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Mystic hunt for sense in gender-political language

[30 Sept 2015] A 14-year project to recreate the lost tapestries of James V at Stirling Castle, Scotland – home of Mary of Guise – has been completed with the hanging of the beautiful final panel, as reported in the Times on 24 June. It’s called the Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn. Castle guides will doubtless be enunciating this title very carefully as they show groups of sniggering schoolkids around.

As to the sex of this or any other unicorn, little is known. But if ever unicorns have to fill in official documents, there may soon be a bewildering range of genders they can choose from if Facebook is anything to go by. The social-network behemoth offers its users 50 options from ‘agender’ to ‘transmasculine’.

In July, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour held a discussion between someone who styled herself ‘gender queer’ and another who said she was ‘gender fluid’. Listeners weren’t told what these terms meant but were probably too busy groaning at the speakers’ rambling incoherence to worry unduly. This was not a triumph for the ever-impartial BBC, which spent much of the summer mourning the defeat of its Preferred Supplier of Political Opinions in May’s general election. So much gnashing and wailing at the success of the terrible Tories, matched only by grief as the even more terrible Trots swept to victory in the Preferred Supplier’s leadership race!

The spread of gender-political jargon was the focus of a Sunday Telegraph article by Tim Stanley called ‘Am I a man?’. He complains that Oxford University students labelled him a ‘cis’ (nothing to do with ‘cissy’, it seems, but from the Latin for ‘on this side of’) and being guilty of ‘cissexism’. It seems a cis is a person who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth. As Stanley puts it, ‘someone born a man, who has been raised as a man and who now identifies as a man. In plainer English and fewer words: a man’.

One of the 163 people who comment on the article says that where he comes from, cis stands for Cattle Information Service. He may well have missed the point. [cont]

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