By Contributing Writer Abigail Field
Natalie Wynn, better known as ContraPoints on YouTube, has just come out with a long awaited video on opulence. Wynn is an American transgender YouTuber whose channel is primarily comprised of intricate and theatrical video essays, and she is well known as a prominent left-wing voice on the platform. She is also fairly notorious for her work in “de-radicalizing the alt-right” in her videos covering topics like incels, masculinity, trans and non-binary issues, and a video literally titled “Why the alt-right is wrong”.
Wynn, however, has recently garnered controversy on the microcosm that is Twitter dot com. It started when Diana Tourjèe, a Vice journalist and trans woman, tweeted “Sometimes it’s funny when you’re the only trans person in a space where everyone is announcing their pronouns. Like it gets to you and a hush falls over the room and you can just like check your phone because only cis [people] need to be working on their pronouns game.” Wynn responded that she often feels like when she’s with a group of cis people who are sharing their pronouns, she feels like they’re doing it only because she’s there, which can seriously trigger her dysphoria.
So why the mass upset? It seems reasonable that someone who is highly dysphoric would be hurt by people questioning their gender, albeit in a way that is driven by kindness. It was Wynn’s follow up Tweet that seemed to ruffle a few feathers. “I guess,” she tweeted, “it’s good for people who use they-them pronouns only and want only gender neutral language. But it comes at the minor expense of semi-passable transes like me and that’s super f**king hard for us.” Many people reading the Tweets, binary and non-binary trans people alike, read this as Wynn claiming that sharing pronouns is bad, and that non-binary people who do use they/them pronouns are ruining the trans community.
It was a sticky situation, and in many ways the whole issue is people feeling invalidated. For Wynn, she felt invalidated and dysphoric when people, specifically cis people in a group, ask her what her pronouns are. For those on Twitter, they felt like their non-binary identities were being invalidated by Wynn, despite her having made videos defending non-binary people against truscum (people who believe that dysphoria is a necessary in being trans, non-binary, or otherwise).
I certainly can’t weigh in on what the correct solution is here, as I am a cis woman and haven’t experienced gender dysphoria nor have I felt the need to exist outside or between the gender binary. That said, I think that everyone should pay attention to human suffering, as that’s something that decent people relatively universally want to lessen. In an attempt to not make assumptions, cis people can hurt binary trans people by asking about their pronouns. Likewise, not asking pronouns mean that one runs the risk of misgendering other trans or non-binary people.
With many things, I don’t think that there should be a catch-all rule or guideline, as each situation and person are different and carry different risks and pain. For what I tend to do myself, I generally air on the side of “listen to how their friends speak to them” or “don’t use pronouns until they or someone else does” because I don’t want to misgender anyone but I also don’t want to trigger anyone’s dysphoria. At the end of the day, having empathy and compassion for how people are feeling is important, and 9/10 times, each person feels differently about any given topic.
Wynn’s most recent video on opulence implored listeners to not execute or “behead her like Marie Antoinette” yet, but to listen first before they decide to. It’s important for non-binary folks to listen to binary trans voices, but it’s also so important for her to listen to non-binary voices, perhaps by using more inclusive language in her tweets. But the most important word, “listen”, should be the takeaway for everyone, trans, non-binary, cis, or otherwise.