If I’m talking to you, your pronoun is you. If I’m talking about you but out of earshot of you, then you can’t complain about having been misgendered because you won’t know you were. So it’s only if I’m talking about you within earshot of you that I need to be sensitive to your preferred pronoun. And even then, you get only two choices. You can be he-him-his or you can be she-her-her.
If to me you look like a he-him-his then that’s how I’m going to refer to you, provided I suspect that’s how others would refer to you. Why? Because I’m talking about you, remember? And they want to know who I’m talking about. Likewise if you look like a she-her-her.
But you don’t get to be a they-them-their, and I’ll tell you why. First, because when dispatch sends me to pick you up at the airport, I need to know whether to be looking for one person or more than one. And second, because if you’re going to be they-them-their, then you should also be we-us-our. And then I wouldn’t know whether you’re talking about several of you or you’re just being pretentious.
I should mention too that even if – and I’m sure this is coming next – you want to be she as the subject but him as the object, or vice versa, sorry but no. This is because you’re the boss of you but not of English grammar. The job of grammar is to allow us to understand each other. If you don’t want to be understood then don’t join the conversation.
As already noted, being misgendered behind your back is none of your goddamn business. But I do appreciate that being misgendered to your face can be … I’m not sure whether it’s exactly hurtful – you’d have to report on that – but it’s certainly embarrassing to me. You can save yourself the hurt, and me the embarrassment. Just throw me a bone, will ya?! I realise that might involve your conforming to a gender stereotype with which you might be uncomfortable. Then don’t. But then don’t complain when you’re misgendered. In other words, ya gotta meet me half way!
In exchange for this concession on your part, for my part I promise to regard your gender identity as about as interesting as the minutes of last night’s city council meeting. In fact if you take your gender identity as the most interesting thing about you, you’ve got much bigger problems than the occasional misgendering. News flash. Nobody cares! And isn’t our indifference to your gender identity what you claim you want? Or is it only what you claim you want?
Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy
In reference to recent news stories, it is clear that gender identity is the *only* interesting thing about these otherwise forgettable Hollywood folks so breathlessly telling Oprah all about it.
(And someone else — wait for it — “has come out as non-binary” and no longer uses gendered pronouns. Wow. Take that, Jackie Robinson.)
Viminitz says, “If you’re going to be they-them-their, then you should also be we-us-our.”
I’ve found an example in Ayn Rand’s dystopian novella, Anthem.
The protagonist, Equality 7-2521, refers to himself and groups that include himself as “our, we, us”. “We/our/us” refers to “all” people as “equal” members of an all-encompassing collective, to smaller groups of people such as an occupational group one is a member of, and to an individual. Rand gives textual clues to the referents of these pronouns, but it’s still a cognitive exercise to sort them all out.
Individuals and collectives not including self are conflated as “they, their, them”. There are no singular tenses of the verb “be” when referring to humans. “We are” is to “I am” as “we are” is to “we are”.
“Our name is Equality 7-2521, as it is written on the iron bracelet which all men wear on their left wrists with their names upon it. We are twenty-one years old. We are six feet tall, and this is a burden, for there are not many men who are six feet tall.” (13)
“We knew this well, in the years of our childhood, but our curse broke our will. We were guilty and we confess it here: we were guilty of the great Transgression of Preference.” (7-2521, referring to himself, 18)
“We looked into the eyes of the Council [of Vocations], but their eyes were as cold blue glass buttons.” (23, referring to one of five Council members, or all five, or?)
Ayn Rand, Anthem, Signet:New York, 1946.