Posts Tagged ‘ language ’

Genderqueer – gender outside of the binary

biological sex: male

Browsing one site a while ago I came across an interesting term, genderqueer. Implicitly the meaning of this is obvious, but it doesn’t do to assume when an article hinges on the term in question, so I looked it up. What am I talking about? Well…

biological sex: female







third gendered




All these terms, according to Wiki, basically mean the same thing, i.e.people who do not define themselves in alignment to the ‘traditional’ or sociotypical binary gender identities allocated by biological sex:

Gender identity (otherwise known as core gender identity) is the gender(s), or lack thereof, a person self-identifies as. It is not necessarily based on biological sex, either real or perceived, nor is it always based on sexual orientation. The gender identities one may identify as include male, female, both, somewhere in between (“third gender“), or neither.

Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than man or woman, while others see “genderqueer” as an umbrella term that encompasses all of those possible genders. Still others see “genderqueer” as a third gender to complement the traditional two, while others identify as genderless or agender. The term “genderqueer” can also be used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress distinctions of gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity.

Polygender describes it this way:

What does it mean to be polygendered?

Polygendered people are transgendered. Transgendered people are defined by TGS-PFLAG as “individuals of any age or sex who manifest characteristics, behaviors or self-expression, which in their own or someone else’s perception, is typical of or commonly associated with persons of another gender. ” Among transgendered people, there are transsexuals (who get sex-change operations), non-op transsexuals (who fulfill all the steps of a sex-change except for the genital operation), drag kings and queens (who dress as the “opposite” sex for performances) and transvestites (who do so all the time). And then there are us, the less well-known transgender folks. We are people who identify as bi-gendered, non-gendered, or third-gendered. We may feel we belong to more than one gender, that we have no gender at all, or that we are our own gender, something neither male nor female.

I should mention at this point that these terms are not to be confused with or substituted for intersex people, pomosexuals, or guydykes and girlfags, which are a whole other kettle of fish that I am so not getting into right now.

So why bring all this up? Well because it’s salient (to me at least), it’s interesting and it’s a sign of our times. The diversity and complexity of our society, the blurring of lines. It gives me hope. Binary is boring, restrictive and oppressive. If I go to a formal occasion, e.g. a wedding/funeral/interview, I wear a suit. That’s what I feel appropriate wearing for those occasions. I do not, even for a moment, consider wearing a dress/skirt and a pair of heels. Why? Because it’s unnatural (for me, yes, it is). So why should I get disparaging looks because I don’t fit into some age-old patriarchal dichotomy? I look forward to a time when gender-fluidity is known beyond just the catwalks and crude stereotypes of gay people. Acceptance of difference and variation could be the glue that binds us as a species — if we can just get over our social conditioning first.


Anti-Barbie ;):-


Sites for and about genderqueer people:

Genderqueer – beyond the binaries

Genderfork – beauty in ambiguity

Below the Belt – deconstructing gender

Polygender and Transgender information

United Genders of the Universe

Does language make humans different from other animals? [short version]

Up for consideration this time is the extent to which language makes the human species distinct from other species of animal.  It is worth noting that animal communication is most frequently referred to as such: communication. Most research has used the terms animal communication and human language, which suggests from the outset of researching this question a previously established difference between species’ modes of communicative interaction. But are our forms of communication actually all that different from those of other animals? The main difference seems to be regarding the use in language of speech and ‘conventional symbols,’ which surely, albeit perhaps under different guises, is necessary for the exchanges in any communication.

Aitchison (1983) specified that four [of ten] criteria were particular to the human species: displacement, semanticity, structure dependence and creativity. These four criteria, in summary, indicate that humans are capable of talking about things, people and instances, true or false, outside of the here-and-now spatial and temporal environment by using a formalized, abstract set of words, symbols and intonations each of which can have many different meanings when used within different contexts and between different individuals.

As our closest relations, a lot of research into animal language has been using apes. One of the more noted of these studies was conducted by Savage-Rumbaugh who taught a Bonobo chimpanzee, ‘Kanzi’, to use a form of sign language.

The aspect that is arguably the defining feature of human communication is the quality of its semanticity/meaning, but perhaps it is the plethora of social contexts within which we use language that truly distinguishes human and animal communication,  for example, ‘what shall I wear to my interview?’ This sentence alone contains sociological features that would not occur in animal worlds i.e. clothing and employment.

So human language’s complexity does seem to be the distinguishing factor between human and non-human animals. However it is worth bearing mind that the precursor to this distinguisher was and is in fact perhaps routed not in the cognitive capacities of our species, but in the anatomical speech restrictions, as selected [or not] for through the course of evolution, of other species and therefore it is not just language, per se, that is the crux of this distinction. If amount of communication material available to different species were measured against their communicative levels and all results standardized, perhaps the actual distinction between human and non-human animals would be less apparently extreme.

The full version of this post can be found here.

The language trap [short version]

The term ‘language trap’ and the concept behind it has been used many times in the last few decades with specific —but not sole— reference to gender and language studies, for example Dale Spender (1980), Deborah Cameron (1985, 1990) and Robin Lakoff (1975, 2004). For the purposes of this evaluation, a language trap shall be taken to mean:

the existence within language of conventions, expectancies and etiquette which serve to maintain the status of women as subservient and inferior to men and to maintain contemporary society’s patriarchal power structure.

The argument here is that, in the way language is used by and about women, they are still the victims of a language trap. Through language, women are objectified, commodified, infantilised and marginalised. Language, like the society it reflects, changes very slowly over time. The work of feminists in the 1970s is on the one hand still being undertaken and on the other hand is being undone. From close analysis, it can be seen that women are still currently the victims of a language trap. This is not to say however that the trap is inescapable and indeed it is evident that change toward equality is underfoot.

The full version of this essay is on the portfolio page, here.

Neologisms & alternate word definitions

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus : A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti : Vandalism spray-painted very, very high

8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon : It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido : All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. And the winners are:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men

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