I’d heard about it, but first experienced the pronoun problem last week while attending a workshop in Auckland. When someone is in transition between gender roles, ‘he’ or ‘she’ needs to be replaced by ‘they’. Sometimes a child is a ‘they’ until they’ve decided for themselves, their gender. It makes writing a little problematic: J. enters. They sit. F. wonders what they have been up to. They stare into their eyes. I am reminded of R.D. Laing’s famous study, The Divided Self, which portrayed the disembodiment of the schiz and the tendency toward multiple personalities. But when discussing this with my teacher daughter she felt that it was a very good thing for children to be able to explore their gender.
However, when identity is created in this way by the adult, with not only gender, but ethnicity and political position included, it produces a polished persona, alongside which someone of my generation feels very drab indeed. I am reminded in fact of the aesthetes of the late 19th century, the Wildes and the Beardsleys, the art for art’s sake people; but neither should we forget the politicising of Wilde.
After the workshop I was told of the conflict that can arise when a long term campaign such as the equal pay campaign is subtlely undermined by the concept of transition, for the campaign is based on gender stability. Sex workers can present similar difficulty with their role playing for payment.
During the workshop we were looking at the mystifications occurring in the community sector as government programmes (often imported from overseas) such as social enterprise, community-led development and co-design are forced on the sector as fads for a period, requiring providers to align their service provision to the new paradigm, which has often been birthed in the business sector. The long march of neo-liberalism to its decadent conclusion continues. Interesting and a little tiring.
Back in Christchurch I was faced with the practical dilemma of strapping a new information panel to an old roof rack and transporting it back to Blackball. Wind vectors in the alps can get extreme and the panel hummed, rattled, moaned and occasionally roared. I refer to it as ‘it’ but ‘it’ sometimes seemed more alive than the pronoun suggests. We got here (me and the panel), but it took a little longer than usual.
Finally there arose the ultimate insult to the aesthetic, the need to go and bury two wild goats who were knocked over by a hit and run driver last night. They were both pregnant, so the impulse to gut them and use the meat quickly disappeared. Instead I need to dig a hole, which I have perhaps already done with the above meditation.