I’ve been thinking a lot lately about language and definition and particularly self-definition. It is very important to try one’s best to respect and use the words another person uses to define themself (there are very few exceptions and I will not be going into those here).
And in thinking about this, I started to think about what words I do and don’t use for myself and why. So I thought I’d write it out all in one place.
Just like anyone else, I might later change my mind!
These are just how I feel is respectful to talk with and about *me as a unique individual person* and should not be taken asme speaking for all trans or disabled or Jewish people.
If you do want to change how you refer to yourself after reading this, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s also fine.
Basic stuff first!
My name is “Liam”. If you want to refer to me, use that. Also acceptable are “Yetanotherlefty”, “AutistLiam” and “Liam D.” if you ever need to cite own of my posts in a piece of academic work and you feel I am desperately in need of a surname.
My pronoun is “he, him, his”. When writing or speaking about me, please use “he” pronouns and no others. I’ll ignore a few “they”s in speech but if you do it a lot or very consistently, I will ask why.
My gender is “man” or “male”. I’ll also accept “guy” and “dude”. Please do not call me a “boy” unless you are a very close friend, partner or person currently under the age of 12.
Stuff that is a bit more complicated or controversial!
My race is White. With or without the capital letter. Please do feel free to mention that I’m white whether or not it is of any real relevance. If you’d even consider mentioning my race if I were someone who isn’t white in a sentence, that’s a great opportunity to mention MY race in that sentence to subtly make visible the ridiculous double-standards that reinforce the idea that White people are raceless.
I am Jewish. Please do describe me as “Jewish” and also feel free to describe me as “a Jew”. “A Jew” is fine, really. Now, just calling me “Jew” or “that Jew” or “dirty Jew”? No, don’t do that. And I’d rather not be called any antisemitic slurs as well but I’m assuming you’re a kind considerate person here.
I am bisexual. Please *do* describe me as “bi” or “bisexual” or “a bi / bisexual man”. Please, please, please don’t call me “gay” because I’m NOT. No, not even as in “part time gay”. Also, I’d rather not be described as “an LGBT person” but if you say that I’ll just look at you askance.
Please don’t decide for me that I’m “actually pansexual” or call me “queer” unless we are very very close friends. I actively CHOOSE to be proud to be bisexual and calling me “queer” can be (and sometimes is) used to erase that. So please don’t.
My relationships are non-monogamous and that’s what I’d prefer they be called. The labels “polyamory” and “open relationship” are sort-of applicable but don’t feel right. I as a person am not “poly” or “nonmono” – it’s what I do but I don’t feel like it’s part of who/what I am.
I am Autistic. And whether with or without the capital A, that’s how I want to be described. “Autistic” can be an adjective (describing word) or a noun (naming word) and for me it’s both. I am “an Autistic man” and I am “an Autistic”. Please, please try not to prefer to me as someone who “has autism” or someone “with autism”. My mind, body and soul are Autistic, there is no Liam *without* autism because every part of me is Liam and every part of me is Autistic. Please also do not decide to label me as someone who “suffers from” autism – while autism isn’t always pain-free or pleasant, it’s who I AM and most of the negative parts are caused or exacerbated by inaccessibility and disablism, not autism itself.
Please also try not to call me anything suggesting I have Aspergers Syndrome or “High Functioning Autism”. The latter isn’t even a thing and the former isn’t the kind of Autistic I am. Unless we are very very close friends and I have personally told you it’s okay, please don’t call me “an Aspie”. I used to call myself that but have recently decided I no longer want to – it’s inaccurate and marks me out as belonging in a different category (a category often seen by non-Autistics as more acceptable) from my fellow Autistics.
I am trans. While I intensely dislike pretty much all language that has been coined to describe people who grow up differently gendered to what was expected from them, “trans” seems to be the one that is best known and I grudgingly accept it. “Transgender” and “transsexual” I’ll also accept but I much prefer “trans”. ALL I would like used as adjectives only. So “Liam is trans” is okay but “Liam is a trans” is not, “Liam is a transsexual man” is okay but “Liam is a transsexual” is not. Please note that I am a trans MAN and if I see someone consistently calling me a “trans person” but rarely or never a “trans man” or a “man” I will notice and I will ask why.
Further, please, please never refer to me as “(an) FTM” or “female to male”. I have never been female or a woman and I’m not heading towards manhood, I’m a man already. I was a boy and now I’m a man and the fact that no one else knew about or understood my boy-ness as a child doesn’t change that in the slightest. When people call me “an FTM trans person” I can SEE the not-so-subtle absence of the word “man” in their description of me. Whether it’s meant to or not, calling me “FTM” instead of “man” is erasing my identity as a man and as just as much of a man as any other.
I am disabled. I am chronically ill. I have chronic mental health problems.
I prefer to call myself a “disabled person/man” rather than a “person/man with disabilities”. This is a deliberate and political choice, reflecting not just the fact that I live in Britain where this terminology is generally preferred but also a broad commitment to the social model of disability and an identification with the culture and community of disabled people that has grown up around it.
Among friends, I sometimes call myself reclaimed disablist slurs like “crip/ple”, “spaz”, “spesh” and even the R-word. Unless you know me really well, don’t call me by reclaimed slurs. I call myself “crazy” and “mental” frequently but if you don’t know me, stick to “mentally ill” or “has depression / anxiety / PTSD / ED”. I tend to say I’m “chronically ill” instead of “sick”. I don’t call myself a “spoonie” and I’d rather people didn’t say of me that I “suffer from” any of my illnesses – sometimes I do but I’d rather *I* got to decide whether or not that part’s relevant.
I call myself a “survivor”. If you don’t what the bad things I survived were, that’s because I refuse to tell most people. I lived through some stuff. Much of it was stuff I could equally be described as the “victim” of but people ask more questions if I say that.
And I think that’s pretty much it other than that I don’t call myself a feminist. If my views and actions are feminist, please feel free to describe them as such but it’s not my place to say that I am, as a person, feminist.The same goes for anti-racist. I try to behave in a way that destroys white supremacy and white privilege but it’s not my place to say that I am, as a person, anti-racist.
And this is now long so congrats if you got to the end.