The Realm Between ‘He’ and ‘She’
Well here’s a mysteriously disappointing article from the front page of the Toronto Star, prominently featuring one of my present-day idols of songcraft, Rae Spoon. I guess when journalists get to talking about Rae in any context other than sheer music review, somebody is taking a crack at settling this gender thing once and for all. And that always goes super well.
No I am just joking that almost never goes any good at all.
I don’t want to trash the article’s author for the things I see as problematic in the piece - it IS a complicated topic, inasmuch as even thinking about it as something that could ever go more than one way is fundamentally dissuaded by the very language we have available to discuss it. I think it was undertaken in good faith, and that the people quoted seem like well-selected sources of insight.
It’s not a bigoted article, really, but it is ultimately extremely clumsy in my view. Here are some questions that I had while I was reading it:
- Did editors massacre the writer’s use of pronouns to not match the preferences sometimes stated in the same sentence? Or did the writer do that and editors failed to catch it? The caption on the photo leading the whole thing off says “Rae Spoon feels she is neither female nor male and prefers to be referred to by the pronoun they.” By not doing so immediately after using the undermining “feels,” an authorial insistence that Rae is incorrect cannot be avoided. (of course the author of that caption is likely not the author of the piece)
- What’s with the editorializing use of “between” in the headline? Nowhere in the text is a case made for man and woman being extreme poles on a spectrum everyone must fall between. In fact the particular focus of this article is on people who find themselves outside of that spurious gradient. The headline set me up to feel critical of the whole article - these people are not somewhere BETWEEN “he” and “she.”
- Why does every? single? person they introduce in the article - with the not insignificant exception of a single intersex individual - have a background of being assigned female and raised as a girl? The bias is almost absolute and the effect is that no perspective is present from anyone who was assigned male and/or raised as a boy.
It seems to me that a segment of the Star’s readership who may have no other contact in their lives providing personal insight into the views and experiences of trans* or gender-nonconforming persons and communities might read this article and form a view of gender-nonconformity as being a phenomenon present exclusively among people who REALLY are women but wish they weren’t. I don’t think that’s an accurate description of anyone who was interviewed, and I think to present it in that light does a great disservice to the insights they shared.
And that is a damn shame because the platform of an article with this exposure, considering the evident work that went into developing the source content, could have done a lot more than simply muddying the waters the way I think it ultimately does.
This is a lot more disappointed than I’d like to be by an article with apparent good intentions and so much done right at some stage.