Thursday 25 October 2018

Hi, my pronoun is Sir

Yesterday The Institute had a Diversity & Inclusion Day which was quite low key - and I was looking out for it. Anyone who thinks that non-binary bathrooms are a waste of plumbing could have sailed through the day with certainties all intact. Two things on the agenda: a table in the main concourse handing out wrist-bands, diversity badges and a heap of deeply unhealthy snacks, all of which disappeared very quickly. I've been wearing [with pride] my rainbow wrist-band, which I obtained on preview, 24/7 for more than a month now. Now I've gotten a badge [like L] to match - I R delirah!  The badge is tiny enough that it's not in your face but large enough to suggest that I am a BLT ally. A bit like the Fáinne to show that you are down with the gaeilgeoiri.

"BLT Ally" is a technical term; as I learned from item two on the agenda: a 30 minute tutorial on pronouns from the Student's Union Welfare & Equality Officer SUW&EO. There are 8,000 students in The Institute and 800 staff (tech, teach and admin), so it must have been disappointing to put out seats for 20 and have only 6 people in the room. You don't have to be gay or gender-fluid to join the LGBT+ Society, you just need your heart in the right place enough to support other people's right to be their true selves - a BLT Ally. I suggest that the issue of Naming of Identities is not going to go away and it's unlikely to get any simpler, so it's myopic to ignore the issue. As it was, the young SUW&EO spent most of her talk on how to do gender-naming in the Trans world; and there the issue seems quite straight-forward. Trans people inherited a pink or a blue babygro shortly after birth but, at some later stage, switched strips. They prefer to be addressed in the gender that they've landed in rather than the one they were assigned (after a quite cursory peek between their neonatal legs) at birth. No surprises there but you can't be sure, so it's polite to ask "what are your pronouns?" Someone may, for example, be all het up by having to be discriminated upon this single axis of personality at all at all and prefer the "singular they".  For many, the transition has been drawn out, invasive, expensive and traumatic, and to address them by the 'dead name' or dead pronoun is tiresome and/or offensive.

Yesterday we didn't get as far as Gender Politics 201: gender-neutral pronouns. People have been making things up in this area for more than 100 years. It wrecks ma head at the moment: I feel mighty smug about getting trans-pronouns sorted; gender-neutral is another day's work. Here's a list for you to get your tongue around: E; Ey; Hou; Hu; Peh; Per; Thon; Ve; Xe; Yo; Ze; Ze; Zie; Sie; Zhe. Me, I use s/he when I remember, but haven't sorted the possessives his/hers yet.

As a teacher, in a position of authority and in loco parentis in some sense, it is surely easier to start the term with "Hi students, this is Quantitative Methods 101, my name is Bob, my pronouns are Priv[ilege]and Sir".  It's a bit like my apology for now being too blind to recognise my students out of class. It's better to lay this stuff out at the beginning, to start a conversation, to suggest that I may be crass and oafish [and certainly ironic] in my interpersonal relationships but I'm not wilfully cruel or offensive. A lot of young people have been bullied at school, a smaller fraction have done the bullying and the largest section of all is those who stood by while it was going on. Having a conversation at the start lays down the implicit rule that there will be no such crap on Cap'n Bob's watch. Shamefully 20% of people feel bullied at work among 'adults'. More Bloboprevs on bullying.

We got some [TMI! I cried in my head] insight into what the trans process involves. There are only two qualified gender reassignment consultants in Ireland and the waiting times are as long as other elective surgery - 18-24 months in limbo on top of a lifetime of gender dysphoria.
You can get to inhabit the body that fits with two sorts of intervention:
  • hormones [various modes of administration] also has a 18-24 month lag-time, and costs €200/3mo if you go private because you can't wait
  • surgery [not only 'down there' but in around the chest and elsewhere: facial feminization therapy].
Now here's another thing that may resonate with the Home Education community. Many Trans people join their local LGBTQAI++ Society when they need support and friends. It can be brutal being gender-wrong so support is needed:
  • you get bullied all through school
  • you can't use the available toilets
  • clothes shopping is fraught
  • you can't get a good haircut
  • suicide attempts are 3x more likely; 
  • self-harm is 2x more likely;
  • stress, anxiety and depression 4x more likely;
But get this: after transition is complete, having created a body that feels right, many lapse their BLT+ subscription and avoid their old pals. All they want now is to pass for white their preferred gender; all those queer folk now get in the way of acceptance in their new reality. In 20 years of active membership of the Home Education Network HEN, we met dozens of transitory members. Typically a family would wash up with us because they were finished with school: the kids had been bullied [what? in school?] or failed to thrive or had crap teachers. HEN would take them in, brace them up, offer tea-and-sympathy, play-dates, workshops and an open heart. But after a year or two, these families would have recovered their equanimity, settled the kids, learned some useful lessons . . . and then left HEN because €25/year [including 4 issues of the Newsletter] is a lot of money if there is only one working parent. So Long and Thanks for All the Rice-Cakes.

Whoa! Where did that come from? That sounds quite cross and judgemental. But it's not really; it's acknowledging that Trans people, The Gays, HomeEddies are not defined by being Other, they are just like other folk except in this one dimension: cross, kind, selfish, generous, lazy, honest, faithless,  thoughtful, avaricious, diverse and, well, wonderful in that diversity.

No comments:

Post a Comment