She stands there by the open window, her body frosted;
she hums lightly of the sun who has passed,
she sheds a single tear and gravity loosens itself upon the Earth.
I see you, Lord.
I see your weary head drawn down by the burden of your pain;
I notice your hands are like my own, your misery as mine —
an unlit candle falls upon its side.
I am your son, your daughter — my names arise between your
burdened lips: Agnes, Damien … Have you seen the struggle in my
bodies? Have you noticed the way I make each of my separate
parts bend and then break?
A black dog approaches. To it I give myself; it is myself I disown, in
your heavenly name.
A baptized child, risen again for a new body, a new name — I forget
all that I have known for you.
Where is the house of the Lord? Is it in you, in me? Where does my
A shadow to my shadow, entering your heavenly Earth, like blood
Sep. 6th 13
What do you value in writing?
What truly makes a writer, even a writer of non-fiction lies in elements that at first seem abstract.
One for example may be found in the writer’s sense of the poetic. And by that I mean, writing that satisfies emotional and intellectual spaces. Arguments, rhetorical analysis, magazine articles, advertisements, children’s books, and so on — the best of them are written with hints of poetry. The reason we find small measures of solace in our favorite Churchill or Eleanor Roosevelt quotations is because they are small outlets for hard, unrelenting poetry. The reason we can still love Where the Wild Things Are or the books of Shel Silverstein is because each was written with an understanding of the points JD made above, and with a sense of the poetic.
But this grasp on poetry isn’t limited to fiction or charismatic quotations. It can expand into non-fiction. Jon Krakauer wrote a beautiful biographical piece on Christopher McCandless, a young man whose passion for living and unstoppable moral absolutism eventually killed him in a solitary trip to Alaska. He treats the subject and audience with respect, incorporates parts of himself into the work, demonstrates years of thought and understanding, and does so in a way that can satisfy a reader’s desire for the poetic.
In the last lines of the book, Krakauer gorgeously and solemnly describes his experience of flying away in a helicopter from the site of Christopher’s death, which was in an abandoned bus near the Denali National Park: “For a few minutes the roof of the bus remains visible among the stunted trees, a tiny white gleam in a wild green sea, growing smaller and smaller, and then it’s gone.”
I also enjoy what Rilke says about poetry:
"… Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a lone one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines. For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences.
For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas, to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars, and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that.
You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.”
Make a list of your favorite authors and some books that may contribute to the general theme.
Yukio Mishima: The Sound of Waves, Confessions of a Mask
Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
Allen Ginsberg: Howl
Sylvia Plath: Lady Lazarus, Daddy, Ariel
Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Godot
Oscar Wilde: The Importance of Being Earnest
Nicole Krauss: The History of Love, Man Walks Into a Room
Jonathan Safran Foer: Everything is Illuminated
Chuck Palahniuk: Invisible Monsters, Choke, Fight Club
Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita
Walt Whitman: Leaves of Grass
Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis, A Message from the Emperor
and so on…
Which questions would you ask to the class in general?
Which books have helped you think about gender & identity?
Has there ever been a film, song, or painting (etc.) which has helped you establish your ideas of gender and identity?
Why is gender so important today?
Sep. 11th 13
When did you become aware of gender?
I learned most about what it meant to be a man from the one who abused my mother. I was only eleven or twelve, living in Brazil with my mother and sister. Too young to understand what had happened the day I saved my mother and what might’ve happened the day after, or the day after that.
They had already been in the midst of the argument, screaming at each other in angry Portuguese. Some words — I can’t remember what they mean. He held her down and she resisted. My sister cried and hid away. I tried to ignore it from the small living room, laid out over warm linoleum tiles. I turned the TV down, out of an anxious feeling for sound to stop in its place. Never had I wished so badly to be deaf. Then all at once, I heard it, in agony and terror: my mother cried out, “Ajuda-me, Lucas!” Her voice ripped through my ears, I could feel my heart sink, I could feel the tears in my eyes approaching, marching, single-file in deep black.
Reaching the door, I watched in horror for a few moments as he pinned her hands down to the bed and shouted at her, “Você não precisa de ajuda!” But she did. She needed it more than anything. And who else could have helped her but me? Who else but the God who had betrayed us then?
I ran into the room and leaped onto his shoulders, trying to choke him. This effort lasted for a second or two, maybe less. I lost all sense of time in that moment. I had lost the young awareness of my body and mind. Everything went black when he tossed me onto the bed with my mother.
Still, I could hear the screaming.
I leapt from the bed and swung my right fist towards his face. Missing, as he dodged my punch, a punch of his own came towards my left. His clenched hand landed on my cheek, rendering me stunned for a few moments. I could not feel any pain. I felt invincible. As my mother screamed at him, shamed him, cursed him, I wondered why his punch had amounted to nothing, why I couldn’t feel anything but strong.
At this time, my mom had left the room and entered the kitchen. I followed her, still shocked, and watched as she grabbed a knife from the drawers. I knew she wouldn’t have been able to kill him, I knew that she was better than that, and that what she wanted most was to scare him off. She did, and he left the house.
"Você está bem? Ele machucou você?" she asked a few minutes later. She was inspecting my face, in tears; she looked for any marks he may have left on me.
I spoke to her in English, “No, I’m fine. It doesn’t hurt.” She hugged me, and prayed, she kept telling me I was her angel, that I saved her. She thanked God and thanked me.
I slept just as I would any other night, and woke up to her breakfast just as I would have any other day.
Now, six years later, we’re okay. Sometimes we reminisce over that day, and it results in us laughing him off.
"He was garbage, and I’m sorry I put you through that, Lucas."
"You don’t have to be sorry, mom. It wasn’t your fault. He was a piece of shit. But we’re here now. We’re doing just fine."
"I love you, Lucas."
"I love you, mom."
I cannot say whether or not that was the day I became a man, because what does that mean now? My mom said I was her angel. Perhaps I never needed a gender to protect my own mother. Perhaps I just needed to be able to hear.
It still pains me sometimes to remember the sound of her screams, and to think about the agony we went through that day, but I’m okay. And that’s what matters now: that I’m okay, that we’re okay.
Read and reflect on the prose pieces.
I want to reflect a moment on my own piece (and take into account JD’s comments):
In dreams the boy could be alone; in dreams the blue morphos came, their wings beating against the heavy wind. In dreams he could not hear his father weeping upon the face of poor Leviticus. In dreams the blue morphos came, their wings edged in solemn black, their eyes the eyes of God. And on the night his lips were bruised, the night his body shaken with the blood of his best friends, he dreamed his tongue was guilty. He dreamed the weeping of his father, he dreamed the hands of poor Leviticus tearing away the wings of the morphos, the innocent blue morphos.
As with most of my writing, I have an overarching vision. I revel in that which is violent and naturally disturbing, even as it frightens me beyond compare. I fear much about the world, but I am endlessly obsessed with it, this world of symbols.
In this piece particularly, I wanted to play around with the visceral and evoke some empowerment and loss. I wanted it to be a piece about regret and shame. And in a way I can’t explain now, I wanted it to be a piece about love. If you can imagine the saddest, most beautiful dream you’ve had, that’s what I wanted to capture here. I want to write ambivalence. Ambivalence is the most tortuous and most effective of human emotions. How is it I can be in love with the idea of the spider, but horrified when the spider approaches me in his death march? A song that is so bad it’s good. Willem Dafoe is a beautiful person.
And yet, I’ve said nothing of the poem. I will leave it that way.
Some pieces that I liked from the class:
1. Just A Dress
“It’s just a dress” my mother said, trying to straighten out the ruffles on the sleeve of my bright pink dress. She looked at me in disbelief, and I put down my head in silence. “That’s not the point” I told her. “You’re dressing me up the way you want me to be.” The clock on the wall was the loudest noise in the room, and we both stared at the ground. I knew she was using this wedding as a way to force me back into being a mini version of herself. I just wanted to show everyone there was another side to the little girl in the pink dress. I just wanted to wear something that showed me, not half of me. Not her. My aunt came in looking as beautiful as ever, her smile a gleam of light in this dark situation. She knew I was trying to prove a point lately. Trying to dress more masculine, cutting my hair shorter and shorter every day. If people didn’t believe me when I told them about my gender, I would have to show them. My mom left the room and I was alone with my aunt. “She’ll understand.” She said. Winking she added “But I think you look handsome in that dress.” She nudged my shoulder and told me to get ready. The wedding was about to begin. That night I wore the pink dress, but by the time the reception rolled around my aunt had given me a very corny, and very beautiful stick on mustache. I wore it all night.
I love that “wore it all night” bit. There are no illusions here. It is the real at its most raw.
2. Koda’s piece:
I remember grabbing my brother’s Hot Wheels and running them up the stairwell railing while my cousins muttered under their breath. I never did like red velvet. More often than not my mirror would be reflected down, chubby girly cheeks. Clean up, it’s not lady like. This is not your bathroom, it’s a ladies room. Where’s my room? Filled with posters and oversized sweat shirts that don’t hug my body. This is not my body. There’s a gap between my shell and heart and no air between this nylon and my upper half. “We’re not together.” “I could never be with someone who wasn’t a guy, well, you know what I mean.” I still dream about mascara. Why can’t boys wear makeup? I ran around with no clothes and no cares. I caked lipstick all over my walls drawing out footballs and hockey sticks. My brother made a pretty woman. I make a handsome me. But where’s my room?
“Where’s my room?” In context, perhaps this is the essential question for those of us within the gender struggle.
Sep. 13th 13
There are three easy ways you can be and stay a better misogynist! And in these just three easy steps, you will be on your way to better woman-hating! Women will beg for you to sexually discriminate them, sexually objectify them, and act violently against them! Satisfaction guaranteed!
Step 1: Glorify Male Superiority (a.k.a. Your penis is your friend!)
a. What’s wrong with being a chauvinist? Absolutely nothing. People throw this term around, and let me tell you, especially women — making some futile attempt at trying to shut us up, or “keep us under control.” I mean, let’s hear out Schopenhauer: “Women is by nature meant to obey.” Is this not true in all places where men and women are concerned? Are women not responsible for running the errands, caring for the child, keeping quiet when told? I see no problem. It is the duty of men to uphold these values — we must hold rigorously to our cause. Allowing women to gain any leverage means the death of us.
b. Let your presence be known. Dominate the world around you. At no cost are you allowed to surrender. The ideal woman here is submissive, incapable of retaliation, and weak. however, if signs of rebellion are showing let it be known that they are inferior; remind her of your strength, remind her that you are a man. If the tension quells, you have succeeded, but if she is persistent, force may be necessary.
c. You are in control. Your penis is your friend. N.W.A put it eloquently in She Swallowed It (a personal favorite) when he said, “Punch the bitch in the eye / then the ho will fall to the ground / Then you open up her mouth / put your dick, move the shit around.” Enough said? I think so.
Step 2: Keep Her in the Slut Culture (a.k.a. Shame on her!)
a. Her body is yours. It belongs to you. If she starts showing signs of disloyalty, she must be punished. Remind her that she is inherently a slut, remind her that her vagina is your property. Of course, there are various ways of expressing this; I will leave these variations up to interpretation and creativity — wink wink.
b. “She is inherently a slut.”
c. She doesn’t have a choice. All males are alpha males and are allowed options. Women, not at all. What they get is what they get and must deal. This is fact.
d. "Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy and certain forms of artistic production… Women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality, but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions." Hegel said that. Damn straight, brother. Women are worth nothing but sex, basically.
Step 3: HATE!
a. It is very simple. Nothing is cryptic. So, do what I do, and hate.
Sep 20th 13
Think about clothing.
(Refer to Yohji Yamamoto.) I think clothing, at its most fundamental, is the greatest and rawest external expression of modern human beings. We strive on what can be seen. Clothing is our way of celebrating the body in public life.
Oct. 2nd 13
Workshop piece with Savren:
We call it ambivalence, when a person is
victim to two conflicting emotions.
We call it heartbreak when, unknowingly,
the stranger woman at Market Basket lightly runs
her cart into a column, and a purple box of soda
falls from the undercarriage.
I kneel down to help, I kneel down upon the
cold linoleum floor of the Deli section and
carefully put the lone 2 for 1! box of grape soda back in its place;
I return the child to it’s mother, securing it safely, making sure
to give it a solidarity tap on the corner where it says
GRAPE SODA in big royal purple, almost nauseating
so I step back up to see the woman’s smiling face.
At this point, I was expecting a medal of honor,
I was expecting her to say, “No no, kneel back down.
You are to be knighted her this evening in the cross-section
between the Deli and the dairy aisle.” And she’d
pull from her carriage a go-gurt and do what queens
do and knight me. But instead, all that came from
her was a softly spoken: “Thank you.”
We call it heartbreak when we witness our dreams betraying us,
like a lukewarm box of grape soda
falling from the undercarriage of a cart that belongs
to your local supermarket.
I saw the lady again not long after in another aisle I can’t recall,
and she was reading from a grocery list on her phone, unaware
of my presence, just five feet away. At this point, I was expecting
her to turn in surprise and thank me again, and do what queens do.
Oct. 4th 13
Reflect on some of Yusef Komunyakaa’s poetry.
I really really like Komunyakaa’s poetry: in that stupid way that I can’t, in the best way, explain. There is a love between himself and his writing. There is an obvious passion there that can’t be breached by any other force except for himself. There is a command of the (contemporary) English language that I haven’t seen in a poet since I started reading people like Frank Stanford. I am going to list a couple of lines that really stood out to me:
1. “I have my Lone Ranger
Six-shooter. I can hurt
You with questions.
Like silver bullets.” — Venus’s-flytraps
2. “In a cerulean ruckus
Of quilts, we played house
Off the big room where
They laughed & slowdragged
Weekends. The eagle flies
On Friday. The jukebox pulsed
A rainbow through the papery walls.
We were paid a dollar to guard
Each other. I was eight
& S. C. Mae fourteen,
As we experimented with
The devil.” — Yellow Dog Café
3. “When I’d win the fight
Over whose turn it was,
I sat on the top doorstep,
Grinning out into the Fourth
Of July, turning the freezer
Handle. I rocked to a tune
In my head, satisfied
I could hear Satchmo’s horn
On his birthday. “Dippermouth
Blues.” — Happiness (I can hear him too.)
1. I lived in Brazil for a year and a half, after a hard decision to stay with my father in the U.S. or actually leave. It wasn’t the best experience because my family didn’t have much money and the man my mom dated was a bit of a prick.
2. The aforementioned prick punched me in the face after I tried to keep him away from my mother (they had a pretty abusive relationship). But throughout most of my stay in Brazil, my only and best friend was a 50 year old man who called me “Lucas, the Lion.” I remember a few days after the incident, I went to his house and he saw the mark. He touched my face and stayed quiet for a little while. Then he said, “You are an angel and a lion. You protected your mother. You are very brave. Now let’s have some dinner, let me make you some dinner.”
3. I once had a cat named Theodore. But my ex-stepfather said he might have been eaten by coyotes or something or ran away. Kinda sad. I eventually got another cat, Abigail.
4. I used to go to a day center. I liked it a lot. We’d go on field trips and have events and guest speakers from zoos and stuff. It was pretty cool. I still have some pictures from when I used to go there. I also have a scar on my left elbow from when I was playing kickball and scraped my arm against the concrete. This was before Brazil.
5. My dad tells me that when I was about 4 or 5 I called the police thinking my dad was dead when he was actually just asleep. The fire department showed up and everything.
6. When I was about 9 or 10, my dad, my sister, a few other people, and I went to a lake or something — one of those places open to the public to swim in, and I remember watching my sister run into the water and falling over. She was like 4 or 5. I remember being so scared because I thought she was going to drown.
7. When I used to live in Rhode Island, my old best-friend and I would play on our street. Once, when a neighbor’s cat went missing, we rode our bikes up and down the street to look for it. We eventually found it, but it didn’t act like it wanted to be found. I forget what we did afterwards, aha.
I know that was kinda boring, but I couldn’t think of anything spectacular.
1. On the wall behind my computer are pictures of some of my favorite people — writers, political revolutionaries, and so on. I have Hemingway, F. Scott, Nic Sacco and Bart Vanzetti, Claus von Stauffenberg, Ravachol, Stephen Fry, D.H. Lawrence, Wilfred Owen, Alan Watts, Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Franz Kafka, William S. Burroughs, Yeats, Emma Goldman, Chris McCandless. On other walls I have Samuel Beckett, E.E. Cummings, Yukio Mishima, Dostoevsky, Bukowski. Also on the wall behind my computer are some notes from my girlfriend, notes to self, newspaper clippings, book covers, the communist’s hammer and sickle from when I used to be a communist, the anarchist’s (A), some poetry, and so on.
2. My bookshelf was a gift from an old friend who moved to Texas last year. He didn’t have space for it when he was leaving, so he gave it to me.
3. I have a white board my dad picked up next to my bed; it has notes to myself and little reminders and some quotes. “Creating something beautiful and making oneself beautiful are indistinguishable”, “Try again, fail again, fail better”, and so on.
4. My bed is on my floor. I don’t really like bed frames.
5. My walls are also filled with a few movie posters, contact sheets from when I used to be a photography student, vintage Japanese subway posters, some of my own art.
6. My closet is a walk in closet and never stays clean or organized for very long.
7. My windows have a nice little view of a good part of my city, which is mostly wooded areas; so, plenty of nice trees to admire in the summer.
8. My bedroom door has a crack on the outside because my dad tried opening it once when something had fallen behind it. He pushed a little too hard.
9. I haven’t changed my room layout for about 2-3 years. I should do that. And get some more stuff on the walls. I like stuff.
10. My friend also gave me a printer, a stool, a desk, and a computer chair.
That’s pretty much it. There’s really nothing to my room, to be honest. I should work on that.
1. I think I can be flashy sometimes, like racehorse flashy. I’ll act bizarrely or loudly to get attention. And I’ll test people or challenge them even if I know I might lose. I like putting on a show for people when the mood hits me, but sometimes I’ll make myself look thoughtful or tough. I also like to use what I know to impress, the same way a racehorse might show off its muscles. I’ll throw obscure trivia into a conversation or quote someone randomly, you know. I think it annoys some people.
2. I love making people laugh. I like hearing people laugh, especially at my own jokes or weird behavior. Plenty of people will think of me as weird or crazy, but I know a good number of people who will tell you they think I am funny. It’s the best compliment for me, it really is. When someone says I’m funny, I feel good. And you know, laughter is such a compliment to the world. When we can start replacing hate and impatience with laughter, we will be on our way to knowing peace.
3. Here are some of my worst limitations, I think: I can be self-centered and egotistical, I can talk a lot with little action, I exaggerate my successes and often omit unpleasant truths, I often speak without thinking, and I am sometimes overly dramatic when I express myself. I listen poorly, forget what people say, lack dedication to a single cause, and I sometimes take few things seriously.
1. I met my best friend in middle school, after I came back from Brazil. I think we started talking more comfortably with each other when I grew some balls. She was really hurting when we first became friends and through most of high school. I tried helping as much as I could, but she didn’t really want my help. I don’t blame her. Maybe I pushed her a little too hard when I should have kept quiet.
2. We studied Italian together for four years in high school, and she always did worse than me. If I hadn’t been there to help keep her interested, I think she might have dropped it. The same might have happened if I was there alone. She, like, fell in love with one of our Italian teachers. She really really liked his beard.
3. She taught me how to be made of steel. Sometimes I’d see the marks on her arms and I’d feel horrible. But I never brought it up around her because I imagined she must have heard enough from other people. I know she probably didn’t want to hear shit from me either.
4. She would never tell me, but after a while, I realized that I was treating her like shit. I acted like I knew more than her when I really knew nothing at all. I realized that her struggles were legitimate struggles. We would get into arguments sometimes because I thought I could fix everything on my own. I don’t even remember why, but we’d go for days and weeks without talking to each other. I realized that I was being cruel. I promised I wouldn’t hurt her that way again. She’s one of my only friends — the only friend I had for most of my high school career.
5. She has a wild sense of humor. I can’t act the way I act around her normally because people would hate hate hate it. We’re both loud, obnoxious, weird, annoying, hateful, gross. And we never shut up. Whenever I’d get a bit out of hand in Italian, she’d be like, “Oh my god, shut the fuck up. You’re so fucking annoying.” I think she held the reigns most of the time when she knew I’d get myself into trouble. Luckily, I never got into trouble.
Filled to the brim with haunting and addictive vocals, powerfully dynamic drums and guitars, and Daughter’s signature moody electro-folk, If You Leave’s ten track album captures loneliness, out-of-body mélodrame, and a lingering melancholia. A musical sensation that attacks then leaves healed.
Elena Tonra’s voice does this for me: she quietly inhabits a part of my mind of which I was never aware, she stays floating, transparent and whole, for only a few minutes per song, and relaxes me; she is the consummation of lyrical artistry and vocal dominance. To her I raise my glass.
However, as with most of the band’s work, the drums and guitars cannot go unnoticed. Igor Haefeli, the band’s guitarist is perhaps one of the greatest electro-folk guitarists in the indie music industry. I do not say this lightly, because with all that I have heard, Haefeli’s control of sound inspires me. There are only a handful of bands whose guitarists can perfect the lusty softness of simple chords. Dry the River and Isbells come to mind here.
Furthermore, if Haefeli’s guitar and Tonra’s voice do not do enough, our man on drums — supporting the depressive vocals and guitar — is Remi Aguilella. On the tracks in which he is present, he is present. You could not drown out his presence if you tried. His playing establishes the conviction for the songs’ themes. His drums make the audience entirely aware of the track as a whole.
Take away any of these musicians and you do not have Daughter. Daughter is made undivided with this musical trinity, each individual acting fully to become one part in a three-pieced entity.
If You Leave has reminded me that musical and lyrical finesse is a matter of talent and of a determination to give listeners personal and intimate accounts of a solemn existence. Daughter, in this album particularly, has expressed an entirely human phenomenon: sorrow. And has done it well — has done it in a way that I will cherish as an artistic narration on the human spirit.
Why can’t “him” and/or “her” be considered gender neutral? We attack these words as if they were the Devil’s spawn — we forget that these words can very easily mean the same thing as “ze” or “hir” if we were to focus our subversive energy into renouncing the certain expectations that surround, envelope, and define them. But we have defined them, we have attached to them certain rules, boundaries; we have built walls around them, walls of expectation.. We have the hammers to destroy these walls, but we lack the nails to build new ones: we have imagined for ages a new architectural era for the LGBT community, we have thought up new ways to establish the genderless Utopia, yet we have forgotten that the problem doesn’t exist in creating something new — which perhaps may do more harm than good — but instead exists in working at, transfiguring, and redefining what we already have. We are confusing ourselves with the language of “other”, we are directing our intolerance, our natural disgust at the gendered walls when we may, now in this very moment be trying to do something more daring and even more difficult: abandon gender roles, expectations, and barriers.
Although straighter than an arrow, I am a diehard advocate for gay rights. I believe fiercely in the struggle of those who have been for so long in Westernized/fundamentalist cultures outcasted. My stance is held by many others, though I felt it necessary to mention as my argument may, unfortunately, be seen as homophobic or anti-progressive. Such is not my aim; I simply wish to present another, perhaps unpopular, opinion. However, in order for us to explore this opinion, we must navigate through one source in particular, which puts into layman’s terms the issue at hand. Jennifer Conlin, a writer for the New York Times, published an article called “The Freedom to Choose Your Pronoun” which reports on a few examples of people and institutions attempting to adopt and adopting “non gender” language. In first describing an experience of a teenager by the name of Katy Butler, who celebrated at the fact that Google offered three choices for choosing gender (male, female, and other), Conlin writes, “though Google created the “other” option for privacy reasons rather than as a transgender choice, young supporters of preferred gender pronouns (or P.G.P.’s as they are called) could not help but rejoice.”
It is here where I would like to begin deconstructing the claims made in this article. Firstly, I’d like to address the strange hypocrisy that follows P.G.P’s. Conlin writes, “Katy is one of a growing number of high school and college students who are questioning the gender roles society assigns individuals simply because they have been born male or female.” But does this questioning and formation of new pronouns not perpetuate the “gender roles society assigns?” If we were all to consider ourselves “other” or “transgender”, wouldn’t there still be expectations for how our offspring behave, think, and feel? Are not the questions far more complicated than we first imagined, and can the problem of gender roles, assignments, and expectations really be disavowed through the development of new pronouns?
Katy says, “Maybe one day you [will] wake up and feel more like a boy.” Though, again, does not this mean that if one person can switch seamlessly from “girl” (etc.) to “boy” (etc.), that there is an awareness and understanding of certain roles those genders inherently play? I will use myself as an example. Say I do happen to wake up and feel more like a girl, and less like a boy, does that not mean that there are certain behaviors I wish to imitate, and certain behaviors I wish to discard? If the question is refused answer, then another may be asked: Why not just be without a gender altogether? Why not wake up and feel more like a person, kept from the girl-boy binary, and so on? What word would be used to describe that person?
There have been different invented words, coming from as early as the 19th century, but many English speakers just don’t (and probably won’t) speak in that way. Many of those people being absolutely aware of the need for disowning our ideas of gender roles, but realize it would be easier, desirable, and even inevitable to hold conservatively to the language we already have. Then using that language in a way that doesn’t connote gender or gender being a substantial measure for communication between people.
People who are born with penises but consider themselves female also feel as if there are certain prerequisites for what it means to be a female or a woman, and perhaps are greatly aware of the expectations of people with penises — because in considering themselves female reject the feelings, behaviors, and thoughts associated with the male; and in understanding those things associated with the male become more deeply involved in the binary we fear most, and have a harder time trying to escape it. Therefore, if there is a point in time when others may refer to the aforementioned people as him and her, without ever implying that the two terms cannot be used interchangeably, then what is the problem? However, you may ask, what of the men and women that don’t want to be referred to with interchangeable pronouns? This is where the revolution (the desire to renounce gender roles and expectations) meets condition (the present circumstance which is still heavily involved in the argument between man/male and woman/female as we understand it). I fear that if unless we attempt to move the revolution of the condition into other generations, then the struggle will be stationary. As argued earlier, we have the hammers necessary to be rid of the walls that surround those ideas which have the capacity for neutrality — however, our greatest conflict lies in whether or not we want revolution with revolution: if we are ready to take the hammer to the walls and risk what we know for something unknown and new.
I remain hopeful. I believe we are building up the courage and gaining new insights into this beast of an idea. Some of us, unfortunately, hold to old traditions and ideologies, but for the most part, we are becoming ever more aware of the necessity for change. We are an evolving species, capable of greatness. Sooner or later, we will forget what gender ever was, and move into an age where we can live freely in our languages, unabated and strong, never again influenced by our own expectations of people who assign themselves certain pronouns, certain words, certain walls.