awareness of trans* identities.
A question from the audience referred to ‘pronouns’. When referring to female husbands in my research or any of the individuals I discuss, I constantly refer to them as ‘he, him or his’. This is because their outward appearance and identity to me screams man and masculinity through their clothing, physicality, features and employment. However, I have to realise that these individuals may have seen themselves differently than what I am bestowing on them. A consistent point was ‘just ask’ the person their preferred pronoun if unsure. However, the difficulty for me is that they are no longer here and were not aware of the modern identities that we have today. I am increasingly trying to be gender neutral (naming the person, they, them or hir), but the difficulty is that my brain wants to gender them as I see their outward persona. This is due to how society has expected us to live, Judith Butler’s work looks at how pink means girl and blue means boy and that it the ‘norm’ in a heteronormative society. But, masculine and male does not always equal man just as feminine and female does not equal woman.
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