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"What pronoun do you prefer?"
February 13, 2014 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Facebook now offers its users "Custom" gender options and a choice of what pronouns to be referred to by. (I guess this makes MetaFilter a trend setter?)
posted by Jacqueline (192 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Personally, I've been thinking for a while that social media networks and most databases should simply replace the Gender field with a Pronouns field, so I'm very pleased by this instance of GMTA. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 5:10 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Pro: massive social media entity recognizes/embraces the diversity of its users.

Con: massive corporation that makes its money by selling its users' personal information figures out how to micro-slice its demographic data gathering even more effectively.
posted by darkstar at 5:10 PM on February 13 [14 favorites]


Two gender options isn't cool, you know what's cool?
posted by FJT at 5:10 PM on February 13 [11 favorites]


Worth noting: The "Custom" gender field isn't just for trans* and genderqueer folks -- "Cisgender Male" and "Cisgender Female" are among the options as well.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:13 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


It's not perfect, but it's a wonderful step toward inclusivity. I like that there are options for various flavors of "cis" and "cisgender." Because cisgender is all too often the unspoken default.

Unfortunately some of the comments I've seen on Facebook about this make me want to hide under a rock forever.
posted by naju at 5:13 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Note that if you choose "custom" you can select multiple identifiers. Love it :)
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:13 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Here's a screenshot of the feature in action I saw earlier on Facebook. Pretty cool of them to add this.
posted by mathowie at 5:14 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


There is a specific list proposed by LGBT organizations, not free form like metafilter. meh
posted by jeffburdges at 5:14 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


"Two gender options isn't cool, you know what's cool?"

58 options, apparently.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:16 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


"Neutrois"?

And I thought MeFi had shown me all the possibilities.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:19 PM on February 13


Neutrois.* What it sounds like, pretty much.

*Random website from google.
posted by hoyland at 5:22 PM on February 13


Honest question: is there a specific difference between "Female to Male" and "FTM", or is it more generally a preference issue? My google-fu is failing me.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:23 PM on February 13


Does anyone know when "I'd prefer not to answer" went away? I know I selected it when I joined in 2004, but the option went away and I was changed to female when I started using the site again in 2012 or so.

Also worth noting the new option is only available to US English speakers. I wonder if some of those phrases are even directly translatable to dune of the languages they support (eg Esperanto).
posted by miyabo at 5:24 PM on February 13


Sadly, jerboa is not an option.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:27 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Honest question: is there a specific difference between "Female to Male" and "FTM", or is it more generally a preference issue? My google-fu is failing me.

Preference, essentially. (I've never actually met anyone who uses 'female to male'. It reads as very dated to me--the sort of thing where if it showed up in a newspaper article, I start expecting the thing to be a train wreck.)
posted by hoyland at 5:27 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Worth noting: The "Custom" gender field isn't just for trans* and genderqueer folks -- "Cisgender Male" and "Cisgender Female" are among the options as well.

It's not perfect, but it's a wonderful step toward inclusivity. I like that there are options for various flavors of "cis" and "cisgender." Because cisgender is all too often the unspoken default.

Yah, I'm just doing it on a lark in my Metafilter profile and I'd actually take it out if this becomes a thing, but you're gonna want to be careful what you wish for there. Think about it.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:29 PM on February 13


Yah, I'm just doing it on a lark in my Metafilter profile and I'd actually take it out if this becomes a thing, but you're gonna want to be careful what you wish for there. Think about it.

?
posted by en forme de poire at 5:31 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


but you're gonna want to be careful what you wish for there. Think about it.

I'm not totally sure what you mean here, but the obvious problem I see with cis people announcing they're cis is that it creates the expectation that trans people out themselves.
posted by hoyland at 5:31 PM on February 13 [9 favorites]


Also worth noting the new option is only available to US English speakers. I wonder if some of those phrases are even directly translatable to dune of the languages they support (eg Esperanto).

Or perhaps more importantly, that other cultures/languages have their own gender concepts that aren't included here (for example the Samoan Fa'afafine or Maori Takatāpui - both important enough in New Zealand that I've seen equivalents of "GBLT" that include them). Hopefully they'll be included in regional versions of FB? Mine is still showing up with a forced-choice M/F for gender.

Nonetheless, this is still a great start.
posted by Pink Frost at 5:31 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty happy that they did this, I changed mine to Genderqueer from blank.

I do keep seeing a lot of the "this is good, but [jokey-thing/animal/not-actually-a-gender-and-is-mocking-the-concept] isn't available", which is a bit frustrating as someone who benefits from this change.

It has led to some good conversations with people I know, I think raising visibility about the inadequacy of the "gender binary" is generally positive.
posted by HermitDog at 5:32 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


So, okay, I changed mine to "cis female." Which I thought was appropriate, since that's what I identify as. I guess my only hesitation is isolating trans people. I don't want anyone to feel like they have to qualify what they were born with. I worry about being associated with RadFem or WBW. Hmm...
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:32 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Eh, forget 'creates the expectation', make that 'feeds the expectation'. Announcing you're cis apropos of nothing is something that needs to be done with care.
posted by hoyland at 5:33 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Sticherbeast: "Honest question: is there a specific difference between "Female to Male" and "FTM", or is it more generally a preference issue? My google-fu is failing me."

I don't recall ever meeting anyone who's used one to self-identify and strongly rejected the other - offering both is most likely just base-covering to make sure people have the specific form they're familiar with. That said, both are becoming less common in favour of (coercively) (assigned/designated) male/female at birth; CAFAB, AFAB, DFAB, similar acronyms.
posted by emmtee at 5:34 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I'm glad this happened and went straight for it, even though it lacks my preferred descriptors. Although I'm (peevishly and childishly) annoyed at the fact that it appears to be a freeform text box up until the moment you try to hit "Save." The list of possible descriptors is not bad, as these things go, but that's just crummy UI design.
posted by dorque at 5:36 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: A Tumblr post from a genderqueer person specifically asking cis people to "step up" and also use the Custom gender field is what initially brought the Facebook change to my attention, so I wouldn't worry about anyone misconstruing your use of the feature as an indicator of anti-trans* sentiment.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:38 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


That said, both are becoming less common in favour of (coercively) (assigned/designated) male/female at birth; CAFAB, AFAB, DFAB, probably other similar acronyms.

I disagree with this. I think MTF and FTM are going away, but in favour of 'trans man/woman'. (I wouldn't use MTF or FTM as a noun now, but maybe would have eight years ago.) I see A(F|M)AB as plugging the hole of not having a way to describe people according to their assignment at birth (which probably approximates some aspects of their bodies pretty well) that is agnostic of gender. (In other words, people hadn't stumbled on the phrase 'assigned male/female at birth' until relatively recently.) All this varies with community, though.
posted by hoyland at 5:38 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Oh, I just realised there's a trend emmtee may have been referring to that I have Feelings (with a capital F) about, so I'm going to keep my mouth shut.
posted by hoyland at 5:41 PM on February 13


I'm not totally sure what you mean here, but the obvious problem I see with cis people announcing they're cis is that it creates the expectation that trans people out themselves.

Basically. Imagine "male" and "female" existing for formal purposes and government forms, and in everyday conversation people use "cis" at all times and basically if you say just "male" "female" "man" "woman" online or whatever it opens you up to transphobic questioning.

"I went out on a hot date with a nice cisgirl last night."
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:41 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


you can also select an audience for your custom gender

This is like the motto for an optimistic mis-construal of the implications of Judith Butler for theatre and performance studies!

(I don't see where the options are after you pick custom?)
posted by Mngo at 5:45 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


Mngo, you just have to start typing and hope you hit on an auto-complete that they've included in the list. The full list discovered so far is here.
posted by dorque at 5:47 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


dorque is right about the UI being confusing -- I'm surprised there is not a simple option to leave it blank or "I prefer not to say". I think (but as with many things related to facebook security am not sure) that setting the visibility to "Only Me" means that it doesn't matter what is filled into the field since no one other than advertisers and the NSA will see it.
posted by autopilot at 5:48 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I know this is important for a lot of people, and I'm happy for them, but...

I really wanted to troll some of my prescriptivist friends by changing my gender pronoun to singular they. Unfortunately, Facebook won't let me unless I change my gender to something custom too.
posted by sbutler at 5:48 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Yeah, hoyland, I should have put that better: I didn't mean to imply AFAB etc were commonly being or should be used as sole indicators of gender in place of (trans) man or woman, just that when someone does expressly want to convey birth assignment as well as actual gender, 'AFAB male' or 'AFAB trans man' is the more usual way to do it nowadays rather than either FTM or female-to-male, which kind of present birth assignment as reality pre-transition.
posted by emmtee at 5:49 PM on February 13


So I just explained the whole thing to my 70-year-old father, and while he was amused by the 58 gender options, he immediately got on board with the idea of people being able to choose their own pronouns including the singular they/them. I don't think he's had much exposure to trans* issues before so it's nice to see that this is immediately graspable as the right thing to do even to someone who isn't as steeped in the lore as the average MeFite is by now.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:49 PM on February 13 [26 favorites]


Today's hard-won identity is tomorrow's sales demographic. But for the moment, good on them.
posted by neroli at 5:53 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


To make a more substantive comment than just whinging about the UI, I hope FB's leviathan-like status on the Internet helps push this trend farther afield. I know I'm going to be waiting a long time for this one, but I would give a lot to have my gender adequately reflected in my medical records, not least so that "Trans-sexualism" (sic) can stop being listed as my "Primary complaint" (seriously!) every time I see my doctor.
posted by dorque at 5:58 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


Yeah, speaking as a transwoman, while I wouldn't expect a huge groundswell of people saying "cis *" in the world to really happen, I could see people feeling possibly pressured into doing so if a lot of their friends do... and then if one is trans and trying to be more stealthy (or rather, just don't want to advertise their transness), you don't want to feel like you might out yourself, inadvertently or not. I'd also rather not have to qualify myself as female, or feel like I should. I'm female. Case closed.

One thing I worry about this as well is if places like dating sites start bringing this in. Yes, some people may not identify as one of the two traditional genders. But if, say, OKCupid adds in a "cis" and "trans" option for gender, and you have a transwoman (or man) who does not pick "cis" and goes out on a date, has a good time, then it is revealed that.. surprise... they are not cis, chances are things could go a lot more poorly than if it wasn't even an option. I know there are a number of people on dating sites who want this functionality not so they can self-identify, but so that cisgender people can weed out trans men and women.

It's all very complicated, and to be honest, I can't decide if I am happy or sad about this. On one hand, I'm happy that those people who are genderqueer can proudly proclaim this if they would like. However, with the system they created--a listing of "acceptable" terms (probably for data normalization as was alluded to above) rather than a custom text field--I feel like there could be an expectation that transpeople note that they are trans. I mean, Facebook got all those options on there.. so pick one, damnit!

(EDIT: I also recognize that this could just be me being needlessly worried about nothing. But it still gives me pause.)
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 6:00 PM on February 13 [12 favorites]


People interested in this post may also be pleased to know of the existence of these "Hello pronoun" stickers.
posted by dorque at 6:04 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


Back in the early pre-internet 90s someone I knew landed several compsci internships working at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa. These (paid) intern projects concentrated on database work: refactoring the logical models of old dbs that had outgrown their original definitions and migrating the data into the new object oriented databases of the era.

A big problem they encountered again and again was discovering sex fields in old databases that used a strict binary definition -- as in, literally coded as either 0 or 1. Expanding these fields to be more inclusive was a lot of work, mostly because one had no idea whether the values in the old field were accurate or whether they were the result of a forced compromise imposed on whoever did the original data entry.

Plus, while the new fields strove to be fully inclusive, because these were police records they also had to accommodate values such as "unknown", "unidentified", "presumptive", "witness protected", "profiled", and so on. Add in a few more options to represent migrated M's or F's from the old records that hadn't been officially confirmed, and soon they were wondering if a byte (255 values) would be enough to meet agency needs.
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:11 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I'm just upset I can't select my prefered pronoun, "meat popsicle."
posted by NapAdvocacy at 6:11 PM on February 13 [14 favorites]


On the other hand I talked to a database developer at a large hospital in the early 2000s and asked her how they handled gender. She said there were exactly 6 categories: M, F, MTF, FTM, Indeterminate, Unknown. Unfortunately trans people are way overrepresented in the health care system, so at least some institutions got with the program early on.
posted by miyabo at 6:17 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


I feel like there could be an expectation that transpeople note that they are trans.

Part of me has this sense that as Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post have decided trans people are "trendy" or something, they're feeding this idea that trans people want to discuss their transness with every person they encounter and completely ignoring that there are real risks that come with this attention they're heaping on trans people. I kind of feel like Facebook is playing into the same dynamic a bit by (presumably) ensuring there's news coverage of the change, rather than just making it and letting people find it.
posted by hoyland at 6:17 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


ceribus peribus: A big problem they encountered again and again was discovering sex fields in old databases that used a strict binary definition -- as in, literally coded as either 0 or 1. Expanding these fields to be more inclusive was a lot of work, mostly because one had no idea whether the values in the old field were accurate or whether they were the result of a forced compromise imposed on whoever did the original data entry.

When I was in college I worked for the FBI for a couple years part time as a clerk in the Identification (Ident) Division. Most of my day was going through rap sheets and fingerprint cards, making sure everything looked good, routing "crazy letters" to the appropriate Special Agents, and so on. It was pretty boring work, but you got to see a lot of how law enforcement categorizes things. Every once and a while in the sex field instead of an "M" and "F" you'd see "P" and "Q". At first I didn't realize what was going on but sometimes pictures were also stamped on the fingerprint cards when they made it to HQ. That's when I realized that some jurisdictions (maybe all, I have no idea) used "P" and "Q" to note Transmen and Transwomen.

I don't remember which was which anymore, but I do remember when it suddenly dawned on me what was going on. I've never seen that anywhere else, and I can't seem to find a notation for it anywhere online. In retrospect, they should have marked the person down as the gender they identified with, but back then I remember thinking that was unbelievably progressive at the time.
posted by tittergrrl at 6:22 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


One thing I worry about this as well is if places like dating sites start bringing this in. Yes, some people may not identify as one of the two traditional genders. But if, say, OKCupid adds in a "cis" and "trans" option for gender, and you have a transwoman (or man) who does not pick "cis" and goes out on a date, has a good time, then it is revealed that.. surprise... they are not cis, chances are things could go a lot more poorly than if it wasn't even an option.

Pretty simple solution there. OKCupid asks for your identity and the identity of who you would like to date. If they added trans/cis as options for both of these fields, the problem is solved. If someone doesn't say they're interested in dating a trans person, a trans person shouldn't pursue a date with them.

OKCupid currently also allows gay men and lesbian women to make themselves invisible to straight women and straight men, respectively. That would work in any direction, with any identity that a person was not interested in connecting with.

As for a hypothetical situation where someone is intentionally misleading under these circumstances, well, they're totally doing the wrong thing. But obviously the appropriate reaction is to say "hey what the fuck, you mislead me, I though you were (insert identity), I'm leaving", as opposed to the terrible reactions we sometimes see from men in this situation.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:30 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


completely ignoring that there are real risks that come with this attention they're heaping on trans people.

I'll elaborate a little. A number of the really good things that have happened for trans people in the US recently are very fragile. If no one but trans people notices that it's become drastically easier to change the gender on your passport and with Social Security during the course of the Obama administration, those changes are much more likely to survive a Republican administration. They're purely administrative decisions, reversible with a stroke of a pen.
posted by hoyland at 6:31 PM on February 13 [6 favorites]


If someone doesn't say they're interested in dating a trans person, a trans person shouldn't pursue a date with them.

Holy crap, no. This is straight out of panic about being 'tricked' into 'being gay' by trans people.
posted by hoyland at 6:32 PM on February 13 [13 favorites]


I was going to post a, "Haha, I'm not happy until I can put [awesome absurdity like MONOCHROME RAINBOW]" comment, too, but seeing them from the other side of things now, I don't think they're helpful and it's possible to send kind of a hurtful message there, since non-gender conforming people are pretty used to having their/our identities trivialized or compared to absurdisms.

and
Pretty simple solution there. OKCupid asks for your identity and the identity of who you would like to date. If they added trans/cis as options for both of these fields, the problem is solved. If someone doesn't say they're interested in dating a trans person, a trans person shouldn't pursue a date with them.
Shit is WAY more complicated.
posted by byanyothername at 6:33 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


This is straight out of panic about being 'tricked' into 'being gay' by trans people.

Which is, in case anyone was wondering, really truly a thing that people have experienced, including me, so yeah, count me on the "nope nope nope" side of this one.
posted by dorque at 6:36 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Pretty simple solution there. OKCupid asks for your identity and the identity of who you would like to date. If they added trans/cis as options for both of these fields, the problem is solved. If someone doesn't say they're interested in dating a trans person, a trans person shouldn't pursue a date with them.

Perhaps they should just have "trap" and "not a trap," if we don't want to read between the lines.

byanyothername has it right... it's WAY more complicated than that. Most people hear "transwoman" and "transmen" often think things that are way beyond the truth. What you are suggesting is somewhat ghettoizing transpeople.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 6:40 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Holy crap, no. This is straight out of panic about being 'tricked' into 'being gay' by trans people.


Huh?

On a dating site, it asks if I'm interested in dating cis, trans, hetero, bi, queer, men, or women.

I reply that I'm interested in dating hetero cis women, bi cis women, and bi trans men, and gay trans men.

That means that hetero men, bi men, gay men, lesbian women, hetero trans men, straight trans men, hetero trans women, bi trans women and lesbian trans women should not ask me out, and should not misrepresent themselves as one of the identities I've said I was interested in as a prelude to asking me out.

What is wrong with that? (aside from the fact that I forgot to include genderqueer as an option)

Isn't everyone entitled to say what they're looking for and expect that to be respected?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:42 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


What is wrong with that? (aside from the fact that I forgot to include genderqueer as an option)

Because I'm not just a "trans man". I'm a man. I shouldn't have to qualify myself for my potential dating partners.
posted by dorque at 6:44 PM on February 13 [22 favorites]


I'll elaborate a little. A number of the really good things that have happened for trans people in the US recently are very fragile. If no one but trans people notices that it's become drastically easier to change the gender on your passport and with Social Security during the course of the Obama administration, those changes are much more likely to survive a Republican administration. They're purely administrative decisions, reversible with a stroke of a pen.

I don't think so - for many administrative decisions, there are extensive system changes (such as those that ceribus peribus mentions) that make the change tricky to undo.

Without social will, which requires public attention, changes to the status quo are unlikely.
posted by gingerest at 6:45 PM on February 13


What is wrong with that? (aside from the fact that I forgot to include genderqueer as an option)


Well for one, we will never meet each other and fall madly in love. Look what you are missing out on.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 6:46 PM on February 13 [23 favorites]


What is wrong with that? (aside from the fact that I forgot to include genderqueer as an option)

The hella problematic assumption that trans men are not men.
posted by hoyland at 6:46 PM on February 13 [17 favorites]


(and that trans women are not women).
posted by hoyland at 6:46 PM on February 13 [13 favorites]


I'm a little confused by that particular gender salad, MBatR, but... OKCupid actually does have a, "Would you date a trans person?" question, which would be helpful to be able to search for and quickly reference in someone's profile. Unfortunately, dividing gender markers on a dating site between cis/trans is likely to result in dating sites becoming worthless for trans people. Some people will include it in their profile, but some of us live in areas where literally no one knows what it means and disclosing upfront is just a bad idea due to weird, awful preconceived notions and internalized transphobia.
posted by byanyothername at 6:47 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Because I'm not just a "trans man". I'm a man. I shouldn't have to qualify myself for my potential dating partners.

That's my exact hesitation with labeling myself as a cis woman.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:47 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Because I'm not just a "trans man". I'm a man. I shouldn't have to qualify myself for my potential dating partners.

OK then, if that's the way you think it should work, can we rewrite the OKCupid algorithm so that I can declare what kind of genitalia I like to play with, rather than what gender I'm attracted to?

I am uninterested in playing with penises. I think I ought to be able to say so and have that respected. Gender may be a sociological construct. Penises and vaginas are physiological, and I have as much right to have a preference for one of those as I do to have a preference for fat or thin bodies, brown or red hair, etc., no?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:48 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


"Sadly, jerboa is not an option."

"I'm just upset I can't select my prefered pronoun, "meat popsicle.""

"i tried to change my gender to "F00n" and my preferred pronoun to "smock" but apparently there is a limit to inclusivity."


Can we please not do this? This is a serious, emotional issue for a lot of our fellow MeFites and jokes like this are insensitive. I know that y'all don't intend to be hurtful so I ask you to please refrain from making more comments like this. Thanks.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:49 PM on February 13 [37 favorites]


OKCupid actually does have a, "Would you date a trans person?" question.

It does, but it's a question you have to find and answer. I was talking about at the beginning of the process of signing up, when it asks you if you're a man or a woman and if you're interested in dating men or women.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:49 PM on February 13


can we rewrite the OKCupid algorithm so that I can declare what kind of genitalia I like to play with, rather than what gender I'm attracted to?

No, we can't. That's the point. You can politely decline to "play with penises" should someone offer you one. You don't get to make assumptions about people's genitals or define your attraction (which are probably gender-based, if you're not just objectifying genitals) by denying people's genders.
posted by hoyland at 6:49 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


MBATR, basically, you can't know what plumbing someone has just by specifying the way you have (there are certainly trans men with penises and no vaginas), and (IMO) it's unkind to try.
posted by dorque at 6:50 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


Yay more boxes for people to put themselves in.
posted by petrilli at 6:52 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Trans people don't have tattoos on their foreheads. It is somewhere between possible and quite likely that you've been attracted to someone who is trans without any knowledge of their genitals.
posted by hoyland at 6:52 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


Where is "gender" in settings in FB? I just went to my facebook settings page and all I see is personal info (name, email, etc), then page after page of preferences but nothing about my gender.
posted by mathowie at 6:54 PM on February 13


Edit Profile -> Basic Information.
posted by dorque at 6:55 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Most dating sites already allow you to discriminate by race and sexuality (e.g. by excluding bi people who like your gender, or non-whites, etc.). On the one hand that kind of thing can serve as a useful filter if you're out or obviously part of a minority, because then you can pre-screen out people who are, e.g., biphobic or have weird ideas about your ethnicity -- but on the other hand it also probably encourages some people who haven't thought too hard about the issue to reflexively exclude bi people, trans people, etc. Plus, of course, not everybody is out, especially not "first date" out. So def seems like a double-edged sword.

But of course, Facebook isn't really a "dating" site in the way that OKC is.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:57 PM on February 13


Petrilli - the original options of male and female are still there, so it's more like "more options for the same box" than more boxes. And the box isn't mandatory any more, which is a vast improvement, and if you choose a Custom gender setting, you can also choose with what audience you wish to share it.
posted by gingerest at 6:57 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


So are you all expecting society to change so radically that we base our attraction preferences on people's identity without assuming that an identity comes with a particular kind of anatomy?

Are you expecting that we all change our thinking about dating so that wait until someone either discloses their anatomy verbally or takes their clothes off before we decide if we're compatible with them?

Sorry, but if that's gonna happen on the 5th date, I could easily end up wasting a whole lot of my time. Hell, if I meet someone on a dating site and find out their anatomy isn't what I prefer on the 1st date, I wasted time just by going to the first date.

Attraction has a lot to do with what people look like naked. This is one of those situations where radical ideas about the way the world ought to be just don't fit the way the world actually is.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:57 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


By the way, MBATR, I hope you're not feeling piled-on. I've appreciated your willingness to engage politely in previous threads on similar topics, and I apologize for the slight irritated edge I sense has crept into my comments.
posted by dorque at 6:58 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Oh, crap, no, I think it's STILL mandatory. Sorry.
posted by gingerest at 6:58 PM on February 13


Are you expecting that we all change our thinking about dating so that wait until someone either discloses their anatomy verbally or takes their clothes off before we decide if we're compatible with them?

This is what you do when you date someone. Whether the thing you wouldn't know about them unless they're naked is about their genitals or something else.
posted by hoyland at 6:59 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


So are you all expecting society to change so radically that we base our attraction preferences on people's identity without assuming that an identity comes with a particular kind of anatomy?

Well, sort of. Mostly I hope people will be willing to give other people a fair shake regardless of their genital configuration, since you (speaking generally) may find you surprise yourself with attraction to someone you didn't expect.
posted by dorque at 7:01 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


"Oh, crap, no, I think it's STILL mandatory. Sorry."

It's mandatory but you can set your Gender visibility to "Only Me." Your pronoun preference is Public (probably because the site needs to know how to refer to you in the third person, as in the birthday example they use).
posted by Jacqueline at 7:01 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


What is wrong with that? (aside from the fact that I forgot to include genderqueer as an option)

To be more serious, what hoyland (and others) said. You are assuming (which I guess is your right) that a transwoman really isn't a woman, and a transmen aren't really men. Specifically as a transwoman, how I personally read that is that you (not sure if its you or a made up "you") see me as icky. I mean it can't be about wanting kids (a perfectly valid need in a relationship, though it should also then apply to sterile ciswomen) if you are also interested in transmen unless you are aiming for Thomas Beattie who in my experience is very much an outlier in transmen circles, though I could be wildly mistaken and I apologize if i am! So what else could it be? So that's sort of offensive, but people are allowed to be offensive.

In the end though a lot of people who don't see themselves with a transperson are so because they know precisely diddlysquat about them. Most of what people know about transpeople is based on what media has fed them, and cultural bugaboos.

byyourothername noted that there is a question on OKCupid that asks if you would date a trans person. I personally have that question answered, and I do searches based on that question so if I have a guy who I am interested in and he messages me or I find him and it's answered no, I will (sometimes sadly), write them off. It's an invisible sort of thing. If a transwoman has to self identify as trans on OKCupid for all the world to see, Ye Gods. Harassment, etc. I guess the only way something like that could possibly work is if there is a hidden "I am transgender" flag somewhere and neither side knows about it and it could quash people from searches but that really feels skeevy.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 7:02 PM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I hope you're not feeling piled-on.

No. I'm not. I understand what I'm getting myself into. And I mean no disrespect by asking the questions I'm asking. But basically, I'm unusual in that my sexual preference is "I like vaginas, and if you have one, I might be attracted to you depending on other factors".

It raises some complicated questions, like, if I'm attracted to trans men who have vaginas, does that now make me bisexual? Actually, depending on how you slice it, it throws a giant monkey wrench in the entire concept of sexual orientation.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:02 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


(and yes, sorry, don't mean to pile on MBATR either... it's just a touchy subject that I helped start)
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 7:02 PM on February 13


[Guys, this is turning into a) a pile-on b) on kind of a tangent that c) has turned seriously ugly in the past. Can we mutually agree to please not?]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:03 PM on February 13


Attraction has a lot to do with what people look like naked. This is one of those situations where radical ideas about the way the world ought to be just don't fit the way the world actually is.


See, that's the thing. You are right about attraction having to do with nekkidness. But I'm a post-op trans woman who has been identified as cis many times by other trans women and have been living as a woman since I was a teenager. If you met me naked, I would be completely indistinguishable from a natal woman, unless you have a completely specific idea of what a natal woman's body should be.

It could be that you are somewhat unclear on what transgender means.. that a transgender woman is only a woman who has a penis, which comes back around to the fact that most people don't understand what it means to be transgender period.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 7:07 PM on February 13 [16 favorites]


You are assuming (which I guess is your right) that a transwoman really isn't a woman, and a transmen aren't really men.


No, I just didn't get detailed enough. I think trans women are women. I think trans men are men. I think humans with vaginas are who I want to put my penis in, assuming a number of other factors line up, including wit, charm, non-genital based physiological attractiveness, etc.

I'm interested in dating and sleeping with women who are not lesbians and have vaginas and men who are not heterosexual and have vaginas.

I would think that it would be fair for a dating site to develop an algorithm that works with my preferences and other people's preferences to find compatibility in a world where gender and anatomy and cis/trans status and sexual orientation are all variables, all accepted as normal in any combination.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:07 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


Because I'm not just a "trans man". I'm a man. I shouldn't have to qualify myself for my potential dating partners.

Granted. Some people link biological sex and gender rather more tightly, however, and the configuration of their (potential) partner's genitals is important at the very base level of sexual attraction for them.

For example, some gay guys (self included) DGAF about whether you had a penis at birth or not. Some gay guys do care. If we're talking about dating sites, the ability to self-select out of seeing profiles of people you won't be interested in dating because of X (whatever X may be) seems to just be a basic level of functionality.

I am not, in any way, saying that you have to qualify yourself to the world. But people do link genitals and gender, especially when it comes to sexual attraction obviously, and I think it would be difficult to argue that most people don't have pretty strict and relatively set-in-stone preferences for the genitals and gender(s) they prefer.

What I'm saying is, most people have a preference for Gender A and Genital Configuration B. In fact, I'd say that basically everyone does, though they may add other genders and genitals to the list.

You don't get to make assumptions about people's genitals or define your attraction (which are probably gender-based, if you're not just objectifying genitals) by denying people's genders.

Denying? of course not. But um, yes actually you very much can define your attraction based on genitals; people do it every single day all the time and there's nothing wrong with that. Most straight men aren't interested in pre- or no-bottom-surgery trans women, for example, because penises. There's nothing wrong with that; we are attracted to the features and attributes we are attracted to. That doesn't mean you're 'objectifying genitals.'

I mean yeah it would be great to live in a world where everyone evaluates everyone based on who they are and not what's in their pants, but that's just not reality. I would like that to be reality. But it's not, and I don't think it ever will be.

(I really really really really want to add: nothing I am saying above is transphobic or saying anyone who is trans is icky or anything along those lines. Some people like chocolate covered raisins, some people like chocolate covered peanuts, some people like both.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:07 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry, I'll end this. But I'll still pine for stolen internet glances and binary dreams.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 7:08 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


[OK, because apparently asking nicely isn't going to do it, we are Not Having the "but I only want to fuck cis people and I'm not a bigot" conversation. Take it to the existing MeTa on trans threads if you need to. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 7:12 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


It could be that you are somewhat unclear on what transgender means.. that a transgender woman is only a woman who has a penis, which comes back around to the fact that most people don't understand what it means to be transgender period.

Yeah, I screwed that up. And honestly, I should have known better. I got fixated on the idea of three variable statuses for use on a dating site: male/intersex/female, straight/bi/gay, cis/genderqueer/trans.

And the fact is, those categories don't really work. Our new linguistics of identity seems to have not fully integrated with any new linguistics of attraction.

I actually like that it's this complicated. At the same time, there ought to be some way to create a unified field theory of all of it, no?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:12 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


(I will also note, if you met me naked, I would probably be somewhat embarrassed, cold, and wondering where my clothes went as well as I do not normally go about not wearing my clothes when I meet people for the first time.)
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 7:13 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


Denying? of course not. But um, yes actually you very much can define your attraction based on genitals; people do it every single day all the time and there's nothing wrong with that. Most straight men aren't interested in pre- or no-bottom-surgery trans women, for example, because penises. There's nothing wrong with that; we are attracted to the features and attributes we are attracted to. That doesn't mean you're 'objectifying genitals.'

You generally decide whether you are attracted to someone before you have knowledge of their genitals. You may decide that someone's genitals render the pair of you sexually incompatible, but you don't have x-ray vision.
posted by hoyland at 7:15 PM on February 13 [7 favorites]


There's nothing wrong with just not being able to be attracted to particular sets of genitalia, but it's not something you can easily identify at a glance. This applies to cis and trans people; it's problematic to assume trans people have genitals that match their AAB sex. Even without Surgeries, genitals (trans and cis) are not always a perfectly dichotomous X/Y thing.
posted by byanyothername at 7:19 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I was reading through that old MeTa link, and I was saddened to see that the link Cortex posted to the (anonymous) data dump of how MetaFilters were using the gender field is no longer valid. Does anyone still have that info? Or even better, a more up-to-date version?
posted by ErWenn at 7:21 PM on February 13


There's nothing wrong with just not being able to be attracted to particular sets of genitalia, but it's not something you can easily identify at a glance. This applies to cis and trans people; it's problematic to assume trans people have genitals that match their AAB sex. Even without Surgeries, genitals (trans and cis) are not always a perfectly dichotomous X/Y thing.


I guess what I'm saying is that up until very recently, all of society has had assumptions about genitalia based on a person's external appearance. Today, a part of society is changing this, but it hasn't changed it yet. So what do we do about dating and assumptions in this current situation, where some people have one set of expectations and others have a different set?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:22 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


You generally decide whether you are attracted to someone before you have knowledge of their genitals. You may decide that someone's genitals render the pair of you sexually incompatible, but you don't have x-ray vision.

I will say this has been my experience a number of times, sadly. Falling in love (or at least intense, lustful like) with a guy and he I, but it unfortunately falling apart once we have "the talk." But if I had let him know at the onset there never would have been the chance of even that happening... because every once and a while you find that special guy and have the talk and his response is: "So what?" so then you can break up weeks later based on something silly like politics, World of Warcraft, or hey... who is that girl in our bed? That's when you know you've really arrived.
posted by BecauseIHadFiveDollars at 7:23 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


So what do we do about dating and assumptions in this current situation, where some people have one set of expectations and others have a different set?

What do you do when you're dating someone who's perfectly nice, but you don't think things are going to work out? You do that. It's not like this is hard, as much as some cis people want it to be.
posted by hoyland at 7:25 PM on February 13 [11 favorites]


Wow, one of the choices is Two-Spirit; I don't think I've seen that choice before.
posted by Mitheral at 7:27 PM on February 13


on the other hand I talked to a database developer at a large hospital in the early 2000s and asked her how they handled gender. She said there were exactly 6 categories: M, F, MTF, FTM, Indeterminate, Unknown. Unfortunately trans people are way overrepresented in the health care system, so at least some institutions got with the program early on.

I work at a hospital in the SF Bay Area in 2014 and we only have two gender options in our computerized charts. The last time I had a patient who was a trans woman, she was listed as male on her chart, and people were writing male on the census list for our unit. Most staff were being respectful, a few were being assholes, a few were being willfully clueless.

Fuck Facebook, but I do think the increasing normalization of a range of gender identifications, and a normalization of trans identity has got to have a net positive impact.
posted by latkes at 7:28 PM on February 13 [8 favorites]


It appears that the admin deleted a comment I posted in which I said that I was feeling totally respected despite the fact that this was a potentially incendiary conversation.

I also expressed my appreciation for the fact that people were simultaneously disagreeing with me, pointing out areas where I had been ignorant, and still being respectful about it despite the fact that I was wading into this with some galoot-like cis male assumptions.

I'm re-posting that because I find it utterly bizarre that anyone would deem that appropriate to delete.

I guess I'll risk getting sanctioned for reposting that I think you're all being nice and teaching me a lot, because, hey, YOLO.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:29 PM on February 13 [15 favorites]


I am more than showing my age here, it would seem. But I am so tired of the micro classification of gender identities that at this point I would rather they just do away with the gender field altogether for everything. Unlessthe information is necessitated fornhealth or medical purposes. I grew up the kid of a hippie, like every other kid in the regipn I proudly wore my "Love see no color" shirt, I passionately campaigned against the infamous Oregon ballot measure 9 in 1992 going as far to carve a Halloween pumpkin with "No On 9". And at this point, I feel like the hyper specificity of gender labeling is only serving to divide people further. Down with gender fields all together, from now on I am just going to write in "irrelevant" on any forms with a gender question.
posted by mediocre at 7:32 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Scratch my comment above and insert this instead, it says it better:

I would think that it would be fair for a dating site to develop an algorithm that works with my preferences and other people's preferences to find compatibility in a world where gender and anatomy and cis/trans status and sexual orientation are all variables, all accepted as normal in any combination.

Also:

No, I just didn't get detailed enough. I think trans women are women. I think trans men are men. I think humans with vaginas are who I want to put my penis in, assuming a number of other factors line up, including wit, charm, non-genital based physiological attractiveness, etc.

This too. Well, not specifically the details involved, but the idea behind this is what I was trying to say.

r_n: I hope this is not coming across as "but I only want to fuck cis people and I'm not a bigot" because that is the exact opposite of what I'm saying.

MBATR has it right. I've had this notion bouncing around in the back of my head for a while: a dating site that lets you set ideal values for whatever categories of attraction--height, weight, genital configuration, gender, preferred music, whatever--and lets you weight those things by also inputting how important they are for you. So for me, for example, "male-identified" would be a much higher value than "has a penis."

Anyway, the back end of the site would serve you matches that take into account your whole attraction matrix; you may prefer green eyes, but that's much less important than whether they drive a car, for example. So the site would show you matches that might have brown eyes, but drive an awesome car. Or whatever.

OKCupid almost has that granularity. All they'd need is the ability to rank how important whatever profile fields are to you.

You generally decide whether you are attracted to someone before you have knowledge of their genitals. You may decide that someone's genitals render the pair of you sexually incompatible, but you don't have x-ray vision.

Well yeah, okay. And agreed with what byanyothername said, too. But generally speaking there is a likelihood that if you are attracted to Gender A and the genitals that usually go with Gender A, most people who are Gender A will have genitals that fit somewhere in your ballpark. By the same token, maybe you're attracted to Gender A but not to the genitals that usually go with Gender A! That's okay too! But it might mean you'd want to filter your potential dating pool, is what I'm saying.

The real difficulty is, as noted above, that our linguistic constructs of identity discussion haven't meshed well with how we talk about sexual orientation and attraction. MBATR is primarily attracted to vaginas and doesn't really like penises. That's fine. Someone else may be primarily attracted to penises but not really care if there's a vagina around, or not like them, or like both equally, or like nothing at all. All of these things are valid and fine and need to be seen by all of society as totally okay.

We all have axes of attraction, and sometimes we like a range on each spectrum, sometimes we like a specific point, sometimes we don't like specific points and ranges. What MBATR is pointing out, I think, is fascinating: we need to decouple gender from sex from orientation, and start thinking more about orientation not as "I like Gender A" but more as an amorphous blob outlined by various things we like and don't like on various axes.

Like I said, some of us DGAF what your body looked like when it was born. (That's the general 'you,' not anyone specific here).

On preview, MBATR summarized what I'm trying to say a lot better. Again.

I guess what I'm saying is that up until very recently, all of society has had assumptions about genitalia based on a person's external appearance. Today, a part of society is changing this, but it hasn't changed it yet. So what do we do about dating and assumptions in this current situation, where some people have one set of expectations and others have a different set?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:33 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


So what do we do about dating and assumptions in this current situation, where some people have one set of expectations and others have a different set?

Well, possibly ponder whether the people who are at risk of being killed straight up killed by bigots who will then be acquitted after mounting a gay panic defense have it worse than you, who might at some point accidentally spend an evening in the company of a person you can't have vaginal intercourse with, and then maybe take a digestion break?

Only, seriously, people are being incredibly nice to you, yes, and that is very good of them, but this thread is now largely about your penis, and how other people's penises make it feel. It seems like hearing from another body part might be nice.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:34 PM on February 13 [17 favorites]


mediocre, I think a lot of people would argue that they are already divided, by forces beyond their control, and that naming themselves and their identities goes a long way towards a) taking back control of their own lives, and b) finding others like themselves for community, for networking, and for activism.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:34 PM on February 13 [14 favorites]


sbutler: I really wanted to troll some of my prescriptivist friends by changing my gender pronoun to singular they. Unfortunately, Facebook won't let me unless I change my gender to something custom too.

You know what's shitty? back when i was towards the end of highschool and people were transitioning from myspace to facebook, there WAS a they option. In fact, until very recently people who selected it could still have all their stuff display as "they" even though the option was gone, as long as they didn't mess with that screen on their profile at all.

I have no idea why you can't just select that as an option anymore, without enabling the other stuff. Like seriously, why?
posted by emptythought at 7:36 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


gay panic defense

God, I remember when that first became a thing and it made me want to puke and puke and puke and puke.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:41 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Jacqueline, it's possible that I love your father.
posted by allthinky at 7:41 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


emptythought, I reckon it has to do with their marketing algorithms relying on the "other stuff".
posted by allthinky at 7:42 PM on February 13


I don't think so - for many administrative decisions, there are extensive system changes (such as those that ceribus peribus mentions) that make the change tricky to undo.

Without social will, which requires public attention, changes to the status quo are unlikely.


So I disagree with both these things, at least when it comes to passports and Social Security. As far as I know, the system changes amount to printing some new handbooks and maybe running a few training sessions. The State Department has sample language for the requisite letter to minimise the number of judgement calls that need to be made (there's also a checklist of items the letter must include if it's not the sample language verbatim). The Social Security Administration just lifted the State Department language.

klangklangston or someone might know better, but as far as I know, the passport change came out of nowhere, without any public attention. It wasn't rumored, it just happened one day. On the other hand, we see opposition to AB whatever-it-is in California and politicians trying to restrict trans people's access to public restrooms--there's plenty of room for the powers that be at State or the SSA to have a fit of transphobia.
posted by hoyland at 7:43 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


It still sort of amazes me that there isn't a popular dating site that allows custom genders and/or orientations.
posted by threeants at 7:47 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of amazed OKC hasn't jumped on that idea, honestly.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:48 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I have no idea why you can't just select that as an option anymore, without enabling the other stuff. Like seriously, why?

At one point it was possible to reset your gender to unspecified (which is what triggered the 'they' pronouns* back in the day) by entering a cleverly structured URL (you were passing a 0 instead of a 1 or 2 to the set gender page), but I don't know if it still works.

*While 'they' was elegant in English, I have Facebook in German and the solution was, shall we say, inelegant.
posted by hoyland at 7:49 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


It looks like the mobile interface only allows for male or female. Maybe they just haven't updated that yet?

And yeah, I'm surprised dating sites haven't done that too. But I tried signing up for POF and found they don't even have an option to be bisexual. The standards seem to be pretty low.
posted by NoraReed at 7:50 PM on February 13


Advertisers want gender, location, and age, roughly in that order of importance. No accident these are all mandatory on Facebook (they pretty well know your location due to IP, friend network, etc.)
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:51 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


NoraReed: The change was announced earlier today and it's still being rolled out to other languages so yeah that might just be a mobile interface thing. The mobile app is pretty restricted in its functionality in several areas.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:52 PM on February 13


I'm kind of amazed OKC hasn't jumped on that idea, honestly.

Interestingly, you can connect OKC to your Facebook profile, to save time filling in the detail. I haven't tried either changing my gender on Facebook, or connecting that changed profile to OKC, but it might be interesting to see what happens.

(I suspect you still get asked to select "male" or "female", but you never know...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:54 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


And yeah, I'm surprised dating sites haven't done that too. But I tried signing up for POF and found they don't even have an option to be bisexual. The standards seem to be pretty low.

Yeah, it seems like OKCupid is the only particularly viable option, but it's pretty much hopeless if you're not binary-gendered and you're interested in dating people of whatever gender.
posted by hoyland at 7:56 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


So, I have that same thing with being generally disinterested in penises, and I did for awhile tend to think that this was something that was a good thing to be able to filter on, for dating sort of stuff. And you know what? After some thinking, I've come to this conclusion: Eventually, if we're going to basically stop as a society being jerks to people who are different, we are going to have to start telling people they need to have some conversations and not just put people into little boxes so that the filters work properly. And we're probably going to need to get brave enough to have those conversations fairly early in relationships. There are safety reasons why some people might prefer not to bring it up early on, right now, but it's just the same as if you have some particular preferences as far as bedroom activities. You need to talk about it. Because boxes don't work for qualities that are non-discrete.

And in figuring this out, I have also figured out that there are probably some trans women who I'd find attractive despite having body parts I don't normally go for, and some trans men who I'd find attractive despite not having the sort of feminine behavior/appearance I normally go for, and you know, when it comes down to it, we are probably eventually going to have to stop worrying about this gay/straight thing and just start communicating in a more personal way about what we like.

In the meantime, everything's going to be a bit clunky, but dating being awkward is about as shocking as the sun rising in the east.

I am mostly pleased with the ability to shift towards "them", and I am wondering if anybody will notice. I'm not making a fuss about it, but there was something kind of satisfying about making that change.
posted by Sequence at 8:35 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


"Oh, crap, no, I think it's STILL mandatory. Sorry."

A couple of years ago there was an article about how to reset the gender field in Facebook -- a hack involving editing HTML locally which should never have worked. I did it, and it removed gender from my profile and used singular "they" pronouns.


I thought about just leaving it that way, but instead I opted for "Two-Spirit" "Non-binary" and "Gender Questioning"... which is actually a really good description, considering.
posted by Foosnark at 9:38 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


This is not directed at you specifically, Foosnark, but I do want to mention this since it's been new to some people in this thread: "Two-Spirit" is specifically a Native American identity and it's sort of gross to use it if you're not Native. FYI everybody.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:27 PM on February 13 [15 favorites]


Oh, wait, it's not really a "fill in the box" option? Oh, that sucks; still, this is better than nothing.

Ok, serious question here:

byanyothername: "I was going to post a, "Haha, I'm not happy until I can put [awesome absurdity like MONOCHROME RAINBOW]" comment, too, but seeing them from the other side of things now, I don't think they're helpful and it's possible to send kind of a hurtful message there, since non-gender conforming people are pretty used to having their/our identities trivialized or compared to absurdisms."

I have my Metafilter profile gender set to "cosmic". It's not done as a joke - I'm not putting it as something other than a gender for the purpose of amusing people. It's more of a way of saying "my relationship with the whole concept of gender and how it applies to me is complicated in a way that none of the actual gender words really encapsulate so I'm just going to put down another word that I associate with myself".

I'm not looking for The Opinion Of All Trans* And Nonbinary People Ever, but if you are reading this and feel like answering, would it be better if I removed it?
posted by capricorn at 10:31 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I wonder how many Native Americans that identify as two-spirit are on facebook. I suspect all of them since everyone (seemingly) has two facebook accounts. I wonder how annoying it will get for them to watch say, a horde of Germans, pick that as their gender. I suspect this will not Wendell.
posted by dabitch at 10:39 PM on February 13


"Part of me has this sense that as Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post have decided trans people are "trendy" or something, they're feeding this idea that trans people want to discuss their transness with every person they encounter and completely ignoring that there are real risks that come with this attention they're heaping on trans people. I kind of feel like Facebook is playing into the same dynamic a bit by (presumably) ensuring there's news coverage of the change, rather than just making it and letting people find it."

Couple things here: First off, there's been a big push inside LGBT orgs to, uh, remember the T. It's the next big push for a lot of legal activism, and that means that it's getting a lot more attention in the media. This is intentional — one of the big advantages of the whole 1266 thing is that we get to do a lot of public education around trans issues.

Secondly, one of the biggest obstacles is that most Americans don't know someone who's out and trans. Without knowing people, it's hard to build the sort of empathetic narratives that bring people over to supporting trans-inclusive legislation. It's something that Harvey Milk was really right about.

"klangklangston or someone might know better, but as far as I know, the passport change came out of nowhere, without any public attention. It wasn't rumored, it just happened one day. On the other hand, we see opposition to AB whatever-it-is in California and politicians trying to restrict trans people's access to public restrooms--there's plenty of room for the powers that be at State or the SSA to have a fit of transphobia."

There was actually a lot of lobbying, and one of the big shifts was the decision to interpret anti-trans discrimination as just straight up sex discrimination, which already has an infrastructure. There was a big NLRB ruling, and we've had really good luck under Title IX through the courts (which makes it a little stronger than just administrative fiat).

But like a lot of things with the Obama administration, it's a lot of lobbying with seemingly zero results, and then all of a sudden, a change is announced.
posted by klangklangston at 11:23 PM on February 13 [10 favorites]


I'm going to say what I've been saying all over the various facebook threads and groups where this has come up:

Not especially happy with this really. Awesome that there are some non-binary options, awesome that there is a separate pronoun selection, but given the separate pronoun selection, why is the gender field not freeform (which would avoid the somewhat odious situation of having "trans female" listed alongside "female" as if trans were a qualifier or trans women were a separate category to women)? I suppose it is progress, but yeah - I'd no more list my gender as 'trans female' than I'd list it as 'danish female' for example, though both are descriptors of who and what I am.
posted by Dysk at 1:45 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


why is the gender field not freeform

The gender field is freeform. You can type in whatever you want. It just has a ton of suggested drop-down menu options.
posted by feets at 3:36 AM on February 14


Not it is not. If you try and enter something that is not one of the suggested drop-down menu options, it throws an error.
posted by Dysk at 3:43 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


why is the gender field not freeform

Because Facebook is an advertising delivery service for which the social media aspects are incidental.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:11 AM on February 14 [8 favorites]


Yeah, fastest way to get your fuckin' human rights, now, is probably to become a more profitable marketing niche.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:37 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


annoyed at the fact that it appears to be a freeform text box

I know! I typed in "Tab A" and it wouldn't take it.
posted by surplus at 5:32 AM on February 14


Bonus: changing to Other seems to get rid of dating site and weight loss ads, which were trashier / more annoying than the generic LLBean type crap that takes its place
posted by rottytooth at 7:30 AM on February 14 [5 favorites]


I'm not looking for The Opinion Of All Trans* And Nonbinary People Ever, but if you are reading this and feel like answering, would it be better if I removed it?

I'm trans and I enjoy probably 99.9% of the weirdness that goes on in the freeform gender field here. The subtext, as far as I can tell, is almost always "Gender roles are weird and funny"* and not "People who have nonbinary identities are weird and funny." It helps that MeFites are largely decent people and "Ha ha lookit the trannies" is not a sentiment I expect to run across here. On the rare occasion that I see something in the gender field that I could interpret as mocking some specific real-world gender identity, I tend to give whoever wrote it the benefit of the doubt and assume it was intended as nonspecific silliness.

*Or "Labelling people by gender is weird and funny" or "Labels of any kind are weird and funny" or "I have problems with structure and authority, and my strategy for coping with life in this shitty century involves gleefully filling out forms the wrong way," all of which I'm also fine with.
posted by this is a thing at 8:05 AM on February 14 [10 favorites]


I missed out on the earlier thread and noticed that the gender.txt link is dead. Can it be revived, cortex?
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:08 AM on February 14


(Data point - I'm trans and I've got 'contentious' in the gender field on my mefi profile. The instructions by it specifically say "go nuts" so I'm not going to be annoyed by anyone doing exactly that!)
posted by Dysk at 8:10 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


until very recently people who selected it could still have all their stuff display as "they" even though the option was gone, as long as they didn't mess with that screen on their profile at all.
posted by emptythought at 9:36 PM on February 13


Mine was like that. I've just changed it to custom/cisgender/audience:"only me" (so I think that anybody looking at my profile will see no gender listed at all). Then I set my pronoun to "they." I'm still giving FB information, but I might change it to a lie. I lie about where I live and who my family are. I lie a lot to FB. In fact, my listed religion is "Lying to Facebook."
posted by joannemerriam at 8:37 AM on February 14 [4 favorites]


Also, on the marketing angle — Being a childless 32-year-old white woman on the internet who happens to have no uterus and is kind of depressed about it already makes targetted marketing a special kind of hell. If setting my Facebook profile to show "trans woman" rather than "woman" meant that I'd never have to see another ad for fertility services or maternity crap on there, it would almost be worth it.

I'm sure that's not true. I'm sure whatever they're cooking up for trans women will be worse. Probably nonstop before-and-after pictures of facial feminization surgeries that I can't afford, or a barrage of ads trading on the assumption that my marriage to a woman must be failing now that I'm transitioning. Fuck it, I'll stick with the OK GIRLS IT'S TIME TO MAKE BABIES ads. At least I'm safe from actually clicking on any.
posted by this is a thing at 8:38 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


The fact that FB allows 58 genders has more in common with Pete Campbell figuring out that televisions can be sold to black people than it does with the advancement of human rights.

I'm not saying this to defend FB at all, but it makes business sense for FB to not have a freeform gender box. Since FB is literally in the business of selling people's identities to advertisers, it is in FB's interest to have its users "settle" on a gender identity as chosen from a previously-enumerated list.

That is to say, when you choose a gender on FB, you're not really doing it for yourself. FB actually wants you to provide them with information. You're telling FB what option best fits you.

FB is essentially asking its userbase the question, "if you had to pick one gender that could be used to describe you, what would it be? We've provided you with dozens of options, so that you can be relatively specific. Hopefully at least one option will be "good enough". You don't have to tell anybody else your gender unless you want to, but we want to know."

If you were to make the gender box freeform, then you would allow people to give answers that don't "tell" FB very much, whether these answers come from a sincere need to identify outside of the 58 options, or whether these answers are playful, jokey, slangy, obfuscatory, absurdist, etc.

Facebook's real customers - the advertisers - would then be stuck a large number of users for whom they have less information than if they had simply offered dozens of choices.

A freeform gender box would certainly be more inclusive, liberatory, etc. for the userbase, but that's not what FB is about.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:49 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


The thing about freeform is an area where Facebook has had trouble in the past: it is not moderated until something gets some critical mass of complaints. I would sort of rather have this and have a few people feel like the options are not quite perfect, than have it be completely freeform and have a rash of people on my Facebook setting their genders as things like "tranny" or something else completely offensive. Metafilter's model doesn't necessarily work at scale.

But that's also why I spend more of my internet social time on Metafilter.
posted by Sequence at 8:56 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


I have rebuilt the Metafilter gender field roundup. As of this moment, we've got 11,263 users who've filled it in, using 2,743 distinct labels.
posted by cortex at 9:26 AM on February 14 [16 favorites]


Right on. And following from that, MeFi has a completely different raison d'être than Facebook. MeFi is a community weblog. One of the community norms is that users have the right to define their gender identity however they please, if at all. Facebook, on the other hand, is a field guide to people on the internet. You are there to be cataloged.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:27 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I has a grump that you can't just leave it blank completely and select a pronoun. And that the UX is horrible and misleading. And that it's just for marketers. But, I also had a little thrill of joy that something outside of the binary is being admitted to exist.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:43 AM on February 14 [3 favorites]


I thought "Bigender" was for Lilliputians or something for a second until I realized I had the pronunciation wrong. Occasionally we make progress in huge leaps, but usually it's just a little at a time. Good on FB.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:36 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


I've got the opposite problem: any time my database nerd friends start tweeting about "schemaless" somethingorother there's a split-second when I'm gearing up to be all "WHO YOU CALLIN A SHEMALE, MOTHERFUCKER?"

AND WHY ARE YOU USING THAT WEIRD FAKE-YIDDISH SPELLING?

OH. RIGHT. NEVER MIND.
posted by this is a thing at 10:52 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


There is nothing more confounding for a Jewish DBA than trying to speak dismissively about schemas.
posted by cortex at 10:58 AM on February 14 [10 favorites]


I've been kind of surprised on the whole that there's been less fuss about the lack of pronoun options. I'm not really wedded to the singular they, although I find it easier than most of the other things in practice, but I've noticed a trend on Tumblr of people just making up their own pronouns for the explicit reason that they want to make some kind of a personal statement about themselves. Which on the one hand I think is nifty, on the other hand it doesn't seem to fit with where I understand pronouns fitting into language. But if big companies start now coming down with a position on what we should be using as a gender-neutral pronoun, that debate could get a whole lot shorter.
posted by Sequence at 11:00 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


I thought "Bigender" was for Lilliputians or something...

Nah, I think that's for Sir Mix-a-Lot.
posted by neroli at 11:01 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Locked in endless combat with the little-endian forces of his archnemesis Lady Mix-only-infrequently.
posted by this is a thing at 11:16 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I am now hoping that my FB comment about disliking the non-freeform nature of the textbox wasn't taken as a joke by my friends, because I do take it seriously and I dislike the presented options (I would have selected "None" or left it blank, but "Neither" implies more of a binary than I prefer.) But now that I've seen some of the jokey proposed options, I suppose that my holding my nose and selecting "non-binary" is better than seeing a bunch of people changing their gender to "meat popsicle" or worse.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:24 AM on February 14


Daddy-O: "I thought "Bigender" was for Lilliputians or something for a second until I realized I had the pronunciation wrong."

I am ashamed to admit that my first thought when I read this was "oh, right, and then there'd be 'littleender'".
posted by scrump at 11:39 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Sequence: "I've been kind of surprised on the whole that there's been less fuss about the lack of pronoun options."

Well, Facebook has been using the singular they forever (for the handful of people who managed to keep their accounts ungendered), so it's not like they had to do a whole lot of work to implement it as a pronoun choice. On the other hand, it superficially doesn't seem like that much more work to toss in a couple more pronouns as options, though I suppose it would create localisation headaches. (They've already got localisation headaches. People who are 'they' in English Facebook are (IIRC) 'er/sie' in German.)
posted by hoyland at 11:47 AM on February 14


I'm not really wedded to the singular they, although I find it easier than most of the other things in practice, but I've noticed a trend on Tumblr of people just making up their own pronouns for the explicit reason that they want to make some kind of a personal statement about themselves. Which on the one hand I think is nifty, on the other hand it doesn't seem to fit with where I understand pronouns fitting into language. But if big companies start now coming down with a position on what we should be using as a gender-neutral pronoun, that debate could get a whole lot shorter.

Interestingly, a lot of the current batch of nonbinary pronouns — the Spivak-ish pronouns ey/em/eir or e/em/eir in particular — got a big boost in the 90s by getting included on the Official Gender List of some of the big-name MUDs and MOOs, the same way Facebook is giving they/them/their a boost now.

(Ze/hir also has a long history online: it's not just a Tumblr thing, there were genderqueer people using it on Usenet and the web by the late 90s at least. If it feels like a recent thing, it's probably because the online genderqueer community is way more visible to outsiders than it was back then. I think the first time I saw it in print was in My Gender Workbook in 1997, but that wasn't exactly high visibility either unless you were hanging out in a very specific sort of gay and lesbian bookstore.)

So it's less that people are just making shit up, and more that there's been umpteen different iterations of this process where one particular programmer or activist or one particular community will latch onto a specific nonbinary pronoun and say "Okay guys, this is the one!"

Maybe Facebook's push for "they" — plus a lot of individual nonbinary-IDed people who are pushing for it, plus some mainstream-ish publishers now who are starting to accept it in their house style, plus etc etc etc — will finally put that one over the top and make it The Nonbinary Pronoun Of Choice. Or maybe it'll just be another attempt that fizzles out, and language historians in 2100 will be all "Most of us have forgotten by now, but they/them/their had a small wave of popularity in the late 2010's before being overtaken by ve/ver/vis, which English-speaking publications now universally regard as the correct choice."
posted by this is a thing at 12:16 PM on February 14


Oh, see, I'm not even talking about Spivak and the like. (I was a MOOer, once upon a time, which was actually the first place I ran into this idea, go figure.) But the Tumblr thing is like--I'm not going to link because I really don't want it to be just a point-and-laugh, but I've been having a hard time figuring out at what point I stop taking things seriously. If someone wants certain pronouns because what they describe as their gender identity is some variation on "angel otherkin" (real example), is that a thing I need to learn new words for? I don't want to be unkind to anybody. There's a tumblr for people who want to try out new pronouns, which I followed because it looked interesting from the perspective of someone coming to terms with a new identity, but a sampler:

"mer/mers/merself, fin/fins/finself, fleur/fleurs/fleurself, dae/daem/daeself, and nix/nix/nixself"
"aard/aards/aardself"
"kye/kyr/kyne/kyrself"
"panda/pandas/pandself"
"nym/nymph/nymself"

Again, not meaning to mock because I think this is sort of cool and fascinating, I just wonder to what degree it's actually workable. On the other hand, I'm not sure I want to use they just because Facebook said so.
posted by Sequence at 12:26 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


I think one of the nice things about people trying out pronouns like that is that mostly language is spoken and sometimes things just don't sit right for reasons that aren't apparent at first. So, the more people we have trying out possibilities the more likely we are to finally hit on a really great one that people feel at ease and comfortable actually using in everyday life. So I say - experiment away, good people!
posted by stoneweaver at 1:12 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


I've been having a hard time figuring out at what point I stop taking things seriously.

That's a question I've been asking myself since at least the LiveJournal days a thousand years ago.

some variation on "angel otherkin"

....and there's the answer.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:23 PM on February 14


Regarding impudent free-form write-ins for gender: respect and love to you who have had to fight and suffer. I know the world is not changing fast enough, but it is only changing at all because of your determination. Absolutely your gender identity, no matter its variety, needs to be welcomed, acknowledged, respected, and taken seriously.

But for me as an individual, 'taken seriously' is incompatible with any interpretation of gender I can to apply to my own self. Flippant and mutable honestly is the most true-to-myself description. It's become so, because 'Gender Is Serious Bizness' has been the largest contributing assumption by far when it comes to things I've felt I've kind of failed at. So a joke about the equipment I was assigned - nature is so ridiculous, surely this package was mis-addressed. Another day, 'old enough to buy liquor' - I don't mind being taken as male, but underage is a bit much, and honestly much more relevant. On darker days, 'awkward impostor' feels the most honest. On awesome days 'All things to all people' strikes my funny bone. I'm happy in myself, because I realized I don't have to take gender seriously, even if society does. The list of approved titles? I 'pass' too well for some of them, and not well enough for others, and many are battlegrounds that other people have fought on, and I don't feel entitled to them. 'Who cares?' isn't on there. 'Androgyne' isn't really the same thing at all.

A joke can have a serious point - lots of the sharpest ones do. The jester could say things to a king that no-one else dared. I don't have to take my self-labels seriously in order to take yours seriously. It was hard to get to this point and really believe it was okay to laugh off all the cultural indoctrination when it comes to evaluating my self-worth. To hear that 1. I'm still doing it wrong and 2. also I'm being oppressive by doing it wrong - well I can't really say it hurts, because no, of course it doesn't hurt like being dragged behind a pickup truck hurts. I mean that's pretty much the last word one can have in any discussion, isn't it?
posted by Lou Stuells at 1:52 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


""I thought "Bigender" was for Lilliputians or something for a second until I realized I had the pronunciation wrong.""

This is why hyphens are necessary until wide adoption of a compound term! Bi-gender isn't really confusing, at least not as much as bigender (big-ender) is!
posted by klangklangston at 3:08 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


"mer/mers/merself, fin/fins/finself, fleur/fleurs/fleurself, dae/daem/daeself, and nix/nix/nixself"
"aard/aards/aardself"
"kye/kyr/kyne/kyrself"
"panda/pandas/pandself"
"nym/nymph/nymself"


Yeah, I mean, these all get google hits. But very very few hits, mostly on ginormous lists without citations that could easily accumulate urban legends — the same way any sufficiently long list of unusual names grows to include Lemonjello and Orangejello — and I can't find anyone online for any of these saying "this is the only pronoun I'll use."

I don't think they're a straight-up hoax, necessarily. I do think they're somewhere in the nebulous area between "private joke," "self-parody," "put-on to annoy straight people," "teenage subsubsubcultural shibboleth," "performance art piece" and "gleefully eccentric affectation."

My experience is that when people are expressing serious pronoun preferences for long-term use IRL, they tend to be incredibly accommodating and basically always choose the least "weird" of the pronouns that they find even vaguely tolerable.
posted by this is a thing at 3:17 PM on February 14 [7 favorites]


Generally speaking, you can't just invent pronouns. We already have singular "they," which works perfectly well.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 3:35 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Sequence: "Oh, see, I'm not even talking about Spivak and the like"

Crikey, THAT'S a flashback trigger and a half.
posted by scrump at 4:15 PM on February 14


Generally speaking, you can't just invent pronouns. We already have singular "they," which works perfectly well.

Well, but you can. We have. We do.

At the individual level, picking up a new closed-class lexeme like a pronoun is admittedly harder than picking up a new open-class one like a noun. But it's absolutely doable. There are people who grow up without whom in their active vocabulary, but who make a point of acquiring it at some point in school — and some of those people genuinely do acquire it, so that it's something that comes out of their mouth completely naturally, and not just an affectation they have to remind themselves to use. There are people who grow up without y'all or yinz in their active vocabulary, but then acquire it as a teenager or young adult after they move someplace where it's common. That sort of thing is initially sometimes effortful, but becomes effortless over time.

For a language to gain a pronoun, all it takes is for a lot of individual people to acquire it. This has happened historically — it's not a daily event the way coining a new noun is, but it's common enough — and could happen again. English they is actually originally a borrowing from some Scandinavian language, so its presence in the language is proof that this sort of change really is possible across an entire community of speakers.

(Also, this is a more subtle point, but for most English speakers, singular "they" is reserved for generic or unfamiliar antecedent. I don't mean "school grammar teachers tell you you're supposed to use it that way" — I mean "descriptively speaking, that's the way actual English speakers tend to use it." Outside of activist circles it would be pretty rare to hear an English speaker say "Bob told Mary that they were the only person he liked." So to adopt singular "they" as a full-fledged nonbinary pronoun which can be used even for specific referents, you already have to make a bit of an effort — and if you're capable of that, then you're capable of acquiring "zie" too if you want to.)
posted by this is a thing at 4:22 PM on February 14 [6 favorites]


> Also, this is a more subtle point, but for most English speakers, singular "they" is reserved for generic or unfamiliar antecedent....

Hey, where were you when I was asking about this two years ago? I got zero responses to that question and had decided that it was just me.

Using singular 'they' to refer to a specific person while eliding gender sounds really clanky to my ear right now, so I'm curious to see if 'they' can expand to fill that role or if we'll land on a completely different word.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:40 PM on February 14


Well, but you can. We have. We do.

Right, but that takes many decades. You can't just declare the establishment of a new pronoun and then legitimately be offended when nobody uses it or understands it when you use it.

Telling someone that they're speaking their own native language incorrectly is nearly always wrong.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:46 PM on February 14


This was part of what my dad and I discussed yesterday. Previously I'd been more in favor of adopting a new singular pronoun instead of coopting an existing plural pronoun, but his immediate grasping of and acceptance of the singular they has moved me towards preferring that as the solution even though it sits weird with me because it seems like it's the one we can actually successfully get enough "regular" people (i.e., those not invested in the issue) to use.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:58 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone is doing that here on MetaFilter. I read those comments as being more about what one sees sometimes on Tumblr, where people sometimes *do* get mad if you don't use their newly invented pronoun of choice.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:04 PM on February 14


Using singular 'they' to refer to a specific person while eliding gender sounds really clanky to my ear right now, so I'm curious to see if 'they' can expand to fill that role or if we'll land on a completely different word.

Aren't you a math person? (This is some idea I have when seeing your username, I could be way off base.) Michael Spivak is jumping up and down waving his arms right about now.

mer/mers/merself, fin/fins/finself

Both of these seem familiar to me for some reason. I'm less confident I've seen 'fin' before, but I'm relatively sure I've seen 'mer'. Google suggests someone floated ze/zer/mer at some point, so maybe I'm getting it from there, but I don't think so.
posted by hoyland at 5:06 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


And I think it was brought up because there have been a few references in this thread about this phenomenon on Tumblr.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:06 PM on February 14


where people sometimes *do* get mad if you don't use their newly invented pronoun of choice.

I'll bite and say they're entitled to get mad if people are all "I refuse to use your pronouns". Screwing up is one thing. Refusing is another.

(For instance, I totally mispronouned someone earlier today. Lo and behold, it was not a big deal at all because it wasn't prefaced or followed by "your pronouns are stupid".)
posted by hoyland at 5:11 PM on February 14 [3 favorites]


I think one is certainly entitled to get mad if someone refuses to use your choice of standard English pronouns for persons like he, she, or they. But insisting that everyone remember to use a special pronoun like "zie" just for you or insisting on being referred to as "it" is unreasonable.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:36 PM on February 14


But insisting that everyone remember to use a special pronoun like "zie" just for you or insisting on being referred to as "it" is unreasonable.

It's really not. You just don't want to bother trying. Okay, if you knew ten people with ten totally different sets of pronouns, it would be a lot of information to retain, but you are really not going to meet ten people. Among people I know, there are a whopping four and a half sets of pronouns in use. (Masculine, feminine, singular they, 'use my name, please, or they if a sentence gets really awkward' and one '[gendered set] or ze/hir'.)

I don't suggest telling someone this to their face, either.
posted by hoyland at 5:42 PM on February 14 [3 favorites]


Again, this line of discussion sprang out of what some people on Tumblr get mad over, and there are definitely more than ten sets of pronouns in play on Tumblr. Plus, often the only place you can see a person's announcement of which pronouns they prefer is if you click through to their individual Tumblr and read their sidebar and/or About page, whereas most content on Tumblr is consumed via the dashboard (where people you follow could be reblogging people you don't follow and thus really would never have been exposed to those people's announcements of their preferred pronouns before) or via searching specific tags (where you might not know anything about the people whose posts you're reading / reblogging / responding to). So yeah, in that context, it's unreasonable for some people to get as upset as they do over other people not using newly invented pronouns to describe them.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:50 PM on February 14


So yeah, in that context, it's unreasonable for some people to get as upset as they do over other people not using newly invented pronouns to describe them.

This was totally not the context which you appeared to be referring to. And again, you seem to be eliding mispronouning out of ignorance (i.e. if you don't know the person's pronoun preference) or by accident and refusal to even try.
posted by hoyland at 5:53 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


But I apologise if I misunderstood.
posted by hoyland at 5:54 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]


Sorry -- I thought the context was implied by the number of times I had referred to Tumblr in my earlier comments but I guess I could have been clearer by specifying in my later comments that I was still talking about Tumblr and similar online environments and/or general public situations where you're interacting with a multitude of people and there's no practical way for most people to know much less remember such individual preferences.

(Maybe I just use Tumblr weird but of the people I follow, only a few of them are people whom I "know" well enough to keep mental track of as individuals. The rest I follow because of the content they post and all the funny gifs, smutty fan art, and naked men sort of blur together after a while...)

I've never known someone IRL who wanted to be referred to as anything other than "he" or "she" but if I did I'd like to think I'd make the effort if it were important to them? I dunno. I want to be considerate and respectful but I also think language still needs to function as a communication tool and a pronoun free-for-all undermines that. Maybe I would just avoid using pronouns for that person.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:14 PM on February 14


this is a thing, the site in question, and the reason I'm not linking to it directly, is intended to be a safe place for other-gendered people to actually get help and support. I have, because of that, no reason to believe that people are making shit up just to get a rise out of people. I think at the very least that they're genuinely trying to find the... something that they think having the right pronouns is going to give them. I don't think pronouns really have that power, but I do think that there's a lot of suggestion at the moment that they could, and there are corners of the internet where it's definitely becoming a thing, largely among younger people.

I don't know if it'll catch on, but I know that Tumblr is one of the few places I found some information that was helpful, but at the same time there's a very firm culture taking root there where these words are a principal part of how you own your gender identity. So you might not, hoyland, running into people at Denny's or whatever, end up running into people often who want very specialized words, but if I want any kind of a chance to hang around with people who are like me in some significant fashion, that's kind of the option I've got right now. It's a weird dynamic. This whole thing of there being such a thing as "your pronouns" is an issue that exists entirely separately of whether people's various gender identities are valid.
posted by Sequence at 6:52 PM on February 14 [4 favorites]


"I've never known someone IRL who wanted to be referred to as anything other than "he" or "she"..."

Neither do I, but I do know people who use the word "hen" in Swedish (which is neither he or she, nor they) when they actually speak, not just write. It's really quite weird when spoken, and people around us start shooting us looks. Polite Swedes as they are.
posted by dabitch at 7:03 PM on February 14


Sequence — Thanks for clarifying, and sorry to 'splain at you about a community you know better than I do.
posted by this is a thing at 7:20 PM on February 14


OK so hoyland and I worked out our misunderstanding via MeMail and I realize now that I said some stuff that might be misconstrued.

So, to clarify: I support the existence of gender-neutral pronouns -- I would actually prefer a gender-neutral pronoun like "zie" to the singular "they," I just think it's far less likely to catch on. It's the everybody making up their own unique pronouns (like what Sequence described above) and getting mad when other people don't use them that I find unreasonable. That has nothing to do with me disrespecting anyone's gender identity and everything to do with me being a curmudgeonly linguistic prescriptivist. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 8:23 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


This is all about what ads you're given: try switching it up and see what happens. That said, I don't feel like identifying my gender to any website for any reason. Whatever happened to relating to people as human beings, not a walking collection of stereotypes? I don't "fit" anything and never will, so why bother.
posted by doreur at 10:34 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


It's the everybody making up their own unique pronouns (like what Sequence described above) and getting mad when other people don't use them that I find unreasonable. That has nothing to do with me disrespecting anyone's gender identity and everything to do with me being a curmudgeonly linguistic prescriptivist. :)

You're actually being the descriptivist, though. The prescriptivism is coming from the people who declare that they've invented a pronoun that is the only correct pronoun in English for referring to them, despite the fact that the pronoun they're referring to isn't even a word in English.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:56 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


...and you can prescriptivism right back at them by telling them they're wrong, or descriptively note that this is now a word that exists and people are using.
posted by Dysk at 4:16 AM on February 15 [1 favorite]


That's not how prescriptivism and descriptivism work. If I were to insist that a null subject pronoun be used for me, it's descriptivism and not prescriptivism for others to say that that's not a feature of English.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:18 AM on February 15


I had wondered why a trans friend of mine had gone on a little rant about how she didn't like genderqueer, because she felt she hadn't really had time to be herself before her having a position at one end of the gender spectrum was being dismissed as 'not done'. Facebook providing over 50 different choices for gender expression would be the reason for her to express that now, it seems.

(For the record, she was having a little grump while tired, rather than claiming a grave injustice. I just thought it interesting to hear her perspective.)
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:03 AM on February 15


Exactly how many people would it take to start using that pronoun (for themselves or others) before it becomes descriptivist rather than prescriptivist to recognise it, then?
posted by Dysk at 5:59 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I think it would help if there was like a big ol' trans* convention, everyone decided on just one set to add to he/she/they, and ran with it. That would establish at bare minimum a descriptivist correctness as a subcultural usage.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:01 PM on February 15


The problem is when you have any organizational effort like that you almost always end up with certain privileged groups or "authorities" having their opinions heard above others, who may not be heard at all, and you'd just end up imposing another hegemony on trans, genderqueer, genderfluid, nonbinary, agender and other folks who don't feel they fit in with the gender binary.
posted by NoraReed at 7:15 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


I admire your optimism. That is never going to happen. There is no grassroots movement in history that's shown that sort of unity. Until the Glorious Trans* Revolution comes and a single autocratic ruler unites us under xyr iron fist, you're gonna be stuck dealing with us in all our messy multiplicity.
posted by this is a thing at 7:16 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


Actually, there's another way you could put it. Descriptively, a majority of English speakers have a closed two-pronoun system (he vs. she). Some subcultures have a closed three- or four-pronoun system (he/she/they or he/she/they/zie being the most common). A few very, very small subcultures have established a pattern where pronouns are effectively an open class.

Each of those patterns has "descriptivist correctness as a subcultural usage," within the relevant subculture. But it would be descriptively incorrect to conflate those subcultures, since each one follows its own pattern.
posted by this is a thing at 8:03 PM on February 15 [2 favorites]


Exactly how many people would it take to start using that pronoun (for themselves or others) before it becomes descriptivist rather than prescriptivist to recognise it, then?

Enough to make it recognized among the general population of native English speakers. This is not something you can do overnight. Realistically, it takes decades or more.

I think it's more likely that we'll end up with fewer pronouns (probably an animate/inanimate split, like Finnish) in a few centuries instead of more.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:21 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]


"I think it would help if there was like a big ol' trans* convention, everyone decided on just one set to add to he/she/they, and ran with it."

I think maybe what you actually meant to propose was a convention for genderqueer / genderfluid / agender / etc. people? My understanding is that the distinction between them and trans* people is pretty important when it comes to pronouns.

In my personal experience with the trans* people I have known, the trans men are quite insistent on being referred to as "he" (because they are men) and the trans women are quite insistent on being referred to as "she" (because they are women). Using a gender-neutral pronoun to refer to a trans man or trans woman would be another form of misgendering.

(Someone with more expertise please correct me if I'm mistaken -- I'm not trying to cis-splain, I just want to help correct another cis person's apparent misconception about something I used to be confused about myself.)
posted by Jacqueline at 12:49 AM on February 16


"Trans* convention" might be one possible way to name such a gathering, but it would have to be careful to make sure it was prioritizing non-binary-identified trans voices over binary-identified trans voices. Binary-identified trans people might tend to have a better handle on these kinds of issues than cis people by virtue of their own situation, but as a trans woman I don't have any particular right to shape how non-binary people choose to represent themselves in language just because we both shelter under the same large umbrella. Our only role would probably be to try to use our relative privilege to amplify their voices when they speak about their own self-determination. And, as this is a thing mentions, it's pretty unlikely that even such a convention would produce One True Alternative Pronoun Set that works for everyone.

I don't think you were mistaken. You were right to understand that such efforts would need to concentrate on a (further marginalized and erased) subset of trans people and generally not trans men and women.
posted by Corinth at 1:39 AM on February 16 [3 favorites]


(Jacqueline, "trans*" as a term generally includes non-binary people - agender, genderqueer, bigender, etc. - so saying "trans* pronoun usage" would be entirely appropriate, if less specific than "non-binary pronoun usage")
posted by Dysk at 4:08 AM on February 16 [2 favorites]


I feel compelled to point out that it's totally reasonable to describe yourself as a man or a woman and prefer gender neutral pronouns. 'Man' and 'woman' are sort of inherently part of the binary, but there's squidgyness round the edges. (And, conversely, there are non-binary people who use gendered pronouns, but would hesitate to describe themselves as a man or a woman.)

(Also, I want to jump up and down and wave my arms and point out that telling trans people to make up their minds about pronouns and then maybe people will bother listening to them is problematic, though I realise the original comment was at least partly in jest.)
posted by hoyland at 5:32 AM on February 16 [5 favorites]


I think it would help if there was like a big ol' trans* convention, everyone decided on just one set to add to he/she/they, and ran with it.

Zeneca Falls?

I'm so sorry.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:01 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


I think it's more likely that we'll end up with fewer pronouns (probably an animate/inanimate split, like Finnish) in a few centuries instead of more.

Funnily enough, Germanic languages went from two genders to three and acquired a feminine. (Well, some did. I'm pretty sure Danish, Norwegian and Swedish didn't acquire it and then lose it.) That's not to say you can't lose grammatical genders--English did obviously.* I could imagine a slow migration to the singular 'they' for people. I definitely use it for generic people (like "If a student wrote X, they should get Y points").

*Except that 'baby' remains just neuter enough for people use 'it' for babies. 'child' is on the border of being neuter for me (at least for small children I don't know), but some of that is interference from German.
posted by hoyland at 6:02 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]


Funnily enough, Germanic languages went from two genders to three and acquired a feminine.

Do you have a citation for this?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:22 AM on February 16


That's a good point, hoyland. Thanks. Sorry I rounded those edges; I know that hurts.
posted by Corinth at 10:16 AM on February 16


I can give you a link to a whole book book on the subject!
posted by hoyland at 11:17 AM on February 16


I can give you a link to a whole book book on the subject!

Ah, I see you're talking solely about grammatical gender and not pronouns; Proto-Indo-European did have separate masculine and feminine third-person pronouns, and I don't see that Germanic ever lost them.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:49 AM on February 16


Oh, I specifically meant reminding me that there are men and women who prefer non-binary pronouns. I kind of erased them in my summary and I don't want to do that in the future.
posted by Corinth at 2:12 PM on February 16


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