Monday, May 9th, 2011

Pronoun(ced) Disaster! Justin Bond Furious Over 'NY' Mag Profile

Justin Bond promised some time ago that V would be very pissed at anyone who referred to V with a gendered pronoun, and so, understandably, V is really unhappy at today's New York magazine profile. (Facebook samplings: "ugly, transphobic hit piece" and "Wow! I can't even begin to find words about how offensive the Carl Swanson piece in NY Magazine turned out to be. I had him in my house—time to bring out the bleach.") I mean, Wikipedia can deal with the pronouns; why couldn't a gay writer at a magazine helmed by a gay? (That being said, I'm pretty sure the writer is stunned to see the reaction, and I'm totally sure he believes this is a supportive, informative, attentive magazine profile. And yet.)

More importantly: you know, can someone buy Justin some health insurance? Thanks.

45 Comments / Post A Comment

IBentMyWookie (#133)

I couldn't order lunch today because doing so would cause me to default on my student loans, but I see this Justin Bond has real problems.

@IBentMyWookie You should default on your student loans. (I'm presuming you've already deferred?) The point being, if you cannot get cash to eat and pay them, you should not be paying them; the short-term cash you'll free up will benefit you more than the interest on the loans will hurt you. (I AM NOT AN ACCOUNTANT ETC., JUST A PERSON WHO RUNS OUT OF MONEY.)

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Choire Sicha What if they break my thumbs, Choire? HOW WILL I SEXT?

@IBentMyWookie They will not. They're more scary than the IRS but they're not the mob.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Choire Sicha Some years ago I inadvertently defaulted on the Federal portion (I think? May have been the provincial) of my loans (irresponsible of me, yes, but 'twere my salad years!) and it went into collection. Scary men called me at work.

@IBentMyWookie Oh yeah, sure. But you gots to get proactive with it. "Hello, I can't pay you right now."

You'd be shocked what happens when you get all up in people's faces. (TWSS?)

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Choire Sicha And how about my credit rating? Apparently that's a thing that exists and is affected by the stupid shit I do?

@IBentMyWookie Oh, well, that's where the long-term play comes into being. The trick to offset it is to carry debt on a few credit cards, but very small amounts, so you can make the monthly payments. And to do right with your utilities. And then you can afford to get hosed a few times. (The point in being proactive with the student loan people is that then it DOESN'T go to collection.)

Also then it helps to marry someone with good credit.

@IBentMyWookie I don't know why you're so concerned. In 10 years when this entire generation* defaults on their loans you will be one of many, and the collections people will be so busy you'll probably just get a tire iron to the kneecap, tops.

*except me, GI bill WHAT

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Choire Sicha DAMMIT. Partially-tattooed vaguely-emaciated-looking 20-something hipster boys rarely if ever have good credit. I can see this will be my greatest challenge.

cory dodt@twitter (#12,071)

Look, you can choose your name. You can choose your appearance. You can even, thanks to technology or (occasionally) odd genetics, choose your gender.

You don't get to choose how other people refer to you. To do that requires that you enter their head and modify the way they think about you. So far that's impossible. Try just making a suggestion instead of getting super pissed. Gently guide, don't dictate, that will just annoy people.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

We get to pick our own pronouns now? Sweet.

@boyofdestiny Totally! I'm really in love with boy pronouns right now but I reserve the right to change my mind.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@Choire Sicha I'm rethinking the whole "I" thing, but haven't come up with a replacement yet. _'ll get back to you when _ do.

@boyofdestiny : On a not unrelated note, I see that Genesis P-Orridge is a proponent of the royal "we".

GiGi Allin (#11,227)

Whoa, I guess it's really easy to not take people seriously for this when your cisgender identity will never cause this problem. It sucks to not feel respected, and when you fall outside of the gender binary it tends to happen a lot. Where's the compassion for that experience?

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@GiGi Allin Where was the disrespect in the article? I didn't sense any there. Surely we're not equating the eschewing of a bullshit ad hoc pronoun with an overall lack of respect?

MichelleDean (#7,041)

@IBentMyWookie I think the point is that the disrespect resides with the diagnosis of the "bullshit" nature of the pronoun. It's not really one you or I are necessarily entitled to make on someone else's behalf. It's possible that Justin Bond is being insincere or frivolous here, but I don't know that it's someone else's job to make that determination.

I mean, some people think trans people shouldn't be able to use the gendered pronoun that corresponds to their true gender on the basis that they don't have the right genitalia, that they are just "confused," etc. They too would say that the use of the pronoun by which a trans person chooses to call themselves is "bullshit." And the best argument against that, it seems to me, is "Who are you to tell this person what they are 'allowed' to be called?"

I think what I'm saying is that I tuck my skepticism about "bullshit" behind my "respect for this person's wishes."

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@MichelleDean The bullshit relates to making up a term and then becoming angered when people don't use the term that you made up. That's not how language works, and it's disingenuous to conflate what I'm saying with more general arguments about the nature of intersexuality, transsexuality, et al.

MichelleDean (#7,041)

@IBentMyWookie Well, I'm not conflating in the sense that I don't think you're one of the assholes I describe re intersexuality, transsexuality, to be clear.

I guess I'm saying that the argument to me suffers from the same logical flaw. I'm trying to draw a principled distinction between "making up words" and "already-existing pronouns," and I'm having trouble. I understand your "not how language works" argument, but on a larger scale, all of our words were made up by someone, some time. Maybe these "fake" pronouns will never gain wide currency, true, but I don't see how that completely removes the need to respect what people want to call themselves.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@MichelleDean Wanting to call oneself by a particular title, pronoun, etc. is one thing and certainly within one's purview; but to demand that another do so when that term is (a)not a recognized term and (b) exclusive to one person in the entire world and to then deem an article and a writer offensive because they do not use that term is another thing altogether. And this applies to Prince's mid-90s use of a symbol for his name and KD Lang's insistence upon the lower case in her name. You cannot claim that a person is being bigoted against you because they do not adopt a term that you have created and deem suitable (and yes, language is fluid, but one person cannot create a word. There must be consensus, over time, blah blah blah, i know this, you know this). And again, if it's not the non-usage of the pronoun that makes the article offensive, someone kindly instruct me as to the excerpts that constitute the offence. I'm genuinely interested in knowing.

@IBentMyWookie @MichelleDean If Angelina Fucking Jolie wanted to be called by a pronoun of her own invention, even she wouldn't get that perk. The writer has to turn in something that readers will understand, and if he'd used "v" for all of the pronouns he would have been laughed out of town. Justin Bond should be happy that Justin Bond got the publicity and attention Justin Bond sought. V needs to get over Vimself!

I'm still a fan, though. I just don't think a New York Magazine profile is gonna be the place where the world gets changed on this point.

HiredGoons (#603)

Dear New York Magazine,

If you give me a profile you can call me whatever you like.



@HiredGoons *call me

MichelleDean (#7,041)

It's been my experience that debates about pronouns rarely go well for anyone involved.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@MichelleDean Permission to have this inscribed on my tombstone.

Ted Gideonse (#4,648)

There are a few awful sentences, like when Carl refers to Justin as a "cross-dressing cabaret singer" (which is jaw-dropping), but I can't figure out what is so terrible about the piece beyond Carl and New York's refusal to refer to Justin as V, as V requested. Mike Albo did it in his Out article.

La Cieca (#1,110)

@Ted Gideonse Same here. I think it's unrealistic and petty to get angry that "Mx" and "V" are slow to be adopted, particularly since Bond is (so far as I know) the only person in the world to insist on that honorific and pronoun. It took the naming of a magazine, a Vice-Presidential campaign by Geraldine Ferraro and more than a decade to get "Ms." thoroughly mainstreamed, and that's an honorific applicable to millions of people, not one. (A case can be made that, yes, there are a number of transgender people out there who sincerely prefer not to be thought of as either "male" or "female," but, to tell the truth, I really hadn't thought about the issue much until reading this piece about Bond, so perhaps there are more than a few others out there to whom this use of "transgender" has also remained until now unfamiliar.)

And, again, consider the source. It's New York, something to read in your dermatologist's office while waiting for the Botox to kick in. It's as unrealistic to expect a deeply nuanced understanding of gender issues in that magazine as… well, as it is to expect to effect a deeply nuanced change in gender understanding by pitching a hissy fit on Facebook.

Ted Gideonse (#4,648)

@La Cieca But Adam Moss's New York *should* have a good understanding of gender issues. I don't think that the article shows that Carl or New York are clueless on gender issues (despite a couple of sentences here and there), but rather that they made an editorial decision that was bound to insult the subject of the profile. And that seems unnecessary to me.

Ted Gideonse (#4,648)

@Ted Gideonse The comments on the actual article show that some people think that Carl was patronizing and uncomfortable with Justin's gender. ( I don't quite see it, but I'd like to see Justin's full response to make it clear.

La Cieca (#1,110)

@Ted Gideonse It does seem that when part of the subject matter of a piece is the fact that the subject prefers to be referenced with a nonstandard pronoun, it's up to the writer and editor to be transparent about their reasons for choosing a different, standard pronoun. I can see it both ways, really: you want to be respectful to the person you're writing about, but on the other hand, you don't want to sound silly and fanboyish, and on a third hand (not so inappropriate in the current context, perhaps) nobody want to deliberately rile up a copy editor without very good reason. I'm looking forward to the metatory.

SeanP (#4,058)

One of the things that makes this issue so difficult is that we haven't settled on any particular pronoun/honorific combination for trans people. It does seem to me that having everyone make up their own personal words for this function defeats the purpose of having pronouns in the first place, though.

@SeanP I can only say that i had a very long talk with Carl about where I was coming from reagarding my choice of pronouns and the reasons for them. For whatever reason either he or his editor chose to disregard my wishes, which are not in any way capricious. I made myself available to clarify any and all questions or confusions he may have had. I owe it to myself to speak up when I am incorrectly referred to as a cross-dresser or whatever else someone may arbitrarily choose to label me. Feelings, thoughts and identities are not made to serve language, language was created to express and communicate these things. Right now our language is not effective when it comes to gender. I offered up some options that I feel comfortable with. I'm happy there is a discussion going on around this and, to be honest, I think it's more important to strive for truth than to pacify copy editors

josefk (#12,078)

Justin is a transperson (auto-correct is underlining this term in red dashes) who is in a position of visibility. I do not see it as self-important or "unreasonable" for v to introduce a pronoun and ask the press to use it. I see it as radical and bold. There are many, many transpeople who long for words to describe their identities and experiences. Should Justin Vivian Bond not react with rage when v is described in terms that v rejects? Damn right v should. This is how language changes.

@josefk Well, why not make the pronoun an actual … word? "v" is not a word — that's a consonant. To my knowledge, there is not a single word in the English that is spelled using only a consonant.

If Justin realistically expects people to use the word v invented, v should actually make it a pronounceable word, rather than a single consonant.

The fact that v did the latter suggests that v never realistically expected people to use it in the first place, and is just spoiling for a fight.

@MisterHippity I undermined my own argument by using "v" in that comment, didn't I?

@josefk Actually, Mister Hippity, v is pretty easy to pronounce if you're familiar with the alphabet and I see that you are because you managed to tap out this comment. V is the first letter of my middle name but the reason I chose v as the pronoun for myself as a transgendered person is because visually it's two even lines that meet in the middle and it seems simple and easy both visually and grammatically. Kudos to you by the way, your usage was proper throughout and you even got the difference between when v should and should not be capitalized. It's easier than you think. Anyone is welcome to use v. V, of course would only be used as a nickname.

MollyculeTheory (#4,519)

I am all for making up your own pronouns but can't you pick one that doesn't make me think that a Pynchon novel gained sentience & is making angry declarations about NY Mag editorial decisions? (V is pissed, but Mason & Dixon thinks it's pretty reasonable & Against the Day couldn't be reached for comment).

Bittersweet (#765)

@MollyculeTheory: You're at least more high-culture than I am; my first thought was of the TV show with the lizard aliens.

I feel qualified to add only the following: The album that provides the peg for this piece — dendrophile — is pretty interesting, if not the sort of thing I wanna put on every day. (See: the country-flecked "Equipoise," the jazz-dirge-y "The New Economy" and the cabaret fusion of "Genet Song.")

BadUncle (#153)

If I were Sammy Davis Junior, I would always go by "Mr. Samy Davis Junior." But since I'm not, I'll happily go by a direct article, such as "The."

Pronouns are, by nature, generic.

Proper names are, by nature, specific.

Once you create a pronoun that applies to only one person, it ceases to be a pronoun because it is not longer generic. Instead, because it it is specific to one person, it is essentially a name. And names are not pronouns.

skahammer (#587)

What's wrong with a magazine profile that winds up enraging the subject? Why not confront readers with a stark choice whether to trust the writer or the subject? It's one dramatic way of engaging the reader, drawing her in. And given that the writer in this case is Carl Swanson, I know who I'm betting on.

shewhoknows (#12,166)

First–I have not read the piece yet, just Justin's response. I will say a few things first–1. referring to Bond as having been a cross-dressing cabaret singer is not offensive. In the peak of KIKI and Herb, this was a mere FACT. There was never any discussion of Justin being trans back then, there was no acknowledgement from him in any press releases or anything that he was considering himself to be trans, and there was certainly no insistence that you call him anything other than what he was-a man, who sometimes performed in character in drag.

for a large majority of Justin's career he was known a drag performer–I would not say queen–since that brings to mind really bad wigs and a parading around of bad r&b songs. Justin was always more unique. So, for a lot of people who've been watching Justin, the third gender-need-a-new-pronoun to-describe Justin, it's very surprising and perhaps hard to wrap your head around.

Secondly, the definition of "Trans" and "transgender" has been vastly altered in the last few years but a new generation of people who used to fall under the "androgynous" category. Back in the day, you could be an androgynous man –cross dressing, make up wearing, more feminine than masculine and be a very different kind of man, and still be male. and vice versa, you could be a very butch or androgynous woman and still be a woman, just different than what society says is the 'right' way. it has become popular in the last few years to take hormones but not get surgery either to go FTM or MTF and call yourself a 'third gender' and dub yourself 'trans.' This is a very new shift. If you talk to transgender pioneers, they will tell you this makes them uncomfortable because for them transgender means that they have gone from one gender to another and they are living life fully as the gender they always felt they were supposed to be. the third gender-inbetweenness- feels perhaps false to some people, especially when for years you've watched people live their life as an openly androgynous man or woman and then change how they define themselves. people are going to have a hard time accepting this seemingly new line drawn in the sand. it could be that they've always thought of themselves as a third gender or trans but it is news to most of the rest of us. And people don't know how to react.

Now, I'll read the article.

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