My 2 Cents On Pronouns

Musings/Rants

 


I generally don’t use YouTube as a focal point of think pieces, but the video I just watched is so eye-opening that I had to jot down my thoughts.

It’s a three minute Youtube video posted by Cut Vid, a channel reminiscent of an indie Buzzfeed – less revered, more refined. In the video, a group of transgender people talk about what pronouns mean to them. They start with one word–“identity,””choice,” “liberty,” then elaborate with some pretty amazing analyses. The group is as diverse as it gets, with Caucasians, AAs, Latinos, and Asians of all ages. The answers drown in a storm of emotions, some in pain and disillusionment, others defiance and pride.

The two responses that carved the deepest impressions on my mind are from two middle-aged, white transgender women. In a coarse, masculine voice, the first said she see pronouns as a vocal validation of her identity and, more importantly, a symbol of sovereignty.

“If anything I’d be more hung-up on the need some people feel to attach ‘preferred,'” she says. “My pronouns are not preferred. They just are. My gender is not a desire that I have or a wish or something. It’s who I am. It’s just part of me.”

That response raises an issue, a question, we unconsciously dismiss: why are pronouns, a part of speech exclusively associated with sexuality and identity, regarded as a preference rather than a force of nature when we talk to or about transgender people? Why is it that, as a society that has grown so much scientifically, politically, and socially, we still see transsexuality as the revolting exchange of sex organs rather than a displaced soul’s yearning for a body, a home, it can never have? Preference implies choice. And with regard to sexuality, either assigned by birth or brain, there isn’t one.

Another response that grabbed me was the closing one. “You better get them right,” is how she sees pronouns. Yet the importance of pronouns rests not in sight but in respect.

“What’s more important: how you see me, or respecting how I see me?”

To the cis population, pronouns only take an offensive turn when someone identifies us in a different way from the way society does. That’s confusing, isn’t it? Think of it this way: you look, talk, act like a dude, you’ve been referred to as a “he” and a “him” your whole life, then this asshole comes along and calls you a “stupid bitch” because, I don’t know, you refused to spilt coffee on his shirt or something. That’s offensive to you because, what the fuck, you look nothing like a “female dog,” right? Maybe that’s a bad example, but my point is that cis people like me never had to deal with two perceptions of one identity. Society and I use the same lens when when looking at me. You’d never ask a cis person, “Do you prefer to be a ‘she’ or a ‘he’ today?” Because you know there can only be one answer, right? But what happens when the body you’re born into and the body you want to be born into fight for dominance in the mapping of your identity? What if both voices are legitimate in the eyes of society? You need pronouns to settle that conflict.

The disparity in the significance of pronouns between the cis and trans communities underscores the, perhaps unconscious, linguistic privilege we have developed as the prevalent gender identity. We don’t realize, having been fortunate enough to be born in a body we belong to, just how liberating and validating a simple part of speech can be.

Pronouns radiate a sense of selfhood and certainty for a group of people that knows none. When identity and appearance clash and struggle, pronouns are the torch that melts them from antonyms into synonyms, reins into wings.

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Freshly Pressed??

Writing

So I logged onto WordPress yesterday afternoon to check on my new post and almost got a heart attack. My stats exploded. My notification feed was bombarded by dozens of likes, comments, follows all directed at my Dream post.

I freaked out. My stats have been pretty consistent – a couple of follows every couple of days, a handful of comments on more interesting posts, a few pity likes on the boring ones. Spikes have happened numerous times before, but never this drastically. I thought a friend must have found out about my blog and shared it with everyone on Facebook. But that doesn’t make sense because all the traffic was directed at one post, and I don’t have that many virtual friends, and even fewer actual friends who would care enough to check out my blog. Besides, I’m still real paranoid about showing my blog to people I know. The social sphere and the blogosphere are two entities that I’d like to keep separate. Anyhow, I browsed the WordPress homepage and stumbled on the Freshly Pressed feed and right there, smack in the middle of the top row, is my post with its long ass title. Then it all clicked, and I was at a loss for words.

Being featured for a days and a half has already doubled my following. It’s brought me more traffic in 24 hours than I’ve gotten in the last 2, 3 months. And the support has been overwhelming. I haven’t had the time to reply to all the comments, but I’ve read every single one. It’s an honor to know that my writing has touched many of you in different ways. I connect with you guys precisely because we know nothing about each other in the real world. We’re strangers but we’re all passionate about human stories. I hope a snippet of my life has left an impression on you, just as your blog posts leave impressions on me all the time.

Thank you WordPress team for sharing a piece of heart, and thank you everyone for all the love. I’ll keep writing and keep believing, so stay tuned.

Up in the Air

My Awesome Life

I’m on the plane right now, leaving a place that I’ve come to regard as a home like no other. Funny thing is, I’ve probably had this same feeling about every place I’ve lived in so far. Places that hold a special place in your heart not only look spectacular but also produce the kind of memories that evoke neither bitterness nor ecstasy–just a dizzying fondness.

Home is running barefoot all year round, across scorching sand and frozen grass. Home is circling around the same blocks searching for cheap eats at 2am. Home is driving with mom at dusk, dozing off to shitty radio hits and craving cheeseburgers. Home is the bookstore with the greatest flat white in the entire world.

And home is where friends are–real friends who talk to you because they care about your opinions, not because they just want to brag about parties and sex. Home is where you can nap on a cliff and know that someone’s always there to catch you. It’s where a genuine conversation is not some shallow one-way traffic that leaves you feeling like you’ve just wasted hours of your life.

Home has nothing to do with time. You can fall in love with anywhere instantaneously or gradually. It’s never isolated. Maybe I can’t hate New Zealand because the memories there are so pure and the scenery is so beautiful. Maybe I can’t love California because I’m not going back to the same people I met and cared about 2 years ago, or the same family that I moved there with before high school started.

Maybe home is just a mirror of our consciousness. It’s supposed to change with time, with us. We can’t love something with the same intensity forever. I want to go back to New York. The place that I’m in love with at this moment.

Dream as if you’ll live forever, Live as if you’ll die today

My Awesome Life

We’re responsive creatures, always yearning for some kind of carnal or spiritual fulfillment. So many of our conversations are dedicated to that one question: What makes us feel alive? For me it’s neither people nor adventures. It’s the shapes and colors that make up a city I love.

When I took a semester off in Cali, all I could think about was how much I missed NYC and how exciting it would be to blog about college life there. But four months after I returned to NYU I’ve only written four posts on my adventures here in the Big Apple. Ostensibly it’s because I just haven’t had the time. In reality it’s because I’ve kind of lost confidence in my writing. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good a writer as I would like to be, and I certainly don’t think I’m good enough to capture the sense of wonder I feel every time I step out onto the streets.

I’ve experienced no shortage of epiphanies walking on the same blocks, seeing the same things in different ways. Paradoxes run riot: tattoo parlors next to corporate banks, museums sandwiched by takeouts, apartments stacked atop liquor stores, and chains of buildings in alternating colors – black, tan, maroon – adorned by staircases twisting like rusty vines. It’s homogeneous yet dynamic, indifferent yet inviting. None of it makes any sense yet it all feels so right.

It’s a convoluted maze with a constellation of neon lights and no exit. Horizontal and vertical lines converge to make intersections that look exactly the same whether you’re in FiDi or Dumbo. You’re lost every time you’re out, but you never feel more at home. Last night I was strolling through Washington Square Park in the nicest weather in a long, long time, and I see the arch–silver silhouette inked against the black sky–illuminating the fountain and everyone around it. It was just so liberating. In that moment I actually felt so blessed to be alive. And I just couldn’t help wondering: Why then? I’ve seen that sight countless times in the past year and a half, and I’ve walked through the park in every weather, every hour. But that moment last night was the only time I’ve felt that kind of relief, the only time that those random bursts of sadness and rage I experience everyday felt so far away.

Despite the incurable bleakness of life and the shittiness of human nature, the world itself is still as sublime a vision as you will ever imagine. That vision alone is worth the effort of waking up every morning with a smile. It’s far more beautiful than life is ugly. It’s far more sincere than people are fake. Loving a place is far more satisfying than hating everything else.

Live with hope and live with love, if only for your surroundings. Find somewhere you love. See as much as you can before it’s too late.