Sometimes cartoons get the point across better than words. Related to this blog
I’ve recently cut ties off with a ‘friend’ who seemed to be using me as her pet social project – it got quite tiresome dealing with her “helpful advice” that was anything but helpful.
Before you give someone with a disability any advice, especially “helpful” advice to a person with an invisible disability, consider:
- is it accurate, or did you just read it on the internet somewhere?
- correlation is not causation, and anecdotes are not substitutes for clinical trials. Just because X thing worked well for a person you know, doesn’t mean it’s some wonder cure for all people with that ailment.
- is it something that a person living with this condition is likely to be aware of themselves, or is it new research that is cutting edge and not well known?
- are you saying something that is actually helpful or are you just talking for the sake of hearing your own voice?
- have you tried to empathise with the person you are about to bombard with “helpful advice” – not just sympathise but empathise?
Empathy is not sympathy, and to be frank, sympathy without empathy is really annoying – it’s patronising, it’s all “I know all the things, let me tell you all the things without stopping for a moment to consider whether you might already know all these things or have other barriers in the way to prevent you from doing these things.”
I highly recommend reading this blog.
English as a modern language has a problematic default to gender binary. While it is grammatically correct to use the neutral “they” to refer to a person who does not identify as male or female, or is in transition between one gender to another, or plans to remain gender fluid, it is awkward and sounds odd. It requires the speaker or writer to consciously remember to alter all verbs to the third person plural conjugation, and makes your language feel clunky and unwieldy. He or she is easier. It is depersonal, and in that depersonalisation is entirely offensive and inappropriate to use as a pronoun for a transgender or gender fluid person.
Why does all of this matter?
Because everyone has the right to self determination. It’s the first article in all major international human rights law treaties, and is a strong point of liberal democratic philosophy. You have the right to determine how you will live, who you are, how you present to the world.
But sadly, for many transgender or gender fluid people, the grammatically difficulties of using non-gender specific language adds to the transphobic bias in general society. Language is a powerful tool for social engineering: think of the evolution of racist, homophobic or transphobic taunts over time and how often these words, such as ‘nigger’, ‘fag’ or ‘tranny’ were once commonplace.
LANGUAGE MATTERS. So be a responsible person and use appropriate language when dealing with transgender or gender fluid people.
Better yet, refuse to buy into the gender binary: use gender non-specific words wherever possible.
On Twitter recently, the British Green Party’s women’s organization explained why it had chosen to refer to its constituency as ‘non-men’ rather than ‘women’. This inspired an outbreak of the kind of mockery and parody Twitter excels in. ‘What’s all this in my mentions about the non-blue party?’ inquired one user. Others urged the immediate […]
via Default: male — language: a feminist guide