A Gender Revolution?

When National Geographic magazine announced they were going to do a whole issue on gender, I was understandably excited but sceptical. Here I examine the good and bad parts of The Gender Issue.

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They start out pretty badly to be honest. They have interviews with Gloria Steinem and Sheryl Sandberg. Gloria goes on to state that, “the idea of race and gender are divisive.” That’s a really privileged comment to make in my opinion and has no place in modern feminism.

The magazine goes on to ask questions of them both about binary gender:

What advice would you give girls and boys today?

Nice one NG! Erased in the first interviews. At this point I want to throw the fucking thing out the window and hope it hits a TERF in the face. ARGH!

Page five comes with a diverse image of people of different genders and races from across the world and a list of terms relating to them. For example it gives definitions of gender expression and gender fluidity. There could have been more of this. It’s 4 pages long and probably the best thing in the entire magazine. It was nice to see my identity covered too. That’s not something I’ve seen in a mainstream magazine before.

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So now I’m hopeful. They get that gender isn’t binary, right? Nope. The next few pages are filled with binary gender statistics. I could have been erased entirely by science anywhere, but in the pages of a magazine claiming to be exploring gender, it hurts a tad bit more. I dunno if I’m just over reacting now. What did I expect? A magazine about gender to actually explore other genders than cis male and cis female properly?

A few pages later and I come across an article about intersex butterflies. Interesting. They explained what intersex was earlier and that the term, “hermaphrodite” is considered offensive. So what do they go on to do? Describe the butterflies as hermaphrodites. Are you fucking serious? What actually is life?

More binary gender stats about cis men and cis women. *yawn*

I’m actually bored shitless now and angry. Why am I even reading this tripe? The next set asks kids from around the world about gender. They include one transgirl for a bit of variety, but even she sees gender as male and female only. (She’s only 9 so we’ll let her off.)

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Rethinking Gender is a gripping few pages. It examines the science behind our gender identities, different cultures with accepted third genders and the legality of officially changing your gender from the one you were assigned at birth. I actually thoroughly enjoyed this section.

The whole rest of the magazine is dedicated to:

  •  How different cultures celebrate children becoming adults i.e men and women. That would have been fine if they had included other genders too. Obviously not though.
  • Paternal leave in Sweden. Um what?
  • Gender roles…..binary gender roles. Not the cool ones.;)

It was hard to read this issue and it was hard to write this blog because it brought out some very angry thoughts. Buy it if you fancy fucking screaming at it and smacking your head against the wall repeatedly. Also and just for clarity, fuck the cistem and fuck the binary.

Night all.

 

 

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My Gender Queer Life

I grew up in a house with two opposite sex parents. I like to state this because it is not by any means a given in life. My mother was and still is obsessed with femininity and my father has always been traditionally masculine. A pretty traditional upbringing in all senses of the word.

I was closer to my dad as a child. I don’t really know why. By the time I was 3 I could name every car on the road because he loved cars. He often took me to work with him at a car showroom and to various motor sport events which I loved.

My mum put me in dresses for a long time, but as soon as I could choose, I was in trousers and a t-shirt. They made me feel more comfortable. Not to say I didn’t enjoy spending time with my mum, because I did.

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The first memory I have of knowing I was different was when I was 6 years old. My mum and my sister had taken me and my niece and nephew to an outdoor public paddling pool. It was a hot day and all the kids were running in and out of the water. My nephew threw his shirt off and ran into the pool with just shorts on. I took my shirt off and ran in after him. I was shouted at and told that girls must wear tops at all times. I protested, but I was really embarrassed. I had broken a social norm and all I ever wanted to do was please my family. It effected me so profoundly that I didn’t even consider what I felt like inside for almost 20 years.

Around the age of 14 I came out to my family as a lesbian. I had a girlfriend and it was becoming increasingly difficult to hide it. It was a relief but I suffered for it at school and in my personal life. To be honest this is quite irrelevant to my GQ story, other than a particular point I want to make:

Sexuality and gender and two different things.

  • Sexuality is who you are attracted to.
  • Gender is how you identify.

Like with the binary gender norms (male and female), sexuality is also enforced in a trinary (probably not a word.) Straight, gay or bisexual with the assumption you are straight unless you say otherwise.

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As an adult I have come to realise both are on a spectrum, identifying as pansexual and GQ. (Being pansexual means you are attracted to the whole spectrum and reject the gender binary.)

Around about the age of 27 my partner of 3 years left me. We had a mortgage together, 3 cats and we had built a stable life. She left without warning and little explanation. My boss at the time was an unsympathetic homophobe who basically told me to get over it. I sat and cried at my desk everyday until HR eventually signed me off sick for a week. I drank a lot and had time to think about what she had potentially been suppressing in me. I started to explore my feelings about gender on Tumblr and Reddit. I started to connect with people who felt the same way about themselves as me. We didn’t fit in the gender binary. We didn’t identify as male or female. We were gender queer.

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Now here is where it gets complicated so pay attention. There is a trans* umbrella. It encompasses lots of different identities such as gender fluid, bigender and agender as well as gender queer. I personally am fluid in my gender. Sometimes I feel more masculine or more feminine. However most of the time I’m entirely androgynous. I identify as gender queer because I don’t fit. I’m queer of the norm. If I want to actually pass as a cis male, then I will dress as one and do exactly that. I find it harder to pass as cis female for fucks sake and I have a damn vagina!

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A lot of my gender queer friends have gone on to transition to become who they really are. For example having a female body and transitioning to that of a male. They are now transgendered people. Me on the other hand, I am already who I am and that is queer as bloody folk. 😉

 

So what is my life like on a daily basis? I get up and I think about how I’m feeling. Shall I wear tight jeans or shall I wear a baggy hoodie? Shall I leave the hairs on my lip or shall I pluck them? Suitably dressed for how I’m feeling I’ll go to the gym. Unfortunately at my local gym they do not have gender neutral changing rooms so I have to make a decision based on how I am presenting to the world. Sometimes this is made for me and I am ushered into the male changing rooms because even being androgynous means you are definitely male in the binary world. After the gym I’ll go to the supermarket to grab some shopping. I’ll need a wee because I’ll have drunk a lot post workout. Again there are no gender neutral facilities. I look at the door and the symbols don’t match who I am or how I feel. I have to yet again make a decision I’m not comfortable with. If I go into the female toilets I am often whispered about and sometimes even blatantly shouted out. If I go in the male toilets I could get beaten up. Ah I’m at home now. I’ll check Facebook and see what’s going on in the world. I’ll get misgendered as ‘she’ by strangers and even people I know when my profile clearly states my preferred pronouns are they and them. You know I’m really tired already and I haven’t even been to work yet. She this and she that all fucking night long. ARGH!!!!!!!

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As you can see it’s difficult being a non-binary person in a binary world. Every action can be a stressful situation just waiting to open up and swallow you. Only around people who truly accept me can I be comfortable and sometimes even they make mistakes. It’s so hard to be unconditioned when your whole life you are told that the binary is the only thing there is.

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Being gender queer certainly isn’t any form of attention seeking as I have been accused of in the past. It’s just me trying to express how I really feel inside on the outside.

I hope this little ramble has made things clearer for you. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them below.

Some things I have wanted to say for a while……

1)      What made you decide to go vegan?

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My first steps into exclusively plant based living was in 2003 when I was 17. I saw it as something I could do to be more extreme than my peers. At the time I was just getting into really extreme metal, oh and I still ate bee’s puke aka honey. I wasn’t vegan.

We didn’t have loads of vegan products at the time either. We had tofu and vegetables. I got bored really quickly because I couldn’t cook and just went back to being a fussy omnivore aka a vegetarian .  (I’d been a vegetarian since I was 14, having seen something similar to the Meet Your Meat video in a food technology class. I wish someone had told me I could do more then, I might have listened.)

It was a few years later when I was 20 that I started to read disturbing things about the way that we use animals in society online. Before I’d just been concerned with whether an animal’s life was taken from them. Soon and after not much reading, I realised that we could not justify the use of any animal for human pleasure. That’s what eating animal products is after all, palate pleasure. I watched some videos and I read some recipes.  I went vegan and have been that way ever since.

2)      How do you live without cheese?

How do you live with it? It’s a great big lump of fat, blood and pus. It’s also not addictive, so stop using that excuse.

There are vegan cheeses available with some that are better than others. You  However and to be honest, I very rarely buy them. When you become vegan the way you cook changes, especially if you are not eating a ton of replica meat products, which are processed to hell and everyone should keep to a minimum.

You also eat different foods. Here’s my pre-vegan diet:

Breakfast: Toast and cereal with cow’s milk and cow’s butter.

Snack: Snickers bar

Lunch: Processed meat with processed potato with spaghetti hoops.

Snack: A clementine

Snack: Ham sandwhich with cheese

Dinner:  Bird’s Eye chicken lattice with new potatoes and spaghetti hoops

Supper: Sardines on toast

 What I eat now:

Breakfast: Porridge with a nut and seed mix and soya milk

Snack: Banana smoothie

Snack: Apple, orange

Lunch: Three bean soup

Snack: Banana

Dinner: Kale with Eygyptian spiced leek, potato and beetroot topped with two soysages

Snack: Peanut butter on a rice cake

….and it’s different every day. I can’t stand eating the same stuff now. I remember my pre-vegan diet because it was the same, always. Everything was centred around something from an animal and now there is no centre piece. If anything the centrepiece is the flavour.

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3)      What does GQ actually mean?

GQ stands for Gender Queer. Wikipedia describes it quite well:

Genderqueer (GQ; alternatively non-binary) is a catch-all category for gender identities other than man and woman, thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.[1] Genderqueer people may identify as one or more of the following:

  • having an overlap of, or blurred lines between, gender identity and sexual and romantic orientation.[2][3]
  • two or more genders (bigendertrigenderpangender);
  • without a gender (nongendered, genderless, agender; neutrois);
  • moving between genders or with a fluctuating gender identity (genderfluid);[4]
  • third gender or other-gendered; includes those who do not place a name to their gender;[5]

Some genderqueer people[6][7] also desire physical modification or hormones to suit their preferred expression. Many genderqueer people see gender and sex as separable aspects of a person and sometimes identify as a male woman, a female man, or a male/female/intersexgenderqueer person.[8] Gender identity is defined as one’s internal sense of being a woman, man, both, or neither, while sexual identity refers to an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to others.[7] As such, genderqueer people may have a variety of sexual orientations, as with transgender and cisgender people.[9]

In addition to being an umbrella term, genderqueer has been used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress distinctions of gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity, i.e. those who “queer” gender, expressing it non-normatively.[10] Androgynous is frequently used as a descriptive term for people in this category, though genderqueer people may express a combination of masculinity and femininity, or neither, in their gender expression and not all identify as androgynous. However, the term has been applied by those describing what they see as a gender ambiguity.[11]

Personally I really dislike being called he or she. I’m just Emz.

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4)      How do you fit it all in? (Training etc.)

I think if you want something bad enough, you’ll make time. It’s hectic, but it gets the job done.

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5)      What does Child Free really mean?

To me it means that I am choosing, purposely not to have biological children. People choose this for various reasons, but for me the main one is over population.

When my mum was born, there were less than 2.5 billion people on the entire planet. By the time I was born in 1985 (37 years later) there were 4.8 billion people on the entire planet.  In forty years we more than doubled the Earth’s population.  As we come into 2014, we are looking at a human population of 7.1 billion. Many scientists believe that the tipping point for resources, land, water, food etc is 9/10 billion. After that we will begin a downwards spiral of mass starvation, fresh water wars and possible extinction. Up until that point it is believed that if we reduce our population expansion, we may actually have a future. This issue is more important for our long term future on this planet than climate change.

My opinion as to why people aren’t talking about it and don’t want to change is simple:

a) People are inherently selfish and do whatever satisfys them regardless of the consequences for others.

b) Governments and religion actively encourage people to breed so that they have a larger work force, army, following and are therefore more powerful.

c) There isn’t any money to be made from a child free person.

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6)      Do you hate children?

No. I just think, on top of what I have said above, that we should look after the ones we have properly before we even remotely consider bringing more into the world.

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7)      What is your favourite animal organisation?

I don’t support animal organisations. They do not promote veganism as the end goal to ending all animal exploitation and many of them are in business partnerships with animal agribusiness. For example Peta and KFC.

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8)      Where do you get your protein?

Everything has protein in it, even lettuce and potatoes. I eat food so question answered.

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9)      How much time should we devote to reaching out to other progressive groups about veganism and what are effective ways to do that?

I think we firstly need to concentrate on getting a mass turnaround from single issue and welfarist campaigns by animal rights activists. All major change happens at the grass roots of movements. However on the otherhand,  if we had more groups such as Viva, Peta and Animal Aid promoting a purely abol;itionist agenda, I think more people might start to see the light without the constant backlash upon entering discussions with them now.

This is a difficult question to answer because I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer.

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10)   Do you believe in conspiracy theories?

I believe sometimes that there is more to a story than the official version tells the public. I take each individual incident as it comes. I wouldn’t consider myself a conspiracy theorist, no.

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11)   Why aren’t you pro-life?

By pro-life, this question means human life.

I believe that every human being should have free choice to do what they want with their lives and their bodies as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Having loads of children hurts others. Using animals as resources hurts others. (As detailed above) However removing a ball of cells from a woman’s womb does not hurt anyone. Even later abortions where the ball of cells looks like a miniature human, it has been proven time and time again, by medical science, that there is no consciousness and there is no pain, pretty much like a plant. If the ball of cells cannot survive outside of the womb, then an individual woman has every right to remove it from her body. If the ball of cells can survive outside of the womb, without massive 21st century medical intervention, then you probably left it a bit late and I don’t agree with that.

In my opinion you shouldn’t be pregnant in the first place for reasons stated above, however if I found myself pregnant I would get an abortion without a second thought or hesitation. Mykey agrees with me wholly.

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12)   How do you feel about direct action?

Direct action is a single issue campaign and therefore does not coincide with abolitionist vegan methodology. (You can read more about this in my animal rights section.)

Let’s take the action of the Hunt Sabs in the recent, “Sab the Cull” campaign. I am yet to hear how that has actively created a vegan world or even a substantial move towards it. Why? Because it hasn’t! By focusing on a single issue, it has made others feel better about different types of animal use i.e that the type of animal use they are participating in is not as bad because you aren’t protesting against it. (Again this is detailed greatly in my AR section, read it.)

If an animal was in trouble for whatever reason and we were able to help her, then we would. However I wouldn’t spend my valuable time and money running around a field before light, because that is not an efficient way to create more vegans. Me talking to, cooking for, handing out leaflets to and promoting veganism to people does.

I know the mainstream animal rights movement sees the Hunt Sabs and ALF as some sort of gods, but we have to be realistic. This type of activism has been around for 40+ years in the UK and is it working? Have we seen an end to the use of animals in medical experiments or a complete ban on hunting? Have we seen a sizeable change towards veganism? No! Stop wasting your time, effort and money on things that aren’t creating a vegan world and start creating it. You owe the animals that as an absolute bare minimum!