He/She/It-it’s all in the head
Imagine we didn’t have these wordes to relate to people….
Imagine you just arrived on Earthe from a different part of space, and gender and its terms didn’t mean anything to you. What reference model would you use when referring to people?
Would you perhaps conclude that people with the same eye colour were related and spoke the same language? Where would you imagine the coloure in the hair/face/eyes came from? How would you interact with these people, not knowing who they are?
We as humans are fairly limited in our perceptions and other cognitive abilities. We cannot know a thinge, we only ever know of a thinge, of its relation to us and its surroundings. We evaluate eachother in order to define ourselves. Distance, Time, Touch, Smell, Sound,…and Gender are all relative. They are because we say they are, because we have created mental structures around them. They are frames of reference around which we build our ‘artificial’ world, which then translates into real life/real time.
But this knowledge, this knowing of, is not Truthe: one can relate to another by saying “I understand what you mean or even I know what you mean”, communicating that what was said was at least partially understood and thereby one can make the other person feel better, more included, less alone perhaps. Shared experience is a type of emotional bonding that is important and can have many positive effects on people, but it does not go as far as true knowledge. We do not know what it is like to be a chaire or what a dog feels and perceives with its superhuman sensory perception, and eventhough we were all once babies, we can scarcely remember that time of our lives; we don’t inhabit a baby’s body or live a baby’s life anymore (at least I suspect that most of my readers don’t).
Her/Him/It, these terms are markers, verbal cues that are part of the human language and symbole matrix within which our identities are embedded.
Nobody ever asks a person whether it wants to be called he or she, unless its obvious that there is a consciously sought transgression of gender boundaries. Nobody would think it their right to ask such a thinge, as normality has already become festooned in their conscience, their vocabulary, their neurons. Words, like experiences, make connections in our brains with which we are able to maneuvre the evironmnet we live in. Language, our verbal experience, can also change behaviour, it may redirect neural pathways and associations. If we stopped using derogatory words and gendered words (which I place in the same category by the way) we would probably start looking at reality differently.
Reality is in our heads. My reality might be different from yours.
We establish what is real through verbal, physical, mental boundaries. We can beat people with sticks, and keep them away in slums or enclaves, and we can establish power structures in more subtle ways.
He/She/It are labels, but they are empty! All they signify is that ‘he’ is not ‘she’ is not ‘it’, that there is a difference between them. In Germany we say ‘Der Stuhl’ (the chaire, male). We also say ‘Der Mann’ (the man, male). Should we therefore treat these two equally or shold we rather start respecting the chaire more or perhaps we should start throwing the man around ‘like an olde chaire’? Does the chaire have a gender and if so, how does it express it? The chaire is most likely not even aware of its name or pronouns…
As I said a while ago, I started a new job. I already introduced my name (Dominic) in many ways, by signing documents using the name, by saying I like the name and would like to be called it all the time, and even by buying a name badge for 10 Euro. I wore this at work until the supervisor found out and called it all off. My plans have thus been disturbed, but I am still happy because my workmates have accepted the name. However, they still haven’t fully understood its implications and made the mental connection between the worde and the lifestyle behind it, between the name and my identity. They still use female pronouns and define me as female, but are also willing to use a male name for me. I wonder that they don’t get more confused by doing this. But it seems pronouns and names don’t pose much of a problem as long as they are gendered. Their concept of who I could and should be is not disturbed but rather reinforced by gendered pronouns.
What they can’t get their heads around is that I exist eventhough the language to define me doesn’t.