12/11/2023 Sunday Divine Liturgy - When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one tranny to clack furiously at her keyboard in the local café, and to assume among the microcelebrities of Online, the loud and annoying disposition to which the Laws of Online and of her Microcelebrity Platform entitle her, a decent respect to the opinions of trankind requires that she should declare what it is that, being on her mind, impels her to be as pissed off as she is.

And declare it I will! From the dead I am risen (Alleluia, alleluia) to bless you all with yet another stinkpiece from the furrows and crevices of my sick and twisted mind. Trans people are very well familiar with the uniquely late-2010s-and-onward phenomenon of “woke misgendering”: in which a trans man or woman will be called “they” rather than “he” or “she” respectively. There has been a lot of conversation about this in the last year or two specifically; it’s become enough of a problem that binary trans people feel it necessary to articulate exactly why this is a problem. Most recently, I saw a tumblr post screenshotted and posted to twitter giving some quick thoughts on the theying of trans women, focusing on how it tends to occur, standard excuses and why they’re bullshit. But I am yet to see anyone talk about how this type of misgendering originated, and I haven’t really seen anyone give a satisfactorily comprehensive account of how the causes of this phenomenon lead to slightly different manifestations of the same issue among different groups of people. As a result I’ve decided to put pen to paper and give my own thoughts on the matter. Owing to the extreme length of the outline for this blogpost (four pages of bullet points before I’ve even started fleshing it out), I have decided to split this up into three parts, to be released at a time interval of two days (more or less) so as to facilitate ease of consumption and increase the likelihood that a few of you might actually read the thing. In Chapter I “Origins” we will explore the historical background that gave rise to this issue in its current form. Chapter II “The Well-Meaning Idiots” will discuss how this has affected trans people in our interactions with those who purport to have our best interests at heart. Chapter III “Malevolent Forces” will focus on those who would seek to harm us, and finish off the series with some final conclusions.

Let’s start by setting the ground rules for this three-part series. The subject matter at hand is the “theying” of binary trans people, the origins of this phenomenon in the public debate over queer rights over the past 10-odd years, and its manifestations and effects in everyday life. These blog posts will focus on theying as an act of verbal misgendering, i.e. referring to a binary trans person by they/them pronouns; however, I assert the existence of a connection between this external verbal theying and the well-attested internal theying (third-gendering), i.e. mentally placing binary trans people into a third-gender category to deny them their manhood/womanhood. This phenomenon is really nothing new; verbal third-gendering, however, is much more of a widespread phenomenon now than it has been in the past. In summary, while I will spend these blog posts writing about verbal theying, it is best to keep in mind as you read that I draw a connection between this verbal act and the deeper, mental third-gendering levied against trans people by cis people.

And as always, I am not an expert! I am not well versed in The Scholarship! This is not an academic publication! I’m just a small town girl living in a lonely world, talking about my own experiences with transmisogyny and transphobia and what I think about them. Take it or leave it.


A tide of resistance is on the rise against the they/them world order! The Truscum Stasi is hunting down mullet-wearers and shipping them off to labour camps! Ezra Miller has been sent before the firing squad by a military tribunal! How did we get here? Over the course of the 2010s, the subject of trans rights came more and more into the public eye, as queer people continued to gain ground in law and societal opinion. The public debates over legalising gay marriage in most of western Europe and the anglophone sphere afforded a newfound mainstream visibility to queer people in real life and online - the now-much-maligned “they’re normal people just like us” assimilationist narrative saw its heyday here. Once the question of gay marriage had been largely resolved in these regions, the focus began to shift to trans and gender non-conforming people, again largely owing to the increased visibility of trans individuals as well as increased public attention to online political debates. It was at this point that gender neutral pronouns, though by no means a new phenomenon, began to receive public attention in earnest, becoming the single most important hot-button issue in public discourses over queerness for the next several years before being eventually superseded by controversies surrounding transsexual participation in sports in the early 2020s. Why exactly this became the case is not fully certain. What is certain is that at some point in the mid late-2010’s, queer activists turned the messaging on they/them pronouns way up; discourse on the issue became far more pervasive and got far more attention. Anecdotally, based on my own memories of the time, it would seem that this increase in messaging from activists came about as a reaction to the conservative reception of the newly-mainstream ‘trans debate’. Attempts to mainstream gender neutral pronouns and non-binary gender identities received (and continue to receive!) a lot of negative attention and ridicule from conservatives; at the time, the Tranny Derangement Syndrome community considered these things to be the most “new” and “radical” of the pro-trans talking points, and as a result, they spent a lot of time and energy shitting on them. Keep in mind that this all started taking place from sorta late 2015 up to 2018 or so: this was the early Trump era, the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, the refugee crisis, the end of a decade of conservative rule in Canada, the first signs of a power vacuum in Germany as the Merkel government began to wane in earnest, the turbulent shitshow that was the Hollande presidency, and so on, and so forth. In the context of the extreme polarisation of that time period, it only makes sense that our side would double down on that particular talking point, not only to piss off the chuds, but also to provide the pro-genderfag side with a rallying point, one particular issue to symbolise the struggle and signal our opposition to the reactionaries (engaging in the right-wing discourse and shaking our heads the whole time so everyone knows we disagree with what is being said).

At first, there wasn’t really any sort of noticeable downside to this shift in discourse. It provided non-binary people with a brand-new platform and newfound visibility, and I cannot overstate how constantly astonished I am at just how successful this campaign was. Non-binary gender identities went from a completely obscure fringe thing to something nearly ubiquitous in Western European urban centres and North America more generally (I was shocked to see how many bitches with pronouns there were in rural New Hampshire when I visited with Blair over the summer). We can safely consider this the most resounding – and perhaps only – success of the genderfag rights movement 2015-2023. Certainly any progress that was made on the transsexual front has been eroded since 2020-ish as the tides began to turn. But the type of activism used to make this campaign for the rights of non-binary people so successful has had unintended side effects. To understand this, we need to go back to the role the debate over they/them pronouns played in the broader polarised political context of the time. The widespread use of the pro-pronouns position as a signal of values enabled the pro-queer side to engender (heh) strong public support, but this was also where issues began to arise. This “second wave” of pro-NB discourse (following the aforementioned increase in non-binary discourse from the right) really leaned into the polarisation and played the “value-signalling” angle to their advantage. Snappy slogans and instagram infographics (which in this period began to replace longer-form text posts on platforms like tumblr as the main online vehicle for pro-queer discourse) asserted in few words that to respect non-binary people and to use of they/them pronouns is progressive, and to refuse to do so is bigoted and chudlike. This is of course all true; however, between the polarisation of the discourse, the emphasis on value-signalling, and the lack of nuance with which it was delivered (a necessary byproduct of favouring snappy slogans and infographics over more text-heavy media), the result was the creation of a false equivalence in the minds of well-meaning but ultimately clueless cis people between they/them pronouns and progressiveness. In short: the public came to internalise the idea that they/them pronouns (the respecting of which was now a signal of progressive values) were inherently politically progressive.

It didn’t help matters that the discourse at the time also had a tendency to promote a false equivalence between non-binaryness in itself and progressive political ends. Public opinion came to regard non-binary gender identities as some sort of inherently progressive, evolved, ‘post-binary’ approach to gender. Now, we in transgender circles know better than to assign political value to any one gender identity over another; the cisgenders who ultimately speak over us most of the time, however, seem to have missed the memo. That one transgender person should be a binary trans woman while another should be a nonbinary transfem is of no political consequence and is not in any way representative of a difference in political values or understanding of gender on the part of individuals. This kind of gender abolitionism also famously tends to lead to transphobia: if non-binary identities are inherently progressive, then a trans person who “chooses” to adhere to a binary gender identity must be reactionary, pro-patriarchy, and so on. This lends additional credence to the age-old narrative that binary trans women are sexist or in some way anti-feminist, as though our transsexuality in some way strengthens or plays into gender stereotypes, oppressive gender norms, and patriarchy. The truth is that our simple existence is completely neutral. It is not inherently reactionary, and it is not inherently progressive and subversive. Transness certainly can be (and in most cases is!) subversive and progressive, but the reality is that the simple existence of a trans person is morally neutral. The framing of non-binaryness as inherently progressive (and the logical conclusion that binary transness is reactionary) is just one of many ways that cisgender people, both well-meaning and not, continue to create the illusion of a morally complex “trans debate”, which allows bigots to obscure the truth of our situation in society – that of a marginalised group simply fighting for equality – and further erode our limited rights.

And so the stage is set: in the wake of the gay marriage debate across western Europe and North America, the question of trans rights rose to prominence; the reactionary camp perceived non-binary activism and questions of they/them pronouns to be the most new, radical, or ‘unreasonable’ to their sensibilities, and thus focused their discourse on these topics to appeal to their supporters. In the political context of the highly polarised early Trump years and immediate post-Brexit (coinciding with periods of polarised politics in other countries, e.g. the decline of the Merkel government in Germany and resulting power vacuum), opinions on non-binary rights became a value-signal of significant importance across the anglophone world, which led to an increase in focus on these issues from the pro-queer side. However, unintended consequences arose when activists failed to make clear that, although supporting non-binary people and gendering them correctly are progressive things to do, they/them pronouns and non-binary identities are not inherently progressive in and of themselves. The resulting false equivalence has had negative effects on the ways in which cisgender people – both pro- and anti-queer – interact with binary trans people.

In the next instalment, to be released in a few days, I will write about how this affects the way that ostensibly pro-queer “ally” cis people interact with binary trans people. Hope you care enough to read on... or if you want me to be sad and kill myself instead that’s also ok…


also, some of the 'newness' of the things described in this article may be overstated. if this is the case, ascribe it to my charming, attractive, youthful naivety.

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