Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The Problem With Mixed Pronouns


Answer: It's a trap.

As I said earlier, I'm thrilled for Elliot Page and anyone who comes to terms with who they are. But the mixed "he/they" pronouns don't feel like an attempt to respect people's gender identity. By deliberately conflating things and having multiple answers to one question, it's more like a cudgel to beat people over the head with so certain segments of the LGBTQ population can feel aggrieved for reasons that are that aren't entirely clear to me. 

I have no empirical data to support this. But based on 30-plus years of LGBTQ activism and journalism, my observation has been that it is predominantly the young white middle class (and above) segment of the TQ community that thrives on needless confrontation with a largely accepting public that is merely confused by their make-stuff-up-as-we-go-along approach that defies common sense: "How dare you get my pronouns [that are intentionally obtuse] wrong, you're TRANSPHOBIC!"; "You embrace transgender people? Well excuse me, I'm not a man OR a woman ... I'm BOTH [but intermittently only want to be thought of or referred to as one]!" Many of them seem to have twistedly romanticized ACT UP and the gay-rights struggle of yesteryear so can't take yes for an answer. Meanwhile, many poorer people and trans POC are actually struggling to get by and are often fighting for their lives. Point me to a trans woman of color concerned about not being called "they."

If I were transgender -- or "transsexual," as many of the old-school folks like to be called but aren't allowed to because their wishes apparently don't matter -- I would be livid about the current batch of gender warriors. It took two generations for the general public to "get" that you call a transgender man a man/him/sir and a transgender woman a woman/her/miss/ma'am. Now that's all been obliterated in the name of, what, preciousness? 

UPDATE: Several commenters seem to be missing my point. OF COURSE we should all address people as they wish to be addressed. But by stating your pronouns are "he/they" -- one male, one nonbinary -- it is creating a boobytrap that is impossible not to fall into:

INCORRECT: He asked if I had ever heard of him.
CORRECT: He asked if I had ever heard of them.

Try to have a conversation much less write an article with these illogical constraints. It's not only unreasonable, it's obnoxious. If you're a transman then I am more than happy to address you as he/him -- just like every other man on the planet. 

14 comments:

Dan Avery said...

Without making judgment, if everyone devises their own system of pronouns then pronouns lose their meaning, which is essentially not having to remember your name.

JimmyD said...

I agree. There is no Community, there is no Unity... everyone insists on having their own special label.
In MY day... there was Gay Pride... which covered everyone not straight. Then it became Gay and Lesbian Pride. Then Lesbian and Gay Pride, because a lesbian was outraged that the G come before the L (to which I once told a real uppity dyke, "Of course L comes first! Ladies first!" She was not amused but the others, including other GAY WOMEN, laughed.
Yeah... let's focus on the little things, the big issues can wait until later.
Segregation Forever!

Brenda P said...

Kenneth thanks for this! I try hard to stay as woke as I can & remain politically correct but it’s getting harder and harder to keep up! Can a sista get a private tutor?

Tom Callahan said...

If people can use "they" as their pronoun, then I feel it is okay for me to choose the "Royal We".

RHM said...

You ask a good question. Whatever internal feelings Elliot is trying to express, Elliot cannot identify with one half of a binary and reject the binary at the same time.

JP Aragon said...

It was a lot simpler when were just all gay- now everyone wants to claim their own identity even if there are only two of they- missing the point that in unity there is strength- calling one self "they" makes no sense but of course nobody is going to call themselves "it". Language is a living thing and it evolves - I'm Hispanic and I find the term "Latinx' ridiculous and will never use it.

Don said...

I totally get it. Gays of a certain age, especially those of us who work as editors, can't help but push back a little on the proliferation of pronouns. Saying "they" for "he" is just hard for me from a purely grammatical point of view. I just can't help it. It reminds me of when Justin Vivian Bond was demanding that newspapers toss the AP stylebook and refer to "them" as Mx. Bond. I felt like, "Hey, stop trying to make Mx. happen."

Stephen said...

I am an old school gay, queer, fag and I just can't with this younger generation. Sorry but not really sorry.

Rix said...

Was thinking the exact same thing when the report came out..on the evening news? Yup CBS Evening News.

I can hear a chorus of Okay boomer.

Matt Ray said...

On the other hand...
Does it really hurt us, or anyone else, to call someone what they want to be called? Would we want to be called they or Latinx or gender fluid or non-binary or whatever else? If not, then don't ask to be. It seriously doesn't seem like it's that big of a deal or something to be upset about. Maybe it's because we are living through Trump and Covid that suddenly something like this cannot raise a hackle from me.

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

@Matt Ray: Absolutely not. But we're being given a male and a nonbinary pronoun. I'm merely asking that he make a decision one way or the other. Does it really hurt him/them? I don't want to have it thrown in my face that I did it wrong later, which seems to be all the rage (pun intended).

Mike said...

"He, him, his" is one set of pronouns, and "they, them, theirs" is another. Make up your mind. Elliot, get your s**t together before your big reveal. Your privilege is showing.

Bill Carter said...

A couple of years ago, I reluctantly gave up resisting the singular "they", even though I still cringe whenever I write it. If nothing else, using "they" instead of "he" or "she" lets cozy mystery writers maintain suspense a little longer in that big reveal scene where they gather all the suspects in the drawing-room and gradually reveal the identity of the killer.

Hopefully, someday I'll reach the point where I could care less about the decay of the language. /s

But then, I'm so reactionary that I'd love to see a revival of the second person intimate "Thou".

David said...

I'm starting to see how Republicans became what they became...it started with being PC back in the 80s/90s...not problem for most of us, but to some, it just got more annoying by the year...now, it's no labels, new labels, something added every week and if you're off a day- you're a bigot. I'm so sick of everything and everyone. The LGBTQIABCDEF... acronym is beyond annoying- so, let's just drop it all togheter- wish each other well, say good bye and get on with our own lives! The extreme militancy gets worse by the day.