We are all they: On getting rid of all gendered pronouns, altogether

gardenspiderfeeling asked:

Hi! I am agender and the only correct pronoun to use for me is ‘they’. The more i think about gendered pronouns, the more they ALL seem unnecessary to me. a pronoun is a word used to refer to somebody without describing them in any way.(?) I’m all about knowing and acknowledging a person’s gender identity/experience/expression to the extent that they’d like me to,but i feel like pronouns are not the place to display anything about gender/race/personality. Can i rightfully call ALL people ‘they’?

Hello gardenspiderfeeling!

What an interesting question. Language is inadequate for almost everything, in my view (which is something I look at in my academic work on social justice education approaches). However, we need it, so why not just get rid of specificity and refer to everyone as they?

I have two lovely friends who have made the decision to use they pronouns for everyone they ever talk about (even, you know, their old mums and dads who are decidedly she, she, he and he). I think this is a lovely gesture because they have made the decision to privilege people who might be uncomfortable with she or he and NOT the status quo. They have completely reversed the equation: if someone wanted to be called she or he they would have to ask my friends to make the change, and my friends would have to work at it. Isn’t that something?

In the beginning, this resulted in some rather funny moments where I thought that someone my friends mentioned was ‘one of my people’ (e.g., ”I didn’t know THAT PERSON used they as their pronoun! OMG that’s so exciting!!!” I exclaimed) only to remember that, well, everyone is ‘they’ for these people. This happened about five times. Eventually I adapted and didn’t hear or care about anyone’s gender who they brought up in conversation. It was and continues to be rather nice!

Of course, I believe that people have a right to the gender (or gender-neutral) pronoun of their choice including he or she or hir or xim. Trans people who have struggled for acceptance as he or she could of course feel invalidated when ‘they’d’ by people with the best of gender-inclusive intentions. I definitely see where you are coming from, gardenspiderfeeling, but many people really do love their pronoun and do feel like it displays a lot about who they are (me too, I guess).

Absolutism of any kind has its risks, but that’s where we are today: where people who don’t want she or he have to do more work. Imagine if it was the other way around? What would change? What would be eerily similar?

Food for thought!

Thanks for writing, and be well,

Lee

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