‘What about IT?’ When someone uses ‘it’ as a gender-neutral pronoun

Anonymous asked:

“Hey, a friend of mine ( who is in GSA with me ) wants me to use it/it’s for their pronoun. I’ve always been told to never use that pronoun, as it dehumanizes people, but my friend claims that they identify as an object. I’m not really sure what to do, as I can’t find any resources on it :/”

Hello Anonymous!

So glad you asked. This is a tough one. Yes, most of the time, it/it’s is considered to be dehumanizing. In fact, I don’t know anyone who uses this pronoun in an affirming way. I think it’s very risky because it invites people with no knowledge of gender diversity to associate someone with a pronoun that has a horrible history as an instrument not only of homophobia and transphobia, but racism and ableism, too.

That said…if this is what your friend wants, and this makes your friend feel comfortable, this is what is required from you as a friend and ally. (Nerd moment: there is a whole school of social theory on neo-materialism and post-humanism where scholars think about ‘inanimate’ objects as far more than that. This school informs my own academic work, and if you or your friend want more on this write back some time.)

THAT said…I have a comparison to offer. When I was 17 and newly out as queer my much older brother (a straight masculine dude) asked me how he should describe me to friends. I wildly preferred queer or (at the time) dyke to gay or lesbian. However, I knew that my brother – this was about 15 years ago – would probably be looked on as possibly homophobic for using the terms queer and dyke in largely heterosexual contexts. And so, because I wouldn’t be there to hear it and because it didn’t feel like the biggest deal to me, I said “ok brother, call me gay if you have to.”

What I mean with this comparison is that someone who hears you using ‘it’ for your friend could possibly have a negative reaction that catches you up in the crossfire. You will likely have to do a lot of explaining to almost everyone with whom you ever discuss your friend. This could be another reason why it feels uncomfortable to use it, for you. While this is not a reason to disrespect your friend’s choice, it IS a very valid reason to have a conversation together about these kind of situations and your feelings/need for more guidance.

I hope that helps, and thank you for writing!

Lee

Advertisements

One comment

  1. One way to strike a balance between respecting your friend’s pronouns, without sending out signals that you’re transphobic (or potentially even trigger someone if you just throw out an ‘it’ without warning) is to explicitly state that your friend’s preferred pronoun is ‘it’ before you refer to it that way in a conversation. Third-person pronouns are strange in that we use them more often when the person in question isn’t around, but this is the approach I would tend to take.

    Like

All questions and comments are welcome. You can ask an anonymous question to TIMP at theyismypronoun.tumblr.com.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s