After last semester’s (second annual) Transgender Day of Remembrance debacle, I was hoping I could ride out the rest of my senior year without being incensed by something the Michigan Daily printed. I guess it helps that I don’t read it much anyway, and that this semester I will be on campus only seven or eight hours a week, but the first friend I ran into today at the Union showed me the first issue of The Statement for the new year. The Statement is the Daily‘s magazine insert, published every Wednesday. I have in the past at least found the contents of The Statement interesting. Today’s cover took me by surprise.

Statement Cover

The cut-off text on my hasty scan reads “HIS APPLE. HER APPLE. ? APPLE.” The byline for the article is “Why singular pronouns aren’t as simple as a rule in the grammar book.” Already I could feel redness filling my face when my friend showed me this. The implications of the symbolism here are clear. People who don’t conform to the gender binary (and quite rigidly too — note the “man” apple’s huge stache and the “woman” apple’s pouty red lips) are incomplete people: monsterous and frightening.

What makes this image even worse is the rigidity of the binary gender system the cover expresses. The “man” apple is burly and hairy. The “woman” apple is made-up with mascara and lipstick. If this is what “men” are supposed to be and what “women” are supposed to be, you’d be hard-pressed to find too many “men” and “women” on this campus.

A greater affront is, after this negative protrayal of gender non-conforming people, the article goes on to only mention transgender issues curtly, in a single sentence. That sentence paints with a broad brush a stereotypical transperson.

In a more recent movement, “hir” and “ze” (pronounced “here” and “zee”) are sometimes used to describe transgender people — a contemporary challenge that confronts the idea of epicene English like never before.

This isn’t even an accurate representation of how many transpeople feel about gender neutral pronouns. The wording is all wrong. For an article about grammar and semantics, it sure is off the mark. A better construction would point out that some transgender-identified people prefer the gender neutral pronouns. Not all do. Nor do all gender-neutral pronoun preferers choose “ze” and “hir.” A little additional research here would have probably been helpful. I think that the lack of information here also bothers me because there is an implication that people who opt into gender neutral pronouns are “just” playing a language-game. It is kind of belittling, really.

And that’s all that the article says about transgender people. I’m not going to pretend like transpeople matter an awful lot to the vast majority of the Daily’s readership, but the issue to me is not that there isn’t any discussion, but the fact there are glaring missed opportunities and where the opportunity is taken, there is misinformation. We’re talking about confronting the gender binary, here, people. I live this. Give me a little credit where credit is due.

I’m pretty tired of raging against the Michigan Daily, but they really don’t give me any choice. Some of my LGBT Commission friends say the Daily wants to talk more about these issues, but it seems to me like the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Which happens. But that doesn’t make it permissible to portray my folk as incomplete monstrosities of people.

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