Facebook’s Pronouns: Nice But Not Spectacular

Trigger Warning- This post contains a brief section of facts and data about abuse directed to trans people in America.

Yesterday Facebook unveiled “50 different terms people can use to identify their gender as well as three preferred pronoun[s]” which had, as one friend eloquently put it, “everyone […] pooping their pants” with excitement. My personal reaction involves less pooping and more scrunching my face and wiggling my hand and going, “It’s niiiiice,” in the same voice your Jewish grandmother makes when you ask her if she liked the cake you made for her birthday.

Yes, the new options are exciting and yes I quickly changed mine to read “Trans and Genderqueer” (Although I really would prefer being able to do “Genderqueer Trans”) but other than being happy to to have my identity acknowledged I don’t really give two farts about Facebook’s change. My general feeling of “Oh, cool” towards Facebook has been overshadowed by my irritation at the massive public pants crapping over their announcement.

The adoration that Facebook received in the twenty-four hours following its announcement has been reminding me of how easy it is for the privileged to get compliments for the smallest of actions. I’m constantly astonished by how a white cisdude can do something as small as say that he’s fine with openly gay NFL players and end up becoming a national hero whose statement is described by the Huffington Post as “jaw-dropping.” Yes, jaw-dropping is exactly how I would describe a person whose open about being a decent human. Cishet white men can say, “I’m against stabbing trans people,” and get a fucking parade while it takes a fucking movement to get anyone to notice a black trans woman who was jailed for an action of self-defense. In this analogy Facebook is a white cisdude who has done something nice but not exactly revolutionary and yet the public response has been to offer peeled grapes for Facebook’s culinary pleasure while it lounges on a beach chair in the sun.

To keep the theme of this piece I should add that while offering peeled grapes they’re also pooping their pants.

There are plenty of important trans issues going on right now-

These things are disturbing and shocking and really fucking important but I guess they’re too sad and depressing for the public. Apparently we’d rather have  a pants-crapping circle-jerk over Facebook allowing its users to correctly identify themselves (Let’s not forget that there are many trans people who are not safe publicly identifying themselves, I wonder if we’re going to talk about them.) than working to stop the little pesky things like the murders of trans women of color.

Being able to honestly identify yourself is a very exciting and welcome, particularly for those of us who have to live with a world that likes to misgender us. It’s being welcomed by trans community groups and activist groups and support networks and rightly so. Is it sad that we’re so happy that a massive company is making a gesture of basic human decency? Yeah, probably but hey, at least it’s something. Importantly it’s something for trans people which doesn’t happen all that much to us and yet I feel like it’s cis people who are the ones pooping in their pants with the most joy. For cis people this is an easy thing that they can grasp onto and feel good about.

I bet we’re going to be hearing from cis people about Facebook’s 50+ gender options for at least a few more days. There’s going to be the weekend news coverage. CNN will do a roundtable. Some first year House Republican is going to talk about how it’s a sign that cisgender people are being oppressed and then that’ll be the news story for a while. Soon it’ll die down only to be resurrected every time a cis person wants to show how accepted and welcome trans people are in this world.

Soon a trans woman of color is going to be murdered or jailed for an act of self-defense or beaten or forced onto the street and how big is our national response going to be? How long is it going to last? Will as much as we care about Facebook’s bold new move into the 21st century?

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