Hooray! Royce Episode! Today, we talk about gender identity and personal pronouns from the perspective of someone who is Agender, doesn't wish to use pronouns, and generally feels rather "meh" about the whole gender thing.
[dog lightly snoring in background throughout]
Courtney: Hey, everyone. Welcome back. My name is Courtney. I’m here with Royce. Together, we are The Ace Couple.
Courtney: Now, a couple weeks ago, we did a two-part episode. We did two different episodes, rather, that were both very heavily centered around...the intersections of disability and asexuality. As a disabled woman, I had a lot of personal anecdotes from my life. So that was...a lot. Of. Courtney talking, and Royce...adding witty observations, wherever possible.
Courtney: I wanted to...really get Royce talking a little more. I thought it would be...very interesting, to...have an episode where we talk more about. Gender, and pronouns. Royce has an experience that is completely...separate and unique from mine, in that respect. I really hope that you enjoy what we have to talk about today. For starters, Royce, you have a somewhat complicated relationship with gender. Can you. Explain a little bit about that, for...the folks at home?
Royce: Sure. I don’t really consider my relationship with gender to be complicated. I guess all of the complexities are in the translation. I don’t seem to have much of...a concept, or affinity, for gender. None of it really makes sense to me. I think that I see gender as a...social construct. As a result. I’m not drawn towards any particular term, myself. Because of that, logically, I think that, I’m best described as “agender.” I...acknowledge that I grew up, and am usually...interacted with, as if I were cisgender. And that doesn’t...bother me, at all...
Courtney: ...but it’s not. Quite accurate, either?
Royce: I guess that’s where things get complex. Because, when you say “accurate,” what do you mean? I don’t think that, when...the average person out there. Thinks about a cisgender man. They have the same. Things. Come to their mind, that I have when I think about myself. That’s what I’m trying to get at here, is... The concept of gender just doesn’t resonate with me. Do I think that...agender makes more sense, given that? Yes. But the term “cisgender” has absolutely no. Emotional. Pull on me, one way or the other.
Courtney: I...do want to circle back for a moment, to you saying that ‘to you’ gender is a social construct. I wanna get out of the way, that...it is. It is a social construct. I mean, in our modern society and most cultures...online, you’ll hear about the “gender binary.” The...cisnormativity of ‘there is male or female.’ We know, that. Scientifically, that is not correct. That is what our culture has created.
Courtney: There are many cultures who, throughout history, have had a third gender. Even a fourth gender. Or, nonbinary genders. This is a thing. We know it exists. Despite the fact, that it is a social construct. There are a large number of people who DO...associate themselves. With a gender, whether it’s...male, female, even...some people who treat their nonbinary nature as a third gender. But not everybody does.
Courtney: So what you’re saying is, you ‘would rather do away with all of it.’
You don’t associate with any of those terms. Whatsoever.
Royce: I don’t associate with any of those terms or groups. Yes. I think that...if I were to look more into my life, in general. I think that I have a tendency to not associate with groups. Being someone who...has always been non-religious. Never been a part of...a church group. I’ve understood that people have favorite sports teams. I’ve never gotten the concept. I once received a short little essay back. In high school English class, with a red sad face written on it. From the teacher. Because the...little essay was about how I had absolutely no school spirit.
Courtney: That’s really funny! Did you at least get a good grade?
Royce: Yes. The writing was sound. It was– [crosstalk][04:44] The grade was fine.
Courtney: Well, you’ve often...described yourself as being “president of the Go Home Club.” In high school.
Royce: Yes. No extracurriculars. No group activities.
Courtney: ...which is the opposite of me. I. Was in. Absolutely everything and anything I possibly could fit into my schedule, and then some. So that is different. I also...am a woman. I do feel...
Courtney: ...that I am female. I can still know, that gender is a social construct. But I still very much. Identify. With it. Since female is what I was assigned at birth, I am a cisgender woman. So, we do have very different. Relationships to gender, in that sense. So, by us saying that “gender is a social construct,” that is. In NO way. Negating. Anybody. Who does have. Strong feelings toward gender. In any direction, whether you’re cis or trans. Whether you’re nonbinary. This does not discredit. Anybody’s. Internal feelings. At the end of the day...don’t be a jerk. Treat people...
Courtney: ...the way they identify with. It should be that...simple.
Courtney: But for you, you’ve used the word “agender” to describe yourself. I remember– YEARS ago– we even...
Courtney: ...kind of created the term “mehgender.” To describe you. I think that was...for the purpose of really emphasizing the apathy. That you have toward gender. But, you often seem...kind of reluctant to talk about gender identity, and pronouns. Since. Gender is a thing, that we know, to be...fluid. And, diverse vocabulary is becoming increasingly more accessible. I...wanted to get your...“pocket dictionary”of terms that. Are passable enough for you, I suppose. I know other people are going to want to...identify with a term, because language is how we. Often. Understand things.
Royce: Well, I think I tend to talk about gender in...two different ways. One of those ways is a very abstract. Logical. Social, sort of way. I’m removing myself from the conversation entirely, and I’m trying to look at ‘if we were to attempt to restructure working language today. What is the most inclusive way to do it?’ Would language be better served by having. Fewer. Gendered terms, and gendered prefixes and suffixes, and...gendered connotations that that go along with words. Probably so. But when it comes to myself...I just don’t care!
Royce: I don’t know if not caring is...really the right way to phrase it. That’s why...I think, sometimes, these. Conversations can get. A little difficult, or maybe even a little frustrating. It’s all...muddied up in this translation layer. Where, I have. Either a feeling, or the absence of a feeling. I don’t know how to convey that, when we have words that are different.
Royce: You were talking about growing up. As a...cisgendered woman in society, and feeling an affinity towards that. In some manner. I feel like...when I got old enough to start. Being aware that gender was A Thing, and that there were masculine connotations to...anything. To any part of society. I thought, “That doesn’t make sense. That’s a stereotype,” and I threw the whole thing out. Those terms don’t have MEANING to me, at all. And I can’t really articulate the absence of meaning.
Courtney: Which is very interesting. As I was hearing you talk, I had two main thoughts. First of all, your very...analytical side, that you think of devoid of yourself. Can, in my experience, often get into...post-genderism territory. I don’t agree with EVERYTHING about post-gender, but. That’s, really, like the concept of eroding the social role of gender. Which I think CAN be good in some ways, but it’s incredibly complicated, and I don’t–
Courtney: We can’t get into talking about the nuances of post-genderism today. There is too much there!
Courtney: However, when you also said, “You grew up as a cisgender woman”...I almost flinched at that, a little bit! I am a cisgender woman NOW, but when I actually think about having grown up? I remember as a child, I...drew things all the time. I would draw...cartoons. I’d try to draw realistic depictions of things. I would draw whatever I saw right in front of me, or I’d try to make up my own creatures. I very distinctly remember sitting on the floor, next to my toy chest, when I was really young. I had just learned at school about pie charts. The very introductory level of pie charts. That they teach you in elementary school. I remember trying to use a pie chart...to define myself.
Courtney: At the time we were growing up, there was this very, very. Ever-present. Concept of [mocking] “Are you a...girly girl? Or are you a tomboy?”
Courtney: [jokingly] And we called that feminism, because you can choose which type of girl you want to be.
Courtney: Horribly antiquated! But...being presented with that all of the time, and having so many...friends. Who were girls. Who...either identified as a tomboy or a girly girl. I remember really thinking about that. I was like, “If I’m gonna pie chart. My own. Identity here...” I remember. Drawing a pie chart, that was. 50/50. On one part, I said ‘50% girl. 50% boy.’ I was like, “That’s me. That’s Courtney.” But then I...
Courtney: ...scribbled it out. Grabbed a new piece of paper. Made a...pie chart that was ‘25% girl. 25% boy. 50%...’ and I stopped for a moment, because I was going to write “other.” But then I was like, [dramatically] ‘No. Courtney!’ So I had this pie chart that was ‘25% boy, 25 girl, and 50% Courtney. Slash, other.’
Courtney: And so, I think back to that. Because, that was at a very young age. Had I grown up in a society that...introduced...gender fluidity to me, at a young enough age. That seems like it could’ve been the natural progression of things. So, when I think of my own...gender identity now. I think it is very much shaped by my experiences.
Courtney: I don’t want anyone to cringe at that, ’cause I know there are a lot of people who say, “This is the gender I was born as. This is who I am. And, innately, have always been.” If that is you, that is valid. Nothing we’re saying about our own personal experience is meant to discredit anyone else’s experience. This is, truly, very abstract stuff we’re talking about. It can present itself in any number of ways.
Courtney: I...am very. Large. Breasted. And I was the first girl in my class to...need to wear a bra. And so, I was very hyper-sexualized at a very young age. Which, as a young, asexual person, that had its own set of challenges. But, I very much went through being hyper-sexualized way too young. Being a teenage woman who had a very feminine body, and learning to grapple with that. Learning to accept myself. There was a lot there that– Sort of...a reclamation. I had to reclaim...my gender. Which may or may not...
Courtney: ...had [sic] been there before, so. I do think that the fact I’m a woman is very much shaped by my own experiences.
Royce: I have two comments I was holding onto. When you were telling the story about your pie chart, I was really hoping that it was going to be a moment where it was like, ‘I am 40% girl, and 40% boy, and 20%...dinosaur.’ Or something.
Royce: Like you found the box of all of one particular type of toy.
Courtney: I am 20% a dinosaur!
Courtney: That wouldn’t’ve been too out of character, as a child. I, at the time… I mean, there’ve been way more dinosaurs discovered now...but I. Distinctly remember by, like, age 5. Learning everything I could, about. Any dinosaur I could get my hands on. I could name...every dinosaur yet discovered. Alphabetically. And tell you basic. Knowledge about them. I was very, VERY into dinosaurs. And learning about them at a young age. “Paleontologist” was the first. Major profession I would tell adults, when they asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Royce: The other thing that I was going to mention. Or...to clarify, rather. Was that any time you’re talking about gender– particularly when you’re talking about. How someone experiences gender. Particularly at a young age– there is a difference between...speaking about the gender that they feel, and the gender that is imposed upon them. When I had said, “you growing up as a cisgendered woman,” I was...more alluding to. The world around you. Projecting that, regardless of how you felt.
Courtney: [brightly] Yep! Checks out!
Courtney: Sounds about right. But, we digress. This was about YOU, and YOUR gender identity. And...vocabulary. That...may or may not. Fit. Correctly.
Royce: Right. So... I was trying to remember exactly how this conversation came up. I think we were. Beginning to talk about...the public usage of pronouns. Which I tend to not do. This is how, the. Meh. Gender. Discussion. Came up. It was…”Yes, I’m used to ‘he/him’ pronouns. Yes, I think ‘they/them’ makes sense, because...thinking that agender makes sense, or thinking that gender-neutral terms in general, make more sense. That seems logical.
Royce: I don’t have any...issue, with. Feminine pronouns. But. They’re. Not what I’m used to. About the only time I. Get. Referred to with feminine pronouns, is by accident. And there’s normally...a fair amount of social...anxiety that comes with that, as well. As in, we are sitting down at a restaurant. A waiter or waitress walks up. Walks up behind me, and addresses the table with feminine pronouns. Then they walk around. And I see their “Oh shit, I just lost my tip” face [crosstalk][16:14] for a moment.
Royce: It’s just... It doesn’t bother me. I tend to ignore it, and move on, to avoid any awkwardness.
Courtney: Yeah, I think your anxiety in that situation isn’t because someone...misgendered you. It’s because of. The. Horrific anxiety you sense from THEM. After realizing that they think that maybe that’s what happened.
Royce: There is, also... If someone around me did start using...’she/her’ pronouns, to refer to me. It would take me a bit to get used to that. I would also wonder, ‘Why is that the decision you’re making right now?’ It seems very simple, to me, to use neutral terms. For someone. It seems like an odd choice. To knowingly choose...explicit masculine/feminine terms to refer to someone. Without them saying, ‘Hey, this is how I prefer to be addressed.’
Royce: Anyway. This conversation was about listing. Your preferred pronouns, on...any sort of public-facing site, profile, whatever. I don’t. Like. Doing that. It doesn’t bother me that other people do that. But. For...me to put. My pronouns down there, it feels like I’m being...forced to play the “gender game,” and I don’t identify with any of that. So it feels like I’m. Being made to masquerade with...how everyone else. Sees people in society. There’s something about being forced to behave in a certain way, that gets under my skin a little bit.
Royce: So, I think this conversation went, “So if you fill out a profile, what are you going to put?” And I said, “I’m going to put...Royce.”
[Courtney and Royce laugh]
Royce: I’m going to put my first name. That is an appropriate way to address me. And then, the conversation went, “Well then what’s your gender?” And I said, “Meh.”
Courtney: Yeah, that was an interesting conversation. This was long before we set up a social media profile, because...Royce, you are very. Not online. With the exception of. The Twitter account we started, for this podcast, specifically. But–
Royce: Which you run almost exclusively.
Courtney: [sheepishly] Well.
Courtney: The question was actually more about...conferences. Because– this conversation was years ago. WAY. Pre. COVID– I had seen an increasing...ly large number of people. Write their pronouns on name tags at conferences. And conventions. To the point where...in some of the more progressive conferences, if you DON’T put your pronouns on your name tag. YOU’RE the weird one. Nobody wants...to misgender everyone. So it is very, very much an...ally thing to do. To try to ask someone for their pronouns. Especially if you’re not sure. But...that can get a little complicated, when there is someone like you, who...would rather not have that conversation.
Courtney: I know...there are other people out there like you. The thing is. The apathy. Keeps. You. From...being very vocal about this. But it’s a valid experience. We started using “mehgender” just at home, because...let’s be real. You weren’t going out. You weren’t actually having a conversation with anyone who wasn’t me, about...pronouns, and gender. We were like, “Oh, yeah. Mehgender.” We were joking around, that “meh” could actually be...a fine neopronoun! For some people, instead of ‘he or she’ or...‘she/hers.’ Like, “Pass me meh’s phone.” “Why don’t you text meh?” And that was just a joke.
Courtney: Neopronouns are...often used. By...people under the nonbinary umbrella. Some of the more common ones that, maybe you have heard, are like ‘zi/zir.’ They haven’t gotten into the mainstream consciousness. Outside of LGBT circles. Quite as much as...the singular ‘they/them,’ I have seen starting to really catch on, especially the last five years or so. So, neopronouns. Totally valid. If someone uses neopronouns, and they tell you that? Just use them. Again, don’t be a jerk!
Courtney: At home, I remember joking about...your pronouns being ‘Royce/Royce’s...Royceself.’ Put that on a nametag. “Royce/Royce/Royce’s/Royceself.”
Courtney: I do try to...use Royce, conversationally, as often as possible. But there are some sentences where, at a certain point...you have said the name...so many times. In order to make the sentence seem a little more conversational, you should’ve just started the sentence completely differently. Restructured it, from the very beginning. Sometimes you do box yourself into a hole. It’s at that point where it’s like, ‘Oh no! Do I use he/him? Do I use they/them?’ Anybody who wants to be a good friend or an ally...wants to know the right answer. There isn’t always a right answer. I suppose.
Royce: But depending on who it is, there...may not be a wrong answer, either.
Courtney: Very well-put. That is a good point. I do remember. Several years ago. Being interviewed for...a different podcast. Where, we were talking about...gender and asexuality. You were not there, but you had given me permission ahead of time...to talk a little bit about. Your experience, if it was relevant. Because people are always very curious to know about...married asexual people! I did bring up...“mehgender”...as a thing we lovingly created. I remember getting multiple comments. On that podcast, and people reaching out to me after-the-fact. Being like, “That is the word that I have been looking for!”
Courtney: Some people being really excited. I remember some people saying, “Would Royce be angry if I started using mehgender? Can I use that, too?” When I read those comments to you...you were quite delighted, actually. You were very amused by this. At the same time, you were like, “If they’re actually that excited, maybe they aren’t quite apathetic enough...
Courtney: ...to use mehgender!”
Courtney: All this to say, it is all in good fun. Language is ever-evolving. Different people have different associations to different vocabulary. Not every definition is going to be hard and fast, or mean the same thing, to different people. Whatever feels right to you...go for it!
Courtney: In your case, Royce, you have historically used ‘he/him,’ because that’s what...society has put upon you. More recently, you have actually begun...incorporating...‘they/them.’ And you have...occasionally, lightly specified ‘they/them,’ when prompted for it. Can you talk a little bit more about why...that...conscious decision was made, on your part?
Royce: Part of it, for...me, using they/them, is... With gender being spoken about so. Much more frequently now, than it did. Many years ago. I’ve thought about it enough to come to the conclusion that, “agender” is probably the right descriptor. If agender is the right descriptor, then they/them is the...right. Usage of pronouns. I think that in my own usage, I’ve tried to...rework the way that I speak, a little bit. Either to avoid pronouns altogether, or to use they/them. Just. Because. There are so many people out there, that...do identify as something that is...not. Cisgender. That seems like a safer use of language, when you’re around people that you don’t know very well.
Royce: [jokingly] Now it would help if I could remember people’s names better [crosstalk][24:28]. Because then I could default to that. More frequently.
Courtney: That’s a whole different issue!
Courtney: I was going to...ask. Why it seems as though you often have...a general disdain for gendered pronouns. And yet, your...dislike of the gendered pronouns seems to...far heavily outweigh your...desire to. Emphasize, and use, gender-neutral pronouns. But, I think we did cover that a little bit. Where it was...you don’t like playing “Gender: The Game!”
Courtney: And...being forced into something that you don’t...experience. In the same way other people who talk about it do. Which definitely makes sense, but how great of a...board game, would “Gender: The Game” be?
Courtney: Or would it be terrible?
Royce: I think it’d be terrible! There’d be [crosstalk][25:24]...the...
Royce: [exasperated] Whatever form it would take place in– either the instruction manual, or a deck of cards– would have way too many words to...come to understand the meaning of.
Courtney: I am picturing a very...’90s style...board game box, though. Think ‘SORRY!’...boxes. But “Gender: The Game.” I don’t know. Maybe everyone starts out without gender, but...you get...sent to gender jail. Like, “Oh no! You’ve been assigned ‘boy!’”
[sound of dog’s claws tapping on hardwood floor, crossing the room]
Courtney: It could, almost, be like. That game that we have played, ‘Fog of Love.’ Where, it’s basically a relationship simulator...?
Courtney: But...you get your own goals. Ahead of time. So you have your own individual goals, and you have to try to meet those. While still. Maintaining...the broader relationship.
Courtney: I wonder if you– at the start of the game– either pick. Your gender. Or get randomly assigned one. And by the end of the game, you have to...meet that goal, somehow.
Royce: By the end of the game, you have to try to fit. The gamemaker’s, possibly incorrect, meaning of nonbinary. Or manifestation of nonbinary.
Courtney: Oh, absolutely. Whoever created this game, did it horribly.
Courtney: All of the gender concepts are incredibly antiquated. If it takes a year or two for the game to come out, it’s gonna be even that...
Courtney: ...farther behind the times!
Royce: [teasing] That’s probably part of the release model. So they can charge...more money for– I almost said DLC, but this is a physical game [crosstalk][27:09]-- well, it’s expansion packs.
Courtney: For the D– we can make this a video game!
Royce: They give you more cards, as more terms come out.
Courtney: Oh. See, that’s how they get ya. That’s…
Courtney: Sneaky capitalism! Sneaky. Get your...capitalism out of my gender!
Royce: Fog of Love. The...homosexual editions were in an expansion.
Courtney: That’s true! Oh! That’s horrible. Fog of Love’s such a weird game. We didn’t play nearly enough of it. Maybe we should play a game of Fog of Love. On the podcast.
[Courtney laughs, Royce groans in pained hesitance]
Royce: This board game was created. By a game designer, who really wanted. His...girlfriend, fiance, wife, partner– I can’t remember exactly what their relationship was– he really wanted her to play board games with him, but she didn’t like board games. So, he...tried to take. Her favorite. Genre of media– which was romantic comedies– and make it, into a board game. So they could play together.
Courtney: Tweet at us at “The Ace Couple,” if you want us...
Courtney: ...to play this game. And record it as a future podcast episode. It’s...a silly game. It’s kind of interesting, mechanically, but it’s very...cishet. From our...what, maybe we played two rounds of it? Very allo, perhaps.
Royce: It might be interesting...
Royce: ...for us to play. One of the more dicey versions, that could involve...an explicit fling, or something like that. There are different scenarios that you play through, and some of them are very allo.
Courtney: Yeah. We’ll...keep that in our back pocket, as a maybe. That could be...interesting, to hear an ace couple...
Courtney: ...do that. Yeah, we never really did play any of the dicier scenarios of that game. We, kind of, just wanted to play the...brunch date one. We made breakfast burritos and mimosas, and sat at home, and had a little Sunday, brunch, board game, date.
Royce: We’ve also had situations with this game, and other games, where...we have some fun with it, but then we wait– a year or two– before picking it up again. At that point, we’ve forgotten all of the rules, and have to start at the simplest scenario again, anyway.
Courtney: That does happen. That’s a real problem we gotta work on. That game definitely... Like you said, there was...an expansion, or a second edition, where you could get...a same-sex couple...kind of situation going on. Goodness knows, if there’s...any chance of getting any genderqueer...representation, in. A game like that, anytime soon.
Courtney: Speaking of which. Do you identify with the term “genderqueer”? What does that mean, to you?
Royce: I think, the concept that I keep going back to, is. That I don’t identify with ANY of the terms. Agender makes sense, logically. If genderqueer is...an umbrella term for, really, anything. That is outside of cisgender, then that would mean. Agender is underneath the genderqueer umbrella. So, in a roundabout way, I would say...I. Guess... Yeah.
Courtney: “Yeah,” definitionally. But not...emotionally, perhaps?
Royce: That’s kind of how this whole thing goes, yeah.
Courtney: Sometimes it seems like your...experience...as it pertains to gender, is better...less. Defined. By. The pocket dictionary, and more...memed. I’ve definitely seen the memes that are like, “My pronouns are NONE. Do not refer to me!”
Courtney: I think that’s a little...too on-the-nose...
Courtney: ...for you.
Courtney: This is a...tough question, that isn’t gonna have a specific answer. But it’s a starting point, ’cause I want to hear ya talk about it. How long. Have you. Suspected. That you. Aren’t. A cisgender man?
Royce: Yeah, that question doesn’t really have...a definitive answer. By the time I...knew. What the term “cisgender” meant. By the time...that language started entering. Common discourse. I was WAY past. Completely throwing away the concept of gender. It was just...more terminology that didn’t fit with me, I guess.
Courtney: [jokingly] You were like, “Gender? I’ve never heard of her!”
[Royce and Courtney laugh]
Courtney: Were there any sort of... I don’t wanna say “milestone moments,” ’cause that almost puts...a lot more emphasis on it than I know you have. Were there any...memories that you have, from any point in your life, of...really realizing, “Yep. This gender thing isn’t for me.” I know when we talk about asexuality, there are some situations where you’re like, “When I saw that on TV” or “When I heard someone talk about this, I felt REALLY asexual.” Were there any times in your life where you’re like...
[hums in a thoughtful, then confirming manner]
Courtney: “That’s confirmation!”
Royce: Not explicitly. Maybe it’s something that’s been present for a long time, in one way or another. Maybe it’s been more subtle. I can’t think of many examples. I think the...realization that a lot of what people actually mean, when they start to talk about gender– at least from a social level– was stereotypical. And that we generally refer to stereotypes as...being negative, because they tend to be inaccurate. Public discourse about stereotypes is often about how they’re used...to discriminate, in one way or another. Is what I mean by that. I think I realized that at a young enough age, that it wasn’t surprising. To...feel detached from gender.
Royce: The only...thing that’s really coming to mind, is. When someone would talk, very explicitly, about masculinity or femininity. And say, “This is what it’s like to be a man” or “this is what it’s like to be a woman.” I’ve always thought that’s dumb. You’re a person before you are any gender. So, if you’re trying to apply a stereotype to someone, it’s always going to be some level of inaccurate. But I also kind of assumed that that’s what any self-aware person. Thought. [crosstalk][33:41] Without having that conversation.
Courtney: It’s not!
Courtney: Most people. Don’t think that way!
Courtney: Here’s a question for you. By this point, we’ve talked openly about how...we met. Our asexual love story. At the time we met online– on OkCupid– asexuality was not even an orientation that you could...select. They didn’t have an expanded gender selection, either. So we were both listed as...straight? I think? I think we were both “straight,” and...I was a woman, and...you were definitely listed as a man, too. But...in a world where we did not meet. If, right now, you were to...set up a new OkCupid profile. Do you think you would go through that selection process differently?
Royce: I don’t know for sure. Because, the purpose of being on a dating site is to meet people. If I don’t particularly care. About my gender. It’s probably in my best interest to...check the boxes that are actually going to help me meet the most people. Whereas...listing agender, and asexual, is probably going to remove me from a lot of searches with people that I might be able to get along with just fine. If we actually had a conversation. Even if...those are the more accurate answers. But that is. Using a site as a means to an end. Not really...using it as a chronicle of my identity.
Courtney: [dramatically] It’s not a reflection of your soul! Which, I do think, is very interesting. Because, when we met. We didn’t have these...gender...conversations. In fact, it was...well into our marriage, before you...defined things, in whatever way you can. And yet, it came as no surprise to me. And was actually...reaffirming, in a way? And made a lot of sense to me.
Courtney: When we very first...started speaking. Even when we were still long-distance. Being very monogamously-minded people, we...shut down looking for other people. We were like, “’Kay, found one!”
Courtney: [brightly] Luckily, it worked for us! But, I was...viscerally opposed, to...calling you my “boyfriend.” Even though, judging by your profile, you were listed as a man. There was something where I was like, “Eh. No. That doesn’t feel quite right.” I remember having the conversation with you about...are we putting a label on this? I suggested the term “partner,” and you...immediately said, ‘Yeah, I like the word “partner.”’ Was that just, in the moment, that sounded good? Or...was there anything inside of you, that was like, “Yeah, that’s actually a gender-neutral word, and I didn’t even have to ask for it!”
Royce: I think it’s more of the latter. I think it’s a term that says...as much as people need to know. Without inferring extra information. “Partner” also doesn’t...put a label on how serious, by conventional terms...a relationship is. If you compare that to...boyfriend, fiance, wife, husband, all of that. Partner gives the people you’re speaking to...the information that they need to know, for the purposes of that conversation.
Courtney:.Which, yeah. I don’t even know...what in me was like, “You are my partner. Not a boyfriend.” Immediately, it never even occurred...to me. To call you. My boyfriend. Even talking about it theoretically, it sounds...kinda wrong. Like, “That’s not quite correct.” I have said “husband,” on occasion, in the same way I’ll say “he/him” on occasion. When referring to you, and I box myself into a...
Courtney: ...sentence structure where I’ve already said “Royce” four times in the same sentence. But...I usually default to “spouse.” Which I think is very nice–
Courtney: Although that’s one frustrating thing. I’m gonna go on a little bit of a tangent here. That’s my least favorite part of the Swedish language– hello, we’re talking about Swedish in this podcast–
Courtney: I’m learning Swedish. I’ve been learning Swedish for a number of years now. They do not have a gender-neutral word for spouse. It’s always the equivalent of...husband. And wife. That...absolutely upsets me every time I. Talk. About. Royce. in Swedish
Courtney: I mean, talk about pronouns! So many different languages have a binary, pronoun, gender situation going on. Even Swedish has...gendered words. Not. Quite. To the extent of some other languages. I learned a fair bit of...Spanish, back in school– not as much as I would have liked to– but that’s a very...gendered language. Swedish is a little bit of the same way, but they have a very nice middle ground. For he and she, you have han. And hon. But you can say hen. To split the difference, and do a gender-neutral. I really like that. It flows very well in sentences. I can use hen without even thinking about it, even though I’m not totally fluent in that language yet. That’s very nice.
Courtney: But there is no gender-neutral word for spouse! I can’t stand that. I can, technically, say partner. That still works. I will stop ranting about the Swedish language now. It’s a lovely language. That’s my one...
Courtney: ...critique. If there are any Swedish listeners out there who know of a new, progressive word that is a gender-neutral version of that, please let me know! ’Cause I’ve been trying to look for it. For the most part, it looks like. In Sweden, most people who are talking about LGBT and gender issues, they just...flip back to English. Which doesn’t. Help. [quickly, pained] the English speaker who’s learning Swedish, very much.
[sound of dog’s claws tapping on hardwood floor, crossing the room]
Courtney: At. Any rate. There are...many, many nonbinary people. Or “enbys,” as some would say. Who are...trans. They identify with that term. Definitionally speaking, there is no doubt that it fits, when you consider that, the main component of transness is having a gender identity different from the one you were assigned at birth. Like all identities. It is an umbrella term. But, there are people on the nonbinary spectrum who do not identify as trans. You are...one of them. Could you, perhaps. Talk a little bit about what the word “trans” means to you, and why...you personally don’t see that as part of your own experience?
Royce: The first time you brought up “trans” as a...potential...nonbinary, or agender, identity. I was a little surprised for a moment, because that hadn’t occurred to me. Thinking about it more, I get why that would make sense for some people. The term...doesn’t really make sense for me. I think it’s because, when I think about “trans” I think about the act of actually transitioning. I don’t necessarily mean that in a...physical way. For me, it implies that there was some sort of transition period. Whether that was a...period of...acknowledgement, or affirmation, or reclamation, or something. I don’t feel like I have gone through any...notable change, or had a moment of awakening. I think that I’ve pretty much been...the way that I am. My whole life. I think that my identifying as agender. Is more of a. Disregard for. The labels that society has placed. Not a transition away from them. The concept that trans is. Being...different now, than you were assigned at birth. Well, if I don’t really acknowledge that social assignment at birth, I didn’t. Transition away from that, either.
Courtney: The “trans” meaning “transition”...to you. Does not. At all mean. That...someone who IS trans. Who, that is...the identity that. Is accurate to their experience. That does not mean that anyone HAS TO transition, or that there is a right or wrong way to do that. It certainly doesn’t mean that, people who...are...closeted, and trans, and haven’t come out yet, are any less trans. I think what you’re maybe getting at is... You are not changing your labels. You are shirking ALL of the labels. So why would you, personally, choose to. Add a new label. To your...desire to cast off all of the labels.
Royce: Right. It doesn’t really. Fit. For. How I feel. It’s...another box. Or, a larger box, with several boxes inside of it, that I–
Courtney: [teasing] You see, the box is a spectrum. There are so many boxes!
Royce: But yes, in case...that wasn’t clear. Courtney, you’ve said this a couple of times. The whole purpose of this. Episode, was to try to take. Whatever it is inside my head. Throw it onto the microphone and make sense of it. Not to try to categorize other people.
Courtney: Yeah. In the...Russian nesting doll...
Courtney: ...that is. Gender experience, and sexuality spectrums. There are so many...microlabels, under umbrella terms... The whole point of all of this is to use what resonates with you. What makes sense. What is useful to you. If you’re using the language as a tool. To...express yourself, to others, in the world. That is. What they are there for. On the other side, if labels don’t work for you? If it doesn’t make sense. If it doesn’t feel right. That is no less valid of an experience.
Courtney: My one big fear with– well, not just this episode, but. Talking about our own personal experiences, at all, on any level– is that someone’s going to hear OUR experience, and think that we’re trying to project that on...the entire community. Either the entire asexual community, or the entire agender community. That is. Never! Going to be our intention. Whatsoever. But, having these. Very. Historically, invisible. Identities. There’s this...widespread feeling of needing to walk on eggshells, when you’re talking about your own experience, especially online, on Twitter. When you’re able to communicate with hundreds of people. At a time. Who you’ve never met in person. Some of these communities can get really, really defensive of their own labels. It’s really important to know that. Labels...aren’t going to mean the same to everybody. When we’re talking about our own experiences, it is truly just that. It is our own.
Courtney: We want to emphasize that, and also say that, our experience is not the end-all, be-all. If we are the first. Asexual people you’ve ever listened to, don’t stop there. Go and find...other asexual experiences, so you can get a more, well-rounded, outlook. For what. This identity is. And who we are, as a community. If Royce is the first...mehgender person...
Courtney: ...you’ve ever heard from. Seek out others. You could very easily find someone who says, “Yes, I am agender.” They might feel very-very strongly about that. They might very heavily emphasize “They/them pronouns only. It will feel bad, and wrong, if you use a gendered pronoun to refer to me.” They might consider themselves trans. And their experience is absolutely correct, and valid.
Courtney: But I really do keep coming back...
Courtney: ...to the memes that say “My pronouns are none.” There are a lot of people who see those memes, and they’re like “Yup. That is me. I feel that.”
Courtney: Even if they aren’t the most visible voices. Even if they aren’t the loudest voices, in the conversation. They are still there.
Courtney: So Royce, given everything we’ve talked about. And the fact that you are now a...somewhat open and public...queer person, online. [teasing] How do you feel about the fact that multiple people in the last month or two have...asked you what your pronouns are?