So over the weekend I got into a couple of arguments, discussions and conversations about misgendering, Danielle Muscato and pronoun usage. I figured I’d give a bit more in depth reasoning on what my stances here are and why they’re that way. Twitter is pretty restrictive for full arguments, and its hard to fully capture all the nuance and detail of arguments. So hopefully this post clears everything up and we can further the discussion a little. Here goes.
First of all, lets take misgendering, as its the easiest one for me to explain my beliefs about. I’m a pretty huge supporter of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I live in the UK where we kinda have neither. There’s no swearing zones. There’s police forces saying they’re going to consider misogyny a hate crime. There’s the whole thing happening with Count Dankula. There’s people being arrested for sending trolly messages online. Britain’s freedom of speech really isn’t that free at all. I truly envy countries like the USA where speech is considered totally free.
Its why there’s such a big push back against things like Bill C-16 which is alleged to be about legislating pronoun usage, and a similar bill in NYC that forbids misgendering with fines of up to $250,000. Its why the Battle of Berkeley happened. It’s why people who thoroughly hate the ideas of people like Richard Spencer are standing up for Richard Spencer and his right to speak. Freedom of speech trumps all of your feelings, every single time, because its a fundamental part of any good democracy.
So misgendering should never ever ever be legislated against. Regardless of whether you’re misgendering a trans person intentionally or even a cis person accidentally. Its counter to freedom of speech and I can not stand for that. Ever.
Given the above, what we’re left with is a world in which you, as a trans person, can and will likely be misgendered often. People like Riley Jay Dennis equate misgendering to violence via the psychological harm caused by it. They cite the World Health Organisation’s definition – amusingly, the same one used by Antifa to justify why they crack people over the head with bike locks. The intentions for WHO were to call out things like solitary confinement in prisons – not to protect your feelings about your pronouns. However, I also disagree with Riley’s assessment because this kind of psychological harm is not something we can really legislate against.
Its far too subjective and its totally not within the control of the person allegedly doing the harm. For instance, a rape victim might be “psychologically harmed” by seeing some kind of sexual assault or rape in a television program. Is the TV show now liable? Can you sue? Do they have to apologise? What if we make the example a little more abstract? Our fictional rape victim was raped with almonds, in the ass. So now when they see an almond milk carton they’re triggered if it shows almonds on the packet. Is that the responsibility of the almond industry?
Obviously not. Its absurd to place the responsibility for psychological harm on the almond industry or on the television program in these instances. They didn’t rape anyone. Probably, but you never really know considering I live in Britain. Jim’ll fix it, don’t worry. What do I suggest? I suggest therapy. I suggest building a bridge and finding a way to get the heck over it. You were a victim of rape, you don’t have to be a victim of rape every day of your life from then on. Anything less is an injustice to yourself, frankly.
That neatly covers accidental misgendering, sure but what about intentional misgendering? Isn’t that harassment? Shouldn’t that be illegal? Well no son, of course it shouldn’t. See the whole above about free speech. See how you can’t police people for psychological harm because its far too subjective to really legislate against. Again, if people are misgendering you intentionally, then anything less than getting over it does you an injustice. You’re wasting your time trying to get assholes to be nice to you – why? They’re assholes. Why would you even want them to be nice to you?
Trans to me has never been about the validation of others. I don’t need people to tell me if I’m pretty, or if I pass, or to respect my pronouns or whatever. All of this is mostly just superficial. There is social dysphoria and it can have a negative affect on you if you let it – but the point I’m making here is you shouldn’t let it. You should fight for the mental fortitude so that if you do get misgendered, if you do get clocked as trans it doesn’t ruin your whole day. It’s all well and good fixing your physical dysphoria, but if you’re destroyed by social dysphoria then really what’s the point? You’re still a mess, you’ve achieved nothing.
Speaking of achieving nothing, we move on to Muscato. Who seems to be inverting transition. Putting the horse way before the cart by asking for female pronouns and changing his name to Danielle. Long before he’s even lifted a finger to transition at all.
Now I know, I made a whole song and dance about trans purity tests before, but I think this is kind of a special case. Not least because of Muscato’s authoritarianism on the subject with hot takes such as “you’re a sexist bigot if you don’t see me as a woman”. Here’s a pic:
I think this is a special case because to me trans is more than just having gender dysphoria. Lots of people experience gender dysphoria at some point in their life, including most teenagers going through puberty right now. Its only where dysphoria is serious enough that things like transition are proposed and its this that I would argue makes someone trans. Not the having GD part – otherwise most people would be trans in their life, and that would make the entire point of the word utterly redundant.
Trans is used either to talk about issues that pertain specifically to trans people or as a distinction between trans wome/men and women/men – which is often necessary. For example, trans women don’t have periods cis women typically do. Trans is a kind of woman, as is cis. This definition can be applied both to trans like Riley and trans like Blaire because both have made some kind of transition. Neither live as men.
However neither of these contexts can really apply to Muscato. He lives as a dude, is read as a dude. He’s under no real threat of being beat down in the street for being visibly trans, not a single trans issue actually affects him. He hasn’t made – as far as I can tell – any attempt to transition. He has even said that he doesn’t intend to, partly because he doesn’t think it will do much for him. Which is fine, he’s just a dude with gender dysphoria and he can demand whatever pronouns he wants – but calling people bigots for not reading him as a woman isn’t going to inspire people to validate him. Like me, most people will dig their heels in and laugh at him. Because just look at him.
Don’t get me wrong, he has my sympathy. Dysphoria isn’t fun and it would suck to have it and try to live with it rather than minimise it. I genuinely feel for him in this regard. Just like how I do a lot of other people I know online who haven’t transitioned. Though often this isn’t because they don’t want to, its because they can’t.
Even where it is because they don’t want to, I’d honestly respect their pronouns if they asked politely. I have no problem with being polite to those who are polite to others, however Muscato isn’t. The above quote is only one of the many he’s made about respecting his pronouns and nah, I refuse. Unfortunately for Muscato, nobody is entitled to pronouns, they’re negotiated with other people. He failed his end of that.
Muscato is just a dude with gender dysphoria. The second he drops the authoritarian shit and starts working towards that transition he’ll have my respect for his preferred pronouns. Hands down. Until then? Nah. I don’t owe anyone anything, especially not respect after they’ve called me a bigot.