Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "TERF Wars"

This poem is spillover from the July 4, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from Dreamwidth users Sweet_sparrow, Curiosity, Kengr, Dreamwriteremmy, Siliconshaman, Mdlbear, Fayanora, Dialecticdreamer, Stardreamer, and Callibr8.  It also fills the "make a list" square in my 7-1-17 card for the Winter Fest in July bingo.  It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The sale rate is $.25/line, so $5 will reveal 20 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
So far sponsors include: lone_cat, ng_moonmoth

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Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers.  It features gender issues, political controversies, reference to medical conditions, frank sex talk, accusations, teen angst, awkward interactions, momentary misapprehensions, verbal abuse, vulgar language, and other challenges. However, the level of support from some people makes the overall tone more positive. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


Stan stumbled onto a battlefield
without quite realizing how it happened.

One minute he was walking into
the commons for lunch, and next thing
he knew, everyone was yelling.

Stan closed his eyes for a moment,
centered himself, then opened them and
tried to figure out what was going on.

There was Lawrence, his bright hair
a beacon through the busy crowd.

There was Maren, one of Fortney's friends,
who sometimes got along with Lawrence
and other times butted heads with him.

(Stan could sympathize. He'd done the same.)

Right now, they were butting heads,
and so were a bunch of other people.
Fortney was right there beside Maren,
and Jayce was nearly hiding behind
Lawrence but refusing to quit the field.

"Well of course you'd  support it,"
Maren said, glaring at Jayce.

"I'm not planning to change
my registration again," Jayce said.
"I'm adjusting well to life as a girl."

"Not from where I'm standing.
Besides, everyone knows you're
not a real  girl anyway," Maren sneered.
"You're just a boy in a dress."

"Why don't you try that line
on my healer?" Jayce drawled.
"I'm fully female now, all the way
down to my cute little X-chromosomes."

"Hey folks, I don't know what the problem is,
but you might want to cool it down some
before the teachers get upset," Stan said.

"Fat chance of that," Fortney said.

"You didn't come past the teachers' lounge,
did you?" Lawrence said. "They're having
their own little riot in there as we speak."

"No, I came from the boys' locker room,"
Stan said. "I was in the gymnasium.
What in the world is going on?"

"A big court case just concluded
in Oregon," Lawrence explained.
"A group of four intersex people --
Hassan Saunders, Marion Rhett,
Lennox Oleastro, Nicolette le Doux --
sued the state over identity issues.
It went clear to the Supreme Court
of Oregon and they just ruled on it."

"Why does this have everyone's briefs
in a bunch?" Stan wondered.

"Because one of the results is that
Oregon has to add an Other option on
all paperwork that asks for sex or gender,
and quit asking it at all if they don't need
to use the information," Lawrence said.
"Reciprocity means that other states
will have to honor the new option too."

"Okay, so that might shake up
a few things," Stan said slowly.

"It fucks our sport rules right up
the ass," Fortney grumbled.

"It's a bunch of patriarchal bullshit,"
Maren said. "Men are men, and
women are women, and lying
about it doesn't change a thing."

"The whole point of the lawsuit
was to stop the government from
forcing people to lie," Lawrence said,
rubbing the bridge of his nose. Stan
wondered if he was getting a headache.
"Some intersex people are biologically
different from typical men or women.
Mixing that up isn't just wrong, it can be
dangerous in a medical situation."

"I think they made a good point
about other safety aspects, too,"
said Jayce. "Like how it's unethical
to force people into revealing traits that
may expose them to discrimination.
I've gotten hassled way more as
a transgirl than I ever did as a guy."

"Exactly," Lawrence said. "Privacy
is important for legal, psychological,
and safety reasons. Nobody should be
asking about someone else's genitals
unless it makes a practical difference, like
for health care or single-gender housing."

"And then where are they going to put
those so-called other people?" Maren said.

"I don't know," Lawrence admitted.

"Well, that's a problem," Stan said.
"Everyone needs a place to live, and
landlords aren't supposed to discriminate
in housing -- but if it's gendered and there's
nothing but male and female buildings,
then some folks are getting left out."

"Or shoved in where they don't belong,"
Jayce said. "That totally sucks."

"Yeah, someone might
mistake you for a boy,"
Maren teased, looking
sideways at Fortney.

"Oh, you take that back!"
Fortney snapped as she
reached into her lunchbag.

Stan grabbed her wrist.
"Don't even try it," he warned.
He'd seen her start food fights before,
and had no patience for it today.

Things were tense enough already.

"Whatever," Fortney said. She
glared at him, but took her hand
back out of the lunchbag.

"I just don't think it's fair for
a few people to screw things up
for everyone," Maren said. "Now
that ruling will cause problems for
all the hospitals and other businesses
that have to change their paperwork,
and that kind of work is expensive."

"More than some businesses are worth,
probably," Lawrence said with a nod. "They'll
have to change computer programming too,
and that's difficult -- or impossible, if they have
legacy systems that aren't supported anymore."

"Insurance companies will get hit
pretty hard," Fortney said. "They use
gender to calculate rates and stuff."

"That's come under fire in other cases,
because it's discriminatory," Lawrence said.
"It hooked into the ruling for this one, as
one reason for allowing people to refuse
disclosure of traits that could make them
a target. These changes probably will cause
difficulties for the insurance companies, though."
I don't know how they will handle it."

"Cry me a river, bitches,"
Jayce said bitterly.

Stan remembered that
Jayce hadn't had much luck
getting help from insurance
for his gender difficulties.

"Language," he murmured.
"I sympathize with your feelings,
though. Insurance companies
could've avoided those problems
if they had planned ahead and
listened to people better."

"Not to mention hospitals,"
Lawrence said. "You'd think
that of all people, doctors would
care about biological accuracy
in paperwork and programming."

"My therapist told me that
the counseling field has been
moving in that direction for
a while now," Jayce said.
"When I filled out paperwork,
it had all kinds of options, I just
happen to like being a girl."

"Yeah, right," Maren groused.

"Well I do,"  Jayce said. "It's
different than when I tried to be
a boy. Being trans may have
given me different experiences
than a cisgirl has, but I'm still a girl."

"Of course you are," Lawrence said.
"I'm glad that you found a therapist
who can work on that with you."

"We'll get through it somehow,"
Stan said. "People will figure out
how to make this work eventually."

"I still think it's going to make a big mess,"
Maren said. "I mean, driver's licenses,
child care licenses, financial aid forms --
almost everything asks for sex."

"Asks for sex," Fortney echoed,
and then sniggered.

"It's going to get very ugly
the first time someone with
one of those Other licenses
gets pulled over in Idaho or
Utah or Arizona," said Jayce.

"Couldn't the police just call up
the Department of Motor Vehicles
in Oregon and ask for confirmation?"
Stan said. "They're all connected."

"That's if they bother," Lawrence said.
"They might just decide it's a fake
and refuse to take it seriously."

"That sounds like another lawsuit,"
Stan said. "You mentioned reciprocity,
and yeah, all the states have to honor
decisions from the other states."

"I think that's why it's so important
for Oregon to declare that people
don't have to tell their sex or gender,
because it's not always safe," Jayce said.

"Isn't it obvious?" Stan said. "I mean,
some people change theirs, but usually
you can just look and see what it is."

"People make mistakes,"
Lawrence said quietly.
"You have seen them
misgender me before."

"Yeah, but that's just a goof,
it's easy to fix," Stan replied.
"I still don't see how they do it."

"It's easy to fix, in person, if they care,"
Lawrence said. "It's harder on paper,
and not everyone gives a fuck."

"We just want to know who you are,"
Maren said in an eerie voice.
"That's how it starts."

Goosebumps raced down
Stan's spine. He recalled that
from studying World War II ...
and soup history, too.

"Okay, so maybe we need
that privacy option too," he said.

"Great. Wonderful. Now we'll have
people faking it in the bathrooms,"
Maren said, rolling her eyes. "Do you
really want a girl watching you piss?"

Stan cringed. That thought made him
wish he could hold it all day.

"Enough!" Lawrence snapped.
"This isn't doing anything but
ruining everyone's digestion.
Let's just table it and go eat."

"Good idea," Jayce said,
and headed for a table.

Stan and Lawrence followed her
and then sat down together.
They took out their food.

Still, Stan couldn't quite
let go of all his questions.
"I get the gender diversity, but
why do we need the Other option
for sex?" he said. "I thought that
was the science part of things."

"It is," Lawrence said as he
bit into a sandwich. "There are
just more options in it than
most people realize."

"I'm having a hard time
imagining that," Stan said.

Lawrence took out his smartphone
and said, "Here. Try sorting
these into boys and girls."

The screen was full of privates.

"Eww!" Stan said, covering
his eyes with his hand. "You
shouldn't be showing that!"

"Why not?" Lawrence said.
"You asked about it. Besides,
it's from a paper I did on variations
in sexual development across species.
Some have separate sexes, some can
change, some are hermaphrodites.
In fact one of the plaintiffs in the case,
Marion Rhett, is a full hermaphrodite."

"Wow," Stan said, digging into a carton
of chicken salad. "That's a thing? I mean,
in people, not just snails or whatever."

"There are all kinds of intersex conditions,"
Lawrence said. "Fully functional male and
female organs together have only been
documented as a superpower, though.
Have I convinced you yet?"

"Are you going to show
me more gross pictures of
other people's private parts?"
Stan said, peeking out
from between his fingers.

"If you haven't gotten a clue yet,
then yes," Lawrence said firmly.

"Okay, okay, whatever you want,"
Stan said hastily. "Just turn that off.
I'm really not comfortable looking at
intimate pictures of strangers, especially
when the person who owns those parts
isn't choosing to show them to me."

"Privacy," Jayce said quietly. "They
deserve not to get stared at."

"Exactly," Stan said. "Those photos
make me feel like a peeping Tom."

"I'm sorry," Lawrence said. "I didn't
realize you'd feel that way, but I
should have. To me, it's just
science stuff, references."

"Those are photographs
of other people's bodies,"
Stan reminded him. "Parents
may give consent to use them,
but what if the babies grow up
and feel embarrassed by that?"

Lawrence paled and turned off
his smartphone. "Good point," he said.
"I was thinking from a clinical viewpoint,
instead of from an activist viewpoint."

"Nobody thinks of everything," Stan said,
"but between the two of us, I think
that we come pretty close."

"Closer than anyone else I know,"
Jayce said firmly. "Especially when
I'm comparing you to someone
like that TERF Maren."

"Say what?" Stan asked.

"TERF is an acronym that stands for
Trans-Exclusionary Reactionary Feminist,"
Lawrence explained. "Maren takes
a pretty extremist view of stuff."

"Like trying to convince herself
that she's a lesbian just because
she wants to be," Jayce said as she
picked grapes off of their stems.

"That doesn't sound very smart,"
Stan said. "Unless maybe she's bi."

He had read that some bisexual folks
preferred to focus on one gender or
the other, instead of pursuing both.

"None of our business either way,"
Lawrence said. "Maren can flirt
with whomever she chooses, for
whatever reasons she wants."

"Yeah, but she's just going
to wind up starting more TERF wars,"
Jayce said. She tossed the empty stems
from the grape bunch into the trash.

"Probably so," Lawrence said.

A warning bell rang, and they
hurried to finish their food before
they had to leave for classes.

As they left the commons, Stan
thought about the discussion.

He didn't know a lot about
this gender stuff yet -- it was
complicated -- but he was learning.

Stan wondered what would come of
the court case in the days ahead.

Whatever it was, he hoped that
it wouldn't get decided by
people like Maren.

* * *


Jayce Olson -- She has pinkish-fair skin, dark blue eyes, and long black hair with just a little wave. Jayce lives in Omaha, Nebraska where she attends the same high school as Stanley Wood. Jayce used to play football as a safety, but is now more interested in cheerleading. She excels at civics class and enjoys social studies too. She has taken all the opportunities for fundraising and community service, earning a lot of extra credit that way, and she volunteers for local charities outside of school too. However, she has been struggling with identity issues for some time, recently transitioned from male to female, and hasn't really settled into her new gender expression yet.
Qualities: Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Charity, Good (+2) Civics Student, Good (+2) Left/Right Brain Balance, Good (+2) Teamwork
Poor (-2) Transgender

Fortney Sullivan -- She has pinkish-fair skin, brown eyes, and light brown hair usually pulled back in a short braid. She is tall and beefy, but quick on her feet. Her four older brothers have inspired her to keep up with the guys. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska where she plays football on the same team that Stanley Wood used to be on. As a cornerback she excels at agility and catching the ball. Hyperconscious of her precarious social position -- football is respected but girls are unwelcome there, and playing football is seen as unfeminine -- she is always looking for ways to move up the popularity ladder. In her senior fall semester, her first class is Sports and Entertainment Marketing with Angelica Young.
Qualities: Good (+2) Determination, Good (+2) Cornerback Football Player, Good (+2) Student
Poor (-2) Unpopular

Maren Arntson -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and straight brown hair to her shoulders. With a sharp mind, she performs well in school. However, her aggressive and prejudiced interpretation of feminism often puts her at odds with other people. Maren feels a certain level of attraction toward boys, but refuses to act on it because she thinks of it as "compulsory heterosexuality." She prefers to direct her energy toward female relationships as a political choice. She attends the Everleigh High School in Omaha, Nebraska with Stanley Wood and Lawrence Cunningham.
Good (+2) Confidence, Good (+2) High School Student, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Feminist

"Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence" is a classic essay in feminism.

Hassan Saunders -- He has light brown skin, brown eyes, and nappy black hair buzzed almost down to the scalp. His ears are pierced. A long scar crosses the right side of his forehead, from a gaybashing attack in his tweens. (He is heterosexual.) He wears glasses due to vision impairment sustained in that attack. Hassan has 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, an intersex condition which caused him to appear female at birth. He was originally named Hasna. At puberty, however, his male features developed and he identified with a masculine gender. It was a fairly abrupt shift; prior to that, Hasna had felt reasonably comfortable living as a girl, despite not quite fitting in. Hassan is studying Public Interest Law at the Sacagawea School of Law and Diplomacy in Portland, Oregon. He and three other intersex people lodged a lawsuit against the government to demand respect by adding Other as a sex/gender category, discouraging the routine use of sex/gender on paperwork, and giving people the right not to disclose a trait that could increase discrimination against them.
Qualities: Good (+2) Law Student, Good (+2) Muslim
Poor (-2) Vision Impairment

In T-America, the Lewis & Clark Law School is instead the Sacagawea School of Law and Diplomacy. It also features robust departments for Linguistics and Native American Studies.

(This link is explicit.)
Intersex 5-alpha reductase deficiency causes ambiguous genital development like this.  Sometimes genitals seem feminine at birth, but then very masculine features develop at puberty.

Marion Rhett -- Xe has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short curly black hair. Xyr ears are pierced, both in the lobes and with industrial piercings at the tops. Xe is a full hermaphrodite, and omnisexual in orientation. Xyr heritage includes American, Brittish, and Italian. Extroverted and emotionally apt, Marion loves people and parties. However, xe can be argumentive. Marion is majoring in Gender Studies at the Sacagawea School of Law and Diplomacy in Portland, Oregon. Xe and three other intersex people lodged a lawsuit against the government to demand respect by adding Other as a sex/gender category, discouraging the routine use of sex/gender on paperwork, and giving people the right not to disclose a trait that could increase discrimination against them.
Origin: Marion's mother received fertility treatments in order to get pregnant, and the baby was born with superpowers.
Uniform: Marion owns both masculine and feminine clothing, can dress well in either mode, but prefers to mix-and-match both at once.
Qualities: Good (+2) Emotional Intelligence, Good (+2) Extrovert, Good (+2) Fashion Sense, Good (+2) Gender Studies Major, Good (+2) Limber
Poor (-2) Argumentive
Powers: Good (+2) Hermaphrodite
Marion has properly formed, fully-functional organs for both sexes. Xyr breasts, penis, and testicles are all smaller than average. This contributes to xyr androgynous appearance. Doctors believe that xe is probably self-fertile and have advised Marion to take precautions when masturbating in the male mode.

In T-America, the Lewis & Clark Law School is instead the Sacagawea School of Law and Diplomacy. It also features robust departments for Linguistics and Native American Studies. Unlike Lewis & Clark, Sacagawea offers a major as well as a minor in Gender Studies.

(This link is explicit.)
True hermaphroditism in local-American use refers to mixed genotypes but does not include medically documented individuals with fully functional male and female sex organs.  In Terramagne, however, this is a superpower that does include fully functional male and female sex organs -- although they may be smaller or differently formed than typical males or females.

Lennox Oleastro -- She has caramel skin, brown eyes, and wavy brown hair to her shoulders. She has partial Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, which means that she is genetically male but her body (and personality) developed primarily as female. She is a lesbian. Lennox identifies as Latinx. She is currently taking the ADALANTE Leadership Program at the Latin@ Studies and Engagement Center as part of her Ethnic Studies Major at the Oregon State University in Portland. She and three other intersex people lodged a lawsuit against the government to demand respect by adding Other as a sex/gender category, discouraging the routine use of sex/gender on paperwork, and giving people the right not to disclose a trait that could increase discrimination against them.
Qualities: Good (+2) Alcohol Tolerance, Good (+2) Ethnic Studies Major, Good (+2) Gentle, Good (+2) Latinx, Good (+2) Linguistic Intelligence
Poor (-2) Imposter Syndrome

(This link is explicit.)
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome can cause a wide range of phenotypes, including a relatively feminine appearance.

Nicolette le Doux -- She has pale skin, gray eyes, and long straight black hair. Nicolette has XX/XY mosaicism. Two eggs were fertilized by two sperm, but merged instead of developing as twins. So Nicolette's brother is subsumed into her own body; Nicolette calls him Nicholas and is downright aggressive about acknowledging him. She herself is feminine and heterosexual -- or possibly heteroflexible. She explains the latter as "Nicholas wants a turn tonight." He has his very own prosthetic penis for such occasions. Despite being a devout Christian, she feels no spiritual conflict over her nature. God made her this way; therefore, He must want her this way; and that makes it okay. God's will trumps human interpretations or opinions, so she simply ignores other Christians who complain about it. Nicolette is majoring in Broadcast Journalism at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon just outside of Portland. She also has a minor in Studio Art. She and three other intersex people lodged a lawsuit against the government to demand respect by adding Other as a sex/gender category, discouraging the routine use of sex/gender on paperwork, and giving people the right not to disclose a trait that could increase discrimination against them.
Qualities: Good (+2) Beautiful, Good (+2) Broadcast Journalism Major, Good (+2) Christian, Good (+2) Existential Intelligence, Good (+2) Painter
Poor (-2) I Have a Brother, Damn It, I'm Just Wearing Him

(This link is explicit.)
True hermaphroditism in local-American use includes XX/XY mosaicism, but does not include medically documented individuals with fully functional male and female sex organs.  Appearances vary and can look quite feminine, quite masculine, or a mix.

* * *

TERF stands for Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism.  It is a social-determinist stance which considers the visual estimation of genitals at birth to be the only valid gauge of gender.  Like most other demerminists, they do not bother to test the actual sex chromosomes, so this does not qualify as scientific or biological determinism (even though people mistakenly call it that).

Everleigh High School is named from history. In Local-America, "During the Expo, famous madames Anna Wilson and Ada Everleigh were making a good living from the crowds." In Terramagne, the Everleigh sisters' alternate history was true, and instead of starting a brothel, they started a women's law firm and networked with other businesswomen to form the Ladies' Business Bureau.

Explore Everleigh High School in Omaha, Nebraska, Terramagne. See the exterior and floor plan. Here are the science room, gym, commons, shop room, library, computer room and desks.

Angry young feminists can turn men and women away from feminism.  Instead, think about supporting men as a feminist.

Centering is one way to stay calm during a crisis so you can solve the problem.

Transgender and intersex students face many challenges.  Rights often exist on paper but not in practice.

Read about the Oregon Supreme Court.

Reciprocity appears in the Full Faith and Credit Clause.  It has been very contentious in same-sex marriage.

(Some of these links are explicit.)
Many different conditions make up the intersex portion of the sexual development spectrum.  This slide show presents some intersex examples.  Because male and female genitals begin from the same structures, quite a wide variety of results may develop, as shown in illustrations and photographs.  These variations are customarily erased as much as possible through surgery, which often does more harm than good. Some places are doing better, such as this example from L-Ireland and L-Germany's proposed improvements.

There are ways to support transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people.  There are also tips for men to interrupt sexual harassment and other misbehavior.

Tags: activism, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, politics, reading, writing

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