Were you looking to know what Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s preferred gender pronouns were? I wasn’t.
Unless it’s a rare case where someone actively tells me they wish to be called something else, I assume they want to be called “he and him” or “she and her.” That’s because that’s how the English language has worked for, oh, a thousand years, given that the pronouns date from the first form of the language. Deviations from this are the exception.
I mention this only because, if you spend any time around the political side of Twitter, you know that certain people like to put their preferred gender pronouns in their profile. Unsurprisingly, most of the time it’s “he/him” or “she/her.”
This little bit of personal information almost never needs to be said, mind you, because these individuals aren’t gender-flexible or anything like that. Instead, it’s a conspicuous and commitment-free way to declare yourself an “ally” to transgender and gender-fluid individuals.
So, hey, look who just got conspicuous:
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) July 18, 2019
As you can see, Politico’s Alex Thompson notes that the only other candidate who has done this is former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who lists his pronouns as “He/Him/Él.”
If you need an explainer on flexible gender pronouns and why certain people who aren’t gender-fluid use them, there’s no better place to look than the Huffington Post. In 2017, genderqueer author Sassafrass Lowrey, who uses the pronouns ze/hir, wrote an explainer about how you should approach the brave new world of pronoun neologisms.
“A great way to do this is including your pronouns in email signatures or on social media bios. This helps to normalize the idea that people shouldn’t just assume they can tell someone’s pronoun based on a the traditional gendering of a name,” Lowrey wrote.
“You can’t tell a person’s gender identity or pronouns based on how they look. Gender presentation isn’t the same as gender identity, and neither presentation nor identity are a indicator of what pronouns someone uses.
“The only way to know what someone’s pronouns are is to ask. Also, don’t assume that someone’s pronouns are fixed. Gender is fluid, and their pronouns may (or may not) change over time.”
Lowrey also noted that “mistakes happen” and that it’s totally OK as long as you promptly apologize and change your ways posthaste.
“When you misgender someone say you are sorry, and fix your language moving forward. Don’t make a huge deal about your mistake and force the trans/non-binary/genderqueer person spend a lot of time and energy consoling you for misgendering them. The best apology is not doing it again,” Lowrey wrote.
Yes, saying sorry too effusively can be an act of aggression. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s aggression of the micro or macro variety, but there you go.
This approach must be a barrel of fun at social gatherings: “Before we begin talking, I must ask — what should I call you?” “Pardon?” “Your gender pronouns. What are they?” “I, um, she?” “Oh, all right! You’re gender binary, totally OK! I’m assuming her, too?” “Oh, I’m sorry. I have a call or a text or fax or something. It’s been nice chatting!”
Hopefully, you can find a trans/non-binary/genderqueer person to console you and say you did the right thing — but make sure they don’t spend too much time consoling you. That’s a microaggression.
If you use gender pronouns that deviate from the norm, you are, by definition, the exception to the rule. If you want to put those pronouns in your Twitter bio, there is, however, a reason you’re doing it. There’s no reason for me to let you know that I prefer to be called “he/him” because, well, that’s over a thousand years of language at work.
When I do that, I’m not helping “normalize the idea that people shouldn’t just assume they can tell someone’s pronoun based on a the traditional gendering of a name.” What I’m doing is making a club-footed sociopolitical point that’s part of a wider assault on language by the left, a point based on the idea that gender is nothing more than a social construct.
It is not surprising that Warren is participating in this nonsense, given that the Democratic Party nomination has become the identity politics sweepstakes. Let’s hope that this shameless pandering gets called out for what it is.
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