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Neopronouns and clickbait

Author:
clickbait

By Pip Williams

Content note: transphobia

An article from notoriously poorly-edited and sensationalist student news outlet The Tab somehow wormed its way onto my Facebook timeline yesterday. The article was titled “Oxford University students allegedly told to use ‘ze’, not ‘he or she’ to stop transgender discrimination”, and, unsurprisingly, the comments were a transphobic mess.

In recent weeks, The Tab has taken to sharing content centring around non-binary trans identities. A video by non-binary activist and Newcastle University Student Union Marginalised Genders Officer Saffron Kershaw-Mee garnered comparisons to cancer and paedophilia, prompting them to pen a follow-up article to a similarly unsympathetic response.

The Tab isn’t the only news outlet to capitalise on transgender identities for outrage-inducing clickbait. In July, national newspaper The Telegraph published an article titled “Boarding school teachers told to address transgender pupils as ‘zie’ in guidance on gender neutral terminology”. Whilst I was unable to source the official guidance from the Boarding Schools Association, LGBT+ news outlet PinkNews spoke with Alex Thompson, deputy chief executive of the BSA, to ascertain that the guidance had been provided at the request of teachers.

In conversation with PinkNews, Thompson explains how teachers felt “in the dark” when addressing pupils with gender identities unfamiliar to them. Far from instructing staff to use ‘zie’, the guidance provided the pronouns as an example of a neopronoun likely to be unfamiliar to staff. Neopronouns such as ‘zie’ are modern personal pronouns used in place of gendered pronouns such as ‘she’ or the widely used gender-neutral ‘they’. Many have been developed through discussion in online trans and genderqueer communities. Lists of neopronouns (such as this one) are one of the most widely available resources explaining their use. As such, it’s unlikely that the average cisgender schoolteacher would be aware of their existence. The aim of including ‘zie’ in the BSA guidance was, therefore, to demonstrate its use, ensuring staff would feel comfortable employing it if requested by a student – certainly not to say that everyone should be addressed with neopronouns, ‘zie’ or otherwise!

As with the Oxford University case reported by The Tab, The Telegraph chose to insinuate forced usage of neopronouns for all students. In the age of the internet, we all know how clickbait works. These false insinuations were intended to generate outrage, clicks, and advertising revenue – at the expense of trans people’s dignity and respect, and as we can see, this is an all-too-common theme.

I believe that The Tab’s article has been either amended, or deleted and republished without comment, since the release of Oxford University SU’s statement on the use of gender neutral pronouns proved several points incorrect. The statement outlines how “There is [a] possibility that our work and remit has been confused with the work of the wider University, whose Trans Policy and guidance does include a mention of neopronouns (pronoun sets like ‘ze/hir’, ‘ey/em/eirs’).” Again we see guidance on the usage of neopronouns in the context of trans equality exaggerated to the point of compulsory blanket usage.

The Tab article states – in a convoluted fashion – that “Claims were allegedly made in a leaflet given out by the SU says [sic] that deliberately using the wrong pronoun for a transgender person is an offence under the university’s code of behaviour”. Whilst we have established that the leaflets in question probably did not exist – at least not in any association with the Oxford University SU – this is a pretty standard anti-harassment guideline to promote trans equality in the student body. Sensationalising it in the news doesn’t change that most universities do (and should!) enshrine protection for trans students in their code of conduct.

I would also like to briefly touch on how the Telegraph’s headline stated that staff were “told to address transgender pupils as ‘zie’”. Whilst neither the BSA nor Oxford University SU were demanding the blanket use of neopronouns, it’s worth noting why this is a harmful concept in itself, particularly in the case of transgender students. For binary transgender individuals (i.e. trans men or women), using a neopronoun such as ‘zie’ in place of the gendered pronouns (e.g. she or he) they have requested is as much misgendering them as using the incorrect gendered pronoun. Whilst I would encourage people to use neutral pronouns on initially meeting someone (‘they’ is most common), it is important to be open to correction and respect people’s correct pronouns.

Queer Grrrl Lit

Author:
ReadMeLikea Book

by Sophia Simon-Bashall

I have been an avid reader of Young Adult fiction since I was 12 and read Sophie McKenzie’s Girl, Missing, for the first time. From that point onward, I devoured these stories. I lived inside them. I befriended the characters, went on adventures, got angry with them, fell in love. I liked that these stories were about people my age, and that they didn’t look down on me or talk down to me – they recognised that I, as a young woman, was an intelligent and thoughtful person. That was invaluable.

However, there was a disconnect. I was queer, and the characters that I was meeting were not, except for the occasional boy. I didn’t see myself reflected anywhere. There was no proof that I existed outside of myself, that my feelings about girls were anything other than hideously wrong, an anomaly.

It wasn’t until I was 17 that I began to realise that I, as a queer girl, was not wrong. That I, in that identity, was real and valid and okay. Much of that was about growth, and about the people I surrounded myself with. But it was also about the books I read. I did my digging, and I found that there were books about girls who, like me, were Not Straight. It felt like nothing short of a miracle.

I have found so much value in reading YA about queer girls. I have found so much comfort and validation and joy. Representation matters, without a doubt. I thought I would share, in case you are looking:

(FAVOURITE) Everything Leads To You by Nina LaCourEverything Leads
I have been enchanted by few YA novels as much as this one. LaCour has a beautiful writing style, the imagery is so vivid and emotive, the characters feel so familiar and honest, the story feels both magical and real. Reading this makes you feel the way you feel when you meet the eyes of a cute girl in a bookshop, when you talk to her and grab a hot chocolate together and you are crushing so hard. Reading this gives you butterflies. Guaranteed.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
beautyQueensThis is such a kick-ass, grrrl power book! It is the epitome of awesome! It shows teenage girls as intelligent, resourceful, complex human beings! What a revelation! AND THE REPRESENTATION!!! Amongst the girls are African-Americans, girls of Indian heritage, bisexuals, lesbians, girls who are transgender … it’s like Libba Bray actually looked at society rather than painted the normative picture – can you believe it?

Lunaside by J.L. DouglasLunaside
I very recently read this book, because I am a sucker for cute summer camp stories and I needed to escape into that world. I was pleasantly surprised by how mature it felt, and by how the story turned out – I worried that there was a manic pixie dream girl element, but all was resolved. I think the best part for me was that one of the secondary characters was asexual. AN ASEXUAL CHARACTER!!! WHOSE ASEXUALITY IS ACKNOWLEDGED!!! BUT IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL!!! IT’S NOT THE FOCUS!!! IT’S JUST A PART OF HER!!! Amazing.

Read Me Like a Book by Liz KesslerReadMeLikea Book
My friend, Anna and I went to the book launch for this last year, and it was wonderful. Rainbow cake and adult queer women, women who were comfortable in who they were and not brought down by the homophobia that they have fought and fought against. It was a very affirming and assuring atmosphere for both of us to be in. The novel is very much about coming to terms with being Not Straight, an invaluable read for those in such a situation. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, as I am perhaps a little bored of ‘coming out’ –esque stories; however, I didn’t feel at all bored reading this. I didn’t feel like I’d heard it all before, and I didn’t feel beyond it. It was written with honesty, and I think that goes a long with way with such stories.

I Love This Part by Tillie Walden
I Love This Part - Preview-page-001This is a graphic novel and it is so beautiful. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s so beautiful and fills you with so many feelings. SO. MANY. FEELINGS. It’s simultaneously immensely satisfying and deeply unsatisfying – you will want more, but you also know that it closes where it should, the way it should. To be able to do that to your readers is quite a skill.

The following are books I have not yet read, but are on my list. I have heard so many great things about them that I could not leave them out:

  • Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash – a graphic memoir
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe – bisexual representation!
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
  • If You Could Be Mine + Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

I Knew Taylor Swift Was Trouble When She Walked In

Author:

By Christiana Paradis

It’s never been a secret: I dislike Taylor Swift. Unfortunately, in a world where it appears everyone loves her, I for the most part, keep quiet because it really isn’t worth the fight. However, her latest video, which was brought to my attention by a wonderful friend, has infuriated me to the point where I need to say something. And “haters gonna hate, hate, hate” about that — and quite frankly I don’t care.

Swift

Regularly in the media domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault is presented and normalized (Has anyone seen the new Maroon 5 video?). It is seen more as a given and normalcy in our society than an atrocity.

Often when this happens we see a male perpetrator of domestic violence and a female victim. Working in the domestic violence field, very rarely do we talk about female perpetrators and male victims because our statistics don’t support that it happens very often. 85% of domestic violence victims are women (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003). But it is important to remember that statistics are only as good as what is reported and quite often, cases of domestic violence against men, when the perpetrator is female, are not reported. The reason for this is simple: gender stereotypes are still very prevalent in our society. Not many men feel comfortable reporting to the police, hospital or domestic violence shelter saying “my significant other hit me,” because to say that is presumed emasculating.

This has to stop. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence and anyone can be a perpetrator. We need a society where everyone feels safe to report regardless of gender.

The same as domestic violence against women has become normalized in the media, domestic violence against men has become comical. (Remember the social experiment of domestic violence of men versus women in public?) Taylor Swift’s new video for “Blank Space” is no different.

The video begins depicting a very common theme in domestic violence relationships – the honeymoon phase – where everything is wonderful and the person expresses a lot of love early on in the relationship. In this video the victim has found Princess Charming, aka Taylor Swift. However, this relationship quickly turns unhealthy as some domestic violence relationships do when a perpetrator may accuse a victim of cheating with little to no evidence. This is apparent in the video when Taylor sees Sean texting someone else and automatically assumes it is another female. She even expresses this excessive jealousy as she screams (emotional abuse), hits, and pushes (physical abuse) Sean in fury. We then see Taylor throw his cell phone in a fountain, cut up his clothing, and destroy his car — all things that are done to intimidate, threaten, and embarrass the victim. Frequently working in the field of domestic violence, I see cell phones are destroyed because it makes it impossible for the victim to call for help and destroying property in an effort to threaten and terrorize the victim are signs of further emotional abuse.

Taylor’s messed up world and perceptions are evident not only in this video, but in the song lyrics themselves —“boys only love it if it’s torture.” First, this statement is extremely emasculating towards men; similarly to when men call all women girls, in an attempt to infantilize us. This statement emasculates all men into boys and makes a sweeping judgment about what men like and don’t like. Let me clear this up for you, Taylor. NO ONE likes torture. NO ONE likes to be made to feel less of a person by another person, no matter what your gender identify. Maybe I am over rationalizing? You were just trying to make a statement about men liking relationships that are difficult. Guess what? I still don’t buy it. What frustrates me further is that this video came from someone who recently proclaimed to the world that she was a feminist. Perhaps I should explain that feminism is about gender equality. We do not achieve gender equality by emasculating men, but thank you for furthering that stereotype.

We see the cycle begin all over again at the end of the video as a new victim comes to Taylor. I don’t care if you’re Taylor Swift or a person just sitting at home on their computer watching Taylor Swift, we need to stop presenting domestic violence against men as funny or less serious than violence against women. Violence against anyone is not okay.

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