Ways with Words | Beyond Binaries || Radcliffe Institute

[MUSIC PLAYING] -Good morning, everyone It’s great to see such a good crowd at 9:00 in the morning It’s going to be a great day Welcome to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study I’m Liz Cohen I’m dean here at the Radcliffe Institute And I am so pleased to welcome you to today’s conference, Ways With Words– Exploring Language and Gender As an Institute for Advanced Study, the Radcliffe Institute is dedicated to inquiry that transcends disciplinary boundaries and to sharing the fruits of that inquiry with a broad public audience through events like this one and many others For example, this year, we are partnering with the Harvard University Native American Program on Native and Indigenous Peoples Initiative, which will culminate with a conference entitled Native Peoples, Native Politics on Friday, April 29 And I hope you’ll join us for that We also bring a wide array of leading thinkers and public intellectuals to Radcliffe Yard, such as our current Radcliffe fellow, Michael Pollan, the renown journalist best known for his investigative reporting on the food industry Pollan will be speaking on Wednesday, April 6, and I can promise you a fascinating lecture We will conclude our programming for the academic year on Radcliffe Day, Friday, May 27, when we will award the annual Radcliffe medal to Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve That day will feature an exceptional panel on a topic that is very close to Yellen’s head and heart, Building an Economy for Prosperity and Equality The afternoon will include remarks from Ben Bernake, Yellen’s predecessor as chair of the Fed, followed by a conversation between Yellen and Harvard professor of economics, Greg Mankiw And you can find information on ticketing through our Radcliffe website Video of all of the events I’ve mentioned will also be available on our website Today we are gathered for this year’s major conference on an important aspect of gender We do so because a multidisciplinary approach is exactly the way to study gender, an issue that is both enormously complex and also at the heart of human experience We have a wonderfully diverse array of human experience here with us today, not just on the program, but also in the audience As you sit here in the Knafel Center, you are surrounded by inventors, journalists, social workers, investment bankers, speech therapists, physicists, and many activists You include the students and faculty from across the Harvard campus, from all around the Boston region, and from universities further afield like Yale, the University of Santa Clara, and the University of Oslo in Norway Viewers worldwide are also watching today’s conference through live streaming on our website And in the months ahead, viewers around the globe will be able to watch the video online Whether you are here in person or whether you are joining us virtually, you are in for an exciting program I want to take a moment to thank John Huth, today’s conference organizer and faculty co-director of the science program here at Radcliffe He has worked incredibly hard putting this conference together and he did so with the help of Radcliffe staff, especially Rebecca Wassarman and her team, as well as many Harvard faculty, departments, and centers across the university I am grateful to all of them and to our speakers and panelists for the expertise they bring to today’s exploration of gender and language The theme of gender and language makes something of a departure from many of the topics that our gender conferences have tackled in the past In recent years, we’ve explored gender and the public’s health, gender and migration, gender and violence, and women and democracy, and perhaps some of you have been here for those events These are all topics with obvious public policy relevance In contrast, today’s conference, which focuses on language as a fluid reflection of cultural practices, might at first seem to be more abstract But the truth is that we are surrounded by questions of gender and language all the time Right now, for example, a writer in our fellowship program is working on a novel with a transgender person as one of the central characters And as we look ahead to next year, Jennifer Finney Boylan, author and advocate

for transgender rights, will be delivering a lecture in February And this is not just happening at Radcliffe Everywhere we look lately, we see the language of gender identity, the implications of gendered language for data analysis, and the role of gendered language in public discourse Let me share just a few recent examples with you When David Bowie, a popular music superstar over five decades, died in January, Salon.com ran a eulogy with a headline that read “A bold, knowing, charismatic creature neither male nor female.” In the same month, Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter movement criticized President Barack Obama’s State of the Union for its failure to address, and these are Garza’s words, and I quote, “the needs of black cisgender and transgender women and black immigrant women.” Just yesterday, a headline in the Harvard Crimson that I noticed read “Gender Neutral Bathroom Defaced.” Meanwhile, women’s colleges across the United States are reassessing their admissions policies to take into account transgender applicants Facebook, the popular social media network, now offers its users 50 gender self-identification categories And both the New York Times and the Boston Globe recently ran feature articles on the search for gender neutral pronouns in the English language, a search that turns out to have been going on for a very long time Geoffrey Chaucer and Jane Austen, just to mention two, both racked their literary brains for gender neutral alternatives to “he” and “she.” In fact, the American Dialect Society has just named the word “they,” when used as a gender neutral singular pronoun, as its Word of the Year for 2015 And I could go on, but I think you get the point The relationship between gender and language is so ubiquitous that it can become a bit like the air, something that is so constantly present that we never really stop to notice it because we rarely think about it in any sustained or purposeful way So today, we will stop to focus on the interplay between gender and language at this precise moment in time Our aim today is more descriptive than prescriptive We strive to question and to understand And to help us, we have an impressive group of panelists and speakers, and John Huth will provide us with a fuller overview to all of them in just a moment As I mentioned earlier, John is faculty co-director of our science program He is a walking definition of interdisciplinarity Besides being a physicist, he has expertise in planetary science, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, history, languages, and track and field He is also the author, most recently, of a book about navigation called The Lost Art of Finding Our Way And I’m sure that under John’s expert direction, we will all find our way today to a stimulating day Thank you, John [APPLAUSE] -Thanks, Liz Oh, boy After that, hope I can make it work Well, welcome to the Radcliffe Institute And I’m glad to see such a great turnout and hope to get some great questions and panelists We have a really good lineup today So let me begin by answering the question that I’ve gotten a number of times with respect to this conference How can an experimental particle physicist in the physics department at Harvard University host a conference or how did I come to host a conference on language and gender? Because it seems like a bit of a stretch So let me explain First of all, the partial answer is Radcliffe really pushes me a lot and it’s been a learning experience But there are two stories that created this, in some sense So the first was I was a minority male in a majority female meeting at Radcliffe and I noticed the discourse, which I couldn’t really get into because I couldn’t figure out the rules And so somebody would speak Somebody else, the next person, would reflect what the other person said and then go into their thoughts After that meeting, I went to a physics department meeting, which was majority male And the men would just interrupt each other constantly and the few women in the audience couldn’t get a word in edgewise And there was no reflection whatsoever So that was very striking In fact, it was something that I had learned

about as an abstract concept in the 1970s, but I’d never really thought about it And here I was presented with a living realization in two meetings of this dynamic that I’d heard about The other was a few months later at my church, the United Parish of Auburndale, we had a transgender minister come and give a sermon, but the sermon was really about the challenges that he faced basically transitioning, coming out, discrimination, poverty, all sorts of issues And then we had a panel of transgender people who would talk about their experiences and just amplified what the minister said But what emerged in that discussion was the importance of language to these people I mean, for example, just the pronouns that are used for you can either be helpful or they can be almost an attack on your person And these two things coupled together made me, for the next year, hyper-alert to the language of gender, and I was constantly seeking out more information and noticing that things were in flux In a lot of cases, I make the mistaken assumption that when I enter a culture or an institution, that things are dynamic But really, over time, I find that things are changing And so what I was really seeing was that there was some segment of language and the language of gender that was changing Now, the study of language and gender is not new In fact, at least as far back as 1665, it was written about There was a writer, Charles de Rochefort, who wrote about a language in the Lesser Antilles where the people, if you as an outsider just entered and listened to what was going on, it seemed like women and men were speaking entirely different languages This was 1665 More recently, the studies of gender and language emerged in the 1960s where, for example, it was observed that women tend to lead linguistic change rather than men So if you really want to find what’s the rules of language, you go to an elder male in that society because they’re the last ones to change their language habits, which it’s true Feminists such as linguist Robin Lakoff studied this in the 70s, Penny Eckert into the 80s, and so on So the question is, what’s new? What can we learn now? Because languages are in flux In fact, the flux, the changes, the mutation rate, is so predictable that if you take a proto-language and then you take and separate two groups of people geographically, you can study the languages after some length of time and by knowing the mutation rate, you can identify how long ago the languages separated from the proto-language just by understanding the change rate Not only that, but a language may come in contact with another language and absorb some of the terms from the other language until it becomes commonplace And so sometimes there are arcs where a word may be the neutral word of the borrowed language, may have a pejorative connotation as it gets absorbed, and then may get grasped by the people who it’s describing So rather than to examine language as a purely academic concept, what I wanted to do for this conference was to turn the tables and use language as a kind of lens or mirror with which we can look at culture and use the changes in language as a way of examining the changes in culture So it’s basically turning the table on what you might call a language or a linguistic study So to do that, we’re bringing together people who, I would say, would be on the front lines of linguistic change, the practitioners, the people who are employing words themselves in an everyday sense, studying the changes in an everyday sense So using that theme, we arrived at the panels and the speakers that we have before you today And I’ll work backwards So the last part of the day is public discourse, where we have people who are active in politics, advertising, and in screenwriting and directing And the idea there is that ostensibly, at least at a first blush, you might imagine that the target audience would be 50% men, 50% women Yet the content that’s being generated is by 95% men So you might ask the question, to what extent does that reinforce all sorts of norms that may not be obvious to people? And how do advertising executives, screenwriters, for example, tackle this when they’re women?

Before that, we have a session on big data The emergence of social networking, social media can provide both a tool for people to use to understand language usage– what does that tell us, what is the experience of people online based on their gender, and what kind of new language might emerge? Last night, Robin Young actually recapitulated a problem that I had with the term “LOL” in texting Like me, she thought it meant Lots of Love And so it led to odd texts like, “Boy, you’re going up against a big challenge this morning I wish the best for you Good luck LOL.” And so I actually committed that mistake myself, which is a good example that you’d better know the usage of a term before you start throwing it out trying to be hip And our morning session is entitled Beyond Binary And we have Janet Mock, who will be speaking as a keynote interviewed by Moya Bailey So what we’re trying to explore here is how the emergence, to a greater public awareness, of trans issues has created, in some sense, a language challenge– for example, the usage of pronouns But even more than that, it’s a question that a lot of people are not wanting to be identified by a specific binary So what we’ll hear, I think, about the concept of passing and whether or not that’s even a good concept at all I’ll notice that dictionaries, for example, capture what you might call the old male sense of what words are viable in a language So I’ll note that the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003 entered “transgender” as a word and “cisgender” in 2013 as a word So already, there is some sense of change as captured by the OED In terms of “they” as a singular, it’s also a generational marker I note that my daughters use it all the time When I talk with friends of my generation, they will immediately correct me On the other hand, I’ve slipped into this When I’ve been writing in books and papers, I sometimes use “they” unconsciously I didn’t even realize that I was doing it But in fact, I did use “they” and I got corrected So we’ll be exploring the issue of gender binary and the question of how people would like to be identified and how language can be used in a positive fashion One woman last night was talking about the desire to raise her child in a gender neutral home and, more recently, in a pangender home, so the sense that the child can pick and choose gender attributes in this different way So what I’d like to do is invite the panel up So we have Rebecca Bigler, Wesley Thomas, and Bear Bergman And to moderate the panel, we have Stephanie Burt So can you come up? And while you’re taking the stage, I’ll just close with one, I guess, anecdote Last night, thinking about this panel, I went into my Facebook page and went to the little identifiers And I chose my gender to be “cismale” and I also chose my pronoun to be “they.” So when my birthday comes up in two weeks, people are going to see, “John Huth’s birthday is today Wish them a happy birthday.” So– [LAUGHTER] No You can go up and check OK So you can see that I’m in dynamic change OK So the moderator for today’s panel is Stephanie Burt, who is a professor of English -Hi Yeah -And a poet– -Yep —writes poetry, but also writes about poetry And I just wanted to share the title of one book that stood out to me, which was Close Calls with Nonsense– Reading New Poetry So I have to pick that up So Stephanie? -It’s waiting for you Thank you [APPLAUSE] OK Thank you all for coming I believe it’s my job to introduce and, what do we say, contextualize our panelists who we’re so lucky to have had travel to be here And we will have about 15 minutes of each of our panelists speaking, Rebecca Bigler and Wesley Thomas and Bear Bergman And are we going to go in that order, or–

-Yeah -OK Great We’ll then have 20 minutes of talk among ourselves, as it were, and then 20 minutes or so of time for your questions Is that right? Yeah I have been asked to introduce and contextualize What’s your pronoun? That question was unusual, except maybe in an introductory language class, 10 or 12 years ago And now it’s something that a lot of us hear frequently or regularly, especially if we identify as trans or are under a certain age or are teachers Notice “or” not “and.” Some of us even have two names And thank you, by the way I’m Stephanie today Both names and all the pronouns you can think of that are for people are correct I’m going to continue to be both, but I am Stephanie today And that, again, is something that I can say to this crowd of lots of people– thank you for coming– and it will sort of make sense And you’ve probably heard it from other people in other places These are indications that language is changing and society is changing, and each kind of change helps drive the other And things are changing not just for people with unusual relationships to gender, but for everyone, as a result. And things are changing audibly and legibly as well as visibly Things are changing not only around conversational and informal language, but around legal language, the language that government institutions use to regulate or attempt not to regulate us Things are changing for works of art Things are changing in terms of what is possible and what has to be explained and what the baseline of assumptions possible for a set of readers is for essayists and memoirists like Bear Bergman, who I’m so happy to have here Hi Things are changing for memoirists of many other kinds Things are changing for poets In 2013, Troubling the Line, which is a terrific book that you should check out if you read modern poetry, appeared from Nightboat Books It is the first, and it’s a very big, anthology of trans and gender queer poets and writings on poetry And I’m sure there will be more Things are changing for comic books One of my favorite current comic books is Jem and the Holograms If you saw the movie, I’m sorry If you watched the TV show growing up, good for you Whether or not you did either of those things, you might want to check out this comic, which is very interested in visual as well as legible representations of different ways, in particular, of being a woman and of being a girl One of the artists, the artist who has the most to do with a look of the comic, Sophie Campbell, who is out as a translady And in the current issue, number 12, of the current plot-line, one of the supporting characters comes out as trans They’re also doing amazing things with other kind of inclusive language and with girls’ and women’s body shapes And we should do something about comics here, gender in the visual Maybe that’s for 2018, but one more partly verbal medium in which you can really see language change just over the past few years And it’s changing in terms of the language that we use with children and about children as well as the language we use with our college age students, or if we are college age– traditional college age, I should say– or 30 or 40 or 50 or 85 I have two awesome children And when I meet people and they discover that I have two awesome children, I’m often asked, is each one a girl or a boy? And they’re 5 and 10 and we’re pretty sure But when they were infants, I was always tempted first to say, why is that the first question you’re asking me; I wish it were not, and then to say, well, we think that we have a boy, but of course we won’t know for sure until they’re two or three and can tell us I think that’s actually the right answer, of course We’ll know when they’re or two or three and they’ll tell us Probability suggests that they’re boys And in fact, I have two boys And why would that not be the right answer? Why would you not say that every time you were asked? Why would that answer make cisgender parents and non-parents uncomfortable, if it does? Why is that still the first question that parents get asked? Why? Why? I hope we’ll get to answer some of those questions today And I hope you see how the answers are changing, but how far we still have to go and how many questions we still

don’t know the answers to And I also hope today that we are going to see, and this is some place where audience participation can really help, how not just what social [INAUDIBLE] you use and what year it is, who your friends are, and how old you are affects the way that language and gender shape your sense of yourself and of others, but also how other actual languages can make the answers to all those questions super different I don’t read Persian, although I do read some poetry in translation from Persian, and I know people who read Persian And it’s my understanding that pronouns in Persian do not have genders at all Any Persian speakers? Yeah? Is that right? -Yeah -That is right? Thank you OK When I am speaking English, I have to tell people whether I prefer “he” or “she” on a given day, and the answer is usually both are fine I’m “she” today Hi But if we were all speaking Persian, this just wouldn’t arise and we could use that energy worrying about something else I think that would be really cool I want to learn Persian -Yeah, but then a lot of us would be out of jobs, so– -Well, I feel like you’d be fine [LAUGHTER] Your range as a writer extends far beyond that But that’s just one example My understanding is that we’re going to be hearing from Wesley Thomas about some of the ways in which different kinds of gendered language happen in Navajo or Dine Did I pronounce that correctly? -Yes -Dine Yeah We will be hearing more about gender and expectations and how children use language from Rebecca Bigler And we will be hearing– I’m not sure what we’re going to hear, but it’s going to be great, from one of the many topics having to do with gender and embodiment and sociability and prose style– Bear Bergman’s prose style is so amazing Please go read Bear’s essays– and parenthood The new book is called blood– I’m going to get one of the nouns wrong– blood, glitter, wine– -Blood, Marriage, Wine, and Glitter -Marriage, wine, and glitter Marriage is the only abstract noun in there so my memory was creating a cluster of concrete nouns– and the relation between the book before that, which has the most focused essays on gender and language and trans stuff that’s not about parenthood, is called The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, from Arsenal Pulp Press I recommend both of those books And we’re going to be hearing a lot more about what’s abstract and what’s concrete and how language works from our three panelists And I invite you to listen to them all [APPLAUSE] -I’m Rebecca Bigler I’m delighted to be here and open our session The title of my talk is Gendered Language and Sexist Thought I want to just start by briefly acknowledging two important collaborators in my life academics, Campbell Leaper at UC-Santa Cruz and Lynn Liben at the Pennsylvania State University I take full responsibility for my remarks today, but I want to acknowledge their contributions to my thought and work So hypotheses about the relation between language on one hand and thought on the other date back centuries Although many mysteries remain, psychological science has discovered much about how the two are connected The relation between language and thought is reciprocally causal Each shapes the other in ways that are consequential for human behavior My primary interest today is in the principle of linguistic relativity often known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which states that language shapes the ways that people perceive and think about the world Words refer to concepts and having a word for something affects how one thinks about the world In my talk, I will summarize new and striking evidence that the mere use of words to denote or mark gender, referred to as gendered language, facilitates gender bias In other words, my thesis will be that gendered language causes sexist thought Languages across the world vary in the extent to which they mark gender and the ways in which they do so For the purposes of my talk, I am going to focus on English The English language includes many means of marking gender, including honorific titles, occupational titles, pronouns Two points about gendered language are important

First, words that denote gender in English use a binary system There are two dichotomist markings for gender, male and female There is no linguistic convention in English for marking individuals who fall outside of or between the categories male and female Second, it is typically, but not always, possible to use gender neutral nouns to label people and thus, speakers and writers can opt or not to specify someone’s gender in a statement There are obviously some contexts in which it’s pertinent to mark individuals’ gender, for example, when discussing some medical conditions that are sex linked or discussing gender discrimination In the vast majority of instances, however, individuals’ gender is marked unnecessarily, as when teachers greet their students, “Good morning, boys and girls” instead of “Good morning, students” or a parent informs a spouse, “I’ll pick up the girls from school” rather than, “I’ll pick up the kids from school.” Unlike nouns, however, English singular third person pronouns require the marking of gender As a consequence, it is nearly impossible in English to write or talk about other individuals without indicating their gender and simultaneously forcing them into the category male or female So what, one might ask? One possible response is that gendered language reifies a gender binary view and thus does not allow for individuals who have identities that fall between or outside of male or female Indeed, some individuals have identities outside the gender binary and this, I would argue, is sufficient grounds for calling for language reform It is not, however, the only basis to call for language reform Although the routine use of gender labeling via nouns and pronouns has been a long accepted practice in English in the United States, there is mounting evidence of harmful consequences associated with the practice, especially among children Empirical evidence suggests that rather than being innocuous, gendered language profoundly affects children’s gender stereotyping and prejudice It does so via the processes of categorization and conceptualization It is now well established that language affects children’s categorization of both inanimate objects and animate beings In the words of Roger Brown, “Words serve as invitations to form categories” and infants and young children readily accept such invitations The clearest demonstration of the power of labels to induce categorization comes, perhaps, from the systematic research of Sandra Waxman Waxman and her colleagues have shown that infants between three months of age and two years of age respond differently to the identical stimuli as a function of whether or not they are given a noun label For example, Booth and Waxman presented 14-month-old infants with small models of familiar stimuli such as cars or horses Some infants heard the objects labeled with the same noun, whereas others were presented with the same objects with no labels On test trials, infants were more likely to select a familiar than a novel category object if they had been exposed to labels only In later work, the authors extended the paradigm to novel stimuli, eliminating the possibility that the words were merely calling to mind already formed categories For example, infants who heard novel objects labeled with the same noun were more likely to respond to the perceptual commonalities among the objects than infants who did not hear labels Categorization, in turn, affects conceptualization of stimuli Categorization leads children to make inferences about category members For example, categorization induces essentialist reasoning Essentialist reasoning is defined as the tendency to believe that category members share natures or essences that make them what they are Susan Gelman and her colleagues have generated an impressive array of evidence that category labels lead children to infer that the members of a category share inherent, deep, meaningful commonalities, even in the absence of perceptual or conceptual similarities Consistent with this notion, preschool children readily make gender stereotypic inferences about unfamiliar children on the basis of their gender noun

labels and gendered first names Thus, children raised in the presence of pervasive gender noun labels are likely to categorize others they encounter by gender and assume that same gender individuals are similar to each other in many and important ways Given that essentialist thought characterizes children’s views of social categories, the learning of gender categories is likely to promote stereotyping Indeed, categorization has long been considered a key process in the development of all social stereotypes and biases In 2006, Lynn Liben and I published a theoretical account of the formation of social stereotypes and prejudices in children titled “Developmental Intergroup Theory.” We noted that humans vary along myriad dimensions which offer children bases for classification including height, hair color, handedness, whether your earlobes are attached or not, gender, race, etc We argued that children look to cues from adults about which attributes should serve as a basis for classification Gendered language is a powerful cue It leads children to categorize themselves and others on that basis As a consequence of such categorisation, children, as I noted, endorsed gender essentialist views and attend to and learn the attributes that are linked with gender in their environment As a result, children as young as age three rigidly endorse stereotypes about occupations, activities, traits, and other attributes In addition to affecting children’s gender-related cognitions, gendered language appears to affect children’s affect, their interests, and their behavior As noted earlier, the psychological salience of gender induced by labels leads children to categorize themselves into gender in-group and gender out-groups, triggering strong preferences for same gender peers For example, children who have acquired an understanding of the words “boy” and “girl” spend more time playing with same gender peers than do children without such knowledge Furthermore, experimental manipulations of the degree to which gender is labeled, for example, by preschool teachers in a classroom shows causal effects on those preschoolers’ peer relations, with children showing declines in play with cross-gender peers when their preschool teachers label gender, as in, “Good morning, boys and girls.” Many additional studies show that gendered labeling affects children and adults’ personal preferences and behavior Finally, additional evidence for the role of category labeling in producing stereotypes and prejudice comes from studies of novel categories In my own long line of 25 years of research, I place children in novel social groups, often red and blue groups, and manipulate the characteristics of the environment over as many as two months of school What I find in our line of work is that when teachers label the novel groups saying, “Good morning, reds and blues” and, “Blues, line up” and, “Let’s have a blue bulletin board and a red bulletin board,” children become biased on the basis of group membership When, on the other hand, teachers ignore those group differences, even though they’re highly perceptually salient, children do not develop biases at all To sum up, consistent with the principle of linguistic relativity, gendered language has been shown to influence individuals’ gender-related cognitions, affect, and behavior Specifically, the use of gendered language appears to cause children to attend to gender, categorize themselves and others by gender, and believe that the members of gender share deep, meaningful, important similarities In addition, the use of gender labels leads children to construct and learn stereotypes about gender and show in-group favoritism OK Because the use of gendered labels appears to precipitate a cascading sequence of gender salience, categorization, stereotyping, and prejudice, some individuals have called for the elimination of the routine and non-purposeful use of gender labels Teachers, for example, could refrain from using gender to label children and organize their classrooms Imagine, for example, that a teacher greeted his students with the phrase, “Good morning, blacks and Latinos Let’s have the white children get their pencils Could we sit white, Latino, white, Latino today?”

That, in fact, violates federal law, and for good reason I would like to see similar laws prohibit the use of gender to routinely label and organize children in educational settings I’m looking for a lawyer who wants to do that [LAUGHTER] Consistent with this idea, US colleges have instituted policies, some that minimize gender labeling and classification, including the creation of all-gender dorms and all-gender bathrooms Oberlin College, for example, my alma mater, uses an E system Bathrooms are marked with a default E for Everyone, but that E can be rotated to temporarily make it W for Women and M for Men. [LAUGHTER] This solution, like others, including this one, are insufficient in my view, however, because they continue to make gender salient to children and use gender as a basis for classification My ideal marking of bathrooms would be something like this [LAUGHTER] Although it is possible for speakers to avoid gendered nouns, this is not possible with English pronouns The absence of gender neutral pronouns is problematic for many reasons, but among them is the work that I just described Empirical evidence suggests that gendered language causes sexist thought To address this problem, an increasing number of speakers and writers are using new gender neutral pronouns such as “ze” and “hir,” just one of several possible conventions Indeed, in the last year, I have come to refer to myself and request that others refer to me using gender neutral pronouns The request derives from my conviction that altering linguistic input to youth, including the elimination of routine gender labeling and the introduction of gender neutral pronouns, is an essential component of efforts to prevent gender stereotyping and prejudice in children Indeed, I would argue that it is a necessary, albeit not sufficient, component of preventing and reducing stereotyping in children It is my hope and belief that freeing children from proscriptive and prescriptive labels and beliefs about gender will lead them to lead happier, more fulfilling, and more productive lives Thank you [APPLAUSE] -Thank you so much We’re going to hear from everybody individually before we have an exchange Wesley Thomas? -[SPEAKING NAVAJO] Good morning When we greet and address an audience, we generally go beyond who is visually in our visions We greet to the middle of the universe and to the middle of the earth, to all points We sing greetings to all living things in between when we use our language And our language is considered powerful We construct our reality with our words So it’s really shunned on if you insult somebody because you’re literally telling them where to go, for an example, and there’s repercussion to that And so language and words are very important What you’re saying is what you really mean because you took the time to conjure up that thought So thought and enacting it, you present it in speech And there, you construct the reality of what’s going to happen, what’s going to take place, and how you greet people outside of you One of the works that I’ve been doing for quite a while, probably similar to Rebecca, about 25, 30 years, one point when I got into graduate school, I had to go back to, I guess, called ground zero to look at the evolution of our creation stories We have creation stories that provide us the guidance of how to live your life So it all goes back to the creation story

If there’s a question, we always go back to the creation story because that’s the ones that establish all the rules of how to live In that, also, is gender identity How did gender evolve? And I had to go back to the creation story And in that, I was not a medicine person Within the many tribes through the United States, there are very few and selected people who serve as medicine people with their particular tribes By the way, there’s about 557 tribes in the United States recognized by the federal government An additional 300-plus is not recognized by the federal government because they either had a very low number or they lost their language So language becoming a very critical part in Native communities, that you actually have to speak it to not be eliminated as a federal government in the United States So there’s about 150 that are in that gray area Out of that 557, I would estimate probably 120 of them still have access to the language Of those, that particular group, about 25% of them have direct connection to the language, but not necessarily speak it fluently I’d say probably less than 10 of the tribes in the United States are fluent in the language and you still hear that in their homes So it’s a very, very small percentage So language plays a huge role in maintaining their status under the US government So in my work, I was very curious about gender because when I was about five years old, my father– we’d go to one of the winter ceremonies And these men and women are dancing outside in the winter and it’s snowing And he said, you need to watch that because, as I said, when you grow up, you have to dance in that particular dance that they’re doing And I was very curious as to, why me? What about my cousins? What about my neighbors? How come they can’t do that? And he basically told me ’cause you’re born into it That is part of your individual heritage, that you do that And in those dances, there’s obviously, men dancing, males dancing There’s a representation of female And these were not females These were men dressed in women’s clothing, and very feminine And I just had a passing and seeing that and then I’ve never really thought about it until later on why is they’re representing the women in it? And in my own studies, I was looking at religion worldwide and I’ve noticed that most of them are male dominated Just look at the Vatican In our own tribe, women cannot be part of the ceremonies because women have natural power which supersedes man-made ceremonies, man-made religion Women have natural powers through their menstruation So in a lot of writings, they would say that women are isolated or that it’s considered bad or– women were isolated in tribal communities because of the natural power they possess They would undo ceremonies So there was a big separation there And in that are what are called now the third gender, are people who are born as male, but switched or clearly define their feminine side and evolve and live the life of girls and emerge into womanhood and live their lives as women So these are the ones I call third gender And we also have female children, female babies, who function in the role of boys and men Those are the fourth gender I had to create distinctly those four to make sense of what was going on And this is all from a traditional Navajo perspective This is something that is obviously there through their eyes And we’re not even entertaining a Western construct And that’s coming later in my work In this, I was looking at, why do traditional people view

this as a third gender? And my work also began looking at some of the works being done by anthropologists, sociologists, about the continuum of culture My grandmother, my great-grandmother, all of those people, are– today, I would consider them traditional people My mother, she has access to all of modern technology She understands English, but doesn’t speak it And so I’d classify her as being a transitional She is in the transition in having access to a lot of things from the Western culture And I can’t fit into those two categories Because traditionals don’t leave the reservation They’re monolingual They’re completely rooted into the traditional ceremonies And the transitionals are a little bit flexible, meaning they can leave the reservation and feel comfortable outside for a while, but they’re quite insistent in the afternoon, they need to return to the reservation They need to go home They’re really reluctant to spend a night away from home because home is essential It’s important Everything there is important I’m in a contemporary category That’s the third one My Western education yanked me into that category And being bilingual in the language and bicultural, live in both of them, one at a time, not at the same time, I think that creates a lot of confusion where you try to live both of them And then the fourth category I’ve come up with is– I call them acculturated They’re in the process of being acculturated into mainstream America And then the last one, the fifth one, assimilated They’ve completely assimilated This is just one particular tribe, that’s my tribe The Navajo name is a name given to us by the Spaniards We don’t mostly call ourselves– if you really ask somebody on the reservation what tribe are you, they would say Dine I’m Dine– I’m of the people “Navajo” is a colonial term Then we generally don’t go and say oh, I’m American Indian or I’m Native American or Indigenous Those are just lumping people together In this identity issue, some of my students– when I was teaching at Indiana University, it was a really a good example of my students They would say, are you American Indian? I would say yes because that means there’s less to explain If I say I’m Dine, they have no concept with it Then I have to go into this long spiel of explaining to them So you have to pick and choose So in a way, I think that’s called a situational identity We have that one [? quite ?] there In that continuum, one gender I focused on was the third gender In Navajo, that’s called Natlee, N-A-T-L-E-E If you look at that up there, besides, you see “self.” To the left of it, it says “Natlee.” There’s a high tone marker over the A. That’s Natlee It basically means, in Navajo language or Dine language, that one who’s in a constant state of change You don’t know when the change began You don’t know when it’s going to end or is it ever going to end It’s in that constant state of change That’s the third gender And this particular talk is from one of the more recent writings that I’m doing It’s called “Development and Evolution of Dine Third Gender,” information from that I was looking at we now have the more modernized third gender The Natlee was the traditional third gender, but the TGs, transgenders, are reinventing themselves, are rehashing some of the terminologies that we had in the language and beginning to use that That’s one of the same reasons why on a broader scale in North America and South America, we’re going to need to use to utilize the term two-spirit Two-spirit is– how did that get created? In the ’50s, there’s a major push to put Native childrens in school So they were taken to boarding schools, some of them

literally kidnapped from whatever they were doing and put in boarding schools Then there are those who are voluntarily leaving the reservation in the 1960s because of the mandate that all children need to be in schools and some of them didn’t want to or some of them prefer not to be in school So people who would have lived a life of Natlee within my reservation– and each of the tribes in the United States have their own term for third and fourth gender There’s some more work that was done by Will Roscoe in collecting terminology Like, for example, the tribe south of us is the Zuni Pueblo, the third gender there is called Lhamana There’s some major writings done by Will Roscoe which is called We’wha came to Washington, DC and went to the ball there and assumed she was a real woman until later on, they found out And she did some exhibition there And she fell into the third gender category Because gender supersedes your sexual identity What you do as a man or a woman is more important than your biological makeup Because your mind and your spirit, the mental aspect of you, is more important than biologically of what you’re made of and traditional categories, that they see– if you are comfortable as a girl, there was permission within tribes, especially tribes that were matrilineal, that the women were the heads of household, that the whole tribe was operating under the women’s rules, then patrilineal Patrilineal, there was a lot of confrontation So there’s very few third and fourth gender in the patrilineal tribal societies These were warring tribes of the past I was just in San Francisco two weeks ago They had a big gathering of– it’s called the International Two-Spirit Powwow So it’s a lot of dancing, powwow dancing, cross dressing powwows There was Miss International Two-Spirit, who was from Shoshone-Bannock of Idaho And I think the ceremony takes place in Canada I’m not sure where But people like that That was really fascinating to see people in transition who are just having their bodies changed, breast removals, that were seen as men with what do you call those? [NON-ENGLISH] It’ll come to me The English word will come pretty soon so we’ll wait for it [LAUGHTER] That’s one of the other things that’s really a huge issue, is this whole translation thing, trying to explain things while thinking in Navajo and speaking in English And a lot of things that we do now, we really depend on writing Because I was looking at our language to see why are this present generation not speaking the language? Why are Native people living on the reservation, hearing the language and having direct access to the language, but not speak it? So I took a handful of students and made them my Guinea pigs for a whole semester and just talked to them, one on one and as a group, with no text, no writing The major problem was they could not remember Their memorization skills have completely escaped And I think that’s really been harmed by that with writing, because every time we hear something, we don’t let it go up We let it come through our hands and take a note And we become dependent on writing It’s a crutch for us That’s why we don’t remember things If you have a conversation with your grandmother or great-grandmother, they remember things and dates and times when things happen because they had their memory skills, and not necessarily today’s people So there’s really a lot more to look into and talk about Navajo third gender

And this is not even dabbling with current terminology of gay/lesbian Those are Western identity Those are not traditional Native identities We don’t necessarily identify with that So for an example, when I’m on the reservation and dancing the wintertime in women’s clothing, I’m considered Natlee And then when I’m in Native communities, I’m considered two-spirit I don’t identify myself as that People have labeled me with that And then when I’m off the reservation, flying here, being in Boston, I’d probably label as being gay So that’s your perception of who I am, and it’s not who I am So it just depends I have to react to my location and make it a little comfortable for people around me and for myself And then when I change audience, like when I go back to the reservation, then it’s a totally different one -Thank you I hope we’ll get– -[INAUDIBLE] -There’s so much more I hope we can get back to during the question period I want to be sure that all three of our speakers have the time that we need Bear? -I was at that powwow, too That’s so funny I was just there two weeks ago -Mm-hmm -Good morning -Good morning -Oh, I love that Thank you very much Really, I’m a storyteller and not an academic And when I say “good morning” at academic conferences and everyone looks at me like, I always feel a little uncomfortable I’m so excited about everything that I’ve already heard that I just really want to spend my time talking about all of it, but I’m going to do the other thing instead and get to that later In the fall of 1993, I got into my first argument with a university professor about the validity of gender nonspecific pronouns It was the first of what would prove to be many such arguments in the fullness of time Freshly emboldened by the smarty pantses with whom I spent hour upon hour chatting on the proto internet, I explained to my professor that, in actual fact, there was nothing grammatically incorrect at all about the use of these tiny words I smugly recited stanzas of Chaucer to prove the pedigree of the word “hir” and then I held my head up and praised the activists of Usenet who had invented the word “ze” to go with it Finally, I offered up my cloth-bound Rutledge imprinted copy of Gender Outlaw by Kate Bornstein, [APPLAUSE] sprinkled with gender nonspecific pronouns that I hoped to validate by their obviously serious serif type, and my identity right along with them My professor, a second wave lesbian feminist in linen separates, shook her head slowly You know who I mean, right? [LAUGHTER] Those are not words, she said and, wrinkling her nose in evident distaste, followed her pronouncement with another one, and that is not a woman Two things struck me in the exchange and they continued to reverberate for decades One, that this professor arrogated to herself the right to decide whether a word was real or not And two, that she obviously felt this power extended to my gender identity and that of many other people The rejection of the word stood in for the rejection of the concept, and me in particular Now, while I enjoy a little bit of dictionary fetishism as much as the next writer, her pronouncement and the judgment it contained were obviously not about the words themselves, but about her disapproval of the idea and, indeed, the people they described, underlined by her choice to disdain both the words with which Bornstein made it clear that “ze” did not consider herself a woman and also hir [? gendered ?] [? presentation– ?] grandly Goth-infused, high femme situation we’ve all come to love People who experience themselves as neither men nor women or some combination thereof? Absolutely not, she said And she put her sensible Dansko clog down firmly on the subject

22 years later, the Oxford English Dictionary announced that it had included gender nonspecific pronouns and honorifics, including the singular “they” to their volumes And when I finished happy dancing around the kitchen, I indulged at length in a fantasy in which I could buy, carefully highlight, and then mail several hundred volumes to university professors around the world, marking the page with an engraved card reading only “neener, neener, neener.” [LAUGHTER] For two decades, I campaigned on behalf of the words “ze” and “hir” with varying degrees of success I used them as my personal pronouns and I insisted that people use them for me in professional contexts, which meant negotiating that whoever introduced my talk had to read them out loud in front of other people and then I had to listen to the speaker make a tremendous performance about how uncomfortable those words were in their mouths I pressed newspaper and periodical writers and editors to use them in articles about me with even less success I wrote entire books using gender nonspecific pronouns And after going ten rounds with my publisher that yes, they really were real words and I really did have the right to use them, fully half the reviews my books received acknowledged that I preferred “invented” pronouns or “neologisms” and then proceeded to ignore them and use either a masculine or feminine pronoun set for me I was never able to determine how they chose which I think someone in a back office was just flipping a coin Their choice was recently unpleasantly echoed in a stunningly dismissive New York Times article about Sasha Fleischman of Oakland, California, a genderqueer identified teenager who was set on fire while riding a city bus Evidently not content to let the physical violence stand on its own, the Gray Lady perpetrated its own linguistic violence with the following parenthetical “Telling Sasha’s story also poses a linguistic challenge because English doesn’t offer a ready-made way to talk about people who identify as neither male or female Sasha prefers ‘they,’ ‘it,’ or the invented gender neutral pronouns ‘ze.’ The New York Times does not use these terms to refer to individuals.” -Yet -Let that sink in -Yeah Yeah -In her book Epistemic Injustice, British philosopher Miranda Fricker describes two particular kinds of oppression related to knowledge and language One, she terms “testimonial injustice,” which she describes as the occasion upon which prejudice causes a person to be perceived as less credible or non-credible in their capacity as an informant The other is “hermeneutical injustice,” where a person has no way to describe their experience because the conceptual frame doesn’t yet exist due to their stigmatized or disempowered identity And when I read her book, I actually yelped in recognition of the experience so robustly described And making matters worse, by the way, it’s not just the suspender professors and copyeditors of the world who have fought me on every instance of gender nonspecific pronouns There are plenty of transgender identified people who rail against the non-binary with just as much vigor Their conviction, frequently offered at some volume, is that the idea of non-binary gender cheapens and distracts from their experience, that it’s all right to move from the known and identified category of man to the known and identified category of woman or vice versa, but not to say that the categories are flawed, optional, or even discussable Though these people may have trans identities or trans medical histories, their relationship to gender is heteronormative and binary There are two choices, world without end, amen And this too, I would argue, is a matter of language as much as it is of anything else In Fricker’s parlance, trans people suffer a hermeneutical injustice and non-binary people suffer it doubly The cultural imagination about anyone who is not normatively gendered, trans bodies, identities, relationships, sex, geography, conflict, priorities,

is substantially influenced by what we can write and talk about intelligibly Since the modern conversation about gender identity is so heavily medicalized, with brief and chilling digressions into legal terminology, so too are most of the words that we have for ourselves and each other, medical or legal legacy words designed to reinforce the normal and shine the cold light of inquiry on the other We have no playful language, no admiring language, no nuanced language, and no affirming language Instead, we’re stuck with obviously false dichotomies like “pre-op” and “post-op,” which have led the entirety of cisgender humanity into the beliefs that A, all transgender experience is defined in relationship to surgical procedures that have existed for about 75 years, even though trans people have existed for millennia and I can prove that, and B, that there’s some sort of single opportunity trans medical intervention somewhat akin to the television show Pimp My Ride where we enter looking one way and emerge entirely different and perhaps with some things chromed [LAUGHTER] What’s more, the process of moving away from medicalized language, which is full of terrible assumptions and worse ideas, but has the virtue of being somewhat familiar even to people who are distant from the topic, is messy and contested There is no trans equivalent of the Academie francaise where a group of people meet, discuss, and decide which new words are actually words and what they might mean This leads to internal conflict and heated debate among trans and non-binary people about what words are best to use And because those debates are entirely decentralized, unless you count Tumblr, you could well find yourself using a word that you learned in Chicago as respectful only to be told in Atlanta that you’re using oppressive language and get out As an educator, I spend a lot of time explaining this, that trans communities have just now come to a place where we have the cultural agency, finally, to explain and describe our own experience using our own language, and that while this is a messy and inconsistent process, it’s also a pivotal, and frankly thrilling, moment in identity development I have some sympathy for well-meaning non-trans people who desperately want to get the lingo right as an act of ally-ship, but it’s too important and too exciting to rush If we’re going to eventually be able to describe the specific, delicious, nuanced particulars of our non-normative bodies and experiences and identities, it’s going to take some time This is true even though the larger cultural imagination, with its limited and limiting understanding of trans and non-binary experiences, can’t fathom what we might be taking our time about or why it could be so important Most people, especially the able-bodied, have rarely or never had the experience of having a bodily experience for which they have no word or no word that they can stand to use The frequent exception to this rule turns out to be masturbation The mental blank spot first gets filled with a placeholder, like “this” or “that,” and then maybe it evolves to a shorthand codeword akin to a private joke with oneself or like the kind of idiolects that married people inevitably develop over time But eventually, sometimes the moment arrives in which we hear a word for the very thing and we see ourselves reflected in it As a non-binary identified person, this was also my experience of gender nonspecific pronouns The jolt of understanding, the dawning clarity of why I had shifted with discomfort when people

used feminine pronouns about me, but had no special desire to run into the warm embrace of masculine language, all but reset my skeleton in my skin Certainly, it shuffled the deck of my locution and dealt me a hand I had never previously understood to be a winner Where non-binary identities are concerned, the hermeneutical injustice that applied to transpeople 20-odd years ago still rages even though trans identities have seen some progress For non-binary identified or, to use my current favorite term, NB people, this is magnified by the fact that while most of everyone, except Germaine Greer and Donald Trump, are prepared to recognize that transpeople do indeed exist these days, the NB population is still struggling up the hill with our glitter in one hand and our neckties in the other These days, I deploy the word “NB,” which is just a pronunciation of the initials NB for non-binary, with casual authority I neither explain nor describe it unless asked My part in the evolution of language around NB topics and identities is that I no longer engage in the kind of debates I used to about whether something is or is not a word I know better now Of course it’s a word, I tell them, just like “laser” and “radar” are words, just like we used to fax things and now we Google them I try not to even mansplain about it [LAUGHTER] But I’m wise to the tactic now, this thing of pretending to have some kind of high-minded linguistic objection to a new concept or idea being expressed in order to conceal a prejudice I’ve experienced enough epistemic injustice to name it and stand up for myself and people like me as a legitimate expert in my own identity With the cultural power I have concentrated as a public intellectual, a cultural worker, and let us not forget, now, a white guy, I have become stalwart in my assertions that people are and can be trusted to be, in the words of educator J. Wallace Skelton, experts on themselves The smokescreen of being challenged about words has given way And it develops that people are much more hesitant about saying, I think your identity is invalid because it challenges my beliefs about the world than they ever were about saying, that’s not a real word Go figure I just need two more minutes -Yeah -This becomes especially clear when an NB person uses the singular “they” pronoun and suddenly, there emerge strenuous objections to it from people who consistently misuse “lie” for “lay” and whose entire previous commitment to grammar expired sometime around the end of sentence diagramming in grade 10 It would be funnier if it weren’t so exhausting and demoralizing In the 22 years between when I started agitating on behalf of gender nonspecific pronouns and when the OED joined the English language already in progress about gender nonspecific pronouns, anointing them, along with the gender nonspecific honorific “Mx” and the word “cisgender,” there has certainly been some progress in language The cisgender imagination, especially that of gatekeepers of law, medicine, and language whose imprimatur so many things have previously required, is expanding, and with it must go the language Even the word “cisgender,” a word created and deployed by trans and NB people, now takes a fairly unchallenged place in academia, at least, though it apparently upsets a certain subset of people whose gender privilege is so entrenched that they fuss and kick at being named with a word that they didn’t coin or choose, to whom I say, welcome [LAUGHTER] -Yeah -I begin to wonder, at this point, what will happen next Will the reality of our lives become so present and incontrovertible on the landscape of gender that refusal to use our words will become the last refuge of the bigot? Will there be a backlash against identity politics that causes cis people to insist that they don’t see gender and therefore have no need to grapple with it anymore? How will we form systems, forms, data, and codexes of language to capture the nuances of gender identity, and what new points of linguistic friction will each of those solutions inevitably produce?

Even for cisgender folks, this is an exciting time My friend Scott Turner Schofield who used to be a performance artist and is now a soap opera actor, which he claims is a lateral move if ever there was one, tells a story I have long enjoyed– I got it– tells a story I’ve long enjoyed about needing a particular tool while traveling in Costa Rica He had no idea what it was called in Spanish and so he went to the hardware store intending to browse the available items and choose the thing he needed But when he arrived, he discovered that the store was more or less a kiosk and all the tools were kept in the back so a shopper was forced to ask for the thing they wanted and wait for it to be fetched back Scott, stumped by this turn of events, produced in his limited Spanish the following request [SPEAKING SPANISH] “I need the tool with the head that’s shaped like a church.” After some puzzlement, the clerk laughed and nodded and came back with what he needed, a Phillips head screwdriver This is exactly, in so many ways, where we find the language of trans and non-binary identities Without knowing a word for what we need, we approximate based on what we think a conversation partner, reader, lover, doctor, or government official might be familiar with while we stand and wait wearing our most cheerful and polite smiles and hope that the person will find themselves willing to do the extra work to understand In the hopeful future, maybe the words of nuanced descriptive and tender gendered language will be real in our mouths and on our pages But for now, we have to rely on good will and creativity to get the job done The good news is many of us have a lot of both Thank you [APPLAUSE] -Thank you so much Thank you for listening Thank you to all three of our panelists And I think we’re going to go to maybe 12 or 13, instead of 15, minutes for our talk because I know a lot of you have a lot of questions There we go For my first question, I wanted to hear Rebecca talk about this And I had two questions You can answer one or both, I guess So the first is obviously, this audience and other audiences within linguistics and social linguistics seems to have been hospitable to your discoveries and those that you cite, but how do preschool teachers react? Have you gone to the National Association for Early Childhood Education, also known as NAECTE– if you have preschool age children, you may have heard of it– or other groups that actually train teachers of young children and said, here’s what you do, here’s what you’ve got to stop doing? And how has that been? And the other question is, what’s the endgame? In a just world, in the world that you want to see, would you expect, based on your own and others’ research, groups of 5-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 12-year-olds who simply ignore the history of self-identification that has some relation to biological difference? Or would you expect gender to be present in their play and their language, but differently? What’s the end game? -Yeah Wonderful questions And I do, indeed, do outreach to teachers, the lay public It’s a huge part of my identity and what I think academics have an obligation to do What I usually find is that teachers are very surprised that their language affects children So they mostly say, for example, well, yes, I say, “Good morning, boys or girls” and “What a cute girl” or “Let’s sit boy, girl, boy girl.” But I don’t do it to be sexist and I’m pretty sure I’m not making children endorse gender stereotypes when I do that They’re just not aware of the link between their language and children’s responses And I will just briefly say my worst moment was with an older teacher, many years of experience, who every morning, she had the children count how many girls were present and put up girl paper dolls and count how many boys were present and put up a boy And I said that that would contribute to stereotyping in the classroom and boys saying, we’re better than girls and girls– and she said well, God made them boys and girls and I’m going to label them that way if I want to, to which I said, yeah, well, God made them black and white and you don’t label that label in that way, do you, which

led to me being just ostracized and it was a terrible moment with the school But I do find them receptive to education And particularly, pointing out the parallels to race has been affective about routine labeling Now, I want to get to the end game because I don’t think the answer is to become what we have done often with race, to be race blind or to be gender blind That is, I’m not arguing that we should never talk about gender or race or other social categories In fact, the opposite I believe we have to start having conversations with even young children about social categories, what they mean, and what they don’t mean -Yeah -The problem is children have some real cognitive limitations They are rigid classifiers They make things very black and white– good, bad; boy, girl; mommies and daddies And so once you create the category and they build and construct their own stereotypes, you’re up against a big wall, a lot of work And I think this just means that we have to, in schools, start having conversations with children about gender, why it’s a category, why it’s sometimes relevant, when it’s not relevant, and what gender stereotyping and prejudice mean as early as kindergarten -Yeah Yeah OK I have to follow up in one way because it’s something I’ve seen as a parent It seems to me, and this is something that I see as a parent with my kids and other kids, it is obviously OK and we want to encourage it if a child feels like it for someone who thinks he’s a boy to do girl things and dress up like a girl, and of course vice versa And of course, some kids feel like neither or both And even if you think you’re a boy, you can wear dresses and do girl things and that’s great And we’ve had a lot of support from the teachers who we’ve been lucky enough to experience But why is it not OK, in a lot of circumstances, for white kids to pretend to be Chinese or Apache? Why is that not cool? Do you get that with the very salient comparison to race? And how do you answer that to a six-year-old or to a teacher? -Yeah Again, great complicated questions, which require conversations with children about social categories and what they mean and don’t mean I will say that in the lessons we do, I develop lessons about sexism that we do with kids from kindergarten through fifth grade And one of the lessons is there’s no such thing as a boy’s blank There’s no such thing as a girl’s backpack, shoes, hat, haircut, anything And so part of the lesson is saying you don’t say it’s OK for boys to do girls things It’s saying there’s no such thing as a girl thing There are just things and anybody can do anything But then you explain the idea that some people do believe the “silly” idea that there are girls’ things, and here’s what to say We teach children to chant, “I disagree Sexism is silly to me.” -Aww -And they chant that to each other But then again, the social categories vary in their history and their treatment And what requires is constant education, then, about what is offensive about white people doing things that are traditionally associated with African American culture or, as is common on campuses, seeing students pretending to be blind for the day while they try to learn about the experience of people who are visually impaired -Yeah Thank you So I was hoping, Wesley, if you wanted to– and I understand that this may be one of the things where the right answer would take too long, but if the right answer can be given, if you could talk more either about the differences among Native American language groups and cultures in terms of third genders and fourth genders– you mentioned that patrilineal language groups and societies had much less robust third gender and fourth gender than matrilineal– or, if you prefer, the concept of sexuality, of categorizing yourself by who you’re into rather than who you are, whether that has any kind of parallels in any of the First Peoples language groups that you / -In doing my research work using my own language and my own home community, one aspect of it, I was looking at the third gender in a traditional setting

By the way, the traditional way of life probably ended around 1930 Because by 1937, the last living person who I would have identified as third gender, she died in February of 1937 And since then, there’s been sheltering and shielding children within the families because they’ve begun being ostracized through the various Christian organizations that were saving the Indians on reservations and of receiving a Western education saying that doesn’t meet the Western standards So those people, some of them were actually literally killed because of that In my work in looking at the relationship of the third gender, for an example, it’s a hetero gender, meaning that the gender was a priority over their sexual identity, and that between the four genders back then– the first gender is a woman because she reproduces The second gender is a man who is a husband Then the third gender is basically biologically male function as a woman, so that’s a third gender So Gender identity there was feminine And the fourth one is a masculine gender The relationship is between, for an example, a first gender, is a woman, with a fourth gender First gender is feminine; fourth gender is masculine And the same thing with the men The second gender would have a relationship with the third gender So it’s opposite genders there, even though biologically, they’re the same So that’s one thing that came out of this one That was very normal, I think, in a majority of the tribes in the United States and Canada because you hear stories of where in larger warring nations, they would have a wife and they would acquire a second wife And by that time, they have a few children and they need somebody who can provide some economic stability So they would marry a third wife who was a third gender Third gender is attributed with wealth, that they’re the only ones in most of the tribes where they could accumulate wealth If you were not in the third gender category or fourth gender category, so if you were the first or second one, you cannot accumulate wealth That’s equivalent to greed When you acquire that, you had to distribute that to your siblings and to their offsprings and even your own children You do not acquire that So third gender and fourth gender were the ones who could be able to do that And so they became second, third, fourth spouses to provide an economic stability In one case, I know of a man who was married, had a second wife who was a third gender, and the first wife died The third gender there in that relationship picked up the responsibility of raising the children And that’s one of the things that we generally don’t have in our language is a word for “he” or “she.” We just use gender terms, a gender-based term in relationships, like with children [NAVAJO] is generally a boy or [NAVAJO] is a girl [NAVAJO] is a group of girls [NAVAJO] is– no. [NAVAJO] is a group of girls [NAVAJO] is a group of boys And terms like [NAVAJO] “There’s an old man coming toward us.” So it’s a very gender based language that we have So there’s really no term describing his, hers, she, he, those kind of terminologies And I’ve always been curious about that But linguistic is something that I mostly stumbled into after parading through cultural anthropology for 30 years -OK -And now I’m heading up the Navajo language program and just got an NSF grant and I have to tackle that to look at

Generating verbs– it’s a verb-based, like [NAVAJO] is more important, like [NAVAJO] It always ends with verb, with a verb at the end It’s not the same as English where there’s a subject, then there’s a verb and an object In our language, it’s subject, object, and verb -OK -So the verb is at the end -Yeah I’m sorry I want to be sure that we do have enough time for your questions And if you can maybe just introduce yourself really fast and ask? -Yeah OK Is this on? Yeah? -Yeah -I’m Lucy Ferriss I teach at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and I also write for the Lingua Franca blog at the Chronicle of Higher Education -Oh, good -And as a sort of default, I seem to be the person who writes about gender and language on that blog And if you want to see something about the readership of the Chronicle of Higher Education, you can go to the comments that any of my– it’s basically descriptive blog posts about language seem to invoke So please come visit me there and help me out with some better comments [LAUGHTER] But my question– I was listening to the poet Alejandro Zambra the other day, who’s a Chilean poet And in his remarks, he mentioned how important it was for him that in Spanish, objects are gendered And as I’m sure everybody here knows, in romance languages, that’s quite common, that everything is gendered And of course it’s a binary gender I mean, things are either masculine or feminine And he loves that as a poet He loves thinking about a table as being a masculine object and about a window as being a feminine object and using that in his poetry And I have no idea if there are discussions of the kind that we’re having here among people who speak other languages where gender is not so much about the person as it is about the world that the person encounters And I wondered if any of you had any comments on that -In my language, we have that Hills are feminine Rocky Mountains is masculine The rain that comes with thunder is masculine The drizzle is feminine Smooth the running water is feminine Rushing water, like through the Grand Canyon, is masculine We have plants that are masculine Ideas and thoughts are genderized Ceremonies are genderized Behaviors are genderized, despite being a woman and you’re aggressive and you go through that masculine stage and react from that Your body, your left side is masculine your right side is feminine Your biological body is– if you’re a man, it’s supposedly supposed to be male But the inner side of you is feminine So there’s that contrast throughout the Navajo world Smooth river rocks are feminine Other rocks, hard ones with sharp edges, are masculine Flowers are like that Even dirt is genderized -Wow If you’re not a linguist and you want to see someone explaining the research on gendered nouns in romance languages and European languages, there’s a book by Guy Deutscher, D-E-U-T-S-C-H-E-R, which I was hoping somebody would bring up, but I think I have to do it, called Through the Language Glass, about what forms of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis are true and which ones are false And that book, the last chapter talks about the John [INAUDIBLE] stuff about location You probably know it Yeah The second to last chapter talks about a very, very large psych department-y study of gendered nouns in German and gendered nouns in French And it turns out that if you do a very good academic psychology study with people clicking buttons to see what their reaction times are, that if you speak a language where a bridge is a feminine noun, you will have a slight propensity to think that bridges are welcoming and forgiving and soft And if in your language bridge is a masculine noun, you’ll think of them as hard and tough Not much, but a little So there is research on that in romance languages

-OK Thank you -Can I just– sorry I just want to respond briefly to that, partly because I really feel the conflict that comes in that question As a writer and artist, I always am so interested in the ways that we use language very specifically, very strategically, in order to make certain kinds of points And on the other hand, whenever anybody starts talking about gendered nouns in romance languages, I can’t help but think about things like in French, “mustache” is a feminine noun and “vagina” is a masculine, which it possibly contains a tiny amount of sexism in addition to the ways in which it’s complicated Because when you ask French linguists about this, they will say, well, things are assigned masculine or feminine not based on their attributes, but based on how important they are, they say very proudly And so since the vagina is so important, we obviously made it masculine [LAUGHTER] -Like like the big mountains in Dine -Like the mountains And I just sort of think, listen, the cookie you’re waiting for is not coming And so there’s always that tension Lyricism and euphonia sort of bang up against the desire to not reify certain kinds of oppression I think it’s a very interesting question -Hi My name’s Rachel [? Hannibutt ?] and I’m a master’s student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education right across the way here And I’d like to make a shameless plug for a really great at exhibit about India’s third gender, if anybody wants to check it out during a break But my question, Bear, you spoke of the gatekeepers involved in this work and Rebecca, about children and identification And in my own work of the conflation of just the terms “sex” and “gender” in academic research brings out what advice do you have for young researchers or really anyone hoping to change the conversation in the field of research? -Read broadly, find a passion, and follow it [LAUGHTER] I will say in my journey, I’ve been surprised where I ended up For example, I didn’t start out studying language I was actually, frankly, very surprised at the incredibly powerful role that labeling played in gender stereotyping That was not what I thought I thought that teachers had to say sexist things like, “Boys, please move the heavy tables in the classroom; girls, clean the blackboards.” I thought, when I started, those kinds of statements would produce stereotyping instead of just saying, “Good morning, boys and girls.” That was as much a surprise to me as to the teachers So my advice is have a passion, read very broadly across disciplines, across areas within disciplines, and then design the best studies you can to address your questions -Thank you -I would also say be shamelessly flexible with your language One of the things that happens, I think, is that we learn a word, we like it, and then we keep using it And sometimes when language develops, we’re reluctant to join in the new language because we feel like, oh, but I invested so– for example, I invested a ton in the idea of gender neutral, right? And then eventually, it really became clear to me that gender neutrality was not remotely something that I was interested in being involved in, that gender nonspecific was actually the word that I wanted And so I had published who knows how many pages worth of gender neutral And there comes a certain point at which I found that I had to say, all right, I’ve learned better, to constantly be evolving in terms of best practices in language and then modeling them and really standing up for the language that you feel best about regardless, to whatever degree you can, of other people’s variously cloaked concerns about it -There are all these people waiting I want to get as many questions as we can in the time we have -Hi My name’s Jen [? Detterick ?] and I run the Equal Rights Amendment page on Facebook And there’s this, I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, an election going on right now I don’t know if it’s been a big topic of conversation One of the candidates is of a different cisgender than the other candidates Again, I don’t know if you know about this, but on the Equal Rights Amendment page, I posted some pro articles about this candidate

and was immediately greeted with, gender doesn’t matter Why are we talking about gender on this page? This is the quality page Gender means nothing And I would vote for Elizabeth Warren so clearly, I’m not a sexist And so beyond me having to say you’re not allowed to mention Elizabeth Warren until the election’s over on the page, I’m wondering about how I talk about that Because the Equal Rights Amendment is there’s no discrimination based on sex, which is based on the fact that historically, there has been one presented gender that has been discriminated against So you wonderfully touched on this, and you also did, about we have to, at some point, discuss gender and we can’t say, I don’t see gender and that How do we talk about it in a productive way, about why it would be important to bring forth women publicly, why that matters even when we’re talking about gender not being an actual real thing or being a fluid thing? -Can you just say because misogyny? -I could I wish I wish I could #BecauseMisogyny -I mean, that’s kind of the answer in my mind -Yeah -I will jump in and say I did a study in 2006 of children’s understanding of race and gender in the presidency So we asked whether the presidents of the United States have been only men, only women, or both men and women, just to see if kids knew There hadn’t been any work that even established whether kids paid attention They do By kindergarten, the vast majority of children in the United States know that only men have been president And then we asked them why Why is that true? And we discovered that there were a couple big clumps of categories One third of kids said it’s because girls are too stupid, too dumb, too weak, too ignorant to be president of the United States But about one third said the boys hate girls Boys will never vote for girls Boys won’t listen to girls And therefore, girls had never been president of the United States This indicates to me that we need to have conversations beginning in elementary school about the links to gender, to actual roles like the presidency, like computer science and physics, like men and preschool teaching, and try to have conversations with children about why those links arose in the first place and why they are maintained and how they are maintained So in other words, the answer is to have discussions about sexism with kids beginning really early in their lives -Yeah Nice -Yeah You’re not on Twitter, but I am And it sounds like– your name is Jen? -Jen, yeah -Yeah, Jen might want to post links to those studies on her page -Yes -If you send me those studies, I will Tweet them -That would be helpful Thank you -Thank you Next questioner -OK Hi My name is Jessica Mink and I’m an astronomer, but I’m also really interested in gender issues As a scientist, we classify things a lot and categorize things a lot, and I also find that just about everybody does that And one of the things we’re talking about when we talk about gender now, which is different and a lot of people don’t understand this yet, is that we’re decategorizing gender, that that’s a really important thing to individuals And gender’s not just becoming– I mean, non-binary means more than just a third thing It means a lot more things And that’s really hard to explain and it’s really hard for me to totally grasp the totality of that myself And I’m trying to explain a little bit of non-binary to people who– non-binary is a term that’s come up in the last two or three years So where do we go? How do we decategorize gender? What kind of activities, actions can we do? Where do we have to do it? I mean, we’ve got to do it to adults, and that’s not easy -So the question is, how do we undo inherited categories for gender? The largest question that’s been asked so far Wesley, do you want to start with that based on analogies to other languages where the categories are different? Can we undo what goes on in English by using those contrasts? -Yes The one I just presented earlier between first, second, third, and fourth gender is just in Navajo language, which I translated into English for you That’s just four categories There’s additional categories beyond that, like for an example, two-spirit is a category that comes both in male bodied or female bodied two-spirit

And then we introduced numerous terminology we have in English that comes in– TGs, TSes, gay, lesbian, non-identifier, that adds more into our community So in our community, we can’t label everybody saying, oh, he’s gay or lesbian We have to ask them, how do you identify yourself? And we hear all these different types of terminologies So we’re now beginning to look at multi-gender terminology in our language And what we did is we moved the Navajo language and use that to translate the English identity, that those are being used -Rebecca, Bear, do you want to answer directly or should we hear the other questioners first? -I’ll just jump in and say, not only are physicists categorizers, scientists, but as I presented, infants are Humans are brilliant categorizers They have a predisposition to categorize But they are also incredibly flexible about which bases they use We are capable of completely ignoring some potential bases of categorizing As I said, we could categorize each other by whether our earlobes are attached or not, whether we’re right or left handed, which is biologically based and has something to do with our brain organizations But most the time, we totally ignore that, and children totally ignore it So the helpful side is I do think humans are born with an incredible capacity for flexibility in how they operate, perceive, and see people in the world And so it’s our job as adults to be very thoughtful about how we construct and give messages to children about which bases are important -So good morning I’m Licia Verde I’m an astrophysicist so I work in a male dominated environment And despite that, I’ve never asked myself question about language and gender so this is all new for me I sympathize with the host of this conference, having found myself at physics faculty meetings, and enough said there So maybe I’m stating the obvious here, or maybe I’m seeing the elephant in the room There are two completely different issues One is find, beyond male and female gender, something to define somebody because somebody feels that doesn’t fit into any of these two categories But that is another issue, which is there may be situation in which gender should not be an issue at all And this should be two different words because these are two completely different ballgames So for example, we say Mr. President and we say Mr. President to Mr. President Bush and to Mr. President Obama If Hillary get elected, would we say Mr. President? Being president is not related to the fact we are male or female, it’s you’re good enough for the job So there should not be a gender associated to that, and with this, along with being professor, being CEO, or whatever While on the other hand, find a gender neutral word and putting everything in there, it’s putting apples and oranges together It’s two completely different -I’m going to try to make that into a question because it seems really important And tell me if I got this wrong On the one hand, we ought to remove gendered language where it is not salient On the other hand, we ought to accept and develop a language for talking about gender where it is salient that fits the diversity of lived experience How can we do both of those things simultaneously? Aren’t they mutually interfering tasks? Is that the question? -Thank you Great Thank you -OK -I don’t think they’re mutually interfering tasks at all I think that one of the things that is really present in both of those is broadening the vocabulary that we have to talk about gender Why is it not possible to– all right Let me back up a step I think that it should be possible, and it seems like it is, to have gender nonspecific language that can be used both when gender is not a factor or we are signaling that we don’t want it to be a factor and for situations when a person does not identify themselves

with any of the most common gender categories I think that the interesting piece for me starts to crop up because as soon as you make a list of all the possibilities– I was a little bit involved with the folks who made 51 genders on Facebook or 52 genders on Facebook or whatever it is And as soon as they released the list and your Facebook had a dropdown box of 52 options, people immediately started to complain that their particular preferred gender wasn’t listed And that is the thing that crops up over and over again At a certain moment in identity politics people start to say, but I prefer to identify myself as this complicated, 11-word adjectival phrase, and I don’t see that recognized in the literature And at the same time, we all, I think, recognize that there is value to having some ability to label ourselves because it gives us a banner to group under, for certain topics -[INAUDIBLE] Yeah -I’ll just acknowledge there’s a fundamental value question at the base of the debate I tend to be on the side of a more gender neutral, minimize the salience of gender as a category, but I totally recognize there are people who argue that gender is incredibly valuable I want to say I’m a woman and I identify as a woman and I want to have spaces where there’s women And then you might argue well, and we need 12 different genders, but we want to maintain all these genders and the focus and the salience And I think that’s a fundamental mental debate that science isn’t necessarily going to solve -OK Last word? -I’m not in that conversation yet I’m still in my own tribal [? mind ?] of how I’m constructing gender, but I will be coming to Bear and get some information from him about everything else in the Western culture So that’s something that’s still not there yet -Thank you [MUSIC PLAYING] -Thank you very much [APPLAUSE]