Ways Trans Activists on the Internet Enforce Cissexism

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There are two items on this list that strike me as very cis-supremacist in how they advocate address talking to and thinking about trans people.

“My gender is mine, not a mere identity!”

“My pronouns are MINE not a ‘preference’.”

The thing is, everyone, cis, trans, or otherwise, has a gender identity and preferred names and pronouns, but only cis people are socially permitted to take these things for granted by identifying these things about themselves as something somehow just self-evident and not debatable, and by being allowed to misuse terms like “identity” and “preference” as dismissals of a the identities and preferences of trans people as somehow less-important or less-valid. The problem with modifying the cis model I have just described is not just that it vehemently misuses words in the context of trans people (after all, ask cis people about their sexual preferences, especially with regards to whether or not they’re attracted to people they know to be trans, and suddenly “preferences” are something that must necessarily be respected!) but it positions the cis experience of being able to take things like their gender identity and their preferences in name and pronoun for granted as an ideal and default model that trans people should strive for.

While I certainly understand that the person who wrote the text in the image had good intentions behind it, it still betrays an inherently cissupremacist view of how one interacts with their gender in everyday life, and practically obligates trans people to imitate cis people, even if only in thought, in order to have their gender, including the identity aspect of their gender, taken seriously. This is just more “Passing! Is! Life!” bollocks presented in a form ostensibly more palatable, because it stresses aping cis minds rather than cis bodies.

What pains me most about this image going around FaceBook, which is where I found it, is that I first found it from someone who ostensibly (judging from their regularly shared links and whatnot) subscribes to radical politics, and, being a friend I even first met offline, is a person I know to care fuck all for whether or not they physically “pass”, because they are who they are, and what’s most important to them, is being happy with their own body, so while it does still bother them to be misgendered in public, it’s not something that bothers them as much as they imagine it would the person who has dedicated significant time and effort to do everything in their powers to look cis.

Where is an inherent classism in physically “passing” as cisgender for trans people. This is especially true for many trans women, where to be able to assimilate, it’s generally desired to have extensive surgeries, including facial feminisation and various body-sculpting procedures, to undo the effects of a testosterone-dominant puberty. These are procedures generally not covered by insurances, and are very hard, if not impossible, for those below a certain socio-economic class to safe for, much less afford outright. A lot of trans men will still devote practically part-time-work hours a week in the gym to masculinise their bodies, even before HRT, and though less common, it’s certainly not unheard of for trans men to seek silicone implants to create a more “sculpted” or muscular-looking appearance to their physique; gym memberships cost money, and putting them to use necessitates a privilege of time, and such surgeries are absolutely not covered by any major insurance. A whole new wardrobe, including good wigs and haircut, cost money, which may not necessarily be readily available.

There is an inherent ableism to transgender passing politics, as well. Aside from the fact that those of us whose primary income is disability allowance are at a sharp economic disadvantage, surgeries may be unobtainable for reasons of anxiety disorder. Gym use, or even exercising off YouTube channels at home, may be unattainable for physical disability reasons, sensory disorders can inhibit clothing and haircut choices.

It should also be obvious how sexism plays into the inherent politics of physically passing, as well, if only for demanding an adherence to certain mid-20th Century stereotyping on how men and women “should” look. More specifically, this is cissexism, in that it doesn’t press these expectations as hard on cis people, if at all, for the simple fact that cis people are allowed to take their gender identities for granted, allowing them more freedoms of expression (at least with cis women, where performing more masculine expressions is typically less-brutally penalised than in men, and those a society may perceive as men performing femininity).

many trans people, especially on the Internet, are very quick to call all this out, and more (like inherent racisms, which I don’t even know how to describe adequately for this piece), but when it comes to how we address our gender, including preferences of expression, in WORDS rather than body and clothing, cissexism is not only ignored, it’s encouraged!

Trans people applaud each-other for “taking a stand against cissexism” by advocating that we ape cis people n how we talk to ourselves and others about gender:

“We simply have a gender, which is inherent and ours; saying we have a gender identity is just a sneaky way of telling us that we don’t.”

“My pronouns are not a preference, they are mandatory!”

“It’s not my preferred name, it’s MY name!”

These are things we’d expect cis people to say if we pointed out to them that they, too, have a gender identity, and preferences of name and pronouns — and not without reason, because society has conditioned them to take these things for granted, so they don’t feel obligated to actually think about the reality of the situation of how identifying with the gender one was assigned at birth is, indeed, a gender identity that is no more or less valid than a trans person’s identity; nor do they feel obligated to think about how, as a cis man, one would certainly prefer to be called “he” as opposed to “she” or “ze”; nor do they feel obligated to consider how one might prefer to be called “Pat” when their given and legal name is “Patricia”, or how one might prefer their childhood nickname of “Bull” over their given name of “Nostradamus Shannon”.

I therefore posit that is is the radical position not to ape cis people, but to remind them, daily, hourly, if necessary, that they, too, have a gender identity, a pronoun preference, and a preferred name, even if these all line up with the gender, pronouns, and name one was assigned at birth. They are not allowed to take these things for granted any more than white people should be allowed to take for granted that, in the first 60+ years of Western commercial filmmaking, leading and primary supporting characters were about 90% Caucasoid, no more than cis men should be allowed to take for granted that almost every Fortune 500 name is male.

African Americans, Southern and Eastern Asian races, and Indigenous Americans have never fought racism by assimilating and not challenging white people on their racist ideas.

The disabled don’t fight ableism by letting the comforts and conveniences of the able-bodied be taken for granted without a challenge to make spaces for our needs, as well (how else do you think wheelchair-accessible toilets and handicapped parking spaces happened? Definitely not cos the chair-bound just sat around and waited for the benevolence of the walking world!)

Sexism is not fought by denying the differences of experience between how men and women are treated, but by acknowledging those differences, sharing them, and challenging men on their sexism.

The United States in the Twentieth Century is a prime example of how pretending there is no difference between the opportunities offered to different socio-economic classes just doesn’t work in fighting classism, but instead strengthens it. Only by challenging classism can it be fought.

So why do those who espouse radical beliefs in those and other areas, indeed those most likely to identify themselves as having radical politics, take such a shine to the notion that the best way to fight cissexism is by ignoring the aspects of identity and preferences, with regards to one’s gender and its expression? Wouldn’t that just be letting cissexism go unchallenged while also pressing trans people into adopting another form of passing for cis?

I find the denial of gender identity and preferences of address to be counterintuitive to accepting the lived knowledge of our experiences.

Identity is only one piece of our personal genders. We also have roles, which may vary somewhat by society, but in the West are almost universal. We also have expression, which encompasses not simply how we dress, but also mannerisms, interests, and even preferences of pronoun and name. How we identify our sexuality (which is different from sexual orientation) may also reflect another aspect of our gender; I’ve certainly been in enough conversations with homosexual and homoflexible women who prefer to identify as “gay” rather than “lesbian”, because of certain nuances and also of the subcultures associated with those terms, though some such women may also use the terms interchangeably. Gender is multi-faceted, and in many (if not most) people, is fluid and malleable, in at least one aspect, and not a static constant throughout one’s life; as a quick example, YouTube personality Chris Crocker seems to generally identify as male, but certainly has a fluid sense of gender expression.

If we let the way cis people take their gender identities and preferences of expression for granted, especially if we seek to ape that ourselves, as trans people, we’re letting cissexism win. Cissexism is more than just expecting cisnormativity in trans people, it’s also a thought pattern that idealises a cis experience as a default, and this includes the unchallenged ability to take their identities for granted. We simply cannot fight cissexism without challenging the most insidious ways it permeates the dialogue about gender.

When we say “don’t refer to it as a gender identity, it’s just gender,” we are giving preferential treatment to the cis experience by mimicking how cis people talk about their own gender identities.

When we say “don’t refer to ‘preferred pronouns’… — they are MANDATORY,” in addition to the bizarre notion that “preference,” not “optional,” is somehow the opposite of “mandatory,” we’re saying that the cis experience is preferred to the trans experience, and we are reinforcing this by mimicking the way cis people talk about their own preferred pronouns.

Trans, non-binary, and Intersex people are not the only ones with “gender identities” and “preferred names and pronouns” — cis people have these identities and preferences, as well. While it may seem appealing to mimic this denial of experience that cis people are allowed by society, doing so only reinforces cissexism by positioning it as the only valid way to think about one’s gender and expression.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

A Contradiction

“Nontheistic theism” literally means “a belief about gods without gods”. No amount of doublespeak can make that anything but a contradiction. Ergo, to call “nontheistic polytheism,” in any way, “polytheism”[1][2][3 is a gross display of intellectual dishonesty, at most, or just a case of stupidity via “special snowflake” syndrome, at least.

While many words are, by nature, flexible, they still mean things. While a living language must remain relevant to remain, there’s a phrase relatively common to English:

Don’t keep your mind so open your brain falls out.

“Nontheistic theism” is therefore a performance of doublespeak to confuse and control.

One is either a nontheist or a theist. It’s like claiming to be both a giant and a dwarf, simultaneously; it is literally impossible to be both at once. While one could, hypothetically, cite the extraordinary case of Adam Rainer, the only person on record to’ve been, as an adult, classified first as a dwarf, and then as a giant, by his doctors, he never existed as both, simultaneously — first he was a dwarf, standing 3’10½”, then he was a giant at 7’8″. I have a mild form of acondroplasia, resulting in slightly disproportioned limb-to-torso size proportions, a distinct form of spinal curvature, and a bowing to my knees — but at 4’11”, I am literally an inch too tall to be a dwarf, and I am a far cry from being a giant; to call myself a “giant dwarf” may be a cute oxymoron I might say in jest amongst friends who know of that condition I have, the reality is that I am neither, but I’m closest to being the latter half of that phrase (dwarf), as I have one of the conditions commonly associated with dwarfism.

I get that polytheism is all cool and stuff, right now (and having been interviewed through a handful of pagan and polytheist outlets, I wouldn’t be surprised if my name had a tiny spark in fostering that, though there are absolutely bigger names than mine, in that regard), and certain people desperately want to be a part of our movement — can’t say that I blame them, we’re cool as shit, but like dwarfism to myself, they’re technically not polytheists, though they may use certain language of polytheism in their own spirituality (I hesitate to call a practise without real theism “religion”, but given the common euphemistic uses of “doing a thing religiously”, I’ll give people who would call it that an understanding). Hopefully, like Hot Topic in 2005, they’ll discover “the money” is in something new and different, and drop their appropriation and misuse of our movement for something else, as they acknowledge that their heart wasn’t as much into polytheism as it was into grasping for relevancy attached to their name within the greater pagan social movement.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

[PBP2013] Lost in Translation: L’amour est bleu

L’amour est bleu
Doux, doux, l’amour est doux
Douce est ma vie, ma vie dans tes bras
Doux, doux, l’amour est doux
Douce est ma vie, ma vie près de toi

Bleu, bleu, l’amour est bleu
Berce mon cœur, mon cœur amoureux
Bleu, bleu, l’amour est bleu
Bleu comme le ciel qui joue dans tes yeux

Comme l’eau, comme l’eau qui court
Moi, mon cœur court après ton amour

Gris, gris, l’amour est gris
Pleure mon cœur lorsque tu t’en vas
Gris, gris, le ciel est gris
Tombe la pluie quand tu n’es plus là

Le vent, le vent gémit
Pleure le vent lorsque tu t’en vas
Le vent, le vent maudit
Pleure mon cœur quand tu n’es plus là

Comme l’eau, comme l’eau qui court
Moi, mon cœur court après ton amour

Bleu, bleu, l’amour est bleu
Le ciel est bleu lorsque tu reviens
Bleu, bleu, l’amour est bleu
L’amour est bleu quand tu prends ma main

Fou, fou, l’amour est fou
Fou comme toi et fou comme moi
Bleu, bleu, l’amour est bleu
L’amour est bleu quand je suis à toi

L’amour est bleu quand je suis à toi

Love is blue (translation)
Sweet, sweet, love is sweet
Sweet is my life, my life in your arms
Sweet, sweet, love is sweet
Sweet is my life, my life close to you

Blue, blue, love is blue
Cradle my heart, my loving heart
Blue, blue, love is blue
Blue like the sky which play in your eyes

Like the water, like the running water
Me, my heart runs after your love

Grey, grey, love is grey
My heart weeps since you went away
Grey, grey, the sky is grey
The rain falls when you’re not there anymore

The wind, the wind moans
The wind weeps since you went away
The wind, the cursed wind
My heart weeps when you’re not there anymore

Like the water, like the running water
Me, my heart runs after your love

Blue, blue, love is blue
The sky is blue when you return
Blue, blue, love is blue
Love is blue when you take my hand

Mad, mad, love is mad
Mad like you and mad like me
Blue, blue, love is blue
Love is blue when I am yours

Love is blue when I am yours


CONTRAST WITH

Blue, blue, my world is blue
Blue is my world since I’m without you
Gray, gray, my life is gray
Cold is my heart since you went away

Red, red, my eyes are red
Crying for you alone in my bed
Green, green, my jealous heart I
doubted you and now we’re apart

How the bright sun shone
Then love died
Now the rainbow is gone
Black, black, the nights I’ve known
Longing for you, so lost and alone
Gone, gone, the love we knew
Blue is my world since I’m without you


This is also an allegory for how the original language is necessary to a complete understanding.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

I will not coddle to your stupidity: “Time heals all wounds” is true, Tumblr

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So, I saw this image recently cross-posted from Tumblr to Facebook by one of my friends, and this is some of the stupidest crap I’ve seen in a while.

“They say time heals all wounds, I disagree…” and then goes on to add to the idiom something about scar tissue.

Guess what? If you have a scar, you’re healed! Ask any surgeon or general physician. Ask some-one who has had several surgeries (like myself). Scars are proof of having healed from something. If you have to have a life-saving surgery, you’re going to have a scar. Sure, some surgeons can stitch you up so as to potentially minimise the appearance of scars, but dependent on the nature of the surgery, genetics, age, and other potential factors, the scar will still be visible, one way or another. Hell, if you know what to look for, you can even spot the scars on some of the best face lifts that Midtwentieth Hollywood surgeons cranked out with succession.

And say it’s heart surgery, or some other major internal organ —you’re probably not going to be the same, you’re probably not going to be able to do everything you were previously able to, but you have you survived, you have healed, and you have the scars to prove it. Even Alexis St. Martin technically healed, just not in the ideal manner for his quality of life; ask any body piercer, a fistula is a healing, it is skin regrowing itself in a manner that forms a channel.

“Time heals all wounds”? Yeah, generally it’s true; physically, if you don’t heal from your wounds, you can get infected and die — and emotionally, if you don’t heal, you can breakdown. But if you have “scar tissue”, physical or emotional, you have HEALED. If you can get on with your life in a meaningful way, even if not the same meaning as you had before, you have HEALED. Healing isn’t about restoring everything to its previous state; healing is about the body, or the psyche, taking care of itself so that you can move on from the experience and continue to learn, grow, and live —sometimes you have to do things to help the process of healing along, and healing itself means you will never be 100% as you previously were, but oh well, no-one said life was easy.

Words mean things. They don’t always mean what you might think they mean or what some-one might intend for them to mean. Do some people throw that idiom around to be dismissive of your problems and your healing process? Absolutely —but is it really any less stupid to basically undefine “healing” because someone else was a stupid jerk? Absolutely not.

“Time heals all wounds”, as a generalisation, is true. Scar tissue is healing. Healing is not about returning to an untouched state of being, it’s about patching up and moving on.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

Why “Queer”, but not “Pagan”?

I love etymology, and this leads me to often thinking of the words I use very carefully before using them. I don’t call heterosexual “straight” by default, because “straight” in this use does not simply mean heterosexual: It means “normal”, “not a criminal”, “sober”, and it evolved from criminal and drug subcultures. As homosexuality is no longer criminalised in the First World, to call heterosexuals “straight” is to reinforce homophobia, I dare say it is even an act of homophobia.

…but I digress.

First off, while I dislike the term “pagan” based on a loaded etymology, and I absolutely do not feel like it is the best word to describe my religion, I do occasionally resign to it out of convenience and knowing full well that even though it may be one of those instances where it’s simply easier than going on a long discussion I don’t want to be in (or I would have made that discussion happen and not said “I’m pagan”), I do so with the knowledge that I’m inviting in all of these assumptions people are going to make about me that are, by and large, not an accurate way to describe me or my religion at all.

While there is certainly a reinforcing etymology to these assumptions of others’, the major reason for these assumptions is the self-reinforcing stereotyping that runs rampant in the community of self-identified pagans. The fact of the matter is, the “mainstream” idea that pagans are nature-worshipping hippies dancing barefoot in the woods is because an overwhelming majority of self-identified pagans fit that description, and tend to be a bit less-than-accepting of anybody under the “pagan umbrella” who doesn’t fit that description. This is the primary reason for such a rift between the pagan community and polytheists of the recon method: A majority of “recons” are urban or at least non-rural in that they neither naturally feel nor feel any desire to need an especial spiritual connection with the rustic or even wild lands to properly practise their religion, whose who may identify as urban tend to have an especially spiritual connection to cities. A lot of “recons” are centrist, conservative, or are urban liberals who recognise that sustainable living is that of either the farm or the metropolis, the suburbs where many self-identified “pagans” actually live being an abomination.

I definitely see an emerging “post-reconstructionism” movement in the polytheist community, wherein people realise that the reconstructionist method, when applied strictly, can be limiting and allow for little (if anything) in the way of spirituality in tune with modern realities, but that does not necessarily mean that the community of self-identified “pagans” is necessarily going to be the best place for such people, especially those of us who neither have nor want nor need to have a deep spiritual void filled with the kind of minor (or major) woo that can only be found tilling the land of a homestead farm or deep in the woods and miles from civilisation.

Personally? I’ve had times where I’ve tried to get that, but I’m physically, emotionally, and spiritually allergic to the woods. One cannot make that connection happen if it’s not meant to, no matter how much one tries, no matter how much one has to fill oneself with antihistamine just to be clear-headed enough to not only be perceptive of that connection, if it’s to come, but make sure it’s meaningful. I mean, who knows? For all I know, maybe all that Zyrtec and Zatador drops and nasal sprays and various creams block that connection —but if being without all that antihistamine makes it hard to breathe in a rural place, then maybe I’m just not meant to have that sort of connection to nature? Maybe I really am better off without it, and the Theoi are just fine with that?

…but some-one recently asked me why I liberally self-aply the term “Queer”, but not pagan —after all, these two words both have virtually the same histories! Well, except that they don’t.

No, really. They don’t.

The word “queer” comes from German (versus “paganus” coming from Latin), meaning “oblique, off-centre” and has a possible relation to “quer”, meaning “odd”. The first recorded use of “queer” relating to homosexuality only dates to 1922 after the word “queer” was introduced to English around 1500, when “paganus” was first adopted as a slur against non-Christians during the Holy Roman empire!

Then there’s the fact that, based on etymology alone, I’m very Queer. Even amongst the subcultures I’ve found myself at home in, I’ve never epitomised any of them: Too dark for most Mods, too polished and classic for most Goths, too erudite for most punks, and too modern and urban for the overwhelming majority of pagans and polytheists. Even as a gay man, well, I’m of TS history, which makes me the sort of potential sexual partner many other gay men want nothing to do with. As a man of TS hostory, I’m enough of an effete that most of them will still call me “ma’am”, even after told that’s inappropriate. How any of this makes me unstrange, unqueer, seems rather, well, queer to me. If any-one has a right to re-claim “queer” from a status of slur (and a relatively new one —the term was rather benign prior to it’s GBLT associations), I think I can objectively say that I sure as hell do.

On the other hand, what right do I have to “pagan”? If this is a term that evolved from the Latin equivalent of “redneck” or “hillbilly” and now possesses a baggage that includes a highly implict and (very easily argued) enforced community meaning of “nature-worshipping”, then no, it doesn’t fit me in the slightest. A Google Image search for “pagan” or a perusal of Wikipedia’s article on Neopaganism and its contemporary photos reveals how deeply “nature religion” is synonymous with the contemporary pagan community, to the point that “urban paganism” is such a tiny niche market that only three books have ever been published on the suvject —one currently out-of-print (Patricia Telesco’s The Urban Pagan), and one is so lousy with a strong and unapologetic rural bias that, as I know my own spiritual realities, it’s riddled with fallacious misinformation (pretty much the entire Introduction to R. Kaldera & T. Schwartzstein’s The Urban Primitive is a biased screed hailing the woodlands and damning the urban lands as a bringer of doom and ailments both physical and spiritual, though it gets a little better, it’s not by much). I don’t even think the pagan community thinks they’re being as unwelcoming and prejudiced as, in practise, they really are, but when the reality of this not merely ostensible, but blatant and celebrated bias is something that one must deal with at every venture into the “pagan community”, hoping to touch based with co-religionists, other devotees of one’s patron, and those walking an otherwise similar spiritual path, then not only is it apparent that one’s spirituality is regarded as “queer and perverse” in the pre1922 sense, but also one that’s regarded as lesser and hollow, false and silly, then yes, I think I can say that I don’t have any incentive to try and rationalise any claim to the term “pagan”, as it’s being made abundantly clear that I only barely qualify —like the cisgender gay man who likes to make it perfectly clear that he’s normal, and not one of those icky fem gays or trannies, that he was in a fraternity in uni and captain of the gridiron team, and his name is Cleancut McNormaldude and just happens to be somehow “queer”. R~i~g~h~t…..

In fact, I roll my eyes at Cleancut McNormaldude attempting to claim he’s “queer” rather than “gay“, if not “homosexual” or “bisexual” are words he feels suit him, because that’s not a word that gives any accurate nuances that describe him outside of only one of the implied meanings, at best, that he’s practically watered-down the meaning of “queer” to strip it of all nuance and render it nothing more than a meaningless synonym.

When one truly loves vocabulary, it becomes apparent that even words that seem synonymous have these nuances that make their meanings truly different, even if in seemingly minor ways. These numances are important, as any Paganism & Witchcraft 101 book worth the paper they’re printed on have said before me. To say “crone” when “hag” is best can render a ritual or spell useless or change it completely, so why call myself “pagan” when it carries with it not only an etymology but a common, every-day use that implies so many things that I am not and only one thing that I am (polytheist, practising a pre-Christian religion)? Why should I not use Queer when it can easily cover all sorts of nuances about my personality and character in addition to my sexual predilections?

If you’re going to say anything at all, say it the best way that you can.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.