Gender Politics

Gender Politics – an article by guest author Ash Silva

This is my response to an article written by Ashley McGuire about gender which was published on the blog Word Foundations – (Insights and Commentary from a Biblical Perspective) – and later published in a Play Workers Newsletter.

All GendersMy name is Ash Silva, and I would consider myself very well-versed in gender politics – and not out of choice. For context, I’m a queer person myself, and after my years of research decided not to confine myself to any label and simply express myself the way I was born to without social restrictions. I also volunteer with young transgender children, which I’ve found to be a very suitable job due to my playwork qualifications and experience with Play Torbay and my years of knowledge and understanding of issues around gender and sex. However, this is besides the point.

​My mother, was exposed to this diverse and rich world of LGBT+ people via myself coming out to her some time ago, which was both a horrifying and enlightening experience in and of itself. So, I wasn’t much surprised when she showed me your Play Workers newsletter to check that Ashley McQuire was giving out the right information with regards to her article. I believe she absolutely did, but there are a few things I’d like to add from the perspective of an actual queer person. I have hope you’ll read what I have to say and consider publishing it. Perhaps you might pass this on to the writer, if you think she could benefit from reading this.

With this, I’m going to point out some devastating misunderstandings from Ashley McGuire that I think are very important to address, for the sake of every playworker working with transgender or non-binary children and who is privy to this information.

​First of all, the use of he/him pronouns towards Fallon Fox, a trans woman, is astonishingly unacceptable. She was quite literally called a man by the writer. Obviously, context always matters- if a person who is perhaps not so educated slips or simply forgets to use the right pronouns, with no malice, then I’m sure it can be forgiven. But when you’re writing a professional article about gender identity​ that’s going to be shared with thousands of people, and you’re showing blatant disrespect to somebody’s identity? Are you serious? This article was presumably proofread, and the fact that this was not changed is appalling to me. I dread to think of how many people will read it and think it is an acceptable thing for themselves to do as well, especially any playworkers whose job it is to support children who may be going through these issues. This really goes to show Ashley McGuire’s absolute misunderstanding of the proper way to behave in regards to gender identity, which is utterly inadmissible and should be considered as such.

Fallon Fox - a trans gender MMA fighterI don’t know how old Ashley McGuire is, but I’ll assume that she is an adult (please do correct me if I’m wrong). I’m only fifteen years old. Is that going to stop me, in any way, from dissecting each of her points and explaining why it is wrong? No, absolutely not. And I’m sure that if she saw this, she might consider me in the same way despite our apparent age difference seemingly pointing to the idea that I am weaker in some way. So, even if Fallon Fox was previously male, both participants were highly trained professionals that entered the fight willingly. She also conveniently ignores the fact that Fallon Fox was taking oestrogen and testosterone blockers for years before her gender confirmation surgery (and hence the major source of testosterone from her body).  Perhaps if Ashley McGuire treated me, now, as any more than some sweaty, dumb teenager just like she treats Fallon Fox as a strong, brute, testosterone-filled man it would suggest some hypocrisy.

My second point is that Ashley McGuire seems to be of the belief that any and all non-binary identities are invalid, and doesn’t provide an explanation as to why. At all. She just backs it up with reasons why biological males and females are physically different, which I can compare to somebody saying that cats don’t exist because dogs come in different breeds. There is a fundamental misunderstanding here of the difference between sex and gender, as my mum kindly explained. Sex and gender are scientifically different, just as cats and dogs are. People having different genitalia and a slightly different chemical makeup is irrelevant to their gender. Just because they usually align doesn’t make them one and the same, nor is it the ‘norm’. Again, it is astounding that a person who doesn’t understand this was considered an expert enough to write an article about gender.

Continuing on from this, I must absolutely say that people are whatever gender they say they are, despite what the writer thinks. You do not and will never have access to their heads, or their hormones. It is an essential part of our roles as playworkers to understand, support, and accept everybody’s gender identity without prying or being disrespectful to the extent that Ashley McGuire has shown, even if their identity changes. Not doing this really borders on transphobia. Again, it makes me feel faintly nauseous that this was even written.

………. and, if by any chance my views are forwarded to Ashley McGuire, yes, I do know what a demi-boy is. That’s because I bother to educate myself before spreading something that could potentially be blatant misinformation.

Another thing that the writer is of the firm belief of is that the breaking of gender roles in commercial stores or bathrooms is contradictory to science. Firstly, even if there was scientific evidence for sex and gender being the same thing, then I still could not see any possible benefit in any situation to enforcing gender roles onto products. In fact, I can see infinitely more benefits to the opposite- why on earth would we insist on having some items be ‘just for girls’ and some be ‘just for boys’ when we can let people have the freedom to enjoy what they would like to enjoy without them worrying about the social stigma around it?

I personally feel quite happy whenever I see a man wearing a dress or a skirt, for example. It means that they’re comfortable enough in their own masculinity that the fact that the silly idea that it’s ‘for girls’ doesn’t bother them.

Why do I believe all of this, one may be asking, despite all of Ashley McGuire’s sensible beliefs?
Because this is the literal, copied and pasted, definition for ‘gender’. Look it up if you don’t believe me:

The state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones)

The last four words in that sentence means that, by definition, sex and gender are two different things. If one isn’t familiar with the concrete definition of what gender is, perhaps writing an article about it wasn’t the best idea.

I’d like to finish off by pointing out the flaw in Ashley McGuire’s argument as she writes, “For the tiny percentage of people who experience gender dysphoria, we should have nothing but compassion.”​

You see, I would absolutely agree. However, Ashley is not exactly showing a whole lot of compassion for transgender people when she prefaces this sentence by calling a trans woman a man, using he/him pronouns for this same woman, and spreading the idea that their identities aren’t real or to be taken seriously.

​Hopefully my arguments were coherent here. I just think that articles like this can be very damaging to the playworkers who might read it and choose to believe it. There are so many vulnerable young transgender children that could be really harmed if a playworker chooses to use this same disrespect towards any gender identity they’re not used to or do not understand.

Thank you for reading.

Ash Silva

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5 Replies to “Gender Politics”

  1. What a beautifully composed article with such insight – are you sure you are only 15? Well done Ash (if I may call you that).

  2. What a fresh and relevant new voice you are Ash. You’re a great journalist waiting to emerge from such tender years!
    I’m the mum of a trans girl (11) and campaign for trans rights every day….young people like you are the future and I applaud your voice and spark. Well done, great article 👊🏻😘

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