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3.12.07

Reading Trans 101

I'm only about a third of the way through the comments to this thread on Feministe, but it's already made a number of things about trans issues much clearer to me. As long as I've been aware of trans people, I've wanted to side with their anti-oppression efforts, because I saw that as consistent with my general political commitments and compassion. But I didn't really "grok" what being trans was all about, even to the limited degree that I think I can understand the experience of people who are different from me with respect to gender, race, or sexual orientation. Grokking is important, though, because it allows you to be more creative and dynamic in spotting ways that you need to take the grokked people's interests into consideration. Here's a clip from Holly's opening post:

The worst crap I’ve had to deal with, through most of my twenties and now my third decade as well, is exactly the kind of stuff that most women in the world cope with: sexism, in the form of getting patronized, talked down to, sexually harassed, threatened, stalked by creepy assholes. But that’s the deal I could find to make with this unpleasantly gendered world we live in; it’s the niche, the crack in a hostile cliff wall, that I could carve out for myself to be able to live, grow, resist, despite that misogyny and transphobia, racism and homophobia that I have to deal with. And the carving it out myself is the important part, you know? Being able to make a choice. I had to get out and do a gender my own way, find a livable cranny within a system that fucks with all of us whether we realize it or not. That’s the most important reason why the “why did you have to transition” question makes no sense. I did it because it figuring out and expressing our own gender is one of the choices we all should be able to make. Because it was a viable and healthy choice for me, and I struggled for it and claimed it. I don’t really need any other reason.


If nothing else, I think the thread does a good job of making it hard to understand how trans people could reasonably be accused of reinforcing gender binaries -- indeed, the explanations made by Holly and the other trans commenters seem perfectly consistent with feminist critiques of the gender system.

On an unrelated note, the thread is also linguistically eye-opening because Em used the expression "wev" in the first comment. I had been told that "wev" was gaining popularity as an abbreviation for "whatever," but I'd had trouble believing people actually used it.

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To tangent even further, the video about northeast PA dialect that I posted earlier led me to another site (I've unfortunately lost the link) that cleared up a persistent confusion about a feature of my own dialect. I have a habit of using the word "couple" to mean "few" -- that is, anywhere from 2-5 things, particularly if the exact number is uncertain. I've learned to control this, because I've learned that most people take "couple" to mean exactly 2. It turns out that the indefinite sense of "couple" isn't just a random misprogramming in my head -- it's actually a known feature of some Pennsylvania dialects. (Perhaps since "Heynabonics" didn't work for me, I should refer to my accent as "Pennsylvania Pirahã"?)

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