It interests me to read today that the comedian Eddie Izzard has elected to use the pronouns ‘she’ and ‘her’ from now on. On the one hand, this is an incredibly bold move which is to be welcomed and celebrated. I have long thought that society should be more open to and welcoming of this form of gender diversity. Yet another, perhaps more cynical part of me, is just a tad concerned that this might just be another instance of the kind of cultural usurpation I sometimes write about on here. As I know from my former partner, being transgender is a serious psychological process; transpeople often go through severe trauma, including years of hormone replacement, to become who they always believed themselves to be. These days, though, the idea of transitioning between genders seems to be taken more and more flippantly, as if the idea of being trans is fashionable; or that gender is no more fundamental to a person’s identity than a game to be played by swapping pronouns. In the article, I note that there is no mention of Izzard starting to take hormones or having gender reassignment surgery; merely that she wants to use female pronouns from now on. I also note that she still seems happy to be known as Eddie. While that choice has to be respected, it feels to me a long way from the profound life changing decision of transitioning. To be honest there is a kind of flippancy to it, as if it was more motivated by politics than anything more innate. She says she has boy and girl ‘modes’ – well, don’t we all? As I wrote here, I sometimes dress up and have a fascination with womanhood, but I’m perfectly comfortable with my pronouns as they are. It seems to me that surely the politics of gender are too serious to be played around with, yet more and more people seem to be doing so.
On one level, of course, such a decision simply has to be accepted, before we all give ourselves permission to start judging everyone else. Yet on another level, this strikes me as one more example of a hitherto straight, white able bodied person feeling embarrassed of their relatively privileged cultural position and seeking entrance into a minority. That might be fine, but it just seems to me to steal something from those for whom being transgender is far more profound and painful.