Letter: In response to "Trudeau marches in gay pride parade"

Tuesday, July 26 2016

In response to "Trudeau marches in gay pride parade"

A little lesson on our language. “It” is used to refer to things, not people. So when I read “In one shot there were four teenage girls; one of them had begun the process. I couldn’t tell which girl it was.” I blanched. I’ve been called “it.” A few times, and always as a prepended to something ... unpleasant, to be polite. Those people called me that because they were attacking me for my gender identity. They called me “it” to let me know that I wasn’t like them, I wasn’t a person, I was lesser. We refer to stools as “it.” 

People, we refer to by pronouns. The correct one in this case, as we know this teen identifies as a girl, is “she.” If they had been a boy, “he,” if non-binary, “they,” or even some of the other gender neutral pronouns, like “xe/xir” or “ze/zer.” The correct sentence is, “I couldn’t tell which girl she was.” By using the word “it” you, most likely unintentionally, objectified her. This is an important thing to be aware of, as it is an incredibly common slight against trans people that contributes to a larger system of bias, prejudice and ultimately oppression. Now, that has been addressed, I regret to inform you that using that example, at all, is extremely problematic. Focusing on a trans person’s ability to pass as cisgender is objectifying in that you’re holding a person up to an ideal image standard - in this case, what a teenage girl should look like. The issue is that there even is a standard for what a teen girl should look like. The reality is teen girls look a variety of ways, including those that someone steeped in mysogynistic binarist thinking would define as “masculine.” So, essentially, being “I couldn’t tell which one *she* is!” is saying “she looks like a normal girl!” which should be pretty obvious in why it’s wrong to say. Also: “transgendered” isn’t an actual term for a transgender person. Transgender stands alone. 

To sum this up, all of this information is available instantly online. There are so many transgender outreach blogs, guides for cisgender allies, and transgender 101 FAQ sheets that are all just waiting for you to read them before publishing a column with incorrect info and transphobic language. They will also allow you to find out why the “born in the wrong body” narrative can be damaging, as well as why “if you choose a gender other than the one you were born with” is scientifically and psychologically incorrect and insulting. 

I believe your heart is in the right place, yet with the platform available to you it is essential that marginalised people are accurately referenced using proper terminology and an informed respect. Here’s a good link to get you started: http://transhealth.phsa.ca/trans-101 

~ Jack Bones