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Education and anger

If you hang around communities that are into various forms of social justice advocacy for a while there are a couple of themes you will start to hear repeatedly. One of those is that oppressed people have a right to be angry - that we tried being nice to our oppressors and it didn't work so now we're doing angry. A related theme is that we don't have an obligation to educate you. If you, as a privileged person, does not understand how it sucks to be oppressed it is YOUR obligation, as a well-meaning person who doesn't WANT to oppress others, to educate yourself.

Both of these have a lot of truth to them and in no way am I saying the communities are wrong to spread these messages, but I feel like a lot of the time they end up simplified down so much as to be nearly useless. The thing about "we tried being nice and it didn't work" is that getting angry isn't really a strategy - people don't get angry because the think it will work better than nice; people get angry because being oppressed sucks and it makes them feel justifiably angry. Sometimes anger IS actually a thing that gets through to someone who was being a douche-nozzle and sometimes it just makes the douche-nozzle double down on their douchiness. Whether or not anger "works" is almost irrelevant because anger is an emotion that people feel and people get to feel and express their emotions. That's what being human is.

The thing is, as much as being nice is hard, being angry perpetually is hard too. It takes a lot out of you and maintaining righteous anger long term can burn a person out. Some news about Neil Degrasse Tyson saying some profound things about race and gender in the sciences has been making the rounds recently and I saw at least one person comment that Neil's response was so reasonable and calm and that had they received that question they would have been unable to respond without anger. And my reaction was that you can't do this as long as Neil Degrasse Tyson has been and still be angry without burning out. Neil is an educator. Education is what Neil feels DRIVEN to do. So of course Neil's response to a stupid bigoted question is to educate. It's also of course the best way for Neil to KEEP the prominent position of being able to speak out, so I'm not saying there's no strategic thinking happening there - I just don't think that's all there is to it.

I recently had someone remark to me that I seem incredibly reasonable and patient when explaining non-binary gender. Firstly I was flattered, because that really IS something I aim to do. But then I thought about it further and realized that there's a lot of history that got me to this place. I spent my college years with the "ACCEPT WHAT I AM OR FUCK YOU!" attitude. I was not reasonable or patient or nice - I was angry. That's all I could do at the time. And it burned me out. I spent 6 or 8 years post-college barely able to even THINK about gender issues, stuffing it all down in the back of my head, muddling along letting the world assume that I'm cis-gendered and hating it but not having the energy to do more. I'm working really hard now on finding a way to live in the world that is neither anger nor trying and failing to ignore the issue. And that way I am finding is to speak out, calmly and with patience, and tell the world that I am a real thing that exists. To set my goals low and achievable so that I can feel like I am making progress instead of beating my head against an immovable cinder-block wall. No, I don't owe education to anyone else. But I owe it to MYSELF.

It doesn't mean I never get angry. It doesn't mean I never express anger. But I need to modulate my anger so that it doesn't burn me out. I also need to have patience with people who still ARE in the place of "accept what I am or fuck you!" because I do still remember what it was like to be there and I can't make them grow out of it any faster by telling them it's wrong. And, heck, maybe they have a larger capacity for anger than I did and won't burn out from it. But I think that's rare.


I am Plymouth

A few months back when I asked folks to try using gender-neutral pronouns for me, a handful of folks asked me if I was also planning to change my name. At the time my answer was "not yet, but I'm thinking about it". And I thought about it for a month or so and got around to "I think I do but I'm still not sure". So I went ahead and changed my name on facebook just to see how it felt. Not any kind of big announcement, just quietly made the update - I don't think the change action was even posted in a way that is showed up in people's feeds, though obviously all my actual posts started showing up with the new name. It felt really good and right. And then a week or so later I went and changed my name on every other online platform I could think of (G+ was a bit of a pain - it rejected it the first 2 times even on appeal but once I added all the OTHER accounts with me as Plymouth to that account the name change went through with no appeal needed. I don't really understand the logic there, but, hey, it's done now). I did get a few people PMing me and asking if I wanted to be called Plymouth in realspace and what the motivation for the change was, but the vast majority did not say anything. Which was really fine with me. If I had wanted to make a big announcement out if it I would have.

Well, now I do. I am Plymouth. In real life and online. I would prefer folks refer to me as that going forward. Christa and Xta are very much NOT dead names though - I like both of them and don't expect them to ever totally go away, especially Xta as I have an "email address for life" with it. So if you call me Christa I'll likely remind you that I'm Plymouth now, but I won't be insulted or angry (I also have enough friends who have changed their names for a variety of reasons that I know it takes time to get used to something like this - my experience is that it takes 6 months to a year for me to fully think of someone as a new name, depending on how often I get to practice it). Part of the reason Xta caught on for me as a nickname is that it's shorter and easier to type in text so it's still fine to use that, especially anything character-limited or where typing speed matters. I can't think of any shortenings of Plymouth that I like - Plym is kinda cute but, enh, and anyone who calls me "Mouth" is getting punched in theirs :P (ok not really, but I will be annoyed).

I'm not planning to change my name at work yet - I likely won't until I either change jobs or change the name legally, which I am still undecided on doing. As mentioned, I do actually like the name my parents gave me & even if I do make a legal change I will likely keep it as a middle name. Given the information my parents had about me when they picked it it was a good choice. If the form of it wasn't so clearly identified as feminine I would be keeping it completely.

So, why Plymouth? Well I expect folks here on Livejournal know that better than most, but I'm also planning to cross-link this to a bunch of other places so I'll go into the longer explanation. The name started here, when I created my account on January 4th, 2001. Yeah, I'm coming up on my 13th anniversary here, wackypants! Anyway, I picked the handle because at the time "xta" was already taken. And of course I still had my first car, Ecco, my awesome little Plymouth Sundance, and was very emotionally connected to it (as an interesting side-note that's the only car I've owned that was actually non-gendered also; my current two cars are female. I'm not entirely sure why they are, but it is so). This was also just a few months after I got my Chrysler/Plymouth logo tattoo. Which of course I still have - I really need to make an appointment to get it touched up. That seems like a good way to formally celebrate my "new" name. Within just a few months of choosing it, some folks started referring to me as Plymouth in real life. Which surprised me at first, as I had never intended it to be a realspace name, but I pretty much immediately decided I liked it and never corrected anyone. When folks did ask my preference I tended to tell them that either was fine, but my primary name was still Christa.

So when I recently got around to realizing that I would feel better with a gender-neutral name there really was no other choice. After all these years I simply can't fathom starting over with a completely new name. It's obviously a little weird as a person-name, but I'm a little weird so that fits. And I think that at least to most American people it's going to be familiar enough to not sound totally strange either - after all they're plenty used to it referring to cities and cars. It is my hope that having a gender-neutral name will make it a little easier for people to remember to use gender-neutral pronouns, but I totally get that those aren't easy for most folks so I don't expect it to work miracles. My position on them is still "please try - I will be appreciative when you succeed". People are trying and I am appreciative, even when I don't say anything to you directly (it just seems like interrupting a conversation with "oh thank you for using my correct pronouns!" is more annoying than helpful). But the pronoun thing is far from my only reason for choosing this, so even if it doesn't help much in that regard I still want to do this.

I am Plymouth. Happy New Year!

I am They

I wish I could be as awesome as rax in announcing this, but I'd feel totally weird copying their schtick and I can't come up with one of my own that is half as clever. So I guess this will be kinda dry.

I have wanted to be referred to be gender-neutral pronouns for, oh, on the order of 18 years now. You may have noted in my gender timeline that I said I started to experience a disconnect with my birth-assigned gender at age 13-14 and that is true. But my first exposure to the idea of any form of recognizable (to me) non-binary gender happened in college and that is when I first encountered the idea of non-gendered personal pronouns. I wanted them and I wanted them badly but I avoided, for a long time, identifying by them for two reasons:

1) There were so fucking many of them and I hated most of them. Ze, Xie, Sie, Che, Co, S/he, They, It, One, Ey, E... Most of them strange constructions only genderheads had ever heard of or borrowed from other langages. I seriously just wanted my culture to fucking PICK ONE SET ALREADY so I could use it. And, as far as I could tell, this was not happening.

2) Ugh, effort. Given how little I preferred any of them to the gendered pronouns I was receiving, it seemed like not worth the cost to ask people to change. And the cost seemed high.

But in the past few years I've been noticing that has changed. I think we're converging on using singular They as the gender-neutral pronoun of choice. I don't think it is fully common knowledge or practice, but I see it as rapidly gaining ground. I personally know multiple people choosing that designation. Though I still encounter people who want different gender-neutral pronouns - just last month I encountered YET ANOTHER SET I had never heard of before in 18 years of paying attention to this shit and I was NOT PLEASED. I really do support the idea of people self-identifying but you do not get to reinvent entire linguistical structures just to have your identity validated - you can have a name and a label and a title and various relational labels as well but at some point I need to be able to feel like I am still speaking in my native language which is designed to have generic structures that refer to broad categories of people (faeries NOT being a broad enough category to justify me learning a whole new set of pronouns. No. Just no.)

Which is all to say that I would really like to be referred to by singular They, Them, and Their. But since I recognize that people want to feel like they are still speaking their native language, I am not going to be all language-policing about it. Please try, I will be really appreciative when you succeed. And if I try to give you a gentle nudge and I fail at gentle please tell me.

Please tell other people or correct other people only if you feel comfortable doing so and can do it in a non-dickish fashion. See #2 above about "Ugh, effort". This is really not worth it to me if it feels like a horrible strained thing. But part of why I want to do this is to be part of a groundswell of little nudges towards making it NOT be so much effort one day. In solidarity with my other friends who reject gendered pronouns for a variety of reasons I choose to do this. Because if you only have that one friend who wants those weird pronouns it is hard. But if you have 3 or 4 or 7 it starts to seem more normative.

I am They. Thankyou.


May 16, 1997 - Sept 17, 2004

yes, the car that was Ecco was manufactured in 1990 but did not become mine until 1997. On that day Ecco was born. The car which was formerly Ecco may again be driven by someone else (the tow truck guy said most of the cars are taken down to San Diego for auction and bought by Mexicans who don't have to deal with safety and emissions standards) but on this day, as far as I am concerned, Ecco has ceased to be.

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This journal is going to be friends-only until further notice