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I need an AN paper by 48 hours Ill upload all the instruction it has to be followed thanks it is a woman and gender studies course. the paper should be on the first 3 chapters and citation is only wit
Pra is e f o r G en d er: Y o u r G uid e “ To d ay’s w ork p la ce s m ust r e fl ect t h e r e alit y t h at g en d er is n ot a s s im ple a s p re vio u sly t h ou g ht. U nd ers ta n d in g h ow t o in clu d e eve ry o n e, r e g ard le ss o f h ow t h ey id en tif y a n d e xp re ss t h eir g en d er, is t h e k e y t o u nlo ck in g t h e p ote n tia l o f a n y w ork fo rc e . G en d er: Y o u r G uid e p ro vid es t h e t o ols n ece ssa ry f o r e m plo ye rs o f a n y s iz e t o re sp on d t o t h e c h an g in g n eed s o f e m plo ye es a n d jo b se eke rs .” —COLIN DRUHAN , executive director of Pride at W ork Canada “Dr . Airton is the perfect brilliant-but-accessible, frank -but-kind guide to our current LGBTQ language and landscape. Gender: Your Guide is without a doubt the most delightful and focused road map I’ve seen to treating trans people (and yourself!) with dignity .” —JEFFREY MARSH , nonbinary activist and author of How to Be You: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Y our Life Thank you for downloading this Simon & Schuster ebook. Get a FREE ebook when you join our mailing list. Plus, get updates on new releases, deals, r ecommended reads, and more from Simon & Schuster . Click below to sign up and see ter ms and conditions. CLIC K H ER E T O S IG N U P Already a subscriber? P rovide your email again so we can r egister this ebook and send you more of what you like to read. Y ou will continue to r eceive exclusive offers in your inbo x. Con te n ts Preface: Why This Book Matters Introduction P art One. WHA T TO KNOW 1. Understanding Gender in T oday’s W orld Fact or P rocess? T wo Broad Schools of Thought about Gender Biology and Socialization Affect Each Other How Gender W orks in Everyday Life 2. Everyone Is a Gender Expert, Whether Y ou Know It or Not A Story: I Really Need Those Shoes Drawing Y our Gender -Friendly R oad Map Gender-Friendliness Is a P rocess Gender -Friendliness: How Everyone Benefits 3. Learning about the T ransgender Spectrum Why Are Some P eople Transgender? Because W e Are. Transgender P eople Are Diverse Transgender P eople Have Many W ays of Transitioning Common “ Knowledge” about T ransgender People Is Changing Over T ime Part T wo. WHA T TO SA Y 4. A Gender-Neutral Pronoun Primer WHAT Are Gender -Neutral P ronouns? WHO Uses Gender -Neutral Pronouns and WHY? The HOW of Gender -Neutral Pronouns 5. Strategies for Using People’s Pronouns Correctly T ips for Getting P ronouns Right, As Best As Y ou Can Comparing Two Common P ronoun W orkarounds How Do I Know? W ays of Finding Out Someone’s P ronouns What If I Do All These Things and Someone Still Gets Mad at Me? 6. Noticing and Changing Gendered Language P ushing Out of Gender ed Language General Uses of Singular They in Work and Life Alternatives to Common Gender ed Language Part Three. WHA T TO DO 7. How to Stop T elling People Who They Are, Gender- Wise, by Accident You’r e the Authority on Y our [XYZ], Not Me! Gender-Friendly W ays to Talk about P artners Gender-Friendly W ays to Talk about and Engage Babies and Kids It’s Not My Business Which W ashroom Y ou Use! 8. An Action Plan for Standing Up Beside Y our Person 1. Pay A ttention 2. Opt Out of Question-Calling 3. Identif y Hot Spots 4. Take A ction Now Y ou Have Y our Gender -Friendly T oolkit 9. Growing Y our Gender-F riendly Community It’s Hard Sometimes: How to F ace the Challenges of Being Gender -Friendly How to Debunk F alse Arguments Against Gender -Friendly Change Tips for T aking a L eadership R ole with Others Last Word CODA : To the T rans Person Whose Person Is Reading This Book Who Am I and Why Did I W rite This Book? Self-A dvocacy T ips and Resources Acknowledgments Glossary Resources Bibliography Index To my past, pr esent, and futur e students, many of whom ar e teachers. May you welcome all of the ways that your students do gender and gr eet this abundance with care and enthusiasm. I know you can do it. W ear the thriving gender diversity in your classr oom as a badge of honor and pride. And to BBFL, my four beloved little (and not-so-little-anymor e) people, with love from your W izzie. Pre fa ce : W hy T h is B ook M atte rs Last fall I wa s traveling through a major America n airport on a business trip, and I had to go to the bathroom. No big deal, right? Airports have lots of bathrooms. Well, visiting a gendered bathroom actually is a big deal for me. Many airports don’t have gender-neutral bathrooms, so I’m forced to choose one side or the other . Waiting for the plane, where every bathroom is blessedly gender-neutral, isn’t always possible. I took a breath and began my approach to the women’s. (Why the women’s? Having seen bathrooms of all kinds in my time, the women’s is reliably clean and there is no urinal cake. These are the only reasons.) Entering the area outside any bathroom that splits into men’s and women’s facilities is like going onstage. I could give someone detailed directions on how to hand le it. I’m aware of my clothing. When I travel, I like to dress up a little, and on that day I was wearing a blazer , a crisp button-down, and dark jeans. I’m aware of the speed of my walk, of when to stop meandering and begin a more purposeful stride. Sometimes I head toward a water fountain between the entrances: a gender time-out. If anyone were watching me, they’d likely be appeased by this neutral destination and move along, in search of other distractions. Once at the water fountain, I can slip inside the bathroom door . When I enter the women’s bathroom, I puff out my chest as much as I can and begin clearing my throat in an artificially high register . Sometimes I hum loud and high like Fräulein Maria traversing the Alps. I smile maniacally and make inviting eye contact with anyone I meet at the threshold or inside to sho w that I come in peace and I am confident that this is the correct washroom for me despite appearances (it isn’t, but when you have to go, you have to go). I choose the first stall I see, grateful for the ubiquity of seat covers in America (I heart Chicago O’Hare), even though the first stall isn’t usually one’s first choice. I enter , I lock the door , I sit down, I breathe. If the bathroom is busy, I might linger a little while in private, feeling the muscles around my eyes, mouth, and shoulders relax. I m ake a mistake every time, though. Having put friendly Fräulein Maria back on for the handwashing experience, I relax and let it all go as I exit. This is where it always happens. Last fall as I was exiting the women’s bathroom in the airport, a woman was fast approaching the two entrances while speakin g on the phone. Seeing me exiting one of the bathrooms, she automatically adjusted course. She strode right into the men’s bathroom before realizing where she was. And screamed! • • • This kind of thing has been happening to me for a very long time. Bathro oms are unavoidable places in ever yday life where gender is intensified and where people’s bodies are scrutinized to determine who belongs and who doesn’t. Among transgender (or trans) people—those like me whose gender identity or gender expression doesn’t align easily or at all with the M or F we were assigned at birth—b athroom stories are a genre that verges on cliché. You do all you can to pass (to be read like the symbol on the bathroom sign), you get clocked (recognized as transgender), and you get out of there as fast as possible. My bathroom story walked you through the energy- intensive process I go through to do something that most people do without thinking at all. For many trans people, using the bathroom requires thought, planning, and constant vigilance. Other ordinary things take more energy as well, like shopping for clothes that both fit my body and help others to see who I am. I’ve acquired the necessary skills to get by in these situations from years of learning and practice , and because older or more experienced transgender people have taken the time to teach and support me. The thinking, planning, teaching, and learning can add up to a marathon every time I head outside, even when all I need is a bag of chips or a bag of milk (a thing in Canada). That’s one reason why this book is necessary . I started with a bathroom story so that I could clear up a common misconception about why transgende r people need you, the person who picked up this book: that the thing transg ender people experience when others get our gender wrong is offense, or that we are offended. I often hear people say that they’re scared of “offending” transgender people or that causing offense is the bad thing they want to avoid. This can be a source of tremendous anxiety , and it can make someone go out of their way to avoid a trans person just for fear of offending them. But trans people have far worse experiences than being offended, like being assaulted. In between being offended and being assaulted, there is a whole range of reasons why transgender people need others to get into the work of changing how gender works, for and alongside us. Many of these reasons have to do with the everyday exhaustion of being who we are, not being offended. Trans people can avoid the bathroom sometimes, but we can’t avoid other people and the language we use to communicate with each other. For many trans people, everyday communication and interaction are situations where our well-being and mental health are actively , gradually either beefed up or run down—often by people around us who may have no idea how their words or actions affect our capaci ty to participate in the world. I’m not talking about those people who are set on doing us harm or denying our existence, but people who just haven’t had to think about how gender rigidly structures our lives, spaces, and interactions. And so, when someone accidentally mis-genders me— applies an incorrect gender pronoun, term, or title—I’m not offended. There’s no surge of righteous indignation. It’s less of a filli ng-up with feelings and more of an emptying- out of energy . After a day of continuous mis-gendering, I feel like the balloon you find under the couch a week after the festivities: deflated. I’m sometimes too tired to correct or educate even the kindest and most understanding person in the world—too tired to be kind or understanding in turn, and too tired to be the best person I can be. In the years since I cam e out as transgender , I’ve also noticed something wonderful: the incredible effect of people getting things right. When people use or infer my correct pronoun, or use terms for me that match my gender identity , they make an incredible, palpable difference to my well-being. These seemingly small and ordinary things fill up my gas tank. Lee on a full tank is a kinder , gentler person who isn’t always on guard against the gendered expectations buried in so much of our everyday lives and language. And when I don’t have to expend my extra energy on correcting, explaining, and self-advocating, I’m also more likely to choo se fresh air, the gym, or a friend date over Netflix and couch. Moreover , I’m a better listener, teacher, coworker , partner , sibling, kid, untie (a gender- neutral alternative to aunt or uncle), friend, and even stranger . All this is to say that every ounce of tra nsgender knowledge, skill, and energy will not make everyday life more welcoming for transgender people if we’re the only ones making an effort. It takes too great a toll on transgender people to do all of the correcting, explaining, and advocating required to make gender less exhausting all around. This is where you come in, and that’s why I wrote this book. In fact, I imagine you picked up my book specifically because you want to get involved in the work of creating a more gender-friendly world around you. I’m very glad you did, because we need you. Perhaps you already know a gaggle of trans people, or perhaps you’ve never (knowingly) met one of us. You might have picked up this book because you want to better understand and support your trans or gender-nonconforming sibling, parent, or child. Or you might want to be ready for the next time you meet someone whose pronoun you aren’t sure about. Or you might be well aware of how rigid gender rules and expectations have made your own life more difficu lt than it needs to be. For any and all of these reasons, this book is for you. I study gender diversity in education and can share what is know n abo ut transgen der people’s experiences through research. But I’m also a transgender person myself—a nonbinary one at that (which I’ll come back to in Chapter 3) —who has been involved in trans communities for many years. In 2011, I chan ged my name and changed my pronoun to singular they . I have a master’s and a PhD in education, and realized that the world was missing an educational resource, whether for me, for other gender- neutral pronoun users, or for the people in our lives who have to talk about us all the time, because life. And so, I founded They Is My Pronoun in 201 2: the first Q+A blog on gender-neutral pronoun usage and user support, still going strong six years later with well over 30,000 unique visitors in 2017 alone. The experience of running my blog and traveling around to speak about gender-neutral pronouns and diversity under the “T” has brought me into conversation with many people who are working hard to have their gender needs met and to meet the needs of others. For the past ten years or so, I’ve also taught in teacher education programs and engaged hundreds of pre- service teachers in learning about their professional responsibility toward all of their students and all of the ways they do gender , whether they are under the transgender umbrella or not. I’ve also learned a great deal about the wealth of gendered experience and expertise that we all bring into our interactions with others but don’t think about as a resource. What I have learned from all of this teaching, learning, and just living life as a nonbinary transgender person is as follows: I am more interested in people being able to live gender in diverse ways with happiness than in forcible conformity in the service of a rigid two-category system. I am more interested in recognizing the gender possibilities that are already here than in denying that these possibilities have been here since before history began to be written (and regardless, because not all history is written). I am equally interested in the gender happiness of transgender people and non-transgender people. For these reasons, I’m committed to helping gender do its work with fewer expect ations and less harm. This is the approach that I bring to this book. In tr o d uctio n Gender is changing. It seems like more and more people aren’t doing gender in the usual way. Many young people are expressing gender in ways that don’t line up with traditional expectations. In 2017 UCLA researchers analyzed responses to the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) from kids ages twelve to seventeen and found that 27 percent (of about 796,000 youth) are gender nonconforming. More people than ever before—children, youth, and adults—are coming out and openly living their lives as transgender men or women. And many transgender people are coming out as neither men nor women in the traditional sense. In a 2011 landmark survey of transgender people in Ontario, Canada, 20 percent identified as “both male and female, neither, or some fluid position between the two.” A growing number of transgender people are using gender-neutral titles like Mx. and persona l pronouns like singular they , which the American Dialect Society selected as the Word of the Year in 2015. Definitive style manuals like The Associated Press Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style , as well as major newspapers like The Washington Post , have added singular they to their guidelines, signaling mainstream recognition of this pronou n and why it is needed. And while varying widely in wording and scope, according to an article by Kyle Kirkup in the University of Toronto Law Journal , there are legal protections for gender diversity in every Canadian province and territory , in thirty-three American states, and in the District of Columbia. Gender is changing, and this change is gaining momentum. While some people feel like these changes to gender threaten traditional ways of living, others recognize that this diversity has always been with us and is only now coming out or even back into public life. No matt er where you stand right now, it’s clear that navigating this changing world of gender means a shift in our language and our everyday practices because gender is everywhere : in how we speak, write, move around in public spaces, and relate to one another . Gender: Your Guide is a manua l for making this shift yourself so that you can welcome all of the ways that people do gender , instead of calling others into question without even knowing it. I will teach you how to implement gender-friendly language and practices in your family and friendships, at work, and with people you meet every day. Beyond logistics, I’ll also help you understand why it will benefit you to participate in welcoming the changing world of gender . For example, a persistent theme across the book is that gender-friendliness is a good thing for everyone , not only people who are transgender . This is a manual for creating a more gender-friendly world around you. I hope that by reading this book and trying on my suggestions, you’ll feel confident—if only more than you feel now—in working to make your world safer, nicer , and less exhausting for people who live gender in ways that weren’t expected of us when we were born. This world can be your own home or the nexus of your extended family . It can be your workplace, church, mosque, choir, or Frisbee golf team (also a thing in Canada). The world you set your sights on changing can be your gym, the supermarket, or the bus. It can be anywhere you demonstrate a respect for everyone’s self-determination in how they present and articulate their gender , and a willingness to do your best and make better mistakes in the process (because you will make them, and that’s okay). It is anywhere you show others, whether transgende r or not, that they are real, they are respected, and they are not out of place. I’ve also included a special Coda addressed “T o the Trans Person Whose Person Is Reading This Book.” I imagine interested non-transgender people will pick up Gender: Your Guide , but transgender people might also give it to others as a resource. The Coda shares some self-advocacy strategies for transgender people based on what I’ve learned from many years of supporting and speaking with others about trying to get our gender-related needs met. But I also make an ask: that transgender people, to the best of our ability , understand that meeting our needs does take effort and is a process of learning and unlearning for the people around us. Being gender-friendly is a proce ss for all of us, and we’re all at different places in this journey . Gender: Your Guide inv ites everyone to get on board to make gender more flexible and less constricting: a source of more joy , and less harm, for everyone. Let’s get started. PA RT O NE W HAT T O K N O W In this part I will describe how gender works as an ongoing process that we all participate in. Each of us is a gender expert, which means that we know how to follow the rules of our gender category, as best as we can. These rules change depending on wher e we are, and our gender expertise is honed as we move among all the differ ent places where we spend time, making changes in our gender expr ession—how we act, style, talk, groom, and present ourselves—as we go. You know how to do this deep down in your gut, even if you don’t know that you know, and even if you haven’t thought of yourself as a gender expert. W e most often use our gender expertise to avoid standing out and getting called into question by others, which can be harmful. But we can put our expertise to use inste ad to create spaces where standing out doesn’t mean getting called into question and doesn’t have harmful consequ ences. In such spaces the “rules” are less like a set menu and more lik e a buffet: take what you like, and leave the r est for others to enjoy . You’ll also learn about some people under the transgender umbrella. Like everyone else, transgender people were assigned a sex and corresponding gender category at birth, but this assignment doesn’t reflect who we are. Transgender and cisgender people all work the same gender system—standing out and blending in, getting called into question and calling others into question too—but standing out can have worse consequences for transgender people. I debunk a common misconception that all trans people are on what I call a “binary” pathway, or moving fr om one side of the M-to-F binary to the other, and I wil l intr oduce thr ee sometimes- overlapping groups of people under the “T”: transgender people who are women or men, nonbinary transgender people who are neither, and people who are gender -fluid. You will learn that there’s no one way to be in any of these groups, and that trans people face differ ent challenges and have differ ent relationships to being visible or out as transgender . I’ll end Chapter 3 by explaining the concept of transition in a way that makes it clear that transition, lik e transgender, is a spectrum. 1. U nd ers ta n d in g G en d er in T o d ay ’s W orld Fact or P rocess? T wo Broad Schools of Thought about Gender Biology and Socialization Affect Each Other How Gender W orks in Everyday Life In this chapter I explain how gender works and how we all participate in its work. I begin with a broad-brush look at the two major schools of thought about gender and its relationship to biological sex: gender as a fact and gender as a process. A key distinction between these schools, both inside and outside of academic disciplines, is whether gender differences are attributed to biology or to how we are socialized by other people around us beginning at birth. Next I expla in how gender works from the perspective of gender as an ongoing, lifelong process. We participate in this process every day of our lives, including visually and verbally, by calling others into question when they stand out. I explain many ways in which the question-calling happens, whether or not we know we’re doing it. Thinking of gen der as a process can help you begin seeing the role that gender plays and has played in your own life, from childhood. We also all have our own gender expertise, no matter our gender identity or gender expression . Naming yours is an important tool for creating a gender-friendly world around you. It can be diff icult to start making your own context more gender-friendly if you don’t have a sense of your starting place. And so, the end of this chapter gives you some tools to explore how gender currently plays out in spaces where you spend time. I call this process “drawing” your gender- friendly road map. I lead you through a reflection exercise where you’ll use your own gender expertise to identify what someone might face in your family , community , friend group, or workplace if they bump up against others’ gendered expectations. This will help you think and act proactively , as well as help you notice how gender might be restrictive there already . Fa ct o r P ro ce ss? T w o B ro ad S ch ools o f T h ou g ht a b ou t G en d er We don’t usually think of gender as something that works — a process, like housecleaning—but as something that just is : a fact, like whether the house is clean or dirty . Facts seem like dependable things that stand still, whereas processes seem like things that are on their way to standing still: to being facts. But many facts are actually processes in disguise. I’ll share an example of fact versus process that has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with a questionable life choice: living with two ginorm ous cats even though I have a cat allergy . Before I’ve finished cleaning the house, my cats have already begun redistributing their fur and dander . My house is never “clean” or “dirty” (fact) because the cleaning is never complete (process). What’s worse, the cats’ redistribution of fur and dander is actually helped by running all over the house to escape the vacuum! The process is never complete. In the same way, we can think about gender as a process a person participates in that is never complete, and not something a person “just is.” Some people argue that gender is a fact about a person that we can know from birth and that it’s basically the same thing as sex. People in this camp primarily attribute gender differences to inn ate biological sex differ ences, as opposed to the differenc es reinforced or even produced through society’s expecta tions. Others argue that gender is a teaching and learning process that’s never complete, but they don’t believe that biology is irrelevant. In this camp gender differences are primarily attributed to socialization, including how we are socialized in relation to what our bodies do (or do not do). Cat analogi es can only take us so far. To better understand the two major schools of thought about gender —gender is a fact or gender is a process—let’s think about the moment a baby is born. (Let’s assume that the baby’s parents have not been given information about the baby’s body from an ultrasound in advance of the big day.) In a great tide of fluid and relief , the baby emerges. Someone (doctor, nurse, or midwife) catches the baby and notes the shape and size of its exte rnal genitalia. What happens next is larg ely based on the visual appearance of the genitalia, particularly the length of the organ containing erectile tissue (clitoris/penis) and how much of its length is visible. Of course, there’s a whole range of externally invisible factors involved in sex development, including hormones, internal sex organs, and gametes (eggs and sperm). But the doctor , nurse , or midwife notes only what they can see and then makes a pronouncement: “It’s a girl/you have a daughter” or “It’s a boy/you have a son.” This pronouncement can be thought of as an ending (gender as fact) or as a beginning (gender as process): • We can think of “It’s a girl!” as ending uncertainty about what the baby is: she is a girl, she will be a woman. From this perspective, “It’s a girl!” just shares factual information about the baby’s gender . • But we can also think of the pronouncemen t as a beginning : of the tremendous effort required to teach the baby how to become a girl who will someday become a wom an, and what that looks like in this time and place. From this perspective, “It’s a girl!” doesn’t just share information but actually does something: it signs up the baby as a fledgling member of a particular gender category with locally specified rules for how babies of that category must be dressed, addressed, and engaged with.   WHAT DOES “INTERSEX” MEAN? Sometimes e xternal genitalia alone don’t pr ovide a clear-cut answer to the boy-or -girl question at birth. In these instances, a baby might be interse x. Accor ding to the Interse x Society of North America (ISNA), the wor d intersex describes “a variety of conditions in which a person is bor n with a repr oductive or se xual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” In a r eview of research published in the American Jour nal of Human Biology , Melanie Blackless and their colleagues estimated that approximately 1.7 per cent of the general population is interse x. Alice Dreger, a bioethicist and for mer president of ISNA, points out the sheer variety of conditions loosely br ought together under this ter m: “the medical names for various intersex conditions may r efer specifically to the genotype (genetic basis), or to the phenotype (body type), or to the etiology (causal pathway of the condition), or to some combination of these. So saying someone is ‘intersex’ does not tell you anything specific about a person’s genes, anatomy, physiology, developmental history, or psychology .” Not all intersex people are identified as interse x when they are born; some might develop indications at puberty . Further more, some people identif y as intersex, while others describe themselves as having an “interse x condition” or a “disor der of sex development.” Phrasing varies depending on a person’s own relationship to the ter m intersex . The phrase ambiguous genitalia is commonly used when r eferring to interse x people or conditions, but it’s a misnomer and consider ed offensive, as is the older term hermaphr odite Ambiguous genitalia is a misnomer because not all biological variations under the intersex umbrella involve genitalia, as pr eviously stated. Distressingly, ther e is a history in North American medicine of ir reversible genital sur geries on interse x infants, which, accor ding to research by Human Rights W atch, is still ongoing: “ Operations aimed at ‘nor malizing’ these differences include clitoral r eduction surgeries—procedures that cut and remove sensitive, er ectile tissue in order to reduce the size of the clitoris for cosmetic r easons. Such sur gery carries the risk of pain, nerve damage, and scarring, and yields no medical benefit.” The question of whether or not gender and biological sex are the same thing also separates the fact and process ways of thinking. If we think of gender as a fact, then reading an “F” sex marke r on someone’s birth certificate is the sam e as knowing they’re a girl or woman, and reading an “M” is the same as knowing they’re a boy or man. But if we think of gender as a process, then someone’s “F” is simply shorthand for a quick survey of their external genitalia at birth. That isn’t the same thing as a person’s identity . Even though most female-assigned babies come to identify as girls and most male-assigned babies come to identify as boys, identifying isn’t just “what happens” naturally . It’s a process. Sociologists of gender describe the process of teaching babies how to be the gender associated with their assigned sex as a process of socialization. The teaching process happens whether or not people know they are participating. For example, psychologist David Reby and colleagues found that adults attribute femininity (if told the infant is female) or mascu linity (if told the infant is male) to a baby by listening to their cry, even though vocal pitch differences don’t emerge until puberty . In addition, psychologists Melissa W. Clearfield and Naree M. Nelson studied infant-mother play sessions with gende r-neutral toys and found that the mothers spoke to, spoke about, and played differently with male and female infants as young as six months old—an age when their infants lacked any gender differences. From findings like these, we can take away an unsettling implication: we are often unaware of what we’re teaching other people about gender or how we’re participating in gender socialization. Some would say that, because adults aren’t always aware that we treat boys and girls—or babies presumed to be on their way to boyhood or girlhood—differently , differences between boys and girls must be “natural” (closer to gender- as-fact). Others believe that, actually , adults learned “how to treat boys” versus “how to treat girls” (closer to gender- as-process). This brings us to another big difference between the fact and process ways of thinking about gender: what about gender is natural (often used to mean innate or biological) versus what about gender is social . This is often called the nature-or-nurture debate. In many years of studying and talking about gender with all kinds of people, I’ve come to see the “debate” as more of a continuum. Few people live out at the poles, and most pitch a tent somewhere in between, whether they’re transgender or not. Where one sits on the continuum depends on many things, like whether one studied a particular discipline (for example, sociology and neuroscience have different knowledge bases about gender), how one’s own experiences with gender have played out, and how gender is understood in one’s culture or faith.   THE BIG GENDER REVEAL Be honest: when you find out that someone you know has had a baby, what’s the first question you ask? Chances ar e, you, like many people, ask whether the baby is a girl or a boy . From a gender -as-process perspective, we don’t yet know the brand-new baby’s gender, but per haps only their sex. In a Huffington Post piece, writer and new mom Jen W illsea breaks this down even further, asking, “Is it r eally anyone’s business what se x my child has been assigned? Since gender is not knowable at this stage of a child’s life (11 weeks!), people are really asking whether my child has a penis or vagina. That is completely inappr opriate and weird!” Whether you agr ee with Willsea or not, consider the popular phenomenon of the “gender -reveal cak e”: a pink- or blue-dyed cak e covered with icing, usually served at a party wher e slicing “reveals” whether the baby in question is a “boy” or a “girl” based on a pr enatal ultrasound in which exter nal genitalia is visible or not. I have an active imagination and have always pictur ed tense and furtive phone calls between obstetricians and bakery staff: “ Do you have the intel? I have to get this into the oven!” The next time you hear about a new baby, pay attention to whether the baby’s “gender ” is volunteered, even if you don’t ask. I’ll shar e more about asking gender -friendly baby questions in Chapter 7. Bio lo g y a n d S ocia liz a tio n A ff ect E ach O th er By now you’ve probably inferred that I’m closer to the gender-as-process or “nurture” end of the spect rum. But this isn’t bec ause I think biology and bodies are irrelevant. Many transgender people’s experiences have shown that how people relate to their bodies is itself an ongoing process, not just “the way things are.” As a result, it’s uncommon to find a transgender person on either extreme end of the nature-nurture belief continuum. The meanings and pract ices associated with things like muscles, body hair, and particular body parts come from a complex interplay of socia lization and biology . For example, if you happen to have a penis, it’s lots of fun to put out a campfire by peeing on it, but that doesn’t mean standing up to pee is bio logically necessary . And yet when a baby is born with an intersex condition affecting their external genitalia, one rationale given to parents for irreversible genital surgeries has been that the baby wouldn’t be able to pee standing up. Somehow this particular way of penis- peeing has become intertwined with having a gend er of boy or man, with a range of consequences for those under the boy/man umbrella. Some transgender men who don’t have penises that urinate stand up to pee using specialized funnels because this can be an important part of being recognized as a man in everyday life. The relationship between biology and socialization isn’t complicated only for people who are transge nder or intersex. The fact is, gender is different in different places and at different times. When I teach about how gender changes over time and in different places, I like to use the example of women’s eyebrows. Today , the prevailing eyebrow trend for wom en is bold, thick, and dark. I sometimes wonder whether women’s eyebrows will ever stop expanding! But of course they will, and someday the razor-thin line will come back into fashion. Likewise, my own history with the hair on my face is a story of how our relationships with body and biology can be thought of as complex processes. In the middle of female puberty I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). My fledgling periods became unpredictab le, and I began growing a beard. Today I love my beard and my modest moustache, and I keep both neatly groomed with barber scissors and lather shaves. But when my beard first appeared, it was abundantly clear that it was not to be loved. First came the bleach. Next my mum took me to an aesthetician to have my beard waxed. Chin up, warm goo, then someone spanked me right in the face with a Ping- Pong paddle (that’s what it felt like anyway). I was displeased. The aesthetic ian smiled brightly and reassured me that it was “for beau ty!” Five more spanks and I was done, my face radiating like a hot plate while my mum drove us back home. This would happen bimonthly until I left home for university and found communities in which having a beard while not being a man was not only tolerated but also celebrated. There is tremendous diversity among humans in how our bodies manifest things like hormones (both production and resistance), fertility, fat distribution, height, genital size and shape, vocal timbre , and hair. Absolute statements about “what women’s bodies look like” and “what men’s bodies look like” are easily disproved by looking around a crowded room. Yet this diversity most often loses to conventional wisdom, which recognizes only two rigid gender categories for all of these bodies. According to this “wisdom,” bodies that deviate must be corrected—perhaps through clothing, beauty treatments, or even medical intervention.   TAKING “NUR TURE” TOO F AR There has been a lot of r esearch into the natur e-or-nurtur e question, and great har m has been done in the name of finding the answer . Dr. John Money conducted now-infamous r esearch on David R eimer and his twin br other. David was bor n with a penis and assigned male, but his penis was badly damaged in a cir cumcision accident. His par ents sought guidance from Money, who suggested raising David as a girl alongside his br other. In the book As Natur e Made Him , author John Colapinto documents the e xtensive socialization efforts on the part of Money and the twins’ par ents to “nurture” David into becoming a girl. Money published on the case and became very well known, but David struggled with and eventually r ejected this forced socialization, coming to identif y as a man. He would eventually commit suicide. While Money’s efforts with David aimed to socialize an M-assigned child into identifying as a girl (i.e., the gender not associated with his birth- assigned se x), the practice of “ reparative therapy” has been administer ed to gender-nonconfor ming childr en with the goal of socializing them as the gender associated with their birth-assigned se x. Reparative therapy is defined as any tr eatment led by a psychological or medical pr ofessional with the intent to deter someone (often a child) from being transgender or non- heterosexual. Some jurisdictions in the United States and Canada have outlawed r eparative therapy, but it r emains legal in others. Often, transgender adults, some of whom survived their own e xperiences with this “therapy,” have led efforts to ban reparative therapy, including recently in the Canadian province of Ontario . Like Money’s r esearch, reparative therapy for transgender or non-heter osexual childr en and youth—or childr en and youth thought to be transgender or non-heterosexual—is an e xample of “nurtur e” gone too far .   DEFINING POL YCYSTIC O VAR Y SYNDROME PCOS is a syndr ome, or a cluster of symptoms that of ten co-occur . The Mayo Clinic’s website suggests that a PCOS diagnosis is appr opriate if a person has at least two of the following: irregular periods; e xcess andr ogen hormone (signs include “e xcess facial and body hair,” acne, and male-patter n baldness); and polycystic ovaries, or ovaries that ar e “enlarged and contain follicles that sur round the eggs. As a r esult, the ovaries might fail to function regularly .” Let’s look mor e closely at the use of excess in the Mayo Clinic’s description of facial and body hair . What counts as “excess” hair for people in the F bo x varies widely across time and across cultures. As we’ve seen in the case of intersex, biomedical practices ar e implicated in the process of gender just lik e other aspects of socialization. I’ve met people of differ ent gender identities who have PCOS, but, of course, the vast majority of people with PCOS identif y as women. However, so me transgen der people (and other people too) are rejecting this “wisdom” and not accepting that our bodies need correcting. For example, since I wa s a child, I’ve tended toward things (clothing, activities, behaviors) considered to be masculine. This is one reason why I love my beard and why I also love the way PCOS affects my body shape—I tend toward having a belly and away from having hips. My relationship to my own body and biology has greatly changed over time, depending on whether I had access to a context where my body wasn’t “wrong” because it didn’t fit within the woman box. That I might like my beard or come to like it in time, that it might have a particular meaning for me, or that it might open up new possibilities for living and belonging: these were impossibilities. And yet here I am. How G en d er W ork s in E ve ry d ay L if e Whether you lean toward gender as fact or gender as process, there’s no doubt that gender plays a key role in society . This book focuses on the social life of gender: on what you can do with language and various practices to open up gender and welcome all of the people and possibilities around you. For this reason, I’ll leave behind the fact-or-process debate and delve into how gender works from a proce ss perspective in everyday life. This is where and how you can make a difference. Gender Is Everywhere You probably don’t spend a lot of time pondering your gender on any given day, but your gender is front and center in your life nonetheless. Did you enter your workplace at the same time as another person this morning? You might have participated in a gendered ritual of doo r opening and door holding in terms of who walks through first. Looking for a snack at the grocery store? You might have contemplated—or altogether avoided—a healthy nut mix marketed specifically to women. Need a new pair of glasses? The store employee would probably bring you frames that are meant for either one gender category or the other . There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this picture as long as others are reading us correctly . That said, I offer these examples to point out how deeply ingrained gender is in our lives, even if we rarely consciously think about it. As we delve into creating a more gender-friendly world, I’ll invite you to notice the countless ways you interact with gender—most of which you probably don’t even register . When you begin to notice manifestations of gender around you, however , you are better able to step back and assess how you might be participating in gender in ways that don’t work for everyone. I’ll describe two kinds of participation: visual and verbal. Gender Requires Our V isual Participation A neat trick of gender is how it hides in plain sight. Gender is everywhere, all around us, all the time, but we usually notice it only when someone is “doing it wrong.” I don’t mean wrong in the sense of “bad,” but in the sense of “unlike most other people in the same category .” If we had no categories, or even if the boundaries between the big two (boy/man and girl/woman) weren’t so rigid, it wouldn’t make sense to say that someone was doing gender wrong. They would just be doin g gender in their own way! But these boundaries do tend to be rigid. This isn’t because “they just are,” but because we participate in keeping the big two categories rigid, intact, and separate, whether we know it or not. We can come to recognize when we are participating, and we can make different choices when we do (which I’ll get into in P art Three). With my students, who are learning to be teac hers, I assign an exercise to hel p them reflect on these moments when someone nearby does gender (or another category) “wrong.” I don’t ask them to sit in judgment of other people, but to try noticing what their gut tells them : to ride the subway and keep track of when they do a double take or see something they can’t wait to tell another person about later . Noticing is the first step. The next step is trying to see why something triggered their gut response: who stood out, what did they do, and what was happening around them? Many trans people know of certain times and places where we’re likely to stand out—these tend to be boring places, like airports. The subway at rush hour is another one: where bored people exist in a state of mild anxiety because it’s not easy or in their interest to leave, and in a state of mild irritation because it’s not the most pleasant place to be. Beware of the bored in search of a stimulus, because it’ll be the “different” person who stands out. V ery often, it’ll be me. The last step is reflectin g on what their gut might tell them about their readiness to welcome whoever walks through their classroom door. Through this exercise, students begin noticing how pervasive and rigid various social categories are, and how they unconsciously participate in maintaining them even if they’ re open- minded. This is because we’re always on background alert for people and actions that go against our expectations. In fact, we visually assign others to a gender category all the time, but almost always unconsciously: in the background. Picture someone who would immediately stand out to you in the gender department: someone who would prompt a double take, or who you might tell a story about later on to a friend (or even right away in a text message). I wager that someth ing about their body (e.g., shape, height, presence/absence of facial hair, and/or voice) goes against the rigid rules for the gender category they are signaling with their clothing, grooming, walk, and/or mannerisms. Based on the visual information we take in, we assume we can deduce whether a person is “really” the gender they are presenting. It’s kind of like when the doctor , nurse, or midwife makes the boy/girl pronouncement on the basis of (external) genitalia alone. We use very limited information to make a far-reaching judgment. It’s easy to assume that the person you pictured (who would stand out to you) is transgender , but this isn’t necessarily the case. When I think about the recent spate of anti-transgender bathroom bills in the United States, which mandate that everyone use the bathroom matching the sex marker on their birth certificate (often in places where this marker can’t be changed no matter what), I think about the non – transgender women who are tall with broad shoulders and deep voices. I think about the non -transgender men who are small and slight and speak with high voices. I wonder how bathrooms are work ing out for them these days. Of course, transgender residents of these states are most acutely harmed by such laws’ demand for increased vigilance. But when the big two gender categories become more rigid, they become more rigid for everyone. When there is so much diversity among the bodies crowded into the little M and F boxes, hypervigilance is no one’s friend. Critically, tho ugh, when we take note of people who are doing gender “wrong,” our reaction doesn’t stay private. We usually communicate that we’ve noticed with our body language and our look. And once we’ve noticed, it’s hard not to look again. Each of us has a go-to strategy for getting a sneaky second look at someone who stands out. We might try to be subtle because we know this can make someone uncomfortable. Pro tip: your subtlety doesn’t work. I will catch you, no matter how subtle you think you are, because I’ve had a lot of practice, like others who consistently stand out, for any reason. A wonderfu l gift you can give to someone like me is skipping the second look and stewing away in you r curiosity privately, so we don’t have to know that you noticed. This is one way to change how you participate visually in the process of gend er, and is the first gender-friendly practice I’ll share in the book, with many more to come. Gender Requires Our V erbal Participation So far, I’ve focused on how we participate visually in gender: based on what we see, and through our own ways of looking and orienting our look and our bodies. But there are other ways we participate in gender , or in the process of keeping the big two categories rigid, intact, and separate. We also participate verbally in conversations, whether with strangers or with people we have known for years. Just like visual participation, verbal participation includes how we react when someone steps outside of our gendered expectations. When this happens, we take note. When we take note visually, this is usually where it stops: with the looking. But when we take note in a conversation, a different kind of gende r work happens, but the effect is the same: telling someone, likely not for the first time, that they are doing something wrong. Over time these messages can add up to a range of outcomes that can deplete a person’s well-being considerably . To flesh out what I mean by how gender works, I’m going to tell a story of how non-transgender people’s experiences can be a way into understanding how gender can harm transgender people too. It’s a story close to my heart: how my sister and I becam e friends. I share it with her permission. Overlapping Gender Journeys: Coming Out As Nonbinary and Experiencing Infertility I am the youngest of three, by several years. My older siblings are both straight, and neither is transgender . My sister , Megan, has always wanted children. In her late thirties, after a successful career in nonprofit communications, she and her husband began trying to get pregnant. It didn’t happen. In 2010 they began walking down the long road of reproductive assistance. First came intrauterine insemination (IUI), where conception happens inside of the body but with help. This didn’t work, and so they began months and cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF), where conception happens outside of the body and zygotes (sperm-egg combinations) are implanted in the uterus afterward. Eventually IVF was successful, and Megan delivered her twins in 2014. I th ought I had a good handle on reproductive assistance from seeing friends go through it, but I learned a lot from listening to my sister as she went through this experience on the way to having her twins. In 2010 when Megan started down the road to IUI and then IVF, it was still an uncommon situation for people like her and her husband: straight, non-transgender men and women who make sperm and eggs in-house. Because it wasn’t normal, it wasn’t openly discussed. If it did come up, it was uncomfortable. Standing Out and Getting Called Into Question We kn ow a thing isn’t “normal” for people in a gender category if it stands out. For a woman in her late thirties, not having had babies yet made Megan stand out. People began calling her into question in everyday conversations: participating verbally in the process of gender by letting Megan know she was outside of the woman box. Near- strangers at the dentist or the hair salon would ask questions like “Why don’t you have kids yet?” and “Aren’t you having kids?” Gender works in part through these verbal exchanges where someone’s adherence to the rules or norms for people of their gender identity is called into question. It works even and often when the questioner has no idea that they’re participating verbally in the process of gender: telling someone that they’re doing gender wrong according to the expectations for people of that gender , in this time and place. It doesn’t always take the form of an explicit question: “Why don’t you have kids?” Or, even more baldly, “What’s wrong with you?” Explicit questioning is one way of call ing someone into question, but it can actually take many forms: • It can look like skepticism: when you talk about something that’s happening in your life and someone reacts like they don’t believe it’s happening to you , or like they don’t understand why you would feel the way you do about it (happy , sad, indifferent, etc.). • It can also look like an exaggerated emotional response: when someo ne reacts to your statement like you’re talking about a tragic death. This lets you know that whateve r you said—however ordinary to you—is the worst thing they have ever heard, which in tur n lets you know that your own relationship to the thing is not normal. Usually this happens because a person is trying to display concern, but intention is only one component of how things go in our interactions. • It can also look like sharing advice or a story : you tell someone about your persistent infertility, and they tell you abou t their past issues that were resolved by (insert strategy) and that you should try it. Again, this could be intended as a gesture of care, but it’s also an effort to make your inf ertility either part of a more “normal” baby story (where women and men love each other , have sex, and boom) or a story that matches their own—a situation that presumably is more comfor table for the advice giver . • It can also look like silence: when you talk about what you’re going through to someone and make yourself vulnerable, but they say little in return, quietly nod and smile, or change the subject altogether . This lets you know that your life and what it contains are “too much” for normal conversation, even if you really need to talk about it. An insidious part of standing out is beginning to isolate yourself . Once you know that you’re likely to be called into question, you stop openin g up to people about what you’re going through. Many IVF journeys include devastating setbacks and experiences of loss. If you open up to someone, they might share a story about their one early miscarriage. Their story might be framed, kindly and unintentionally but still intolerably , as a lesson on how you should feel. Or they might just ask how you’re doing, and probe when you don’t talk about your infertility , because that’s what “How are you?” actually meant. And then you have to tell them something. Or they might invite you to a baby shower . Finding Spaces Where Y ou Don’t Stand Out Consistently being called into question can lead to isolation, but it can also lead to startling connections with people who do not c all you into question. Megan has never been embarrassed about infertility or accessing IVF and is committed to ending the stigma, which I greatly admire. She speaks freely about it to this day when she is called into questio n for having twins, another situation that reveals all sorts of invi sible expectations. When Megan talks about how her twins are the result of IVF, her disclosure ruptures public-private barriers between strangers. People she has never met before respond by unburdening themselves with their own infertility stories. One time in a big-box store Megan found herself in a tearful hug with a sales representative who told Megan about her own experiences with infertility . Once her twins were born, Megan developed a tight-knit friend group of other twin mums. These ties have persisted over time. I’ve never wondered why Megan and her twin mum friends are so bonded. This is because I’m transgender . I, too, need spaces where the things I experience are normal. I need people I can talk to about these experiences without first saying what they mean. We all need spaces and relationships where we are not called into question, whether in small and large ways, because in some way each one of us is not quite the person others had in mind. Finding Common Ground When Megan began accessing treatment for her infertility , she and I were at the height of a drawn-out conflict that had festered since we were children. We were barely speaking, and when we had to, it was stilted or combative. Our battle had always been about taking up space and airtime in our family . W e’re both showboats, but my sister also works hard in the background of our family , whereas I, admittedly , do not. Megan devotes a lot of time and thought to how we’re all doing, and I don’t. Back in the day , I would show up, showboat, and fill the space, obscuring Megan’s contributions. Of course, I didn ’t always see it that way, and Megan says she didn’t see how she would become territorial. Family therapy was instrumental in beginning to identify and work through this bad dynamic, but it didn’t make us friends. That process started once we began talking to each other again, which happened to be while she was going through the worst of her infertility challenges and I was coming out as transgend er, which involved changing my name and pronoun. I did not anticipate that infertility and having twins would help my sister—a straight, non- transgender woman—understand what it’s like to be me in the world. But it did. She began to connect the ways in which we are both called into question, every day, even if the content of the questioning is different. She came to understand how exhausting it was when people called me into question , visually and verbally . She began to see that this was exhausting even, and perhaps even more so, when the questioners didn’t mean me any harm. And she began to anticipate and even get out ahead of some things that could have been harmful or just plain exhausting for me in the spaces we share. By the time Megan’s delivery date was scheduled, we were in a very different place in our relationship. I went out to Vancouver and spent time with her during the difficult, wondrous weeks after she gave birth and had two tiny babies to learn about and take care of. To this day, I can’t write or reflect on that time without tears in my eyes. It remains one of my most precious experiences. Over time Megan has been instrumental in helping my other family members to use my name and they/them pronouns. Because of this experience, and from speaking with many others over the years about getting our name and pronoun needs met, I recommend that transgender people try tending to the relationshi ps we have with people around us who we need to call on to meet our needs, and consider the particular history and dynamic of each one. There is always more to the story . I revisit this theme in the Coda. I sh are this story because I want to reach out to my non- transgender readers who also get called into question on the regular . Think about ways you might stand out from the norm, how others have called you into question, and how this question-calling feels. I ask you to rummage around in your collection of awkw ard conversations and drive-by hurts from even well-meaning people, and think about how a rigid, gender- un friendly world harms transgender people too. 2. Eve ry o n e I s a G en d er E xp ert, W heth er Y o u K now I t o r N ot A Story : I Really Need Those Shoes Drawing Y our Gender -Friendly R oad Map Gender-Friendliness Is a P rocess Gender -Friendliness: How Everyone Benefits When I listen to trans people’s stories of everyday life, I am blown away by the dept h and complexity of our gender expertise: by what we know and know how to do regarding gender . W e know how, wh en, and where to walk, speak, and act (or not) in order to just get on with our business like anybody else. We flawlessly intuit situations, we are fluent in nonverbal cues, and we anticipate most problems that come our way (or else many more of us would not be alive and thriving). There are infinite, undocumented ways in which trans people mentor and pass on these skills to each other . There are also many trans people who must learn for themselves. Regardless of how we come by this expertise and what we do for a living, all trans people, from fast food workers to stay-at-hom e parents to electri cians to accountants to sex workers to secretaries to university professors like me, are gender researchers just because they live in a highly gendered culture. You have this expertise, too, whether you realiz e it or not. In my experience, some people fear speakin g up for transgender people because our issues seem so very mysterious and otherworldly: as though transgender people are on another gender planet, making a person feel like their lifetime of accumulated gender knowledge is irrelevant to what trans people experience. This might be due to a history of transgender erasure, including the actual erasure of transgender people through violence. But in my view , we (transgender people and advocates) aren’t helping either if we ignore or belittle what non -transgender people know about gender’s harms and constrictions. In this chapter I offer some tools for you to beg in nam ing your own knowledge and even expertise about how gender works around you. This expertise is a powerful tool in your gender-friendly kit. Parts Two and Three will offer additional and more practical tools. I begin with a story from my own childhood, and then invite you to apply its implications to stories of your own. A S to ry : I R eally N eed T h ose S hoes At nine years old I was about the same height as all of the boys I played with. I wo re boy clothes and sneakers and had a short haircut. There wasn’t much to set me apart, except for my name (a girl one) and being fat, a term I use without shame. I’m really good at sports as well as chubby . In fact , I was (and still am) proof that fat people can play and play well. But it’s easy to take a fat kid down a peg on the sports field by reminding them that they’re fat. You could take me down another peg by also reminding me that I wasn ’t a boy . All of this is gender-as-process playing out through question-calling, as I described. When you’re a kid who is always called into question but can’t change your surroundings, you look around for other ways to make it stop, which means trying not to stand out. I started by trying to make the popul ar boys into my friends. I finagled after-school playdates with some of the king boys. But those playdates were awkward, and they didn’t stop me from being called into question. If the boys and girls ever played together at my school, it was usually “boys chase girls” (or vice versa), in which no side was availab le to me. So I invente d a complex role for myself: both broker (helping chasers find and capture the chased) and spy (letting the chased know the chasers were coming). I needed another strategy. That year the king boys were wearing Dr. Martens leather lace-up dress shoes. These shoes were not just ordinary boy-wear but a talisman of those on top. Only the ones who mattered had them: the ones who were team captains at recess, the biggest fish to catch when the girls gave chase, and those for whom boys and girls alike would show off. If I had Dr. Martens, I thought, enough of their magic would rub off on me and make me invisible: boy-enough to not be called into question anymore. I asked my mum. She said no because my feet were wildly growing and their $100 cost was ludicrous (in retrospect, I wholeheartedly agree). But my mum is lovely and kind and suggested a compromise: let’s go to Zellers (Canada’s now-defunct Target) and see what they have. Predictably , Z ellers was a bargain store and didn’t carry Dr. Martens, but they did carry an off-brand alternative: Griffins. They were a bit narrower and shinier (due to the fake leather), and they lacked the trademark orange stitching around the sole. But this could still work, I thought optimistically . This feeling evaporated when the only ones in my size had soles that glowed in the dark. They were a sickly pus color in the daylight, and a nuclear neon green in the darkness of the janitor’s closet. That’s where I tried to entice the boys who instantly spotted my “glow-in-the-dark Docs” during their recess debut the next day. “Just come into the closet with me,” I implored. Not remotely a cool girl, I came off like I was trying to play Seven Minutes in Heaven with the cool boys. An unqualified disaster . I stood out even more than I had before. No matter my failure, this is my sto ry of bein g a kid and knowing deep down that this one thing could make my life better at school in a way that directly related to the process of gender . Of course, a nine-year-old insisting that they need $1 00 shoes sounds like a spoiled brat to many ears. But underne ath my insistence was a kid calling on their learned gender expertise to navigate my particular world of gender and make things easier . What Was the Thing That Y ou Knew Would Make a Difference? It’s interesting to look at gender from a child’s perspective: children navigate many different gendered spaces in an ordinary day as they move to, from, around, and out of school. They know how to make themselves invisible, safe, or even popular in each of these spaces— essentially , they learn how to do gender like other people there are doing it. Kids also know what would make them visible and incur the kind of unwanted attention that accrues to kids who stand out. Seeing other children be punished with unwanted attention because they stand out is a powerfu l hidden curriculum of schooling: something we’re taught without being formally , explicitly taught. We use different words for this unwanted attention when it falls on children and youth, as opposed to when it falls on adults. Among kids, we call this bullying. But in the workplace, when adults denigrate and isolate others due to their personal characteristics, we call this discrimination and sometimes, when warranted, harassment. This distinction is a topic of ongoing debate in many fields of study, including where I sit in education. Regardless of the name, these are varieties of question-calling. My story was about shoes, but you probably also have a story about a thing that affected your ability to follow the rules of your gender category at school, in your neighborhood, or in another place where you spent time as a kid. As a child you had your own rich and remarkable gender expertise, which you acted on in one way or another . You retain this gender expertise today, and have been deepening it throughout the course of your life. Dra w in g Y o u r G en d er-F rie n d ly R oad M ap Part of your gender expertise involves recognizing and understanding how gender works around you—pa rticularly how rigid and separate the big two gender categories are, or how bad things get when someone steps outside of them. This is your starting place when you’re setting out to make your world more gender-friendly . In this section I’ll lead you through a process of intentional reflection to help you find your starting place. You’ll be drawing on your own gender expertise to draw a “road map” for your gender- friendly efforts. Then, over the course of this book, you’ll learn strategies and skills that can help you implement action steps to follow your road map. We’ll talk about those action steps in Chapter 8. By the end of this exercise you should have a sense of what could help and what could hinder your gender-friend ly efforts, as well as some ways to boost the helpful factors and work through the hindrances. The questions at the heart of this exercise are: • How gender-friendly is your space? • How open is it to the many different ways that people live gender? • Coul d this space welcome a gender-nonconforming or out transgender person, and could that person stick around and be okay? Where Are Y ou Now? Think about one context where you regularly spend time. It could be your nuclea r family , your extended family, a friend group, your workplace, a community organization, or a recr eational space. In this space that you know quite well, let your mind wander through the questio ns in the following table, focusing on one person you know there in the M/boy/man box. Then begin again at the top and focus on som eone you know there in the F/girl/woman box. The right-hand column offers prompts to get you thinking. The questions and prompts in the table are synthesized from a body of resear ch on how people of all ages participate in keeping the big two gender categories rigid, intact, and separate. Even preschool kids have been found to do this kind of work: to call others into quest ion when they step over a line drawn around their (perceived) gender category . Re searchers in the social sciences use questions and prompts like these to study how gender plays out in a given setting, whether in interviews or when observing and taking field notes. What gender expression changes would make this person stand out? Clothing, hair, mak eup, walk, voice, mannerisms What new interests would mak e this person stand out? Hobbies, activities, preferences, lik es, dislikes How long after the change would others call this person into question? Immediately, af ter a few days, once X became consistent What would that question-calling look and sound lik e? Explicit questions, explicit concern, friendly reminders, new rules, laughter, gossip, pointing, sar casm, eye-rolling, jokes, imitations, e xclusion (active or passive), name-calling, theft or vandalism, harassment, violence How might different people do the question-calling differently? People in authority (boss, par ent, teacher), people who are close to this person, strangers, peers What relationships would change for this person? Friendships, gr oup memberships, intimate relationships, working relationships, r oles or responsibilities Is there anyone here who could “get awa y with” standing out? Why?   Who, if anyone, could mak e the question-calling stop? Why?   What Did You Notice? You should now have a sense of what lines are drawn around M/boy/man and F/girl/woman where you are. You also have a sense of the consequences for standing out, including how different people might react. This means you have a sense of what the expectations are for people in the M or F box where you are, and can imagine what might happen to somebody new who didn’t follow these expectations. Could that person stick around and be okay? Why or why not? Asking these types of questions will help you find the best routes and the biggest obstacles to gender-friendliness in that space. The reflection exercise was all about someone you know making gender-related changes and beginning to stand out. But there’s likely somebody in that space who already stands out. This person might be under the transgender umbrella, but probably not, because there just aren’t that many trans people in the general population (more on this in Chapter 9). In addition to helping you think ahead and hypothetically , the table can also help you think about who currently stands out where you are. Whose gender expression or interests are already called into question by others? What does that question-calling look and sound like? One important note: doing this exercise might feel like you aren’t giving the people around you a chance, or that you’re judging or assuming bad things about them and what they would do. If you feel this way, remember that you aren’t dividing up those around you into good or bad people. You’re just making explicit what you’ve always known about how gender plays out all around you. We all— myself included—particip ate in gender , and remembering this can help you have compassion for others who aren’t yet on board. First and foremost, gender-friendliness is a practice of humility . Who Can Help? Let’s now focus on the last two questions in the table: whether anyone could “get away with” standing out, and whether there is anyone there who could make the question-calling stop. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you answered both questions with the same name. In every space or community there are people who are only infrequently called into question, if ever . In my elementary school story, they were the king boys who wore Dr. Martens shoes and dictated the playground rules. If you focused on your family , they’re likely to be an older sibling or a parent. In a workplace or friend group these people can vary . What likely binds all of these people together—the ones who could “get away with” crossing gender lines themselves or who could make the bad things stop for others—is that they symbolize whatever is expected of people in their gender category in that time and place. I’ll give you an example. Many schools in North America observe Pink Shirt Day, which is an annual event that commemorates an act of bravery by two teenage boys in Nova Scotia who wore pink to school after another boy—a new student—experienced gender-based harassment for wearing a pink shirt. Now imagine that some teenagers tried to have their school observe Pink Shirt Day, but the king boys (or men, like the gym teachers or football coaches) didn’t participate. How long do you think the other boys would wear their pink shirts before taking them off? Convers ely, imagine that the people organizing Pink Shirt Day were the king boys and men. Which observance would be successful, and which wouldn’t? In answering this question you are using your gender expertise yet again and not just “common sense.” Maybe, just maybe, the person who could “get away with” crossin g gender lines where you are is you . If it is, you’ve probably been struggling throughout the book to identify moments when you’ve been called into question by others. Or maybe it hasn’ t happened for a long time. Either way , you have a lot of power that you can bring to bear on making your spaces more gender-friendly , and I’m very glad you’re reading this book. Gen d er-F rie n d lin ess I s a P ro ce ss My own stories of trying and usually failing to work the gender system of my elementary school are stark. This is because I stood out starkly , every day and in every way, as a girl-assign ed person who didn’t do girl in anything like the “right” way: like other girl-assigned people in that time and place. But we can’t put people in two groups: people who stand out and are called into question versus people who blend in and are not called into question. Each of us hovers somewhere along a continuum, depending on how often we are called into question when we transgress others’ expectations, and with what consequen ces. But we’re all called into question sometimes. Maybe you were the king or queen at school, whether for a little while or a long while: the person at the top, beyond reproach, who didn’t have to call others into question to stay safe, higher than the “bully” who did have to do this because they weren’t as safe or as popular as you. You were every bit as much of a gender expert as I was. The only differen ce is that you might have to dig a little deeper to iden tify what you did or what you were that put you squarely , resolutely inside the social safety box. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe your girl-ness or boy-ness was called into question at home or at dance class or at baseball practice or eve rywhere else apart from school. Only you know , but you do know . When we think about gender as an ongoing process of learning to do it “right,” and of being taught or socialized by others when we mess it up, we begin to see this process at work in our lives. We’re then less likely to exp lain away as natural consequences of innate sexed behavior the ways people hurt others, whether these people are us or those we love and identify with. This can be hard, because it means recognizing that we can change, instead of thinking that we can’t or even shouldn’t change because this would challenge basic facts about who we are: boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. It’s doubly hard because we most often participate in keeping the big two gender categories rigid, intact, and separate without knowing that we are. To be clear , this isn’t about blame or sham e. Our participation isn’t our fault. Saying “our” is a deliberate choice to put myself alongside my reader and not above you. I have also participated in gender in ways that made it hard for others to live gender in their own way, whether this meant propping up the big two in mainstream contexts or maintaining the rigid, intact, and separate gender categories that have emerged in the LGBTQ+ contexts I spend time in. Like gender itself is a pr ocess, fostering a more gender- friendly world is also a process. It’s easier to hel p make a more open and welcomin g world for people of all genders if you learn to tell your own gender story, and name and claim your own gender expertise. This begins with noticing how gender has affected your choices, your dreams, your relationships, and your desires: the ones you acted on and the ones you put aside. Whether you have generally benefitted or suffered from gender and how it works, this book is for you. Not only will it help make the world a more gender-friendly place, but it can also affect your own life in positive ways.   THAT ACRONYM, THOUGH For an article on the Ms. Magazine Blog , Emily Zak interviewed Gerar d Kosk ovich, a curator at the GLBT History Museum in San F rancisco who remembers the LGBT acr onym beginning to circulate in the 1990s. It’s now uncommon to see LGBT or GLBT without at least an added Q for queer . I use the acronym LGBTQ + to describe the gender – and sexuality-related communities that I’ve participated in, and I follow others in using the plus sign for e xpediency . Without the plus sign, however, the acr onym can stretch to LGBTTT-SIQQA A and is still gr owing. The letters r oughly stand in for lesbian , gay , bisexual , transgender , transse xual , Two -Spirit , interse x , queer , questioning , asexual , and agender . The acr onym’s meanings and inclusions change acr oss contexts, and ther e is debate about how the acr onym should be presented and whether it should be truncated (including with the plus sign, as I have done). T o sidestep these debates, some use the phrase gender and sexual minorities (or a variation) instead. I tend to use the phrase gender and sexual diversity , which allows me to study particular phenomena and experiences without r elying on identity categories. Gen d er-F rie n d lin ess: H ow E ve ry o n e B en efi ts While this book is necessary in part because transgender- spectrum people are increasingly out and about in North American public life, there is a reason the word transgender isn’t in the title. This is because gender- friendliness isn’t helpful only for trans people like (and unlike) me. There are compelling reasons to change gendered language and practices even if there are no transgender people around for miles (which we can never know for sur e anyway). This is because gender-fri endliness can be good for everyone. How? Let me explain. You’ll Become More F orgiving of Yourself Learning to recognize and change how you participate in keeping gender categori es rigid, intact, and separate can help you become more forgiving of yourself . In describing visual and verbal participation in gender I’ve focused on how gender works through interactions between people. But we also do gender to ourselves without any help from others. Each of us carrie s around a legion of people in our head and in our gut. They promote gendered standards for how we should look: for our body size and shape , and for our clothes, accessories, and hair. W e discipline ourselves according to these standards and still more for our behaviors, desires, and even our feelings or responses to everyday and traumatic life events. We’re very good at calling ourselves int o question, at letting ourselves know if how we look, act, want, and feel is not “normal, ” and with no help from anyone else. It takes a lot of time and energy to live up to the many rigid standards for people of your gender category , however that locally plays out (because it’s different over time and in different places). I’m not suggesting that this is wrong or that doing gender by the rules can’t be fun; it can be a festival of delights. And when it isn’t, if you’ve developed a practice of trying your best not to call others into question, I w ager you can come to notice when you’re doing this to yourself and ease off a little. You’ll Enjoy New and Deeper Relationships Another reason you might benefit from practicing gender-friendliness is that it could open up possibilities for relationships that just haven’t shown up in your life yet. It can mean new and deeper connections with people you know, and new ones with people you don’t yet know . Using gender-friendly language and practices is like running a different color up your flagpole. It’s a signal of openness and an invitation to others who are generally used to being called into question, whether this means transgender people like (or unlike) me or non-transgender people often told—explicitly or not—that how they look, act, want, or feel has to change. If your way of being in the world doesn’t serve up constant reminders—visu ally or verbally—that other people are doing it wrong, you might have a different experience of the people around you. When you do your best to stop being another medium for those messages, you may find yourself in new conversations and maybe with some new friends. And because people called into question have to be more flexible and forgivin g toward ourselves just to live life and get by, you might have help in bring ing this compassion into your own relationship with gender . What a lovely (and gender-friendly) paradox. Why This Book Doesn’t Use “ Ally” Language One last thing before we move on. You might have noticed that I don’t use the term “ally” in the book, and this is a deliberate decision. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with “ally” language. However, the term “ally” has a connotation of being apart or separate from a phenomenon that is causing harm to others. In this book, I’m centering on how rigid gender rules and expectations affect everyone, including but not limited to transgende r people. There is no “outside of” this phenomenon, even if some people are affected differently than others. Gender: Your Guide inv ites you to step into the work because you, too, have skin in the game, and not only on behalf of other people. Words like “co-conspirator” or “teammate” are a better fit. 3. Le arn in g a b ou t t h e T ra n sg en d er S pectr u m Why Ar e Some P eople Transgender? Because W e Are. Transgender P eople Are Diverse Transgender P eople Have Many W ays of Transitioning Common “ Knowledge” about T ransgender People Is Changing Over T ime In this chapt er I introduce the diverse spectrum of people who are transgender , meaning their gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. I begin by defining transgender and introducing some of the diversity under the transgender umbrella. This diversity goes beyond most people’s ideas about trans people taken from popular culture. I talk about processes through which different groups of trans people can come to understand themselves as transgender , including our many different relationships with the term transgender itself. I then discuss transition. I try to strike a balance between providing information that can help you apply what you learn in this book and challenging the predominant fascination with transition, which often draws attention away from the harmful barriers to full societal participation and well-being faced by some transgender people. Along the way I try to correct some common misconceptions, like all transgender people identifying as men or women and all transgender men or women pursuing the same transition pathway and for the exact same reasons. I also highlight trans people’s different relationships with visibility and invisibility , which can change as we move among the different contexts of our lives. W hy A re S om e P eo p le T ra n sg en d er? B eca u se W e A re . You’ll learn many things about transgender people in this chapter , but I don’t address the why qu estion: why are some people transgender? This isn’t something I just left out; it’s the result of a deliberate decision. For over a century , researchers with different investments in the answe r—including a desire to “prevent” or “reverse” transgender-ness—have tried to find it. Many “answers” have been discredited. When I get this question, I follow the lead of scholar Susan Stryker , who co-edited The Transge nder Studies Reader , which consolidated the academic field of transgender studies: focus on the fact that transgender people do and have continually existed, and work to ameliorate the barriers that we face. To quote Stryker’s introduction to The Transgender Studies Reader , transgender studies scholars study “the many ways that relationships between bodily sex, subjective gender identity , social gender roles, sexual behaviors, and kinship status have been configured in different times and places,” and docume nt many attempts to snuff out confi gurations that didn’t line up with mainstream views about gender . Sometimes the snuffing-out happened in people’s own backyards, and sometimes it happened when European colonial powers enforced their own versions of gender on the people they colonized. I’m happy to say that, despite these efforts, many people we might now describe as somehow “transgender” continue to exist, as do many other ways of being a person who doesn’t do gender in the usual way. And so, whe n someone asks me why trans people exist, instead of answering this question I point out that we do exist and always have. The more important question, to my mind, is: what can we do because that’s true? I’m proud that my boo k is joining the ranks of other resources designed to answer this one. T ra n sg en d er P eo p le A re D iv e rs e In this section I’ll introduce you to some ways that transgender people differ from each other in how we identify and express our genders. Transgender people can be men, wom en, both, or neither . I’ll begin by describing the most common transgender pathways (F-to-M and M-to- F) and transgender people who are women or men. I’ll then move on to nonbinary tra ns people, meaning those whose path doesn’t bring us (myself included) into the M tent or the F tent. I devote more space to nonbinary transgender people because we are still unfamiliar to many , both inside and outside of established trans communities. I share my own story of coming to be nonbinary because I’d like you to be able to put a face to the (nonbinar y) name, particularly as many of the people who use gender-neutral pronouns, titles, and other things you’ll learn about in subsequent chapters are, like me, nonbinary . In sharing my own story I particularly have in mind readers who might not know any of us. You’l l get to know us soon, though, and I’m glad you found my book to help you get ready . Before I begin, I want to note that what I’ll share with you here is limited in a few significant ways. First, it doesn’t travel well. I’m writing from a particular urban, anglophone, Canadian (and North American) context, and I’m letting my own experiences shape the writing so that it’s as accessible as it can be. But trans-ness takes shape differently everywhere. What you’ve learned here might need some tweaks or renovations depending on where you go and who you meet. Second, the information I’ve shared with you isn’t set in stone. This book is a guide to a particular moment in time, and these things will change just like they have chang ed before. And so, the best guide to what it means to be transgender is actually the experiences of the transgender people around you. In fact, how to learn and ask about gender where you are is something you’ll get out of reading this book. Transgender People Who Are W omen or Men Many, if not most, people under the trans umbrella were assigned the M sex and boy/man gender category at birth but are actually on the F/girl/woman side, or vice versa. Transgender people here tend to use identity terms that are familiar even if you don’t yet know many (or any) trans people: terms like transgender woman , transwoman , transgender man , and transman . Synonyms, sometimes used regardless of a person’s age, include terms like trans girl , trans boy , and trans guy . In this section, I’m speaking across transgender women and transgender men in order to provide some foundational information, but there are significant differences among the experiences of these two groups. This is something to bear in mind, and to expand on with further reading. Coming to Know One’s Self As a Transgender Man or W oman Some research has been conducted with the goal of finding commonalities among the lifecou rses of transgender men and transgender women. After surveying and interview ing thousan ds of transgender people in the early 2000s, researchers Genny Beemyn and Susa n Rankin identified some milestones for different groups. The milestones for the F-to-M and M-to-F groups were similar but had some key differences. From a young age the people in both groups tended to: • Feel and state a gender identity that differed from their assigned sex. • Take some steps to repress or hide their identity . • Go through a stage of learning and overcoming denial. • Consider a medical transition (more on this later). • Decide when and how to disclose their trans status. • Come to “having a sense of wholeness” about their gender. The differences between the F-to-M and M-to-F milestones are interestin g. Beemyn and Rankin found that the F-assigned transgender people in their study tended to initially identify as lesbians, but this changed when they realized that F-to-M transition was possible. Until fairly recently the possibility of being a transgender man was far less widely known than the possibility of being a transgender woman. Beemyn and Rankin also found a milestone specific to the M-assigned people or transgender women in their study: “recognizing oneself as a transsexual, rather than as a cross-dresser” or male- assigned person who sometimes expresses femininity but generally doesn’t identify as a woman. The final “wholeness” milestones for each group are also different: “having a sense of wholeness as a different kind of man” (F- to-M) versus “having a sense of wholeness even when unable to be seen as a woman” (M-to-F). These descriptions reflect what the researchers learned about transgender men’s and women’s relationships with their bodies, and how transition doesn’t necessarily enable seamless passing at all times for everyone because of the social meanings we attach to different bodies and body parts (as you saw in Chapter 1). Another important nugget from Beemyn and Rankin is the degree to which age affects some transgender men’s and women’s experiences, and how much things have changed over time (even though the bad things like harassment and other struggles have remained). Some of the milestones, like learn ing F-to-M is even a thing , weren’t applicable to the younger F-to-M participants, even years ago when the data were first gathered. This reflects the experiences of some older trans men I’ve known who participated in queer women’s communities as butch or masculine women because the possibility of being a transgender man wasn’t widely represented. My generation of LGBTQ+ people is used to a comingling of queer and trans people, for this and other reasons. But now that many trans people are identifying at younger ages due to increased visibility and decreased anti-transgender stigma even in childhood and adolescence, I wonder whether this comingling will persist. Will the phrase queer and trans community or the LGBTQ+ acronym cease to have any meaning? Only time will tell. Visibility and “Out-ness” There are important things to know about “out-ness” in relation to transgender people who are somewhere on the F-to-M or M-to-F side of things. Some transgender men and women seamlessly pass as cisgender (see the sidebar) men and women, respectively , and can choose whether and when to come out. Not all who pass are open about being transgender , and this can depend on the context: sometimes they’re out, and sometimes they aren’t. For example, Beemyn and Rankin surveyed and interviewed almost 3,700 transgender people in the United States, and found that a majority of M-to-F and F-to-M participants were either “totally closeted” at work or out to only a few trusted coworkers.   ARE Y OU ALL OWED TO SA Y “QUEER”? Yes. But let’s talk about it some mor e. As an identity term, queer means, quite simply, non-heter osexual, or not straight. In academic conversations, queer can mean a whole host of other things, but I won’t get into that her e. Many older people (and some younger) have a negative association with queer , given its history as a slur used against gay people and people perceived to be gay . Queer is most often used as a slur in its nominal, or noun, form. Therefore, a good rule is not to use queer as a noun, but to use it instead as an adjective. Examples include “the queer community” and “she is a queer person.” I tell my students that saying “the queer community” or “she is part of the queer community” is generally a safe bet, safer than “she is a queer person ” because “the queer community” denotes a very br oad umbrella wher e a person might belong, not one specific identity that might be inaccurate. An individual person might see themselves under that umbr ella or within the queer community, but they might personally identify with a different ter m. So, yes, you can say “queer,” but how you say it matters quite a bit.   WHAT DOES CISGENDER MEAN? The ter m cisgender came into use in the 1990s to describe people who ar e not transgender, and is commonly attributed to Carl Buijs. Another important cis-prefixed wor d is cissexism , defined by originator Julia Serano as “the double standar d that leads people to view, interpr et, and treat trans people differently (and less legitimately) than they do our cis counterparts.” W e generally use cissexism as an umbr ella term that includes transphobia , where transphobic denotes an e xtreme manifestation of cisse xism, like violence or harassment. It might seem funny that the ter m for the “norm” (cisgender) was invented after the ter m for the “e xception ” (transgender), but this has happened before. Accor ding to historian Jonathan Ned K atz, writing tongue in cheek, “in the early twentieth century creatures called heter osexuals emer ged from the dark shadows of the nineteenth-century medical world to become common types acknowledged in the bright light of the modern day,” a decade after the ter m homose xual had enter ed Webster’s New Inter national Dictionary . Sometimes the term stealth is use d to describe people who pass and who generally don’t participate in transgender community or do anything else that might “out” them as having a transgender history. Be careful with the term stealth, thoug h, because many transgender people are uncomfo rtable with its implications of dishon esty and prefer more neutral descriptors, like private . A person might identify as a woman with a transgender history (instead of transgender woman) or a man of transgender experience (instead of transgender man) to mark this difference: identifying as a woman who received an M sex marker at birth versus identifying as transgender . For M-to-F and F-to-M transgender people who pass, making themselves visible as trans has sometimes been politicized in community conversations. Some are committed to coming out and being visible to push back against popular misconce ptions that all transgend er people want to pass, or that passing as cisgender is always the goal of transition. Interestingly, the adjective transgendered has fallen into disuse in transgender communities because it makes transgender sound like something that happened in someone’s past, and not something a person is today . But transgendered might actually reflect some people’s experiences, such as being a man with a transgender history rather than a transgender man. As with all groups of people, there’s a lot that brings transgender people together and a lot that sets us apart. But one thing that brings us together , I think, is rolling our eyes whenever someone insists that they’ve never met a trans person before. Transgender People Who Are Nonbinary By now you know that I’m writing this book from a double position: I both study gender diversity and I’m a transgender person. In this section I will speak about my own experiences because I’m nonbinary myself . Welcome to my house! I situ ate nonbinary people under the transgender umbrella because we don’t identify with the assigned sex and gender categories we were given at birth. However , I’ll flag that there has been discussion among nonbinary people as to whether nonbinary falls under the transgender umbrella. Sometimes when I’m teaching, I draw a simple distinction—probably too simple—between “binary” trans people and nonbinary trans people. While “binary” trans people tend to identify with “the other” gender to that associated with their birth-assigned sex, nonbinary people tend to identify with neither side of the binary . I’ve put binary in scare quotes here because to my knowledge it isn’t a term people identify with. (I ha ve yet to meet a self -described “binary transgender person,” which actually sounds a bit like a trans computer programmer .) “Binary” versus nonbinary is just a shorthand way to understand a key difference between these two trans families. You could say that the previous section was devoted to “binary” trans people while this section is all about non binary trans people. I didn’t put nonbinary in scare quotes just now, though, because it is most definitely a term people identify with. Nonbinary Is an Umbrella I’m using nonbinary it self as an umbrella term because people use different terms to articulate not belonging in either box. Every year since 2013 Cassian Lodge in the UK has run the Gender Census: an “annual survey of humans worldwide whose genders or lack thereof are not fully described by the gender binary.” In 2017 the Gender Census was completed by almost 10,000 people worldwide (in English). (Keep in mind that the survey is informal and not academic, so its findings can’t be relied on like those of some other surveys can. That said, 10,000 is far higher than the numbers reached by many other surveys of trans people.) Lodge asks respondents to select an identity word that best describes how they think of themselves. In 2017 Lodge offered twenty-two words that have come into common usage in transgender communities (but not Two-S pirit—see the sidebar), and an open box for people to write in missing ones. The results align with what I’ve noticed in my community and in speaking with others across North America. As you read the following results, bear in mind that people could choose more than one term. Two thirds reported that nonbinary b est describ es how they think of themselves. This is one reason why I use nonbinary as an umbrella term in this book and in my teaching. Other terms chosen by about a third of respondents were genderqueer , agender , trans , transgender , and gender-fluid , which I address on its own in a later section. (You can see more of these results at http://gendercensus.com/post/160656902130/nbgq-survey- 2017-the-worldwide-results .) Prevalence and Age Under the Nonbinary Umbrella While there’s been no academic survey of nonbinary people, researchers have started to produce some findings. We kno w a little about nonbinary prevalence, or how many transgender people don’t identify within the M box or F box. The Trans PULSE survey of 433 transgender people in Ontario—both “binary” and nonbinary—found that over a quarter of respondents assigned male at birth and 14 percent assigned female selected only nonbinar y gender identities. In the US Bianca Wilson and colleagues analyzed responses to the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) from youth ages twelve to seventeen and found that 27 percent (about 796,000) are “gender nonconforming.” For that study , an example of a gender-nonconforming student was a student who identified as female but self-reported how they express gender as “mostly masculine” or “very masculine.” The 27 percent also included students who reported being “equally feminine and masculine.” Interestingly , available information suggests that the only gender identity options given in the survey were male or female (which are actually sex options), so it’s difficult to know how nonbinary youth engaged with the survey . Regardless, 27 percent of respondents is a significant statistic.   TWO -SPIRIT Two -Spirit is a ter m used by some Indigenous people whose gender and/or sexuality don’t follow the path of most others in their communities. Two -Spirit is a literal English translation of the Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwe ter m niizh manidoowag and was proposed by Indigenous people attending the thir d annual intertribal Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference held near Beausejour, Manitoba, in 1990. Two -Spirit is of ten thought to be an add-Indigenous-and-stir substitute for other wor ds in the LGBTQ+ acronym, which it isn’t. R ather, Two -Spirit has a meaning both lik e and unlike words such as queer and transgender . One shouldn’t pr esume that an Indigenous queer and/or transgender person necessarily uses it. Depending on many things, like a person’s community ties and family histories, the ter m Two – Spirit might not be a good fit. In Canada, for e xample, we often see Two -Spirit included alongside other terms in the acr onym, and sometimes under the nonbinary umbr ella. This is why it is included in this section, but I want to flag that ther e are Two -Spirit people who do identif y with terms like transgender , nonbinary , and/or queer , and Two-Spirit people who don’t. In Mar ch 2018, Joshua Whitehead, a “2SQ (Two -Spirit, queer Indigenous)” Oji-Cr ee author from Peguis F irst Nation (Treaty 1), was nominated for a Lambda Literary A ward in the T ransgender Poetry category but withdr ew his book, full-metal indigiqueer , from consideration because he feels trans (the category in which he was nominated) is a settler term that doesn’t reflect his Indigeneity . Whitehead’s article on the reasons for this decision is essential r eading, and is included in the bibliography. We also know something about nonbinary people and age. In the same study I talked about before, Beemyn and Rankin interviewed at length fourteen people whom they grouped under the term genderqueer . This group was much younger than the other trans people in the study . And most people who completed Cassian Lodge’s Gender Census in 2017 were between ages eleven and thirty . Beemyn and Rankin say that “the use of terms like ‘genderqueer’ reflects a growing understanding among individuals who are now coming out as transgender that gender is not a binary concept.” My own experience supports this, and from where I sit it does seem like younger people are the ones who most often take up nonbinary identities (but remain a minority among trans people). Even in my mid-thirties I’m an elder in this community! Of course, I’m rather delighted about this because I’m the baby in my birth family and, like other babies, I’ve always wanted to be older than I am. Like the term transsexual , nonbinary is a reminder that the ways transgender people articulate our relationships with gender can change over time, just like how gender itself, including the roles and meanings of men and women, more broadly changes over time and across contexts. That said, don’t walk away thinking that nonbinary is just a newfangled thing the kids are doing. Nonbinary identities are more common among younger transgender people, yes, but this doesn’t mean they’re altogether new. I take great comfort in knowing that gender has always been lived in ways more diverse than powerful groups would acknowledge or just let be. Nonbinary may feel very new, but it’s likely just the latest reemergence of something very , very old. References to people living gender in ways unrelated to “man or wom an” are present in historical texts and enduring unwritten knowledge bases all over the world.   NONBINAR Y PEOPLE IN POPULAR CUL TURE Repr esentation of nonbinary people in pop cultur e and mass media is lacking, and that can lead to further difficulties in coming to know one’s self as nonbinary and in finding community. For e xample, while I’m e xcited that the transgender novel has become a genr e of young adult fiction, I’ve noticed as a reader that many of these books featur e trans characters whose gender journeys tak e them unambiguously fr om M to F or in the opposite dir ection. This can result in a pr etty simplified understanding of people’s e xperiences of being M-to-F or F-to-M: for example, that all M-to -F people do XYZ. We know this isn’t true, which I’ll come back to when I discuss transition towar d the end of the chapter. But this can also perpetuate the misconception that all transgender people ar e M-to-F or F-to -M. I’m excited that, at the time of writing, Canadian nonbinary activist Joshua M. F erguson, known for successfully taking the Ontario gover nment to court in order to receive a se x marker of “ X” on their birth certificate, will be publishing a memoir with House of Anansi P ress, the first of its kind. V isibility and “Out-ness” What does it mean to be out or “pass” as nonb inary? Currently , passing as nonbinary is hard, or it’s hard to have people read and recognize one correctly as a nonbinary person. But let’s think about what that even means for a second. Can we pin down “the way” that nonbinary people express gender? The answer is no, because nonbinary people express gender in many ways. There are nonbinary people who express gender in a masculine way, and there are those who express gender in a feminine way. S ome pass as cisgender men and women, to varying degrees, and have to com e out as nonbinary in order for their gender identity to be known. Sometimes cis-passing nonbinary people have sought out transitioning strategies that contribute to their passing as (cisgender) men or women, and sometimes that’s just how they look without any extra help. When I think of how people infer that I’m nonbinary , when they do (which I’m happy to say is becoming more common), it’s about more than how I express gender . My body gives off some rather counterintuitive signals, with or without clothes. For example, I have a beard, and it’s very clearly shaped and taken care of. But this beard grows on a body that few people would read as “male” if I were in full spandex. To make things even less clear (in the sex department), my contradictory body always wears what is traditionally seen as men’s clothing (e.g., I often wear a suit at work). Taken together , my body and my gender expression usually add up to people noticing themselves noticing: they don’t quite know what’s going on over here. I stand out, as I shared in Chapter 1. But others are beginning to understand the way I stand out as meani ng that “he or she” isn’t the answer . This may also be true for M-assigned nonbinary people whose gender expression is feminine. As awareness grows, the kind of thing that happened to me when my partner Tama and I were moving into our new house can keep on happening: our new neighbor , a fifty-something woman with a gray bob and kindly eyes, walked over, said hello, and aske d me for my pronouns out of the blue. To recap, there are many reasons why we can’t necessarily “spot” nonbinary people, so being visible (or passing) as nonbinary is a bit of a misnomer . Some of us, like me, are being more commonly (and correctly ) read as nonbinary . But for others who pass seamlessly as men or women, this isn’t really happening. Of course, nonbinary people have different experiences of the world depending on whether we “look” nonbinary , which can have something do with how our bodies and gender expressions play off of each other . I might stand out more, and that might make me more of a target in some ways, but it’s also a little easier for people to infer and remember that I use gender- neutral pronouns. The reverse holds true for nonbinary people who look to all the world like men or women. Some bad, some good, and for now , a lot of quiet time to recoup our energy in a world that just wants us to be one or the other , for gosh sakes. Coming to Know One’s Self As Nonbinary Like Beemyn and Rankin’s milestones for F-to-M and M- to-F people that I described before, their milestones for nonbinary transgender people (they use genderqueer as an umbrella term) begin with feeling and starting to express a gender identity other than the one associated with one’s assigned sex. But that’s where the clear similarities end. There’s no milestone of repression or denia l, maybe because it’s hard to know what you are repressing or denying if you don’t know that nonbinary-ness is a thing at all. And so, the second milestone involves realizing that nonbinary is a “viable gender identity .” Next, participants tended to hit a milestone of initially deciding how to express their nonbinary gender identity going forward, and encountering resistance. Beemyn and Rankin’s nonbinary participants also experienced milestones related to belonging (and not belonging) within transgender or broader LGBTQ+ communities, culminating in the final milestone: “creating a home within or outside of transgender/LGBT communities.” Because we’re in my house, I’ll now share my story—how I came to know myself as a nonbinary person. As you’ll see, my own story includes many of Beemyn and R ankin’s milestones. Nonbinary wasn’t around for me to step into as a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, even if the phenomenon it represents has been aro und for a ver y long time, in different forms, all over the wor ld. You already know a little bit abou t me as a kid, and that I chafed hard against the rules of the F sex and girl gender categorie s I had been assigned into. When I was in elementary school, my own participation in gender was devoted to passing as a boy , or at least boy-enough to not stand out. Standing out in the gender department isn’t fun for anyone, but at the time, the only way I kn ew of to not do girl was to do boy instead, as best as I could. My favorite auntie gave me an “all about me” poster when I was five or six. It had all kinds of speech bubbles, prompts, and questions for me to fill out. All I remember is the “three wishes” box and my top two: be a boy and have a dog. A fter much lobbying, I got the dog. As I shared in Chapter 1, I didn’t have a great time at my first elementary school. When I was eleven years old, my parents sent me to a late-start (i.e., not kindergarten) French immersion progra m across the city. At the time, in the mid-1990s, French immersion wasn’t yet thought of as a bourgeois alternative to mainstream public schooling, at least where I lived, and wasn’t as demographically divided as it can be today . My French immersion was socioeconomically and ethnically diverse, and felt like a place for kids who hadn’t fit in where they had been before. Although there were just two French immersion classes, it felt like being in an alternative school. Many years later I’d work on a research study led by my longtime colleague and friend Elizabeth Meyer, for which I interviewed teachers who have taught transgender and gender-nonconforming students. We found that alternative schools are places where these students are reportedly thriving. This was me. Gender wasn’t as rigid at my new school, and so it was harder to stand out. I had a great time, and made connections that are important to me today . When I think about my own gender history, I feel like grades six and seven at this school were kind of a sweet spot: I look back and recognize myself as myself . I wish I could have stayed that person instead of having to re-find them later on. But as happens for many transgender people, the spaces of greater flexibility in elementary school didn’t carry over into high school, which started in grade eight where I lived . For me, high school and puberty meant the onset of polycystic ovary syndrome, which I talked about in Chapter 1. And it just wasn’t conceivable to my parents, doing their level best to raise a person they thought was a teenage girl, that my body shape and size or my facial hair could be things that helped me feel at home in my body and that I’d come to like about who I am. And so, I sta rted high school after a losing battle with Weight Watchers, which I agreed to at the gentle urging of my parents, believing weight loss would give me a “fresh start” at my new school. By a losing battle, I mean going from a big, butch kid with a big voice and a lot of confidence to an awkward wisp. Kryptonite. I actually stood out more and faced more question-calling as a wisp than I had as a big kid before. High school became more fun once I began the International Baccalaureate program in grade eleven, another alternat ive school within a mainstream school. Once again I met other nerdy kids from all over the city, and once again the rules for “cool” and “normal” were loosened to include different ways of doing boy-ness and girl-ness (still the only options). I got louder again. Being good at school, like I was, now carried prestige. I’m lucky that I got to go to university , and that my family could afford to send me to university in another province so that I could freely move around as a young adult in a new place. I’d come out as gay before I left home, and when I got to McGill, I was quickly drafted into campus groups organized around gender and sexuality . In 2001 there was a lot of queer activism and there were many queer events on campus, but no visible transgender anyone or anything. By the time I le ft McGill after two degrees in 2009, this had changed. Transgender advocacy had begun to happen in student groups, and related positions and portfo lios were being created within the university bureaucracy too . While at McGill I had found a temporary home in queer communities as butch or masculine. When my masculine F- assigned peers began coming out as transmen during my generation’s transgender “boom,” I wondered whether that path was for me. We we re learning that some of us had been boys all along. Afte r all, I had that memory of being five years old and writing down my number-one wish to be a bo y. I also cherished a memory from a trip to Los Angeles with my pare nts when I w as seven. I took off my T-shirt at the beach and ran aroun d all afternoon in my shorts and cycle cap, playing with a boy I had met that day and would never see again. Maybe because we were so far from home, no one made me put my shirt back on, and no one gave away my secret. Didn’t all this evidence add up? I sure had all the signs that I was a boy too .   GENDER IDENTITY VERSUS SEXUAL ORIENTATION I’m inter rupting my story of coming to know myself as nonbinary in or der to clarify something that you might alr eady know: that gender identity (e.g., man, woman, nonbinary, etc.) is separate fr om sexual orientation (e.g., queer, gay, lesbian, bise xual, etc.). Imagine two piles of flashcar ds sitting in front of you on a tabletop. One pile has car ds with gender identities, and the other pile has cards with sexual orientations. Any combination is possible, and all combinations e xist. Just like there are cisgender people who ar e queer, for example, ther e are transgender people who ar e heterosexual: women who desir e and partner with men, and vice versa. T ransgender people have diverse sexual orientations just lik e cisgender people, and may not at all identify with or participate in queer communities. As you ar e learning, I am a nonbinary transgender person who also happens to be queer, but that’s just me. Now back to the story! It was now very thinkable in my milieu to be a transgender man or transgender woman, but being transgender and nonbinary—in neither gender or sex box— was barely emerging. Social media wasn’t yet a means of connecting with a world away from where you were, with the possible exception of LiveJournal , where many queer and trans youth created friendships and shared our lives with each other in sometimes excruciating detail. As a gender studies major, I read books by transgender people who didn’t quite see themselves in the M or F box, like Leslie Feinbe rg. But they were famous. I was just some guy. And what I knew of tran s life and what it could be in my context was “binary .” I had the opportunities, knowledge, and community support to come out as a transgender man, but all I can say is that it never felt like the most urgent thing I had to do . And I guess I listened to that. Nonbinary trickled into my consciousness. I didn ’t fully see or know that nonbinary was possible, was me, until a little after I had begun asking others to change the pronoun they used to refer to me. Even without knowing I was nonbinary , I knew that she/her felt odd and out of place, like I was wearing my T-shirt backward. I remember the first person I met who used neo-pronouns ( ze/hir , in this case). I remember listening, rapt, to hir partner use hir pronouns in everyday speech. And I can indeed put my finger on the moment when singular they/them shone out to me like a beacon: when my then-girlfriend’s younger sibling decided to try on they/them a nd see how this felt. When we first met, I’d immediately felt a deep affinity for this person, like we were peas in the very same pod. When the sibling began using singular they/them , I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe how clearly I could suddenly see them. Singular they/them fit this perso n like a warm sweate r on a cold day, and they seemed to me to be deeply , perfectly at ease. I couldn’t un-hear it, and no other pronoun made sense for them anymore. And so I took the plunge, too, and have never looked back. When I was a new they/them pronoun user, there was nowhere I could send any of the people in my life who had practical questions about what my pronoun change meant: how to use it, how to talk about me, what other words they should use (because it was immediately obvious that gendered language is not only about pronouns). I often felt like an exhausted parrot after a long squawk. What I wanted was something that answered all these questions, which I knew weren’t unique to me. But there wasn’t a practical resource. There were only advocacy resources: on why meeti ng transgender people’s needs is important but not how . T hat’ s why I founded They Is My Pronoun in 2012: the first Q+A blog on gender-neutral pronoun usage and user support. After reading around and engagi ng about gender-neutral pronouns with younger people on Tumblr , I learned about nonbinary . Just like my experience with using singular they/them , once I came out as nonbinary , I never looked back. Coming out as a nonbinary transgender person and hearing others use my pronouns, to the best of their ability , feels like I’m looking at myself through clean glasses for the first time. I now know why I haven’t pursued a binary transgender path that could take me firmly into the M box, and I know why I chafed in the F box for so many years. I know why my body felt right even when all the messages told me otherwise, from the ones I received from Weight Watchers and aestheticians to the ones I received when many of my newly out trans guy friends would project their own excitement at their masculinizing bodies onto my own. I kn ow why there are gendered rituals I want to be exempted from and others I want to keep participating in: why I have no wish to attend all-women things, and no wish for automatic inclusion in all-men things either. This gets me out of all kinds of situations that, frankly , a lot of peop le find boring (not just me). It also means I get to approach gender like a buffet (taking what I love and leaving the rest behind), and that I get to connect with men, women, and other nonbinary people in ways I never thought possible. It means I get to feel like a bit of a gender wizard who has been on so many sides of this thing and seen it from so many angles. And I know this helps me do my job, whether I’m teaching, advocating, or doing research on gender in education. Keep in mind that this is my story , not a template for everyone, even if it does hit almost every one of Beemyn and Rankin’s milestones from a pretty large study. Some nonbinary people come to their gender identity in a meandering way, like I did, or later in life once they realize that this is possible, and some people meander a lot less. Increasingly this is because kids are growing up in a world where they can know about the possibility of living gender in their own way. Today kids can do what I and others could do only in our mid-twenti es: see how this feels, and see if it fits. The other day a friend sent me an article from Tablet , an online magazine, about a Jewish transgender teenager named Enoch Riese, who is nonbinary and uses ze/hir pronouns (which we’ll explore in Chapter 4). Enoch approached hir rabbi about how ze could participate in the Jewish coming-of -age ceremony that is usually divided along binary lines: bat mitzvah for girls and bar mitzvah for boys. Enoch’s rabbi rose to the challenge and found a way forward that was appropriate for Enoch’s nonbinar y gender identity while also appropriately grounded in Jewish tradition. All over the place, in every aspect of our lives, nonbinary people are seeing others step up and respond to the challenge of making previously binary-gender ed things open to us too. Enoch’s story offers just one example of a gender-friendly practice, and I have many more examples to share with you. Transgender (and Other) People Who Are Gender-Fluid So far in this chapter I’ve introduced you to two major pathways taken by people under the transgender umbrella: “binary” and, just now, nonbinary . Before I move into the next section on transition, though, I need to unsettle an assumption that might have been building: that transgender people’s pathways are necessarily one-way tickets, or that all trans people do gender in the same way all the time once we’ve found a way that feels right. First of all, as I point ed out in Chapter 1, gender expression isn’t really a static thing for anyone, whether you’re transgender or cisgender . When we think of gender as a pr ocess that we all participate in, we come to see that everyone does gender a little differently as we move among the spaces we spend time in, and also over our lifecourse. This isn’t just a trans-people thing. Both cisgender and transgender people fluctuate in our gender expression —in our clothing, grooming, behavior, and body language—but for most of us this fluctuation happens within a limited range. This includes me. My gender expression is on the masculine side, but flamboyantly so. I love bright colors and big prints. (To my partner’s chagrin, I lov e pairing them even more.) While my masculine gender expression shows up differently depending on where I am and what I’m doing there (at work , at the gym, at a bar , giving a talk), it’s still generally masculine and I’m still wearing men’s clothing. This stability works for me and for most other people, too, whether transgender or cisgender . A third transgender-spectrum pathway, then, is gender fluidity . People who are gender-fluid are peop le whose gender expression and/or gender identity don’t park in any one place, or at least not for long. A gender-fluid person may have a gender identity, or internal sense of themself , that sits still (e.g., woman, man, nonbinary , etc.) while still moving all along the masculinity-femininity spectrum (including both/neither or androgyny , in the middle) in their gender expression. A person’s gender-fluid expression can also collage many different ways of doing gender at any one time. People can express gender fluidity regardless of whether they identify as a man or a woman, whether they are cisgender or transgender , and also whether they are “binary” or nonbinary . For example, a person assigned M at birth with a boy or man gender identity can fall under the transgender umbrella if his gender expression is fluid. An example in the public eye is Jaden Smith, son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. He’s a mainstream media celebrity thanks to his musical and acting career, but Jaden’s gender fluidity most often comes across on social media, where his Instagram ac count is a study in “doing you” and letting haters be haters. Jaden has responded to homophobic and transphobic trolls by posting photos of himself in full-length dresses. Jaden’s gender expression and how he shares it with the world online change all the time, and he has professionally modeled women’s clothing for Louis Vuitton. Whereas gender-fluid people like Jaden Smith and others express ge nder in a fluid way, some people under the transgender umbrella identify in a fluid way . This means their gender identity—internal sense of themself as a man, woman, nonbinary , etc.—changes. People with gender-fluid identities may express gender in a variety of ways (just like everyone else). Tra n sg en d er P eo p le H ave M an y W ay s o f T ra n sit io n in g I feel like transition has been a bit of a shadow topic so far, popping up here and there. For a long stretch of time it felt like this was the only thing that cisgender people really wanted to know about, and that transition was just shorthand for informatio n about extremely personal parts of our bodies . Why the fixation? What do we think we know about someone when we think we know about (let’s be honest) their junk? After all, most of the time gender plays out in everyday life with everyone’s clothes on. I don’t need to see a vulva before saying she/her pronouns. That said, a reason why many of you picked up this book is to understand what to do about gender diversity in everyday life. If we notice ourselves trying to infer another person’s gender, that means they stand out. And so, it’s important to understand some basic information about transition because it’s relevant to why some transgender people stand out to you, stand out differently , or don’t stand out at all. These differences can help us to know when it’s time to rethink or be particularly mindful about our language and practices. A com mon way to explain the process of transitioning is to draw a distinction between social transition and medical transition. Transgender people across the differen t groups under the “T” access different social and/or medical transition strategies, and each for our own reasons. The goal of transition is often articulated by transgender people as something like a bette r fit between one’s gender identity and one’s body, or finding greater alignment among gender identity, bod y, and others’ ways of relating to one in everyday life. Social T ransition In the Trans Bodies, Trans Selves anthology , a recent and comprehensive handbook by and for diverse transgender people on how to be and stay well, the sections on social transition and medical transition give a helpful sense of how many people in trans communities understand the distinction. Here are the social transition strategies discussed at length in that book: • Name • Pronouns • Clothing • Hair, including scalp hair replacement • Makeup • Packing (giving the appearance of penis and testicles) • Using stand-to-pee devices (e.g., in order to use a urinal) • Tucking (minimizing the appearance of pen is and testicles) • Nonsurgical breast enhancement (e.g., stuffing or padding) • Binding (minimizing the appearance of breasts) • Removing facial or body hair Topics that aren’t included there but could also be thought of as social transition strategies are vocal training and working to change one’s posture, walk, gestures, or mannerisms. Social transition can be loosely mapped onto the concept of gender expression that you’ve seen throughout the book: how people use tools like clothing and grooming to communicate our gender identity to those around us so that they address and engage with us in ways that feel right. While scalp hair replacem ent and electrolysis could involve a dermatologist or other medical professional, social transition strategies are generally things that don’t require the involvement of medical professionals. It’s interesting to read this list and think about the padded push-up bras or curve-enhanc ing jeans frequently worn by cisgender women to express gender! Things that transgender people take into consid eration when planning for social transition include: • Supports: This includes thinking about whether we have enough support where we are and whether we might experience discrimination. • Cost: Social transition can cost a lot of money . Things like buying an entirely new gender-appro priate wardrobe and hair removal can be key to one’s sense of wholeness and alignment, not to mention safety. When transgender people control access to transition-re lated resources, these things are often subsidized just like medical transition strategies (if not covered by government or private insurance). Colleges, unions, and other organizations sometimes offer these subsidies. Medical T ransition Medical transition is just what it sounds like: strategies that necessarily involve medical professionals. Generally, only surgeries and hormones fall under the medical transition header . When they hear “transition” in the context of transgender people and issues, most people think about one thing: The Surgery . This reveals three common misconceptions about transition: 1. Transition necessarily in volves surgery in the first place. 2. Transition necessarily involv es only one surgery (if surgery is sought out). 3. There is a surgery that all transgender men and transgender women seek out, respectively . (This misconception also excludes the possibility that nonbinary people exist or would seek out gender- affirming surgeries, which some do .) All are false. Transitioning can involve surgeries (note the plural) for some trans people, but not always. The Trans PULSE survey in Ontario found that only a quarter of F-to-M transgender participants and 30 percent of M-to-F participants had undergone any surgeries. Over time in transgender communities a surgery vocabulary has emerged that makes it clear what’s being talked about without relying on terms that may not line up with people’s gender identities. For example, a common conversation topic among many transg ender people who were assigned female at birth is “top surgery ,” or the surgical removal of breast tissue. Among transgender people assigned male at birth, though, “top surgery” might mean breast augmentation. Trans people also often use the term bottom surgery as shorthand for many genital surgery options that have become more available over the years. However , we no longer think of transgender surgeries as including just top and bottom surgeries, or only affecting people’s primary or secondary sex characteristics. Transgender surgeries can also include cosmetic surgeries, like facial feminization surgery, liposuction, and surgerie s to the hands. With or without surgeries, medical transition may also involve hormones. This can mean hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or takin g puberty-suppressing hormones (sometimes called hormone blockers). HRT involves taking a feminizing hormone (usually estrogen) or a masculinizing hormone (usually testosterone). Different transgender people, whether “binary” or nonbinary , take hormones for different reasons, for different lengths of time, and sometimes on and off. A person might begin taking estrogen or testosterone, reach a desired degree of feminization or masculinization, and then stop once an irreversible change like voice-deepening (on testosterone) has happened to a level they are comfortable with. Another example is some transgender men who wish to become pregnant or freeze their eggs going off of testosterone for a period of time. Some people take hormones all of their lives, and some do not. Whereas HRT is additiv e, taking hormone blockers is preventive. Blockers prevent someone’s body from absorbing the masculiniz ing or feminizing hormones it was already producing. Blockers are sometimes prescribed to transgender children or youth in order to delay puberty and all the complications it can bring when your body starts doing things that clash with who you know you are. The World Professional Association for Transgende r Health (WP ATH) Standards of Care contain strict guidelines for doctors in prescribing hormone blockers to child ren, even though they are “fully reversible interventions.” Because the purpose of this book is to help you think differently about how we presume, engage, and deal with gender in everyday life, and because everyday life very seldom requires knowing about things like people’s access to surgeries and hormones, I’m going to leave further explanation of medical transition to existing resources like Trans Bodies, Trans Selves . I highly recommend it for further reading. How to T alk about T ransition While common knowledg e about transgender people is increasing, I’ve seen how even people who are at ease saying terms like transgender and trans c an feel awkward or uns ure of themselves when it comes to talking about transition. In the trans communities I’m part of, we usually use variations of the verb to transition , as in: “K is transitioning,” “when K was transitioning,” etc. This is useful because you don’t have to reference K’s assigned sex at birth, which is nobody’s business. This strategy doesn’t assume K is on a “binary” path either . Here are some things to avoid: • Don’t use phrases like “K is becoming a [ge nder]” because this may not reflect K’s own understanding of their gender and transiti on, and speaking for someone else is never a good idea. • Don’t use transgendering as a verb. • Honor that K’s transitio n is their business, and do not share any specific information that you are privy to. Unless K has explicitly said that you may share information about their transition, whether social or medical, consider this private. • I can’t think of any reason why you might be talking about another person’s surgeries, except if you are part of their care team during that process. That said, if you need to refer in a gener al sense to surgeries that are part of medical transition for some transgender people, a phrase used by many of us is gender confirmation surgery or gender-affirming surgeries . Avoid outdated terms like sex change and also avoid discussing the surgery in a singular sense, which you now know reflects many misconceptions. • Lastly , transition is not a black -and-white, open-and- shut, or linear thing for many transgender people. There are as many ways to experience and plan for one’s transition as there are ways of being a transgender person, whether one is a man, a wom an, a nonbinary person, or non e of the above. It’s best not to ask someone about their transition unless they explicitly volunteer information about it, and not to ask about the outcome or “when it’ll be over ,” which is basically another way to tell someone who they are without meaning to (as I discuss in Chapter 7) because you’re effectively telling them that they aren’t there yet! The Regulation of Gender and T ransition Many transgender people’s experiences of and access to transition have been greatly affected by how the North American (and other) medical and psychological professions have sought to regulate gender. For a long time, doctors and psychologists tightly controlled access to medical transition in particular , and the only acceptable goal of transition was passing seamlessly as a cisgender man or woman. For most of the twentieth century, and also to this day in some places, transgender people’s access to strategies that allow many of us to find whole ness and happiness in our own bodies was dictated by other people: by these gatekeeping professionals. Often according to restrictive legal standards, gatekeepers would prescribe surgeries that were medically unnecessary and unrelated to a trans person’s own identity and relationship with their body. In many places, for example, transgender men were made to undergo hysterectomies before they would be granted legally recognized documentation recommending a change to the sex marker on their identity documents. Today , however , many transgender men don’t have hysterectomies, and some elect to give birth. Similarly , many transgender women have been made to undergo complete orchiectomy and vaginoplast y before they could receive medical or psychological dispensation to change the sex marker on their documentation, regardless of their own desire to do so. Transgender people and supportive healthcare professionals have lobbied long and hard for these harmful rules to change, and the current best practices for transgender healthcare are now found, as mentioned previously, in the WPATH Standards of Care (www .wpath.org/publications/soc ). The WPATH Standards are developed by, for , and with transgender people, including medical and mental health professionals, and do not require any transgender person to undergo irreversible medical interventions that don’t match how they actually relate to their own body . The Role of Psychologists in Defining Transgender One reason why the medical and psychological gatekeeping regime existed was because transgender people had to meet the criteria for a psychological disorder before being granted access to transition. In 1980 “transsexualism” and “gender identity disorder of childhood” were added to the third edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . “Transsexualism” was eventually dropped in favor of “gender identity disorder,” and in the fifth edition, published in 2013, the “disorder” language was replaced by the current term: gender dysphoria . This has been praised by some in transgender communities, because for the first time being transgender itself is not branded a disorder unless one experiences gender dysphoria, or, loosely , a pervasive feeling of unh appiness with one’s body and/or assigned sex or gender category . Not all trans gender people experience dysphoria. For some who do, medical transition is a good way to treat gender dysphoria, and for other people, social transition works just fine. One way in which transgender people resisted and successfully manipulated the gatekeeping regime was by learning to tell the kind of story that professionals wanted to hear . This story becam e a kind of genre that transgender people would teach each other to recite in order to access the transition strategies they desired, even if these came with things like unwanted surgeries that were less desired by an individual or not desired at all. The story usually contained motifs like “having always known since childhood” and “being trapped in the wrong body.” While these motifs certainly do resonate with some transgender people, they do not reflect everyone’s experiences. In fact, some people connect the recent and increasingly public (re-) emergence of nonbi nary transgender people with the gradual demise of the gatekeeping regime in many contexts, and with the increasing self-determination and control that transgender people are able to exert over our own healthcare alongside supportive professionals. In Canadian provinces and territories, and in many American jurisdictions, being recognized as transgender no longer requires one to access a diagnosis of any kind or pursue any kind of medical or psychological intervention unless warranted by one’s particular circumstances. To this day, however , transgender people’s access to transition still varies considerably from person to person based on whether someone has healthcare coverage from a government or an insurer , and whether accessing hormones or surgeries would jeopardize things like personal safety, housing, employment, and crucial relationships. Last W ord: Transition, T oo, Is a Spectrum Transgender can mean different things to different people, as can transition. For example, many transgender men have top surgery and take testosterone, but some do just one of these things or do neither . If you are a transgender man and take testosterone, your body shape, size, and facial hair can change and make it mo re likely that people you don’t know (or do know) will see and gender you correctly . Many transgender men also experience welcome changes in how they feel, not just how they look. And if you have top surgery , you don’t have to bind your chest anymore (if you did), which might make it easier and less physically uncomfortable to pass as cisgender , if that’s your goal. But passing and being read differently by others may not be the main reason someone takes hormones or has top surgery , whether they are a transgender man or not. Having breasts and keeping them comfy often means supporting them in some way, and the garments used— whether we call them bras or binders—can cause fatigue and pain in the shoulders. Garments aside, just having breasts can be painful! For some nonbinary transgender people who were assigned female at birth, breasts can be just—literally—a pain in the neck. Why keep them around, then, if they aren’t meaningful in the gender department? This sounds trivializing, but I’m trying to communicate something very important: that the reasons why different transgender people pursue the same transition strategy (or not) can be very differen t. This is why transition is often defined in transgender communities in terms of fit or alignment, and less so in terms of passing as a member of any particular gender category . In a book on gender-friendly language and practice it’s helpful to have even the basic information about transition that I’ve shared here. This is because you can’t know about the thought, time, and effort many transgender people devote to being who we are and not feel a sense of respect for what this entails. Also, it’s useful to know that transgender people experience and are affected by transitioning differently, and that transition has many pathways and outcomes. As I have said in many places here, the goal of transitioning isn’t always passing seamlessly as cisgender to others; it is more often getting one’s own experience of the world and of one’s body to better align with one’s identity . Some trans people want to pass, and some don’t. Some end up being able to pass, and some don’t. And for many , passing is just plain irrelevant. Lastly, a person who stands out to others because of their body, their gender expression, or how these work together is standing out to others . Standing out doesn’t mean more than that. Standing out doesn’t necessarily mean someone is transitioning, has transitioned, or will be transitioning. I’ve actually been congratulated by a well-in tentioned stranger on “starting” my transition, when this is the last stop on the line for me. Hopefully you now get why that person’s remark was both funny and inaccurate. And standing out doesn’t mean that someone isn’t “really” their gender, which is assumed of some trans people in washrooms and other gendered spaces. Hopefully , knowing what you now know about transition, including what it is and isn’t, you can explain why this is wrong. Com mon “ K now le d ge” a b ou t Tra n sg en d er P eo p le I s C han g in g O ve r T im e When you say the word transgender , what do you think the people around you imagine? Of course, this depends on where you are and the people you’re talking to, but also when y ou are. At one time in North America transgender meant nothing at all because it wasn’t yet a wor d people used, even if there were transgender people in the sense of how we use the term today . In the 1980s and 1990s, saying transgender or related terms probably conjured up talk shows like The Jerry Springer Show and Donahue , with sensa tional episode titles like “Mom, I’m Not Really a Boy!” These episodes often feature d guests who had been assigned male at birth but didn’t identify with or express their gender according to the rules of the boy/man category. People assigned female at birth but not playing by the girl/woman rules were far less visible. No matter what the daily topic was, these shows tended to dehumanize guests by positioning them as exotic creature s for the audience to feast their eyes on, unlike the “more discreet” ways we take our second looks when people stand out to us in real life (as discussed in Chapter 1). Because these shows encouraged open gawking, we can imagine how they affected trans people going about their day . Today mainst ream representations of transgender people are less sensationalized. There’s a range of transgender experiences represented in popular culture, where for many years we were usually told only stories of violence and margin alization, like on crime shows where transgender people were represented as victims of violence. While there are still harmful representations, trans people today are more often shown in humanizing ways, going about the business of everyday life in broad daylight and with ordinary ups and downs. Think of Laverne Cox’s character in Orange Is the New Black , or the trans characters who are played by trans actors (which hasn’t always been a thing) on Sense8 , Transparent , and The Fosters . An d while Laverne Cox’s character , Sophia, is incarcerated and therefore marginalized, she’s a woman with a complex story and an important role in the prison community: presiding over the beauty salon. So, yes, mainstream transgender representations have generally gotten better over the years (with more work still needed), but this doesn’t mean we’re seeing more diverse ways of being transgender represented.   HOMOPHOBIA AND TRANSPHOBIA The following definitions ar e borrowed fr om a compr ehensive glossary of gender-diversity ter ms. I created the glossary with my colleague Elizabeth J. Meyer for her book (co -edited with Annie Pullen Sansfaçon) Supporting Transgender and Gender Cr eative Youth: Schools, F amilies, and Communities in Action . Homophobia: “ Fear or hatr ed of those assumed to be GLBTQ and of anything connected to GLBTQ cultur e; when a person fears homosexuality, either in other people or within themselves (inter nalized homophobia). Homophobia can be expressed in attitudes or behaviors that range fr om mild discomfort to verbally abusive or physically violent acts.” Transphobia: “The ir rational fear or hatr ed of all individuals who transgr ess or blur the dominant gender categories in a given society . In addition to harming trans people, transphobic attitudes and behaviors can also lead to discrimination, violence, and oppr ession against gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, and intersex people as well as all gender -nonconforming individuals, regar dless of their gender identity or se xual identity.” Beyond popular culture, transgender people are increasingly represented in electoral politics. Reuters and other major media outlets reported that five openly transgender candidates were sent to public office in the November 2017 US elections. This trend is also emerging in Canadian electoral politics, with the provincial nomination of Morgane Oger in British Columbia in 2017, and the federal nomination of Lyra Evans in Ontario in 2018, both of whom are openly transgender and were nominated by the New Democratic P arty. While these are all very positive developments, scholars like Julian Kevon Glover have argued that “hum anizing” representations may reinforce rigid standards that are just plain unattainable for many trans people, and that many don’t care about attaining in the first place. For example, Glover worries that Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, in particular—wealthy , body-size-normative, and cisgender- passing transgender women—may have come to “represent the narratives of all transgender women of color .” Both Cox and Mock have also spoken out about their privilege. The Range of T ransgender People’s Experiences Regardless of all the ways that people’s associations with the term transgender have changed and are changing, maybe helped along by representational shifts, in 2018 transgender people remain a marginalized population. Categorically, trans people are at greater risk than cisgender people for experiencing poverty, which has been linked to many factors, like leaving school early and having to leave a job due to persistent discrimination. You might be wondering how we square this circle: that transgender people remain a marginalized population but can also be famous actresses, like Laverne Cox, or have high-status jobs, like university professor (that’s me). But I’m not a professor because I’m magical or because I work any harder than other trans people. As in other groups, transgender people just have wildly different life trajectories, health outcomes, and experie nces of marginalization (including little or none at all) because of the diversity underneath the “T” umbrella, particularly in relation to race and socioeconomic status. We can generalize that being transgender means experiencing risk, but just beca use a person is transgender doesn’t mean that person is necessarily at risk. Not all trans people face the same struggles. The gender system is particularly deadly—and I mean that literally—for transgender women of color . For several years now violence against these women has been called an epidemic and a crisis. Writing in The Advocate in February 2015, noted trans author and activist Jen Richards voiced a now-common refrain in transgender communities : that the average life span of a transgender woman of color is just thirty-five years. Many things cause the disparity among transgender people’s life expectancies, and thus it might make little sense to speak collectively about “transgender people” at all when our access to life itself varies so widely . In the face of such violence, you might feel like doing your gender-friendly best means very little. But this isn’t true. The language and practices you’ll learn in this book are a starting place for making the world safer for everyone who does gender (a.k.a. everyone alive and yet to come). For example, you know now that stranger violence against a transgender woman can begin with others perceiving her to stand out and subsequ ently calling her into question. But if she didn’t stand out, because the rules weren’ t as rigid and calling her into question just didn’t make sense, the chain of even ts wouldn’t lead to violence. If people around her read, understood, and recognized her as a woman with their words and their actions and stood up for who she was, maybe violence would be less likely . Small things add up. Language and practice aren’t everything, but they aren’t nothing either . PA RT T W O W HAT T O S AY The first part of this book laid out the landscape, rationale, and backgr ound information for making the shift towar d mor e gender -friendly language and practices and why this is beneficial for people all across the gend er spectrum. Now I tur n to how you can make this shift: what you can do, on a daily basis, to help bring it about wher e you are. A key domain of gender -friendly practice is language use: how we talk to and about other people around us. Why is language so important? Because we use words every day of our lives to re fer to ourselves and others—not only gender pronouns, like he/she , but also other gendered terms, like Sir/Madam , ladies/gentlemen . W e even do this during small talk when we apply gender ed terms like girlfriend , boyfriend , mommy , and daddy to other people without thinking. Our verbal participation in gender, as you saw in Chapter 1, often happens via words that we just don’t hear ourselves saying anymor e, but these same words can painfully stand out to others when they’r e used inaccurately . In the following chapters you’ll lear n—and unlearn—a lot about gender ed language, starting with pronouns. 4. A G en d er-N eu tr a l P ro n ou n P rim er WHA T Are Gender -Neutral P ronouns? WHO Uses Gender -Neutral Pronouns and WHY? The HOW of Gender -Neutral Pronouns In this chapter I do a deep dive into a key part of our language: pronouns. I provide an accessible introduction to gender-neutral pronouns, both neo-pronouns, like ze/hir and xe/xem , and singular they as a gender-neutral pronoun. I cover who uses gender-neutral pronouns and why, and lead you through some hands-on exercises to help you begin developing fluency in their use. When I started They Is My Pronoun (TheyIsMyPronoun.com ) in 2012, the questions I received about gender-neutral pronouns told me that there was an understandably low level of background knowledge among the general public. People asked me things like why someone would have pronouns on their social media profile (it varies—more to come on this topic), and whether all transgender people use gender-neutral pronouns (no). However, the questions have slowed down, likely because you can only answer so many gender-neutral pronoun questions before the questions start repeating themselves. The ones I get today tend to be more specialized. Despite receiving far fewer questions, though, my unique visitors have increased every year. From this I infer that the general public’s knowle dge of and exposure to gender- neutral pronoun usage and users is increasing. In this primer , however , I’m going to begin at the beginning so that we’re all on the sam e page. I begin with the WHA T of gender-neutral pronouns—which I’ll refer to as GNP s from now on—foll owed by the WHO and the WHY , and then I explain the HOW : usage. Because pronouns are a part of language, and gender- neutral pronouns are a part of a language change currently taking place in English, I’ve recruited two linguists who study gender-neutral pronouns: Bronwyn Bjorkman and Lex Konnelly . I had them over for dinner and peppered them with every question about this topic that I’d ever wanted to ask a lingu ist. You’ll be hearing from them in places throughout this chapter and the next. Bronwyn Bjorkman is a faculty member and colleague of mine at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada. She studies formal aspects of language structure and meaning, what linguists call syntax and semantics. I met Bronwyn back home in V ancouver through a mutual friend when we were eleven years old. Lex Konnelly is a PhD student in linguistics and sexual diversity studies at the University of Toronto . They study language creativity and advocacy in trans, nonbinary, and gender-diverse communities. I met Lex in the fall of 2016 when they helped me create resource materials for the No Big Deal Campaign ( www .nbdcampaign.ca ). WHAT A re G en d er-N eu tr a l P ro n ou ns? Unlike she and he , gender-neutral pronouns are pronouns that don’t position someone in either the M or F gender box. GNPs are invariably third-person p rono uns: the ones we use to speak about someone else. For example, I’m a gender-neutral pronoun user, but like everybod y else, I refer to myself in the first person using I, me , my , myself , etc., and you can talk about me in the second person using you , your , yours , yourself , etc. All English pronouns are gender-neutral until we go to talk about someone else . So, the only pronouns that change when a person’s pronouns are gender-neutral are the third-person ones.   LINGUIST Q+A : Why Do We Apply Gender When W e Apply a Pronoun? Lex: The way that the English pr onoun system works is that when we assign a pronoun to someone in the thir d person, we also assign them a gender category. Pronouns assign people to categories in many languages, but these ar en’t always about gender . Sometimes the categories ar e about things like prestige or social r ole. Bronwyn: Some languages have pr onouns that are just “me,” “you,” and “some other person ” with no gender at all. Only about a thir d of the world’s languages have gender pronouns. When you learn English as a baby, you learn that you have to put people in a gender bo x in order to r efer to them. But this is just how English works at the moment. I can see English becoming a language that doesn’t for ce you to socially categorize people if you want to talk about them. English could absolutely lose the distinction between she and he over time. Lex: People ar e becoming mor e and more conscious that we assign a gender category when we use a pr onoun. This is why gender-neutral pronouns are becoming mor e common, because r ecognition of how people live gender is changing. A language changes to addr ess a need of its speakers. Common Gender-Neutral Pronouns: Neo- Pronouns and Singular They GNPs can be divided into two groups, one significantly larger but far less common than the other: 1. The larger yet less common group consists of “neo- pronouns,” or new pronouns created especially for the purpose of referring to someone without using she or he . 2. The second group isn’t really a group at all, because it just contains they/them when used to refer to a single person. We don’t have good data yet on why people choose a particular gender-neutral pronoun, whether a neo-pronoun or singular they . The (inform al) online Gender Census that I referred to in Chapter 3, which is completed annually by people whose gender doesn’t fit into the M-or-F binary, includes a pronoun question: “Supposing all prono uns were accepted by everyone without question and were easy to learn, which pronouns are you happy for people to use for you?” The wording is interesting. To my mind it reflects the fact that having your GNP used by others can be difficult, and that a respondent’s authentic preference can yield to sheer difficulty alone. In 2017 the Gender Census listed nine options and included an open space for respondents to add their own pronouns if missing from the list. Overall, sixty-seven pronouns were typed into the open box more than once. However , wh ile respond ents selected two pronouns on average, most chose only one, and this proportion increased from last year. By a considerable margin, the one-pronoun package preferred more than any other— including she/her and he/him —was singular they/them . Singular they is probably the most popular gender-neutral pronoun in English. More on Neo-Pronouns While there are many neo-pronouns, a few have come to dominate the list. I’m no linguist, but knowing how people use prior knowledge of they/them in order to get singular they r ight for me, I can imag ine how much easier it is to use a preexisting neo-pronoun people have heard about than to go rogue and create your own. After all, like everyone else under the sun who has a personal pronoun, GNP users need other people to use ours, and to the best of their ability . These practical considerations have probably driven neo-pronoun usage to congeal around just a few options. The most dominant neo-pronouns, both anecdotally speaking and backed up by the 2017 online Gender Census, are xe/xem /etc. (pronounced “zee” and “zem”) and ze/hir /etc. (prono unced “zee” and “here”). There’s a compelling story behind every neo-pronoun: when it was made, where it was first popularized, who created it, who uses it, and why users prefer that neo-pronoun above others, particularly singular they/them . Because I’m focused on the practicalities of GNP s, however , I’m going to refer you to other sources (such as the Gender Neutral Pronoun Blog at https://genderneutralpronoun.wordpress.com ) to learn about particular neo-pronouns. In the following table I show how the xe/xem and ze/hir pronoun packages (because every pronoun is a package deal) look alongside she/her and he/him in ord er to provide reference points. The right-hand column contains the singular they/them package.   LINGUIST Q+A : Why Is Singular They So Popular? Bronwyn: All native English speak ers have some uses of singular they already . One goes back to Middle English, which is saying “they” for a hypothetical person, or for someone whose gender you don’t know : “Someone’s at the door. I wonder what they want.” But they has been expanding for a few generations now, even outside of its usage as a nonbinary pr onoun. Today some speak ers fluently say “they” when they do know a person’s binary (M or F) gender but it just isn’t r elevant to the conversation topic: “My friend’s coming, too, but they’re late.” If you don’t know my friend, gender doesn’t matter. Lex: Native English speakers are actually fluent users of singular they : “A new teacher has been hir ed at my school, and I’m e xcited to meet them!” It’s already in our grammar . All signs point to singular they being the consensus alternative, but that doesn’t mean neo -pronouns will fail or go away . COMMON GENDER-NEUTRAL PRONOUNS VERSUS SHE AND HE She Xe Ze He They Her Xem Hir Him Them Her Xyr Hir His Their Hers Xyrs Hirs His Theirs Herself Xemself Hirself Himself Themself W HO U se s G en d er-N eu tr a l P ro n ou ns an d W HY? A pers on uses a gender-neutral pronoun because it does a better job than either of the binary ( she or he ) pronouns in reflecting who that person is. It’s safe to say that most gender-neutral pronoun users (see sidebar) fall under the transgender umbrella, likely on the nonbinary side of things. However , not all people who identify outside of the M/F binary use a GNP . In a 2015 survey of 557 American transgender-identifying students, researcher Tre Wentling found that less than half of the nonbinary respondents reported using a GNP . The reasons for this are unclear but could be any thing from a mismatch of one’s gender identity with current GNP options to feeling daunted by the prospect of making a pronoun change, which at this point still means signing up for an ongoing process of educating, reminding, and correcting in a less-than-gende r-friendly world. Or it could just mean that some nonbinary people don’t feel that they need to use a GNP , which is their decision alone. In addition to people having a GNP as their own pronoun, a very small but growing group of parents is using GNPs for their babies and toddlers (usually singular they ) until these kids can make their gender and pronoun wishes known of their own volition. (I interviewe d one of these parents, Hélène, for my blog. If you’re interested, you can read the interview here: https://theyismypronoun.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/a-new- timp-series-we-are-they-episode-1-raising-avery .) This isn’t an attempt to force children into a nonbinary gender identity, because that just isn’t possible (see my Chapter 1 sidebar on taking “nurture” too far). It’s actually the opposite: not directing children into any particula r gender identity . Just like the general population, the vast majority of children raised in this more gender-open way will likely end up using she/her or he/him pronouns. But again just like the general population, some won’t, and this is why some parents make this decision.   WHA T DOES GENDER-NEUTRAL PRONOUN USER MEAN? This phrase needs some e xplaining because it can seem a little counterintuitive. After all, when someone is saying my pr onouns ( they/them ), isn’t this person also using them? W ell, yes. But the phrase gender-neutral pronoun user has come to mean a person who might be said to “pr efer” or have “chosen ” a GNP over the pr onoun originally used to r efer to them based on their assigned sex and gender: he for M/boy/man and she for F/girl/woman. I placed scar e quotes around preference and choice language just now because sometimes “pr eferred pr onoun ” or “chosen pr onoun” discourse is of ten used to minimize transgender people’s pr onouns by saying that our pronouns are like the mustar d on our hotdogs or the color of our socks. The best way to talk about someone’s pr onouns—including yours—are to just say “X are my pr onouns” or “my pr onouns are X.” I find it easier to e xplain why my pronoun isn’t just a “pr eference” to someone who has also e xperienced pronouns as a negative for ce. Usually this is because someone has called him “she” if he’s a boy, or called her “he” if she’s a girl. This can be incr edibly hurtful, and is just one mor e reminder that gender -friendliness benefits everyone. If the “big two ” gender categories weren’t so rigid, intact, and separate, it wouldn’t mak e sense to use them as weapons. GNP Usage Doesn’t Have to Be F orever Another common reason for GNP usage—that I’ve heard exclusively applied to singular they —is how this pronoun can offer a space to catch your breath and figure out how gender works for you. People who take on singular they as a tem porary breathing space are usually transgender people. They know they need relief from everyday reminders of their assigned sex and gender category but don’t yet know where they need to land. In November 2016, during a difficult Canadian conversation about GNPs sparked by an impending piece of federal human rights legislation (more on this in Chapter 9), my friend Jake Pyne wrote a brave op-ed about this kind of singular they usage in NOW Toronto , a weekly independent newspaper. Today , in 2018, Jake is an out transgender man as well as a prominent researcher, educator , and activist on transgender issues. But from 1999 to 2001—long before it was commonly used for this purpose—Jake asked the people he worked with to refer to him using they/them instead of his assigned pronouns ( she/her ). “A t the time,” he writes, “I was certain I wasn’t ‘she,’ but ‘he’ didn’t seem right either . Being constantly gendered made daily life harder than it had to be, and it was already almost too hard. I had never heard anyone use the singular pronoun ‘they’ to describe themselves before, but it just made sense.” For most GNP users, our pronouns are a homecoming, not a place we move through. They express what we’ve known about ourselves over the course of our entire lives. However , it’s clear from stories like Jake’s that GNPs can be use d to do other good and useful work in the world too. In Chapter 5 I’ll offer general singular they usage as a gender-friendly strategy for keeping gender open, kind of like singular they has offered an open space for many people at different times and for different reasons. Who Can Use GNP s? I’ll finish up this WHO and WHY discussion about gender-neutral pronouns by addressing a common question I re ceive on my blog: who can and who can’t use gender- neutral pronouns? People ask this question about themselves and about others. It’s a funny question to be asked because it positions me as judge and jury on the matter . I perceive that people feel like they need to ask an authority (me, I suppose) if they don’t feel “nonbinary enough” or “trans enough” to use a gender-neutral pronoun, maybe because they have receive d these messages from other people under the “T” umbrella. This makes me feel sad, and I’ll come back to this when I talk about public pronoun sharing (or pronoun “rituals”) in Chapter 5. My own view has been consistent: a person uses gender-neutral pronouns because GNPs are a better fit for them, and only they are in a position to know what fits. There’s so much diversity among transgender people that we can’t draw a boundar y between who can use and who can’t use these terms. I’ve known people of many different stripes who use a variety of identity terms and understand their genders in many different ways, and who feel strongly that gender-neutral pronouns are a better fit for them. That said, it’s useful to keep in mind that GNP users who stand out (likely because they identify and are somehow visible as nonbinary or gender nonconforming) will have different experiences than those who do not stand out (likely because they pass as cisgender). For example, if you don’t stand out, you can choose when to become visible as a transgende r person and come out about your GNP. But as I noted about nonbinary out-ness and visibility in Chapter 3, invisibility carries its own risks, like isolation and misrecognition, even if it also offers safety sometimes. In fact, being nonbinary but invisibly so—whatever that means —could make it more difficult for others to understand and remember your pronoun needs. If you’re interested, check out my interview with Morgan, a nonbinary person who uses they/them pronouns but is generally not “visible” like I am: https://theyismypronoun.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/we- are-they-episode-2-morgan . Th e H O W o f G en d er-N eu tr a l P ro n ou ns You now have an idea of WHY someone might use GNP s, and therefor e also WHO tends to use them. In this section you’ll learn HOW to use GNP s in everyday speech. I’ll start with how to use neo-pronouns, and then teach you how to use singular they as a GNP . Using Neo-Pronouns By now you know that GNP s can be divided into neo- pronouns, like xe/xem and ze/hir , on the one hand, and singular they/them on the other . Because neo-pronouns are conventionally singular, learning to use a neo-pronoun means learning to substitute, for example, ze for he , or hirself for himself . This isn’t always true of singular they , which I’ll come back to further on.   LINGUIST Q+A : Why Can’t There Be Just One Neo -Pronoun? Bronwyn: English doesn’t work thr ough unilateral change. If English had something like the Académie F rançaise, a body that mak es rules about how we speak the language, then maybe one gender -neutral pronoun could be decided on by everyone. But we don’t. Even if there were a trans illuminati who got together and decided on just one, they couldn’t impose that change across all speak ers! Change happens in a grassr oots way, like what’s happening right now with the evolving use of singular they . COMMON NEO -PRONOUNS VERSUS SHE AND HE She Xe Ze He Her Xem Hir Him Her Xyr Hir His Hers Xyrs Hirs His Herself Xemself Hirself Himself Neo-pronouns have an advantage in that learning to use them means substituting singular nouns ( she , her , etc.) with other singular nouns ( ze , hir , etc.) with no other grammatical shifts. However , neo-pronouns also come with a disa dvantage: they unavoidably stand out whenever they’re used because relatively few people have ever heard these words before. Examples The sidebars that follow each contain the same example paragraph. The paragraph tells a story about Evan, a fictional eleven-year-old who uses a GNP . In the first example Evan uses xe/xem pr onouns, and in the second example Evan uses ze/hir pr onouns. I’ve also included a third example with blank s that you can use in a couple of ways: to practice using GNPs that aren’t the xe/xem or ze/hir package, or to quiz yourself on these two after you’ve read the examples out loud. And it is very important that you do read them out loud. If you’d like to beco me more comfortable with using GNPs of any kind, it’s vital that you practice by using your eyes, ears, and mouth simultaneously . Read the first two examples out loud so that you can feel yourse lf forming the words while also hearing yourself saying them and seeing them on the page. I’ve included a table to help you pronounce each pronoun if you aren’t sure. HOW TO SA Y XE/XEM AND ZE/HIR PRONOUNS Xe/X em Pronoun Xe/X em Pronunciation Ze/Hir Pronoun Ze/Hir Pronunciation Xe “Zee” Ze “Zee” X em “Zem” Hir “Her e” Xyr “Zeer ” Hir “Her e” Xyrs “Zeers” Hirs “Her es” Xemself “Zemself” Hirself “Her eself”   LINGUIST Q+A : What Does the F uture Hold for Neo- Pronouns? Bronwyn: I think neo-pronouns ar e great, and I’m 100 per cent in solidarity with people who use them. My pr ofessional opinion as a linguist, though, is that either they’ll catch on or English grammar will have to substantially change so that pronouns aren’t things we just infer about people automatically . If neo-pronouns caught on mor e broadly, though, I think ther e would have to be a default neo -pronoun. Lex: Neo -pronouns ar e fantastic! English will pr obably develop a default genderless pronoun. Then, when you got to know someone, they would let you know that they use a mor e specific neo-pronoun. Y ou’d lear n that person’s pr onoun just lik e you’d learn their nickname. XE/XEM EXAMPLE On Sunday Evan was invited to the birthday party of a girl in xyr grade-six class. As a gif t Evan brought something that x e had taken a great deal of time and effort to mak e xemself fr om found objects in the woods near xyr family home. The birthday girl openly r ejected the “ugly” gift, and all of the other kids laughed at it befor e moving on to the next one. Evan asked to get picked up early, claiming that x e was feeling sick. At school on Monday Evan kept to xyrself and avoided the other kids. ZE/HIR EXAMPLE On Sunday Evan was invited to the birthday party of a girl in hir grade-six class. As a gift Evan brought something that ze had tak en a great deal of time and effort to mak e hirself from found objects in the woods near hir family home. The birthday girl openly r ejected the “ugly” gift, and all of the other kids laughed at it befor e moving on to the next one. Evan asked to get picked up early, claiming that ze was feeling sick. A t school on Monday Evan kept to hirself and avoided the other kids. FILL IN THE BLANK On Sunday Evan was invited to the birthday party of a girl in _____ grade-six class. As a gif t Evan brought something that _____ had tak en a great deal of time and effort to mak e _____ from found objects in the woods near _____ family home. The birthday girl openly r ejected the “ugly” gift, and all of the other kids laughed at it befor e moving on to the next one. Evan asked to get picked up early, claiming that _____ was feeling sick. A t school on Monday Evan kept to _____ and avoided the other kids. Now that you’ve given xe/xem and ze/hir a try, and maybe even quizzed yourself for fun, experiment with making up your own sentences about how Evan is doing in the aftermath of the birthday party, using one of these pronoun packages. You can keep on talking to yourself , or ask an obliging friend, partner , or family member to try it out with you in a conver sation about Evan. Know that it’s very okay to dissolve into giggles together as you do your best. Actually , when I lead workshops, I encourage laughter during pronoun practice because it makes a new thing feel less scary and can be a lot of fun. I know people aren’t laughing at gender-neutral pronouns or GNP users; laughter is simply how we dispel the nervousness we often feel about making mistakes. Here are some conversation starters to get you going: • Why did Evan avoid other kids at school on Monday? • What might make Evan feel better? • What could Evan’s teacher do about this? Using Singular They As Bro nwyn and Lex pointed out in one of the sidebars, singular they is already commonly used for referring to one person. For example, it’s quite common for someo ne to say “FedEx came, but I don’t know where they left the package.” Of course, the entire FedEx corporati on didn’t show up and hide the package under the porch or around the back of the house. R ather, one FedEx employee did, and we just don’t know them or their gender: we can’t automatically apply she/her or he/him pr onouns, so we automatically apply they/them pronouns instead. This kind of singular they —for a person we don’t know—is so common in Standard English that we usually don’t realize it’s been said. Next time you watch TV or listen to the radio, pay close attention. You’ll likely hear they used for a single unknown or hypothetical person within the first five minutes or so. And it goes without saying that you’ve already used it yourself today . However, using singular they as a gender-neutral pronoun means saying “they” (etc.) to refer to someone who is not unknown to you. In fact, it me ans saying “they” because you know a pretty important thing about that person: that—odds are—they are under the nonbinary umbrella. For the most part, what changes with singular they as a GNP is the context in which we’re using an old familiar part of the English language. There is one exception to this rule, however . Have a look at the following table, and see if you can spot it. SINGULAR THEY VERSUS SHE AND HE She He They Her Him Them Her His Their Hers His Theirs Herself Himself Themself What sticks out to most people when they see this table is the word themself , in creasingly said in plac e of herself or himself when talking about someone who uses singul ar they . In a post on the Oxford Dictionaries blog, Catherine Soanes tells us that themself was the “normal form” in Standard English until the mid-1500s but disappeared, with themselves be coming the standard form around that time. Today themself is see ing a gradual resurgence. However, Soanes cautions against writing themself in formal and academic contexts (you won’t be marked down for this in my courses), and points out that many uses remain indisputably incorrect, giving this example: “It’s not uncommon for writers to put parts of themself into their work.” Because writers is plu ral, themselves should be used here instead. Soanes tells us that altho ugh themself is still in question, “you can be sure that Oxford’s lexicographers are keeping their eye on the situation : given the strong evidence for the word in all types of writing, it may well merit reconsideration within the next twenty years or so.” I’m no lexicographer , but given what I’m seeing and hearing, that estimate feels like it mig ht be on the high side. We shall see! Examples To build on something you’re already familiar with, let’s go back to the story of Evan’s birthday party disaster , but with a twist. Using the following table, add a pronoun from the singular they package in each blank space in the story . Make sure, particularly if you’re a native Standard English speaker, to test your choices by reading them out loud, using your eyes, ears, mouth, and gut all together . SINGULAR THEY VERSUS SHE AND HE She He They Her Him Them Her His Their Hers His Theirs Herself Himself Themself TRY ADDING SINGULAR THEY PRONOUNS On Sunday Evan was invited to the birthday party of a girl in _____ grade-six class. As a gif t Evan brought something that _____ had tak en a great deal of time and effort to mak e _____ from found objects in the woods near _____ family home. The birthday girl openly r ejected the “ugly” gift, and all of the other kids laughed at it befor e moving on to the next one. Evan asked to get picked up early, claiming that _____ was feeling sick. A t school on Monday Evan kept to _____ and avoided the other kids. If you did your homework and said your answe rs out loud, I’m confident that something stood out to you like a sore thumb: “Evan asked to get picked up early , claiming that they was feeling sick.” This sounds wrong because it is wrong. Once again, trust your ear and your gut. If it feels extremely difficult, it’s likely wrong. For the most part, “translating” Evan’s story from neo-pronouns to singular they/them requi res simple substitution, but not always, because the verbs we use with they are always plural. The following are some more examples where I shift between using my name (always singular) and my pronoun (always plural). In each example, they stands in for me just like my name does. Lee is coming over tonight. They are coming over tonight. The cocktail Lee loves most is a well-made bourbon Manhattan. The cocktail they love most is a well-made bourbon Manhattan. Lee wasn’t home when I stopped by . They weren’t home when I stopped by. A quick tip for writing with singular they is to avoid mixing verb forms in the same sentence. Consider this example: “Lee is comi ng over tonight, and they are bringing bourbon.” This passes by quite easily to the ear when spoken, but less so to the eye when it’s written down. A bett er way to write this sentence, then, is to stick with my name: “Lee is coming over tonight and is bringing bourbon,” or you could exercise your creativity and try any number of other things: “Lee is coming over tonight and bringing bourbon,” or just “Lee is bringing bourbon tonight.” There are so many clear and simple possibilities that you already know how to put into practice.   LINGUIST Q+A : Is Singular They Grammatically Correct? Lex and Bronwyn (at the same time): Yes. Lee: That’s decisive! How do you know that? Bronwyn: Because people who ar e native speakers of English do it. That’s how linguists deter mine whether something is “cor rect.” Lee: Do all English speak ers have to use singular they for it to be considered correct? Bronwyn: No . In fact, ther e isn’t really one English. Ther e are just people with languages, and some happen to be mutually understandable to each other as “English.” Sometimes we socially inde x these differences, and sometimes we don’t, lik e grouping people together because they say ain’t or y’all or about or aboot and infer ring where they come fr om. When the differences ar en’t socially inde xed, though, we generally don’t pick up on them. Even “ Canadian English” is just an abstraction. So, we could never say “singular they is only grammatically cor rect if all English speak ers do it,” because there is no one English. Lee: So why do people think it’s grammatically in correct? Lex: I study linguistic changes that ar e in process, and we differ entiate between changes that ar e above and below the level of consciousness. If it’s above, we recognize that it’s happening and can comment on it. When social changes are happening, we of ten see that manifest in debates about “correct” language use. Singular they is at the intersection between grammatical change and social change. Grammar can’t be separated fr om the social context in which it’s used. The pr esence of nonbinary people in public life is increasing, and so we see r esistance to the social aspect of that change appearing as a grammatical skir mish. Before moving on I encourage you to practice with singular they just like you practiced with the neo-pronouns before. Whether on your own or in conversation with somebody else, use the following prompts to talk out loud about Evan’s experience, using they/them pronouns. • Why did Evan avoid other kids at school on Monday? • What might make Evan feel better? • What could Evan’s teacher do about this? Advantages and Disadvantages of Singular They for a GNP User Perhaps the main advantage of singular they is that everyone already says it, all the time, and we’re familiar with its use. That leads to another advantage of singular they : th at it allow s for some blending in. My colleague was recently talking about me with her twelve -year-old granddaughter , who asked an excellent question: why would I use singular they a s my pron oun if it ble nds in? After all, if I feel good in my gender identity, and my pronoun expresses my gender identity, why wouldn’t I want to use a pronoun that announces my gender loudly and proudly? My answer is this: As much as I love being nonbinary (which is what my pronoun means to me), on a tough or tired day it can be a blessing to be able to fly under the radar a little . Singular they ve ry often goes unnoticed. People can refer to me, whether I’m there or not, without someone else picking up on a word they’ve never heard before (such as a neo-pronoun) and asking me all of the questions, however well intentioned. That said, singular they is vulnerable to grammar arguments (including erroneous ones—see Chapter 9), mea ning that sometimes hearing my pronoun becomes an oppor tunity for people to expound their views when I’m just trying to order a sandwich. Singular they might be emerging as the dominant GNP, but it has its challenges too. A disadvantage of singular they is that it involves more than just substitution. As above, if substitution was all that was needed, using my pronoun would sound like this: “Lee called to say that they is almo st here.” Rather , the following is correct: “Lee called to say that they are almost here.” That’s right: singular they is singular in name only. Luckily , if you’re a native English speaker, you can be guided by your ear. If something sounds funny (like “they is”), it’s probably wrong. 5. S tr a te g ie s f o r U sin g P eo p le ’s P ro n ou ns C orre ctly Tips for Getting P ronouns Right, As Best As Y ou Can Comparing Two Common P ronoun W orkarounds How Do I Know? W ays of Finding Out Someone’s P ronouns What If I Do All These Things and Someone Still Gets Mad at Me? Now that you have an understanding of what gender- neutral pronouns are and how to say them properly , it’s time to go into a bit more depth about how to navigate gender pronouns in everyday speech given how gender is changing. I also address some workarounds, or ways to avoid pronouns if you aren’t sure what to do. I then offer a series of tips to help you make a pronoun change for someone you know , which double as tips for learning to use someone’s pronoun when it doesn’t feel like the one you’d automatically apply. The last section shares strategies for finding out what people’s pronouns are, whether in public gatherings or private conversations. In the previous chapter I focused exclusively on gender- neutral pronouns. This is because they are one of the most obvious signs of how gender is changing, and are a common way that people encounter the new gender culture firsthand. A major reason why gender-neutral pronouns are growing in prominence is because more and more people are identifying as nonbinary . But pronouns aren’t an issue only for nonbinary trans people. As you saw in Chapter 3, part of social transition for most, if not all, “binary” (M-to-F or F-to-M) trans people involves switching from one set of binary pronouns to the other: from he/him/himself to she/her/herself or vice versa. You also learned (in Chapter 3) that transition, whether social or medical, isn’t the same for every trans person, and that “passing” as cisgender (in this case, as someone whose pronouns tend to be automatically inferred) isn’t always possible or always desired. And so, pronouns can also be an issue for transgender women or transgender men if they aren’t automatically read by others as women or men, respectively . Here, mis- gendering (applying the wrong pronoun) can happen if a person’s (visible) body and gender expression do not match stereotypical expectations for people of their gender identity . Unfortunately , mis-gendering is also a kind of question-calling, as are hostile, sarcastic, or exa ggerated reactions to gentle corrections and reminders. All this is to say that if you know someone before and after transition, you have to learn to do something new, even if this doesn’t mean learning to use unfamiliar words (neo-pronouns) or use familiar words differently (they/them ). Lea rning is still needed, and that means practice is probably needed too. But you might also need practice if you’re meeting someone for the first time with he/him or she/her p ronouns that don’t quite line up with your own gendered expectations of men or women, respectively . Tip s f o r G ettin g P ro n ou ns R ig ht, A s Best A s Y o u C an Here are my best tips for changing pronouns for someone (whom I’ll call “your friend”), learning to use someone’s gender-neutral pronoun, or learning to apply a pronoun that doesn’t come automatically to you. These are adapted from one of the all-time most popular posts on They Is My Pronoun . Use Singular They All the Time I often see people waiting until their singular they/them – using friend is around before they start rocking these pronouns, which isn’t a winning strategy. I think people do this because singular they do esn’t feel new, but this is deceptive because it’s doing something new, just with familiar words. When you’re around people who aren’t your friend, this is the perfect time to practice with singular they because it’s already part of our everyday speech. It’s unlikely anyone will even notice! If you want to ease in, give yourself a challenge for one hour , during one meeting , or in the post-lunch lull, and use singular they for everybody . Strike up a conversation at the bus stop or at a tea party or wherever you feel comfortable. Of course, these challenges can also happen in a group, like friends or coworkers . If others do n otice what you’re doing, try to figure out why. What part of what you just said made them search for a gender indication and, finding none, really need to know? Practice with a F riend It’s a great idea to practice out loud with someone else who also needs practice, because talking is where mis- gendering happens the most. Meet up for a treat with someone you have in common with your friend and tell stories about them, doing your best to apply the correct pronouns. Reminisce about times spent together , or talk about things your friend might do in the future. This is an excellent opportunity to let off some steam and get giggly , which means you’ll be more at ease when you make a mistake around your friend (which will happen, at first). Practicing with someone else can also help you become more comfortable with providing gentle corrections to others around you when they make mistakes. Trans people especially need you to do this when we’re not there, so getting comfortable with correction is huge. Tak e a P ause Many honest pronoun mistakes happen when we go on autopilot: we’re running through life and through conversations, trying to fill up empty space and time to banish the silence whenever it threatens. We ten d to fear the pause. But what if we reframed pauses, particularly in conversations, as opportunities? I’m not trying to claim that I inve nted mindfulness. Rather , I’m suggesting that practicing any mindfulness technique will help you with pronoun usage. You don’t have to go out and commit to a meditation program or download an app. Just start small: try to remem ber to pause before you respond to someone, in any conversation, regardless of why . When we get caught up in the flow of a conversation, we can become automatons and fall back on our habits. This is where trouble lurks in the pronoun (and broader gendered language) department, where innate or familiar assumptions tend to rule the roost. The more you pause and become okay with pausing, instead of filling the space, the better you’ll do . Make Better Mistak es Don’t aim for no mistakes; aim for better mistakes. Mistakes are normal, not bad, when you’re in the learning phase. There are only better mistakes and worse mistakes. A worse mistake happens when you mis-gender your friend and then lose your cool entirely . Mortified, you churn around in your own self-recrimination to the extent that your friend has to end up taking care of you. If you feel flustered after a mistake, try your best to hold it together and make it a better mistake: say a quick sorry, rephrase in a neutral tone, and move on. “Sorry— they’re coming over later. And blah blah blah . . . ” Sorry , rephrase, move on. Later , let it ou t in another direction: away from your friend. Go outside, go to the loo, get on your phone, and express your very real feelings of self -recrimination to somebody else (or write it down, if that works for you). The better mistake doesn’t make using our pronouns into a bigger deal than it really is, and it encourages us to offer you gentle correction when needed, instead of just sucking it up for fear of upsetting you. Which would you rather? Offer Gentle Correction to Others You do not have to wait to attain pronoun perfection to start offering gentle corrections to others. We are all in this together , so help others learn as you learn. Offering a gentle correction to someone looks like this: Make eye contact. Use a soft voice and maybe a gentle tap on the arm and say, “Remember , Le e uses they , not she or he ,” or neutrally rephrase what was said with the correct pronoun. Then move on. Sometimes the person might also need some positive reinforcement or a reminder that you, too, make mistakes once in a while. A gentle correction is the furthest thing from making it a big deal. I’m going to give some tough love to people who have come to understand the difficulty of being a GNP user, and who have begun to feel exasperated by others’ honest mistakes. Thank you, with my whole heart, for your commitment to helping people like me move about more easily in this binary-obsessed world. But please do your best to keep your own exasperation away from the scene of a pronoun mistake, and away from the person who made it. I kn ow you can feel our pain to some extent—and I say this without a trace of sarcasm, because you see and support us in working through the cumulative effects of standing out and/or being mis-gendered all the time—but forceful or exasperated corrections make our lives harder . They make our pronouns way too anxiety-provoking, and they risk sparking resentment among others who feel humiliated or called out for an honest mistake. Be Real about Y our Own Challenges Take a secon d and make yourself remember a few times when you used the wrong pronoun for your friend and noticed (whether on you r own at the time or later on, or because someone corrected you). What kind of situation was it, and what was your role? Were you leading or listening? Was it at the beginning (of a conversation or event), when things were getting started, or toward the middle, when you started to relax? W e understandably want to run away from our mistakes or brush them off, and it’s easy to feel annoyed with ourselves or with our friend when awkwardness arises. Instead, I suggest practicing self- acceptance by leaning in to your mistakes and revisiting them later on. This way, you can identify and begin anticipating your own hurdles. You can begin to predict when you’re most likely to get it wrong and try being a bit more mindful. What are some upcoming situations in your life where you need to refer consistently to your friend in the third person? Can you be extra nice to yourself , slow down, and practice in advance, whether that means pausing or trying out the other strategies in this section? Embrace the Awkwardness This is a theme spanning all of the tips I’ve shared so far. The reality is that having to notice your pronouns, correcting yourself, and being gently corrected by others is awkward. We fear the awkwardness, just like we fear the pause. Making a pronoun change or remembering to use an unlikely (to you) pronoun for someone is an opportunity to make friends with awkwardness—which is important because it’s unavoidable. But being awkward isn’t the worst thing ever, despite sometimes feeling that way . You don’t have to make this look effortless, because it isn’t. Trans people are used to others trying their best and stumbling sometimes. We don’t need you to be Meryl Streep about the whole thing. Try not to worry about seeming fake, preoccupied, or overly self- conscious while you’re still in the process of working it out. I un derstand why people around me are kind of stilted or weird as they learn, and I know that this recedes over time. You won’t become a gold-star pronoun champ overnight, and that’s okay .   AN EXPERIMENT: TRY DITCHING ALL GENDER PRONOUNS For a set amount of time, try r eferring to everyone ar ound you without using any gender pronouns at all. How long can you go in a conversation? If you’r e feeling like a boss, can you go a whole day? Y ou could also challenge yourself to notice and tally when other people use gender pr onouns (or other words— see Chapter 6) for people they do not know, maybe even sharing your findings with those ar ound you. This can help you build the mental muscles you need to gender people cor rectly and to start hearing others’ mistak es, when they happen, so that you can help out.   LINGUIST Q+A: Why Does Learning to Use Singular They Tak e Effort? Bronwyn: Most of us are like second-language speak ers when it comes to singular they . We didn’t gr ow up using it this way as part of our dialect. As a theoretical linguist, I’m inter ested in children who grow up in conte xts where their grammar has always work ed this way and singular they is automatic. They don’t have to make the adjustment. And some people ar e really good at languages, not just lear ning a new one but also even picking up a new accent, whereas others ar e bad at remembering names or lear ning new names that aren’t part of their vocabulary . Some people say, “Oh, that’s too hard. I’ll just call you Bob.” And others r ecognize that that’s rude and work to learn the name and use it. Some ar e better at this kind of accommodation than others. But that doesn’t mean you get to call someone Bob if that isn’t their name. You’ll make mistakes, but k eep trying. Lex: It’s important not to demonize people who struggle to use singular they , because the k ernel of their struggle might actually be grammatical. Ther e is something grammatical going on that is distinct from the social phenomenon. But it’s not at all insurmountable. People can do this, and people do . People who want to use the right pr onouns for someone else can adopt and come to use singular they with fluency. There are tons of linguistic changes that we participate in all the time without even thinking about it—don’t be discouraged if it tak es a few tries! Lee: So there’s no linguistic ar gument to be made that a person “just can’t use” singular they ? Lex: No. Everyone can do it. But it’s important to r ecognize that it does take some reorganization of the grammatical featur es of English. I have compassion for it feeling difficult, but it’s possible to change with a little effort. My philosophy is that there are two chances to get it right: befor e and after you mak e a mistake. And a cor rection is just as good as not making a mistak e. Celebrate Y our Successes The last tip I’ll offer is to remember to celebrate your successes. Whether you met a solo practice goal, took an hour to get together and practice with someone else, made only X number of mistakes at the party last night, or got up the courage to gently correct someone, make sure to acknowledge your wins. Sometimes your friend might be so exhausted that they can’t do this themself . I work hard at my own pronoun mindfulness practice: noticing and acknowledging the progress and wins of the people around me. But I do n’t expect that from other GNP users because not everyon e has the resources that I do . Even and especially if your friend can’t offer you positive feedback, you deserve it. In fact, if you don’t take a momen t to give yourself a high five and honor your efforts now and then, you might end up resenting your friend for not noticing, when they just can’t. If yo u’re a modest or particularly self- critical person, tell yourself that celebrating your wins is something you’re doing for your friend, because it is. Com parin g T w o C om mon P ro n ou n W ork a ro u nd s In an ideal situation everyone learns GNP usage at their own pace, subject to very realistic expectations, in a context where mistakes are destigmatized and accepted as part of the learning process. As you practice using GNPs, you might be tempted to find ways to make things easier . That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Two workarounds I’ve seen people use are trying to avoid pronouns altogether by just saying someone’s name, and avoiding pronouns by restructuring your sentences a little. Let’s take a closer look at each one. Avoiding Pronouns As you were practicing aloud in the previous chapter, you might have noticed that there are times when you do need to use pronouns and times when you don’t. In fact, sometimes you can even avoid pronouns altogether . In my view , avoiding pronouns can sometimes be a strategy for accommodating a GNP user by not mis-genderi ng them. Note that I said sometimes . I’m not giving my blessing to complete pron oun avoidance. Just like most people’s she/her or he/him pronouns, my they/them pronouns say something important about who I am. They’re not just words, but an affirmatio n of my gender identity by the people around me. In highlighting pronoun avoidance as a workaround, I’m drawing on my own experie nce and, anecdotally , from speaking with other trans people over the years: that being referred to with your name or without pronouns can be better than being called the wrong pronouns. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re not yet confident about using someone’s pronoun correctly, there are things you can do that aren’t ideal but are far better than mis-gendering someone. What I’ve seen in many contexts is that, over time, people around a GNP user move through the learning process, with gentle guidance from the user and—critically—from each other . Avoiding pronouns because you don’t want to mis-gender someone is one thing. But I’ve heard some people try to cope with pronoun anxiety or avoid it altogether by asserting that they’ll “just say the name.” This isn’t a good plan. Read the next example out loud to see why . THE “I’LL JUST SAY THE NAME” EXAMPLE On Sunday Evan was invited to the birthday party of a girl in Evan’s grade- six class. As a gift Evan brought something that Evan had tak en a great deal of time and effort to mak e Evan’s self from found objects in the woods near Evan’s family home. The birthday girl openly r ejected the “ugly” gift, and all of the other kids laughed at it befor e moving on to the next one. Evan asked to get picked up early, claiming that Evan was feeling sick. A t school on Monday Evan kept to Evan’s self and avoided the other kids. Awkward, right? I’m being deliberately silly with “Evan’s self” because, well, that just isn’t something most Standard English speakers do. But silliness aside, I did this to make a point: just saying the name instead doesn’t actually make it easier to talk about a GNP user . In the next sidebar I offer another workaround: telling Evan’s story without any gender pronouns at all. As you did before, read it out loud—perhaps after rereading the earlier ze/hir , xe/xem , or they/them v ersio n for contrast— and see if you can spot each change I made so tha t gender pronouns aren’t required. A PRONOUN-FREE EXAMPLE On Sunday Evan was invited to the birthday party of a classmate. Evan had tak en a gr eat deal of time and effort to mak e a gift from found objects in the woods near Evan’s family home. The birthday girl openly r ejected this “ugly” gift, and all of the other kids laughed at it befor e moving on to the next one. Evan ask ed to get picked up early, claiming to feel sick. A t school on Monday Evan avoided the other kids. Restructuring Your Sentences There are two things to take away from the comp arison between the pronoun-free example and the “I’ll just say the name” example. First, just saying the name is not a way out of the awkwardness that can come along with accommodating a GNP user (at first). Using GNP is new and will feel awkward sometimes. A second takeaway is that it is possible to avoi d pronouns by restructuring your sentences. Now try revisiting the prompts I gave you before, and see if you can manage to avoid pronouns when answering each one. I’ve given you a starting place, but I know you can come up with your own. Why did Evan avoid other kids at school on Monday? The other kids at a birth day party picked on Evan for bringing a homemade gift. What might make Evan feel better? Evan might feel better if a conversation happened with the other kids who were at the birthday party . What could Evan’s teacher do about this? Evan’s teacher could check in to see if a follow-up is needed. How D o I K now ? W ay s o f F in d in g O ut S om eo n e’s P ro n ou ns In addition to the WHA T, WHY , WHO , and HOW , th ere are a few other things to know about navigating pronouns in the new gender culture. The idea that we can remain gender- language robots who don’t have to think about the words we use for others is being gradually dismantled. This means you’ll have to find out what another person’s pronouns are instead of simply following your gut-level expectations if you aren’ t sure what to say . This has likely already happened to you. Finding out someone’s pronouns can mean learning about them during a group share or go- round, asking them directly , or just paying attention and listening. Asking and Answering, or “Pronoun Rituals” Many people experience gender-neutral pronouns and even transge nder people ourselves as a new thing, even if we’re old news. Although the existence and validity of transgender people are still emerging into popular consciousness, many of the strategies in this book have been “just the way we do things” in trans-inclusive spaces for years. In these spaces there have evolved what I call “pronoun rituals,” or familiar ways of askin g about someone’s pronouns and sharing your own. By “ritual” I most certainly do not mean a dictate developed and adopted by an official committee. I just mean the kind of ordinary semi-scripted encounter we have with others all the time, like asking someone for directions. A ritual is just a sequence of actions or statements with a proper order, time, place, and duration, where “proper” only means the way most others do it, such that this way doesn’t stand out (a phrase that probably sounds familiar by now). In many faith traditions rituals have rules about how to participate, but also rules about who must, who may, and who may not participate. Holy Communion and bar or bat mitzvah have explicit (written-down) rules about these things, but most of our everyday rituals have implicit “rules” that aren’t written down anywhere despite being strongly internalized and followed by everybody involved. Let’s think about the rules of the “asking for directions” ritual. Imagine yourself being the askee, or person being asked for directions by a total stranger . How are asker and askee supposed to behave? How long should the interaction last, and how far out of their way does the askee have to go in orde r to assist the asker? What “punishment” might be given to the asker or askee if they break the rules? Do boundaries exist around the interaction, or can it become something else, like conversation or flirtation? And how do we know if the boundaries are loosening or tightening up while we’re still in the interaction? I’ll bet you haven’t thought about asking for directions as a ritual with implicit rules before, likely because you don’t have to. This is just one of many rituals that you participate in without thinking. While asking and answering about someone’s pronouns when you aren’t sure can feel awkward right now, it’ll likely become just as automatic as the many other rituals we observe with others as we go about our day . Like the “rules” for asking a stranger for directions, the “rituals” for asking and answering about pronouns in trans- inclusive spaces have become less conscious over time. This is a good thing because it means that you aren’t off on your own with no map when trying to find out others’ pronouns. There are processes you can fall back on that already exist, and in this section I’ll let you in on the “rules” so you don’t have to worry about standing out. I think about pronoun rituals a great deal (shocking, I know), and I’ve com e to distinguish between two kinds: more or less public and more or less private. Asking and Answering Publicly More or less public rituals tend to happen in group settings when people take turns introducing themselves with their pronoun and preferred name (because sometimes our legal name isn’t what we’d like to be called, for many rea sons). Public rituals usually happen regardless of whether anyone present is transgender . I say more or less public because “public” rituals don’t usually happen in a fully public space, but in a space people have chosen to be in becaus e of a class or a meeting: events where people are expected to interact with and talk about each other. Public pronoun rituals don’t happen at events like lectures or concerts where people aren’t expected to interact. More and more I see teachers or facilitators begin a class, meeting, or other participatory event by inviting those present to take turns sharing their pronoun s (etc.) in a go-round. This has its advantages. It removes the necessity of people having to ask each other individually , and right away it cues participants into being more mindful with their pronoun use if, for example, someone shares their gender-neutral pronoun with the group. The go-round works really well for someone like me: an extrovert and an educator who is comfortably out and good at self -advocacy , and also as visible as a nonbinary person can be in this current moment (remembering what I said in Chapter 3 about the troubles with nonbinary visibility). As my mum likes to say , “I look like a they .” It’s not usually a big reveal when I state my pronoun, and people are even beginning to anticipate it. Hooray! However , the go-round doesn’t work well for everyone, often because of visibility issues. An anonymous gender- fluid person—I’ll call them Y—once shared a story with me on my blog about a difficult experience with a pronoun go- round while they were passing as cisgender . Y uses both they/them and she/her . After sharing their pronouns, another person repriman ded Y for “co-opting” they/them , and this was because they read Y as cisgender . You know by now that I’m all about less and not more gender rigidity, and I’m disappointed that this happened to Y because it’s clear that rigid and unhelpful rules about pronouns had become normal in this context: rules for who can and can’t use gender-n eutral pronouns. This, to me, is a problem, as is any rule so rigid that it can be used to wield power over another person. Y’s story highlights a key disadvantage of public pronoun rituals that have rigid ru les for how people should participate, especially if participation is compulsory . We might think that compulsory sharing for everyone is good for transgen der people, but it can be challenging if one isn’t out as trans. This might mean a person passes as cisgender because of their transition or because they haven’t begun transition (if that’s their plan). Some newly identifying trans people just aren’t ready to out themselves by sha ring a pronoun that could jar with how others read them, a point well made by Elizabeth Reis, a CUNY professor of gender studies, in a New York Times op-ed in 2016. Or you might not have it in you to educate the room about a gender identity like nonbinary (etc.) that many people don’t know about yet. Compulsory sharing can take away a trans person’s freedom to choose when and to whom we come out, a decision often motivated by safety concerns. While more or less public rituals tend to work well for trans people like me, and can be a powerful educational experience for cisgender people, the basic model needs renovation because of its risks for some others. Here are my tips for running a better go-round where you are: • Have (preferred) name sharing be the stated purpose of the go-round, and explicitly make pronoun sharing an optional add-on. • Conclude this name-only go-round by sharing your own pronouns (if you are comfortable doing this), followed by a clear invitation for anyone present to approach you about their pronouns if needed. Do your best not to look at any one in particular while you say this. See the sidebar for more on sharing your own pronouns. • Encourage but do not require people to include pronouns on a name tag or sign placed in front of them. • Read the climate and the audience. What do you know about transgender people’s experiences here? Are any trans people out? Have pronouns been shared here before? Do some homework as you consider whether it’s a good idea to even invite disclosure (like in the second bullet). You learned about road-mapping the space around you in Cha pter 2, but the best home work is listening to transgender people in your setting in order to learn about and be guided by their expertise. I’m sad to say that in some places, even inviting pronoun sharing could result in some people being called into question just because gender has become more scrutinized than it was before. • If you’re someone like me who teaches future professionals in education, nursing, or social work, you could run a pronoun go-round as an exercise that is intensively debriefed afterward, including about its risks. In many North American jurisdictions these professions are governed by laws and codes of conduct that call students into practicing something like gender- friendliness, or making services and spaces welcoming to people of all genders and gender histories. In my experience these spaces are a little safer for teaching through the experience of pronou n sharing. However, I dial down the risk by having students introduce themselves to each other in pairs and then introduce each other to the group, so that the initial decision- making and disclosure are less public. Please reflect on what you learned in Chapter 2 about drawing your road map of how gender works in your space before you decide whether this is a good thing to do there. These tips put you in a leadership role: in charge of whether and how to run a pronoun go-round. Of course, this might not be the case. You might spend time in places where a pronoun go-round is unthinkable right now , as in the fourth bullet. But you might work in an office where compulsory sharing happens all the time as a matter of routine, or with an organization that indiscriminately includes compulsory sharing at its events, even if they move from place to place. If this is you, and you feel okay doing so, have a word with the person who makes decisions about these things and invite them to consider whether, for all of the reasons I’ve shared in this section, compulsory pronoun sharing is the most gender-friendly thing to do in your space(s). It might be, and it might not be. In my view it should not be automatically done everywhere all the time, and requires thinking and rethinking over time and across different contexts.   HOW TO SIGNPOST (SHARE Y OUR PRONOUNS) Pronoun signposting is a gender -friendly thing to do for two reasons. First, it widens the cir cle of people who know that pr onouns are a thing to think about because they see or hear you signpost and want to find out why. Second, it lets people like (and unlike) me know that you’r e a person who probably gets it. When I see or hear someone signposting, I know that sharing my own pronouns with them will lik ely be okay and go smoothly . So far, I haven’t been disappointed (fingers cr ossed). Here’s a good verbal signpost, or phrase you can say to shar e your pronouns out loud: “I’m [name] and my pr onouns are [pronouns].” T ry to avoid choice or pr eference language (see one of the earlier sidebars for why). You can do this whether or not anyone else does it. W ritten signposts can be things like name tags, whether ther e’s a space for pronouns or you write them in yourself. You can also signpost in your email signatur e. Here’s mine: Lee Airton, PhD Assistant P rofessor of Gender and Se xuality Studies in Education Faculty of Education, Queen’s University 511 Union Str eet Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7M 5R7 [email protected] | www.leeairton.com | @leeairton pronouns: they/them Queen’s University is situated on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee T erritory . Lastly, we can infer that a signposter is mor e likely to be gender -friendly (and likely to know about and be br oadly accepting of transgender people), but we can’t infer that a person who doesn’t signpost is not . Remember that everyone has their own r easons for doing it or not doing it. Only they know what’s best for them. In my view, signposting, lik e public sharing, should never be compulsory. Asking and Answering Privately More or less private rituals tend to happen in conversations when one person asks another for their pronoun. Y ou might initiate a private ritual when someone’s gender expression and/or what you perceive about their body don’t firmly align with your expectations of people in the M box or the F box. I say more or less private because “private” rituals don’t usually happen in total privacy . W e generally don’t lead some one down the hall and around the corner to ask them for their pronouns. That would be weird. Rather , the “private” ask happens during an ordinary conversation. Tips for Asking Privately If you need to know and reading doesn’t help, private is best. Here are my tips for a successful “private” asking and answering ritual: • Make eye contact, smile, and say in a frien dly yet neutral tone, “Can I ask what your pronouns are?” The wording isn’t as importa nt as how you ask. Keep the question light and open. • When the person tells you their pronouns, respond with a neutral facial expressio n and body language as if to say that whatever they told you is exactly what you were expecting to hear . This is part of not telling people who they are without meaning to, a gender-fri endly practice that I’ll come back to in Chapter 7. • After asking and receiving an answer , just say thanks and move along in the conversation. • The nicest ask happens during a conversation when it becomes necessary to know my pronoun because, say, you need to talk about me right then and there. Maybe I said someth ing you want to refer back to, like a comment about a restaur ant I like that was just named anew in the conversation: “Lee was just saying that— can I ask what your pronouns are? [I answer .] Th anks. Lee was just saying that they really like that place too.” This is nice because it’s natural, and it flows with the conversation. That said, I’m happy for you to come over later on if you realized that you didn’t think to ask when we were chatting before. • Simi larly, try to avoid coming up to me and asking out of the blue when we have n’t really interacted. This can feel like you were trying to size me up the whole time from across the room. Maybe not, but it can feel that way , and that’s not the greatest feeling. Wait until it’s obvious why you need to know , for practical purposes, and then ask. • Anot her nice thing you can do as you become more comfortable is share your own pronouns with the people in your little chatting circle (standing around at a party , for example), and open up the space for others to share theirs, including the person/people whose pronouns you aren’t sure about (but not while weirdly staring at them, which I probably don’t need to say . . . but here we are). My last word on asking for someone’s pronouns will bring us full circle to the idea that this is a ritual. Rituals have unspoken rules that we can fall back on and that other people know how to participate in along with you. And rituals also vary from place to place. So, pay attention to how this plays out where you are, and see whether anything might modify the “rules” (tips, really) that I’ve shared with you here. Some Risks of Asking Privately There’s a key difference between the kind of more or less public sharing that happens in pronoun go-rounds and the pronoun sharing that happens more or less privately in conversations. Public rituals tend to happen regardless of whether anyone present is transgender , but private rituals tend to happ en because a person thinks that someone else might be transgender . In fact, directly asking a person about their pronouns, at this moment in time, is sending them a message that asking is needed because they look and/or sound like they are outside of the big two gender boxes. Because asking isn’t yet normalized, and because the big two gender categories are often rigid and separate, this can be a little dicey. It can make someone stand out even more, or remind them yet again that they do. In some contexts I can even foresee someone using the pronoun question to harm someone else by calling them into question, maybe because they aren’t doing gender quite like the other (for examp le) men or boys or wome n or girls around them. Many people, whether cisgender or transgender, work hard to be read as the wom en, girls, men, or boys they are, whether or not they’re conscious of the work they put into it. A big part of why we express gender to others is to ensure that they use the right gendered language for us, or accept our presence in particularly gendered spaces. For this reason, when I teach about gender expression, I say it’s kind of like a sign that we redraw every day and wave around at other people to help them get us right. In the gender-friendly future I envision, the sheer “obviousness” of one’s gender won’t be as much of a badge of honor as it is today . Part of getting there together will be asking people about their pronouns and normal izing the pronoun question so that it isn’t as dicey . But I also know that the pron oun question can be dicey now, and this is our starting place. The decision I choose to make—while not perfect—is to read for obviously intentional masculine gender expression as a sign that I should say he/him pronouns for someone, and to read for obviously intentional feminine gender expression as a sign that I should say she/her pr onouns for someone. I say gender expression here because we generally have way more control over how we express gender than we do over our bodies and what they look like. Not every transgender person can get their body and others’ perceptions to seamlessly align with who they are, even with access to every available transition strategy. For this reason, and particularly when I seek to do right by my fellow transgender people who are women and men, I choose to read gende r expression, or the text that a person has most likely written of their own free will. I look for the presence and a bsen ce of gendered clothing, shoes, accessories, makeup, facial hair or eyebrow grooming, and done nails as well as hai r length/cut/style. I read for walk, gesture, mannerism, and tone of voice, which are also part of gen der expression. I didn’t have to learn new things to read this way. I just had to recognize that I wa s already doing it all the time without thinking. And you can too . Of course, there are reasons why reading for obviously intentional masculine or feminine gender expression won’t work for som e people. There are nonbinary people who use gender-neutral pronouns and who appear to all the world like masculine men or feminine women. What’s more, these folks might benefit from being asked about their pronouns, but they never are. As I’ve mentioned in other places, visibility is a trade-off . Al l this is to say that no strategy in this book comes with a foolproof guarantee for all situations. But if you read wrong and get corrected, you also now know how to make a good mistake: say sorry , rephrase, move on. A starting place. In the next section, I’ll share some other tips that don’t involve directly asking at all. Paying Attention and Listening While there are all kinds of ways to find out someone’s pronouns and avoid calling that person into question when you’re just trying to get it right, not a sking can sometimes be gender-friendly . Even the best pronoun ritual—public or private—means an energy expenditure from a tran s person. This is because sharing is not yet a nonissue, and is sometimes still a vulnerable encounter where a trans person has to muster enough energy to make sure it goes okay and doe sn’t deter the asker from asking anyone else ever again. For this reaso n, there are things you can do to get it right that don’t require any asking and answering at all, which can be nice. Here are some of them: • Hav e a look at the person’s social media accounts. There might be some activity or posts where their pronoun is shared or other information you can use (think back to what I said about reading for obviously intentional gender expression). Instagram and T witter feeds tend to be public, so start there. • Social media can also help you find and learn from the person’s close people. Look for friends in common who are active commenters, likers, or taggers, or who are in the person’s recent photos, and see what pronouns and other gendered language they use for the person, if any . • Listen to how other people who are close to this person describe them, and mirror that language. This works best when the close people are choice family members or frie nds. That said, be guided by what you know of those relatio nships. Our families of origin can struggle to accommodate name and pronoun changes and therefore may not be the best guide. • Check in with one of their close people in person. You can ask directly , but you can also check in using open- ended questions instead—“How is [name] doing these days?”—and see what happens. Don’t heavily probe in case the person has only private information that can’t be shared. • Open up a space for the person to step into. Find some time to sit down with them and check in, or invite them to join you in a meaningful activity. Share some space and time, and you might just be told in a gesture of trust. What I f I D o A ll T h ese T h in g s a n d S om eo n e S till G ets M ad a t M e? First, I hear you. Thinking about pronouns and other uses of language (more to follow in Chapter 6) can feel like a lot of work before we get used to it and it becomes just another everyday ritual. You might do all the things I suggest and get a really difficult reaction from a transgender person when you’re doing your very, very best. I’m of the mind that using a gender-neutral pronoun or just being a transgender person (no matter your pronoun) is no free pass for hurtful behavior . That said, transgender people face all kinds of challenges just going about our daily lives, and the everyday stresses of being a trans person can cause pent-up hurt to erupt onto someone who made an honest mistake. This is understandable. But to my eyes, that this is understandable doesn’t make it okay . It’s an occasion for repair of some kind, to whatever extent in whatever form possible. Sometimes repair can’t happen, though, because that person just doesn’t have the time, energy , or resources. That’s unfortunate, but it also makes sense. It’s a paradox: both understandable and not okay at the same time. The best thing you can do with this paradox, if it happens to you , is to do your best to remember and internalize that this is not about you . Also try to remember that all you are doing to bring about a more gender-friendly world will hopefully make it less exhausting for everyone to be, express, and love their gender , including the person who just erupted onto you. And if this happens to you, try to do a nice thing for yourself in the name of self -care. 6. N otic in g a n d C han g in g G en d ere d La n g uag e Pushing Out of Gender ed Language General Uses of Singular They in Work and Life Alternatives to Common Gender ed Language This chapter is all about building your repertoire of general gender-friendly language practices beyond the basics of pronoun usage and navigation. You’ll learn other uses of singular they that can benefit everyone, apart from using they/them wh en it is a particular person’s pronoun. Next, I show how you can replac e or avoid gendered terms we use all the time without thinking, first terms that indicate relationship (e.g., brother, niece, girlfriend ) and then terms that indicate formality (e.g., ladies , gentlemen ). Push in g O ut o f G en d ere d L a n g uag e In Chapter 3 I joked that being a nonbinary person is kind of like being a gender wizard, but it can also feel like being a sp y from the movies. Picture a James Bond–type breaking into a top-secret installation, lighting a cigare tte, and blowing smoke to reveal the intricate web of laser beams that trigger the securit y alarm. The smoke here is a metaphor for all the ways I pick up on gender’s otherwise invisible effects, learned from discovering lasers wherever I go and beginning to spot them in advance. Lights come on, sirens sound, and a nonevent becomes a situa tion, when all I did was walk into a restaurant, pick up the phone, or approach a customer service window . When we need to refer to someone, we typically reach into our pronoun basket (e.g., she/her or he/him ), honorific basket (e.g., Mr. , Ms. , or Mrs. ), and salutation basket (e.g., ladies and/or gentlemen , ma’am and/or sir ). My gender expression and body combination means that people often have to think a little bit more about which pronouns, honorifics, and salutations to use for me, and they tend to notice themselves noticin g that they have to make an effort at something that’s usually automatic. Those efforts usually yield the same result: I get mis-gendered and called “she” or “he.” (I’m happy to report, however , that this is slowly changing. People are increasingly noticing themselves noticing, and saying something else.) I can be just as much of a gender language robot as anybody else. But knowing that automatic gendering doesn’t work for everyone, I’ve developed some strategi es for shifting my language even when my gut is firmly trying to make me say words from one side of the binary . In this section I’ll share three of these practices: 1. Using singular they as a general gender- friendly practice 2. Building a vocabulary of alternatives to familiar gendered terms 3. Learning to avoid telling people who they are (or should be) without thinking Gen era l U se s o f S in g ula r T h ey in W ork a n d L if e If you did your homework in Chapter 4, you’re on your way with singular they : with using “they are” (etc.) to refer to a single person. This is a good thing to do when it’s someone’s own pronoun, but that’s not the end of the road for singular they as a tool in your gender-friendly kit. As you learned from my linguist friends Bronwyn and Lex, each of us is a pro at saying “they” for a stranger whose gender we don’t know, and we do it every day without anyone noticing, ourselves included. In fact, because it’s already natural for native English speakers, you can begin to intentionally use singular they all the time without confusing the people you’re talking to . Using Singular They When You’re Unsure Let’s look at an e xample: my doctor’s receptionist needing to ask the doctor a question about my car e. While we’re in second-person (you/your ) territory—wher e the receptionist is speaking to me—the risk of mis-gendering is very low . But with the shif t to third person— where the r eceptionist is speaking about me to the doctor—we’r e in the mis-gendering r ed zone. Suddenly pronouns come into play . My androgynous gender e xpression, gender -neutral name, gender-neutral Dr. title on my patient file, and the lack of any se x marker on my Ontario health car d (standar d on the latest version) aren’t helping the r eceptionist decide what to say. This is wher e a more general use of singular they would be helpful. Instead, however, most people in this situation just choose a (wr ong) binary pronoun ( he or she ). I usually offer a gentle cor rection in these situations (and in most other situations too) because I’m an educator, and because I know I’m not the last person who’ll need this individual to notice and change how they use gendered language. But wouldn’t it be lovely if I didn’t have to? Using singular they a s a gender-friendly practice means acting on a few things you’ve learned in this book so far: • Your basis for “knowing” someone’s gender and automatically applying she/her or he/him pronouns isn’t always reliable. • Mis-gendering someone is just one more way of calling them into question, whether you mean to or not. You now know a little bit more about transgender people and how we’re often called into question—sometimes with horrible consequences—because our gender expressions and/or our bodies aren’t thought to line up with expectations for people in the M/boy/man box or the W/girl/woman box. Y ou know that some trans people choose or are able to “pass” seamlessly as cisgender men or women, and that some trans people choose not to or can’t. You also know that some transgender people are nonbinary , like me, and that there isn’t just one way to “loo k like” a nonbinary person. All this is to say that the truth of someone’s gender identity doesn’t lie in whether a perfect stranger can mindlessly tick one of the binary boxes based on how that person looks or sounds. What you think you know about someone else on the basis of what you see or hear might not actually reflect who they are. When you presume otherwise, you welcome only some people into your space: people who are or who seamlessly pass as cisgender . But when you understand that what you see or hear might not be the whole story of a person’s gender, you can make more gender-friendly choices that work for everyone. If singular they is used for everybody who walks into, say, your office, and if people see this happen for everybody , then you can’t make a particular person stand out. The challenge is that the more we think we “know” about a person’s gender—which, in person, includes what we see and what we hear—the harder it is to remember that our “knowledge” is unreliable. And so, you’ll be most successful in making the shift to general singular they usage if you do it with others in your life, perhaps with some help from Chapter 4. For example, a doctor’s office could make it a policy to use singular they for patients, or to look at a patient’s file before using any gender pronouns. This last suggestion would work best if the office’s electronic records software had a pronoun box that just got filled in as part of patient intake. Overall, any effort that you devote to not mis-gendering trans people, including general singular they usage, stands to benefit others too. You don’t have to be trans to be mis- gendered, and trans people aren’t alone in getting hurt when it happens. For example, there are cisgender men and women whose voices don’t line up with expectations for “how men should sound” or “how women should sound.” Another exampl e is names. We commonly come across culturally unfamiliar (to us) names and can’t tell if they’re gendered. Using singular they can be a good strategy here, too, as it very often goes completely unnoticed.   THE BENEFITS OF ASKING EVER YONE Service Canada, the customer service ar m of the federal government, recently implemented a new guideline sur rounding gender -friendly language. (A person would call or walk into a Service Canada stor efront to do things lik e apply for employment insurance if they’ve been laid off, or access their federal public pension.) Service Canada employees have been ask ed to avoid using gendered language ( madam , sir , Ms. , Mr. ) until they’ve ask ed how a client likes to be addr essed. This has stirred up debate, lik ely provoked by a confusing r ollout. Some critics have even called the guideline a waste of employees’ time and of public money that should be spent elsewher e. I can see why people would think this if they aren’t used to noticing when they’r e called into question by others. If you haven’t felt this every day or every time you step outside of your house, you might be unable to understand. But fr om where I sit, ther e’s no harm whatsoever in everyone being ask ed how they’d like to be addressed. W ith this thr ee-second interaction, the vital services r endered by Service Canada become accessible to everyone, gender -wise. Implementing Singular They in a Workplace Even if a gender -neutral pronoun or other language policy is impossible wher e you work, you can make the decision on your own to use singular they as a rule for people, whether in person or on the phone. This pr obably means some practice, using some of the e xer cises and strategies I included in Chapter 4. Another option for short-ter m interactions is to avoid using pronouns at all. In the following table I give some suggestions for how a doctor’s office receptionist could talk about a patient, first using singular they , and then avoiding gender pr onouns altogether . Both can be readily adapted to other conte xts. Just like you did in Chapter 4, try r eading each example out loud. GENDER-FRIENDL Y WAYS OF TALKING ABOUT A CLIENT OR P ATIENT Less Gender-F riendly More Gender-F riendly He wants to know if he’s able to get a prescription r efill. They want to know if they’r e able to get a prescription r efill. The patient is asking about a prescription r efill. Can she decide herself when to tak e off the bandage? Can they decide themself when to tak e off the bandage? Can the patient decide when to take off the bandage? When does he need to come back for a follow-up? When do they need to come back for a follow-up? How long after a [procedure] befor e a follow-up is needed? Let’s take my doctor’s office example and move it onto the phone, as if I’d calle d to make an appointment or ask questions about my prescription. On the phone the receptionist has no gende r information to go on other than my voice, which is higher in pitch than the average “man’s voice” and about average for a “woman’s voice,” whatever that means. From the sound of my voice alone, then, the receptionist unconsciously “knows” my gender , and likely selects she/her pr onouns. And voilà: I am mis-gendered based on my vocal pitch. In Chapter 5 I suggested reading a person’s obviously intentional gend er expression in order to infer their pronouns. Each person’s gender expression is kind of like a sign that tells others how to appropriately refer to and interact with them. Many people—whether trans or not— devote a lot of time and energy to being highly readable as men or as women, and if someone is very obviously putting out gender expression signals that X is their gender identity , reading these signals can be a gender-friendly practice. Your voice is part of your gender expression, whether you’re aware of it or not. You learned in Chapter 3 that vocal training can be part of social transition for some transgender people, and that training can involve changing pitch but more easily targets tone and inflection. All this is to say that if you hear someone speaking on the phone with what—to you—sounds like a “man’s voice” in term s of pitch but their tone and inflection sound like “how women talk” in you r local context, you might choose to read this obviously intentional gender expression and use she/her pronouns, Ms. , etc. Howe ver, if you’re unsure, using singular they to refer to someone who’s on the phone is a better idea than just being a gender-language robot. And remember , if you get it wrong, you now know how to make a good mistake: say sorry , rephrase, and move on, all in a neutral manner . Avoiding Gendered T erms and Titles Any office can adopt a policy that walk-ins are not to be referred to with gendered terms, titles, or pronouns. Here are some gender-neut ral alternatives to statements commonly used in front-line office settings. GENDER-FRIENDL Y OFFICE GREETINGS Less Gender -Friendly Mor e Gender -Friendly Ther e’s a lady her e to see you. There’s someone her e to see you. Your twelve o’clock appointment has ar rived. Ar e you r eady for me to send in your visitor? Can I get your name, Mr . . . . ? Can I ask your name? Whom should I say is waiting? This gentleman needs assistance. I have someone who needs assistance. Do you have a moment to assist someone? Alt e rn ativ e s t o C om m on G en d ere d La n g uag e When you realize that gender is more complicated than a quick, unconscious inference based only on what you can see or hear , it becomes apparent pretty fast that gender is everywhere in our vocabu lary and not only in our grammar . And so, another gender-friendly practice is learning to replace some of the most automatically applied words in your lexicon. In this section I’ll explore some alternatives and how to use them, beginning with language that indicates relationship, followed by language that indicates formality . Gender-Neutral Language That Indicates Relationship In the ne xt table, you’ll see common gender ed terms that indicate relationship and some emer ging gender-neutral alternatives. Some alter natives are more obvious and self -evident than others, but they all have their uses depending on who’s using them and the conte xt of their use. ALTERNA TIVES TO COMMON (GENDERED) RELATIONSHIP TERMS Instead of only sa ying . . . . . . you can also sa y: Husband, wife Spouse, partner Girlfriend, boyfriend Partner, lover, sweetheart, sweetie, date, significant other, main squeeze, “person X is seeing/dating,” person (with possessive: my, his, her, their, hir, etc.) Girl, dude, guy (as a for m of address, like “ Hey, girl”) Friend, pal, chum, dear, love, champ, kiddo, captain Instead of only saying . . . . . . you can also say : Daughter, son Kid, child, baby, “our/my eldest,” “our/my youngest,” “ our baby” Granddaughter, grandson Grandchild, grandkid Sister, brother Sibling, sib Aunt, uncle “My dad’s sibling,” “my mum’s sibling,” untie Niece, nephew “My sibling’s kid,” nibling, sibkid Mother/mum/mummy/etc. or father/dad/daddy/etc. Par ent Grandmother, grandfather, etc. Grandpar ent Adding the right-hand terms to your gender-f riendly toolkit is useful for a few reasons. First, they are handy in situations where you know a person is nonbinary and you need to talk about their relationship to others. Second, these terms are helpful when you want to avoid imposing a gender (“Take this home to your mummy”) or the entire gender binary and heterosexuality (“Take this home to your mummy and daddy”) just because you need to say something. Many terms in the table are geared toward situations where you’re speaking about someone else’s parent, sibling, kid, etc., and this is why I have only parent and grandparent up there: because these are terms that you can use to indicate other people’s relationships. Of course, people get called all kinds of wonderfully unique gender- neutral terms by their own kid s or gran dkids. I know many parents who get called their names or a mangled version made up by their own kids while developing language. This is also true for people under the transgender umbrella. Recently I’ve heard terms like baba ( se ems to be gaining in popularity among trans parents and queer parents alike), abba , zaza , or renny (like the second syllable of the word parent ). These idiosyncratic terms can each be replaced by parent or grandparent in less personal talk. Of course, the creativity doesn’t stop at parent alternatives. My brother often calls me “sib” as a term of endearment, and my sister sometimes calls me “dingus” (which has nothing to do with gender , but I find it hilarious, so it’s includ ed here). My brother’s kids (ages twenty and sixteen) sometimes refer to me as their “untie” instead of uncle or aunt , but both called me Wizzie when they were little, a word one of them came up with as a toddler . My sister’s four-year-old twins also call me Wizzie. Who knows —that might be what my own kids call me someday if I have them, becaus e it’s a spec ial name given to me by the four kids I love most in the world already .   MY DAD IS A FUNNY GUY, OR FINDING YOUR OWN WAY Thr oughout our lives, when my siblings or I would come downstairs in the mor ning, my dad would sing the Miss America theme song to announce our presence, especially when we’d slept way in and look ed like it. W e’re Canadian, but that didn’t seem to matter one bit. When I came out as nonbinary, my dad—a funny guy—wasted no time in adapting his favorite jok e. When I visit now, he gr eets me in the morning by singing, “Ther e they are, P erson America!” I r oll my eyes, he laughs lik e the daddest dad ever, and he gives me a great big hug. My dad also sometimes intr oduces me as his “offspring,” which can stand out but gels with his jok ey personality. All this is to say that our personalities and r elationships play into how we come to do gender right for the people we love. If you or someone you love is nonbinary, for example, you can work together to find your own way forwar d, and just try something out and see how it sits. I’ve noticed sib and untie floating around online and in conversation, too, as wel l as words like nibling and sibkid in place of niece and nephew Untie , nibling , and sibkid stand out, however , and sometimes it might be best to use the phrases in the table instead (“my sibling’s kid”), particularly when you’re referring to people who you don’t know very well. Until these words become more normalized (if indeed they ever do), you’ll probably get some blank stares. Helping T rans Kids Think Through Their Gender-Language Needs After many years of being out as nonbinary, I have a str ong knowledge of which words work for me. But if you’re the par ent (or other significant adult) of a trans kid, particularly one who is newly coming into themself, it might be a good idea to sit down and have a practical conversation about what terms work for them. They might need some support in thinking about what it looks lik e to meet those needs when you’re all visiting the grandparents, or when you’r e wandering about in the world without them and run into somebody you haven’t seen for years. It can be helpful to “interview” the kid and help them think throug h terms they feel comfortable with, as well as when and where to use them. When you run into Linda from church at the corne r store, for example, do you have to use the new terms and bring on all of the questions even if your kid has moved away and might never see her again? The clearer and more actionable your kid’s needs are, and the more pos itive, collabo rative communication you’ve had together about them, the more likely you will be to enjoy your relationship. In the following sidebar I’ve included a tool to help guide this “interview” with your kid about their needs. Of course, this can support any other situation in which you’re collaborating with someone on hav ing their gender needs met in a context you share, and running through these prompts every so often is a useful exercise for transgender-spectrum people at every age. Many of these questions prioritiz e safety , and how this changes among the various contexts of a trans person’s life. WHA T • Wha t term (s) can people use to describe me and my gender to others? • What terms can my family members use for me that indicate our relationship? • What term(s) can my partner(s) use for me that indicate our relationship? WHERE • Place s where I need people (or a particular person) to always work to use my pronoun, preferred name, or correct gender terms: • Places where I need people (or a particular person) to never use my pronoun, preferred name, or correct gender terms: • Places where people (or a particular person) can use their judgment: WHO • Peop le whom I need people (or a particular person) to always re mind/corr ect about my pronoun, preferred name, or correct gender terms: • People whom I need people (or a particular person) to never remind/correct about my pronoun, correct name, or preferred gender terms: • People with whom people (or a particular person) can use their judgment: Gender-Neutral Language That Indicat es Formality Gender doesn’t show up only in the terms that indicate our intimate, personal, or family relationships. Gender also show s up in formal language, including terms— sir , madam , ma’am , ladies , and gentlemen —and titles— Mr. , Ms. , Mrs. , and Mx. (see the sidebar). There are some situations in which gendered terms are particularly ingrained. I love good cocktails, both creating and enjoying, and a special treat for me is going to a fancy cocktail bar. I’m that person who reads everything on the drinks list and asks a lot of questions. The problem with this hobby—well, the problem most relevant to this chapter —is that the fancier a place or situation, the more likely it is that gendered language will be used there.   A GENDER-NEUTRAL HONORIFIC: MX. Mx. —pronounced “Mix”—is a gender -neutral alter native to Ms. , Mrs. , or Mr. If I wer en’t Dr . Airton, I’d be Mx. Airton. Mx. was added to the Mer riam-Webster dictionary in 2017, although the dictionary’s blog says the ter m first appeared in print in 1977. Mx. is increasingly offer ed as an option on for ms, including by major banks lik e HSBC, as r eported by The Independent in 2017. Merriam- Webster notes that Ms. had an eighty -five-year gap between being coined in 1901 and being adopted in 1986 by The New Y ork Times , wher eas Mx. was added to the dictionary only forty years af ter being coined. Things appear to be speeding up. Good thing you picked up this book! Formality in Oral Language In the North American service industry formality is gendered. In high-end service contexts, we seem to think that the only way to show deference and respect to customers is by declaring how obvious it is that they are ladies and/or gentlemen, whether by saying these terms or saying “sir” or “madam.” This formal-equals- gendered mentality is a hangover from when restaurant culture was far more gendered in every way. New York Times writer Frank Bruni reminds us that women used to receive menus and have their plates cleared before men, and that some restaurant software even let servers punch in “L” for lady! Even today, when these habits have receded, as a nonbinary cocktail lover I find myself going back to the same innovative cocktail bars where the bartenders are always evolving their craft and, just as importantly , have gotten to know me. You might call this a gende r-friendly self-care practice. Formal gendered language is common at the other end of the customer service spectrum, too, like when you’re lining up to get a refund at Target or calling a custome r service number to complain about your Internet service. Maybe calling someone “ma’am” or “sir” in lukewarm tones is thought to insulate a customer service representative from the rage and pain of som eone whose fifth air mattress is leaking, or whose Internet isn’t streaming Netflix fast enough. Whatever the reason, as soon as a representative hears my voice on the phone, it’s usually “ma’am” to the max. Once they’ve pulled up my account, even though my name is gender-neutral and my title is Dr., I’m still unthinkingly called “miss” or even “missus.” Of course, I’m not alone. I like to joke that I got my PhD so I could liberally sprinkle Dr. all over my bills and plane tickets, which sometimes works to cue someone into changing their use of formal gendered terms. Very often people who work in the service industry ask me what they can say instead of terms like ladies , gentlemen , sir , and madam . I draw their attention to other ways we show formalit y other than gendering people. Imagine a server sauntering over to a table and mumbling “Hello, ladies” with a flat affect, arms crossed, and zero eye contact. Now imagine the same server walking over and, with a slight incline to their body, saying “Good evening” while making brief eye contact with everyon e seated around the table. Which is more formal? My part ner and I recently went to a fancy restaurant with a visiting friend, and we were kind of surp rised when the waiter pulled out the fourth chair and plopped down to describe the daily menu feature s and take our order . While it didn’t bother me per se, it reminded me that there are conventions for showing formality, and these often have nothing to do with language at all, let alone with gendered language. In addition to “Good evening,” other helpful gender-neutral phrases you can use to convey respect (in combination with body language, eye contact, and tone) include: • Welcome to [restaurant]. • May I help the next guest? • And for you? • What will you be having? • How is everything tasting? I’m sure you can think of many more, including adaptations of this approach across contexts. How could this kind of gender-free formality be useful in plac es where you work or spend time? Formality in W ritten Language So far, I’ve focused on how to navigate gender when you’re speaking in a formal context, but there are also things to know about gender in formal writing . I’m often asked how to avoid “Dear Sir or Madam . . . ” or “Dear Mr. or Ms. [name] . . . ” in correspondence. Unlike with general singular they usage, I don’t suggest using Mx. for people you don’t know unless it is indeed their title, because Mx. isn’t yet common in English. I also want to hold space for all the peopl e who like their gendered title of Mr. , Ms. , or Mrs. , whether they are cisgender or transgender . After all, I know how much I love my own. And I’m very okay with being respectfully asked for my title, particularly if everyone else is too . An emerging alternative to using titles is using a pe rson’s full name instead: “Dear Lee Airton . . . ” This is more formal than addressing someone by their first name, and doesn’t require gendering.   “INSTEAD OF SA YING LADIES . . . ” In 2015 Vancouver-based artist T oni Latour and collaborator Jenny L ynn released a business car d–sized intervention for diners to leave alongside the tip, particularly targeting the indiscriminate use of ladies that irritates many people, whether trans or no . On the cards, Latour and L ynn suggest gender – neutral replacements for ladies or gentlemen , like friends , folks , and everyone . Lik e I do in this book, they also war mly invite the server to “join the movement to be more mindful of language!” Y ou can learn more and print your own car ds at www.tonilatour .com/hello -there . Changing how titles are used in corresponden ce can bring on a headache, however . Organizations often use templates for mass correspondence via email or in print, and these tend to generate gender- un friendly outcomes like that old ches tnut “Dear Sir or Madam.” Removing titles or shifting to full names could mean changing a proprietary software program, a problem that many colleges and universities have faced when they seek to add things like preferred name or pronoun fields in student databases. However , time and resources are well spent on these changes, and examples are popping up all over North America to show that this is both possible and necessary . PA RT T H REE W HAT T O D O Now that you’ve learned about how gender works and the role of language in both gender and gender -friendline ss, in Part Three I focus on what you can do to begin building a mor e gender-friendly world ar ound you. Let me be clear : A gender-friendly world isn’t a world without gender . It’s not a palette of grays and beiges, or a sea of shapeless bodies in tunics and bowl cuts. It’s neither a utop ia nor a dystopia . A gender -friendly world is a world of gender abundance and gender joy, whether one’s joy resounds in masculinity, femininity, both, or neither . Gender -friendly practices are tools for bringing this world into being, starting with where you are. Gender -friendly practices by definition do not call others into question when their appearance, behavior, needs, or feelings go against our visceral expectations for whatever category we lumped them into on sight. In this part we’ll revisit your gender -friendly road map, and talk about specific action items you can implement to support people you care about who are on the transgender spectrum, or who do gender in ways unlike other people around you. I’ll then show how you can practice self-car e, and build a community around you of people who are also committed to creating a ge nder -friendly world. 7. H ow t o S to p T e llin g P eo p le W ho T h ey A re , G en d er-W is e , b y A ccid en t You’r e the Authority on Y our [XYZ], Not Me! Gender-Friendly W ays to Talk about P artners Gender-Friendly W ays to Talk about and Engage Babies and Kids It’s Not My Business Which W ashroom Y ou Use! This chapter will explore the tendency to call other people into question in everyd ay conversations, often without meaning to or without being aware that we are doing this. I’ll help you begin to recognize and avoid this habit, which I call “telling people who they are or should be” in the gender department. Whether in person or in quick -fire exchanges on social media, when we’re chatting with others, we often tell them who they are or even who they should be with the questions we ask or by directing them to some gendered spaces but not others. This is another way we participate in gender by calling people into question, but often without asking explicit questions. And this most often happens unconsciously , without any intention on our part. Transgender and cisgender people alike who experience this all the time know how exhausting it can be, and how it can lead to self -censorsh ip or isolation. The accumulated impact can even stop you from accessing things you need to be well, like sites of service provision (doctor, mental health services) or a gym or other recreational space, because accessing them just takes too much emotional work. In this chapter , then, I share tips for gender-friendly language beyond using particular words. Each section describes a common situation you’re likely to run in to at one time or another , then explains gender-friendly ways to handle them. Sometimes we don’t mean to say what we say, but our gender-language robot selves take over in these moments. These tips are ways to stop this from happening to you. Each tip also includes extensions that adapt its basic premise to other situations. Yo u ’r e t h e A uth orit y o n Y o u r [ X YZ ], N ot M e! In Chapter 1 I shared my sister Megan’s story of her experiences with infertility . In her thirties, as a woman without children, she began standing out and getting called into question by people she knew and perfect strangers alike, includi ng while she and her husband were trying to get pregnant. Megan’s story shows how question-calling can take the form of actual questions from well-meaning people: “Do you want kids?” or even “Why don’t you have kids yet?” But question-ca lling can also happen nonverbally via how we react to someone with our body language, affect, and tone. Our nonverbal reactions often tell another person what they should do, like, or want, instead of holding open the possibi lity that there might be more to know. I began thinking about this in my first year as a McGill undergrad when I met my friend Brianna O’Connor Hersey. Brianna had a painful autoimmune disease where the bowel develops ulcers that don’t heal well or at all. When we met, Brianna was about to have surgery after many years of living with the painful effects of this condition. This involved having a portion of her bowel removed and the remaining end attached to an opening in her torso . After the surgery Brianna’s body would excrete waste into disposable bags that she attached to the stoma, or opening. F or most people this sounds unpleasant at bes t. If you haven’t experienced acute illness or chronic pain, you might struggle to imagine this ever being a good option, and your reactions to hearing about it likely would be limited to concern or even pity for the person about to go through it. This was me at the time. But Brianna sat me and a few others down on the carpet in what was then the McGill Women’s Union. Marker in hand, and with an abundance of fascination and enthusiasm, she drew us a diagram of her upcoming surgery and explained how the stoma would work. Brianna’s affect was contagious. I, too, became excited about her surgery and its outcome. She taught us to reflect back to her the meaning of this life event for her: not unpleasant, not gross, but promising and exciting. Brianna taught me a lesson that day about noticing my own reaction s and catching myself, as well as learning to mirror others when the topic is their life, not mine . W e can easily adapt this lesson for our gender-friendly toolkit. When I talked about asking someone for their pronouns, I stressed that it’s import ant to receive the answer as if whatever that person says is exactly what you expected to hear. There’s no point in respectfully asking someone for their pronouns if your reaction says their pronouns are ridiculous. There are many reasons why a person’s pronouns might surprise you, but if you react instead by mirroring their affect with your tone, facial expression, and body languag e, you sideline what you think you “know” and instead position that person as the expert on whether something is right or wrong for them. In my experience, this is far more powerful than just telling them they know what’s best. In sum , as a gender-friendly practice, do your best to react lightly and neutrally about X until you have more information about what X means to the person at the center of it all. Try not to react in an exaggerated way that tells them how you believe they should think or feel. Here are some extensions of this tip: • Try to brac ket your surprise when a person first comes out to you about their gender identity (or sexual orientation). If you react with surprise, you’re once again telling them who you think they are, or that it couldn’t possibly be true that they are who they say they are. It’s okay to have challenging or unexpected feelings about someone else’s life path, but the message here is that you can have these feelings, take them away with you to process on your own or with help, and respo nd in a gender-friendly way to the person by paying attention to your own reaction and mirroring the other as best as you can. That said, if someone you know or care about has come out to you in the past and you reacted in a negative or closed way, you might read this tip with some difficult feelings. Only you know the condition of your relationship today, but now that you know a bit more, it might be a good idea to shar e with them how you wish you had reacted at the time: with as much gender-friendliness as you could muster . I’ll say more about this in Chapter 9. • W omen whose bodies don’t align with stereotypical size expectations are constantly called into question. We usually react to a woman’s dramatic weight loss by saying “Y ou look great!” or similar . But let’s say you run into a frien d who has lost a significant amount of weight since the last time you saw her. What if your friend’s weight loss isn’t something she’s into? What if it’s the result of a serio us illness or a stressful life event? Because the body size rules of the woman category are so rigid, we aren’t used to taking these possibilities into account before speaking. Rather , we plow forward as if weight loss is always an unquestionable good, full stop. Your well-meaning compliment tells her how she should feel about her weight loss, and even that she didn’t look great before . A bette r strategy , then, is to convey that you don’t know what her body change means—that you aren’ t the authority on who she is—but that you’re interested in how sh e is. The more gender-friendly practice is bracketing your surprise about her weight loss and just saying, “I haven’t seen you in so long! How have you been?” • We know that children’s play and, particularly , their attempts to engage adults in various types of play , are strategies for testing rules and boundaries, including about gender . When a child invites you into their play and the play is markedly gendered—whether or not it conforms to gendered expectations—bring as much gusto as you can muster and try to stay aware of your energy levels. Do your best to remain on an even keel, and explicitl y say when you get bored instead of just showing passive disinterest, which can be read as disapproval or discomfort. And if a child has a play idea that goes against the rules for their gender , try to react with no more or less enth usiasm than you would show if they asked for their favorite toy. This way, you aren’t accidentally telling them whether this is an approp riate or inappropriate choice for them. Lastly, do your best not to comm ent on or editorialize on a child’s gender- nonconforming play (etc.) within their earshot. They might not be aware that the activity is considered gender nonconforming at all, and that’s both beautiful and worth saving. Gen d er-F rie n d ly W ay s t o T a lk a b ou t Partn ers Let me just say that I’m not someone who turns down gossip. I’m as interested as anyone else in talking about who’s dating who in my communities, and in queer and trans communities this means doing a lot of gender-free communication about people I don’t know very well (or at all). Mercifully , there are terms for this purpose, some of which I included earlier in the table of gender-neutral relationship terms. For example, the past few decades have seen the rise of “partner language,” or when people use the gende r-neutral term partner to refer to a person they’re in a relationship with. This wasn’t always the case. I vividly remember hearing someone say “my partner” in the intimate sense for the very first time. At six years old, I was flabbergasted. I’m sure my mouth hung open as I gaped at the woman who said it and the man she had called her “partner .” I knew they were together , but their connection was now unfathomable. Today saying “my partner” around a kid probably wouldn’t even register because partner language is use d by all kinds of people, likely because it’s less diminutive than boyfriend or girlfriend . In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that, outside of contexts like business or law where partner ha s a spe cific connotation, calling someone “my partner” is probably always interpreted as a sign of an intimate relationship. Like using singular they as a gender-neutral pronoun for a nonbinary person you know , the rise of partner language is just one more example of language changing as society changes. While many people choose gender-neutral terms like partner w hen talking about their own relationships, a gender-friendly practice is using gender-neutral language when you ask or speak about others’ relationships. For example, let’s say your acquaintance mentions they’re going on a date or seein g someone, but doesn’t offer any other information. A classic experience of many non- heterosexual men is people automatically using she/her pronouns to refer to that someone, and vice versa for non- heterosexual women. This is frustrating because it presumes that anyone they’d be dating is necessarily of the “opposite sex,” or that the person is necessarily straight. In these instances it’s more gender-friendly to use singular they and gende r-neutral terms for others’ unspecified partners or dates. This doesn’t tell them who you think they are, which in this case means who you think they should desire or date. Using gender-neutral language also holds open the possibility that their partner or date is a nonbinary person. As you know by now , this might just be the case! So, here’s the tip, condensed: when asking or talking about another person’s special someone, use gender- neutral language until you have more information. This means using partner , date , “per son you’re seeing,” they/them , etc. You’ll learn soon enough, by listening and mirroring a person’s own language use, which terms are warranted. Here are some extensions of this tip: • Parents , yo u send valuable and generous messages to your kids about their own life possibilities when you use gender-neutral language for other people’s partners, or pause and ask which pronouns are appropriate in a conversation. You can also use gender-neutral language to ask about your kids’ friends and their friends’ friends, whether platonic or romantic. This is perhaps the most important relationship in which to send a message that “gender is not the only thing I ca re about.” Afte r all, researchers have repeatedly found that supporti ve parent and family relationships are key protective factors for gender- and sexual-minority youth. Gen d er-F rie n d ly W ay s t o T a lk a b ou t an d E n g ag e B ab ie s a n d K id s When you meet someon e with a baby and they haven’t styled the baby in a way that makes the gender extremely obvious, try using gender-neutral language. This conveys that you’re interested in more than just gender , and also helps create a climate where babies don’t have to be gender-styled. In such a climate parents can dress their babies in leggings and T-shirts all the time and not have to deal with long hair or make hairdos happen (if they don’t enjoy doing so) just to avoid a chorus of gender questions. Soon-to-be parents and new parents can also get to feel like people are invested in their baby beyond the gender box, and in how they themselves are doing too. You’ve also learned that some babies aren’t as easily assigned into one or the other gender box, including but not only because they’re intersex (see the sidebar in Chapter 1). If there were less of an imperative to gender babies, it could mean less anxiety for many parents whose answer to “girl or boy?” immediately calls them into question, for any number of reasons. There are many things worth knowing when you hear that someone you know just had a baby , but in the heat of the moment it’s easy to default to the boy-or-girl question like a robot. Here are some other questions you can have on hand that are just as (if not more) important. Of course, each is more or less applicable depending on your circumstances. • Is everyone doing okay? • How did the delivery go? • Was it a hospital birth? • Do they have any family visiting? • Do they have everything they need? • Are they having a celebration of some kind? • Have they had a baby before? (Here, singular they doesn’t presume the gender of the birthing parent, and also doesn’t presume the number of parents.) You can also use gender -neutral language when talking about a kid whose gender isn’t obvious, even if you think you “know .” And there are also kids, even young ones, who identify under the nonbinary umbrella. Likewise, some parents are raising their kids in a gender-open way, using singular they until their kid makes their own pronoun known. For all of these reasons, using gender-neutral terms and singular they —until you have more information, not forever—can be a gender-friendly practice in relation to kids too. It ’s N ot M y B usin ess W hic h W ash ro om Y o u U se ! Strangers commonly ask each other for the locati on of the nearest washroom. This can happen when you’re both new to a space, or it can happen because you’re the person working the front desk who’s supposed to know these things. How we habitually respond to someone—by directing them to either “the men’s” or “the women’s”— tells them who we think they are and thus where we think they should go. Instead, direct others to “the washrooms” (which are usually side by side anyway), and, if possible, include a gender-neutral washroom in your response. Or, if the gendered washrooms aren’t side by side, offer all of the options. Make a habit of noticing where the gender-neutral washroom is at work or in other places where you regularly spend time. Here’s a gender- un friendly example, where someone answers anothe r person’s washroom question by inadvertently telling that person who they are: Excuse me! Do you know where the washroom is? Yes! The ladies’ room is down the hall. And here’s a gender-friendly counterexample: Excuse me! Do you know where the washroom is? Yes! The gen dered washrooms are down the hall to the right, and there’s an accessible gender-neutral washroom just over there. Here are some extensions of this tip: • Do a simila r thing when someone asks you where the changing room is, wheth er in a store, at the gym, or anywhere else. • This tip extends to any gendered space, even ones where people don’t take their clothes off. If someone asks you whe re the shoe department is, for example, let them know where they can find men’s, women’s, and kids’ shoes. If you don’t know , you can always point them to the store directory. After all, you can’t know what they’re after, and you’re opening up the possibility that each of these destinations is both possible and okay. • M any dads are presume d to not need a washroo m with a baby changing table. Even if we feel absolutely certain which washroom the dudeliest-dude in fro nt of us requires, include all options because you never know . • The gender-neutral washroom is usually also the accessible one, and by including the gender-ne utral washroom in your answer you’re not telling a person who they are in the ability department either . More on Making Bathrooms Gender- Friendly It’s no accident that I be gan this book with a bathroom story . Public bathrooms can be the hottest hot spots of gender-unfriendliness, whether or not your context has legislation that prohibits or ensures trans people’s access to facilities that align with our gender identities. By now there is copious research on trans gender people’s experiences of public bathrooms, revealing what many of us already know well: patterns of verbal harassment and physical attack. Not using the bathroom also causes problems. In a paper discussing the findings of a survey of ninety-three transgender and gender- nonconforming people in Washington, DC, law scholar Jody L. Herman notes that “fifty-four percent of respondents reported having some sort of physical problem from trying to avoid using public bathrooms, all of whom reported that they ‘held it.’ ” These problems included dehydration, urinary tract infections, and kidney infections. The same study found that most respondents have avoided going out in pub lic because they couldn’t be sure they would be able to access a safe bathroom when they needed one. Beyond trans people, though, gendered bathrooms pose barriers for anyone whose gender gets called into question by others. For this reason, I wanted to share some ways to make public restrooms into more gender-friendly spaces via signage and etiquette, and ways to make key-access bathrooms more accessible for everyone. Signage Signage has been the focus of a lot of trans people’s bathroom advocacy . An increasingly common practice is changing the signs on single-user accessible restrooms to make it clear that they’re all-gender spaces. In my view , the best sign does away with gender altogether and actually depicts what’s inside: not one man and one woman, but a toilet, accessibility features, and/or a changing table. Another signage practice is including educationa l signs outside of the “men’s” and “women’s” bathrooms. These signs can give clear directions to the nearest gender- neutral restrooms. They can also make it crystal clear that no one may police anyone else’s use of these bathrooms, which can be legally accurate in jurisdictions like Ontario where gender identity and gender expression discrimination are prohibited. This message could be something like “A person in here is the best judge of whether they are in the right place.” Another kind of sign sometimes placed outside of ordinary gendered washrooms conveys a simple message that all are welcome: “This women’s washroom is trans-inclusive,” “W omen’s washroom—trans people welcome,” etc. Etiquette Even in places where there are legal protections against discrimination on the grounds of gender identity and gender expression, trans people still experience hostility and violence in public restrooms. For these reasons, it’s a gender-friendly practice to convey the belief that every other person in the bathroom with you is in the right place. This is another example of not telling someone who they are, as I discussed earlier in this chapter . You can convey this belief with your body language and facial expression in three ways. 1. First, you can avoid telling people they shouldn’t be there by doing your best to not express surprise at their presence, whether verbally or nonverbally . For example, on the rare occasions where I have no choice but to use a gendered restroom (I usually choose the women’s because I’ve been to the other side on many occasions and it often smells worse), I sometimes hear this: “Oh phew! Y ou’re a woman.” W ell, no, actually. So, try not to express surprise (or relief), and avoid taking secret second looks in my direction, because they aren’t all that secret! 2. Second, you can conve y the message that everyone is in the right place by completely ignoring the people around you, even if you feel hyperaware of someone’s presence. This is a useful strategy if you are shy or an introvert. 3. My third and final—and more extrovert-friendly— suggestion is making eye contact and smiling at other people, as this indicates that they’re in the right place and welcome there. Key Access In addition to changing familiar routines and rituals, changing familiar structures is also warranted if a structure itself is a hot spot. For example, some buildings contain several office or business suites that share washrooms. These are often accessible only to clients using a key . To use a washroom in these cases you have to take a key off a hook in a very public space, or ask for it in front of others. To make them harder to walk away with, the keys are often attached to large, conspicuous objects. I’ve seen everything from plain wooden spoons, to wooden spoons painted neon pink and neon blue, to Barbie and Ken dolls, and everything in betwee n. This can go very badly for some people, either because they have to select a binary- gendered object in front of a bored waiting room, or because they have to ask for the key to a gendered washroom in front of a bored coffee lineup. If you work or spend time in a place like this, and you feel comfort able doing so, consider asking someone in charge what would happen if a person needed a gender- neutral washroom to plant the seed that this is a problem. You might suggest removing Barbie and Ken in fav or of two plain objects, like wooden spoons. Even if one spoon says “women” and one spoon says “men” in small writing, it’s not as easy for others to see a person’s selection in the waiting room and call them into question.   GENDER-FRIENDL Y BATHROOMS ARE NOT DANGEROUS SPACES FOR CISGENDER PEOPLE A familiar objection to gender -friendly bathrooms and transgender women’s access to women’s facilities, in particular, r ehearses the tired myth that this poses a danger to (cisgender) women and girls. This myth has been repeatedly discounted, including by CNN in Mar ch 2017, when reporters contacted twenty law enfor cement agencies in states with gender identity anti-discrimination legislation and found no r eported instances of assault by transgender people after the legislation took effect. By contrast, the previously mentioned survey of ninety -three transgender and gender – nonconforming people in W ashington, DC, found that 70 per cent of respondents r eported denial of access, verbal harassment, and/or physical assault in gender ed washrooms. This is just one of many studies identif ying this pattern. In case you see or hear this kind of pushback, you can r eply with confidence that it’s transgender people who are actually at risk in bathrooms and not the other way around. 8. A n A ctio n P la n f o r S ta n d in g U p Besid e Y o u r P ers o n 1. P ay A ttention 2. Opt Out of Question-Calling 3. Identif y Hot Spots 4. Take A ction Now Y ou Have Y our Gender -Friendly T oolkit In Cha pter 2 you began sketching your gende r-friendly road map, noticing and making observations about the people around you, including how they do or don’t fit into how gender works in the spaces you share, whether personal, work-related, or social. Now we return to your gender-friendly road map and explore what it looks like to follow that map by taking practical steps to open up gender in the space you have mapped out. You might be particularly invested in taking action because you’re a family member , parent, friend, or partner of a trans person. How great would it be if your person could enjoy a visit with your extended family, or even just come with you to Zumba? Or you might not have a particular trans and/or gender-nonconforming person in mind right now. In this case, by following your road map you’re acting on your awareness that, sooner or later , someone will enter the space who is transgender (which, as we’ve seen, could mean many things) or whose way of doing gender transgresses the gender rules that you now know are enforced where you are. The practical steps I offer in this chapter are: 1. Pay attention 2. Opt out of question-calling 3. Identify hot spots 4. Take action 1. P ay A tte n tio n First, pay attention to the question-calling when it happens (you can go back to the table in Chapter 2 for examples of what this can look like). Ask yourself: • If there’s laughter , is it the laughing-with or laughing- at variety , and is the “laughing with” actually what it claims to be? • If there’s gossip, who gossips with whom? Is there any effort at subtlety , or is it open season? • Is laughter or gossip a whole-office or whole-family (etc.) activity , or do some people opt out? Can people opt out, or do they get called into question when they try? • If there are new rules after a transgression, who makes the rules, and are they applied to everyone? If not, who gets to break them? You’ll learn a lot about how gender works in that space or community of people once you begin paying attention, and you’ll probably want to make some adjustmen ts to your road map. This is to be expected. 2. O pt O ut o f Q uestio n -C allin g Second, try to recognize when you participate in question- calling, and do your best to opt out, whether this means stopping all at once or by degrees. Opting out doesn’t just mean stoppin g the laughter from happening altogether. You might not have that power (which might sound weird, but remember that this book is for people of all ages and who are facing many different situations). And sometimes we can’t opt out entirely because we risk becoming a target too . Th is is a bad situat ion, but it’s important to be real about whether you’re at risk yourself , and how you can stay okay . Opting out can mean: • Not laughing yourself, or not laughing in a way that amplifies or encourages the laughter . • Making eye contact and sending nonverbal messages of support. • Verbally checking in. • Walking over to the standing-out person and starting another conversation. • Asking the standing-out person to walk away with you, whether or not you explicitly say why . • Lifting up the person by drawing on or bringing up something they’re proud of . • Shar ing your concerns with people who have the power to help . This is why , in Chapter 2, I asked you to think about who in that space could “get away with” standing out and who could make the question-calling stop, because they might have power that you don’t have. This doesn’t just mean the power to make formal rules, like a parent or a boss. It could also be the power to stop the laughing because when that person stops, everybody stops. 3. I d en tif y H ot S pots Third, keep an eye out for hot spots: times or places where the question-calling is either enabled or inevitable. Often hot spots happen in or around activities where people are divided into girls and boys, or women and men, or where people are invited to make assumptions about others on the basis of limited informat ion. But a hot spot can also be a person (or more than one) who continually creates a gender-unfriendly or downright unsafe place for gender nonconformity of any kind, whether in general or for a particular person who stands out. Think about what might neutralize hot spots in your space, or change how they play out. If you find yourself in a hot spot, there are some things you can do right away that don’t involve educating others about gender and how it’s doing harm in this moment, whether based on your own expertise or on what I’ve shared with you here. This is how people can get hung up and do nothing: by thinking that the only thing they can do is forcefully intervene and risk getting into a sparring match about something that they might not feel they know enough about (at least not yet). The forceful, educational intervention is an option, but it is not the only one . Here are two other things you can do to lessen a hot spot’s impact in the moment if you don’t feel like you can intervene explicitly and directly: • Invite the standing-out person to do something else with you instead of remaining within or near the hot spot. This could look like asking them to help you with something, which would make you the reason why they’re leaving. • Change the group caught up in the hot spot, either by adding or subtracting people (but not the target standing-out person). When someone leaves or someone new enters an interaction, dynamics shift, new conversation topics emerge, and breaks in convers ation allow for change. 4. T a ke A ctio n By taking action I mean doing concrete things to anticipate hot spots and doing your best to cool them down before someone who stands out is harmed by them. Often, this harm looks like mis-gendering, and can include the use of incorrect pronouns, names, terms, and inappr opriately gendered language more broadly , or it can look like being grouped along with others into the wrong gender box (verbally or actually). But the harm can also look like different kinds of violence. In taking action, you are trying your best to avoid the likelihood, frequency, and severity of all of these things. To illu strate taking action, I’ll place you in a scenario where you’re supporting someone who stands out in the gender department and is being called into question in some way, or who will foreseeably s tand out in a space or group of people you have in common. This could be a child, sibling, coworker , partner , or friend. Your goal is to take action in order to make this a more gender-friendly place for your person while also not burning it all down and salting the earth. In other words, this approach assumes that this is a space or group that offers some good or helpful things that you need or benefit from and that stands to do the same for your person. First, though, some changes are required. Imagine that you’ve already drawn your road map by reflecting on the gender boundaries here, and how various people tend to participa te in question-calling when these boundaries are crossed. You’ve begun to follow your road map by: • Paying attention • Reco gnizing and begin ning to opt out of the question- calling yourself • Identifying hot spots among the usual structures or routines that happen there Each section that follows contains an action step, and I pull out takeaways from each step for particular situations (especially those that feature parent-child relationships). Help Your Person Get Ready Have a conversation together about where they’re at and how they’re doing these days, especially if you haven’t in a while. Ask open questions about how much work they’ve had to do lately to have their needs met (e.g., correcting, explaining), and how much energy they’re bringing into the space, event, group, or gathering and their interactions with the people you both know will be in it. Help them think through the kinds of conversations they’re able and willing to have, which ones you can front-load beforehand and with whom (more on this to come), and the conversations that need to stay off-limits. For example, are they currently able to answer questions about their gender identity or have intellectual conversations about whether their pronoun is grammatically correct? Once they’ve identified some sore topics and boundaries with your help, affirm that they have every right to draw the lines that they need to draw . Talk about constructive ways to draw those lines if these topics arise. Brainstorm a few ways they can leave unwelcome interactions, and be prepared to help them leave if necessary . A useful tip to share with them (even if they might end up using it on you, too, someday ) is to pretend their phone vibrated, pick it up, and pretend there’s someone there. This is an example of making a boundary without explicitly asserting a boundary , and can be a useful tool, especially for a person who may not feel comfortable openly advocating for their boundaries with a more powerful personality . • A broader takeaway from this action step is the importance of standing beside, and not in front of, someone else. If you’re close to a person who is standing out gender-wise , checking in and working with them is better than going rogue and doing it all by yourself . However , you may not feel comfortable doing so dep ending on your relationship. This doesn’t mean you can’t take action, just that the action you take should not be speaking for them. Recruit Someone Else to Help Y ou Out From drawing your road map you’ve already got a mental list of the people who will be present in the space you are thinking about. Use your gut and gender expertise to feel out whether one of them could be called in to take on the work of (gently and kindly) reminding people when they slip up and answering some of the most common questions. Even if you’re in a support role, the work of correcting can become exhausting, and ensurin g that at least one other person is on board to help out can mean you will have more energy for self-care and supporting your person. You may want to talk with your person about who this someone can be, unless their gender identity and pronoun are already common knowledge. Who knows! Your person may want to be there when you have the conversation, and their presence might work wonders if they feel safe and supported.   BALANCING DEVICE RULES AND ONLINE SUPPORT WITH A CHILD OR TEEN In your family, based on a variety of factors, you likely have rules for whether and/or how much devices are used in different times and places. On special occasions, like holidays, these rules of ten change as do expectations, including that childr en and adolescents socialize mor e and particularly with adults. Recognize that trans kids, particularly adolescents, have flock ed to the Internet to find safety, community, and affir mation. Changing rules around devices could be mor e fraught and anxiety-provoking for a trans kid. I suggest talking about it together in advance and offering a compr omise. This might be that their phone (etc.) can’t be used around guests, but that they can leave as needed to check in with friends or online supports. If the family computer is how your kid accesses the Internet and it’s in a common area, I suggest moving it to a more private location so that they’r e not disconnected altogether as long as family is ther e. It’s key to remember the importance of support networks outside of the space that you shar e. Ensuring access to existing supports can be as powerful an action step as pr oviding support yourself. • This action step is a reminder to look to others around you as resources and not obstacles, as best as you can. Just because they passively participate in question- calling doesn’t mean that they know they’re doing it or that they’re bad people. They also might not have a choice, lest they become targets themselves. • A broader takeaway from this action step is to think about ways to expand the circle and encourage others to participate in gender-friendly changes, wherever you are. Yo u can burn out too. I’ll come back to this in Chapter 9. Tweak F amiliar Rituals or Routines This action step is about de-prioritizing “what we do here” or “what has always been done” and instead prioritizing what is needed in order to make a space more gender-friendly . If there’s an entrenched ritual or routine in your space that you have recognized as a hot spot, it doesn’t need to keep on going in its current form. It’s okay to prioritize everyone’s well-being and participatio n in that space over things that people have come to expect and rely on when they’re already comfortable there. And don’t fear awkwardness or the discomfort of change. Any amount of awkwardness is better than letting business as usual be a source of harm. Activities and Events Gender boxes tend to come into the foreground when strangers or people who don’t know each other well (whether at all or because changes have taken place, gender-related or not) have to interact with each other. There isn’t much to rely on when you don’t know someone, and something we’re often presumed to have in common is a particular relationship to the two gender boxes. Well, you know by now that this isn’t a good bet for many reasons. It’s helpful to provide structure to ice-breaker activities and get-to-know-you events so that people’s participation doesn’t just fall back on gender out of necessity . If there’s going to be a “people bingo” activity (i.e., where strangers have to find other strangers who have a particular interest, experience, or characteristic), offer to review the bingo sheet and keep an eye out for questions that assume membership in just one gender box. Questions like these will authorize participants to read and infer gende r in ways that aren’t gender-friendly . You can also help nudge others away from explicitly or implicitly gender-divided activities, including by stepping into a leader ship role yourself , if you can. This might be for an office party or a friend’s stag-and-doe pre-wedding event, for example. Gift-Giving Situations Many holiday rituals involve gift giving, which easily shifts into gender-stereotypical territory when people don’t know each other very well. Gift giving can be awkward at best among mere acquaintances, but imagine if a standing- out person has to open gifts that are very clearly not intended for someone of their gender identity or gender expression and take care of the gift giver’s feelings. I have visions here of the annual office game of Secret Santa, where “women” get bath beads and “men” get golf tees, and of the “teenage girl” and “teenage boy” gift sets that you can buy in any chain drugstore, with pink or blue body products as well as BOY or GIRL stamped on the package in hug e letters. It isn’t always that dramatic, but gift giving among people who don’t know each other well can most certainly be a gender hot spot. There are things you can do to dial down the impact. First, and most obviously , you can try to stop the gift giving from happen ing altogether , but that’s not likely to go over very well with others. Another strategy is to suggest that individual gift giving not happen this year, but that your group, office, or family make a collective donation to a nonprofit or other organization that echoes values that you all share, and take time to celebrate the accomplishment of raising and making your donation. If that fails, you can discourage public gift opening in order to make the occasion less exposing for someone likely to be mis- gendered by their gifts. One more tip for a Secret Santa or gift-drawing scenario: take over the name drawing, and stack the deck so that you or another supportive person gives a gift to the person who stands out or is likely to stand out. • Parents have a few more options, given that you’re placed in a more protective and authoritative role vis-à- vis your child. You could share information about your kid’s interest s that explicitly discourages “girl” or “boy” gifts but doesn’t out their gender identity (if that is a concern). Gift cards for movies, a major online retailer , or a local (non-gender-specific) business are good choices here. If your kid is a teenager , this year you could suggest that children in the family receive gifts, but that teens and adults together make donations on the family’s behalf, as I suggested before. And if you can’t discourage public gift opening among your family , you could ask your kid if they want to skip the extended-family present opening (if necessary , you can offer the rest of the group a reason for their absence that makes sense in context), and have a more private one later on. • Times when a standing -out person is going to receive recognition of some kind (birthday , award ceremony , wedding, baby shower , et c.) are likely to be gender hot spots, so be prepared during these occasions to help nudge recognition away from unwanted or inappropriate gendering as best as you can, and as needed. Build One-on-One Time for Less Mis- Gendering For transgen der people who have changed pronouns, most mis-gendering that we see happens when people around us have to talk about us. In a one-on-one conversation a person has to go far out of their way to use a third-person pronoun ( they , she , he ). We just ask questions and answer them without talking about each other . And so, a gender-friendly action step is to encourage one-on-one formats because mis-gendering can be more likely in group gatherings. Furthermore, while question-calling happens in one-on- one conversations and even among mere acquaintances, as we’ve seen, it’s also less exposing than the kind that can happen in larger groups. And so, an easy way to reduce the risk of mis-gendering and other kinds of question-calling is to pare down group size or select one-on-one formats. • Think about changing the format or duration of a familiar ritual or routine to lessen its impact, particularly the impact of repeated mis-gendering. This might mean having shorter activity-based visits in groups instead of longer conversation-heavy ones. Or it might mean having phone calls instead of visits. • Parents , if there are visiting family members whom your trans kid wants to connect with but isn’t ready to come out to, you can reduce the risk of mis-gendering by facilitating one-on-one time. You can ask your child if there’s a particular activity they would like to share with that family member , and perhaps deliver the invitation yourself in an encouraging way. In addition to providing low-risk connection, one-on-one time might be an opportunity for your child to come out on their own. Of course, I suggest checking in and strategizing with them beforehand. Set a Proactive Boundary If you are in a position of power or authority , you can work proactively and in the background to make changes that enable everyone to be and remain well where you are. A diffic ult conversation with someone who actively creates gender-unfriendly hot spots or initiates harmful question- calling behaviors doesn’t necessarily have to involve or take energy from the person who stands out, whether transgender or not. If a norm of your space is that it is gender-friendly and welcoming to people no matter how they do gender , then this person’s behavior can be addressed as a proble m for the space and not just individualized to the person targeted by the behavior . Your conversation with them might be an opportunity for the person to air their beliefs and feel heard. It’s also an opportunity to call them in by lifting up their strengths and contributions to the space or group, and remind them of the community’s values that they also share and benefit from. But under no circumstances should this airing, hearing, and calling-in require the participation of persons targeted and harmed by the behavior . This is the leader’s responsibility alone. That said, it’s always okay for the leader—be they a parent, supervisor , administrator , teacher, principal, or other person in charge—to reach elsewhere for support or resources in order to carry out this responsibility , and to consult with the targeted person or persons, if warranted. • Parents , if there’s a particular family member coming who you know is unsupportive of trans people or on the record as touting particularly rigid beliefs about gender, find some time to authentically connect with them before they share space with your kid. If they live nearby , make a point to try and see them a few times before a planned holiday or event. As you get closer to the event, plan to have a conversation. Sit down with them alone, take their hands, look them in the eyes, and tell them how much you appreciate, love, and/or care for them. Te ll them how much you cherish the holiday memories you have with them and your family , and how glad you are that they are joining you. Then firmly but gently draw a boundary . Let them know that you fully support your kid’s gender identity, gender expression, and related needs, and that you’re concerned the family member doesn’t understand or agree. You might even affirm that they’re free to have their own beliefs. You aren’t telling them what to believe, but insisting that these beliefs cannot be around your child. Sometimes it helps people to hear that a key determinant of trans resilience is a supportive family environ ment (especially for kids ), and that this is the basis for your decision. I suggest doing this ahead of time because your family member may have anger or resentment about this boundary . You may have to be the container for some of this, if you are able to, so it can come out in a way that does not directly harm your child but offers an opportunity for your family member to feel heard. That said, we also know from attitudinal research that people who have personal contact with a (known) transgender person are less likely to hold negative views of transgender people. For this reason, try your best to keep the door open for their questions, now and in the future. Being around your trans kid might bring more willingness and desire to learn, which you can help with. However , it’s always okay to make the call that it’s not worth the risk. Share Information with Others Before I get going in this section, know that there are few if any situations where it’s okay to out a transgender adult who is not out, without their express knowledge and consent. Do not do this , except in exceptional circumstances (e.g., if it’s somehow medically necessary to disclose this information in an actual medical emergency where they are incapacitated), or if the circumstances of your relationship somehow makes it a thinkable thing to do . I ca n’t tell you when it would be okay , but I can tell you that it almost never is, and can even put someone in danger . The best plan is don’t. That said, part of making a space more gender-friendly could mean sharing information about someone’s gender and gender-related needs, but only with their consent if this information is not public knowledge. The person might not be immediately readable as their gender identity or as transgender, but will have to come out in order to have their gender identity respected and their correct name and pronouns used. Or som eone already in that community might be changing how they do gender , whether through social transition, medical transition, both, or neither . In any case, it might be necessary to convey information that someone is on the transgender spectrum, and what that means in terms of others ’ language use, etc. For example, I’m publicly out about being nonbinary and about my pronouns; that said, I’m not famous, so I often find myself in a space where I don’t know everyone. If I did know someone there, it would be useful to me if they shared in advance this publicly available information with others. The best-cas e scenario is that a person communicates this themself , on their own terms, and receives a supportive response. However , you might have inferred from using your gender expertise and drawing your road map that this will place the person in harm’s way. Or , and perhaps more likely, they might infer this using their own expertise gleaned from being a trans person in a rigidly gendered world, which means learning how to stay safe as best as one can. Let’s assume that it has fallen to you, with their consent, to share information about their gender needs and/or that they are transgender . You have two paths before you, depending on how you imagine this might go using your gender expertise and your road map of how gender works where you are. The first path is taken when you expect resistance, and the second path is taken when you don’t expect much or any resistance. When Y ou Expect Resistance First, I refer you to the previous action step on setting boundaries, which will come in handy here too. The following are some general tips for having this conversation: • Be clear , neutral, and matter-of -fact. Convey with your facial expression, body language, and tone of voice that this information is significant but not bad. Your gender- friendly job is to model how to best receive this information via your example. • Ensure that the conversation is happening in private, with no possibility of anyone overhearing. This is important to allow the person to have a difficult reaction with you, where you can witness and absorb its impact, and not to bottl e it up only to let it out and negatively affect the group’s dynamic or harm the person in question later on. • Find a balance between words that you infer are familiar to the person you are speaking with, and words understood by the person who you are supporting by sharing this information with others. • Parents , you may have to use terms or names that your kid isn’ t comfortabl e with in order to share this information, at least at first, so the person knows who and what you’re talking about. That’s okay. It’s likely that your kid would, too, if they were having this conversation. • Be ready to explain some very practical implications (i.e., say how this information changes the way they should interact with and talk about this person). Ideally, this is based on a conversation that you have had with this person about their needs (see the list of “inter view” questions I provided in Chapter 6, particularly if the person is a kid). • Rem ember that the purpose of doing this is to share the load otherwise borne by the transgender or gender- nonconforming person in question. For this reason, it is very okay to shield them from a difficult reaction by editing out some of the key harmful details. As a self – care strategy , for example , I do not encourage people in my life to fill me in on all of the mistakes that others make with my pronoun s, or to pass on all of the moments in which they’ve received difficult responses when talking about me. I just do not need more reasons to be exhausted in a binary-obsessed world. That said, do not withhold information that pertains to safety or make any safety decisions on your person’s behalf without consulting them. Bearing these tips in mind, here is a basic script for sharing information about a person in your space with someone who will likely have a difficult reaction to this news: “Y ou know that X is going to join us [add detail]. X is a transgender person, and this means that X uses [pronouns] and accesses gendered activities and spaces for [gender identity].” There will likely be some reaction. Next, it’s important to draw a very firm line: “Y ou likely have some questions, which is perfectly okay, and I can help you to find resou rces to answer those questions. But you need to know that I am priorit izing X’s safety and well-being. X isn’t going anywhere until they choose to leave for their own reasons . You need to tell me if you can’t participate in a trans-inclusive [space, workplace, etc.] in good faith, and do you r best to use X’s pronouns [etc.]. Time to adjust is okay, but it is not an optio n for us to make X uncomfortable or unsafe. If you have questions or need resources in order to do this, come see me.” • Here is a modification for when a mutual friend’s or acquaintance’s (etc.) gender identity or gender expression has recently changed, and you are sharing this information with someone likely to have a difficult reaction: “Y ou’ve known X for a while now, and before you see them next time, it’s important for you to know that they are transgend er. There are many different ways that people can be transgender , and for X this means [ . . . ]. X has changed their (etc.) name to Y, and their (etc.) pronouns to [ . . . ]. Y is also going to look different.” Then proceed with the previous script, starting with “ You likely have some questions . . . ” • Here is a modified version if you’re a parent sharing this information about your kid with another member of your family: “I know that you love X very much, and before you see X next time, it’s important for you to know that they are transgender . There are many different ways that people can be transgender , and for X this means [ . . . ]. X has changed their (etc.) name to Y, and their (etc.) pronou ns to [ . . . ].” The rest of this conversation can be guided by what I shared in the previous action step on boundaries: calling in, allo wing a space for the person to vent (while keeping yourself safe and okay), and drawing a boundary . As in the previous script, you might also ask them to let you know if this is something they can respect: “When we spend this time togethe r [e.g., family holiday, visit, etc.], I will prioritize Y’s well-being, which means that you need to tell me if you can’t do this. If you can’t, I have to make some other choices to protect Y, because that’s my primary responsibility .” When You Don’t Expect (Much) Resistance The second path is taken when you don’t expect much or any resistance from a person when you share that someone is transgender or gender -nonconforming. This is likely the case because the person you’re speaking with already has some knowledge of gender diversity or knows people under the transgen der umbrel la, whether inside or outside of your shared space. In this conversation the person isn’t starting from zero or from a gender-unfriendly place, but they still might be surprised by the news if this is the first person they personally know to come out to them as transgender . Even when you expect little or no resistance, you can use your facial expression, body language, and tone of voice to convey that this informa tion is no big deal. You might be fibbing a bit (it might still feel new or like a big deal to you), but in this moment you’re doing the important work of mod eling and remindin g. Here is a basic script: “FYI, X is transgend er, and has said it’s okay for me to share that with you. X is going by Y now , and using [ . . . ] pr onouns.” Like in the first and more challenging pathway, it’s important to be ready with practical implications, including whether this person can share this information with others (or not), and if so, whom. Plan for Downtime Having little privacy or being in large groups for long periods of time, even if they’re full of well-meaning people, often means the familiar combination of advocating, correcting, and explaining for transgender-spectrum people and those working alongside us. This can take a toll, so it’s vital that there are breaks in the rhythm, whether this means quiet time, alone time, or outside time. While not particularly gender-specific, ensuring downtime is a gender-friendly practice because it creates an opportunity to recharge. Whether you’re planning a whole-group event, like a company retreat, training, or family holiday, or you’re implementing routines in a long-term shared space, like an office or school classroom, make sure there’s unstructured downtime. With younger groups some structure might be needed so that this time remains peaceful and restful. During this time people can reach outside of the group for the support or validation that they receive from others they choose to be in con tact with, and this can be good for all sorts of reasons. This is also a time for people to catch up and check in with themselves in order to make sure that they’re doing okay. And it helps you make sure to get some recharge time for yourself . • Parents and partners , it’s vital to factor in your own energy expenditure when you plan large group time that includes your kid, particularly with family . Go potluck, buy a pie crust, or order a pizza. The time you save is time well spent on self -care, and that means you can also be more present and supportive if neede d. As plans come together I also suggest leaving a buffer zone between the last day of your family festivities and the time when your child has to go back to school. Now Y o u H ave Y o u r G en d er-F rie n d ly T o olk it Now you have an array of gender-friendly strategies that you can put to work from today onward. You know how to take stock of your spaces, use language, and take action, but you also understand the more subtle role of tools like your body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. You have a sense of why gender-friendly language and practice are needed, and a starting place to begin putting them to work where you are. 9. G ro w in g Y o u r G en d er-F rie n d ly C om munit y It’s Har d Sometimes: How to F ace the Challenges of Being Gender -Friendly How to Debunk F alse Arguments Against Gender -Friendly Change Tips for T aking a L eadership R ole with Others Last Word You made it! Welcome to the last chapter , where I pull the book’s threads together and give you some tools to sustain your gender-friendly efforts once you get going. First, I talk about some potential challenges of speaking and acting in ways that create opennes s around you for all the different ways that gender is lived, whether this is inside, outside, or transcending the F/girl/woman and M/boy/ma n boxes. These challenges look different for different people, and it’s important to be real about why doing this can be hard sometimes. I offer some ways to mitigate or manage these challenges, which is easier to do if you aren’t doing this all by yourself . The next section offers strategies for debunking erroneous arguments that have taken root against gender- neutral language and other practices intended to accommodate transgender people in institutions and everyday life. It’s impor tant to be able to speak back to these argum ents, to the best of your ability , so that your gender-friendly efforts aren’t derailed and people around you receive accurate information. The very last section shares tips for inviting other people into the work with you. Among other things, this means trying your best to expec t good things from others, even if they haven’t thought a lot about these issues before, and celebrating small changes. The more you become invested in this project, and the more you begin to understand its importance, the harder it is to stay rooted in the memory of your own starting place. This is as true for transgender- spectrum people as it is for anyone else. Like I said in Chapter 2, gender-friendliness is a practice of humility for all of us, myself included. It ’s H ard S om etim es: H ow t o F a ce t h e C halle n g es o f B ein g G en d er-F rie n d ly Being gender-friendly can be hard, particularly when you’re getting started. Anytime we make a change to our behavior , oth ers take notice. Sometimes our friend s, family , or colleagues can pinpoi nt and name the change, and at other times they just feel the change as a mounting irritation. When we opt out of question-calling, for example, and stop laughing at things we’ve always laughed at in the past, this simple action can be a really , really big deal for those around us. They might feel judged or looked down on, even if we didn’t say a single word about why we aren’t laughing anymore or about them doing anything wrong. Noted feminist scholar Sara Ahmed calls this the “killjoy” phenomenon. She points out the disruptive force of just not going along anymore, or even just continuing to show up when people start seeing you as a killjoy who doesn’t go along anymore. For this reason, in Chapter 8, I offered degrees of opting out instead of a stark choice between stopping the laughter altogether and being part of the problem. Opting out by degrees isn’t being a passive bystander . It’s using your expertise on this time, this place, and these people to cali brate your action for impact and the safety of all concerne d (including you). But even if you go carefully and thoughtfully in your gender-friendly efforts, it can be lonely sometimes. In what follows I offer suggestions for managing the isolation that can result when you find yourself going against the grain, whether for the first time or in a new way . Tak e Care of Y ourself Too You might be reading this book because you want to support the transgender and/or gender-nonconforming people in your life. This is an excellent reason to access resources. A common message of this and other resources is that, generally speaking, trans people have it worse in the gender department. This is a claim that has been tested through research time and time again. However , this reality does not mean that a cisgender reader doesn’t need support in the gender department. Yes, the trans people in your life likely face difficulty because they stand out and are called into question, to varying degrees and with varying consequences. But right now, being someone who takes action to loosen up gender can also mean standing out, getting called into question, and sometimes experiencing harm. There must be no guilt attached to naming this experience and its difficulty . Unfort unately , I often see the guilt manifest before my very eyes, and this has got to stop. Try Not to F eel Guilty about Self -Care I’ll give an example. After I give a public lecture or a workshop, adult attendees often seek me out to chat because they have a trans kid and a question about supporting them. T o these conversations I bring two goals: 1. Firs t, I want to empow er the parent to facilitate clear and practical conversations with their kid abou t the kid’s own needs, because they know best (see my action steps in Chapter 8 for more). 2. Second—and more relevant here—I want to ask the parent how they’re doi ng and project, with everything I have (facial expression, body language, tone, and actual words—that is, my gender-friendly toolkit), my authentic belief that how they’re doing matters too . What happens next is very telling. Once we’ve chatted about, say, how they handle an unsupportiv e family member while supporting their trans kid, I pivot toward how the parent is doing as they balance loving their kid and not wanting to lose their family member . I get one of two reactions: like I revealed myself to be an alien being, or like I returned their beloved lost dog. Both signal bafflement. This reaction often yields to an insistence that they’re fine, it’s the kid they’re worried about, etc. Of course they’re worried about their kid, first and foremost. But I’m saddened by the predictability of the baffled reaction: that it’s so unlikely that I would care about and value their well- being too . Consider Outside Support I leave these conversations only when I’ve affirmed that the person’s well-being is tremendously important, and that it’s crucial to be real about how they’re doing. As a firm believer in psychotherapy (which in my view shoul d be free for everyone , everywhere) and a longtime client of my own therapist, I make sure to open up the possibility that mental health support can be warranted when your life circumstances unsettle the relationships you depend on for identity or sustenance, or make you alarmingly visible in ways you’ve never experienced before. Being real about this with you rself isn’t blaming your trans (etc.) loved one or say ing they’re the problem. Rather , the proble m is the gender-unfriendly world in which you stand in solidarity with them, and with others like them too . Accessing professional mental health support is one way of being real with yourself about the isolation that can come with gender-friendliness, regardless of the circumstances or relationships in which you’re doing this work. Even if you don’t need professional support at the moment, you likely do need support of some kind. In Chapter 1 I drew a connection between my sister Megan’s close friendships with other twin mums and my close friendships with people who just get me, gender-wise, and seamlessly meet my needs. Sometimes these friends are other trans people, and sometimes they aren’t. These friendships offer Megan and me a safe harbor where what we are, do, or care about is just completely unremarkable: where it doesn’t stand out. I suggest seeking out similarly safe harbors for yourself: finding other people— including outside of your immediate spaces—who are also working at gender-friendliness, whatever that looks like where they are. I’ll come back to cul tivating others within your spaces later on.   PARENT ADV OCACY GROUPS Par ents of transgender people didn’t always visibly participate in public debates or do public advocacy work lik e many do now. Across North America ther e are highly active par ent advocacy groups, like Gender Cr eative Kids Canada and the P arents for T ransgender Equality National Council (under the auspices of the Human Rights Campaign) in the US. These gr oups do educational and lobbying work around trans and broader gender-diversity issues. If you ar e a parent of a trans child or youth and they ar e the focus of your gender-friendly efforts, these or ganizations might be good places to find support outside of your immediate spaces. It’s Okay to Be Honest with Y our Person This is another self-care strategy geared toward people who picked up this book because of a transgender and/or gender-nonconforming person in your life. As a nonbinary person and singular they/them user , I’ve long understood that being me requires my people to make an extra effort. My people also have particular needs that require extra effort from me, which I put in as best as I can. However , the kind of extra effort that I and my pronouns need can make my people stand out much more than they might otherwise. In moments when you’re already tired or uncomfo rtable, they-ing your they-person (etc.) to a mere acquaintance or a complete stranger can be a coming out that you might have no energy for , because coming out can so often lead to giving a lesson. That can add up to a lot of emotio nal labor and energy expenditu re over time. In extreme circumstances, coming out with your person’s pronoun might actually put you at risk. This can also be the case if your (trans) person has switched from she/her to he/him pronouns or vice versa and you encounter someone you already know . I stron gly believe that owning up to this humanness and walking beside your loved one as a coconspirator is your best strategy . Long term you’re more likely to damage your relationship—and therefore your own well-being—if you maintain a lofty unspeakable standard that burns you out and makes you resent your loved one, than if yo u’re both real about the ways in which the world does and does not facilitate well-being for transgender-spectrum people and our loved ones. Don’t let real societal barriers manifest in your relationship as a disavowal that those barriers exist. They do exist. Instead do your best to be real and talk about when/where you need to do the work of coming out and when/where your person really doesn’t have to know or care if this happens. For example, if you’re 2,000 miles away in a new place and someone strikes up a conversation, does your person really need you to whip out their gender-neutral pronouns in a visible way? Maybe the answer is yes, but don’t assume it is before you’ve had a pragmatic conversation. And don’t wait until you’re tired and feeling resentful to sit down together and have it. Refer back to my set of gender needs prompts in Chapter 6 if you need help here. Your P ast Is Not Y our Present In Chapter 5 my linguist friend Lex Konnelly said something important about using a trans person’s correct pronouns that I want to bring back and extend to other aspects of gender-friendliness. Namely, you have two opportunities to get it right: before you make a mistake, and after you make a mistake. If you’ve gotten it wrong, you can notice and then enact the “good mistake” that you’ve learned about in this book: say sorry , rephrase, and move on. For someone like me this can be almost as lovely as not making the mistake in the first place. This simple and effective formula is best suited to small- scale mistakes, like pronoun errors, but I recognize that you might be coming to this book thinking about bigger moments, namely when you may have reacted in a gender un friendly way to someone else’s gender expression or to learning something new about someone else’s gender identity . Maybe you feel like you really blew it whe n a trans person you know came out to you, for example, and maybe you actually did (one or both of these things may be true). We are all harmed by rigid rules around gender when we enforce them on people we love who transgress the rules, whether or not we know we are being gender enforcers. In so doing, we hurt others, but in damaging the relationships we are part of, we also hurt ourselves. If this is where you are, I have two suggestions. 1. First, I want you to do the hard work of leaning into the feelings that welled up in that moment, which could be something like confusion, remorse, or even grief . Recog nize that these feelings are in part responses to how most of us have been taught about gender: what is right, and what is wrong. Own up to your responsibility for hurting someone you care about, but also notice that you are hurting, and lay a share of the blame on the ways in which gender was working in the space and time of your bad encount er. If rigidity and separatenes s didn’t characterize the big two gender categories, our responses to each other would always be gender-friendly . W e react in a context, and gender is part of that context. This suggestion is about applying your gender expertise in a practice of mustering compassion for yourself . 2. My second suggestion is about rebuilding or repairing a re lationship in which you have done this harm. If, for example, you reacted badly to someone you love when they came out to you as transgender or expressed gender in a way that went against your gendered expectations for them, there are things you can do: • You can communicate what you now understand about why you reacted that way: that you were participating, whether you knew it or not, in sending the kind of harmful message that transgender- spectrum people receive all the time. You can share this understanding with the person, adding that you take responsibility for participating in this harm but that you are now working hard on educating yourself so that you can do better . • And, as is a consistent theme throughout this book, you can tend to that relationship as best as you can. Y our person might need time and space, and in that situation the gender-friendly thing to do is to let them know , with love and patie nce, that you will be ther e if (and hopefully when) they are ready to come back and talk to you about it. But don’t push, and accept a no whe n it is given even if this hurts (in which case processing that hurt is important to do, but away from this person). To sum up, by saying “your past is not your present,” I’m inviting you to look over your shoulder to that moment with that (odds are) transgender-spectrum person who you didn’t welcome very well, or at all, and give yourself permission to move forward. You can’t get into a time machine, go backward, and undo what happened in the past. The important thing is that you’re here now, reading this book and growing your understanding of gender , how to be more gender-friendly yourself, and how to make changes that will benefit people who you might not have engaged in the best way before you began this work. If this is you, know that this is your second opportunity to get it right, and move on in a good way now . Find Your Own Gender Happiness It’s easy to dwell on gender as a source of harm, whether it’s the harm people do to others or the harm we do to ourselves with impossible expectations, self-surveillance, and self -punishment. As an educator , sometimes I’ve focused too much on the harm that gender can do. I’ve learned to balance discussions of gender harm with discussions of gender happiness from my colleague and education scholar Karleen P endleton Jiménez. What is your gender happiness? What do you love about your gender? Is your most beloved object, tradition, or pastime “stereotypical” for a person of your gender identity? Have you come to believe that you shouldn’t be happy about it because it’s stereotypical? I hope not. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a woman who strongly identifies as a woman and loves all things associated with femininity , or being a man who strongly identifies as a man and loves all things associated with masculinity. Many transgender people feel this way, and many cisgender people feel this way too . Gender itself isn’t good or bad. It’s placing value on some ways of doing gender that can get us into trouble, particularly when we decide that some ways are better than others. Badness happens when gender expectations are rigidly , uniformly enforced on everyone, or when we don’t tolerate momentary or lifelong changes in how people around us do gender . Having been on different sides of gender throughout my life, I’ve experienced the harm of rigid gender expectations for girls, and the harm of rigid gender expectations for masculine people in my own queer and transgender communities. I don’t want to replace rigid rules with other rigid rules, or elevate gender nonconformity or being trans above all other gender pathways. However , there is one thing about being transgender that I’d like to mainstream. When I meet other trans people, I’m often inspired by the fierce love that so many of us have for our gender . Many of us have fought harder for our gender than we can possibly express. And I want everyone— cisgender and transgender—to find the kind of happiness in your gender that I have come to find in mine. The more you make friends with your gender and come to name and honor it, the easier it’ll be to keep on going in the gender- friendly work when you feel tired, unsupported, or unrecognized. In other words, if you can articulate what you love and take pride in about being your particular kind of man, woman, boy, or girl, or some or none of these, you won’t fall into the trap of wondering whether someone else’s gender is worth the trouble it sometimes takes to do your gender-friendly best. You’ll know it is, and you’ll remember that gender-friendliness is a project for everyone, yourself included. Because, who knows—you might not do gender this way forever . W ouldn’t it be great if yo u cultivated a gender-friendly space around you so that others were ready to welcome your changing relationship with gender? How t o D eb unk F a ls e A rg um en ts A gain st G en d er-F rie n d ly C han g e From where I sit, explicit gender-diversity intolerance is on the wane, whether this intolerance is toward transgender people or toward the mor e general changes that come with the new gender culture. But taking the place of explicit intolerance is a set of arguments that also seek to delegitimize gender-friendly shifts but come dressed in intellectual garb. Someone who voices one of these arguments shouldn’t be discounted, because trying on a talking point doesn’t mean they’re entirely opposed to the existence and well- being of transgender people, or to the freedom of people to do gender in their own way. This is one of the tricky parts of the curren t North American political climate: someone might just be talking and not realize that they’re parroting a misc onception or making a space decidedly gender- un friendly. This is why it’s important to be able to correct the record and offer accurate information when you’re trying to invite other people into the work, which I’ll address at length at the end of this chapter . Here , I’ll give you some accessible strategies for responding to some common arguments, each of which is based on misconceptions. You can also check out and share the infographics I cocreated as part of the No Big Deal Campaign, free and downloadable under a Creative Commons license at www .nbdcampaign.ca . The Grammar Argument People whose pronouns are singular they/them or who are committed to usin g someone’s correct they/them pronouns often hear this objection: “But it’s gram matically incorrect!” Many of us were taught to match our nouns and pronouns in number and (binary) gender, but the English language is changing, and it’s now considered acceptable to use they/them to refe r to a singular known person. In my experience, people argue that singular they is grammatically incorrect when they feel like they’re having to mak e more of an effor t than usual to speak a language they’ve been speaking since birth. In fact, I’ve noticed that some people who speak English as an additional language have an easier time using my pronouns if their native language also has gender-neutral pronouns. I often hear the grammar argument from English speakers who are voracious readers and good writers. This is kin d of the “smart people” objection, not because people are smarter for saying it, but because it sounds smart and people get away with it. But never fear! The grammar argument is false. In Chapter 4 my linguist friends Bronwyn and Lex refuted it on several grounds. Here are all of their learned rebuttals in one place: • La nguage changes all the time, but most of the time we aren’t conscious of this happening. Historically, when people have been conscious of language changes as they take place, this has sparked controversy . But a thing isn’t grammatically wrong just because it’s controversial. • Saying “they” for one person has been grammatically correct in English for centuries. What feels new is using it for someone you know .   RESPONDING TO AN (IN)CORRECTION Because the grammar argument is common despite being incor rect, you might run into a situation wher e someone in a position of authority “cor rects” your written use of singular they (English speak ers are far less lik ely to notice singular they in speech unless gender is at issue—r efer back to the Chapter 4 sidebars). Here, I’m talking about people who can compel you to change or edit something you have written, lik e a teacher or a supervisor. This often looks lik e getting a document sent back with they changed to she or he , and maybe even with points tak en off for “poor ” grammar ! *shakes fist* This situation is challenging because the cor recting person is pr obably confident that they’r e right and you’re wrong, and isn’t used to r eceiving any pushback on their grammar supr emacy. If you’ve used singular they because it’s someone’s cor rect gender pr onoun, this is an equity issue and ther efore nonnegotiable. It might even be cover ed under a policy of some kind in your institution, if applicable. However, it’s best not to start ther e, but to approach the (in)corrector in a way that offers a chance to r ecognize their error : “I see that you changed this, which means that I need to be clear er about why I had they in that spot. X’s pronouns are they/them , and so the te xt must remain that way in or der to be accurate. Do you have suggestions on how I can mak e that clearer?” If the objection persists, we’r e not in grammar territory anymore, and it might be a moment to call in some help fr om whoever is tasked with addr essing equity issues wher e you are. If you used singular they in a mor e general sense and not because you were refer ring to a they/them user, I suggest a r espectful approach in which you offer that it’s ok ay to disagree, but that agr eeing to disagree reflects the reality that singular they is both a change in pr ogress and cor rect in English. Y ou might also offer some points made by L ex and Br onwyn in Chapter 4 as compelling nuggets of infor mation (not ironclad laws). Diplomacy is k ey, especially if you are in a subordinate position to the (in)cor rector in this instance. • For linguists, something is “grammatically correct” when speakers of a language do it. English speakers use singular they for this purpose; therefore, it is correct. • Having to work at saying a thing doesn’t mean it’s grammatically incorrect. • Disagreeing with singular they won’t make it go away . The change in its use to include a known person has taken hold, and it’s inevitable. The final thing I’ll say about the grammar argument is that it’s a stubborn one. In my experience, grammar-talking people sometimes stick to their guns even when confronted with linguisti c expertise to the contrary . When I find myself in a conver sation where the grammar misconception persists even after I’ve refuted it with linguistic evidence, I shift gears because it’s been revealed as a not-actually- rational objection, despite appearances. This gets back to the “smart people” thing I said earlier , in that people who are highly literate are probably also highly uncomfortable in situations where they don’t know what to say . Learning to say “they are” for one person takes some effort where speaking is usually effort less , an d can feel awkward. If you find yourself here in a con versation, I suggest that you, too, shift gears and empathize with the anxiety inherent in trying this out and making mistakes in the beginning. It’s awkward, and that’s okay. The awkwardness dissipates with time. This is all part of normalizing mistakes and calling people in instead of out. Only rarely have I found deep-seated gender- un friendliness lurking underneath a grammar argument. The “I Could Go to Jail for Using a W rong Pronoun” Argument Making a pronoun mistake can’t send you to jail in jurisdictions where gender identity and gender expression are protected grounds in human rights legislation. This issue came to light recently in Canada when the Canadian Parliament was debatin g a bill (C-16) that would add gender identity and gender expression as protected grounds against discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Act. The jail argument has been refuted time and time again by legal scholars, but it’s been repeated often enough to become “common knowle dge.” And it’s false. Human rights law isn’t even criminal law. When you’re found in violation of hum an rights law, you usually just have to pay damages. No one goes to jail. In Canada human rights cases aren’t even argued in front of judges in normal courts, but in front of hum an rights tribunals. Tribunal decisions are usually binding for organizations , not individuals. The organization where the individuals in question interacted with each other is usually found to not have upheld whatever protections are at issue. Organizations, not individuals, usually have to provide training or pay damages to a complainant. Gender identity and gender expression are sometimes included in hate crimes legislation, too, which is criminal law . But all this means in the pronoun department is that, if you’re already co mmitting a crime against someone and you malevolently call them the wrong pronouns in the process, and in a way that indicates clear discriminatory intent, a judge can take this into consideration during sentencing (if you’re found guilty, that is). So don ’t commit a crime against someone while also mis-genderi ng them, and you’ll be fine. Like the grammar argument, the jail argument persists despite being grounded in a clear misunderstanding of how the law works. And so, if you find yourself in this conversation with someone who persists even when you have offered the above correct information how human rights protections actually work, whether in Canada or the US , it’ s a safe bet that this isn’t a purely rational objection about legal issues. As with the grammar argument, I suggest shifting gears and asking different questions with genuine interest. For example, now that they know they won’t be sent to jail for making a mistake with someone’s pronoun, why is it not okay to protect a transgender person’s right to be addressed in a way that matc hes their gender identity? My colleague K yle Kirkup has done a lot of resear ch into gender identity and gender expression protections. In the bibliography you’ll find a useful paper of his that might help you find information about your own context, including jurisdictions in the United States. The No Big Deal Campaign includes an infographic that speaks directly to this misconception in the Canadian context, and you can download, share, or print it for free at www.nbdcampaign.ca . The “Slippery Slope” or T otal Ban Argument Like a broken record, whenever a debate emerges about some aspect of gendered language in the media, a chorus cries out, “Soon we won ’t be allowed to say ‘mother’ and ‘father’ anymore” or similar . I’ve seen this happen during debates about respecting transgender people’s pronouns, asking first before using gendered language in public service contexts (see Chapter 6 for an example), including the gender-neutral title Mx. on forms or intake questionnaires, and having parent on generi c birth certificates to better reflect family realities in the twenty- first century . The ban argument claims that any step toward institutionalizing gender-friendly language and practice will someday lead to a ban on all gendered terms. This is false for two reasons. First, it’s logically invalid. The ban argument relies on a logical fallacy called the slippery slope. A slippery slope argument claims that an action is bad because it initiates a hypothetical chain reaction ending in a bad overall outcome. In this case, proponents claim that more gender- friendly language will lead to banning gendered terms altogether in the future. Slippery slope argument ation has also been used to delegitimize neo-pronouns, by propagating the false claim that agreeing to use one person’s neo-pronoun means that you’ll eventually have to use a different pronoun for everyone you know . Our decision -making processes aren’t slopes. They’re more like ladders, with one step coming after another step, and each step having its own deliberation process. People use a slippery slope argument out of desperation when there’s zero evidence for their ultimate bad outcome, either that it’s inevitable or that it’s bad. There is zero evidence that making gender-friendly language and practice changes is a bad thing to do. However , banning all gendered language is most certainly a bad thing to do, in my view . This gets to my second strategy for debunking the ban argument. It presumes that transgender people do not value gendered terms like mother , father , son , and daughter , or that we don’t value gender pronouns like she/her and he/him . Whe n you know more about transgender people and our diversity , you know that many trans people are invested in gendered language because it reflects who they are. When you have worked and even fought to be respected in your gender identity as a man or a woman and you’re a parent, being a mother or a father can be a ke y aspect of that identity . Banning terms like mother and father actua lly wouldn’t work for a whole bunch of transgender people, and a ban is not the goal of transgender and gender-diversity advocacy efforts. What’s more, even nonbinary trans people like me have mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons. We have many people in our lives for whom these terms are significant, and using these terms for them can mean a great deal to us too. In short, it’s absurd to claim that adopting gender-friendly language and practices will lead to a ban on all gendered language down the road. Debunking the Ban Argument The ban argument is flimsy . Its absurdity is easily revealed, as I just did, and can be just plain obvious. In my experience, if you encoun ter someone who won’t let go of the ban argument, you’re likely interacting with someone who actually just holds rigid views about gender, not someone who’s just trying out an idea or thinking through some implications of the current explosion of gender diversity . I firmly believe in approaching others as though they can be called in. However , in a situation where someone holds on to the ban argument for dear life, I suggest looking to some of the action steps I offered in Chapter 8, particularly those about boundary negotiation. The “Free Speech” Argument Distinct from but related to the ban argument is the free speech argument, or that legal gender expression protections threaten “freedom of speech” rights (see the sidebar on terminology). The free speech argumen t usually goes like this: “I’m not against transgender people being real and having rights, but I don’t want the state to tell me which words I have to say .” There’s a lot to be said about whether someone can support transgender people while refusing to use our prono uns, and I address this conflict in my academic work. Here, though, I’ll focus on the charge that legal protections for gender expression (when interpreted to include pronouns) compel people to say particular words, when governments have historically confined themselves to requiring people to not say particular words, as with laws against hate speech. There are a few ways to debunk the free speech argument: 1. At this point, human rights legislation generally doesn’t contain the word pronouns . There are no lists of part icular words that people must say , by law and under threat of sanctio n. Going forward, pronoun protections are likely to be read into gender expression protections, at least in Canada. This will likely happen if someone brings a hum an rights complaint alleging that a person in their school, their workplace, or an unavoidable public service context has repeatedly , intentionally , and maliciously created a discriminatory environment by using—likely among other means—the wrong gender pronouns. Imagine, for a mome nt, a cisgender boy being repeatedly , intentionally , and maliciously addressed with she/her pro nouns at school, or a cisgend er woman being repeatedly , intentionally , and maliciously addressed with he/him pro nouns in her workplace. This is your first debunking strategy: that pronouns can actually be a tool for inflicting harm against any person—transgender or cisgender—because they are not just neutral words. 2. A second—and my personal favorite—debunking strategy was shared with me by my friend Allison Burgess, the Sexual and Gender Diversity Officer at the University of T oronto . This strategy entails just offering a workaroun d if someone refuses to use another person’s correct gender pronouns and invokes the free speech argument. Affirm that, no, they don’t have to say that person’s exact pronouns, but they still may not refer to that person with the wrong pronouns. How they handle that in ever yday speech is up to the m. I suggest referring them to the pronoun workarounds I offer in Chapter 5. These include but are not limit ed to saying someone’s (chosen) name instead of any pronoun. The “T ransracial” Argument In the summer of 2015 the North American public was hit with a double whammy that sparked enduring confusion. That summer former US Olympian Caitlyn Jenner came out as a tra nsgender woman on the cover of Vanity F air , an d Rachel Dolezal, a pr ominent and ostensibly African American civil rights activist and occasion al African American studies lecturer in Spokane, Washing ton, was revealed to be white by local media. In the aftermath of this double whammy it’s become somewhat common to compare being transgender with being “transracial.” The transracial argument goes something like this: if Caitlyn Jenner can be a woman, why can’t R achel Dolezal be black?   FREEDOM OF SPEECH OR FREEDOM OF EXPRES SION? For my Canadian r eaders, it’s important to know that fr eedom of speech isn’t included in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms , but fr eedom of e xpression is. Under section 2(b), “ freedom of thought, belief, opinion and e xpression, including fr eedom of the pr ess and other media of communication ” is protected in Canada. Importantly, the Supr eme Court of Canada has found that the right to freedom of expression also includes a r eciprocal fr eedom: the right to not expr ess. The F irst Amendment of the United States Constitution protects fr eedom of speech, but by e xplicitly prohibiting government action that would interfer e with this right, not individual action. “ Free speech” claims have differ ent implications in each country, including how they can be applied to gender ed or gender-neutral language when used by and for individuals, but this is a topic best cover ed by experts in comparative constitutional law . If you get this questio n, I suggest you follow Julia Serano’s lead. Serano is an award-winning writer and activist on gender and transgender issues. Serano calls this “the Rachel Dolezal fallacy” and offers a simple yet powerful rebuttal: “The implication is that a ‘man’ claiming to be a woman is as ridiculous . . . as a white person claiming to be black. But here’s the thing: Rachel Dolezal is one person. In sharp contrast . . . transgender people are a pan-cultural and trans-historical phenomenon, and comprise approximately 0.2–0.3% of the population.” According to the United States Census Bureau website, the United States population on March 30, 2018, was 327,439,574. Although estimates vary and studies define transgender in different ways, a modest 0.3 percent estimate means that just under one million people in the United States today are transgender . R achel Dolezal is one person claiming to be transracial. Serano’s counterargument is useful because you don’t have to explain the finer points of social theory in order to show a well-meaning questioner that transgender is real while “transracial” is not. As in other situations, however, there are times when this question is asked not from a genuine desire to understand the issues, but with intent to delegitimize transgender people. This kind of questioning can easily derail actual, practical conversations about how to meet the needs of very real people who exist and require access to a space, service, or community you’re part of . The “transracial” argument can be especially disruptive if it seeks to deny that trans people’s needs are legitimate and should be met at all. If someone in your space is placing (erroneous) conceptual distinctions above meeting the actual needs of actual people, then it might be the case that they just hold and are trying to enforce rigid views about gender . As with strident proponents of the ban argument, I suggest shifting gears from education to boundary negotiation, at least for now . Other Arguments In addition to the arguments I’ve focused on debunking here, you might encounter other erroneous arguments about gender diversity and transgender people as you go about your gender-friendly work. You can speak back to these misconceptions using information I’ve shared throughout this book. In the following list are affirmative counterarguments that you can back up with what you’ve learned in these pages, with chapter location information. • Gender identity, including but not only in transgender people, cannot be changed via reparative therapy or via socialization alone. (Chapter 3) • There is no single definitive answer about why transgender people exist, just enduring evidence that we do across time and the world. (Chapter 3) • Transgender people face a statistically disproportionate risk of violence and harassment in public gendered washrooms, and cisgender people do not. (Chapter 7) There are many fine resources that can also help you debunk misconceptions when they arise where you are, and some are included in the bibliography . Tip s f o r T a kin g a L e ad ers h ip R ole w it h O th ers Changing the way you participate in gender can be lonely , for many reasons. Of course, if you aren’t actually going it alone, you’re less likely to feel isolated. It’s lovely to have other people who share your commitment to welcoming gender diversity instead of snuffing it out. If you’re the first person in your family , friend group, workplace, or school who’s shifting toward more gender-friendly language and practice, it can help both you and the work if you take a leadership role by inviting others into making these shifts too. Here are some suggestions. Expect Good Things from Others Gender-friendliness isn’t about perfection. It’s a commitment to doing your best to keep gender open around you and meet the stated (and sometimes unstated) gender-related needs of the people in your life. It’s about a willingness to receive gentle reminders and corrections with grace and good humor . There is gender-friendliness all around you, even in plac es that you wouldn’t expect. Last summer my partner Tama and I were at a car dealership in a Toro nto suburb, and when I gently asked the salesman not to call us “ladies,” he responded by telling us about this TV show he started watching ( Billions ) and its “gender- neutral” character who uses they/them pronouns. Basically, he was lettin g me know that he was okay with my deal in an awkward yet kindly way, and he moved on, having studiously avoided using any pronouns for me the entire time we’d been talking. This story is just one example where I’ve stated my unconventional gender needs and been met in a good way. I keep being pleasantly surprised by complete strangers, and I hear more and more stories about this kind of thing from other trans people too. It needs to be said, however, that we were potential customers, or people not to be alienated due to our privilege. I don’t know what would have happened if we’d met on equal footing in his private life. But I choose to proceed as if people aren’t going to meet me in a bad way unless I have evidence that they will. This isn’t a nice thing I do for others; it’s a self -care strategy . I’ve found this to be far less draining than embodying the opposite expectation: that people are going to let me down. They most certainly have. But my posture toward a new person, to whatever extent I can manage on a particular day , is that they’re somebody who will show up well. I know this story was about being a trans person, but I’d like to extend its implicat ions to my readers who might not be trans or gender nonconforming, but are trying to practice gender-friendliness: this can be easie r if you embody the expectation that other people will meet you in a good way when you’re acting on what you’ve learned in this book (and elsewhere). When you correct someone’s pronoun usage, ask a waiter to stop with the “ladies,” or bring up bathroom signage in your workplace, try to embody the expectation that you’ll be met with grace. Model this expectation with your facial expression, body language, and tone. In my experience, this modeling can help others respond to you in the same way . Model Good Mistakes In Chapter 5 I suggested that mistakes are inevitable, and that you shouldn’t aim for “no mistakes” when you’re making gender-friendly language changes or trying to use someone’s new or unfamiliar pronoun. There are only good mistakes and bad mistakes. As you know by now , a good one looks like this: say sorry , rephrase, move on, all with a neutral tone. A bad mistake draws so much attention to the issue that a person might not correct anyone else in that space ever again. The trouble is that you might be the only person where you are who has read this book and who knows this formula. It’s a good idea, then, to model good mistakes for the people around you. When you get someone’s pronoun wrong, make sure you do the whole “sorry, rephrase, and move on” rou tine. If you do this enough, others will see you do it and try to emulate. You can also explicitly draw attention to this strategy when you do it, or bring it up later on in a conversation if you need an example. When someone else makes a mistake and catches themself in front of you, respond like it’s no big deal and try to deter exaggerated apologies if they arise by gently drawing attention back to the issue or conversation at hand and away from the apologies. Last thing: if you’re the person leading the gender- friendly charge in your space, know that your mistakes will be scrutinized. This is unfortunate because it increases pressure on you to not make a mistake, which is bogus because it’s impossible. So, if you’re ever targeted by someone for your own mistake—in a “haha” or “aha” kind of way—a good response is to normalize mistake making: it happens. The goal isn’t to make no mistakes, because that’s impossible; the goal is to help each other make a sustainable shift over time. Try your best not to let this kind of response derail the patience and compassion that you’re modeling for others around you. Celebrate Others’ Efforts Don’t forget to notice and even celebrate (if appropriate) other people’s small changes, and try not to limit your responses to correcting mistakes. If you hear the receptionist at work direct a person to “the bathrooms,” including the gender-neutral one, give that receptionist a high five (aft er the person has walked out). I get that this is a rather extrovert-friendly suggestion (my bias), but I hope you get the idea: that positive feedback, even for small things, begets more gender-friendly efforts. You invite other people into the work when you model realistic expectations based on their starting place. In my exper ience, the opposite is also true. Only ever correcting and even shaming people for their mistakes makes them not want to learn or make an effort, and can promote apathy—that they shouldn’t even try—or even hostility toward “those people,” which is counterproductive. While I am here for being too tired to take care of other people ’s feelings sometimes, it’s a reality that people who are called out too hard or too often just shut down. Having patience and showing appreciation for small changes is a great way to invite others in. Don’t Tell Other People Who They Are, and See What Happens As you’ve learned throughout the book, we all have skin in the gender game, and we all have latent gender expertise that can be put to use in making more gender- friendly spaces. Rememb er, being gender-friendly can help you be kinder to yourself when you don’t meet lofty gender expectations. Sending out these signals can also lead to new connect ions, includi ng with people you already know. This is because when we change how we relate to others around us, we change relationships. When you become someone who doesn’t unintentionally tell other people who they are or how they should feel (look back at Chapter 7 for examples), people notice. Over time, this noticing can lead to conversat ions where you share your rationale with others, which can in turn lead them to see the value, for everyone, in being gender-friendly . I’ll give you an example. We don’t often recognize how names are part of gender expression and not just a generic preference. In fact, many cisgender people have strong preferences about the names they get called by others. What image springs to mind when you picture a Chrissy versus a Christina, a Jen versus a Jennifer , a Mike versus a Michael, or a Teddy versu s an Edward? The first names are all short versions or diminutives of the second names, and each one sends a different message. I’m not saying any name is better or worse, but illustrating how gender is a lot about messaging. How does each person appear in your mind, and what kinds of things does that imaginar y person participate in? What kind of femininity and/or masculinity do you associate with that person? Remember that each of us alters our gender expression as we move among the different spaces in our lives, and many people get called different names at work versus among friends, for example. People I know are often surprised when I remember how their unique name is spelled, or when I gently correct someone who has defaulted to an unwelcome diminutive of their name. Here’s the point: this isn’t “just being nice”; it’s a part of my gender-friendly practice. As a nonbinary person, I know how important little words can be. And, thinking back to my discussio n of gender happiness, for me remembering others’ needs never feels like a chore, because I know how important it is. It’s actual ly a pleasure to offer someone this form of care and feel its positive impact on our relationship. The same goes for any effort I make to convey to others, with my spoken language, body language, facial expression, and tone, that I am paying attention and doing my best to see the person they are putting out there. La st W ord In wor king your way through this book, you’ve developed a toolkit for navigating and welcoming all the ways that gender is lived, wherev er you are. I’ve also shown you some tools you already had: experiences and abilities that become tools when you begin to name and notice how gender plays out in your own life and in the lives of people around you, whether transgender or cisgender . In fact, I wanted to write this book because two related phenomena come togethe r in the new gender culture but aren’t usually addressed together: 1. Trans people are increasingly coming out and being visible in our everyday lives. 2. There is a growing consensus that enforcing rigid gender expectations isn’t worth the harm and unhappiness this can cause, for transgender and cisgender people alike. In my own field of educ ation, for example, there is a research community that studies stress, anxiety, and forms of self-harm among children and youth, and another research community that studies the negative school experiences of queer and/or transgender children and youth. Only rarely do we see connections drawn between these two areas of stud y, which might center the daily pressure to conform to rigid gender rules and expectations, for everyone. A key theme across the book’s chapters is that there’s much more that brings us together than keeps us apart, in terms of how we live with and sometimes in spite of gender , its joys, and its challenges. This is why I wrote this book for everyone and why I invite you to think about how gender is working out for you, whoever you are, as a start ing place for thinking about how it might be working out for other people around you. I offer Gender: Your Guide in the hope that it can help foster more gender joy, in all the ways this joy can and will be experienced, and less gender harm. This can happen when people like you and I step up and step into this project together . CO DA: To t h e T ra n s P ers o n W hose P ers o n I s R ead in g T h is B oo k Who Am I and Why Did I W rite This Book? Self-A dvocacy T ips and Resources Hi there! I’m so glad you’ve come here for this special message. Of course, not everyone who reads this book has a parti cular trans person in mind, but some readers most certainly do. This could be you. If so, throughout Gender: Your Guide I’v e tried to provide the reader with tools to meet your n eeds (but not only), and so it’s only right that I introduce myself . I w anted to include this coda for two reasons. First, my own experiences undoubtedly led me to some choices (and away from others) in how I wrote and illustrated the content. I wanted to share a little bit about myself so you know where I’m coming from. I’ve shared a lot in the book already , but I know that you might not read it, which is a- okay . Second, I wanted to make some space to center transgender and gender-nonconforming people in a book that’s otherwise geared toward those who might not know very much about gender diversity and the issues many trans people face. And so, I share some resources and tips on self -advocacy . Who A m I a n d W hy D id I W rit e T h is B ook? This book is one of the only books about gender diversity that is prescriptive , or that actually tells people what to do. I’ve often wondered why this is, and I’ve landed here: people might be reluctant to write prescriptively about this topic becaus e there are just so many ways it could go wrong or be found insufficient. There’s a risk in oversimplifying things that are actually quite complex and lived differently by so many people. But through my educational and advocacy work around trans issues, and my work with beginning teachers, I’ve learned about the importance of providing people with a starting place. There are many people out there who don’t wish transgender or gender-nonconforming people any harm whatsoever , or who might even wish us well, but lack the first clue about what any of this even means. After all, most people think they haven’t met one of us, and only some of them are correct. In 2012 I started They Is My Pronoun (TheyIsMyPronoun.com ) precisely because there wasn’t anywhere I could send people who had practical questions about my pronouns. They didn’t necessarily need a transgender studies lecture; they just needed to know what to do, for gosh sakes. And that willingness to admit that there are things they don’t know is, to my mind, an excellent starting place. This book is an extension of They Is My Pronoun , and has a similarly practical and inviting address to someone who might be encountering gender- diversity issues or transgender and/or nonbinary people for the first time. I’ve often reflected on why my contribution to trans advocacy has been working in this beginner space, and I think that I’m able to do so because of the resourc es I have that many trans people do not. I’m lucky to have a supportive family, for starters, which as we both know is a key determinant of tran s people’s (and specifica lly trans youth’s) life chances. I’m also privileged in the sense of my social position, in that I’m white and a university professor . I’m a settle r who was born and raised on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil- Waututh territory , and today I live and work on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territory. I have lived most of my life in major Canadian cities, which are relatively good places to be a trans person in 201 8, at least in terms of community presence, human rights protections, and supportive policies. I’m nonbinary and have used they/them pronouns since 2011. I’m also on the masculine side, which means that I don’t face some of the issues that femme nonbinary people experience, inside and outside of trans spaces, or what transfeminine people and transgender women experience. This all adds up to a particular perspective on gender diversity and transgende r issues, which has undoubtedly shaped the book. I’ve done my best to round out my own perspective by including the scholarship and voices of others, and I hope that what I’ve offered will be useful to you and the people around you. That said, it’s a given that some of it will need tweaking to make it align with your own situation. My goal is not to provide the definitive account of what to do, for all people, for all time. R ather, I’ll feel like the book is successful if you can have a next-level conversation with your person about what needs tweaking here in order to meet your needs, beginning from and not ending with the baseline knowledge they’ve acquired from reading it. Self -A dvo ca cy T ip s a n d R eso u rc e s Over many years of supporting and learning from other trans people, I’ve developed an approach to self -advocacy that centers on relationships. I believe a person’s capacity to meet our needs with grace and goodwill will grow if we attend to the relationships in which we are coming out and making an ask. What we are asking for does take effort, and it’s effort that we absolutely need them to expend when we’re not there, when we will not notice or appreciate the expenditure, and when we are not there to take the lead. With all of this in mind, here are my top four self-advocacy tips for a transgender-spectrum person thinking about coming out to and/or making an ask of someone else in their life. • Thin k of yourself as your person’s teacher. And what makes a good teacher? No pop quizzes, clear and realistic expectations, not humiliating someone if they don’t know the answe r, tailoring instruction and assignments to students’ interests and aptitudes, and more. What other “good teacher” characteristics can you come up with? Take each of these characteristics and think about how you could apply them in the upcoming conversation with your person about your gender , and afterward too . • See also Chapter 9 where I talk about how your person can invite others into the work alongside them. Many of those tips also apply to self -advocacy. • Be ready to give your person practical and actionable guidelines. They might have very little idea of what it means to meet the needs you just shared with them, and might be just startin g to notice how and how often gender becomes relevant in their daily lives when they have to talk about you to others (etc.). When, where, and with whom are you asking them to do what, exactly? Are there boundaries around your reques ts? In Chapter 6 I share some exploratory questions I use in workshops with trans and/or nonbinary youth to help them take stock of their needs in order to clearly communicate them to others, which might be useful. • See also: https://theyismypronoun.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/st art-with-affirmation-coming-out-as-a-gnp-user-or- gender-non-normative-person-to-a-friend-with-little-or- no-knowledge-of-gender-issues • See also: https://theyismypronoun.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/1 51 • When we make our needs known and make an ask of another person, this happens in the context of a particular relationship and its histor y, not in a vacuum. When you’re thinking about how and when to come out or to make an ask of someone in your life, reflect on and hopefully tend to this relationship. If you haven’t checked in for a while, check in. If you haven’t spent time, spend time. If you’ve been hurtful, authentically make amend s. Do your best to build or build up the foundation so that when you call this person in, you are doing so in a context of mutual care. I get that this might not be possible, for many reasons. But if it is, it’s worthwhile to tend before and after you make the ask. • See also: https://theyismypronoun.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/w hy-its-hard-sometimes-resistance-to-pronoun-change- can-have-nothing-to-do-with-pronouns • See also: https://theyismypronoun.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/y oure-being-disrespectful-are-negative-parent- reactions-to-gnp-always-about-gender • See also: https://theyismypronoun.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/fe aring-partner-rejection-because-of -a-gender-neutral- pronoun-request • The people around you know a lot about gender and how it works, but they might not know that they know. They might not know how to draw connections between their own experiences navigating gender expectations and yours. Worse, they might feel like they can’t because they’ve been trained to think that trans people are from outer space. We aren’t. So, when you have conversations with your person about your gende r, it’s helpful to draw connec tions to their own gendered experiences, joys, and hurts so that they can more easily feel their way into what you are sharing with them. What do they love about being their gender that you can draw on when talking about what you love about being your gender? How have they struggled with the gendered rules for their category , and how can you relate their experiences to your struggles? • See also Chapter 2, where I suggest some ways for the reader to locate their own gender expertise. Thank you for reading, and I hope there is something in the book that proves useful to you or to someone you know . Ack n ow le d gm en ts This book exists because people have shared with me, in my capacities as a blogger , educator , researcher , colleague, friend, partner , or commu nity member . I do not believe that knowledge is a single-author proposition. Rathe r, I hope this book honors the relationships that gave it life and that have given me the means and capacity to do my work. I acknowledge all of the transgender-spectrum people before and alongside me who have participated in knowledge creation about gender from our unique yet multiplicitous perspectives. I acknowledge the work of others who seek ways to make gender more joyful and less harmful. My bibliography is a testament to just how much work has been done that informs my own. Cate Coulacos Prato at Adams Media has been a steadfast supporter of the book and its message from our very first conversation. Laura Daly was a clear-eyed and thoughtful editor. My agent, Samantha Haywood, and her colleagues at the Transatlantic Agency supported me through this process with warmth and wisdom. I have smart and generous friends whose expertise supplemented mine in writing this book. Lex Konnelly and Bronwyn Bjorkman freely dispensed linguistic wisdom and tutelage in linguistics. Kyle Kirkup freely dispensed legal wisdom and tutelage in Canadian human rights law. Anthony Michael Kreis took time to answer my questions about American human rights law. Jake Pyne and Zoe Whitall are equal parts kind and inspiring and gave me valuable help and advice on the process of making a popular press book. Julia Sinclair-P alm provided generous feedback on drafts, and Naomi de Szegheo-Lang provided expert textual assistance . Lindsay Herriot is a superhero whose contagious commitment to this work always fills my tank. Luna yelled at me each morning until I’d gone upstairs to the office, lifted her into the window hammock, and started writing. Hemlock offered perfect hugs and reminded me to take breaks (to feed him, but still). I’m lucky to have supportive colleagues in the Faculty of Education at Queen’s University who encourage d me to take on this nonacademic book project even during my first tenure-track year . I particularly acknowledge Chris DeLuca, Kristy Timmons, Pamela Beach, Alana Butler, Lindsay Morcom, and T ed Christou for the laughter and authenticity you bring to my work life. My dean, Rebecca Luce-Kapler , encourages me in work that pushes the boundaries of traditional academic duties, including this book. At Queen’s, I’ve also benefited from robust conversations about trans pedagogy with E. M. MacDonald, Kip Pegley , and Trish Salah. My sister , Megan, is my champion. Thank you for being all-in and for trusting me to share parts of your story. I am truly grateful for you in my life. My partner , Tama, is my home. Thank you for knowing me and my stories so well and for letting me come to know you the way I do . I cou ldn’t do what I do with out your support and your silliness. The day I was putting the final touches on the first draft of this book, my longtime friend Brianna O’Connor Hersey (who makes an appearance in Chapter 7) made the free and sovereign decision to end her life after twenty years of chronic illness, pain management, and many surgeries. Brianna was a phenomenal teacher and an unabashedly forthright friend. I am deeply grateful for her life and her friendship, and I am just one of many who can say the same. Abou t t h e A uth or Dr . Lee Airton is an assistant professor in the faculty of education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. As a researcher , blogger , advocate, and speaker , Dr. Airton focuses on enabling individuals and institutions to welcome gender and sexual diversity , particularly in K– 12 and teacher education. In 2012 they founded They Is My Pronoun ( TheyIsMyPronoun.com ), or TIMP , a Q+A–based blog about gender-neutral pronoun usage and user support with 30,000 unique visitors in 2017 alone. Through TIMP Dr. Airton offers advice and resources to gende r-neutral pronoun users and others with questions, including teachers, parents, and coworkers. They are also the founder of the No Big Deal Campaign ( NBDCampaign.ca ), an initiative with free and shareable graphics that help people show support for transgender people’s right to have their pronou ns used in everyday life. In recognition of their pronoun advocacy Dr. Airton received a 2017 Youth Role Model of the Year Awar d from the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Dr . Airton’s scholarly work has appeare d in the journals Sex Education , Curriculum Inquiry , and Teachers College Record . They were born and raised in Vancouver , lived for many years in Montreal, and now live in Ontario, Canada, with their partner and two large cats, in between Kingston and T oronto. MEET THE AUTHORS, W ATCH VIDEOS AND MORE A T SimonandSchuster .com Authors.SimonandSchuster.com/Lee-Airton We hope you enjoyed reading this Simon & Schuster ebook. Get a FREE ebook when you join our mailing list. Plus, get updates on new releases, deals, r ecommended reads, and more from Simon & Schuster . Click below to sign up and see ter ms and conditions. CLIC K H ER E T O S IG N U P Already a subscriber? P rovide your email again so we can r egister this ebook and send you more of what you like to read. Y ou will continue to r eceive exclusive offers in your inbo x. GLO SS A RY cisgender Th e term cisgender or cis-gender (both are common) refers to people who are not transgender . gender expression According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “ gender expression is how a person publicly expresses or presents their gender . This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair , make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender .” Gender expression protections are likely relevant for everyone, although their interpretation is in process at the time of writing. gender identity According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, everyone has an internal gender identity, and for many of us this lines up with the gender category we were lumped into based on our assigned sex at birth. Our gender expression (see previous entry) is external : how we communicate this identity to others. gender-neutral pronouns (GNPs) Unlike she and he , gender-neutral pronouns are pronouns that don’t position someone in either the M or F gender box. GNPs are invariably third-person pronouns: the ones we use to speak about someone else. See Chapter 4. homophobia The “fear or hatred of those assumed to be GLBTQ and of anything connected to GLBTQ culture; when a person fears homosexuality , either in other people or within themselves (internalized homophobia). Homophobia can be expre ssed in attitudes or behaviors that range from mild discomfort to verbally abusive or physically violent acts.” (Defini tion borrowe d from a comprehensive glossary of gender-diversity terms that I created with my colleague Elizabeth J. Meyer for her book (co-edited with Annie Pullen Sansfaçon) Supporting Transgender and Gender Creative You th: Schools , Families, and Commu nities in Action .) intersex According to the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), the word intersex describes “a variety of conditions in which a person is bor n with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.” LGBTQ+/LGBT T-SIQQAA T he letters roughly stand in for lesbian , gay , bisexual , transgender , transsexual , Two-Spirit , intersex , queer , questioning , asexual , and agender . The acronym’s meanings and inclusions change across contexts, and there is debate about how the acronym should be presented and whether it should be truncated (including with the plus sign, as I have done). nonbinary Nonbinary people identify with neither side of the man/boy/male or woman/girl/female binary. In this book, I situate nonbinar y people under the transgender umbrella. polycystic ovary syndrome PCOS is a syndrome, or a cluster of symptoms that often co-occur . The Mayo Clinic’s website suggests that a PCOS diagnosis is appropriate if a person has at least two of the following: irregular periods; excess androgen hormone (signs include “excess facial and body hair,” acne, and male-pattern baldness); and polycystic ovaries, or ovaries that are “enlarged and contain follicles that surround the eggs. As a result, the ovaries might fail to function regularly .” trans Trans is a comm on short form of transgender . Sometimes it’s used on its own as an adjective (e.g., the trans community), including alongside other words as an identity term (e.g., trans woman, trans man, trans guy). Some transgender people are okay with the term trans , and some aren’t. transgender Peop le whose gender identity or gender expression doesn’t align easily or at all with the M or F they were assigned at birth. transition Often articulated by transgender people as a process of seeking greater alignment among gender identity, bod y, and others’ ways of relating to one in everyday life. Transition can be medical and/or social. Not all transgender people seek medical transition. transphobia “The irrational fear or hatred of all individuals who transgress or blur the dominant gender categories in a given society .” (Definition borrowed from a comprehensive glossary of gender-diversity terms that I created with my colleague Elizabeth J. Meyer for her book Supporting Transgender and Gender Creative Youth: Schools, Families, and Communities in Action .) transsexual Scholar Viv iane Namaste distinguishes between transsexual and transgender as follows: “The term transsexual ref ers to individuals who are born in one sex— male or female—but who identify as members of the ‘opposite’ sex. They take hormones and undergo surgical intervention, usually including the genitals, to live as members of their chosen sex. Transsexuals are both male- to-female and female-to-male.” Two-Spirit Two-Spirit is a term used by some Indigenous people whose gender and/or sexuality don’t follow the path of mos t othe rs in their communities. T wo-Spirit is a literal English translation of the Anishinaabemowin or Ojibwe term niizh manidoowag an d was proposed by Indigenous people attending the third annual intertribal Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference held near Beausejour , Manitoba, in 1990. Two-Spirit is often thought to be an add-I ndigenous-and-stir substitute for other words in the LGBTQ+ a cron ym, which it isn’t. Rather , Two-Spirit h as a meaning both like and unlike words such as queer and transgender . On e shouldn’t presume that an Indigenous queer and/or transgender person necessarily uses it. Depending on many things, like a person’s community ties and family histories, the term Two-Spirit might not be a good fit. Reso u rc e s We live in a time when gender diversity is expanding, which includes an explosion of resources to help people get to know and come to understand what it means to live gender in ways that weren’t expected of us when we wer e born. A resource list on gender diversity could be a book in and of itself . Here, I offer a few resources that complement the tone and purpose of Gender: Your Guide as well as welcome people who are beginning to think differently about gender . This is by no means exhaustive. While there are some transgender-specific resources, many are broader in scope. The bibliography is also a great place to go for further reading. Books The Gender Book by Mel Reiff Hill and Ja y Mays www .thegenderbook.com A beautiful graphic novel that explains gender, sex, and the many ways of living gender in an accessible and highly visual format, narrated by people under the transgender umbrella. The authors offer pay-what-you-can pricing and a downloadable PDF . Gender Born, Gender Made: Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children and The Gender-Creative Child: Pathwa ys for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes , bo th by Diane Ehrensaft, PhD Psychologist Diane Ehrensaft has been working with gender-nonconforming children and their families for over thirty years, and offers these practical and accessible books on raising children who do gender outside of the lines. The Gender Quest Workbook: A Guide for Teens and Young Adults Exploring Gender Identity by Rylan Jay Te sta, PhD, Deborah Coolhart, PhD, and Ja yme Peta, MA An interactive workbook that explains and guides the reader in thinking through their own gender identity and gender expression. Geared toward younger folks, but useful for all. How to Be You: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life by Jeffrey Marsh Jeffrey is a well-known nonbinary advocate and speaker , and How to Be You is an interactive book that guides the reader on developing self-esteem, with a particular welcome to nonbinary people. My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely and Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws , both by Kate Bornstein Kate is a legendary transgender artist and advocate, and an honorary “trans grandmother” to many across North America. In her two interactive books she guides the reader in reflecting on and shaping who they are, both gender-wise and during difficult times. Especially friendly for the creative people in your life (or for you). Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin- Whedby A beautifully illustrated children’s book that explains sex, gender , and gender identity to young children, with a gender-inclusive lens. Contains helpful discussion guides to assist adults in using the book with children of different ages. Recommended especially if a child’s family member is under the transgender umbrella. Organizations Gender Creative Kids Canada http://gendercreativekids.ca This organiz ation “provid es resources for suppor ting and affirming gender creative kids within their families , schools and communities.” Gender creative is an adject ive used to describe children who are gender nonconforming but may not have articulated an LGBTQ+ spectrum identity. The GCK website features an incredible set of (mostly Canadian) resources. As part of GCK’s The You Inside Project, the organization is creating a toy named Sam to help children understand what it means to be transgender (http://gendercreativekids.ca/stopping-transphobia-before- it-starts ). Gender Spectrum www .genderspectrum.org Gender Spectrum is a multifaceted organization that provides resources, supports, trainings, and an annual conference, all working toward a gender-inclusive world for all children and youth. GS also maintains an online community called the Gender Spectrum Lounge (https://genderspectrum.org/lounge ) where teens, parents, and professi onals can meet, chat, receive support, and share resources. PFLAG www.pflag.org ; http://pflagcanada.ca PFLAG is a well-established organization that provides support for queer and transgender people as well as our families and friends. PFLAG has resources (including a trans-specific one—see the “Other” section of this list) and in-person supports available across North America. Pronouns Gender-Neutral Pronoun Blog https://genderneutralpronoun.wordpress.com A com prehensive guide to the origin and usage of various neo-pronouns (e.g., xe /xem ). Feat ures an extensive list of links about pronoun usage in various genres of writing (https://genderneutralpronoun.wordpress.com/links ). My Pronouns www .mypronouns.org A web site with helpful, practical tips on navigating different pronouns, and links for email signatu res (etc.) that can help people understand what a pronoun signpost is (e.g., www.mypronouns.org/they-them ). No Big Deal Campaign www.nbdcampaign.ca Lee’s pronoun advocacy campaign, with free, downloadable, and printable graphics to help people show their support for transgender people’s right to have their pronouns used in everyday life. Pronoun Ribbons www.pronounribbons.org An organization that makes and sells clear, brightly colored ribbons for conference (etc.) attendees to attach to their name tags. They Is My Pronoun www .theyismypronoun.com Lee’s blog with resources and dozens of informative posts on navigating gender-neutral pronoun usage and user support. Other The Gender Census http://gendercensus.com “The annual survey of humans worldwide whose genders or lack thereof are not fully described by the gender binary.” Cited throughout this book. Our Trans Loved Ones: Questions and Answers for Parents, Families, and Frie nds of People Who Are Transgender and Gender Expansive by PFLAG www .pflag.org/ourtranslovedones An accessible Q+A guide that addresses many questions about being a transgender person, written by and for parents, families, and friends of transgender people. Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender , and Gender Nonconforming People by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health www .wpath.org/publications/soc The WPA TH Standards of Care is an evidence-bas ed set of guidelines that “provide clinical guidance for health professionals to assist transsexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming people with safe and effective pathways to achieving lasting personal comfort with their gendered selves, in order to maximize their overall health, psychological well-being, and self -fulfillment.” them www.them.us This online magazine “chronicles and celebrates the stories, people and voices that are emerging and inspiring all of us, ranging in topics from pop culture and style to politics and news, all through the lens of today’s LGBTQ community .” Often features content reflecting the identity diversity under the “T .” Bib lio g ra p hy Ahmed, S . (2017). Living a feminist life . 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L., Becker , T. L., & Conron, K. J. (2017). Characteristics and mental health of gender nonconforming adolescents in California: Findings from the 2015-2016 California Health Interview Survey . Los Angeles, CA: The Williams Institute and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. W orld Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). (2011.) Standards of care for the health of transsexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming people (7th version). Retrieved from www.wpath.org/publications/soc Zak, E. (2013, October 1). LGBPT TQQIIAA+—How we got here from gay. Ms. Magazine Blog . Retrieved from http://msmagazine.com/blog/2013/10/01/lgbpttqqiiaa-how-we-got-here-from-gay In d ex A note about the index: The pages referenced in this index refer to the page numbers in the print edition. Clicking on a page number will take you to the ebook location that corresponds to the beginning of that page in the print edition. For a co mprehensive list of locations of any word or phrase, use your reading system’s search function. Agender , 66 Ahmed, Sara, 184 Ally language, 56 Babies/infants. See also Children asking about the gender of , 27 –28, 159 –60 gender assignment at birth, 24 –25, 28 –30, 57 , 60 , 63 –64, 67 –68, 77 , 81 –87, 159 gender-neutral toys, 29 gender reveal parties, 30 and gendered play, 29 referring to the gender of , 27 –30, 98 –99, 159 –60 Ban argument, 197 –99, 202 Bathrooms access to, 13 –15, 160 –64 body language in, 13 –14, 87 , 162 –64 etiquette for, 162 –63 gendered bathrooms, 13 –15, 160 –64 harassment or violence in, 161 –64, 202 keys to, 163 –64 research on transgender or gender-nonconforming experiences with, 161 – 62 safety of, 162 –64, 202 signage for , 14 , 162 , 204 Beemyn, Genny , 61 –62, 67 , 70 , 75 “Binary” pathway , 24 , 82 Birthday parties, 105 –8, 121 –23 Bjorkman, Bronwyn, 94 –96, 102 , 104 , 106 , 110 , 119 , 136 , 193 , 194 Blackless, Melanie, 28 Bodies body shape, 32 , 37 , 55 , 72 , 85 –86 body size, 55 , 72 , 75 , 85 –86, 156 Body language gender expression and, 77 , 129 –32, 140 –41, 148 –49, 153 –55, 163 , 178 –82, 185 –86, 204 –8 as gender-friendly tool, 130 , 140 –41, 153 –55 reactions from others and, 37 , 153 –63, 178 –82, 203 –7 in washrooms, 13 –14, 87 , 162 –64 Boundaries boundary negotiation, 198 , 202 crossing, 169 –70 maintaining, 35 –36, 54 , 124 , 156 –57 proactive boundary, 175 –77 setting, 101 , 169 –70, 175 –80 testing, 156 –57 Bruni, Frank, 147 Buijs, Carl, 63 Building community , 151 –52, 183 –208, 213 Bullying, 48 , 53 Canadian context, 19 –20, 59 , 65 , 85 , 89 , 100 , 110 , 195 –200 Children. See also Babies/infants; Teenagers advocacy for transgender or gender-nonconforming, 145 –46, 187 birthday party scenarios, 105 –8, 121 –23 device usage by, 171 downtime for, 181 –82 events for, 181 –82 gender needs of transgender or gender-nonconforming, 76 , 145 –46, 176 –78, 187 –88 gender-neutral terms for , 143 , 198 gender-nonconforming, 185 –86 gift-giving and, 173 –74 parent-child communication, 158 –60, 169 –79, 185 –86 peer harassment, 48 , 53 playing with, 29 , 156 –57 school experiences for, 46 –49, 52 –53, 71 –72, 103 –11, 121 –23, 199 , 203 , 207 supporting, 158 –60, 171 , 175 –82, 185 –87, 207 , 210 –12 Cisgender definition of, 24 , 62 –64, 215 gender expression and, 76 –77 gender happiness and, 191 –92, 206 –8 safety concerns of , 164 Clearfield, Melissa W ., 29 Colapinto, John, 33 Community building, 151 –52, 183 –208, 213 Cox, Laverne, 88 , 89 , 90 Customer service, 135 –36, 139 , 147 –49 Dating, 142 , 157 –58 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), 84 Discrimination against transgender people, 88 –89, 162 –64, 196 , 199 anti-discrimination legislation, 164 legal protection against, 162 –64, 196 , 199 Doctor’s office, 137 –40 Dreger, Alice, 28 Etiquette (gender-friendly) in bathrooms, 162 –63 in customer service interactions, 135 –36, 139 , 147 –49 in offices, 137 –40, 173 , 205 on the phone, 136 , 139 –41, 148 Evans, L yra, 89 Event planning, 172 –82 Expression, freedom of , 199 –200 F-to-M, 59 , 61 –63, 68 , 70 , 81 , 113 Faith, 30 , 76 , 124 Family . See also Parenting conflict around gender , 41 –43 gender-neutral terms for members, 143 , 197 –98 holidays with, 171 , 173 –74, 176 , 180 –82 Fatigue or exhaustion related to gender , 15 –16, 20 , 42 –43, 153 Feinberg, Leslie, 74 Ferguson, Joshua M., 68 Freedom of expression, 199 –200 Freedom of speech, 199 –200 Friendship, 20 , 50 , 74 , 187 Gender assignment at birth, 24 –25, 28 –30, 57 , 60 , 63 –64, 67 –68, 77 , 81 –87 child’s perspective of , 46 –48 conflict around, 41 –43 in everyday life, 34 –43 gender reveal parties, 30 gendered bathrooms, 13 –15, 160 –64 gift-giving and, 173 –74 how gender works, 13 –21, 25 –43 schools of thought about, 26 –30 verbal participation in, 25 , 38 –39, 42 , 55 –56, 92 visual participation in, 25 , 35 –38, 42 , 56 Gender Census, 66 –67, 96 –97, 223 Gender diversity advocacy about, 187 , 198 debunking arguments against, 192 –202 legal protections for, 19 –20 opposition to, 192 , 199 –200 spectrum of, 57 –73, 78 –79, 88 –90 study of, 17 , 64 , 94 Gender expertise of children, 46 –48, 171 , 174 –78, 182 , 187 definition of, 23 –26, 45 –46, 213 finding one’s own, 23 –26, 45 –56, 189 –90, 205 –6, 213 gender expression and, 23 –26, 45 –51 gender identity and, 25 –26 Gender expression body language and, 77 , 129 –32, 140 –41, 148 –49, 153 –55, 163 , 178 –82, 185 – 86, 204 –8 definition of, 14 , 215 gender expertise and, 23 –26, 45 –51 gender fluidity and, 76 –78 nonbinary people and, 62 –64 “obviously intentional” gender expression, 129 –30, 133 –34, 140 –41 “passing” and, 62 –64, 69 –71, 83 –86, 114 , 125 –26, 137 –38 Gender fluidity , 24 , 66 , 76 –78, 125 Gender-friendliness benefits of, 20 , 55 –56, 157 –60 challenges of , 184 –207 debunking arguments against, 183 , 192 –202 definition of, 17 –18, 52 –56 gender-friendly bathrooms, 160 –64 process of becoming gender-friendly , 52 –56 road map for, 48 –52 self-care and, 134 , 148 , 152 , 171 , 179 , 182 –88, 203 –4 tone of voice and, 130 , 140 –41, 153 –55, 157 –60 gender “unfriendliness,” 43 , 150 , 160 –61, 168 , 175 , 181 , 186 , 189 , 192 , 195 in workplaces, 48 –49, 52 , 139 –41, 199 –205 Gender happiness, 17 –18, 83 –85, 191 –92, 206 –8 Gender hot spots, 161 –63, 165 –69, 172 –75 Gender identity definition of , 215 development of , 26 –33, 61 –80 sexual orientation and, 73 , 155 –56 Gender-neutral formality , 135 –36, 139 , 142 , 146 –50 Gender-neutral pronouns (GNP s), 93 –112, 117 –22, 216 . See also Pronouns Gender-neutral terms for children, 143 , 198 for family members, 143 , 197 –98 in formal contexts, 135 –36, 139 , 142 , 146 –50 for parents, 143 , 197 –98 sexuality and, 13 –16, 142 –50, 198 Gender reveal parties, 30 Gender socialization, 25 , 27 –34, 171 Gender-unfriendliness, 43 , 150 , 160 –62, 168 , 175 , 181 , 186 , 189 , 192 , 195 Genderqueer, 66 , 67 , 70 Gift-giving alternatives to, 173 –74 gender and, 173 –74 secret Santa, 173 –74 Glossary of terms, 215 –18 Glover, Julian K evon, 89 Happiness, 17 –18, 83 –85, 191 –92, 206 –8 Harassment, 48 , 50 , 52 , 62 –63, 161 –64, 202 Herman, Jody L., 162 Hersey, Brianna O’Connor , 12 , 154 –55 Holidays, 171 , 173 –74, 176 , 180 –82 Homophobia, 77 , 88 , 216 Hormones hormone replacement therapy , 81 –82 as part of medical transition, 80 –86 role in sex development, 27 , 32 Human rights, 28 , 100 , 187 , 195 –99, 211 Infertility, 38 –42, 154 Information sharing (about gender-related needs), 167 –82 Intersex, 28 , 31 , 34 , 88 , 159 , 216 Jiménez, Karleen P endleton, 191 Katz, Jonathan Ned, 63 Kirkup, Kyle, 19 , 197 Konnelly , Lex, 94 –96, 104 , 106 , 110 , 119 , 136 , 188 , 193 , 194 Language gender-neutral formality , 135 –36, 139 , 142 , 146 –50 gentlemen and sir , 91 , 135 –36, 139 , 141 , 146 –50 honorifics, 136 , 146 –47 ladies and madam , 91 , 135 –36, 139 , 141 , 146 –50 partner language, 157 –58 salutations, 135 –36, 146 –50 titles, 19 –20, 91 , 136 –41, 146 –50, 197 written communication and, 149 –50, 194 Latour, Toni, 149 Laughter , 50 , 106 , 166 –67, 184 Law, American, 19 –20, 33 , 84 –85, 127 , 197 , 200 Law, Canadian, 19 –20, 33 , 84 –85, 162 , 195 –96, 199 –200 Legal protections, 19 –20, 163 , 199 LGBTQ+, 54 , 62 , 66 , 70 , 216 Linguistics, 93 –112, 119 , 193 –95 Lodge, Cassian, 66 , 67 Lynn, Jenny , 149 M-to-F, 24 , 59 , 61 –64, 68 , 70 , 81 , 113 Medical transition, 61 , 78 –86, 114 , 177 . See also Transition Mental health, 15 , 84 , 153 , 186 Meyer, Elizabeth J ., 71 , 88 , 216 , 217 Mis-gender, 16 , 114 –21, 136 –40, 168 –69, 173 –75 Mock, Janet, 89 Money, John, 33 Mx. , 19 , 146 –49, 197 Namaste, V iviane, 218 Nelson, Naree M., 29 Neo-pronouns, 104 –14, 197 –98. See also Pronouns No Big Deal Campaign, 94 , 193 , 197 , 222 Nonbinary age and, 66 –68, 71 –76 definition of , 17 , 24 , 59 , 64 –65, 216 gender expression and, 62 –65 milestones for , 70 –71, 75 –76 in popular culture, 68 prevalence of, 65 –68 pronouns and, 17 , 59 , 69 –78, 96 –112 visibility and, 69 –70 Office etiquette, 137 –40, 173 , 205 . See also Workplace Oger , Morgane, 89 Organizations (as resources and sources of support), 221 –22 Parent-child communication, 158 –60, 169 –79, 185 –86 Parenting. See also Children advocacy for transgender or gender-nonconforming child, 145 –46, 187 childbirth, 42 –43, 84 , 159 –60 gender-open parenting, 98 -99, 160 infertility , 38 –42, 154 Parents discussing activities with child, 171 –77 discussing child’s friends, 158 –59 discussing child’s needs, 169 –71, 185 –86 discussing friend’s child, 159 –60 discussing gift-giving situations, 173 –74 gender-neutral terms for , 143 –45, 197 –98 sharing information about child, 180 sharing information with child, 178 –79 transgender parents, 143 –45, 197 –98 Partner language, 157 –58 Phone etiquette, 136 , 139 –41, 148 P olycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), 32 –34, 72 , 216 Post-secondary education, 17 , 72 Pronouns asking privately , 129 –34 asking publicly, 123 –29, 133 –34 correcting others’ mistakes, 98 , 117 –20, 146 , 193 –95, 200 , 203 –6 gender-neutral pronouns, 93 –112, 117 –22, 216 inferring, 123 , 127 –30, 133 –34, 140 –41 linguistics and, 93 –112, 119 , 193 –95 listening to others, 123 , 127 , 133 –34 making good mistakes, 132 , 141 , 189 , 204 –5 neo-pronouns, 104 –14, 197 –98 “obviously intentional” gender expression and, 129 –30, 133 –34, 140 –41 practicing, 103 –23 primer on, 93 –112 pronoun rituals, 101 –2, 123 –34 refusal to use correct pronouns, 199 –200 resources on, 222 –23 sharing in go-rounds, 123 –29, 131 , 133 –34 signposting/sharing, 128 singular they/them , 17 –19, 74 –75, 93 –102, 106 –19, 135 –41, 149 , 158 –60, 187 –88, 193 –95 who uses gender-neutral pronouns, 59 –60, 69 –70, 93 –102, 117 –22, 125 –26, 132 workarounds, 113 , 120 –23, 200 Pyne, Jake, 100 Queer, 60 , 62 , 66 , 72 –74, 88 Queer community , 60 , 62 , 72 –74, 157 , 191 Question-calling explicit questions, 39 –40, 50 , 153 opting out of, 165 –67, 169 , 184 standing out and, 23 –24, 39 –43, 49 –52, 154 , 167 types of, 49 –56 Rankin, Susan, 61 –62, 67 , 70 , 75 Reby , David, 29 Reimer , David, 33 Reis, Elizabeth, 126 Relationships dating, 142 , 157 –58 gender-neutral terms in, 13 –16, 142 –50, 198 partner language, 157 –58 Research on gender diversity , 17 , 64 , 94 on gender expression, 197 on gender-friendly bathrooms, 161 –62 on gender milestones for diverse transgender people, 61 –62, 70 –71, 75 –76 on intersex, 28 on nature-or-nurture question, 33 on nonbinary prevalence, 65 –68 on students, 71 –73, 98 , 207 on teenagers, 19 , 67 on who uses gender-neutral pronouns, 100 transgender studies and, 58 Resistance (to gender diversity) expressed beliefs, 175 –76 handling, 178 –81 refusing to use pronouns, 199 –200 Resources, list of, 219 –24 Restaurant culture, 136 , 147 –49 Restrooms. See Bathrooms Richards, Jen, 90 Riese, Enoch, 76 Schools downtime and, 181 –82 Evan scenarios, 103 –11, 121 –23 events and, 181 –82 gender-friendliness and gender unfriendliness in, 46 –49, 52 –54, 203 negative experiences, 199 , 207 Lee’s school experiences, 46 –49, 71 –72 peer harassment, 48 , 53 research on students, 71 –73, 98 , 207 Self-advocacy (of transgender and gender-nonconforming people), 21 , 125 , 209 –13 Self-care mental health and, 15 , 84 , 153 , 186 for transgender people, 134 , 152 , 171 , 179 , 182 , 185 –86, 203 –4 when practicing gender-friendliness, 134 , 148 , 152 , 171 , 179 , 182 –88, 203 – 4 Serano, Julia, 63 , 201 Sex, 25 –29 Sexuality asking about, 30 , 49 –58, 153 –64, 166 –75 dating and, 142 , 157 –58 gender-neutral terms, 13 –16, 142 –50, 198 partner language, 157 –58 relationships and, 142 –50 sexual orientation, 73 , 155 –56 Singular they/them general uses of , 135 –41 grammar and, 93 –102, 106 –19, 193 –95 usage of, 17 –19, 74 –75, 149 –50, 158 –60, 187 –88 why people use, 98 –100 written communication and, 149 –50, 194 Slippery slope argument, 197 –99 Smith, Jaden, 77 –78 Soanes, Catherine, 107 Social media, 73 , 77 , 93 , 133 , 153 Social transition, 78 –82, 85 , 113 –14, 141 , 177 . See also Transition Socialization, 25 , 27 –34, 171 Standing out from child’s perspective, 48 –50, 71 correcting others on, 117 , 124 explicit questions and, 39 –41 gift-giving and, 173 –74 helping others with, 167 –68, 170 , 173 –74, 185 isolation and, 40 –41 meaning of, 24 , 40 , 87 opting out and, 167 question-calling and, 23 –24, 39 –43, 49 –52, 154 , 167 Streep, Meryl, 118 Stryker, Susan, 58 Teenagers. See also Children device usage by , 171 downtime for, 181 –82 gender needs of , 76 , 145 –46, 176 –78, 185 –88 gift-giving and, 173 –74 research on, 19 , 67 supporting, 158 –59, 171 , 178 –87, 207 , 210 –12 transgender spectrum and, 67 , 72 , 76 They Is My Pronoun , 17 , 75 , 93 , 114 , 210 , 214 , 223 Titles, 19 –20, 91 , 136 –41, 146 –50, 197 Tone of voice gender expression and, 129 –32, 140 –41, 148 –49, 153 –55, 178 –82, 185 –86, 204 –8 as gender-friendly tool, 130 , 140 –41, 153 –55, 157 –60 reactions from others and, 178 –82 Trans, 14 –17, 24 , 66 , 217 . See also Transgender Transgender definitions of , 14 , 24 , 57 –58, 62 –65, 84 –87, 217 happiness and, 17 –18, 83 –85, 191 –92, 206 –8 identity milestones for , 61 –62, 70 –71, 75 –76 in popular culture, 57 , 68 , 88 –90 prevalence of, 66 –68 race and, 89 –90, 200 –202 representation of , 68 , 88 –90 socioeconomic status and, 71 , 90 Transgender community , 17 , 59 –66, 79 –90, 157 –59, 191 –92 Transgender men, 19 , 31 , 57 –65, 73 –74, 80 –86, 100 Transgender spectrum diversity and, 57 –73, 78 –79, 88 –90 learning about, 57 –90 teenagers and, 67 , 72 , 76 transitioning strategies, 69 , 78 –87 understanding, 57 –90 visibility and “out-ness,” 62 –64, 69 , 101 Transgender women, 19 , 60 –64, 73 –74, 80 –84, 89 –90, 201 Transition concept of, 24 , 57 –64 defining, 86 –87, 217 gender and, 83 –85 medical transition, 61 , 78 –86, 114 , 177 social transition, 78 –82, 85 , 113 –14, 141 , 177 talking about, 82 –83 transgender spectrum and, 69 , 78 –87 ways of transitioning, 78 –83 Transphobia, 63 , 77 , 88 , 217 Transsexual, 61 , 67 , 218 Two-Spirit, 65 –66, 218 Verbal participation in gender , 25 , 38 –39, 42 , 55 –56, 92 Violence, 46 , 50 , 63 , 88 , 90 , 161 –64, 169 , 202 Visibility or “out-ness,” 62 –64, 69 , 101 Visual participation in gender , 25 , 35 –38, 42 , 56 Voice. See also T one of voice gender expression and, 140 –41, 148 –49 inferring gender from, 37 , 72 , 138 –41, 148 –49 social transition and, 81 Vuitton, Louis, 78 W ashrooms. See Bathrooms W entling, Tre, 98 Whitehead, Joshua, 66 W illsea, Jen, 30 Wilson, Bianca, 67 Workplace downtime and, 181 –82 gender-friendliness in, 48 –49, 52 , 139 –41, 199 –205 harassment and discrimination in, 48 icebreaker activities for , 172 –73 meetings and, 125 office etiquette, 137 –40, 173 , 205 office parties, 173 singular they as a tool in, 139 –41 special occasions and, 125 , 172 –73, 180 WPATH Standards of Care, 82 , 84 , 224 W ritten communication, 149 –50, 194 . See also Language Xe/xem , 93 , 97 –98, 102 –6, 122 Ze/hir , 74 , 76 , 93 , 97 –98, 102 –6, 122 Adams Media An Imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 57 L it tle fi eld S tr e et Avon, Massachusetts 02322 www .SimonandSchuster .com Copyright © 2018 by Lee Airton. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever . For information address Adams Media Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 A venue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. First Adams Media hardcover edition October 2018 ADAMS MEDIA and colophon are trademarks of Simon & Schuster . For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected] .com . The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at www .simonspeakers.com . Interior design by Colleen Cunningham Cover design by Erin Alexander Cover images © 123Rf/R avennka, Anna Kudinova Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Airton, Lee, author . Gender: your guide / Lee Airton, PhD. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media, 2018. Includes bibliographical references and index. LCCN 2018023274 (print) | LCCN 2018037239 (ebook) | ISBN 9781507209004 (hc) | ISBN 9781507209011 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Gender identity . | Parenting. | P arent and child. | BISAC: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies. | FAMIL Y & RELA TIONSHIPS / P arenting / Parent & Adult Child. Classification: LCC HQ1075 (ebook) | LCC HQ1075 .A3577 2018 (print) | DDC 305.3–dc23 LC record available at https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https- 3A__lccn.loc.gov_2018023274&d=DwIF Ag&c=jGUuvAdBXp_VqQ6t0yah2g&r= eLFfdQgpHVW0iSAzG8F- WtSjrFvCD9jGMJBHtzyExXhmHvwB7sjMCnFuKz95Uyqa&m=oTGjJGEPz2YeDt VoGV1yzZDeSh5k -PVOHC2M5aZvdLI&s=feBHMMZVKZk7uIvuz1SxaT2EqC- Ml-J62OEfll_qnao&e= ISBN 978-1-5072-0900-4 ISBN 978-1-5072-0901-1 (ebook) Many of the designations used by manufacturers and sellers to distinguish their products are claimed as trademarks. Where those designations appear in this book and Simon & Schuster , Inc., was aware of a trademark claim, the designations have been printed with initial capital letters. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information with regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. —From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations


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