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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Why I Don’t Want to Turn 20

Musings/Rants

It’s a week till my 20th birthday. I wish those seven days could stretch on for seven years. I don’t want to be 20. It nauseated me to think that in seven days I’ll have to start saying, “I’m 20” instead of “I’m 19.” I love being 19. I want to be 19 forever. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with 19 but I do know why I don’t want to be 20: I don’t want to stop making excuses.

I originally made a list of 10 reasons I’m afraid to turn 20, but none of them are remotely funny so I just scrapped the whole thing. I think this mini existential crisis I’ve been experiencing over the past three days has drained every last ounce of my creative energy. Right now I’m just a boring, empty shell of the vastly fascinating person I usually am. Lol. I think I’m having an identity crisis because everything is just happening way too fast. Besides all the obvious perks of being a teenager – blaming everything on hormones, getting a multitude of second chances that you don’t deserve, listening to shitty music without anyone questioning your sanity – I’m going to miss the sense of stability I’ve settled into over the last six years. The constant, suffocating sense of disappointment directed at us from all angles, our penchant for making the same mistake two billion times over, our inability to choose the right path even though we know exactly what it is. And temptation, the one thing we never fail to fall for.

The beauty of being a teenager is that your actions are self-explanatory. By virtue of hovering anywhere between 13 to 19, you’re expected to be an absolute moron. When you smoked the wrong shit or slept with the wrong guy, you can just say you’re a moronic, hormonal teenager and after some grounding and some yelling and possibly some crying you’ll be forgiven because, after all, what you did was expectedYou lived up to your expectations, congratulations. And I like that. I like having people place bets on when I’m gonna pull the next stupid shit I’ve got on my agenda. I like people expecting me to almost kill myself and jam my future in the shredder, and I fucking dig the flabbergasted expressions on their stupid faces when once in a while I actually made the right choice and ultimately got into a decent college.

I spent a third of my life being a teenager. An immature, hormonal, spoilt leech on society. I’m so used to being this imbecile that I’ve kind of grown to love it, and I’ve also forgotten how to be anyone else. I don’t want people to take me seriously and expect the best of me. I don’t want to enjoy my 20s and make intellectual, “mature” friends. I don’t want to grow up, okay??? And you know what hurts the most? I can no longer say Teen Spirit gets kids like “us” in a way no one ever has. Imagine claws digging into your shoulder blades, sinking so deep and hard into your flesh that they lacerate your tendons and scratch your bones; imagine them trailing down the length of your torso, shredding your muscles to rip your bloody, throbbing organs out your body. Yeah, that’s about a tenth of the pain I feel every time I see the word Teen in Teen Spirit, and every time I remember that Kurt Cobain is dead.