[guest post by Dana]
So, Caitlyn Jenner. The brave, heroic, authentic Caitlyn Jenner. Yeah. Whatever.
Whether you think the celebrity of a celebrity transitioning from male-to-female is an indicator of an ongoing cultural slide or just a big yawn, I think we might all agree that we do not need to be told how to speak when speaking about Caitlyn Jenner. Because we are adults, because we can figure this out ourselves, and mostly because fascist advocates of gender identity politics DO NOT get to set the rules for everyone else.
Words matter and erasing the identity of trans people by calling them by their birth names and birth-assigned sex is an act of hatred — one that is inextricable from the brutal violence that so many trans people, particularly trans women of color, encounter just for existing in the world.
How we talk about trans people sets the tone for the world in which trans people live.
When we write about Caitlyn Jenner, her name and narrative will give enough context. There is no need to mention what her name used to be or what sex she was assigned at birth.
And if you’re writing about Jenner:
DO describe people who transition as transgender, and use transgender as an adjective. Caitlyn Jenner is a transgender woman.DON’T use transgender as a noun. For example, don’t say: “Caitlyn Jenner is a transgender.” DON’T use “transgendered.” Transgender never needs an extraneous “-ed” at the end. DON’T use “transsexual” or “transvestite.”
DO refer to her as Caitlyn Jenner. DON’T refer to her by her former name. She has changed it, and should be accorded the same respect received by anyone who has changed their name. Since Caitlyn Jenner was known to the public by her prior name, it may be necessary initially to say “Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner…” However, once the public has learned Jenner’s new name, do not continually refer to it in stories.
DO use female pronouns (she, her, hers) when referring to Caitlyn Jenner.
DO avoid male pronouns and Caitlyn’s prior name, even when referring to events in her past. For example, “Prior to her transition, Caitlyn Jenner won the gold medal in the men’s decathlon at the Summer Olympics held in Montreal in 1976.”
DO refer to Caitlyn Jenner’s female identity as her gender identity, not her sexual orientation. Gender identity is one’s own internal, deeply held sense of being male or female. Sexual orientation is who one is attracted to. They are not the same thing and should not be conflated or confused.
AVOID the phrase “born a man” when referring to Jenner. If it is necessary to describe for your audience what it means to be transgender, consider: “While Caitlyn Jenner was designated male on her birth certificate, as a young child she knew that she was a girl.”
Further, because an electrical shock might be viewed as a bit extreme, two journalists, whose work I now will avoid reading, have created a Twitter-Bot to correct you any time you use an incorrect pronoun:
So a Twitter bot, named @she_not_he, jumped in with a solution: every time Caitlyn was referred to as “he/him,” the bot would automatically tweet a correction.
Developed by Caitlyn Dewey of The Washington Post and Andrew McGill of The National Journal, the bot’s voice is funny but firm, reminding readers of their mistake without completely excoriating them. @She_not_he identifies the error (“*Click, Whirr…It’s she not he,” it writes) before moving on. From its Twitter profile: “I am a bot politely correcting Twitter users who misgender Caitlyn Jenner in their tweets. I might make mistakes reading your tweet!! I’m only human. (Not.)”
With that, as I wrote yesterday, a “new” normal has indeed arrived on America’s doorstep – and it came with its own set of instructions. While we’re being compelled to accept and believe that Jenner is now a woman, we are also simultaneously being instructed on how that acceptance and belief is to manifest itself in this strange new world.