Some questions for TERFs

During and after writing my last post, I spent a little time browsing the blog it came from and reading the Manifesto of the Gender Rebels posted there. It left me with some questions, and the blogger herself, purplesagefem, has kindly invited me to ask them. Other TERFs, please feel free to respond as well!

And right on the tails of that, a caveat: I do ask you to be considerate when using gendered language in your responses. Please be as precise and neutral as possible – what I’ve read so far was often hard to parse in terms of clarity and caused a lot of discomfort. If you do not wish to use trans people’s preferred pronouns and gendered terms, please default to gender-neutral expressions. I have tried to do the same in my questions. (I might have messed up some because I don’t have a good sense of TERF-approved vocabulary, though.)

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Some questions for FtMs answered

Yesterday (or maybe a few days ago by the time I post this, who knows) I came across this post via someone else’s answers. Reading it, a lot of the questions seemed extremely familiar, and since I am a trans man, I also felt qualified to answer, so I decided to do just that.

A caveat first: there are lots of trans people in the world, and our experiences of and opinions about gender vary wildly. Some other trans people will feel represented in what I write here and some will not, some will agree with some of what I write here and some will disagree with various amounts of vehemence.

But anyway, here goes! (Copying the list over made all the A’s and i’s change into numbers. I don’t know how to fix that and it’s probably not worth the effort to find out, so I won’t bother.)

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Blogging is hard (and so are many other things)

Once again, it turns out that consistent blogging actually involves a decent amount of work and self-discipline.

This is not horribly surprising, since exactly these requirements also killed off my previous attempts at blogging, but it is somewhat disappointing that it also applies to this blog, which was intended as a really low-quality, low-effort blog right from the beginning rather than a blog filled with thoughtful, in-depth analyses incorporating lots of facts and citing all sources. I figured that since I spend a considerable amount of time navel-gazing anyway, writing some of that down and posting it would not take much more effort.

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Monday Music: Kyrie Cunctipotens Genitor

[Monday Music is a new feature: a more-or-less random song/piece of music with a terribly insufficient description of the music and what impression it gives me.]

I found this piece of medieval music via tumblr today and gave it a try because I’ve had some good experiences with medieval music in the past. It’s a monks’ chant, male voices only without instruments to accompany them, echoing just as you’d expect in a church.

It’s a piece of music that is slow and heavy, solemn and mournful, notes shivering in the dark air, dust dancing in the few rays of light piercing it. It’s a tone held inhumanly long beneath the leading voice rising lonely and serious above it. It’s vowel after vowel, and then curls of consonants at the end like an afterthought, other voices joining the leading one just then as if they had just woken up. It’s voices rising together, climbing higher and louder than before, fervent, before sinking again.

It’s a single moment of silence, all the voices gone quiet, before some of them take up the next word a fraction of a second before the bass line starts again. It’s the leading voice tearing away from the others, higher, bordering on the edge of desperation, reining itself in a little just to break away again and stay above the others for a short time before falling back for good, sinking into the others like mud, quieted.

It’s a single voice taking up the tune above the bass cry, only later joined by a few others, and then suddenly by the whole choir, going higher and faster together, splitting and joining back together repeatedly on single notes, and then ending together too sudden, leaving me waiting for the next note for a long moment.

Preliminary Assertiveness Research 2

The second result in my assertiveness research was a shortened version of a whole chapter on assertiveness training onĀ another site, which has 15 chapters on different topics in total. Chapter 13 is titled “Methods for Developing Skills”, with a subsection called “Assertiveness Training“. (The title of the subsection is at the bottom of page 17, but the link leads to page 18, because that’s where the actual content starts. Sloppy layouting.)

As with the first result, I’ll quote sections and comment on them as I go along. (If you only read this blog post, your view of the quoted site will be negatively biased, though – I quote things to nitpick, not to agree.)

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Preliminary Assertiveness Research

I made my first foray into looking for tips on becoming more assertive today by typing “assertiveness practice” into Ecosia (it’s not the best search engine, but suffices for most purposes, and it plants trees), squinting suspiciously at the first three results, skimming through them and scoffing loudly at everything remotely scoff-worthy.

Then I remembered that becoming more assertive is actually important, that I should be searching out and soaking up all useful things instead of mocking the rest, and realized that a contemptuous and reluctant mindset might put me at a disadvantage there. So I took a deep breath and started over.

The very first result is a page geared towards people with disabilities. Pro: it uses simple, straightforward language, which makes it super easy to read. Contra: it offers a self-test which I immediately took (because yay, self-tests!) and which asks you to mark statements such as “You have a right to stand up for yourself” as true or false. This seemed somewhat simplistic and made me doubt if I’d find much useful stuff on this particular site. I moved on anyway, because you never know.

Below, I’ll quote passages from the site and offer my comments.

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Stranger Sacrifices

Lately, I’ve mostly been watching Stranger Things and reading an extensive Harry Potter fanfic (the Sacrifices Arc, available here).

Stranger Things is a Netflix drama/horror/mystery series about one child going missing (Will) and another child suddenly appearing (Eleven, or El for short). The Sacrifices Arc is set in an alternate universe where Harry has a twin brother, Connor, who is believed to be the Boy-Who-Lived instead of Harry, and their parents live.

At first glance, Stranger Things and the Sacrifices Arc don’t seem to have much in common, but watching the show, I found myself bothered by the one thing they do: the dehumanization of El and Harry.

El is kept in a research facility from birth, viewed as a test subject, a tool, a weapon. She is manipulated into compliance by her father, who leads the facility, and when that fails, she is locked into a tiny, dark room.
Harry is trained from birth to be his brother’s protector, his servant, his weapon, to sacrifice his childhood and if necessary his life for Connor. His mother Lily pushes him relentlessly, and any time he falters, any time he complains of being too tired to go on practicing or learning, she guilts him into continuing by forcing him to imagine his brother dying because of his lack of skill or knowledge.

And here’s the difference:

When Harry goes to Hogwarts, and other people notice and learn about what has been done to him, they are shocked and furious at Lily and do anything in their power to help Harry realize that no, actually, he matters, his life and his desires matter, he is more than just a weapon and more than just a sacrifice, he is a person.

When El escapes the facility, and runs into a group of boys her age looking for their missing friend Will, they talk of her as a freak and a weirdo, and later as a weapon. And while they give her food and shelter and help her to run from the “bad men”, they do so first and foremost in order to use her to find Will.

It might not be quite as bad as that – two of the boys do speak of El as their friends eventually, although in one case only after prompting, and one (Mike) even speaks of her staying with his family in the future and going to a dance with him, and he shows some concern for her when hiding in a closet triggers her, and he even kisses her once. And they have a pretty good excuse not to focus all their attention on her, with their friend missing.

But it still leaves a nasty aftertaste. Even when El gets into contact with adults (and these are adults who know quite a bit about what she’s been through), they don’t exactly do much for her mental health. Again, they have a good excuse – one of them is the missing boy’s mother, and she still manages to behave most appropriately out of all of them and at least offer to comfort El in the face of a difficult and terrifying task. But. Still.

Would it have been so impossible to include a couple of scenes of El being allowed to be a person? So impossible to have Mike protest even just once when Dustin calls El “their weapon”? Even after the mostly happy ending, they talk of El mostly as someone with superpowers – would it have been so hard to have them speak of her as their friend instead?

I don’t know, maybe I’m being oversensitive due to the Sacrifices Arc, or I’ve even missed a scene where that happens. (Although if that was easy to miss while the dehumanization wasn’t, I’m inclined to think it was too little.)

This post is for Eleven, not a weapon, not a research subject, but a little girl who likes Eggos and what she looks like with long hair. May you always have friends, and be safe, and know that none of it was your fault, and that yes, you are pretty.