Iris Artin’s Gender Primer

You are probably here because I gave you some basic info about my gender and you have unanswered questions. Thank you for taking the time to learn more.

If your questions aren’t answered here, feel free to follow up in-person or in email.

Why did you send me here?

I sent you here because I wanted to clarify some aspects of my gender that are a common source of confusion.

I did not send you here because you did something wrong, or because I have bad feelings towards you.

Why didn’t you just tell me all this?

First of all, I didn’t want to interrupt our day for an extended explainer of my gender, so I gave you minimal information necessary at the time. This lets you learn more whenever that’s convenient for you.

Second, repeatedly answering the same common questions is time-consuming and exhausting for me. Answering them in a less-tiring way allows me to be available to answer more in-depth questions one-on-one.

What is your gender?

Let’s put a pin in that question.

Most of the time, when people ask about about my gender, they are really trying to find out which assumptions they can make about me based on my gender. So, let’s talk about gender assumptions first:

What words should I use to refer to you?

In short: please do not refer to me using gendered words.

To elaborate: you can refer to me using my name (Iris), the gender-neutral pronoun “they”, or other gender-neutral words such as “person”.

“They” is as much part of my identity as “he” or “she” might be for you. I understand that many people grew up with “they” as a plural pronoun and find it difficult to adapt to the use of “they” as a gender-neutral singular pronoun; I appreciate you taking the time to adjust your language.

Please do not refer to me using gendered nouns, such as “man”, “guy”, or “dude”.

Please do not refer to me using a title. “Mister” and “sir” do not apply, and no suitable gender-neutral title has gained acceptance yet.

When you refer to a group that I belong to, please do not use phrases that divide the group into two genders, such as “men and women”, “males and females”, or “ladies and gentlemen”; use non-gendered words instead, such as “people”, “colleagues”, or “folks”.

It’s fine to describe something I do or wear using words that are stereotypically feminine, such as “skirt” or “purse”. Please do not add unnecessary gender to those words; my skirt and purse are not a “man-skirt” and a “man-purse”.

What should I do if I use the wrong word when talking to you or about you?

Correct yourself and move on. No apology is necessary; the correction itself is a demonstration of good will on your part, for which I am grateful.

What clothing do you wear?

I wear a combination of men’s clothing, women’s clothing, unisex clothing, and clothing custom-made to fit me.

Please do not ask that I alter my manner of dress because it does not conform to your expectations of male or female behavior.

I do welcome fashion feedback; shortage of fashion guidance and role-models is an ongoing challenge for me, and I am happy to hear feedback that is mindful of my gender.

What bathrooms do you use?

I prefer all-gender (unisex) bathrooms.

OK, so, what is your gender?

My gender is non-binary.

Are you trans?

It depends; language surrounding transgender identities has been rapidly evolving.

Historically, “trans” used to be short for “transsexual” and refer only to individuals who had undergone medical treatment (hormone therapy) or surgical treatment (gender-affirming surgery) for gender dysphoria. That sense of “trans” is outdated (because it doesn’t include the full spectrum of transgender experiences), and it does not apply to me.

More recently, “trans” has included all who transitioned (or were transitioning) from male to female or vice versa, whether of not they have undergone medical or surgical interventions. That sense of “trans” is common today, and also does not apply to me.

Currently, “trans” is sometimes expanded to also include those who — like me — transitioned (or are transitioning) from male to non-binary or female to non-binary. This use of “trans” is not widespread, but “trans” in that sense does apply to me.

Those three meanings of “trans” describe overlapping-yet-different sets of experiences, and each functions as shorthand both about ones’s journey of personal discovery and exploration, as well as shorthand for one’s experiences of trauma and discrimination.

I think of myself as trans, but whether I refer to myself as trans is highly contextual, because of the potential for misunderstanding. If you refer to me as “trans” or “transgender”, you won’t be entirely wrong, but you may be misunderstood. Referring to me as “non-binary” is preferable.

What should I do if I have more questions?

Please ask me! I prefer in-person (or video) conversations to email, but if email works better for you, that’s fine.