Episode 6: Good-Ass Hot Chicken ft. José Olivarez and Britteney Black Rose Kapri

Earlier this month, Blue Cactus Press sat down with poetry giants José Olivarez and Britteney Black Rose Kapri for a live podcast recording at King’s Books! José and Britteney joined The Prickly Pear podcast host, Christina Butcher, and local poet Michael Haeflinger, in a discussion about poetry, creative influences, and life as teaching artists and working writers. We also spent a fair amount of time debating the worst best movie sequels of our time, mail fraud and good-ass hot chicken. Oh, and there’s a new emcee in town by the name of Vanilla Sexy …

This episode was live-recorded at King’s Books in Tacoma, Washington state. It was sponsored by Write253, as part of the fourth annual Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB)-Tacoma teen poetry slam festival. LTAB-Tacoma took place in March, 2019, and included youth poets from 13 schools in Pierce and Thurston counties of Washington state.


About Our Sponsor

The Prickly Pear Podcast is sponsored by Oakes & Alder​ day spa and apothecary. Each of our episodes is recorded in Oakes & Alder’s lovely space in North End, Tacoma, where you can partake in spa services and find natural skincare products and bulk herbs. Check the spa out on Facebook at Oakes & Alder or IG at @oakesandalder! To see it in person, head to Oakes & Alder, 2714 N 21st St, Tacoma, WA 98406.

Writing with Gender-Inclusive Language

If we truly care about creating a more equitable society in which a person’s individuality is not reduced to their sex and/or gender, than our language should reflect that.

pronouns graphic

Writing with Gender-Inclusive Language

A brief guide to writing tactfully as our language evolves  

By Carlisle Huntington

 

Language is a fluid and ever-changing system. It’s a practical tool that reflects our culture, and if our cultural needs are changing (and they clearly are) why shouldn’t our tools change to match them? Last year alone, more than 2,000 words were added to the Oxford English Dictionary. But when it comes to adopting gender-neutral language, many people in our society are resistant to implementing it. Oftentimes, conservatives argue that gender-neutral language isn’t grammatically correct. We feel that this viewpoint is a form of suppression under the guise of grammar policing. To counter that suppression, we’re offering this article as a brief introduction to using gender-inclusive/ gender-neutral language in writing. This is a beginner’s guide – the bare-boned basics– and we hope it serves a starting point rather than a destination to inclusivity in writing.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, though, it’s important to remember that addressing this topic is a delicate endeavor. As The Radical Copy Editor so eloquently put it in the introduction to their “Radical Copyeditors Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People,

“A style guide for writing about transgender people is practically an oxymoron. Style guides are designed to create absolutes—bringing rules and order to a meandering and contradictory patchwork quilt of a language. Yet there are no absolutes when it comes to gender.”

Now, let’s begin!

 

RULE # 1: Put the person before the gender-identity

This is an attitude that extends far beyond the issue of gender. A human’s person-hood should be emphasized before anything else. When writing about a person with a marginalized identity (or anyone, really), try and ask yourself, do I need to mention their gender identity? Is it relevant to the situation? If the answer is “yes,” still try to ground your writing in someone’s humanity before their gender-identity.

Remember that words like “transgender,” “non-binary,” “genderqueer,” “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual” are adjectives. A person isn’t just “a transgender,” they’re “a transgender individual.”

*This is the official policy the Associated Press, Reuters, and New York Times. For more information on how these major publications write about gender and identity, see GLAAD Magazine’s Media Reference Guide.  

 

RULE # 2: Pay attention to pronouns

This one is a no brainer: ALWAYS use a person’s stated, preferred pronouns. This includes, the singular use of they/them, which has officially been adopted by both AP and Chicago style guides. Other gender-neutral pronouns include “Ze/Hir” or “Ze/Zir.” While these pronouns are gender-neutral, a person who goes by these pronouns may identify as male, female, both, or neither. They’re designed to eliminate gender from the equation. You can read more about ze/hir pronouns in the article, “Ze Pronouns” published online by myprounouns.org.

Consider using the gender-neutral “Mx.” which has been used by the New York Times in the past. While The Times hasn’t officially adopted the term, claiming it “remains too unfamiliar to most people,” it may gain familiarity if more writers adopt its usage.

 

RULE # 3: Stop using outdated and/or derogatory language

Many people continue to use outdated terminology despite there being plenty of gender-inclusive or gender-neutral terminology at our disposal. While many of these terms were considered neutral in the past, they now carry negative or derogatory connotations. We recognize that the ability to stay up to date on this kind of terminology is, in many ways, indicative of a certain status of privilege, (such as access to the internet, education level, etc.) but if someone informs you that the language you’re using is hurtful or offensive to them, it’s important to seriously consider changing it. As a society – and as individuals – we must remain teachable. We’re not here to shame others or to police language, but we feel it’s worthwhile to learn how to be more compassionate and precise communicators.

Keeping the above guidelines in mind, here’s a chart outlining basic do’s and don’ts to writing with inclusivity, inspired by an article from GLAAD Magazine.

Avoid writing … Because … Write this instead
“Transgenders”

“A transgender”

Transgender individuals are people first. “Transgender people”

“A transgender person”

“Transgendered It adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors. “A transgender person”
“Transgenderism” It reduces being a transgender person to “a condition” and is often used by transphobic activists “Being transgender”
“Sex-change”

“Post-op”

“Pre-op”

“Sex change” conflates sex with gender. These terms imply that one must have surgery to be a transgender person or to have fully transitioned. In most contexts, it’s better to avoid discussion of surgery altogether, as it’s an extremely personal subject. “Transition”
“Biologically male”

“Biologically female”

“Genetically male”

“Genetically female”

“Born a man”

“Born a woman”

These phrases are reductive and overly-simplify a very complex subject. As mentioned above, a person’s sex is determined by several factors, and a person’s biology does not trump a person’s gender identity. “Assigned male at birth”

“Assigned female at birth”

“Designated male at birth,”

“Designated female at birth”

 

“Passing”

“Stealth”

 

While some transgender people may use these terms among themselves, it’s not appropriate to repeat them in mainstream media unless (1) it’s in a direct quote or (2) you are a part of the community in which the terms apply.

These terms refer to a transgender person’s ability to go through daily life without others making assumptions about gender. However, the terms can be problematic because they imply “passing as something you’re not,” and “stealth” connotes deceit.

However, a transgender person living authentically – without their gender being questioned by others – is not being deceptive or misleading.

“visibly transgender” “not visibly transgender”


About the Author

Photo

Carlisle Huntington is a junior at the University of Puget Sound, majoring in English and creative writing. She writes for University of Puget Sound newspaper Puget Sound Trail. When she’s not writing, she’s planning the next creative event for her local campus community. She’s the head of the UPS English Department Event Planning Committee and she oversees the UPS English Film Series, Holiday Book Swap, and Campus Book Club. Her Other hobbies include crochet, embroidery, and boiling her entire identity into a pithy paragraph.

 


A note from the publisher: Blue Cactus Press cares deeply about cultivating inclusivity in our community, and we want to be as mindful of that in our writing (and actions) as possible. We hope this article inspires dialogue about community, inclusivity, and evolving language.  

 

Episode 5: Weird Flex But Okay … with Jonah Barrett

We’re bringing the weird, friends! We’ve been stuck indoors all winter and we’re LOSING OUR MINDS! Luckily, though, we’re losing our minds with filmmaker, writer and multimedia artist Jonah Barrett.

In this episode, Jonah chats about his obsession with dark places (we’re talking caves, abandoned houses and creepy forests),  his “finite experience on the YouTubez,” and his past, present and future creative endeavors. There’s also a fair amount of sh*t talking (you’re welcome), and an ridiculous Q&A session fueled by friends.

**BONUS: Jonah rehashes his experience performing a personal essay, “Anal Pleasure & Health,” on this podcast episode.  He debuted the essay at Creative Colloquy in January 2019 (a video of his performance is below), and we’re *incredibly* excited announce that we’re featuring “Anal Pleasure & Health” online here at Blue Cactus Press.

Jonah also chats about one of his biggest ongoing projects, Wordsmiths, during the podcast. Wordsmiths is a video mini-series featuring literary groups in the Pacific Northwest and their impact on their local communities. We’ve included the first installment of Wordsmiths, “Chapter One,” for you below. In “Chapter One,” Jonah interviews Jackie Casella and Joshua Swainston of Tacoma’s Creative Colloquy – a nonprofit where writers come together and read their work monthly.

To see more of Jonah’s creative work, visit his YouTube channel, LazyEyesInc, or visit his website, Malicious Wallydrags. Jonah’s writing can be found in Creative Colloquy, Everyday Genius, Lit.Cat, OlyArts, and the bestselling Portland anthology City of WeirdJonah has directed and written two feature films, a dozen-ish short films and three web series. He’s also worked as a literary magazine and anthology editor, journalist, assistant director, script supervisor and art conservator.


About Our Sponsor

The Prickly Pear Podcast is sponsored by Oakes & Alder​ day spa and apothecary. Each of our episodes is recorded in Oakes & Alder’s lovely space in North End, Tacoma, where you can partake in spa services and find natural skincare products and bulk herbs. Check the spa out on Facebook at Oakes & Alder or IG at @oakesandalder! To see it in person, head to Oakes & Alder, 2714 N 21st St, Tacoma, WA 98406.