Monday, May 29, 2017

Don't be a dick

Being an arts graduate, I'm a natural-born grammar pedant (eg, unlike most people I suffer moral outrage when I see someone unnecessarily insisting on using the word "whom" and then using it wrongly). So, picture my dropped-jaw perplexity at this column in the NZ Herald: "Misgendering in New Zealand."  The author writes of his frustration at people misgendering him by, for example, referring to him as "him."

Just to be clear, we're not talking here about a trans-woman who gets arseholes trying to make a point by referring to her as a man (that one really is pretty vile because it's a deliberate expression of contempt for someone who's done you no harm), we're talking about an actual man who just doesn't want people referring to him as one.  He writes:

... I don't consider myself female or male. I'm simply a human being who prefers the pronouns "they" and "their."

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that his male body and beard would make it fairly difficult for strangers to discern this "fact" about Mr Mack without him telling them, the English language already has a non-gendered singular pronoun: "it." The pronouns "they" and "their" are plural pronouns. A "non-binary" person who dislikes English's existing non-gendered pronoun shouldn't then try and get everyone to butcher the language by trying to make plural pronouns into singular ones, because those words already have meanings that aren't compatible with the alternate use being demanded.

Also, there are worse outcomes of this demand than butchering the language.  Mack proudly writes how he's now confident enough to instruct taxi drivers to stop calling him sir: 

Just the other day, I was in a cab by myself, and the driver began the conversation with "how are you, sir?"

"Please don't call me sir," I said.

"Ok, sir," he replied.

"I'd really prefer you didn't call me sir," I said again. "Just call me Ben, please."

That was the last time I was called "sir" that day.

Oh, I bet it was! I expect the taxi driver had his own word for you by that point.  And there's this:

Despite my frustrations, I can also say this: every time I've corrected someone about my preferred pronouns, I've never had to deal with someone who refused to stop misgendering me.

Well, yes mate, that's because in this country most of us operate on the principle "Don't be a dick."  It means we'll generally be willing to call you by the wrong pronoun if you ask us to. Here's the thing though: it also means we won't constantly try to "correct" people who refer to us in a way that's entirely normal for their and our culture and instead have them call us something we made up, because that would totally be a dick move.


Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Go Milt!!!!!!!!!

pdm said...

Milt - you lost me in a couple ofplaces but overall I think I agree with you.