The Pronouns Thread (1 Viewer)

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EmmaAintDead

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Okay folks. So, in another thread there was some pretty good and necessary discussion regarding pronouns, correct and incorrect use when referring to trans/non-binary people, how that impacts us, and the importance of using correct social markers when interacting with each other. Given how important this conversation is to have as well as the context of the original thread, I decided to go ahead and follow @EphemeralStick 's suggestion and dedicate a thread specifically to this, away from the dumpster fire of a thread it originated in.

To start, my pronouns are she/they, I'm trans non-binary, femme, and queer. I came out as trans in 2012, at which point I strictly used she/her pronouns. I came out as non-binary in 2018 and have since adopted they/them in addition to she/her. I've got a lot to say here, so bear with me, cause I'm going to address, explain, and try to extend something of an olive branch where things get heated. In the spirit of this being a discussion with good intent and a subject matter that ALL OF US benefit from being familiar with, I ask that cis people recognize up front that I'm not trying to be patronizing, dismissive, or ill-willed with my responses, but also that this conversation can veer to feeling dangerous to trans people VERY quickly and that trans people in this conversation, myself included, may take a tone that reflects this. Please try to be understanding of that. As well, fellow trans hobos, I'm not trying to put words in anybody's mouth. I understand that my own view and my own experiences are precisely that - mine. Not yours. But as well as you speak from a place of authority on this matter because YOU live this, so do I, and even we might not see eye to eye - I want yall to understand I'm not trying to invalidate or talk over anyone, even through the high potential for disagreement.

Further, I've done my best to strip the below of any thread-dependent context so anyone can join this without having to read 6 pages of very unfortunate posts.

So, let's get to it! I want to start off with this, from the original thread, which I feel set the tone for the original discussion. There is nuance beyond this that I feel is largely lost without a decent understanding of queer struggle:

non-binary, queer folk have been fighting for decades to make they/them pronouns the default
...
using they/them pronouns in place of a transpersons specified pronouns is a frustrating mistake. It is in NO WAY maliciously denying a person's transition.
This is true, but can contextually be a little more complicated. "They" as a default has been something queers have pushed for until such time "they" is rendered a societal standard for addressing people whose gender you are unsure of, as it's a default inclusive of both binary and nonbinary people. At the point where that's not the case, that is to say at the point you've been made aware that that person goes by he/him or she/her, "they" ceases to be the default and is intended to shift. In the event that someone has been using "they" for someone who has repeatedly corrected that her pronouns are she/her, the use of they becomes something that can and often does appear malicious. And, given the rest of the post I pulled this quote from, I'm safe to assume you are at least aware of situations where this has been the case. Cis people can and do lean on "they" as a way to acknowledge transness while not admitting the full scope and reality of gender identity. We see some of this in action in this next quote, intentionally or not.

Or maybe, just maybe you could consider just exactly how hard it is for everyone else who's not a trans person to completely rewire their brain from the pronouns they've always used for a person.

It isn't fucking easy, but you just keep trying to get it right. Oh and you know what makes it even harder? When the person has some physical/vocal traits that closer resemble their former gender a lot more than the one they identify with. I happen to know for sure the person we're talking about here has a deep, very deep voice.
It is hard. It's a cultural shift against the grain of what people have been conditioned to feel, think, and speak. And trying to get it right is a HUGE thing, and something people ought not to be discouraged from doing. Here's my main issue with this comment, though, is that it shifts the onus of speaking to a trans person with respect onto the trans person and doesn't keep it on the speaker. "It's hard because we've all been raised in a way that fundamentally doesn't accept this as the correct way to do things" is one thing, and something I very much agree with. "It's hard because some trans people don't look/sound trans enough" is another thing entirely, and that's what this conveys. In the queer world, we call this "passing politics." The long and short of it is, "passing" means one appears to the average person as the gender they ARE more often than not, and not "passing" means one appears as another gender than the one they are more often than not. And it's important to examine where that actually falls in your own views in relation to how you interact with queers, trans people, and nonbinary people. Does having a deep voice make a woman less of a woman? Does having tits make a man less of a man? Are you in a position to decide that's the case, and further, are you in a position where voicing that view is something positive to do? Because, as I see it, "It's hard for me to call this woman 'she' because of a deep voice" sounds like you understand that trans people 1.) exist, 2.) deserve to exist, and 3.) should be respected in existence, but that there is a benchmark they must hit before that person is deserving of the effort of committing pronouns to memory.


Maybe I'm a huge transphobe too, because I also have those rare but frustrating slip ups where I get the pronouns wrong.
And I'm not about to call you a transphobe. Because, yeah, you realize it's frustrating to slip up. But I am ABSOLUTELY saying that I feel like the root of the difficulty you're having is deeply tangled in a basis of transphobia. In the same sense that a white person in the US may not be racially prejudiced personally, they still exist in a racist culture that de-facto benefits them over racial minorities, you may not have any personal prejudice against trans people BUT you are coming from a place that exists in a transphobic culture that de-facto benefits cis people. And I think that's worth reflecting on, examining, and discussing in a sincere way.

I get the idea of respecting gender self-definition, but to fall out with an old pal because they use the wrong pronouns about a third party not present?

This just seems narcissistic and silly.
My feelings on this boil down fairly well to this: What two people say about a third person who isn't there is how they truly feel about that person. That third person's absence isn't an excuse to stop trying. If it's used as one, it seems less like the first two people are trying so much as they are performing a ritual for the third person to make themselves feel better about being nice to a trans person. If you were to be alone with someone who is very kind to women, but in confidence says some sexist shit, I would hope you'd be willing to say "hey, that's not right. That's not cool, and it doesn't matter that there are no women around, that kinda stuff is harmful."

there might be specific circumstances that result in someone not wanting to be referred to as 'they.'
...
It's not because it's magically easier. It's because trans people understand what it feels like to be misgendered, and as a result care enough to get it right.

Sometimes it's hard, and sometimes it takes time. But it's not 1+ year hard.

Trying but casually failing for a year to use the correct pronouns for someone is an issue of indifference.
Precisely this, actually. For those reading, I touched on a circumstance earlier wherein someone would NOT want to be called "they." If a trans man says "my pronouns are he/him" and someone repeatedly calls him "they," that's a subtle denial of their identity. What this tells us is, "I understand that you are trans and I do not respect you enough to address you as a man." And while this might not be anyone here's intent, it is the intent of SO MANY PEOPLE OUT THERE that it becomes hard for us to differentiate friend and foe. When people who genuinely care and are trying make the same mistake that people who actively wish harm on us intentionally use, it blurs the line for us a bit. And that's something the cis people here NEED to understand in this conversation. A slip up is a slip up. Prolonged misgendering is another thing entirely. And after a year of that? Yeah, the line is gonna be blurred.

Why would someone have an issue being referred to as they? They is a pronoun that can even apply to inanimate objects. Where's X? Oh, they went to the store. What's up with the things on the floor? Oh, they fell.
This is a post I love very much because it very nearly hits the nail on the head in answering the question it is asking itself. Repeatedly calling a binary trans person "they" has this effect precisely. It's a pronoun that can even apply to inanimate objects. And that's how repeated misgendering makes trans people feel. Non-human. Like objects. If you are a woman, and someone consistently uses language to describe you that completely neglects that you're a woman, but instead paints a very un-gendered and neutral image of you... yeah, that's kinda the same as being stripped of a big part of your identity.

Why exactly is it the duty of folks to "correctly gender" others?

Why does one person's particular performance of gender confer the right to police the speech of others?
You have no duty in anything other than that to yourself. If you don't want to correctly gender someone, you don't have to. It makes you look like a huge asshole, and people are going to treat you like a huge asshole, but nobody is going to lock you up for misgendering someone. In that, nobody is policing anything. What's being said is, regardless of intent, words mean things, and specific contexts of words mean specific things to specific people. Gender performance is something that ideally would automatically solicit the response of correcting yourself in gendered language when referring to someone else. "This person is obviously highlighting these gendered aspects" ideally begets the follow-up of "so I suppose I should refer to them by those gender markers" and does not follow with "so I suppose they are policing my right to speech by forcing me to use words I don't want to use."

Ultimately, what you do is up to you. Just realize, if what you do has an impact of those around you, then those around you will respond to that impact how they see fit. It's not an attack on your autonomy if someone you constantly misgender tells you to shut the fuck up, it's an attack on theirs that you voluntarily and without provocation see it fit to make them feel shitty.

When you know someone for years and years and they're a guy as far as you know and then one day they switch it up, that shit isn't easy for others to get right immediately. Even a year later, if you haven't seen the person but once or twice in all that time.. is that really enough time? I get the feeling no matter how clear I make this, it's falling on deaf ears. Oh and I'm not saying the trans person this is all centered around didn't do anything in the looks department or whatever.. I'm just saying if there's still some of the old traits left behind like voice.. it adds a level of difficulty. Call me a transphobe for that, I don't give a fuck.
Honestly, yeah. Knowing someone as one gender for most of their lives and then coming to terms with a completely new idea is REALLY difficult. Trust me, that's exactly what I had to experience when myself came out to myself. It's not just you who is trying. The person you are trying FOR is trying, too. And it's a lot of uncharted waters for everyone involved. That's why I put in so much effort to explaining where I'm coming from in this post, really. It's not something that just comes to fruition on its own for anyone on any side of this situation, and the difference between trying and succeeding and trying and failing is trying together. If we're going to be in this together, then a lot of this "but your voice is deep" shit just has to go. And I don't know what that means for you, but I do know what it means for the person you're referring to, and it means EVERYTHING. So yeah, it's not easy for cis people to just get it right. But the stakes arent as high for yall as they are for us. And trying and failing for you might mean having a few people mad at you. But trying and failing for us may mean violence against us from people who hate us and see us as an easy target because of a brief moment of vulnerability.

Nobody said anything about it needing to be magically easier. I wish it were magically easier for trans people to understand when we fuck up the pronouns too but I digress. Those of us who are allies who aren't trans, we care enough to get it right too. We might not understand what it feels like to be misgendered but we love our friend/family member etc and we want to get it right because we respect them.
And this matters. The fact that you know your loved ones appreciate the fact that you try is wonderful, and the fact that you acknowledge your respect is awesome. All I ask is that it doesn't end with "i'm trying" as an abstract, and that people really do examine what that means, and what changes can be made to ensure that trying actually makes a difference.


So, that was a lot. And I hope it is useful in continuing the discussion. Cause, damn folks, there's a lot of room to make this productive for everyone involved, and I believe in us.
 
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EmmaAintDead

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Oh shit, I meant for this to be in general, not politics & Anarchism. Could a mod kindly migrate it?
 

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Oh shit, I meant for this to be in general, not politics & Anarchism. Could a mod kindly migrate it?
Done. While this thread is meant to be educational for folks I can see some questions being asked that may seem or even be offensive to some people, so please for the love of heritage units let's try to keep this civil and respectful.
 
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Tough topic... as I am thinking what to say here i have a feeling I am "un-safe" in having my mind and thoughts examined as I identify as "male" I have "boy" parts and I fall in the old common binary 2 gender system . Then part of me thinks what it must be like on the other hand of this conversation... and I find it even more terrifying... thank you for sharing this emma.... as I understand pronouns its like names at work ... its very simple "richard a" likes to be called dick "richard b" likes to be called rick its rude or shows no respect to mix them up. onec or twice maybe when You just got hired but you shouldn't be doing in 3 years later. However its not evil or uncommon to have a slip up during stressful workday and get names mixed up, you apologise and keep trying to get the names right and move on to the next job... I'm not really "woke" or cultured but feel good manners help us express humanity. For my own feeling of understanding do I have this right are gender pronouns like names?
 
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Matt Derrick

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So I would like to first say thank you to @EmmaAintDead for taking the time to start this thread out of the shit show thread it began in so that something more positive may come out of it.

"They" as a default has been something queers have pushed for until such time "they" is rendered a societal standard for addressing people whose gender you are unsure of, as it's a default inclusive of both binary and nonbinary people. At the point where that's not the case, that is to say at the point you've been made aware that that person goes by he/him or she/her, "they" ceases to be the default and is intended to shift. In the event that someone has been using "they" for someone who has repeatedly corrected that her pronouns are she/her, the use of they becomes something that can and often does appear malicious.
This is basically what I came to say, although it is put much more eloquently in the quote above. IMO, it is okay to use the term 'they' as a generic term for a person until their preferred pronouns are made known. At that point it does fall on the responsibility of the addresser to comply with that person's wishes.

Unfortunately, as a society, I think we are still kind of figuring this stuff out as we go along (I remember days when the terms were 'co' and 'z' before 'they' were decided upon as the non gendered standard) and we're also combatting thousands of years of trans/homo phobia in the process. Part of this is thousands of years of lingusitical bias that is extremely ingrained into nearly everything we do.

That doesn't mean we should shirk the responsibility to keep evolving that language, just that we all should understand that it is a process, and it's going to take some time.
 
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EmmaAintDead

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Tough topic... as I am thinking what to say here i have a feeling I am "un-safe" in having my mind and thoughts examined as I identify as "male" I have "boy" parts and I fall in the old common binary 2 gender system . Then part of me thinks what it must be like on the other hand of this conversation... and I find it even more terrifying... thank you for sharing this emma....
Thanks for reading it! <3 I'm happy it came across as informative and not just ranty, and I appreciate you taking the time to put yourself in another's shoes even though it's not easy.

as I understand pronouns its like names at work ... its very simple "richard a" likes to be called dick "richard b" likes to be called rick its rude or shows no respect to mix them up. onec or twice maybe when You just got hired but you shouldn't be doing in 3 years later. However its not evil or uncommon to have a slip up during stressful workday and get names mixed up, you apologise and keep trying to get the names right and move on to the next job... I'm not really "woke" or cultured but feel good manners help us express humanity. For my own feeling of understanding do I have this right are gender pronouns like names?
Honestly, I love this. This is a really nice simple analogy.

So I would like to first say thank you to @EmmaAintDead for taking the time to start this thread out of the shit show thread it began in so that something more positive may come out of it.
This is a wonderful community in a place where I never expected to see anything more than punk houses and late night "do you know wheres a good spange" texts. I just want to help foster growing that as best I can <3

That doesn't mean we should shirk the responsibility to keep evolving that language, just that we all should understand that it is a process, and it's going to take some time.
If I could heart react this twice I would
 

Eng JR Lupo RV323

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First of all, thank you for taking the time to put this together. I think it's important, I think it's needed and you've done a really good job of putting in terms most anyone should be able to understand. I can't say I'm thrilled about being quoted so often throughout the thing as though I'm one of the sole people here with the biggest problem, but I did learn a thing or two from it so maybe that's a worthy sacrifice.

I do have a serious problem with people putting words in my mouth though. Another thing I have a problem with is being told what my intentions are when I'm pretty certain I know my intentions better than anyone... pretty sure right? Idk, maybe you got me pegged better than me. Humor me though, while I make my case.


Does having a deep voice make a woman less of a woman? Does having tits make a man less of a man?
Nope, not even in the slightest. Though I bet you often times both of those things cause great insecurity for the person. I bet if you asked 10 men with big tits if their tits make them feel less like a man, I'd wager a lot on at least 9/10 would say fuck yeah they do. Or same with the deep voice woman, does your voice make you feel too masculine mam? She said yes, yes it does. But that's neither here nor there. That isn't what I have an issue with but it's sort of tied into the section I quoted so I wanted to address it.


Are you in a position to decide that's the case, and further, are you in a position where voicing that view is something positive to do?
Am I in a position to say that's what makes a man manly or a woman womanly? Fuck no, that isn't my position at all and it's also not something I ever said. I said it's harder to make the change abruptly because of conditioning. Am I going to die on the hill of "nothing was wrong with that conditioning" no way! I'm 44 years old, I've been conditioned in a lot of horrible ways that I've been trying so fucking hard to unlearn.

The 70 year old dudes around in this day and age were the 25 year olds in my ear when I was a kid. It's been quite the chore to unlearn a lot of this shit, I recognize it and by all means help me out with some other shit if you see it. Call me out on that shit. I want to evolve and be the best version of myself that I can be. That's why I'm not arguing almost every point you made, but this portion of it that I quoted definitely ain't right.

Because, as I see it, "It's hard for me to call this woman 'she' because of a deep voice" sounds like you understand that trans people 1.) exist, 2.) deserve to exist, and 3.) should be respected in existence, but that there is a benchmark they must hit before that person is deserving of the effort of committing pronouns to memory.
This is actually the part that bothers me the most. Please don't "quote" me and change up the shit I said. If you wanna quote me, show me the same respect I've shown you. Quote me verbatim and then make your case. If you gotta spin my words at all to make your case.. your case isn't against me anymore, you just have an agenda. I didn't say what you quoted so I'm not even going to fuck with it, that's just some made up shit. This is what I said;

Oh and you know what makes it even harder? When the person has some physical/vocal traits that closer resemble their former gender a lot more than the one they identify with.
You acknowledged above that you understand it's hard.

Honestly, yeah. Knowing someone as one gender for most of their lives and then coming to terms with a completely new idea is REALLY difficult
So all I've said here is that when the person has some left over traits from the gender they're trying to no longer be known as.. it makes it harder.
Surely you can understand that too right? Big burly dude, rugged beard.. deep voice, shaved head.. he says "It's Ms. DiFranco to you!" it's a little harder to make it stick right? Takes more repetition right? It's conditioning, whether it's positive or negative conditioning is beside the point. We want to work beyond it but its definitely still in there a little bit. Guys sound like this typically, women sound like that. If I got my head turned and I hear the voice I'm thinking he/him.

but that there is a benchmark they must hit before that person is deserving of the effort of committing pronouns to memory.
Not something I said and not something I feel. I don't think there's any benchmark before that person is deserving of effort/pronouns etc. If there is a benchmark in my opinion it's that they're at least being true to themselves. If they've come to terms with it, who the fuck am I to set benchmarks. See, you making it out as though I set a benchmark makes me look like a hardliner. I never said there's a benchmark I just said it's harder. I didn't say the effort shouldn't be made, I just said it's harder. I didn't say I need it to magically be easy, I just said it's harder, but we absolutely should make the effort, always!
 

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Yep - intent is everything in life (or social life anyway) - the difference between first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. If I step on your toes and apologize, you can forgive me & we can move on; however, if I continue stepping on your toes, then apparently I have an issue that needs addressing.
 
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EmmaAintDead

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That was my own fault in poor contextual editing, @Engineer J Lupo -- I absolutely did mean to mark that as paraphrasing and not a direct quote from you. That was supposed to be more like, this is how that sounds to me, not this is what you said exactly. My apologies for that.

Which, no, I wasn't trying to tell you what your intentions were, nor was I trying to make a case against you. Part of my point is that your intentions may not translate to others. Gender markers like voice and body features absolutely DO impact how we see each other. Saying that keeping pronouns straight because of a gender marker like that, however, comes across to me as the paraphrased statement moreso than the direct quote. And, honestly, that's because that's something I see in myself and am self conscious about. In my head, that played something like, "I have a deep voice, what would this person think of me?"

And that's not necessarily fair to you, but that's a facet of this conversation that should be explored. Intent and the message that's actually sent in terms of pronouns can be two WILDLY different things, and bridging that gap into the speaker understanding what message the audience got was and the audience understanding what the intent of the speaker is can work wonders in mutual understanding here.

To me, it's more or less an issue of what "trying" means and whether or not that includes examining one's own position in the issue. And that's something I can see that you make efforts in, and I appreciate that. That's all that I, personally, can ask of anyone, is that attempts are made and that they lead to something better than the starting point.
 

Eng JR Lupo RV323

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Thanks. For what it's worth on my end.. I had just woken up from a nap when I read all this and responded. I believe my tone was a little defensive. I edited out a line or two in an effort to sound less gruff. It's a really good thread, I'm glad we're talking about it.
 

Eng JR Lupo RV323

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Well read it a few times until it sticks, educate yourself. It's important. Losing friends over it is bad enough but people's safety is on the line. Add to that the suicide rate is fucking scary amongst transfolk. The better educated people become, the sooner we can evolve into a more inclusive world. Don't just apologize and say you're uneducated, do something about it.
 

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Looks like they made another topic for it. See? If the word they is wrong I don't want to be right.
 

Juan Derlust

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@Influential - I'm probably the last person who should be telling you this, but understanding is something to strive for. I mean, worthwhile things in life rarely happen by chance. You chimed in here for a reason, no? Or are you just registering your dismissal of the entire concept of what's being discussed here? I'm sincerely curious.
Please call me out if I'm out of line - I appreciate being reminded I'm not just living in my own head
 
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My wife's childhood friend came to visit a few summers ago. We drove to WA to score some premo bud. After getting nicely baked we went to our favorite vegan restaurant to get some grub. I called the waiter sir and after they went to put our order in my lady and her friend said that it was probably a female transitioning to male.

I felt like an idiot after that. The server was nice enough about it and I'm pretty sure they liked that I called them sir.

The point I'm trying to make is when in doubt should one use they instead of he/she?

I'm no stranger to queers/trans people. I was an avid cross dresser in my twenties, but kinda grew out of it. The whole issue is still a bit of a head scratcher for me.

I know there is a difference between sexuality/gender identity, but they are both such a gray area.

Meh, I don't even know the point I'm trying to make anymore.

@EmmaAintDead thank you for taking the time to put all this info out there.

I'm not really "woke" or cultured but feel good manners help us express humanity.
^^^^^^^ This, totally agree.
 
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