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My thoughts on imaginary lesbianism - My thoughts on imaginary lesbianism - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark Page 2
void where prohibited, except by law
My thoughts on imaginary lesbianism
Thanks for sharing your views in the last poll. It confirmed something that I honestly hadn't suspected. There's a sizeable minority of people who believe that people have a right to self-label their sexuality.

Here's the problem I have with that position. The primary purpose of language is communication. If the way you use a word is confusing and contradictory to the majority of people who you use it to, then you are failing to communicate, and while in some sense you still have a "right" (oh how I hate that word) to label as you wish, you are being counter-productive by doing that.

Let's take our example one step further. I have known men (not MtF transsexuals - those are called "women") who self-define as "lesbians trapped in a man's body". Often this is jokey, but just occasionally I get the impression that the person saying it is genuinely serious. They like being men, are happy to have a willy, but in some sense self-define as "female".

Now clearly some people would defend their right to self-define this way. I'm not really wanting to get into a detailed discussion of the politics of gender-queer here, but offer this up as a more extreme example of (in my opinion, incorrectly) self-defining as lesbian without any real justification for so doing. Yes in some sense if they feel that way I can in no way stop them from self-defining in that way. I do, however, feel it is within my rights to mock and deride them for interpreting the word "lesbian" in a way so radically different from what the vast majority of people understand the word to mean as to be making themselves patently absurd by so doing.

In just the same way I reserve the right to mock and deride fish-eating "vegetarians". (Although in the latter case I feel more personally involved, since their misappropriation of the word actually causes me personal inconvenience in the form of people providing fish-based "vegetarian alternatives". Doubtless were I a lesbian, I would be more annoyed by people who don't match the consensus definition of the word self-defining in that way.)

What am I getting at here? Language is not your bitch. It does mutate, but you can't make it mutate on your own just because you're unsatisfied with the way it currently works. I should not define "ballerina" as "someone who sits on their fat arse all day typing bollocks into LiveJournal" and redefine myself as a ballerina, because *no-one else will understand what I have done* and it will make communication with me more difficult.

Relativism has its place. Consensus use of language is not that place. At best you will confuse people, at worst you will offend them.

Now I cannot stop anyone self-defining as lesbian to their heart's content, and don't even want to. However if you choose to do so, you must be prepared to accept the consequences. If I don't have a "right" to tell you not to define as lesbian, you don't have a "right" to tell me not to define you as not a lesbian. Also I will regard you as silly.
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rysmiel From: rysmiel Date: November 9th, 2007 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)
This sounds like it might be a similar sort of infuriating to that which USAns with one Irish great-grandparent and a totally uninformed sympathy for the notion of Ireland claiming to be "Irish" does in someone who was born there, lived there twenty-odd years, knows the place really well and is living in Canada for a reason.
the_whybird From: the_whybird Date: November 9th, 2007 10:47 am (UTC) (Link)
I should not define "ballerina" as "someone who sits on their fat arse all day typing bollocks into LiveJournal" and redefine myself as a ballerina, because *no-one else will understand what I have done* and it will make communication with me more difficult.

But if being a ballerina was as important to you as other gender-definitions / sexuality definitions are to many of the people who overload the language, I would have no problem with you self-defining as "a ballerina trapped inside a fatarse blogger's body". Equally once I'd gotten to know you I could get used to you just referring to yourself as a ballerina in my presence (since it requires fewer words, I know what you mean by it, and it's a nicer way of thinking of yourself than the longer definition).

(On a sidenote, I'm now reminded of a quote from I can't remember who: "It's true that inside every fat guy there's a thin guy trying to get out. In my case it's because I swallowed the bastard whole.")
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From: ex_lark_asc Date: November 9th, 2007 07:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
I entirely agree; I am vastly irritated by people who dress and act like men but expect me to remember that they are at all times to be referred to as "she". Most transsexuals I know don't expect that. I am not politically correct when it comes to gender any more than I am on any other topic: poorly passing crossdressers make me hoot with laughter, tease them mercilessly and offer makeup tips, and unconvincing trans-women make me laugh while simultaneously feeling somewhere between agonised and sympathetic; but I just have *no* time at all for people who want language to be their personal gender playground with no regard at all for other people's need to communicate. Having the freedom to go mucking about with your gender is icing, quite frankly; I really think they most likely don't have this petty linguistic problem in societies where they actually have to worry seriously about where the next meal is coming from.

All that said, I do know someone who I think is actually a trans-woman, but who knows he-she would never pass convincingly as a woman and is therefore choosing to remain effectively male and putting up with being referred to as 'he'.
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