2009-05-07 17:51
Sometimes at this placement I feel a bit like an inadvertently undercover spy. The two most popular subjects for students to be borrowing seem to be gender studies and education of children with disabilities, particularly autistic ones.


2009-04-28 04:07
It's a secret, you know. We don't know the insides of other people. We don't know their thoughts, their fears, their worries. We see the outside, and onto that we see projected certainty. We see, we doubt, our own validity, but when it comes to others even their own statements of hesitance and personal uncertainty may not be recognised by us, not internalised and realised as our shared truth.

We doubt we're real. We doubt we're valid. We think we're making it up, but other's aren't.
aesmael: (transformation)
She has been offering me cast-off clothes from my sisters and other family members. And she suggested I might want to have my hair done red again for her wedding, as she liked that colour (am going to). And today, she was offering me kitten for holding and suggested he might spend time with his uncle, which she corrected right after to aunt.

I don't make any request of pronouns as a rule, and tend to prefer a bit of fluidity actually, so perhaps it is even more of a thing that she would call me so without any request to do so. It meant a lot to me, anyway, even if I am not entirely comfortable with female pronouning.

And the hug... we find those awkward in this family too, they happen so seldom. I'll try and manage to express my appreciation.
aesmael: (transformation)
I should be linking to this post in the spirit of sharing uplifting humanist rhetoric.

Here's the text:
Dear America:

Some women have noticeable curves. Some women have less noticeable curves. All of them are real women.

Some men hew quite closely to traditional male stereotypes. Some men's gender expression is wildly different from traditional male stereotypes. All of them are real men.

Some men and women are attracted to the opposite sex. Some men and women are attracted to the same sex. Some men and women are attracted to both sexes, or neither. All of them are real men and women.

Some women and men were born the same gender they will die. Some women and men will transition to another gender during their lifetimes. Some will opt to present themselves as gender-neutral. All of them are real women and men.

Some women wear pink. Some women don't. All of them are real women.

Some men eat meat. Some men don't. All of them are real men.

Some Americans are brown. Some are white. Some are black. Some are some combination thereof. Some are Pacific Islanders. Some are indigenous people to this land. Some are from families that owned slaves. Some are from families that were enslaved. Some can trace their lineage back to the Mayflower. Some are recent immigrants. Some are religious. Some are not. Some believe in one god and some believe in many. Some Americans think George Bush is a great guy. Some Americans think Barack Obama is a great guy. Some Americans don't like either one of them. All of them are real Americans.

I am a real person. And so are you.

Authentically Yours,

The greater part of the post seems to be focused on emphasising that regardless of a person's adherence to gendered characteristics or ideals ey is still validly a member of the gender ey claims, before shifting at the end to assert the same for the quality of being American.

I like that. I am glad people are saying so, think it an important message mostly well presented.

This is the part I have a problem with:
Some women and men were born the same gender they will die. Some women and men will transition to another gender during their lifetimes. Some will opt to present themselves as gender-neutral. All of them are real women and men.

The way this is written it clearly presents all people as being born with a particular gender - those we call woman or man - and describes trans people as changing their gender over the course of their lifetime.

There are people whose gender does change, or who change theirs. Mine seems to change relatively often, sometimes deliberately. However... that is generally a fairly offensive way to refer to trans people since most don't change their gender, only their presentation or expression. The way this paragraph was phrased it is saying trans people were 'really' women or men before transitioning to 'become' men or women, when it would be more accurate to say there are women and men who are assigned inaccurate genders at birth, but still are real. In fact...

The other problem which leaps out to me about this is the sentence "[s]ome will opt to present themselves as gender-neutral." It is immediately followed by an assertion that all these people are real women and men, which is... wrong and disrespectful. Plenty of people present in a gender-neutral fashion are not actually women or men. Plenty of people who present in a gendered fashion too.

What bothers me most is the comments. We see, right at the beginning, someone pointing out that asexuality was excluded and this being promptly acknowledged and edited in to the piece. That's great. Felt included by that. But we also have a couple of people pointing out the problems mentioned above and that gets met by people defending the original phrasing. People, including the writer of the post, saying they are not talking about anyone whose identity is not woman and is not man, that they are not included in this affirmation of identity, of right to claim.

Well. That's a bit harder to sell when the post moves on to affirm the reality of US Americans and ends with the line "I am a real person. And so are you." You know what? I am a real person. I resent being told like this the sort of person I am a real one of is a woman or is a man. And I resent being told that, sorry, we're actually only affirming the reality of binary genders today.

I can believe, however, that it really was not intended that way. That the paragraph in question was intended to say something like "Regardless of whether your appearance conforms to expectations for your gender, or if you have been presenting it all your life, or not, it is still your gender and it is still real."

But when this comment was made - "How sad is it that - like the shout out to nonbelievers during Obama's Inauguration speech - that your mention of asexuals as well as androgynes makes me happy? Damn, I'm a real person. Twice over, even! Thanks Liss. :)" - we don't see anyone stepping up to say "Well, actually, we don't mean you."

So while I'd really like to be happy sharing this piece, mostly I'm disappointed that something which could have been affirming and inclusive ended up being needlessly exclusive instead. I'd really thought it was a minor miswording at first, to accidentally negate the reality of those not woman or man.

ETA: Or this exchange:
celesteh: "If I chose to present s gender neutral, can I just be a real person and not have to pick sides?"
Melissa McEwan: "Zuh? Already in the post: "Some will opt to present themselves as gender-neutral.""
But this is followed by affirming the womanhood or manhood of those people. So no.
aesmael: (transformation)
... is being able to use it to scratch my arms.

One of the less fun things is it not going away when I want it to.
aesmael: (tricicat)
That so many of the comments to this article seem to be suggesting that if only gender roles were less rigidly enforced, trans people would have the good grace to cease existing.

Fortunately, not true. I hope those people will realise this. At least the comments seem to improve further down the page.

Also very annoyed with comments indicating the commenter was dissatisfied with eir assigned gender role yet is not trans, phrased in a manner suggestive that ey believes ey was fortunate eir parents did not send em to a therapist and get em diagnosed trans, pushed into transsexuality. Mostly, because this suggests a disturbing attitude that being transsexual is something pushed on people who do not conform to assigned gender roles in order to make them over into something which fits their behaviour. It doesn't work that way, and trans people nearly always have to push to get what they want from the medical establishment - it is not forced on them - and it is unfortunately not unusual for medical professionals to torment their patients with arbitrary hoops and waiting periods more extreme than officially required.

I would find it laughable if this idea were not so pervasive, with so much social force behind it, but since this is such a common feminist criticism of the existence of trans people, I find it disturbing instead. It is not, nor should it ever be, about people being forced into something they do not wish. The issue is bodily and behavioural autonomy, and although they may seem to be, I do not think comments like this are helpful on this subject.

As a note to people who may not be aware of this, what Zucker does with the children brought to him seems to me very akin to one of the major (the major?) standard 'treatments' designed to render autistic children more normal.


2008-11-22 19:33
aesmael: (tricicat)
Stumbled across something interesting recently. Here's how it begins:
I no longer recognize marriage. It’s a new thing I’m trying.

Turns out it’s fun.

Yesterday I called a woman’s spouse her boyfriend.

She says, correcting me, “He’s my husband,”
“Oh,” I say, “I no longer recognize marriage.”

The impact is obvious. I tried it on a man who has been in a relationship for years,

“How’s your longtime companion, Jill?”
“She’s my wife!”
“Yeah, well, my beliefs don’t recognize marriage.”

Fun. And instant, eyebrow-raising recognition. Suddenly the majority gets to feel what the minority feels. In a moment they feel what it’s like to have their relationship downgraded, and to have a much taken-for-granted right called into question because of another’s beliefs.

It is an approach I had considered idly, vaguely. I hadn't thought would be very effective since there is nothing backing up that invalidation - whoever it was directed at could simply move on to the next person and have their social position reinforced, dismiss from eir consideration the person who would not recognise eir marriage.

Perhaps I underestimated the sting people feel at having their accustomed privileges questioned. Certainly I have seen plenty of outrage over supposedly minor matters in the past. I also wonder if it is as effective at being illustrative and persuading people to reconsider as the writer suggests, or if it does only produce momentary outrage. No evidence to say either way whether this is any good at producing long-term effect. Seems worth trying to find out, and could be satisfying in itself even if not. So, this is now something I may give a try, though I have few opportunities in my life at present.

Besides marriage it is also something to try with pronouns, applying neutral ey / eir / em to persons of unknown preference and asking where possible[1]. Not quite the same thing, but we could switch to failure to recognise for people who also do so.

Now I wonder what other things could be applied to the population-at-large in such a way?

For reference, link was originally found here in [ profile] genderqueer.

[1] "Have you a pronoun preference?" ?
aesmael: (it would have been a scale model)
In [ profile] transgender a poster made this request: "I wanted to open a discussion about all the things from childhood to adolescence that speaks to your gender not fitting into the concept of your birth sex."

This was my response:
When I was younger I used to read lots of books about astronomy and dinosaurs, trains, chemistry, biology and physics texts and sharks. I would keep rings and fake gems I found on the ground and believe them magic. At one point I asked for a necklace like the ones my sisters had, and I wore it until I had to stop. My favourite shows as a child were things like Star Trek and Transformers. I used to spend hours drawing atoms and molecules, or tracing identifying images of sharks and linnean diagrams of relation. In primary school I was given a ken doll, maybe what I asked for, so I could use it to play with my best friend in high school. We used to play with her doll in the bushes at school, pretending she (the doll) lived in the trees of a dense jungle with inspiration taken from Tarzan. I played a lot with toy transformers and dino-riders and thunderbirds and had no problem including action or 'off time'. When I was younger there were toy soldiers too, although with all my toys they were mostly references for the action happening in my imagination. For very many years I slept under a pile of plush toys who I regarded as friends and protectors, and share consciousness.

Most of my friends were girls. We would talk about writing and environmentalism and Star Trek and Judge Dredd and our various invented ideas and shared mini-culture. I conducted minor experiments in cryogenics and tried to adapt The Hobbit into a play without really understanding how that would work.

In high school I had little interest in most sports because they were distractions from reading and writing and also I did not know how they worked. I did play sports when I was younger, though, and only stopped when they became more competitive and physical than I wanted to be.

Although most of my friends have historically been girls I also hung out with a predominantly male group through much of high school, which later merged with a mostly-female group we had a close association with. The vast majority of men and women have always been puzzles to me and I do not understand much of their behaviour in other than an academic sense. I tended to be shunned by either unless they wanted someone to champion their side with trivia or reasoning.

In high school again I spent most of my time reading, now fantasy and science fiction since the available non-fiction had stopped telling me anything new. Apart from that, I mostly wrote my own stories. On one occasion I got up in the middle of the night because I suddenly needed to randomly generate (via dice and grid) a galaxy to use as a setting for something. Another time there was a mis-started attempt at a 'choose your own adventure' story. I shied away from horror stories and had an aversion to handling venomous arthropods. I played a lot of video games, especially strategy or first-person shooter types, and especially when I could share them with fun company. I once tried to make a pen-and-paper strategy game and even convinced someone to play it for an afternoon.

Sometimes I would look at other students and use them as a reference to imagine how my body would look if it had developed differently, or I would lie awake at night wishing for my body to change. I would wish I could change my body to suit what sex or appearance I wished to present at the time. I used to hate seeing my reflection, though later I appreciated it more. Growing up, I was often criticised by my mother that my mannerisms would give people 'inappropriate' ideas about my sexual orientation. Eventually I found out there was such a thing as HRT and nearly immediately set out to get myself on it.

I do not think anything in my past speaks to a gender not fitting any birth sex that might have been mine except the desire to alter this body.
aesmael: (transformation)
I thought I might have been fancy today, but I was not. Maybe next week. It was as well I did not.

Before doing any such thing I had intended to talk with the head teacher of my course. Despite the support of anti-discrimination laws here, still I thought it advisable to give the staff some advance notice. My suspicion is that administrations seldom take well to being suddenly surprised.

Although much delayed, last week I made enquiry via the school website about the head teacher's staff email address with the aim of contacting him before resuming class. The lack of response to this was a contributing factor in my decision not to follow through with my plans for today.

I was not sure what I was going to do. Maybe put this off until next year. Maybe try talking to him after class. If I could think what to say. Except when class was starting he addressed me by name and mentioned my attempt to get in touch with him over the holiday, asking if I wanted to talk with him then or perhaps a bit later.

So after much hesitation and pausing I explained that I would appreciate a lack of objection to presenting more explicitly female in future and he said it would be no problem, even if he had wanted to make it so. I gave him permission to inform the rest of the library teaching staff.

Shortly after, he left for his break and Q was the first student to return to the classroom. I remarked that I had just taken steps to ensure there would be no administrative freaking out if I were to show up in class and we joked a bit about the flappability (lack thereof, rather) of a particular teacher. Then I straightened the misaligned table between us and the conversation turned to OCD not being a problem if it is not actually acted upon to a significant degree (i.e. Q had specifically not being straightening the table, therefore she was not having a problem with any compulsion to do so [unless I was having a totally different conversation]).

So. Did something just happen?
aesmael: (tricicat)

Klein Sexual Orientation Grid

I scored an average of 3.24

01 2 3 4 5

HeterosexualBisexual Homosexual


This result can also be related to the Kinsey Scale:

0 = exclusively heterosexual
1 = predominantly heterosexual, incidentally homosexual
2 = predominantly heterosexual, but more
than incidentally homosexual
3 = equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 = predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally
5 = predominantly homosexual, incidentally heterosexual
6 = exclusively homosexual


The idea of this excercise is to understand exactly how dynamic a person's sexual orientation can be, as well as how fluid it can be over a person's lifespan. While a person's number of actual homo/heterosexual encounters may be easy to categorize, their actual orientation may be completely different. Simple labels like "homosexual", "heterosexual", and "bisexual" need not be the only three options available to us.

Take the quiz

This does not seem very dynamic or gridlike. And many of the options were compromises - there was no way of marking, frex, that I seldom find random people of any sex attractive. Plus the questions were so binary I had to do some redefinition before being able to answer.
aesmael: (haircut)
Pronouns. Those are fun, right? In English we have male and female, plus a whole assortment of others. For a long while I have considered drawing distinctions among those others and systematising their meaning for me - not intended to restrict how others use them, but to devise a system for my own use which would distinguish subtleties of identity.

As yet I have not actually done so. Some people I know have done something of the sort, however, and I have adopted it for my own personal use. Thus, being presented both here and also now.

he himhisboyfriendsirMr. (Mister)
ziezirzirpersonfriendaugustPer. (Goodperson)
ey em eirpersonfriendaugustPer. (Goodperson)

The second row consists of pronouns used to address persons who do not identify as male or female, while the third row consists of pronouns used to address persons of unknown gender. This system has been internalised as correct to the extent that other uses of these words register to me as incorrect, so I try to remember it is not in widespread usage and thus not correct those who do otherwise.

I tend to want to further distinguish between entities of neutral or no gender and those with gender but not one which is male or female. If I were to do so, I would likely adopt the set ve / ver / vis for this purpose.

As always,
Your Arbiter of Reality,
Per. Fakename, Tyrant

Edit: On a personal note, I have applied all of these terms to myself, and generally prefer not to specify a preference (which... sort of just got phrased as a preference itself). I like that there are people who will address me by female pronouns without prompting and that there are people who do the same for zie. Most of the time I lean more to the female set than the male, having had enough of the latter in my life for the time being, but when making self-reference perform a quick internal check to see which is most applicable in the moment. Sometimes using ey because I do not know. So for me personally, any of these are good except that I tend to avoid the male set in most circumstances.

As a further note, I considered that the use of male as the baseline in that table could be sexist but finally decided to go with it rather than add the extra complication of Ms. / Miss. / Mrs. to the right-uppermost box. I do not like that titles for women are used to code marital status in a way that is not done with men.
aesmael: (transformation)
I wanted to wear a skirt to class yesterday. I did not. Words kept me from it?

Not until I was actually on the grounds and heading to class did I realise "Because I want to" is a perfectly valid reason for a clothing choice. However, this does not quite solve my problem. I am concerned about a matter of 'best practice'.

Plainly, whether I would be better served by giving advance notice to the school and teachers. I suspect this is the case, but I do not know what to say. If I told them I ID as female that would not be a lie but nor would it be true and I do not feel able to say so, any more than I would be able to tell someone I am male.

I suppose I could inform them I am transgender, or genderqueer. They would likely make their own assumptions on that basis and whether they do or not it ought to be sufficient. Taking any label or name to myself makes me uncomfortable but since I believe I would likely receive a more favourable response by giving some sort of advance I will try to go ahead with it.

I have had similar issue with the idea of communicating with my (extended) family. Whether I tell them things or just show up, what do I say? What words do I use? Legally I am fine, I just do not know anything I could say with confidence to people and I think if I did it would go a long way to increasing the positivity of their responses. Especially since without preparation I would likely shut down under questioning, possibly melt down entirely.

It is hard to stand up for yourself when you do not know what you are standing up for.
aesmael: (tricicat)
From Zuska|Thus Spake Zuska via Julianne|Cosmic Variance:

This paper describes a statistical analysis showing clear discrimination by gender among postdoctoral researchers participating in a particle physics experiment. So far as I am aware it has not been published, nor is scheduled to be published. Nor am I capable of evaluating the rigour of the analysis, having only one mostly-forgotten class on statistics in my past (if anyone reading this can do so, that would be appreciated). Such constitutes my disclaimer.

For people interested in getting straight to the results, here is the most straightforwardly worded portion of this paper:
We find that females were allotted 40% more service work than males, and that the chances of this occurring in the absence of gender bias are less than 1%. This observation that females are significantly more often shunted into service work roles echoes the results of a study performed 27 years ago by Mary Gaillard (1980) on the status of of female physicists at CERN, a very large European particle physics laboratory. Particle physics has not progressed very far in this respect in the last three decades.

We also find that females were significantly more productive than their male peers in both
physics and service work, yet were awarded significantly fewer conference presentations; all 9 females in our sample were more productive than 24 out of the 48 males, yet the females had to be on average 3 times more productive than their male peers in order to be awarded a conference presentation. The chances of this occurring in the absence of gender bias are
less than 1%. This result is in remarkable concordance with the research of Wenneras and Wold, who found that females in their study had to be on average 2.5 times more productive than their male peers in order to receive a postdoctoral fellowship.

We note that this dearth of allocated conference presentations appears to hinder the ability of otherwise highly qualified females to become faculty members.

On a personal note, this study is one of many things convincing me I made a right personal choice not to pursue a research career. Although I still believe myself entirely capable of the work, I simply lack the drive required to overcome the obstacles of the non-scientific portions of the profession.
aesmael: (tricicat)
Scene: At home, cleaning. The phone rings. It is answered with a touch of irritation at the interruption.

PHONE VOICE: Hello, can I speak to Mr [legalname]?
AESMAEL: Speaking.
PHONE VOICE: No, I'm looking for Mr [legalname].
AESMAEL: That's me.
PHONE VOICE: Oh. *launches into sales pitch*
AESMAEL: *brush-off* *click*

. . .


Maybe next time I will say he is not here.
aesmael: (just people)
I despise arguments for acceptance on the basis that the person concerned holds no choice in being who they are. Common examples being homosexuality and, at the moment, transsexuality. Specifically the discussion - arguments - concerning people who see being transsexual as a birth defect, that their body and brain sex are mismatched and all they need is to have their bodies modified so they can live as normative members of society.

The problem is, such appeals work because it is currently possible to cosmetically alter the rest of the body to match the person's claimed brain sex and it is not currently possible to alter the brain so it conforms to the body.

I do not believe this will always be the case. If, in the future, it becomes possible to alter a person's gender (or sexuality) "I can't help it" will no longer be a tenable excuse. If you wish to have the freedom to live your life as you would prefer, you will have to find a new argument. One that will persuade the greater public it is wrong to deny you this freedom, or right to allow it.

To say people should be accepted on the basis of their not having a choice about who they are - to say "this trait is inborn and cannot be altered, and therefore you should not discriminate against me because of it" - implicitly suggests that people who cannot make the same claim are less deserving of acceptance and that someone who does have a choice should choose otherwise. If this argument is the condition on which people allow your existence, then as soon as it does become possible you will be expected to make the choice to become acceptable.

If you have a medical condition, then as technology improves you will be expected to be fully cured.

Cross-posted: [ profile] aesmael, [ profile] genderqueer, [ profile] transfeminism, [ profile] transgender
aesmael: (haircut)
Today I answered a call from someone after my sister, took their message. They asked who I was, I gave my legal name and they asked if I were her sister. Answered yes. This is considered reason for good cheer as everyone else who has suggested my voice sounds female is considered biased; even other callers asking if I am [mother's name] would be expecting her to answer as things are in her name. When people call for her boyfriend they ask if I am he too, matter of expectation.

For this to happen when the caller had no reason to gender me any particular was very happymaking. I do believe I am over my tenth grade music teacher suggesting I could sing bass, even if I did not know why it bothered me.

In other news, same sister has requested me to ask if anyone I know has any experiences with overlockers (apparently called sergers in the United States) they would like to share. She also mentioned cover stitches. Apparently she has a fair bit of information already and, so far as I can gather, is after personal experiences to help with her decision.
aesmael: (tricicat)
I added to the front page of this journal a link to the feed articles I have marked for sharing in Google Reader.

[ profile] soltice showed me this gorgeous (and large) illustration of the universe in logarithmic scale, though I thought Venus approached nearer than Mars. So far have not been able to find a reference for mean separation, perhaps will have to open an actual book.

[ profile] mantic_angel showed me a delight of public art. I'd never seen something by Improv Everywhere before, even though such things have been indirectly inspirational to me already, but it is marvellous and caused me to smile. I sent the former link to my sister a few minutes ago and it was not working at the time, perhaps it will be up again later.

Incidentally, I tend to read the website as "improve everywhere".

Otherwise today had lovely pattering light rain and darkness which I've not felt in so many years... It contained some very wonderful things including but not limited to conversation.

Still annoyed at my seeming lack of time for thought and learning. This is an artefact of poor prioritisation and time management, being worked on.

Recently received a mass invite to Facebook from a high school friend I've not contacted for years. Already had an account, decided to add them.

When classes start up in next week the intention is to present mostly female. Advice is solicited, especially on questions or other reactions which may need dealing with. I do not actually expect people to notice but if someone did and started asking things, I'd be stumped.
aesmael: (Electric Waves)
A few days ago [ profile] lost_angelwings and I came across some thoroughly dreadful essays and decided to split the raging between us. I got this community (yay!) but have been sick since so am only getting to it now. Bah! Enough preamble.

Deal, teer - directly offensive to just about everyone )

And I think I am going to be sick now.

[cross-posted to [ profile] feminist_rage ]
aesmael: (transformation)
aesmael: (haircut)
    Being the end of the year, my class decided we should throw ourselves a Christmas party. There was some delay while we waited for everyone to be finished testing, but it turned out we had all together brought rather a lot of food.
    For a while I thought no one was going to touch the lamingtons I made but apparently the problem was I had cut them too large. Once that was solved people seemed to like them, although they did ask if my mother made them.
    And when I told them I made the cakes myself, well, they were not so congratulatory for anyone else being able to cook without burning themselves, and told me I would make some girl very happy someday. I do not think anyone heard my "Or now."

    That is all I have energy for. Good night.



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