S2 E11: Language and Gender- Joe Pearce

Welcome to another episode of Much Language Such Talk! We have been talking about this episode for a long time, and it’s finally here!

For this episode, we interviewed Joe Pearce. He is a PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow. His research looks at gender differences in the production and perception of voice quality in contemporary Scotland from a trans-focused perspective. He has investigated whether listeners use creaky voice and breathy voice as cues to a speaker’s gender before, and his current research is looking at voice quality across three regions of Scotland with an in-depth look at three transgender speakers’ use of voice quality and how they understand it. He has given workshops on language in the LGBTQ+ community, and contributed to public engagement regarding language and gender.

He served as the President of the Glasgow University English Language Society from 2018-2019, and as the Secretary of the Glasgow University Linguistics Society from 2019-2020.

Other links mentioned in the episode:
Edinburgh Uni Pride.Soc

Listen to the episode here!

Read the transcript here!

[Mariel] Hello and welcome back to another episode of Much Language Such Talk. Today’s episode is on Language and Gender. I’m Mariel, your host, and I use she/they pronouns. Helping me out today is our lovely guest host, Ida Dickerboom, who is currently president of the University of Edinburgh’s LGBTQ+ student society Pride Soc, and is working towards their undergraduate degree in linguistics.
Hi, Ida, would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work?

[Ida] Yeah, hi everyone. My name is Ida and I use they/them pronouns. I’m in my final year of my undergraduate degree in linguistics at the University of Edinburgh. And like Mariel said, I am also this year’s president of Pride Soc, the Uni’s LGBTQ+ society. And so being involved in Pride Soc has been such a rewarding opportunity for me this year, because it allowed me to connect more with the queer community at the university, and also to take part in some really interesting projects such as the Turn Up for Trans Health protests, which took place in front of the Scottish Parliament just last Friday, where we were advocating for better trans health care. So it’s been amazing to get a chance to do all that in my final year at this university. And also I’m from Germany. So my native language is German and a topic I find fascinating is how trans and specifically non binary issues are addressed in different languages because it’s quite different in German than it is in English. It is a topic I hope we can get into more today. And yeah, I’m really excited to be a guest host today. Thank you for having me.

[Mariel] Ya know, obviously you’re kind of the perfect candidate for this guest host. So much of the team is made up of cis women, and so we thought it wise to bring not necessarily them to the table but people who are in the community and are ready to talk about this in a way that is personal and based on their own experiences, and also to bring in an expert. So joining us today to answer all our questions on Language and Gender is Joe Pearce. Joe Pearce is a PhD researcher at the University of Glasgow. His research looks at gender differences in the production and perception of voice quality in contemporary Scotland from a trans focus perspective. Welcome, Joe.

[Joe] Hi, thank you for having me. My name is Joe. I’m a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. And yeah, as Mariel said, I’m interested in voices and voice quality. I’m really interested in anything to do with gender and language and voices, and especially looking at things from a kind of trans focused perspective.

[Mariel] Perfect. Yeah,  your research came super highly recommended by Christian Ilbury here at the University of Edinburgh. So yeah, he just dropped your name and was like, yeah, look at this person.

[Joe] That’s exciting to hear.

[Mariel] No, it’s always nice to like have somebody else thinking about you, thinking about your research right?

[Joe] Yeah

[Mariel] And speaking of this question actually goes to both of you, Ida and Joe, how did you become interested in linguistics and languages?

[Joe] Um, so I kind of got interested in linguistics because I used to live in France and so when I lived there, I was kind of friends with a lot of people from different countries. And so a lot of people had different accents. And I kind of noticed that we all started to sound slightly similar to each other at the time. I thought that was kind of interesting. But I actually got interested in linguistics specifically kind of by accident, because I came to university actually to study English literature. And at Glasgow you have to take English language for a year if you’re doing English literature. And so I took English language, which is kind of… Glasgow is kind of, it’s linguistics and English language at Glasgow, it’s that one subject. And yeah, so I took English language because I had to, and then I ended up really, really loving it and I switched my degree. And yeah, just kind of, it grew from that. And here we are, like, seven or eight years later, I’m still doing linguistics.

[Mariel] I do love how it is kind of an accident. Like I definitely fell into applied linguistics in the exact same way. So we’re not alone here. What about you Ida?

[Ida] I think for me it’s actually kind of similar. So it seems to be a common experience because I was always kind of low key interested in linguistics just through like learning different languages or trying to learn different languages in most cases, but I initially wanted to study psychology, so I applied for like a bunch of psychology courses at different universities in Scotland. And then I saw that Edinburgh also offered psychology and linguistics is like a joint Honours degree. And I was like one of the linguistics also sounds interesting, so like, why not? And then I ended up liking linguistics and way more than psychology and dropped psychology after first year and now here we are. And I don’t regret it.

[Mariel] Oh, that’s amazing, because just for context for Joe as well. The linguistics department is philosophy, psychology and Language Sciences. Those are all one sort of school. So it’s very much we all fell into it.

[Joe] It’s interesting how linguistics has kind of put in with all these other departments in different universities, like sometimes it’s psychology here, it’s with like English literature and theology. And like, wherever you go, it will be kind of put in with a different department. I kind of feel like that’s how a lot of people end up getting into it just kind of accidentally because their linguistics is in a school with a different, like, subject that they were originally interested in.

[Mariel] And to be honest, just for myself, like I’m not actually in a linguistics programme. My programme is a PhD in education, but I’m studying specifically anti-racism and language education. And I’m using like linguistic techniques, right. And so I’m kind of here. What’s not like tangentially, but just kind of as a byproduct of needing linguistics to study language education, right? So language is in everything right? And that’s why we do this podcast. And so since you’re both involved in queer community and researching from a trans perspective, or through trans lens, how did you both get started integrating these things into your work or I guess to Ida: How do you see these things coming into your linguistics programme, and what motivates you to do work in these fields?

[Ida] So I unfortunately haven’t done much research or like work into trans linguistics because that unfortunately wasn’t really covered much in my course, which I think is kind of sad, because like, I mean, I think it was mentioned really briefly like in sociolinguistics in first year, but it wasn’t really like brought up after that. And I just wish there had been like, more focus on it as an area of research. So like, yeah, I haven’t been like, properly involved in it. But I do think like linguistics has kind of given me more of an end being involved in like queer and trans activism is given me like more of an awareness of like, how much language matters when it comes to social justice issues of like any kind basically, but like, especially even talking to and about trans people, like how important pronouns are. And also studying linguistics has just made me realize just how stupid the argument is that like, for example, the singular they/them pronouns aren’t grammatical or whatever, because like what even is grandma? It’s my company isn’t from four years of linguistics. What even is grammar? That’s my conclusion from four years of linguistics, what even is grammar? That yeah, like language changes all the time and like language changes to adapt to people. So like, society doesn’t have to like, adapt to language, that language changes to like, fit society and fit new movements and societies. So I just don’t understand the argument that like, a certain way of referring to trans people is just wrong. Like, from a linguistic point of view, because yeah, there’s no such thing in linguistics.

[Mariel] Absolutely. Yeah. No, that’s all stuff. And we’ll definitely talk more about that in the following questions, just to give a sneak preview to everyone else. What about you Joe?

[Joe] Yes so I got interested in it kind of towards the end of my undergrad degree. So I had to do a dissertation, so I was kind of, I had to choose what I wanted to do it on, and I kind of had started to think about the way that my friends who were also kind of coming out as trans, and how, how we sounded, I was kind of beginning to be interested in it through that just kind of listening to my own speech and the speech of other trans people that I was friends with, and I kind of hadn’t really considered how exactly I would go about looking into trans people’s speech until I found like a paper about it, and I realised oh this is actually something I can research and that I can do, and so it was really through finding out other people who had researched this before. I was kind of like, wow, I can actually kind of combine this sort of part of myself and also my research and look into it more as kind of what motivates me to do research in these fields now, kind of as I go through it, I feel like to start with it was more of a kind of academic sort of interest, or kind of just that I’d kind of heard people speaking and I was kind of interested to find out more. But now I think it’s more, I’ve started to think about what it is that I can actually do with this research. So for me, one of the things I’m kind of getting ready to work on it’s kind of the next stage of my research coming up, is that I’m going to be interviewing a small number of trans people about their experiences with their voices and what their voices mean to them, as well as looking at what their voices are doing in terms of voice quality. And when I think about that, the thing that really motivates me to do it, is that I think about the state of trans healthcare in Scotland at the moment and specifically thinking about what’s going on with voice therapy and speech therapy. I think we’ve got fairly kind of limited access to speech and language therapy for trans people in Scotland at the moment. And so, what I’d really like from that kind of bit of my research that’s coming up is to be able to kind of take that to speech therapists and talk to them about kind of why is it important this to work with trans people, and kind of get them to kind of understand the experience of the people that they’re working with a little bit more. Yeah.

[Mariel] Yeah. That feels like super inspiring and also, it it kind of feels perfect that we’ve brought the both of you here today because you know, trans healthcare and healthcare in general is something that I’m very, I suppose, focused on simply just because I’m American, and American healthcare is a mess, right? And so I’ve come to this country and it feels really good, and it’s only now after like, how long have I been here? Maybe a year and a half, that I’m like, Oh, I’m seeing the cracks now, I’m seeing the, where people are falling through and unfortunately, those people are the ones that I hold close to me, right. There are people in my community who are being left behind a little bit and so I think that’s really inspiring.

[Joe] Yeah, I think that’s interesting that you’re coming from like an American kind of perspective, because I feel like our healthcare systems are very different. And I guess that’s where they fail on my own kind of different places. Yeah.

[Ida] Yeah. As you mentioned in the introduction, you do research on how people perceive gender. Can you tell us more about your research and what have you found so far?

[Joe] Yeah. So I’m really interested in voices and what we’re doing with our voices and also how people perceive them, and one thing that I’m really interested in is how people perceive the gender of a voice. So if you’re on the phone to someone and you hear just someone’s voice on the phone, what parts of their voice kind of tell you about what’s going on in terms of gender? And so that’s something that’s kind of like, has probably kind of an obvious relevance for trans linguistics, I suppose because we’re talking on the… If you’re kind of talking on the phone, sometimes it’s quite important for you to be able to, to pass on the phone. And so I’m quite interested in gender perception. And the thing that I was looking at was something called voice quality, which is basically whether your voice sounds more kind of whispering like this, more kind of creaky like this, or any other sort of way that you can imagine someone’s voice sounding. So we know already that pitch is really important for how people perceive the gender of a speaker’s voice, but I was kind of interested in thinking about whether voice quality, maybe also have contributed to how people perceive the gender of a person when they just heard their voice. And so I basically, I’ve got someone to produce a breathy voice quality and a creaky voice quality. And then I manipulated the pitch of her voice. So it was kind of that was, some of the sentences I made them so that they were kind of edited to be in a more kind of typically masculine sort of pitch range. And then some of them I kept in sort of a typically pitch range that was maybe more typical of a woman’s voice. And then I kind of played those two people and got them to kind of select how masculine or feminine they thought her voice sounded. And whether they thought that it was a man or a woman speaking, or if they just simply couldn’t tell. And so what I found with that, was that if someone’s speaking in a more kind of breathy voice like this, they rated her voice is being more feminine sounding, less masculine sounding, and they were more likely to say that they thought it was a woman speaking, and if they heard a creaky voice as well, so a creaky voice like this, they were also rating her voice as being less masculine. But that was also kind of an interesting interaction with what was going on with pitch, that we also know that pitch is really important. So you’d expect that a lower pitch voice people would be more likely to rate that as being a man speaking or as being kind of more masculine sounding. When we were looking at creaky voice, so creaky voice sounding like this kind of creaky (gives example of sound), so we’d gotten her to produce a creaky voice, and then I had also edited the pitch of her voice down, and you would kind of expect that a lower pitch you’d find that someone would rate your voice sounding more masculine perhaps, if you expect that men have a lower lower pitch than women. One thing that we actually found that was quite interesting was that when we edited the voice of her pitch down, so that it was at that kind of low, masculine sounding pitch level, if she was also creaky at that low pitch level, people have rated her voice as being more likely to be a woman.

[Mariel & Ida] That’s interesting.

[Joe] Thank you.

[Ida] Yeah, I hadn’t really considered how like voice quality factors into the perception of gender, as well as pitch. So yeah, that’s really interesting.

[Joe] Oh, I just have one extra thing to say about how I got interested in that specifically, was kind of through trying to make my own voice sound lower. What I kind of found was that if I tried to make my voice sound lower, that sometimes it would sound kind of breathy and the quality of my voice would change. And so that’s something that I find quite interesting is that every, all of the kind of muscles in your neck are sort of related. And so it’s kind of interesting how, when you try to do one thing with your voice, something else changes.

[Mariel] And trying to keep it all together to try to present as you know, whatever you want to present is very, I can imagine how that’s an extremely complex process that speech and language therapists would absolutely need to know to take care of trans non-binary patients.

[Joe] Yeah, and it was all very complicated.

[Mariel] As all things that language.

[Ida] Is gender and gender performance different in different languages, and what is the relationship between language and gender presentation?

[Joe] So yes, absolutely. One thing that I’m really interested in is pitch. And we actually find in different languages that people do different things in terms of pitch. So in American English, versus Japanese, for example. The kind of typical pitch range for a woman is slightly different. So when speaking Japanese people have- sort of women will tend to have like a slightly higher sounding voice versus in American English, a slightly lower sounding voice. And the difference between men and women is different in these languages as well. So in American English, the differences slightly smaller, between kind of the pitch of man and a pitch of a woman, then as in Japanese, there’s a kind of a bigger difference between the kind of average pitch woman and the average pitch of a man. And that different between different languages as well. So there’s other languages, there’s dialects of Chinese, where there’s much less difference between the kind of average pitch of a man and a woman as well. And probably even between different different accents of English as well.

[Mariel] That’s really interesting because this is actually kind of why- So my own sort of gender story, like it is what it is everyone has their own sort of, you know, gender story and journey and all that right. So I started to get the first inklings of like, whatever non-binary tendrils had latched in my brain, while I was living in Japan. But my friends make fun of me for this, but I sound so different speaking Japanese than speaking English. My Japanese is like not good. But when communicating with people in Japan, it absolutely skipped like eight octaves. Right? I became the worst anime character you could possibly imagine. Not like purposely it was 100% on accident. So my partner, my friends all of them were like ‘Who are you?” You know anytime I was like “Konnichiwa! nananananana…” right like… All of that. And it felt so weird, I suppose, like experiencing that in Japan, just because I have to ask myself and it’s something I talked about with my partner, my friends, was like, am I unhappy with or am I discomforted with the label of womanhood in the Japanese context? Or am I actually non-binary? And so we decided to wait until I was in an English speaking context again. Because that is my native language, right? To see if you know if it really was just the idea of like Josei and womanhood, or if it’s just the whole thing in general. And once I got to Edinburgh, I was like, oh, yeah, it’s the whole thing. It’s the whole thing. And so it’s very interesting how that’s- how that’s come up.

[Joe] Yeah, that’s super interesting. Yeah, I definitely feel like maybe I kind of feel my experience of gender differently in different- in different contexts. Just the same kind of way. Maybe you’ve noticed, noticed it more in certain contexts than others, but then it’s kind of still, still always there as a whole thing. Yeah.

[Ida] Yeah, I think for me as a bilingual person, I also experienced my gender differently in English and in German. I mean, that’s kind of something we’re getting into in a later question, I think specifically with like, gender pronouns. So I guess I’ll save that for later. But I feel like because German is more strongly gendered language. I think it’s both like, more difficult to like assert your identity as a non binary person, but also like kind of increases gender dysphoria by like, constantly being reminded of like, your assigned gender, or like having to kind of misgender yourself, because there isn’t really- I mean, there are some attempts to like make the language more inclusive of non-binary people but nothing that has really like stuck as it has an English. So yeah, I think in English, it’s just easier to exist as a non-binary person, for me at least.

[Mariel] Absolutely. Yeah. To be micro-aggressed by your own language, it’s at a constant level and must be like really harrowing at times, and so…

[Ida] It can be kind of annoying.

[Mariel] That’s, you know, that’s a better word for it. Okay, so we have an audience question from Instagram, actually.

[Ida] The question is, does gender affect one’s idiolect liked? Because you do the research on something similar Joe. Voice quality and vocal-fry as a gender marker, but is there more research on exactly on how exactly one’s own language use is shaped by one’s gender?

[Joe] Yes, absolutely. Gender affects all different sorts of sorts of parts of the way that we speak. And it’s kind of not too much of a surprise. That it affects what’s going on in terms of our own speech, because people have actually looked at what goes on when people are learning to speak as kind of little children and they’ve actually found that, that the kind of adults who speak slightly differently to girls and to boys, and so as we’re growing up, we’re kind of almost taught to speak differently. And then as we kind of get older and older, obviously we- we kind of want to sound like people that we see ourselves as being similar to so it just kind of grows from there. So, I mean, the question is almost what parts of language doesn’t gender affect? And I think there’s very, very little that it doesn’t. One particular sound that I really like that gender affects that just kind of blows my mind a little bit when I think about is the sound ‘S’. So one thing that I am kind of just baffled by, and there’s loads of research on this, is that men and women tend to pronounce their ‘S’s differently. In English at least and also in some other languages as well. So in English, the way that you make an ‘S’ sound in your mouth, if you’re a woman is sometimes slightly further forward and ends up sounding slightly different so it’s more like [S sounds] and men tend to make an ‘S’ sound with their tongue slightly further back in their mouth, and it ends up sounding kind of slightly lower sounding more like [S sounds]  so it’s kind of like [S sounds] or [S sounds]. And so I mean, it’s not like an absolute it’s not all women do this and all men do this. But there is this kind of general tendency, and it means that a lot of interesting things can actually happen. When someone doesn’t do what someone’s expecting in terms of ‘S’. It kind of changes how someone’s perceived your voice a little bit sometimes. And yeah we have a lot of freedom with ‘S’ to kind of play around and do lots of interesting things. Yeah, I think ‘S’ is a fascinating one. But yeah, gender affects all aspects of how we speak basically, even how we say our ‘S’ sounds.

[Mariel] Blows my mind. I know the podcast people can’t see me but I’m here. Like in shock and that’s just one sound. What! [laughs] I can’t! An ‘S’?!

[Joe] Yeah. I just kind of go around listening to people’s ‘S’ trying to think how hou[S]e like or hou[S]e like is it

[Ida] I’m gonna start doing that now. Just listen out for people’s ‘S’s and be like, “Oh, can you repeat that please?” I didn’t hear your ‘S’. It’s so interesting.

[Mariel] I’m so excited. I’m gonna show this episode to my trans friends and be like, “Okay, cool. This is how you pass now with just your ‘S'”. You know “this is how, these are your tips and tricks”, right?

[Ida] If there are markers of masculinity and femininity in language, they’re markers of other gender dimensions, so like, different gender nuances, for example?

[Mariel] So just just for context by Well, not really, it’s not really context, but I was drafting this question with a trans non binary friend of mine. And I, because specifically because I was struggling to figure out how to talk about masculinity and femininity in a way that does justice to like, you know, gender presentation or, you know, wanting to have a lack of gender presentation at all. And so I was just like, gender dimensions and I sent this question they were immediately like,” Ah, yes, send me to the gender dimension. I wanna go there”. Just a small little anecdote before you answer the question. [laughs]

[Joe] I like that gender dimensions, I think gender nuances is also a nice term. But yes, absolutely. That’s a really like famous study in sociolinguistics. So the kind of the study of language and social things, social worlds, I suppose. Anything to do with kind of yeah, what’s going on in social… I kind of lost my train of thought, but yeah, so there’s a really famous study in sociolinguistics. That’s about this woman called Penny Ekhart, she went into a high school. So she’s a researcher and she went into this high school and she looks at the different social groups in the high school and she spent, like, ages just kind of hanging out with the kids there and seeing kind of what they were doing. And there was two kind of main like social groups in the school. There was one group who were kind of more academically oriented, maybe more like middle class high schoolers, and they were all kind of interested in sports and like getting to university after they finished school. And then there was another kind of main social group called the burnouts and they were kind of less academically oriented and kind of interested- they had different kinds of interests. And these two different groups kind of dressed differently, and they had all these different aspects of interest. Their best style was different. And that actually went through into how they spoke as well. So they were using the vowels that they used when they said words actually sounded slightly different. And that was different gender dimensions and that. So the jock girls and the burnout girls were doing different things in terms of what they were doing with their vowels so that the jock boys and the burnout boys they were doing different things in terms of their speech, as well as in terms of how they dressed and and all these these different things. I suppose it’s we, we want to sort of sound like people that we’re similar to and that goes for gender, but also all these other things in our lives that we orient towards. And so yeah, all these different sorts of dimensions of gender will kind of come together to produce the way that you end up speaking they often yours as in damages. Kind of, yeah, thread together.

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[Mariel] (…) Sort of, I don’t wanna say like folk linguistics but in mainstream discussions right, you have all of these named varieties of English, right? You have dialects for regions and you have like things like Black English or African American English, right, that are so tied to ethnic practice, but then you also have these, like, gender dimension nuances, things that happened among genders as well. Right and they don’t get named as often even though they are so prevalent even though they are so like, pervasive. I (…) I wish we could talk about this more and have names to these things.

[Joe] Yeah, I suppose I don’t know. (…) I guess the reason for kind of like, naming something is to make it into, make it into a thing. And like, I suppose I wonder kind of what would happen if we were to start coming up with names for all of these different very, very nuanced, like, ways that people are speaking? I worry that that might end up having kind of like negative effects somehow when people started learning about like, a particular way that a small group of people were speaking, but it could also give give people a lot of power, I suppose as well to be like, Oh, we’re like you know this group and we speak this particular way. I don’t know.

[Mariel] You’re right, it’s very much like double-edged sword kinda stuff. I’m thinking specifically of like, um like the West Hollywood queer community and stuff and how that sort of voice has been, like weaponized but also given representation as like ‘the gay voice’. Right? The gay voice.

[Joe] Yeah, absolutely.

[Mariel] So our next question comes from a conversation that I was having with a different friend about gendered terms in English. So they asked me, how does one navigate gendered terms in English like actor and actress and specifically, they were talking about the YouTuber Philosophy Tube, also known as Abigail Thorne, and so she is a trans woman who acts so they would say actor, but she’s a woman so they would say actress, but they’ve also been told that part of feminism is to remove gendered terms. And so actor is then the gender neutral and more appropriate but you also don’t want to misgender her because you’re saying ‘actor’ and so this back and forth between actor and actress, actor and actress and then also thespian, right, like, so basically like, how do you address terms like this, ones that have like a gen-, ones that aren’t gendered in English in a way that is feminist in a way that is socially just?

[Joe] Um, I kind of have two answers to this question. Maybe a shorter answer is, I’m not really sure if it matters all that much. To me, I think, I think I would probably use the word actor for everyone. And I think the fact that this is we’re talking about a trans woman who’s an actor, I don’t know if it’s a particularly special case. I think if this was a person you knew and they specifically asked you to use the word actress, then I mean, of course you would. But my kind of, my longer answer is I think that this is a very interesting question that kind of goes back to what Ida was saying earlier as well about all of these ways that kind of like sexism is sort of embedded into our language. I think it’s kind of interesting how we end up kind of navigating that. I think it’s interesting that it’s kind of, we’ve sort of started to think that this is somehow a kind of feminist act to make to start using the word actor instead of actress when in other languages they’re actually navigating this kind of quite differently. So in French, historically, there’s actually been only a masculine word for a lot of professions. And so kind of feminist language activism in French is going kind of in a different direction because instead of needing a gender neutral term for a lot of professions, so like, actor or whatever kind of profession, it’s happened for a lot of different ones that they’ve just got a masculine word, but sometimes been used gender naturally, but what they’re kind of trying to do in French is to introduce the feminine form of words for professions. And that’s actually quite a practical issue as well, because it ensures that say if a job is being advertised, you’re making it clear that the job is open to men and women when you’re advertising that job. So yeah, I think I’m less concerned with the actual question. I just think it’s kind of interesting to think about how we navigate all these different ways that sexism has kind of been embedded into our languages over time, how it’s kind of happened differently in different languages and you have to kind of get around that in different ways. 

[Ida] Yeah, definitely. And I think this question is also very interesting coming from a German perspective and even kind of baffling in a way because it’s just handled completely differently in Germany. So kind of similar to the French example, I guess. Because like in German, all nouns are gendered, like including nouns referring to people. So like in English, it’s just a few isolated cases like the ‘actor’ and ‘actress’, but in German, it’s just all nouns. And like, it used to be that, like, sort of the standard practice was to just use the masculine form to refer to everyone basically. So if you’re like addressing a group of people, or if you’re talking about like a hypothetical person or person whose gender you don’t know, you just use the masculine. Then, at some point and feminists, I don’t know if they were all feminists, but like people started saying that, like it wasn’t really inclusive of women initially. So then they were like, other forms began to be introduced. So instead of like saying, “Dear colleagues”, male, you would say either like, so that would be “Liebe Kollegen”. And then like, people either started saying “Liebe Kolleginnen und Kollegen” and so like, dear colleagues, female and colleagues male. Then since it was perceived to be a bit long winded, people started using like, forms where like, the suffix was like separated with a slash, or where like, the first letter of the suffix was capitalized, and that was meant to indicate that like, both men and women were, being addressed. And but then, like, a while back, people also started saying that this really only included men and women, that it wasn’t really like inclusive to other genders. And so the gender star was introduced. Well, the gender asterisk to be exact, but I just think gender star sounds nicer. So it’s basically just putting an asterisk between like the root and the suffix, and that asterisk then includes other genders as well, not just men and women. And some people also use a colon instead of an asterisk. And that has has caused quite a lot of debate in Germany. And some people absolutely hate like the gender asterisk and yeah, just refuse to use it and also, like, hate other people for using it. It’s just not fun and I feel like the frustrating thing is so many people, even the people who use like the gender neutral form, don’t really understand what it’s about. Because like in Germany, like awareness of non-binary people isn’t, I mean, it’s starting to become more of a thing, but there’s still a lot that people just don’t understand about non-binary people and like the wider population, it’s and it’s very different from like, English speaking countries in my experience. So I feel like it’s kind of frustrating to hear people argue about like, these topics without really understanding the context, because like language is really important, obviously. But I think you should like start by understanding like, the wider issues behind it and then using language to reflect that and not just being well, I’m using this asterisk because people tell me to use it, or I’m not using this asterisk because I don’t like people telling me what to do. So yeah, I think I went off on a pretty long tangent and I don’t know if it’s relevant to the question anymore.

[Mariel] No it’s super super relevant because I was actually thinking of, there’s something that’s kind of been like, in my heart recently, right. So this this debate, I guess, right? So the whole thing about like Latinx right, that has been turned and turned around again on Twitter for like a really, really long time about Latinx and I don’t really have the background or the expertise to talk about Latinx. But given my heritage and stuff, there has been a lot of discussion about Filipinx and the issues surrounding Filipinx. The issue is that there’s a lot of people from the Philippines who say that Filipino is a gender neutral term, because the language doesn’t have gendered nouns in the same way that Spanish does, even though we have the same colonizers. So the Filipino language like for example, they don’t have a ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronoun. They have one pronoun that refers to like a person called ‘Siyá’. And so my, both my parents and my grandparents would mix up he and she all the time, right? Because for them, it’s just ‘Siyá’. And Filipino is a gender neutral term. But the movement to Filipinx, right, a lot of that started in the Asian American, the Filipino Filipinx American community, in response to and in solidarity with the Latinx Latino, Latine community, right. And so, the debate is that there are some Filipinos who think like, ‘Oh, if you’re using x, you’re just you know, siding with the colonizers, you’re just siding, you’re just trying to Americanize everything’. Americans think that they’re the center of the universe, right? When really, for me at least, I use Filipinx because I’m Filipinx diaspora. Right? I’m like my existence is within the American context. And so the way that you navigate these things, absolutely requires like historical context of the language and of you know, the person that you’re speaking to and of the community that you’re speaking to. I don’t think it’s fair for a Filipino to tell me don’t use Filipinx, you know, when that speaks better to my identity as a non-binary Filipinx person than Filipino does. Also, the Philippines, the name itself comes from a long dead colonizer in the first place. So I don’t know why we’re so attached to it. Right? (laughs) You know, so all of these things really come together. Not to sort of like, conflate race and decolonization and gender but you know, they’re not unrelated. It’s all it’s all pervasive everywhere. That actually leads really-

[Joe] That’s super interesting. Oh, sorry! (laughs) 

[Mariel] No no no, that’s fine! I’m glad you find it interesting. For me, it’s just like, I’m just trying to figure it out for myself like, oh God, you know, how do I address people in my own community, whatever that means, right? How do I talk to the Filipinos here in Edinburgh? So it actually leads really well to our next question. And, Ida you’ve said before, that it’s easier for you to exist in English, rather than than German and that’s, that’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by friends of the podcast who are also native German speakers. And as I’ve mentioned, there’s all these debates about the addition of gender neutral pronouns and the ‘x’ in other languages. For example, the Latinx thing or Latin-equis, if you want to do you know, ‘equis’ instead of ‘x’. There’s ‘elle’ in Spanish, ‘iel’ in French. So, what is important to think about when having these conversations in gendered languages? How can non binary people whose native language doesn’t have an established gender neutral person pronoun like ‘they/them’, navigate their own gender, or lack thereof, in that language? And that question is to both of you.

[Ida] I guess I’ll go first because I was just talking about that topic. And yeah, it’s a really interesting question and one that I’m still looking for an answer for, for myself, so I guess I don’t really have like a proper answer just some of my own thoughts on the matter. And, I mean, I think it’s just kind of difficult to yeah like I said, to assert your gender identity in a language that doesn’t really have a lot of like terms to allow you to do that. And like obviously, people invent new terms. So like, in the same way that like, new pronouns are being brought into English for people who feel like ‘they/them’ doesn’t really reflect them. And yeah, also terms like Latinx and Filipinx are also being invented. In languages such as German, they are also like neo pronouns, and I kind of touched on like the gender asterisk thing earlier. So these things are like being brought in, but to me at least, they don’t really feel as natural as ‘they/them’ does in English, because like ‘they/them’ has a long history of being used as a singular pronoun, like not necessarily to refer to individuals, but just to like people whose gender you don’t know for example. And I’m not saying that like pronouns aren’t valid if they don’t have like a long history, like I said, like language changes all the time. And if other people use neo pronouns, like with in English or in German, it’s something I absolutely respect. But I feel like for myself, it doesn’t really feel natural to use. So and especially in German, like none of the neo pronouns I’ve seen really feel right to me. I guess it’s kind of difficult because the German gender pronouns, are ‘er’ for ‘he’ and ‘sie’ for ‘she’, and so, unlike in many other languages, they have no sounds in common, so it’s kind of hard to, like come up with a pronoun that sounds kinda like ‘he’ and kind of like ‘she’ and just sort of fits in there. Like, for example, anything Swedish has ‘han’ for ‘he’ and ‘hon’ for ‘she’, and then they’ve also introduced ‘hen’ as like a gender neutral alternative and it just sounds like similar to the existing pronouns so I think that probably makes it easier for them to become established. But yeah, German doesn’t have an established gender neutral pronoun. And so some non-binary people in Germany, like use both ‘he’ and ‘she’ pronouns or like the equivalent thereof, which again, like if people are happy to use those, then that’s, of course great, but I don’t really connect with like using multiple sets of pronouns. That’s not really how I like see my gender. So like, so far in Germany, I’ve just stuck with ‘she/her’ pronouns because it’s unfortunately easier than trying to navigate like around expressing my non- binary identity when there isn’t any language that I feel comfortable with to do that. I mean, I think, I’m not really involved much with the queer community in Germany, and I’m, like, I’m in Scotland. So I think if I were more involved in that community, then I would probably try more to find language to express my identity, but since I just mostly interact with my family in German at this point, it’s like I mean, they like at least my parents are supportive of like trans issues. But again, they’re like middle-aged, and so haven’t really grown up with like, especially with non-binary people. So it’s something that’s kind of new to them. And, yeah, so I guess in summary, it’s complicated.

[Mariel] Yeah, yeah. What about you, Joe?

[Joe] Yeah, so I think I mean, for myself, this isn’t necessarily an issue that I think that I have, because I do use multiple sets of pronouns and that’s so I use ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘they’ and I quite like when people alternate between them as well. So I think that’s something that kind of if there’s no ‘they’ alternating between ‘he’ and ‘she’ is also, you know, fine for me. Yeah, comfortable with those. So it’s not something that I kind of face personally, but I think yeah, it is definitely a like a, an issue that a lot of people face but I mean, in English, not all non-binary people use ‘they’, and so there are I suppose some options for people in that respect. ‘They’ doesn’t have to be kind of the only gender neutral pronoun I suppose we can, yeah, what you were saying about yeah, there are I suppose options in terms of newer pronouns, but it is, it is difficult if those don’t speak to you. Yeah, and then I suppose as well with some languages, you’re going to have to navigate as well not only gendered pronouns, but also gendered endings on words. And then as well so in languages like French, you’re putting gendered endings on words when you’re referring to yourself all the time. So it becomes, I guess, more difficult in that respect that you have to be gendering yourself constantly. So, maybe if you are using something that doesn’t quite quite speak to you, then it’s not going to be maybe great for you. It is a difficult thing to navigate and I suppose I don’t think I can really give any answers or solutions to anyone just I can only really say what it is that I do.

[Mariel] I mean, that’s, that’s fine, because this is an ongoing thing, right? This is all something that we’re working on together. You know, in our little queer community, something that you said Ida that really like, struck me was, for context Ida and I worked on an event a couple of Fridays ago. We ran a panel with three non-binary language educators. You know, just asking them questions about you know, their teaching practice, and one of them is isolated in the German countryside and you could tell that there was so much pain in their voice. You know, there’s so much going on with not being attached to a community that is necessarily supportive, you know, and and is willing to work to find these neo pronouns together to find a pronoun that works in the historical and geographical context of you know, wherever, wherever we are. In contrast with the other two panellists, one of them, one of whom was based here in Edinburgh, the other is based in America. And you can just see the like queer joy in you know, talking about their support systems and talking about all the friends that they have who use like, they run the gamut of different pronouns, of different sets of pronouns, you know, whether they’re, you know, agender or gender fluid or any other sort of, gender flavor that isn’t necessarily binary as one of my friends put it. We have gender star, gender, dimension and gender flavour. 

[Ida] (laughs) Nice.

[Mariel] So you know, this is this is something that, you know, we all work with together, I think, right, or we should, at least.

[All] Yeah.

[Ida] I think it’s good to like consider the perspectives of people from other countries, from other cultures with different native languages. Because it’s just, it’s so different often to a word it’s like in English like even a question like ‘what are your pronouns?’ is something I kind of have to answer with the caveat of “my pronouns in English are ‘they/them’, but in my native language, they are not because they don’t exist”. So it’s, I think it’s just important to acknowledge that, people from different countries have like vastly different experiences when it comes to gender.

[Mariel] Yeah, I think the three of us here, especially because we come from different backgrounds, because we all have different ways that we approach our own individual genders and the way that we approach you know, our, our different communities. This, discussions like these are really important to have.

[Ida] Yeah, so MLST started with the goal of outreach of bridging academic research with community and advocating for linguistic justice. And in the spirit of that, how can linguists advocate for the LGBTQ+ community in their research?

[Joe] I think that’s a really like, great goal that you have in mind with starting the podcast. And yeah, I think one thing is definitely kind of so there’s a lot of research really going on with members of the LGBTQ+ community. I think because for a long time, there wasn’t much research going on, and now there’s kind of I suppose almost, almost a boom and people kind of being interested in the community and what we’re doing in terms of language. But I think, definitely conducting research, but I think it’s important to kind of when you’re conducting research to think about how that research is actually going to affect members of the community. And think about, if someone who was involved in this study was to find out okay, what, how have I written this up? What have the results of this been? How would they feel if they found out how they were represented in the research? I think that’s kind of yeah, important to kind of keep your participants I suppose, at the heart of the research. I think as well, for linguists who aren’t doing research explicitly with the LGBTQ+ community, there’s still ways that you can kind of support the community when you’re doing your research that’s not related to LGBTQ+ people or issues. One thing that you can do is, if you’re collecting information about gender or sexuality as part of your study, is maybe just to have a think about, what exactly is it that you want to do with that information? Like why are you collecting information on, on gender? What are the things that you’re expecting to find in terms of gender? And maybe what would happen if you were to get trans and non-binary participants in your study? Because even if you’re not explicitly looking for them, you’re likely to get trans and non-binary participants as part of your study. So have a think about, yeah, how are those participants actually going to be represented in your study? Are you going to be just categorising your participants as male and female, and is there maybe another way that you can go about it that might be better for representing your participants, but also maybe that might be more appropriate to the questions that you’re asking in your study too. I think as well, em, so one thing as well that researchers who are cis or straight who are really interested in working on issues to do with the LGBTQ+ community and language, one thing that they could maybe consider doing is to work on subjects such as, like working on transphobic language or homophobic language that might be kind of exhausting for members of the community to focus on. So things like I don’t know, I’ve been to some really great talks on things like, like toxic masculinity on Reddit, and just that the ways that, like homophobic language works. And I think that research is really important but I can also see that it might be yeah, exhausting to do that as a, as a gay person or a trans person to kind of work on the language of homophobia or transphobia. So that’s just kind of another thing that researchers who are interested in working on LGBTQ+ language could do.

[Mariel] That’s so so cool. I love all of these like considerations that you’re giving to to researchers for free. This is how we, how we work together because you know when we, when we move towards, you know, sexual and gender liberation, right, that doesn’t just benefit the queer community. It benefits everybody. 

Thank you so much, Joe and Ida and all of you gender stars with your gender flavours, travelling your different gender dimensions. Thank you, all of you for joining us in our discussion on Language and Gender. I’ve learned a lot today and I hope you out there have as well. To learn more about Joe’s work you can follow him at twitter.com/_jo_pearce, and to keep up to date with Pride Soc or Turn Up for Trans Health, you can check out their Facebook page, Pride Soc’s Facebook page @pridesoced, or Instagram @pride.soc, and Turn Up for Trans Health on Facebook and Instagram as well. Thank you so much for joining us again. And as always, stay safe, stay healthy and

[Joe] Au revoir (Goodbye, French)

[Ida] Danke fürs Zuhören (Thanks for listening, German)

[Mariel] пока (poka Bye, Russian)

Click to continue reading…

[Mariel] Perfect. Yeah,  your research came super highly recommended by Christian Ilbury here at the University of Edinburgh. So yeah, he just dropped your name and was like, yeah, look at this person.


[Joe] That’s exciting to hear.


[Mariel] No, it’s always nice to like have somebody else thinking about you, thinking about your research right?


[Joe] Yeah


[Mariel] And speaking of this question actually goes to both of you, Ida and Joe, how did you become interested in linguistics and languages?

[Joe] Um, so I kind of got interested in linguistics because I used to live in France and so when I lived there, I was kind of friends with a lot of people from different countries. And so a lot of people had different accents. And I kind of noticed that we all started to sound slightly similar to each other at the time. I thought that was kind of interesting. But I actually got interested in linguistics specifically kind of by accident, because I came to university actually to study English literature. And at Glasgow you have to take English language for a year if you’re doing English literature. And so I took English language, which is kind of… Glasgow is kind of, it’s linguistics and English language at Glasgow, it’s that one subject. And yeah, so I took English language because I had to, and then I ended up really, really loving it and I switched my degree. And yeah, just kind of, it grew from that. And here we are, like, seven or eight years later, I’m still doing linguistics.

[Mariel] I do love how it is kind of an accident. Like I definitely fell into applied linguistics in the exact same way. So we’re not alone here. What about you Ida?

[Ida] I think for me it’s actually kind of similar. So it seems to be a common experience because I was always kind of low key interested in linguistics just through like learning different languages or trying to learn different languages in most cases, but I initially wanted to study psychology, so I applied for like a bunch of psychology courses at different universities in Scotland. And then I saw that Edinburgh also offered psychology and linguistics is like a joint Honours degree. And I was like one of the linguistics also sounds interesting, so like, why not? And then I ended up liking linguistics and way more than psychology and dropped psychology after first year and now here we are. And I don’t regret it.

[Mariel] Oh, that’s amazing, because just for context for Joe as well. The linguistics department is philosophy, psychology and Language Sciences. Those are all one sort of school. So it’s very much we all fell into it.

[Joe] It’s interesting how linguistics has kind of put in with all these other departments in different universities, like sometimes it’s psychology here, it’s with like English literature and theology. And like, wherever you go, it will be kind of put in with a different department. I kind of feel like that’s how a lot of people end up getting into it just kind of accidentally because their linguistics is in a school with a different, like, subject that they were originally interested in.

[Mariel] And to be honest, just for myself, like I’m not actually in a linguistics programme. My programme is a PhD in education, but I’m studying specifically anti-racism and language education. And I’m using like linguistic techniques, right. And so I’m kind of here. What’s not like tangentially, but just kind of as a byproduct of needing linguistics to study language education, right? So language is in everything right? And that’s why we do this podcast. And so since you’re both involved in queer community and researching from a trans perspective, or through trans lens, how did you both get started integrating these things into your work or I guess to Ida: How do you see these things coming into your linguistics programme, and what motivates you to do work in these fields?

[Ida] So I unfortunately haven’t done much research or like work into trans linguistics because that unfortunately wasn’t really covered much in my course, which I think is kind of sad, because like, I mean, I think it was mentioned really briefly like in sociolinguistics in first year, but it wasn’t really like brought up after that. And I just wish there had been like, more focus on it as an area of research. So like, yeah, I haven’t been like, properly involved in it. But I do think like linguistics has kind of given me more of an end being involved in like queer and trans activism is given me like more of an awareness of like, how much language matters when it comes to social justice issues of like any kind basically, but like, especially even talking to and about trans people, like how important pronouns are. And also studying linguistics has just made me realize just how stupid the argument is that like, for example, the singular they/them pronouns aren’t grammatical or whatever, because like what even is grandma? It’s my company isn’t from four years of linguistics. What even is grammar? That’s my conclusion from four years of linguistics, what even is grammar? That yeah, like language changes all the time and like language changes to adapt to people. So like, society doesn’t have to like, adapt to language, that language changes to like, fit society and fit new movements and societies. So I just don’t understand the argument that like, a certain way of referring to trans people is just wrong. Like, from a linguistic point of view, because yeah, there’s no such thing in linguistics.

[Mariel] Absolutely. Yeah. No, that’s all stuff. And we’ll definitely talk more about that in the following questions, just to give a sneak preview to everyone else. What about you Joe?

[Joe] Yes so I got interested in it kind of towards the end of my undergrad degree. So I had to do a dissertation, so I was kind of, I had to choose what I wanted to do it on, and I kind of had started to think about the way that my friends who were also kind of coming out as trans, and how, how we sounded, I was kind of beginning to be interested in it through that just kind of listening to my own speech and the speech of other trans people that I was friends with, and I kind of hadn’t really considered how exactly I would go about looking into trans people’s speech until I found like a paper about it, and I realised oh this is actually something I can research and that I can do, and so it was really through finding out other people who had researched this before. I was kind of like, wow, I can actually kind of combine this sort of part of myself and also my research and look into it more as kind of what motivates me to do research in these fields now, kind of as I go through it, I feel like to start with it was more of a kind of academic sort of interest, or kind of just that I’d kind of heard people speaking and I was kind of interested to find out more. But now I think it’s more, I’ve started to think about what it is that I can actually do with this research. So for me, one of the things I’m kind of getting ready to work on it’s kind of the next stage of my research coming up, is that I’m going to be interviewing a small number of trans people about their experiences with their voices and what their voices mean to them, as well as looking at what their voices are doing in terms of voice quality. And when I think about that, the thing that really motivates me to do it, is that I think about the state of trans healthcare in Scotland at the moment and specifically thinking about what’s going on with voice therapy and speech therapy. I think we’ve got fairly kind of limited access to speech and language therapy for trans people in Scotland at the moment. And so, what I’d really like from that kind of bit of my research that’s coming up is to be able to kind of take that to speech therapists and talk to them about kind of why is it important this to work with trans people, and kind of get them to kind of understand the experience of the people that they’re working with a little bit more. Yeah.


[Mariel] Yeah. That feels like super inspiring and also, it it kind of feels perfect that we’ve brought the both of you here today because you know, trans healthcare and healthcare in general is something that I’m very, I suppose, focused on simply just because I’m American, and American healthcare is a mess, right? And so I’ve come to this country and it feels really good, and it’s only now after like, how long have I been here? Maybe a year and a half, that I’m like, Oh, I’m seeing the cracks now, I’m seeing the, where people are falling through and unfortunately, those people are the ones that I hold close to me, right. There are people in my community who are being left behind a little bit and so I think that’s really inspiring.

[Joe] Yeah, I think that’s interesting that you’re coming from like an American kind of perspective, because I feel like our healthcare systems are very different. And I guess that’s where they fail on my own kind of different places. Yeah.

[Ida] Yeah. As you mentioned in the introduction, you do research on how people perceive gender. Can you tell us more about your research and what have you found so far?

[Joe] Yeah. So I’m really interested in voices and what we’re doing with our voices and also how people perceive them, and one thing that I’m really interested in is how people perceive the gender of a voice. So if you’re on the phone to someone and you hear just someone’s voice on the phone, what parts of their voice kind of tell you about what’s going on in terms of gender? And so that’s something that’s kind of like, has probably kind of an obvious relevance for trans linguistics, I suppose because we’re talking on the… If you’re kind of talking on the phone, sometimes it’s quite important for you to be able to, to pass on the phone. And so I’m quite interested in gender perception. And the thing that I was looking at was something called voice quality, which is basically whether your voice sounds more kind of whispering like this, more kind of creaky like this, or any other sort of way that you can imagine someone’s voice sounding. So we know already that pitch is really important for how people perceive the gender of a speaker’s voice, but I was kind of interested in thinking about whether voice quality, maybe also have contributed to how people perceive the gender of a person when they just heard their voice. And so I basically, I’ve got someone to produce a breathy voice quality and a creaky voice quality. And then I manipulated the pitch of her voice. So it was kind of that was, some of the sentences I made them so that they were kind of edited to be in a more kind of typically masculine sort of pitch range. And then some of them I kept in sort of a typically pitch range that was maybe more typical of a woman’s voice. And then I kind of played those two people and got them to kind of select how masculine or feminine they thought her voice sounded. And whether they thought that it was a man or a woman speaking, or if they just simply couldn’t tell. And so what I found with that, was that if someone’s speaking in a more kind of breathy voice like this, they rated her voice is being more feminine sounding, less masculine sounding, and they were more likely to say that they thought it was a woman speaking, and if they heard a creaky voice as well, so a creaky voice like this, they were also rating her voice as being less masculine. But that was also kind of an interesting interaction with what was going on with pitch, that we also know that pitch is really important. So you’d expect that a lower pitch voice people would be more likely to rate that as being a man speaking or as being kind of more masculine sounding. But so creaky voice when it was, she had kind of a we edited her voice to be creaky voice, sounding like this kind of creaky. So we’ve gotten how to produce a creaky voice, and then I had also edited the picture for voice down, and you would kind of expect that a lower pitch you’d find that someone would rate your voice sounding more masculine perhaps, if you expect to, that men have a lower lower pitch than women. One thing that we actually found that was quite interesting was that when we edited the voice of her pitch down, so that it was at that kind of low, masculine sounding pitch level, if she was also creaky at that low pitch level, people have rated her voice has been more likely to be a woman.

[Mariel & Ida] That’s interesting.

[Joe] Thank you. 

[Ida] Yeah, I hadn’t really considered how like voice quality factors into the perception of gender, as well as pitch. So yeah, that’s really interesting.

[Joe] Oh, I just have one extra thing to say about how I got interested in that specifically, was kind of through trying to make my own voice sound lower. What I kind of found was that if I tried to make my voice sound lower, that sometimes it would sound kind of breathy and the quality of my voice would change. And so that’s something that I find quite interesting is that every, all of the kind of muscles in your neck are sort of related. And so it’s kind of interesting how, when you try to do one thing with your voice, something else changes.

[Mariel] And trying to keep it all together to try to present as you know, whatever you want to present is very, I can imagine how that’s an extremely complex process that speech and language therapists would absolutely need to know to take care of trans non-binary patients.


[Joe] Yeah, and it was all very complicated.


[Mariel] As all things that language.


[Ida] Is gender and gender performance different in different languages, and what is the relationship between language and gender presentation?


[Joe] So yes, absolutely. One thing that I’m really interested in is pitch. And we actually find in different languages that people do different things in terms of pitch. So in American English, versus Japanese, for example. The kind of typical pitch range for a woman is slightly different. So when speaking Japanese people have- sort of women will tend to have like a slightly higher sounding voice versus in American English, a slightly lower sounding voice. And the difference between men and women is different in these languages as well. So in American English, the differences slightly smaller, between kind of the pitch of man and a pitch of a woman, then as in Japanese, there’s a kind of a bigger difference between the kind of average pitch woman and the average pitch of a man. And that different between different languages as well. So there’s other languages, there’s dialects of Chinese, where there’s much less difference between the kind of average pitch of a man and a woman as well. And probably even between different different accents of English as well.


[Mariel] That’s really interesting because this is actually kind of why- So my own sort of gender story, like it is what it is everyone has their own sort of, you know, gender story and journey and all that right. So I started to get the first inklings of like, whatever non-binary tendrils had latched in my brain, while I was living in Japan. But my friends make fun of me for this, but I sound so different speaking Japanese than speaking English. My Japanese is like not good. But when communicating with people in Japan, it absolutely skipped like eight octaves. Right? I became the worst anime character you could possibly imagine. Not like purposely it was 100% on accident. So my partner, my friends all of them were like ‘Who are you?” You know anytime I was like “Konnichiwa! nananananana…” right like… All of that. And it felt so weird, I suppose, like experiencing that in Japan, just because I have to ask myself and it’s something I talked about with my partner, my friends, was like, am I unhappy with or am I discomforted with the label of womanhood in the Japanese context? Or am I actually non-binary? And so we decided to wait until I was in an English speaking context again. Because that is my native language, right? To see if you know if it really was just the idea of like Josei and womanhood, or if it’s just the whole thing in general. And once I got to Edinburgh, I was like, oh, yeah, it’s the whole thing. It’s the whole thing. And so it’s very interesting how that’s- how that’s come up.


[Joe] Yeah, that’s super interesting. Yeah, I definitely feel like maybe I kind of feel my experience of gender differently in different- in different contexts. Just the same kind of way. Maybe you’ve noticed, noticed it more in certain contexts than others, but then it’s kind of still, still always there as a whole thing. Yeah.


[Ida] Yeah, I think for me as a bilingual person, I also experienced my gender differently in English and in German. I mean, that’s kind of something we’re getting into in a later question, I think specifically with like, gender pronouns. So I guess I’ll save that for later. But I feel like because German is more strongly gendered language. I think it’s both like, more difficult to like assert your identity as a non binary person, but also like kind of increases gender dysphoria by like, constantly being reminded of like, your assigned gender, or like having to kind of misgender yourself, because there isn’t really- I mean, there are some attempts to like make the language more inclusive of non-binary people but nothing that has really like stuck as it has an English. So yeah, I think in English, it’s just easier to exist as a non-binary person, for me at least.


[Mariel] Absolutely. Yeah. To be micro-aggressed by your own language, it’s at a constant level and must be like really harrowing at times, and so…


[Ida] It can be kind of annoying.


[Mariel] That’s, you know, that’s a better word for it. Okay, so we have an audience question from Instagram, actually.


[Ida] The question is, does gender affect one’s idiolect liked? Because you do the research on something similar Joe. Voice quality and vocal-fry as a gender marker, but is there more research on exactly on how exactly one’s own language use is shaped by one’s gender?


[Joe] Yes, absolutely. Gender affects all different sorts of sorts of parts of the way that we speak. And it’s kind of not too much of a surprise. That it affects what’s going on in terms of our own speech, because people have actually looked at what goes on when people are learning to speak as kind of little children and they’ve actually found that, that the kind of adults who speak slightly differently to girls and to boys, and so as we’re growing up, we’re kind of almost taught to speak differently. And then as we kind of get older and older, obviously we- we kind of want to sound like people that we see ourselves as being similar to so it just kind of grows from there. So, I mean, the question is almost what parts of language doesn’t gender affect? And I think there’s very, very little that it doesn’t. One particular sound that I really like that gender affects that just kind of blows my mind a little bit when I think about is the sound ‘S’. So one thing that I am kind of just baffled by, and there’s loads of research on this, is that men and women tend to pronounce their ‘S’s differently. In English at least and also in some other languages as well. So in English, the way that you make an ‘S’ sound in your mouth, if you’re a woman is sometimes slightly further forward and ends up sounding slightly different so it’s more like [S sounds] and men tend to make an ‘S’ sound with their tongue slightly further back in their mouth, and it ends up sounding kind of slightly lower sounding more like [S sounds]  so it’s kind of like [S sounds] or [S sounds]. And so I mean, it’s not like an absolute it’s not all women do this and all men do this. But there is this kind of general tendency, and it means that a lot of interesting things can actually happen. When someone doesn’t do what someone’s expecting in terms of ‘S’. It kind of changes how someone’s perceived your voice a little bit sometimes. And yeah we have a lot of freedom with ‘S’ to kind of play around and do lots of interesting things. Yeah, I think ‘S’ is a fascinating one. But yeah, gender affects all aspects of how we speak basically, even how we say our ‘S’ sounds.


[Mariel] Blows my mind. I know the podcast people can’t see me but I’m here. Like in shock and that’s just one sound. What! [laughs] I can’t! An ‘S’?!


[Joe] Yeah. I just kind of go around listening to people’s ‘S’ trying to think how hou[S]e like or hou[S]e like is it.


[Ida] I’m gonna start doing that now. Just listen out for people’s ‘S’s and be like, “Oh, can you repeat that please?” I didn’t hear your ‘S’. It’s so interesting.


[Mariel] I’m so excited. I’m gonna show this episode to my trans friends and be like, “Okay, cool. This is how you pass now with just your ‘S'”. You know “this is how, these are your tips and tricks”, right?


[Ida] If there are markers of masculinity and femininity in language, they’re markers of other gender dimensions, so like, different gender nuances, for example?


[Mariel] So just just for context by Well, not really, it’s not really context, but I was drafting this question with a trans non binary friend of mine. And I, because specifically because I was struggling to figure out how to talk about masculinity and femininity in a way that does justice to like, you know, gender presentation or, you know, wanting to have a lack of gender presentation at all. And so I was just like, gender dimensions and I sent this question they were immediately like,” Ah, yes, send me to the gender dimension. I wanna go there”. Just a small little anecdote before you answer the question. [laughs]


[Joe] I like that gender dimensions, I think gender nuances is also a nice term. But yes, absolutely. That’s a really like famous study in sociolinguistics. So the kind of the study of language and social things, social worlds, I suppose. Anything to do with kind of yeah, what’s going on in social… I kind of lost my train of thought, but yeah, so there’s a really famous study in sociolinguistics. That’s about this woman called Penny Ekhart, she went into a high school. So she’s a researcher and she went into this high school and she looks at the different social groups in the high school and she spent, like, ages just kind of hanging out with the kids there and seeing kind of what they were doing. And there was two kind of main like social groups in the school. There was one group who were kind of more academically oriented, maybe more like middle class high schoolers, and they were all kind of interested in sports and like getting to university after they finished school. And then there was another kind of main social group called the burnouts and they were kind of less academically oriented and kind of interested- they had different kinds of interests. And these two different groups kind of dressed differently, and they had all these different aspects of interest. Their best style was different. And that actually went through into how they spoke as well. So they were using the vowels that they used when they said words actually sounded slightly different. And that was different gender dimensions and that. So the jock girls and the burnout girls were doing different things in terms of what they were doing with their vowels so that the jock boys and the burnout boys they were doing different things in terms of their speech, as well as in terms of how they dressed and and all these these different things. I suppose it’s we, we want to sort of sound like people that we’re similar to and that goes for gender, but also all these other things in our lives that we orient towards. And so yeah, all these different sorts of dimensions of gender will kind of come together to produce the way that you end up speaking they often yours as in damages. Kind of, yeah, thread together.


[Mariel] (…) Sort of, I don’t wanna say like folk linguistics but in mainstream discussions right, you have all of these named varieties of English, right? You have dialects for regions and you have like things like Black English or African American English, right, that are so tied to ethnic practice, but then you also have these, like, gender dimension nuances, things that happened among genders as well. Right and they don’t get named as often even though they are so prevalent even though they are so like, pervasive. I (…) I wish we could talk about this more and have names to these things.


[Joe] Yeah, I suppose I don’t know. (…) I guess the reason for kind of like, naming something is to make it into, make it into a thing. And like, I suppose I wonder kind of what would happen if we were to start coming up with names for all of these different very, very nuanced, like, ways that people are speaking? I worry that that might end up having kind of like negative effects somehow when people started learning about like, a particular way that a small group of people were speaking, but it could also give give people a lot of power, I suppose as well to be like, Oh, we’re like you know this group and we speak this particular way. I don’t know.


[Mariel] You’re right, it’s very much like double-edged sword kinda stuff. I’m thinking specifically of like, um like the West Hollywood queer community and stuff and how that sort of voice has been, like weaponized but also given representation as like ‘the gay voice’. Right? The gay voice.


[Joe] Yeah, absolutely.


[Mariel] So our next question comes from a conversation that I was having with a different friend about gendered terms in English. So they asked me, how does one navigate gendered terms in English like actor and actress and specifically, they were talking about the YouTuber Philosophy Tube, also known as Abigail Thorne, and so she is a trans woman who acts so they would say actor, but she’s a woman so they would say actress, but they’ve also been told that part of feminism is to remove gendered terms. And so actor is then the gender neutral and more appropriate but you also don’t want to misgender her because you’re saying ‘actor’ and so this back and forth between actor and actress, actor and actress and then also thespian, right, like, so basically like, how do you address terms like this, ones that have like a gen-, ones that aren’t gendered in English in a way that is feminist in a way that is socially just?


[Joe] Um, I kind of have two answers to this question. Maybe a shorter answer is, I’m not really sure if it matters all that much. To me, I think, I think I would probably use the word actor for everyone. And I think the fact that this is we’re talking about a trans woman who’s an actor, I don’t know if it’s a particularly special case. I think if this was a person you knew and they specifically asked you to use the word actress, then I mean, of course you would. But my kind of, my longer answer is I think that this is a very interesting question that kind of goes back to what Ida was saying earlier as well about all of these ways that kind of like sexism is sort of embedded into our language. I think it’s kind of interesting how we end up kind of navigating that. I think it’s interesting that it’s kind of, we’ve sort of started to think that this is somehow a kind of feminist act to make to start using the word actor instead of actress when in other languages they’re actually navigating this kind of quite differently. So in French, historically, there’s actually been only a masculine word for a lot of professions. And so kind of feminist language activism in French is going kind of in a different direction because instead of needing a gender neutral term for a lot of professions, so like, actor or whatever kind of profession, it’s happened for a lot of different ones that they’ve just got a masculine word, but sometimes been used gender naturally, but what they’re kind of trying to do in French is to introduce the feminine form of words for professions. And that’s actually quite a practical issue as well, because it ensures that say if a job is being advertised, you’re making it clear that the job is open to men and women when you’re advertising that job. So yeah, I think I’m less concerned with the actual question. I just think it’s kind of interesting to think about how we navigate all these different ways that sexism has kind of been embedded into our languages over time, how it’s kind of happened differently in different languages and you have to kind of get around that in different ways. 


[Ida] Yeah, definitely. And I think this question is also very interesting coming from a German perspective and even kind of baffling in a way because it’s just handled completely differently in Germany. So kind of similar to the French example, I guess. Because like in German, all nouns are gendered, like including nouns referring to people. So like in English, it’s just a few isolated cases like the ‘actor’ and ‘actress’, but in German, it’s just all nouns. And like, it used to be that, like, sort of the standard practice was to just use the masculine form to refer to everyone basically. So if you’re like addressing a group of people, or if you’re talking about like a hypothetical person or person whose gender you don’t know, you just use the masculine. Then, at some point and feminists, I don’t know if they were all feminists, but like people started saying that, like it wasn’t really inclusive of women initially. So then they were like, other forms began to be introduced. So instead of like saying, “Dear colleagues”, male, you would say either like, so that would be naeba colleague. And then like, people either started saying libre colleague and colleague and so like, dear colleagues, female and colleagues male. Then since it was perceived to be a bit long winded, people started using like, forms where like, the suffix was like separated with a slash, or where like, the first letter of the suffix was capitalized, and that was meant to indicate that like, both men and women were, being addressed. And but then, like, a while back, people also started saying that this really only included men and women, that it wasn’t really like inclusive to other genders. And so the gender star was introduced. Well, the gender asterisk to be exact, but I just think gender star sounds nicer. So it’s basically just putting an asterisk between like the root and the suffix, and that asterisk then includes other genders as well, not just men and women. And some people also use a colon instead of an asterisk. And that has has caused quite a lot of debate in Germany. And some people absolutely hate like the gender asterisk and yeah, just refuse to use it and also, like, hate other people for using it. It’s just not fun and I feel like the frustrating thing is so many people, even the people who use like the gender neutral form, don’t really understand what it’s about. Because like in Germany, like awareness of non-binary people isn’t, I mean, it’s starting to become more of a thing, but there’s still a lot that people just don’t understand about non-binary people and like the wider population, it’s and it’s very different from like, English speaking countries in my experience. So I feel like it’s kind of frustrating to hear people argue about like, these topics without really understanding the context, because like language is really important, obviously. But I think you should like start by understanding like, the wider issues behind it and then using language to reflect that and not just being well, I’m using this asterisk because people tell me to use it, or I’m not using this asterisk because I don’t like people telling me what to do. So yeah, I think I went off on a pretty long tangent and I don’t know if it’s relevant to the question anymore.


[Mariel] No it’s super super relevant because I was actually thinking of, there’s something that’s kind of been like, in my heart recently, right. So this this debate, I guess, right? So the whole thing about like Latinx right, that has been turned and turned around again on Twitter for like a really, really long time about Latinx and I don’t really have the background or the expertise to talk about Latinx. But given my heritage and stuff, there has been a lot of discussion about Filipinx and the issues surrounding Filipinx. The issue is that there’s a lot of people from the Philippines who say that Filipino is a gender neutral term, because the language doesn’t have gendered nouns in the same way that Spanish does, even though we have the same colonizers. So the Filipino language like for example, they don’t have a ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronoun. They have one pronoun that refers to like a person called Chat. And so my, both my parents and my grandparents would mix up he and she all the time, right? Because for them, it’s just shot. And Filipino is a gender neutral term. But the movement to Filipinx, right, a lot of that started in the Asian American, the Filipino Filipinx American community, in response to and in solidarity with the Latinx Latino, Latine community, right. And so, the debate is that there are some Filipinos who think like, ‘Oh, if you’re using x, you’re just you know, siding with the colonizers, you’re just siding, you’re just trying to Americanize everything’. Americans think that they’re the center of the universe, right? When really, for me at least, I use Filipinx because I’m Filipinx diaspora. Right? I’m like my existence is within the American context. And so the way that you navigate these things, absolutely requires like historical context of the language and of you know, the person that you’re speaking to and of the community that you’re speaking to. I don’t think it’s fair for a Filipino to tell me don’t use Filipinx, you know, when that speaks better to my identity as a non-binary Filipinx person than Filipino does. Also, the Philippines, the name itself comes from a long dead colonizer in the first place. So I don’t know why we’re so attached to it. Right? (laughs) You know, so all of these things really come together. Not to sort of like, conflate race and decolonization and gender but you know, they’re not unrelated. It’s all it’s all pervasive everywhere. That actually leads really-


[Joe] That’s super interesting. Oh, sorry! (laughs) 


[Mariel] No no no, that’s fine! I’m glad you find it interesting. For me, it’s just like, I’m just trying to figure it out for myself like, oh God, you know, how do I address people in my own community, whatever that means, right? How do I talk to the Filipinos here in Edinburgh? So it actually leads really well to our next question. And, Ida you’ve said before, that it’s easier for you to exist in English, rather than than German and that’s, that’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by friends of the podcast who are also native German speakers. And as I’ve mentioned, there’s all these debates about the addition of gender neutral pronouns and the ‘x’ in other languages. For example, the Latinx thing or Latin-equis, if you want to do you know, ‘equis’ instead of ‘x’. There’s ‘elle’ in Spanish, ‘iel’ in French. So, what is important to think about when having these conversations in gendered languages? How can non binary people whose native language doesn’t have an established gender neutral person pronoun like ‘they/them’, navigate their own gender, or lack thereof, in that language? And that question is to both of you.

[Ida] I guess I’ll go first because I was just talking about that topic. And yeah, it’s a really interesting question and one that I’m still looking for an answer for, for myself, so I guess I don’t really have like a proper answer just some of my own thoughts on the matter. And, I mean, I think it’s just kind of difficult to yeah like I said, to assert your gender identity in a language that doesn’t really have a lot of like terms to allow you to do that. And like obviously, people invent new terms. So like, in the same way that like, new pronouns are being brought into English for people who feel like ‘they/them’ doesn’t really reflect them. And yeah, also terms like Latinx and Filipinx are also being invented. In languages such as German, they are also like neo pronouns, and I kind of touched on like the gender asterisk thing earlier. So these things are like being brought in, but to me at least, they don’t really feel as natural as ‘they/them’ does in English, because like ‘they/them’ has a long history of being used as a singular pronoun, like not necessarily to refer to individuals, but just to like people whose gender you don’t know for example. And I’m not saying that like pronouns aren’t valid if they don’t have like a long history, like I said, like language changes all the time. And if other people use neo pronouns, like with in English or in German, it’s something I absolutely respect. But I feel like for myself, it doesn’t really feel natural to use. So and especially in German, like none of the neo pronouns I’ve seen really feel right to me. I guess it’s kind of difficult because the German gender pronouns, are ‘er’ for ‘he’ and ‘sie’ for ‘she’, and so, unlike in many other languages, they have no sounds in common, so it’s kind of hard to, like come up with a pronoun that sounds kinda like ‘he’ and kind of like ‘she’ and just sort of fits in there. Like, for example, anything Swedish has ‘han’ for ‘he’ and ‘hon’ for ‘she’, and then they’ve also introduced ‘hen’ as like a gender neutral alternative and it just sounds like similar to the existing pronouns so I think that probably makes it easier for them to become established. But yeah, German doesn’t have an established gender neutral pronoun. And so some non-binary people in Germany, like use both ‘he’ and ‘she’ pronouns or like the equivalent thereof, which again, like if people are happy to use those, then that’s, of course great, but I don’t really connect with like using multiple sets of pronouns. That’s not really how I like see my gender. So like, so far in Germany, I’ve just stuck with ‘she/her’ pronouns because it’s unfortunately easier than trying to navigate like around expressing my non- binary identity when there isn’t any language that I feel comfortable with to do that. I mean, I think, I’m not really involved much with the queer community in Germany, and I’m, like, I’m in Scotland. So I think if I were more involved in that community, then I would probably try more to find language to express my identity, but since I just mostly interact with my family in German at this point, it’s like I mean, they like at least my parents are supportive of like trans issues. But again, they’re like middle-aged, and so haven’t really grown up with like, especially with non-binary people. So it’s something that’s kind of new to them. And, yeah, so I guess in summary, it’s complicated.

Yeah, I suppose I don’t know. (…) I guess the reason for kind of like, naming something is to make it into, make it into a thing. And like, I suppose I wonder kind of what would happen if we were to start coming up with names for all of these different very, very nuanced, like, ways that people are speaking? I worry that that might end up having kind of like negative effects somehow when people started learning about like, a particular way that a small group of people were speaking, but it could also give give people a lot of power, I suppose as well to be like, Oh, we’re like you know this group and we speak this particular way. I don’t know.

[Mariel] You’re right, it’s very much like double-edged sword kinda stuff. I’m thinking specifically of like, um like the West Hollywood queer community and stuff and how that sort of voice has been, like weaponized but also given representation as like ‘the gay voice’. Right? The gay voice.

[Joe] Yeah, absolutely.

[Mariel] So our next question comes from a conversation that I was having with a different friend about gendered terms in English. So they asked me, how does one navigate gendered terms in English like actor and actress and specifically, they were talking about the YouTuber Philosophy Tube, also known as Abigail Thorne, and so she is a trans woman who acts so they would say actor, but she’s a woman so they would say actress, but they’ve also been told that part of feminism is to remove gendered terms. And so actor is then the gender neutral and more appropriate but you also don’t want to misgender her because you’re saying ‘actor’ and so this back and forth between actor and actress, actor and actress and then also thespian, right, like, so basically like, how do you address terms like this, ones that have like a gen-, ones that aren’t gendered in English in a way that is feminist in a way that is socially just?

[Joe] Um, I kind of have two answers to this question. Maybe a shorter answer is, I’m not really sure if it matters all that much. To me, I think, I think I would probably use the word actor for everyone. And I think the fact that this is we’re talking about a trans woman who’s an actor, I don’t know if it’s a particularly special case. I think if this was a person you knew and they specifically asked you to use the word actress, then I mean, of course you would. But my kind of, my longer answer is I think that this is a very interesting question that kind of goes back to what Ida was saying earlier as well about all of these ways that kind of like sexism is sort of embedded into our language. I think it’s kind of interesting how we end up kind of navigating that. I think it’s interesting that it’s kind of, we’ve sort of started to think that this is somehow a kind of feminist act to make to start using the word actor instead of actress when in other languages they’re actually navigating this kind of quite differently. So in French, historically, there’s actually been only a masculine word for a lot of professions. And so kind of feminist language activism in French is going kind of in a different direction because instead of needing a gender neutral term for a lot of professions, so like, actor or whatever kind of profession, it’s happened for a lot of different ones that they’ve just got a masculine word, but sometimes been used gender naturally, but what they’re kind of trying to do in French is to introduce the feminine form of words for professions. And that’s actually quite a practical issue as well, because it ensures that say if a job is being advertised, you’re making it clear that the job is open to men and women when you’re advertising that job. So yeah, I think I’m less concerned with the actual question. I just think it’s kind of interesting to think about how we navigate all these different ways that sexism has kind of been embedded into our languages over time, how it’s kind of happened differently in different languages and you have to kind of get around that in different ways. 


[Ida] Yeah, definitely. And I think this question is also very interesting coming from a German perspective and even kind of baffling in a way because it’s just handled completely differently in Germany. So kind of similar to the French example, I guess. Because like in German, all nouns are gendered, like including nouns referring to people. So like in English, it’s just a few isolated cases like the ‘actor’ and ‘actress’, but in German, it’s just all nouns. And like, it used to be that, like, sort of the standard practice was to just use the masculine form to refer to everyone basically. So if you’re like addressing a group of people, or if you’re talking about like a hypothetical person or person whose gender you don’t know, you just use the masculine. Then, at some point and feminists, I don’t know if they were all feminists, but like people started saying that, like it wasn’t really inclusive of women initially. So then they were like, other forms began to be introduced. So instead of like saying, “Dear colleagues”, male, you would say either like, so that would be naeba colleague. And then like, people either started saying libre colleague and colleague and so like, dear colleagues, female and colleagues male. Then since it was perceived to be a bit long winded, people started using like, forms where like, the suffix was like separated with a slash, or where like, the first letter of the suffix was capitalized, and that was meant to indicate that like, both men and women were, being addressed. And but then, like, a while back, people also started saying that this really only included men and women, that it wasn’t really like inclusive to other genders. And so the gender star was introduced. Well, the gender asterisk to be exact, but I just think gender star sounds nicer. So it’s basically just putting an asterisk between like the root and the suffix, and that asterisk then includes other genders as well, not just men and women. And some people also use a colon instead of an asterisk. And that has has caused quite a lot of debate in Germany. And some people absolutely hate like the gender asterisk and yeah, just refuse to use it and also, like, hate other people for using it. It’s just not fun and I feel like the frustrating thing is so many people, even the people who use like the gender neutral form, don’t really understand what it’s about. Because like in Germany, like awareness of non-binary people isn’t, I mean, it’s starting to become more of a thing, but there’s still a lot that people just don’t understand about non-binary people and like the wider population, it’s and it’s very different from like, English speaking countries in my experience. So I feel like it’s kind of frustrating to hear people argue about like, these topics without really understanding the context, because like language is really important, obviously. But I think you should like start by understanding like, the wider issues behind it and then using language to reflect that and not just being well, I’m using this asterisk because people tell me to use it, or I’m not using this asterisk because I don’t like people telling me what to do. So yeah, I think I went off on a pretty long tangent and I don’t know if it’s relevant to the question anymore.


[Mariel] No it’s super super relevant because I was actually thinking of, there’s something that’s kind of been like, in my heart recently, right. So this this debate, I guess, right? So the whole thing about like Latinx right, that has been turned and turned around again on Twitter for like a really, really long time about Latinx and I don’t really have the background or the expertise to talk about Latinx. But given my heritage and stuff, there has been a lot of discussion about Filipinx and the issues surrounding Filipinx. The issue is that there’s a lot of people from the Philippines who say that Filipino is a gender neutral term, because the language doesn’t have gendered nouns in the same way that Spanish does, even though we have the same colonizers. So the Filipino language like for example, they don’t have a ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronoun. They have one pronoun that refers to like a person called Chat. And so my, both my parents and my grandparents would mix up he and she all the time, right? Because for them, it’s just shot. And Filipino is a gender neutral term. But the movement to Filipinx, right, a lot of that started in the Asian American, the Filipino Filipinx American community, in response to and in solidarity with the Latinx Latino, Latine community, right. And so, the debate is that there are some Filipinos who think like, ‘Oh, if you’re using x, you’re just you know, siding with the colonizers, you’re just siding, you’re just trying to Americanize everything’. Americans think that they’re the center of the universe, right? When really, for me at least, I use Filipinx because I’m Filipinx diaspora. Right? I’m like my existence is within the American context. And so the way that you navigate these things, absolutely requires like historical context of the language and of you know, the person that you’re speaking to and of the community that you’re speaking to. I don’t think it’s fair for a Filipino to tell me don’t use Filipinx, you know, when that speaks better to my identity as a non-binary Filipinx person than Filipino does. Also, the Philippines, the name itself comes from a long dead colonizer in the first place. So I don’t know why we’re so attached to it. Right? (laughs) You know, so all of these things really come together. Not to sort of like, conflate race and decolonization and gender but you know, they’re not unrelated. It’s all it’s all pervasive everywhere. That actually leads really-


[Joe] That’s super interesting. Oh, sorry! (laughs) 


[Mariel] No no no, that’s fine! I’m glad you find it interesting. For me, it’s just like, I’m just trying to figure it out for myself like, oh God, you know, how do I address people in my own community, whatever that means, right? How do I talk to the Filipinos here in Edinburgh? So it actually leads really well to our next question. And, Ida you’ve said before, that it’s easier for you to exist in English, rather than than German and that’s, that’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by friends of the podcast who are also native German speakers. And as I’ve mentioned, there’s all these debates about the addition of gender neutral pronouns and the ‘x’ in other languages. For example, the Latinx thing or Latin-equis, if you want to do you know, ‘equis’ instead of ‘x’. There’s ‘elle’ in Spanish, ‘iel’ in French. So, what is important to think about when having these conversations in gendered languages? How can non binary people whose native language doesn’t have an established gender neutral person pronoun like ‘they/them’, navigate their own gender, or lack thereof, in that language? And that question is to both of you.


[Ida] I guess I’ll go first because I was just talking about that topic. And yeah, it’s a really interesting question and one that I’m still looking for an answer for, for myself, so I guess I don’t really have like a proper answer just some of my own thoughts on the matter. And, I mean, I think it’s just kind of difficult to yeah like I said, to assert your gender identity in a language that doesn’t really have a lot of like terms to allow you to do that. And like obviously, people invent new terms. So like, in the same way that like, new pronouns are being brought into English for people who feel like ‘they/them’ doesn’t really reflect them. And yeah, also terms like Latinx and Filipinx are also being invented. In languages such as German, they are also like neo pronouns, and I kind of touched on like the gender asterisk thing earlier. So these things are like being brought in, but to me at least, they don’t really feel as natural as ‘they/them’ does in English, because like ‘they/them’ has a long history of being used as a singular pronoun, like not necessarily to refer to individuals, but just to like people whose gender you don’t know for example. And I’m not saying that like pronouns aren’t valid if they don’t have like a long history, like I said, like language changes all the time. And if other people use neo pronouns, like with in English or in German, it’s something I absolutely respect. But I feel like for myself, it doesn’t really feel natural to use. So and especially in German, like none of the neo pronouns I’ve seen really feel right to me. I guess it’s kind of difficult because the German gender pronouns, are ‘er’ for ‘he’ and ‘sie’ for ‘she’, and so, unlike in many other languages, they have no sounds in common, so it’s kind of hard to, like come up with a pronoun that sounds kinda like ‘he’ and kind of like ‘she’ and just sort of fits in there. Like, for example, anything Swedish has ‘han’ for ‘he’ and ‘hon’ for ‘she’, and then they’ve also introduced ‘hen’ as like a gender neutral alternative and it just sounds like similar to the existing pronouns so I think that probably makes it easier for them to become established. But yeah, German doesn’t have an established gender neutral pronoun. And so some non-binary people in Germany, like use both ‘he’ and ‘she’ pronouns or like the equivalent thereof, which again, like if people are happy to use those, then that’s, of course great, but I don’t really connect with like using multiple sets of pronouns. That’s not really how I like see my gender. So like, so far in Germany, I’ve just stuck with ‘she/her’ pronouns because it’s unfortunately easier than trying to navigate like around expressing my non- binary identity when there isn’t any language that I feel comfortable with to do that. I mean, I think, I’m not really involved much with the queer community in Germany, and I’m, like, I’m in Scotland. So I think if I were more involved in that community, then I would probably try more to find language to express my identity, but since I just mostly interact with my family in German at this point, it’s like I mean, they like at least my parents are supportive of like trans issues. But again, they’re like middle-aged, and so haven’t really grown up with like, especially with non-binary people. So it’s something that’s kind of new to them. And, yeah, so I guess in summary, it’s complicated.

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