October 2017
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discussing genderfree language / I no longer use gender-specific terms at all / realizations so far


Switching to gender-neutral pronouns has been difficult, but has been really incredible. Unfortunately it has had the side effect of making me even more aware of when people speak in gendered ways -- "oh yeah, he's a guy, got a one-track mind" "dressing girly" etc. (note: the pronouns don't bother me from other people's mouths, except in reference to me -- just the gender assumptions) Even though usually it is done in affectionate ways, it bothers the hell out of me. I feel like saying "no! that is a HUMAN quality" every time but I don't. I think it is my silence that bothers me. It's just such a complicated subject and people get SO UPSET about it. I don't mind challenging/irritating people but I do mind being misunderstood, and I feel like it is so easily misunderstood. So if I don't feel like devoting a large chunk of time and energy to a weighty discussion, I just keep quiet.

But my wonderful partner decided to 'out' me as genderfree to zir sibling, Samuel, as we were driving home from Samuel's dorm (fortunately it is a fairly long drive):
Sam: "So what's new?"
my partner: "[Bel] is saying 'ze' now instead of 'he' or 'she'"
Sam: "what??"
Bel: thanks a lot, [partner] *explains*

... and a long discussion ensued, which went far better than I thought it would! A few times in the past I've said something anti-gender and Samuel has responded by scoffing or getting downright ruffled, but this time ze was really open, really listened to what I had to say. And my partner added zir thoughts -- that ze had initially disagreed and then realized that ze could not find any positive purpose for having gendered pronouns (which was news to me, heh -- our conversation had ended before the admission of agreement). I had been worried that Sam had thought that I was brainwashing my partner (into my evil feminist ways, muahahaha), so I was happy that my partner expressed zir own reasoning in such a clear and firm way.

I think my partner's family has concluded that I am incorrigibly weird and they're no longer surprised by my oddities :D

-----------

An interesting thing I have noticed is that when speaking of people I do not respect, I have a hard time referring to them by gender-neutral terms. For me, calling a person 'ze' or 'zir' is a recognition of the spirit within, the purest self with no societal affectations. So I have to wrestle myself when it comes to those who have buried their trueselves under piles of societal affectations (my bioparent 'M' for instance!). And people I respect and admire more than usual are the easiest for me to refer to in gender-neutral terms (though I still slip up a lot) -- when it comes to my partner it actually feels more accurate to refer to zir as 'ze', even though ze is not much of a gender-transgressor, outwardly. (incidentally, ze has agreed to help me by reminding me when I slip up if ze catches it! that makes me so happy!)

On first undertaking this, I was planning to abide by others' wishes if they specifically asked to be referred to a certain way. I've since changed my mind on that -- I am not going to use gender-specific pronouns for any reason. I see how it could be disrespectful to refer to someone in a way they do not like, so if a person doesn't like to be referred to as ze/zir, I will try to avoid that. Referring to someone only by name seems to ME as if it would be most respectful and acknowledging of their individuality and identity (though hella more difficult!). So far I've been lucky in that respect. Only one of my friends has requested gender-specific pronouns, and I've agreed not to use pronouns at all with that person (instead referring only by name, and by doing this sort of round-about in this sentence, heh). With strangers, I've also been using names and round-about to avoid confusion if I didn't want to get into the explanation (I'm hoping to get more comfortable with that once I stop slipping up all the time).

A lot of people seem to feel that to change my language is to force my belief upon others; I vehemently disagree. I consider it freedom of speech for me to express myself however I feel is best. The only way I could force my belief on others would be for me to insist that they use my language when speaking with me* -- which is why I ask people to refer to me in a gender-neutral way, but I'm fine if they don't. People are still free to identify however they want, and use whatever language they want; but the words in my mouth and mind are MINE and changing them does not force anything upon anyone. I am expressing myself in such a way because that is how I see -- and if I were to use gender-specific pronouns, I feel that would be hypocritical of me. I would be thinking/believing one thing and saying another -- I would be lying. (I recognise that this is not true for all people but it is true for me) I would feel that I was pretending to agree that the other person is a gender, when I don't believe gender exists. To me, it would be more disrespectful for me to outwardly agree when inwardly I do not, than it would be for me to disagree in language as well as mindset.

In my head and in my heart, I do not believe in gender. I simply cannot -- it is not something I can believe in! And I understand that might be upsetting to some but I will not feign a belief in something. I very well may hurt people with my belief but it is a part of me that I will not lie about. My Christian friends/family might feel betrayed and hurt to know that I do not believe God/dess is the way they say ze is, but I will not pretend agreement to protect them. It does bother me that my belief may hurt others, but it is integral to me, so I have to live with it. I am willing to make compromises on most things, and I love going out of my way to show respect, but I do not feel that it is respectful to use terms I do not believe in. As tempting as it is to me to do the easiest thing, I will not tell a lie even if it would be kinder than the truth. Maybe in the future I will realize I was wrong and gender does exist, and then I would be very sorry, but I do not think that will happen.

*there is one aspect of language that I do force my belief on others -- I will break off relationships over casual or 'humorous' use of the word 'rape' (after discussing it with zir, if ze is important to me). Though I still don't see that as 'forcing' -- I see it as a boundary that is necessary for me.

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Comments
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garnet_gaijin ══╣╠══
I.....*uncomfortable*

Eh. Never mind. I'm sure you already know my thoughts and, if you don't, I'll post about 'em sometime.

There're some other things bugging me, but those are for a more personal conversation.

I'm glad you're figuring out what you believe for yourself, at any rate.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
feel free to drop me an email if you would like. ♥

thanks!
jendaby ══╣Winged Beastie╠══
I think that is awesome about your SO's sibling being willing to discuss and listen! :) While reading, I was thinking about how we have general terms - siblings, parents, spouses, etc. that are non-specific, but that (to my knowledge) there is not a general non-gendered term for the siblings of one's parents. The language is so mysterious sometimes.

I agree with your addendum about that particular term, and especially when people think it is funny to brandish about. That is uncool!

For my part, I shall do my best to use gender-free language when referring to you, as I do see it as a sign of being respectful to you, and since you are my friend and important to me, and it is important to you, then this is important to me, too. :)

And I thank you for always posting interesting things that open my mind up to new ideas and possibilities! *hugs*

I also wanted to share a story with you from the other day when I was walking home with my kids:

My eldest saw someone washing a car and said "Why is that human watering that car?! Cars don't grow, do they? I think that human is silly!"
belenen ══╣amused╠══
I shall do my best to use gender-free language when referring to you

thank you! I do appreciate that ;-)

I thank you for always posting interesting things that open my mind up to new ideas and possibilities!

what an awesome compliment! thank you!

HAHA, I love that story about your eldest! :D
febrile_lune ══╣╠══
I don't see the last part as forcing, either!

I was recently discussing with a friend the situation in which ones significant other "doesn't allow" one to drink while away at college. Now, I'm certainly against excessive drinking, and do not pretend to support such a thing. I also don't say "To each their own! If this person thinks its okay, who am I to say it is wrong?" because I think there are some instances where something IS either right or wrong. So if I can help it I won't hang out with someone who does either of those things in excess around me. But I don't think I can "not allow" someone to drink or something. While I don't think having a choice of action means one can choose whether something is morally correct or not, I don't have to right to try to control anyone else's actions.

I'd always be free to break up with someone who drank excessively, if it bothered and disturbed me to the point I felt it inhibited my relationship. But I don't have the right to try to control that person, or make the decision to end the relationship about the other person as much as I'd be making it about my own needs.

There are some things I don't agree with that I can tolerate, that I don't think are necessarily strictly right or wrong. But when there IS something like that, I don't think setting a boundary is the same thing as forcing a belief onto anyone else. One is about protecting yourself and allowing the person to choose whether or not the two different paths are similar enough to continue a friendship to be able to give up a behavior that isn't in allignment with what one needs, and the other is about expecting someone to follow the exact same path as you and be under you control which isn't freedom which isn't friendship.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
I don't have the right to try to control that person, or make the decision to end the relationship about the other person as much as I'd be making it about my own needs.

Exactly! Some seem to look at it as "do this, or I punish you by ending the relationship" but my motive is not to punish or make threats for the purpose of coercion, but simply to state my own boundaries.
febrile_lune ══╣╠══
And if someone uses the word "Rape" casually or jokingly, I will end the relationship as well if after talking to the person, the person still doesn't think it is important to try to change.

I don't see this as forcing my beliefs upon the person, although I firmly believe that the person is doing something wrong. But if the other person isn't able to see why I think that is wrong and so so so harmful, then they will likely be in such a different ...I don't know, worldview, that I can't be friends with them healthfully. Not to say everyone has the same world view, I think no one has the exact same worldview. I welcome differences! But when there are core values being imposed upon and violated, that's different. sometimes two people just aren't at the same life stages to be able to work through a friendship at that time.

about the gender-free content of the post, I'm happy for you. I'm still thinking about this whole thing a great deal but I try not to use gender specific pronouns when writing to you... instead I try to do the roundabout thing you've mentioned... haha.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
if someone uses the word "Rape" casually or jokingly, I will end the relationship as well if after talking to the person, the person still doesn't think it is important to try to change.

Exactly. I edited my post to reflect the fact that I agree with that. I've had that discussion with a number of people on my flist. But if it is someone I am considering adding, for instance, and I see that they have used 'rape' in such a way, I generally won't add them.

But when there are core values being imposed upon and violated, that's different. sometimes two people just aren't at the same life stages to be able to work through a friendship at that time.

EX. ACT. LY.

haha! thanks for that! it is complicated but it works ;-)
opheliasxflower ══╣╠══
I've been thinking about gender-specific wording a lot lately. The reason mostly lies with a friend of mine, whom I met because ze is hearing-impaired as well, but ze describes zirself as "androgynous negative". Ze told me that ze doesn't feel comfortable with zir secondary sex characteristics (ze is biologically male), and that ze does not identify as a man OR as a woman. This made me pay close attention to when I refer to someone as "he" or "she."

belenen ══╣nascent╠══
hm, cool! new views are so wonderful. ;-)
sabr ══╣╠══
I don't know how I completely stand and its something I would like to explore in a realtime chat with you just so I can kind of feel out and question (and be questioned) on my beliefs. As it stands now, I think its all cumbersome and kind of silly - but that's because I just don't see or understand it quite the way that you do. Saying he or she is, to me, much like identifying my horses by color - to me, it implies nothing. Furthermore, I'm proud of being who I am, and part of who I am is a woman. That's not to say that being proud of any one thing degrades anyone who is something different - in this case, not a woman - just that we all have different things to be proud of. I have plenty of what are considered to be typically male traits, but it still doesn't insult or offend me if someone calls me a woman - I am one, no matter what traits I posess.

I would love to discuss this further with you though.
belenen ══╣intrigued╠══
I also am proud of being a woman. It is a unique and wonderful experience to live in a female body. It is not that I want my sex ignored completely, it is simply that I don't see any reason to have my sex referred to in casual conversation, or to have my body parts referred to constantly. Also, I don't care to refer to other people by their bodies -- I'd prefer to refer to them by their inner selves. That, to me, is a big difference between she/he and ze -- one refers to body, the other to inner self.

I would also love to discuss this further with you. ;-)
sabr ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
kschap ══╣╠══
I've thought about this a lot since you first made the announcement about using gender-free pronouns and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I really respect what you're doing and your commitment to it. On the other... I kind of wonder if taking away the he/she "dichotomy" might hinder progress. I'm not entirely sure how to express what I'm thinking, though. Haha.

Like... for me, I *love* being biologically female, a woman, a girl, etc. (The only term for female that's not derogatory that I don't like is "lady". Haha.) It's how I like to identify myself. But I don't act like greater society's idea of what a woman should act like most of the time, nor do I have the same interests that society tries to say that all women have. For me, *challenging* those societal expectations is what feminism/equalism is about. That's not the *whole* point of it, mind you, but it's something I enjoy a lot.

Does that make any sense to you?
belenen ══╣exuviate╠══
I kind of wonder if taking away the he/she "dichotomy" might hinder progress

I see eliminating dichotomy as the whole point of feminism/equalism, so I don't really see how it could hinder progress...

I *love* being biologically female

me too! perhaps that doesn't come across. I love my body and the experience of being female. But while that gives me certain experiences which I wouldn't trade, it does not define ME. I don't identify as female, I identify as a person who lives in a female body and is treated accordingly by the world.

*challenging* those societal expectations is what feminism/equalism is about.

just challenging them? That seems more of a means than an end, to me. What is the purpose of challenging them? To me, the purpose of challenging them is to break down societal expectations until there is nothing left to challenge.
phydeau ══╣╠══
I totally understand and respect your reasons for using gender-neutral language, but I have to be honest. It's confusing as hell to follow what you're saying, sometimes. While I also don't believe in gender, I do however believe in the differences between the sexes. It's a lot easier to understand the impact of when "ze" tries to move a piano or when "ze" got upset because "ze" left "zir" pantyhose in the shower if there's a distinction.
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
hm, yes, but there should be no difference in impact (in my opinion). Those things should NEED to be explained. I don't think there is anything positive in assuming a certain reaction based on sex.

I am sorry if it is confusing to follow, sometimes. I'll try to re-read and check for clarity more often.
mandalwarrior ══╣╠══
I don't reply often, but I have a combo obvservation/question.

It seems to me like you're watching your T.V. No, not your television, rather, your Transformative Vocabulary. That is to say,t he words you use define you and affect the way you think. It makes me wonder if you have ever listened to or read Tony Robbins (which is the question part of the comment). If not, I think you would find him wonderfully entertaining, as well as enlightening. And he aims for both. Granted, I've only heard a few of his schpeils, but they were all fun and poignant in one way or another. The one that stuck with me most, though, was his talk about T.V. and the surprising effect it has on your thought processes and emotions. All from a simple word.

Y'know, Bel, even though I oftentimes just glaze over your posts, it's always fascinating to me to see your thought processes. You're an incredibly unique person, and I'd like, at some point, to have a spiritual discussion with you. Just to pick your brain and see where you're coming from on certain things.

Stay awesome, and keep watching your T.V. :)
belenen ══╣intrigued╠══
never heard of Tony Robbins but I just visited zir site and wow! very cool! I'll have to check zir out.

thanks so much! :D
chillychilly22 ══╣╠══
I remember the first time you used gender neutral pronouns I was so freakin confused. It was around the time you came out and discussed that being bisexual is a legitmate sexual preference. I thought you were talking about a person named "Ze" and I thought maybe you meant "Zek". And then I thought maybe you were using letters for the people in your scenarios... as in subject "Ze" and subject "Y". lol I must have read it five times before I gave up on that paragraph. lol I should've asked, but I understood the point of the post anyway so I didn't feel the need to.
belenen ══╣amused╠══
oh dear, heh. ;-) Is it any easier to read now that you're a little more used to me writing that way?
chillychilly22 ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣╠══
eriu_wow ══╣╠══
When I was in high school (in the 70's) I rebelled at being forced to use the masculine pronoun to describe basically every group of people, even when in fact the group/person/creature is actually female. I somehow got away with getting good grades and using gender neutral pronouns all through high school & college! I remember being at the Seattle zoo and hearing someone talk to my daughter about a female bear and her cub and they kept calling the momma bear "he". Of course I had to interject and call her, "her" a few times to make a point.

I think that context is important. I don't have a problem with acknowledging gender, for me the problem is in the blind acceptance and expectations of the accompanying stereotypes that we've been conditioned to accept as fact.

Whenever I read to my daughter when she was younger I would make sure that, no matter what the text actually said, I would provide as much of a gender balance as possible. I would change it so that not all of the doctors were male, not all of the homemakers were female, etc. It really surprised me how much this freaked some people out when they heard me reading to her and it freaked me out how much I had to change the text to achieve a balance!


(reading through friends of DotA posts and wanted to comment, hope you don't mind!)
belenen ══╣fantasy╠══
I don't have a problem with acknowledging gender, for me the problem is in the blind acceptance and expectations of the accompanying stereotypes that we've been conditioned to accept as fact.

I call 'sex' the physical facts, and 'gender' the "blind acceptance and expectations of the accompanying stereotypes that we've been conditioned to accept as fact." So when I say I don't believe in gender, I don't mean I want to ignore sex, I mean I don't believe that any of these stereotypes are worth thinking about or identifying with. The concept of 'gender' is simply the belief that one's sex predisposes one to a certain behavior/dress/personality/attraction set (or, alternatively, that there are certain sets which one can choose to identify with, rather than each person being their own set). I do not believe sex has any true effect on those things -- they are societally created predispositions.

that is WONDERFUL that you altered books when reading to your child to provide a gender balance! I bet that had way more of an effect than most would assume.

I've always wanted to somehow take a book and flip it so that all the male characters were female and vice versa, after it has already been written with current social beliefs in mind. I think that would be so enlightening!

As a WOW-er, do you read sci-fi/fantasy? I find it increasingly more annoying that on supposed alien planets with supposed alien cultures, people have the SAME VALUES as the writer's world. That really takes me out of the story, and it makes me think so much less of the writer, that they consider these things inherent to sentient beings rather than a product of their own society. I suppose most people don't think to start from scratch and throw out modern ideas of beauty and sex. (for instance, the concept of flat bellies being 'sexy' on women is a modern affectation, yet not a single world I've read of has altered that at all) The ONE book which was moderately different in matters of sex simply flipped the same stereotypes without changing anything.
phydeau ══╣╠══
darkpool ══╣╠══
aetheric ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣giggling╠══
*giggles at the thought that I could take offense that you wouldn't be interested in sharing this part of my path!*

thank you! I've already learned so much about myself from it! ;-)
belenen ══╣╠══
wire_eatr ══╣╠══
Question
Hello! I am a passerby that chanced upon your journal while browsing around. Please forgive my sudden intrusion into this discussion. I think what you are doing is an interesting social experiment, and I should add that I view gender as mostly a social construct and definitely something to be questioned...

That having been said, I noticed that there has been no mention of foreign languages, so far.

Numerous languages, especially the Indo-European group (German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, French, etc) rely heavily on gender markers in their grammar. In these languages, everything has a gender, including inanimate objects and animals. The gender of what is being spoken about influences the structure of the entire sentence. In Russian, in the sentence "I saw apples at the store", the form of the verb will vary according to the gender of the speaker, as well.

In contrast, English is entirely gender-neutral, with the exception of he/she pronouns and their derivatives. It makes your ze/zir idea fairly easily to implement.

But it is crucial to note that many other languages, such as Chinese and Turkish, are ENTIRELY genderless. They have no gender-specific pronouns and no gender-based grammar structures whatsoever.

This proves that:

1. It is entirely possible to have a language without gender.

2. As we can see from the cultures of the Turks and the Chinese, both of which are extremely patriarchal, this most certainly does not contribute to the eradication of gender roles, or the elevation of the status of women!

What do you think?
belenen ══╣iconoclast╠══
Re: Question
yeah, I have thought about that a little. I realize that the mind-shift which I am experiencing is not a universal thing. I think what makes it iconoclastic for me is my reasons behind it. If I were to use genderfree pronouns because everyone did it, that would not provoke any new thoughts/views for me. But because I am doing it deliberately to change the way I see people, it works like that for me.

I do think if speakers of any language deliberately changed the way they spoke about people in an attempt to reflect the oneness of humanity or the equality of all spirits, they would experience the same shift I am experiencing. It's really about motive.
austentatious ══╣╠══
I don't have a problem with your use of gender-neutral pronouns. I just read your posts more closely now because I'm not 100% used to it yet, so it's actually worked out well. :) If I do refer to YOU I will try to use gender-neutral pronouns, and if I slip up, I apologize in advance.

Good on you for standing up for yourself. I see no reason why you shouldn't be free to express your belief (or non-belief I guess) in gender in your journal.
belenen ══╣adoring╠══
awesome! No need to apologize if you slip up -- it's a gift, so I am not harmed if you miss an opportunity to give it ;-)

thank you!
572mg ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣artistic╠══
not sure which you mean, but you can take any of the icons from violetglow, which is where I keep my icons ;-)
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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.