Misgendering & Muscato


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 definitionamusingly, 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:

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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.

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Misgendering & Muscato

  1. A.R. says:

    I think Muscato and others could still argue that a name and pronoun change constitutes a kind of social transition, since it is part of the steps one typically undertakes during transition and there is not any one path for transition. But I better understand your reasoning about intent to transition and don’t *entirely* disagree. IDK if the definition of transgender is contingent on transition; I thought it was generally just identifying as a gender other than the one you’re assigned on the basis of birth sex, which would theoretically include someone like Muscato.

    Not sure I really agree with the “offense is only taken” line of reasoning. To some extent, yes, changing your mindset is a good way of getting through whatever shit people fling at you. But this approach IMO places all the burden on the person having the shit flung at them to get over it, rather than also tackling the problem of people flinging shit. You can certainly argue some people go too far trying to tackle the latter, but there are arguably ways to tackle it w/o violating free speech.

    Like

  2. anazhtontastaelysia says:

    “Freedom of speech trumps all of your feelings, every single time, because its a fundamental part of any good democracy.”

    Speech can and is often used as a weapon. Richard Littlejohn used his speech to publicly shame and, in the end, lead an innocent trans woman to suicide. Websites that are filled with hoaxes misinform people to the extent where they are unwilling or unable to listen or understand different perspectives. In my country, Greece, Golden Dawn members have used their speech to scare a theater production into cancelling their show. Speech is power and a good democracy is supposed to balance it among its people, but there are still compromises to be made. My right to walk freely and safely cannot co-exist with that of people who think I should be locked in a mental asylum.

    Those of course are pretty charged situations but we make compromises of our right to free speech in everyday life as well. When I go to work I put on an awful T-Shirt my employer demands I wear. My freedom is compromised in favor of my employer’s crappy taste, but it’s a compromise me and others make constantly.

    When it comes to misgendering, the problem with your handling of the subject is that a. you present it as a feels issue when it’s not, b. you make huge simplifications about the circumstances. When intentional, misgendering aims at making a person feel, at bare minimum, unwelcomed and uncomfortable. Under different circumstances it can be more or less harmful, not just emotionally. Say you are at your workplace and you live stealth -what I aim for in the coming months. In this hypothetical scenario you meet a co-worker who knew the past you and “unintentionally” misgenders you to out you or raise suspicion among other employees. How do you handle that? Let’s change the hypothesis and imagine that you don’t pass as your desired gender yet somehow you still find a job. The asshole co-workers(s) make sure you know and customers know that they see you as fake. You spend time and stamina trying to solve a conflict that should not have been there, with whatever consequences that has on your performance at work.

    It’s important to remember not everyone is the dynamic, “I take no shit” kind of person. There are many shy, introvert, socially awkward people who find it difficult to navigate through circumstances like that. Many don’t have the luxury to do so -mentally and practically. There are other shit going on in each person’s life that often leave no room for therapy or anything that would, somehow, toughen someone up (which is not always possible or desirable). You may be, and forgive me for making that assumption, the sort of person who can easily handle or is used to handling such situations. Not everyone is like that and it’s not a matter of them being soft or not trying hard enough.

    The point I am trying to make is not that you should jail someone for misgendering, but there should be consequences. Social ones, in particular. We deem multiple behaviors as socially unacceptable, I don’t see a reason why misgendering should not be one. Is it the responsibility of the misgendered person not to feel hurt? No more than it’d be anyone’s responsibility to deal with whatever bullshit some rude person has in store for them. We shouldn’t have to be on our guard for mistreatment, even if it looks like a minor one to others.

    “Lots of people experience gender dysphoria at some point in their life, including most teenagers going through puberty right now”

    Lots of people experience some sort of distress with their body, sure. That is not the equivalent of gender dysphoria. I doubt many people have thought of i.e. removing their genitals or avoided getting naked because they couldn’t stand seeing them at some point in their lives. So I think you are misusing the term entirely on this article.

    There is one thing with which I will definitely agree with you. Muscato is doing herself no favors. I understand being fed up with other people and finding it hard to be polite, but that still does not entirely justify her. I am trying pretty hard to pass in everyday life. It’s a life or death issue for my future the way I see it. I still don’t take it as a given that others are obligated to read me as I desire. Reacting badly would be counter-productive, especially since most people I have met are open to a simple correction (that is my subjective experience of course). So I find it unreasonable of her to react this way when people do what is expected -judge from appearance and proceed to communicate accordingly.

    That’s all and sorry for the very long reply. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ramendik says:

    I won’t comment on Danielle Muscato, but the bills don’t exactly limit freedom of speech. Certainly not the New York one, because First Amendment.

    What they do is create additional protocol for commercial transactions and for State employees. None of these areas have free speech at the moment. There already are regulations concerning workspace and customer interaction speech. And as for State employees, their job should be kept separate from their opinions, as Kim Davis has learned the hard way.

    (I sort of sympathize with the judge who put her in jail. This judge is a Catholic, who probably has to hear divorce cases regularly, even though his religion firmly rejects divorce. He was probably thinking some thoughts aout these upstart Protestant fundies thinking the world revolves around them, and is also crashing on their heads because Obergefell – while the Catholics had to live with a state marriage definition different from their for like a century now).

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