The consequence of misgendering

I have long found an interest in gender, and the recent conversations in class regarding gender in Butler’s fiction has made me consider the subject even further. For me, and what seems like much of the class, I have struggled in gendering characters that don’t actually possess a gender.

However, this is actually the opposite of my tendencies from the past. For example, when (most often) referring to babies or kids, I would often refer to them as “it.” People would make fun of me about this, or correct me. Maybe people found it rude–which I understand–but thinking about it now, why did people find it so odd? I never referred to the child as “it” to the child’s face or the parents, so why did people care so much? People seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of a lack of gender binary, so much so that the remarks I got when I didn’t “assume” a small child’s gender eventually pushed me to start referring to children as a “he” or a “she.” Maybe this is because I am 6 months away from becoming a teacher, but I found that all of the comments/judgement I got when referring to a child as an “it” were coming from my friends or family. Although I do understand their judgements of my choice of language, and that I likely would not want my future child to be called an “it” from a stranger, would I also want people to assume my child’s gender as a boy or a girl (if my child did not feel that they fit in those roles)?

This also relates back to the concept of consent that some of my peers wrote about in their blog post. Do we really have the consent to put people or in the case of Butler’s fiction, “things,” into a gender binary? We, as a society, do it very often. We even gender things that aren’t human–Butler’s characters, bed sheets/decorations, clothes, kitchen appliances… it goes on and on. When are we, as a society, going to quit gendering things that don’t have the capacity to consent to gendering, or even don’t “come” with a gender?

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