Some conversation during the holidays has replayed in my mind as someone I care about has prompted some discussions about gender identity and pronouns.
I believe I am considered one of the older members of Generation X, which carries with it a certain laissez-faire, you-do-you attitude of acceptance that perhaps did not exist in prior generations. After all, my generation grew up watching Michael Jackson don sequins and one glove, while also getting paler with every passing year.
AIDS came on the scene in the eighties, and it led to a lot more visibility for homosexual people and while initial discussions about the “gay cancer” may have continued dark judgments on some people for their sexuality, it also allowed more people to talk about various specialities more openly.
Fast forward now 30-plus years (how can I be approaching 50, how???) and gender identity is a topic appearing more and more in our society.
Now this is not a discussion of the legitimacy of cisgender versus transgender. I was journaling this morning, because someone in my family is traveling through this maze of how to pronoun oneself, and I realized—
This is just as much a feminist issue as it is a gender one. I struggle to see how a pronoun could cause discomfort or offense, because in my mind I don’t believe your biological sex and your pronouns should influence who you are in any way— not how you dress, who you sleep with, what your job is, what your family looks like, how much money you make, how much respect you receive.
But in the social construct of our universe, it does. I know it does.
So, the issue to me is a larger one. Why are we still in this day-and-age classifying people by their sexual organs? Language is often both the quickest part of society to evolve and one of the last things to change.
I still don’t quite feel natural using “they” as a gender neutral term as it implies the plural. But one cannot refer to people as “it.” So that leads to a need to refine pronouns.
Is it necessary to identify someone by their sexual organs? Do we need to know the second we meet them what body parts they have? Would a more generic term change how we view others? Would it change who we were sexually attracted to?
And from the feminist perspective— if names and pronouns become less gendered wouldn’t society have to equalize and end various forms of discrimination? The traditional markers would fade and it would take longer to learn certain factors about a person.
Monday food for thought.
One thought on “Language is the last to evolve”
Maybe a generic term is the key. But it needs to be a better generic term than “they/them”.
In the Latino community, “Latinx” quickly became the go-to generic word. I don’t know Spanish but I’m guessing that’s the only term that changed. All the others are probably still gender-specific. The same probably applies to French.
For me, pronouns are a minefield. I try very hard to just not use them. For me, it’s easier. I cannot use “They/Them”. It is grammatically incorrect. And frankly, it just sounds dumb when used for a singular person. But it goes beyond pronouns. All kinds of words like “daughter/son” are also off the plate. (ie: use “child” instead.)
At this point, I’m thinking we should give our children gender-neutral names so when they change the assigned at birth gender they don’t have to change their name.