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Author Topic: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot  (Read 2895 times)

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Online BlytheTopic starter

Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« on: March 18, 2013, 03:54:32 AM »
I'd like to try to give this topic another try; the previous thread was locked, with good reason, but I believe it's possible to reasonably talk about and debate this hotbutton issue. As a Liege, I understand that others may disagree with the precept of the topic--some people don't like/believe in alternative gender pronouns. To each their own. If you wonder why the below topics seem neutral, it's because I listed them, hopfeully, as neutral points without my own bias and opinions clouding them. I tried VERY hard to keep the points neutral, with room for agreement and disagreement. I would like to hear from some Lords and Ladies regarding these points, in particular. Feedback from cisgendered people is helpful and useful.  Anyways, Here are the issues I'd like to discuss and debate, and feel free to adress related topics to these:



*Why or whether alternative gender pronouns should be considered and used.

*Why or whether alternative gender pronouns are or are not necessary.

*if alternative gender pronouns are a viable way to acknowledge alternative gender identities that do not fit into the gender binary.

*if it is possible to incorporate consistent alternative pronoun use for other genders in the English language consistently, with grammatically correct and easy to understand rules.

*which pronouns do and do not work for those who do not fit into gender binary and why.



I did not list my own opinions just yet, because I am going to go source-hunting for resources that are reliable that support my opinions, but it should probably be noted that I do have the Liege tag, so my opinions about this subject could be easily guessed. :)

~Blythe
« Last Edit: March 18, 2013, 03:55:54 AM by Blythe »

Offline Koren

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2013, 04:34:57 AM »
I cant really answer all of the points above but I can provide my own personal view on a few things

Like I said in the other thread, really all it comes down too is courtesy. The same as most women dont like being refered to as male, and most men dont like being reffered to as female, its just courtesy that you respect the individual enough to acknowledge their identity. And if that means moving outside the established pronouns and gender referances then I think its only fair to do that when we do it for everyone else. We dont have a right to deny someone their identity simply because it doesnt fit into the easy words in my opinion.

I do think that our language as it is at the moment does not have the nessisary words and expressions to adequately encapsulate the details and subtlties of identity as a whole, and certainly not public language that we all know, and I think that goes for not only gender, but also sexuality, identity, personality and more. Language is incredibly limited, not only by words, but by culture and the way people understand words and the way those words are spoken and then taken apart and reinterpruted at the other end. We may never have the right words, or the best words, but we will all have to make do with what we have.
I cant speak much on what pronouns do and dont work as I am really horrible at language and all of that as well.

Just my opinions.

Online Oniya

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2013, 09:19:03 AM »
I like to call people what they like to be called - at least, if I'm not intentionally trying to tick them off.  Even then, I don't go so far as to avoid their preferred pronouns.  I'll avoid pronouns altogether if I don't know the right one, in fact.

Alternative pronouns that I've seen used: 
'sie' or 'xe' (both pronounced in my head as zhee) for places that 'he' or 'she' would be used
'hir' (sounds a little like 'here') for 'him' or 'her' - also used as possessive ('his' or 'hers')
'xir' (zheer) in the same manner
'thon' - seen it used, find it clunky, mainly because I can't figure cases for it.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2013, 10:54:09 AM »
I like to call people what they like to be called - at least, if I'm not intentionally trying to tick them off.  Even then, I don't go so far as to avoid their preferred pronouns.  I'll avoid pronouns altogether if I don't know the right one, in fact.

Alternative pronouns that I've seen used: 
'sie' or 'xe' (both pronounced in my head as zhee) for places that 'he' or 'she' would be used
'hir' (sounds a little like 'here') for 'him' or 'her' - also used as possessive ('his' or 'hers')
'xir' (zheer) in the same manner
'thon' - seen it used, find it clunky, mainly because I can't figure cases for it.

A couple of sources I've read seem to indicate that there are no cases for 'thon'. I'll add to the list:
'ey/eir/em' - basically "they" with the th sawed off. Makes it feel much smoother using singular verbs around it. Which brings us to...
singular 'they' - can be smooth or clunky, depending on how you conjugate "to be". I'm also unsure how inherently gendered words work with this - what would you use in place of, say "boyfriend" or "girlfriend"? If there's a standard case, I'm unaware of it.

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2013, 11:43:14 AM »
Between the increasing awareness of non-hetero relationships and people over certain ages finding a certain discomfort with 'boy' and 'girl' as self-description (seriously, my sister's going out with a guy who has grandkids.  Calling him a 'boy' sounds ridiculous) - I see a lot more people using S.O. or 'partner' to describe their 'more-than-just-friends'.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2013, 12:04:24 PM »
Between the increasing awareness of non-hetero relationships and people over certain ages finding a certain discomfort with 'boy' and 'girl' as self-description (seriously, my sister's going out with a guy who has grandkids.  Calling him a 'boy' sounds ridiculous) - I see a lot more people using S.O. or 'partner' to describe their 'more-than-just-friends'.

Well, yes. That particular case has a solution; probably not the best example. I blame my melting brain. And it's an edge case in general, but... there are a handful of words for which any neutral option seems to feel awkward. Maybe I'm overthinking.

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2013, 12:57:43 PM »
This is something I struggle with in practice.  My brain wants to divide people into two and then use him/his and her/hers for them.  If someone says to me "Hey, Kythia, I much prefer <this pronoun>" then I will try to remember and use - exactly as I would if Ephiral said she preferred "Ephy" (just picking on you as you were the last person to post, Ephiral.  Nothing meant by it).  However, it is something I struggle to keep at the forefront of my mind, way more than "Ephy" not "Ephiral."

I don't mean any insult by it, though I totally get that "don't mean any insult by it" and "doesn't cause any insult" are not the same thing.  But I default to the big two and will, unless I'm really thinking about it, use whichever one seems most appropriate by the look of the person.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2013, 01:21:59 PM »
This is something I struggle with in practice.  My brain wants to divide people into two and then use him/his and her/hers for them.  If someone says to me "Hey, Kythia, I much prefer <this pronoun>" then I will try to remember and use - exactly as I would if Ephiral said she preferred "Ephy" (just picking on you as you were the last person to post, Ephiral.  Nothing meant by it).  However, it is something I struggle to keep at the forefront of my mind, way more than "Ephy" not "Ephiral."

I don't mean any insult by it, though I totally get that "don't mean any insult by it" and "doesn't cause any insult" are not the same thing.  But I default to the big two and will, unless I'm really thinking about it, use whichever one seems most appropriate by the look of the person.

No worries! You generally have to be trying to offend me. I hardly claim to speak for everyone, but... most people I know might wince a little when you drop the wrong pronoun, but won't hold it against you. The fact that you're visibly making an effort is what's important. I have a trans friend that I still occasionally screw up on - and she still occasionally screws up on her singular-they-using SO. And my RL friends have trouble with using the "wrong" pronoun for me. It's an expected adjustment.

Offline Vanity Evolved

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2013, 02:12:46 PM »
This is something I struggle with in practice.  My brain wants to divide people into two and then use him/his and her/hers for them.  If someone says to me "Hey, Kythia, I much prefer <this pronoun>" then I will try to remember and use - exactly as I would if Ephiral said she preferred "Ephy" (just picking on you as you were the last person to post, Ephiral.  Nothing meant by it).  However, it is something I struggle to keep at the forefront of my mind, way more than "Ephy" not "Ephiral."

I don't mean any insult by it, though I totally get that "don't mean any insult by it" and "doesn't cause any insult" are not the same thing.  But I default to the big two and will, unless I'm really thinking about it, use whichever one seems most appropriate by the look of the person.

I'm pretty much in this camp; particularly because I've never come into any contact with people where s/he isn't valid. I've known a few intersex people in my time, but the few I have met have all been either MtF or FtM transexuals, who still identify as male or female. I always assumed to treat said pronouns in a similar way you would nicknames or other genuine mistakes.

"Oh, hey Rosie."
"Hey. Though, mind just calling me Rose? Never really been fond of Rosie."
"Oh, sorry Rose."

But I guess this does get a bit more confusing when referring not to the person, but where the person in question is being spoke about. I'm perfectly fine with calling someone 'hir' (though admittedly, not sure how you'd pronounce it - here?), but when you're talking to someone else who doesn't know this, it feels a bit odd having to explain what you mean after... But yeah, I'm pretty ignorant on the topic, so it's more me rambling to myself at this point. Hehe.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2013, 02:48:55 PM »
I'm pretty much in this camp; particularly because I've never come into any contact with people where s/he isn't valid. I've known a few intersex people in my time, but the few I have met have all been either MtF or FtM transexuals, who still identify as male or female. I always assumed to treat said pronouns in a similar way you would nicknames or other genuine mistakes.

"Oh, hey Rosie."
"Hey. Though, mind just calling me Rose? Never really been fond of Rosie."
"Oh, sorry Rose."

For most trans* people I've known, this is pretty on the money. One small note, though: "intersexed" refers to people born with biological characteristics of both sexes. "Trans*" or "non-binary" are pretty safe terms to cover non-cisgendered people as a whole.

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2013, 05:26:55 PM »
Using alternative pronouns is a respectful thing to do if the person requests it and I'm happy to do that.  I don't mind being asked to change if I use the wrong one but I do like patience with the fact that I may not know or remember what is wanted so help is appreciated.  Like Oniya I'll avoid use of pronouns if I can't figure it out.

I don't see any need to debate the issue. 

Online BlytheTopic starter

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2013, 07:54:34 PM »
As someone who embraces the concept of incorporating and using alternative gender pronouns, the only issue I see is being able to consistently incorporate them into the English language. English doesn't have a gender neutral pronoun--"it" doesn't count, as the pronoun "it" shouldn't be used for people, as it refers to objects. "It" is rather dehumanizing to me. I found a small series of definitions that is rather helpful for defining elements of what I'll go ahead and call the "transgender" or "genderqueer" community. I admit that a few of the definitions listed may not be accurate, but a good majority are reasonable, and some can be expanded on. It helps to understand a lot of these first:

http://web.archive.org/web/20020614112429/http://alisha_clarke.tripod.com/readings/gender_terms.htm

For pronoun use, this site showed how to use many of the alternative variants: http://androgyne.0catch.com/terms.htm#4

It's mostly accurate. And some of these variants are used often on Elliquiy. The issue is consistent use in the English language. It's possible and I want it to happen, but it's a lot of pronouns. Other languages have a "third gender" pronoun that encompasses what does not fall into the cisgendered spectrum, and Chinese (standard Mandarin) doesn't have gender pronouns at all; English just translates this by applying gender binary to a language that is gender  neutral with pronoun use. Other languages present some interesting options for pronouns--granted, my source is Wikipedia, but the article seems reliable: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender-neutral_pronoun#Chinese

I'm curious if the English language could learn a lesson from other languages.

Also, my sources aren't the best. I can find more or better ones if necessary.

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2013, 09:14:25 PM »
Honestly, I really kind of hate alternate gender pronouns and think they contribute to the problem. I certainly don't mind using them for my friends, if that's what they are comfortable with, but I will never use them for myself. To my mind, alternate gender pronouns try to correct a fundamental problem of our language: that it is geared to categorize people by gender.

The vast majority of the time you are using a pronoun, the gender of the person being talked about is irrelevant, so why have pronouns geared towards conveying it? Why gender the subject of your conversation every time you don't want to use a proper noun? To put it another way, I don't think the solution to the problem of forcing people into boxes is to increase the number of boxes.

Offline Vanity Evolved

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2013, 12:09:05 AM »
For most trans* people I've known, this is pretty on the money. One small note, though: "intersexed" refers to people born with biological characteristics of both sexes. "Trans*" or "non-binary" are pretty safe terms to cover non-cisgendered people as a whole.

Ah. :3 Gotcha~

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2013, 12:32:47 AM »
The vast majority of the time you are using a pronoun, the gender of the person being talked about is irrelevant, so why have pronouns geared towards conveying it? Why gender the subject of your conversation every time you don't want to use a proper noun? To put it another way, I don't think the solution to the problem of forcing people into boxes is to increase the number of boxes.
What is the solution in your eyes, then?

Offline Shadow879

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2013, 12:37:08 AM »
Honestly, I really kind of hate alternate gender pronouns and think they contribute to the problem. I certainly don't mind using them for my friends, if that's what they are comfortable with, but I will never use them for myself. To my mind, alternate gender pronouns try to correct a fundamental problem of our language: that it is geared to categorize people by gender.

The vast majority of the time you are using a pronoun, the gender of the person being talked about is irrelevant, so why have pronouns geared towards conveying it? Why gender the subject of your conversation every time you don't want to use a proper noun? To put it another way, I don't think the solution to the problem of forcing people into boxes is to increase the number of boxes.

Unfortunately, I feel this is fairly spot on. Our language is very gender based, and until a new, less awkward agender word comes into the dictionary to refer to someone, it will continue to cause much confusion, because let's face it, ze/hir is practical, but, more so in text, because the pronunciation to many English speakers is awkward and hard to grasp, and feels foreign, as was pointed out in the androgyne link. In my opinion, all the ones where they try and combine words to make a new one, while they are a good concept, would not be used easily or commonly, due to being awkward to say or pronounce or use.

My personal favorite, and to me the most practical, is ey/em/eir. I refuse to look up whatever the proper pronunciation is for those because every time I look it up for the other ones it's not what I expected and it becomes awkward and hard to say. I pronounce them as they would be if the 'th' was still there. (ay/ehm/air)

Those are my favorites because they disconnect themselves from the 'th,' obviously, and thus take away the plural denotation, leaving a new word. I think those ones have the best chance of becoming an actual new word in the dictionary, because it's easy to use, sharing sounds with existing words and letters, as in letter A, letter M, and the word air.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 12:43:33 AM by Shadow879 »

Offline DarklingAlice

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2013, 01:04:34 AM »
What is the solution in your eyes, then?

Simply collapse everything into one pronoun. English has no grammatical gender. We do not need the gender content of the information our currently used pronouns possess. The language should be tailored to make it easy to hold a conversation about a person without referencing that person's gender. It's simply irrelevant in the majority of circumstances and honestly kind of creepy that it has weaseled its way into language at such a basal level. Why on earth should we be referencing an individuals gender anytime we wish to say that individual did anything? And why does it take such circumlocution to avoid doing so? Though at least it isn't as bad as titles which try to get you to discuss someones gender and (if they are female) marital status in situations where it simply doesn't matter.  I sometimes think that English developed along these routes solely for the purposes of telling cishet males who was available for fucking.

So my suggestion is a single pronoun to refer to people. Not a new pronoun for transfolk but a new pronoun for everyone. (Or, if we could wash it of context we could use an old one. Half the Chinese researchers I work with, male and female, only use 'he' 'him' and 'his' to refer to everyone and it hasn't led to lab explosions...yet...). Actually come to think of it 'he' 'her' and 'hers' would be quite intuitive.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 01:15:40 AM by DarklingAlice »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #17 on: March 19, 2013, 01:25:15 AM »
Simply collapse everything into one pronoun. English has no grammatical gender. We do not need the gender content of the information our currently used pronouns possess. The language should be tailored to make it easy to hold a conversation about a person without referencing that person's gender. It's simply irrelevant in the majority of circumstances and honestly kind of creepy that it has weaseled its way into language at such a basal level. Why on earth should we be referencing an individuals gender anytime we wish to say that individual did anything? And why does it take such circumlocution to avoid doing so? Though at least it isn't as bad as titles which try to get you to discuss someones gender and (if they are female) marital status in situations where it simply doesn't matter.  I sometimes think that English developed along these routes solely for the purposes of telling cishet males who was available for fucking.

So my suggestion is a single pronoun to refer to people. Not a new pronoun for transfolk but a new pronoun for everyone. (Or, if we could wash it of context we could use an old one. Half the Chinese researchers I work with, male and female, only use 'he' 'him' and 'his' to refer to everyone and it hasn't led to lab explosions...yet...). Actually come to think of it 'he' 'her' and 'hers' would be quite intuitive.
This strikes me as a wonderful idea that is completely impractical at this time.

Offline Shadow879

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #18 on: March 19, 2013, 01:46:21 AM »
*points to my post* ey/em/eir would work for that.

Online BlytheTopic starter

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #19 on: March 19, 2013, 02:10:02 AM »
Ey/em/eir is a recognized alternative pronoun, as well. I believe it's referred to as the Spivak variant.

Offline Top Cat

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #20 on: March 19, 2013, 02:15:05 AM »
I have to agree with DarklingAlice. While it would be nice to recognize alternative gender orientations, what you end up doing, in the short run (and possibly in the long run as well), is turning the third gender-tag into a form of "othering." Tribalism is strong in our culture, and among most cultures around the world, and there's a lot of people with a lot of hate and looking for a direction to aim it. By expressly identifying alternative genders with their own pronoun structure, you are explicitly calling attention to them - sometimes very unwanted attention.

They're people. We're people. We don't need to make an effort to underscore their differences every time we talk about them.

I also acknowledge Ephiral's point that it's completely impractical to implement at this point. It's a hard change to make, but if it's going to be done, it's not ever going to be any easier.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #21 on: March 19, 2013, 02:23:20 AM »
I also acknowledge Ephiral's point that it's completely impractical to implement at this point. It's a hard change to make, but if it's going to be done, it's not ever going to be any easier.
I beg to differ. Right now, we're fighting to get people to stop calling trans* people by explicitly wrong pronouns, let alone the ones they choose. We cannot simultaneously hold that it is both right and wrong to tell someone "This is the pronoun you get, and you get no say in the matter." Until we get to the point where misgendering is recognized as an unacceptable action, I don't see embracing that statement turning out well for the minority.

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #22 on: March 19, 2013, 02:32:36 AM »
It's one thing to use these kinds of pronouns for yourself, or referring to people you know personally or feel connected to. It's a whole different ball park to claim or push for that everyone should use them regularly, or that the news media, schools, courts and academy should be using them as a default. I would agree with what Darkling said in another thread (on the liege board) that physical sex, social/styled gender and 'sex' (as in 'the ways and parts you bring into play for sexual pleasure') are different planes and don't need to square, but to most people those three - and especially bio sex and social/behaviour styled gender - are so close they are never really separate. And in that kind of world, pushing for a single genderless pronoun will come out as an effort to declare "gender doesn't exist" meaning sexual and social gender differences do not really exist, or shouldn't exist: they are just free choices or arbitrary whims flying through the air and landing in somebody's mind. Unfortunately, a vociferous part of the folks pushing for a genderless pronoun in my neck of the woods, Sweden, do seem motivated by that kind of ideological motive: they want to drive the notion that gender is nonexistent and that any concept of definite, lasting gender is a means of oppression - but they only half own up to that motive.

I would agree with Ephiral that most trans people (also, most lesbians and bi people I know or have heard of) are *not* committed to saying 'social gender - gendered behaviour, styling, clothing, ways of acting and talking - is trash, it's arbitrary and can be changed or remixed within a relationship at the drop of a hat'. Recognizing the right to fit within a gender (including intersexed or 'non-standard' gender) that might not square with what you were born with is much more important than trying to wipe out anything and everything that references gender or bio sex.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 04:15:45 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Top Cat

Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2013, 02:39:47 AM »
I agree very much with what both of you are saying. I'm not in a rush to wipe out gender language, or to try to march on some ideological drive to make gender "not exist" in some half-assed manner. But I believe that making gender an essential part of the language, and only a binary part of the language, is ultimately damaging, even when you're dealing with just the male/female dichotomy. People can get very offended when you use the wrong pronoun or title (Sir, Ma'am, etc.) for them by accident, and to what purpose? You weren't trying to offend them, you just misread the verbal/physical cues.

We don't need to bring gender into discussions where it doesn't really matter in the first place, and removing it from this level of discussion can be a positive change. Let gender identity rest in conversations where it matters.

Offline Shadow879

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Re: Alternative Gender Pronouns: The Reboot
« Reply #24 on: March 19, 2013, 02:45:11 AM »
Ey/em/eir is a recognized alternative pronoun, as well. I believe it's referred to as the Spivak variant.

They are recognized. But until they're words that are in the dictionary and taught as part of basic grammar, they will not see common usage.

They are also agender, thus removing the gender connotation.

I don't see it as practical now or ever to lump EVERYONE into single pronoun.

In a sense, trans* people ARE an "other," unfortunately. We always will be. Human nature, for the most part, involves a bit of xenophobia. There are examples throughout history. There will always be those that hate on others who do not fit in the little boxes they've created in their minds, simply because they are not comfortable with the idea. Slowly, society as a whole seems to be becoming more accepting, but the hate will never truly go away. I'm kinda looking at the big picture here.

*edit* If I'm not making sense, someone please let me know so I can exit the conversation with some semblance of dignity :) I'm tired and probably not firing on all 8 cylinders.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2013, 02:46:38 AM by Shadow879 »