Like many, I awoke on Thursday shocked to witness the unfolding events surrounding Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. But more disgusting than the thought of a corporation ruthlessly exploiting someone’s intimate photos for their own gain was the thought of how dick pics influence and eclipse necessary gender discourse.
Never once, in the dozens of articles I combed through on this issue, was there any clarification made on how Bezos identified. It was like the authors and editors simply did not care to do their basic journalistic due diligence and reach out to Bezos and verify what, if any, gender he subscribed to. This is important when discussing the issue of a reproductive organ, as an automatic gendering effectively erases not only that individual’s existence, but the existence of all otherly-identifying folk.
Further, it is one thing to assume Bezos’ gender, but a totally different, and even more severe fault, to assume how the photographed organ in question identifies. It is a well-known and scientifically-supported fact that individual appendages can claim identifiers unique to the total body which they are a part of. For example, I have had a strong sense, since birth, that my left metacarpal was fluid, even if
A penis is not simply a penis because society has constructed the idea that males have penises. This is part of an anti-scientific paradigm Trans people and their allies have fought tirelessly for years. The Bezos controversy underscores that we live in a dangerous time for fluidly gendered peoples, when an Other can simply assume how not just you identify, but how every part of you identifies, based on what that part is.
The aftermath of this affair has been that I have had to open office hours to counsel traumatized genderfluid students, horrified at the thought that people still genuinely believe penises to have an inherent gender. This is a fallacy I, along with my colleagues at the University, have worked to insulate them from.
My point is this: The National Enquirer wasn’t the only media outlet that attempted to destroy an individual’s life. Every news outlet which published on this story without any regard for the question of how Bezos or the penis in question identified also dealt a blow to the lives of millions of transfolk across the globe. I can only pray that we learn from the harm that has now been done to an already-vulnerable, widely discriminated against