The Pronoun Go-Round

Is the Pronoun Go-Round helpful for the trans* community?

I’m glad that I was able to share my thoughts in class on topics like sharing pronouns in public. I was given an assignment to explain my thoughts. Here’s what I wrote for class, except that this is an edited version of my answer:

The pronoun go-round breaks traditional gender order rather than reinforcing it. However, we should consider the ramification of coming out as trans* in public spaces. Professor Reis maintains that pronoun go-round evokes transphobia by risking people’s vulnerabilities, such as how her student, a trans*woman, felt frightened to publicly state her pronouns and see other students staring at her because of her masculine appearance (2016). The pronoun go-round risk discrimination by singling people out as trans*.

On the other hand, Professor Jen Manion expounds how they felt invalidated when people assume they is a cisgender woman despites how they describe themself as a gender outlaw (2019). The pronoun go-round symbolizes a welcoming gesture for the trans* community into group settings, such as conferences or classrooms, through acknowledgment (Spade 2018). The actions of invalidating a person’s identity create a transphobic culture by normalizing traditional gender order, especially by threatening against or denying trans* identity. People assume the objectivity of being a woman requires having a specific body, heterosexuality, and femininity, along with other subliminal cultural components unless we deconstruct them to distinguish its subjectivity, such as realizing how Eurocentrism influences our notion of gender. An example is our beauty standards, we internalize the notion of hyper femininity as someone with long hair, make-up, pink, and dresses or high-heels. The cultural components of hyper femininity is not universal, it is by culture and history that influences our notion of femininity. Pink is a classic example of culture changing an object’s meaning over time, pink used to represent masculinity (as blue used to represent femininity for the Virgin Mary).

Femininity is subjective since there is no absolute truth on what is truly feminine. In fact, femininity and masculinity are both plural: Masculinities and femininities. Sociologist R.W Connell coined masculinities to describe how masculinity is plural and includes four forms: hegemonic (social dominant), complicit (not hegemonic but does not challenge the concept), marginalized masculinity that are unable to follow hegemonic masculinity (like Black men who struggle to follow white masculinity, as they are stereotyped as hyper-masculinity through racism) The concept of femininities depends on objects deemed feminine or not, comparing femininities to masculinities and vice versa. The cultural context of determining someone’s gender identity by their appearance is widely accepted, consciously or subconsciously, into mainstream culture by everyday actions, such as assigning pronouns by a person’s femininities or masculinities. The hegemonic interpretation that gender is binary and unchangeable makes it difficult for individuals to come out to themselves and other people as trans*, thus leaving transphobia unchallenged. The public sphere must acknowledge and accept the existence of the trans* community. The acceptance for the trans* community enables us to accept more marginalized groups, such as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, by comprehending the intersectionality and the ramification of social inequality.

Overall, the pronoun go round is helpful for people to come out as non-binary and it represents a form of acceptance the trans* community. However, we must consider the negative outcomes of pronoun go round, as the group themselves may not entirely accept the trans* community, especially by cis normativity, such as shaming a trans*woman who is unable to pass as cisgender woman. The pronoun go round may function as a gesture for a group to promote liberal beliefs, rather than critically understanding how it is risky for the trans*community, as some trans* people struggle to come out about her gender but feel uncomfortable to continue presenting themselves as cisgender. Every action we take is political, no matter how trivial it appears. It is critical to understand why every action and words can impact culture through a collective form.

Questions

  1. What are other methods of sharing pronouns should people encourage?
    • I am considering privately telling people what are your pronouns, or hinting what your pronouns.
  2. Why do you believe pronouns are significant in culture? What if everyone has the same pronoun in the future?

References

Manion, Jen. “The Performance of Transgender Inclusion.” Public Seminar, 30 Sept. 2019,

publicseminar.org/essays/the-performance-of-transgender-inclusion/.

Reis, Elizabeth. “Pronoun Privilege.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Sept.

2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/26/opinion/pronoun-privilege.html.

Spade, Dean. “We Still Need Pronoun Go-Rounds.” Dean Spade, 1 Dec. 2018,

deanspade.net/2018/12/01/we-still-need-pronoun-go-rounds/

A Quick look at Butler & Foucault

I wanted to share my thoughts after reading Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions and Truth and Power. Posts like this one are basically summaries, however, I hope my thoughts makes sense to anyone struggling to read both works. I will post more like this later.

Philosopher Judith Butler’s Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions explores the idea of creating labels on bodies as sex by the effects of the politics, from compulsory heterosexuality and Phallocentrism, or if noticing the differences of bodies themselves influence people to create labels for them, resulting in compulsory heterosexuality and Phallocentrism. Butler discusses drag performances to explain the complexity of gender itself; drag makes us question what it means for an object, a person, to become a parody versus natural. Gender depends on stylized repetition of acts, gestures, and desires, defined as performativity. The line between authentic and fabricated depends on its risk of deformity, failure to repeat precisely, or even a parody. If a person wears mostly pink, either people interpreted them as feminine or risk interpreted as too feminine. The parody depends on onlookers’ knowledge of history to understand its representation, such as associating pink with femininity and youth. An object like pink is subjective by nature as it is merely a color we use, consciously or unconsciously, to communicate. Dualism between real and parody reflects the history of culture and internal; we internalized ideas generally accepted by the public, such as accepting pink as a symbol for femininity or even childish by distancing oneself from it. Philosopher Julia Kristeva’s Abjection comes into play as it helps explain the aspect of our inner self, as it refers to the rejection of an object from within self by deeming it as other. An example is a person abhorring the queer community as it reminds the person of the loss of distinction between self and other. As the other is deemed deviant in culture, the person disdains to question that they may not be entirely heterosexual nor cisgender. Philosopher Michel Foucault’s notion of sexuality comes into play as he expounds on how the body becomes a canvas of culture and history. Suppose we accepted a notion of gender and sexuality. In that case, it becomes real, such as the power of compulsory heterosexuality in a micro-perspective and macro-perspective, from doubting one’s sexuality and gender identity to people’s lack of acceptance of the one’s coming out as queer.

Foucault’s History of Sexuality explains further about his previous works, especially The History of Sexuality, to analyze power’s negative effects, such as its exclusion, rejection, denial, obstruction, occultation. The idea of madness perceives as a rejection of systemic power, as it requires us to question the dualism between deviant or deviant. The body functions as a tool to communicate political beliefs by what we internalize ideology, such as deeming sexuality relating it to morals, whereas other cultures are apathetic to sexuality. Through works of naturalizing ideology as the truth through repeated actions of people, through a culture that normalizes ideology as part of nature, it reinforces people not to question their social reality.

Foucault’s Truth and Power expound on the notion of power, as he explains that power is found in language, social customs, and institutions. As power and knowledge co-exist with each other as a discourse, he notes how power is not the only repression. It is also generative; it is historical, on its forces us to internalize ideology given to us by culture. An example is how we follow institutions’ rules. Many people do not question its origin and how we can still give in to institutional power by violating the rules, such as stealing products from stores to rebel corporations without realizing it harms employees instead. Foucault disagrees with the Marxist perspective on ideology, as he interprets that the truth has no dualism nor order in history. The truth focuses on a form of scientistic discourse, relying on constant economic and political incitement, requiring people to share and listen to these discourses as it is produced under the control of those in power, ranging from media to university, and confronts with ideology struggles by political arguments and social hostility. Foucault proclaims that truth requires us to question its existence, as it is part of undoing its power by procedures and its relation to other forms of power.