I’m going to come right out and say this: I don’t think using the wrong pronouns is hate speech. I don’t think there are four dozen genders, and that people who can’t keep track are all evil bigots.
I think all this over-politicizing is harmful to trans people.
In case I have to qualify this, for the record, I believe in full human rights and dignities for trans people and all people. In today’s climate, just about anything can be taken the wrong way, so I want to state this unequivocally.
My problem is with the enforcement of language and the false manufacturing of threat through this means.
Trans women have enough challenges and threats to their safety. It’s a crime wasting time policing people’s speech because some snowflakes want to introduce fifty pronouns they made up yesterday, and say it’s a hate crime if you aren’t up to speed.
It’s not nice if some hick keeps insisting on calling your girlfriend “he.” We need to ignore him, not call the police. The well-meaning teacher who says “she” instead of “he” but didn’t know the person preferred “they” or “name only- no pronouns” is not a hateful criminal. The people inventing all these words are the ones filled with hate.
There are also people who insist on using pronouns that reflect someone’s gender assigned at birth because they see transgenderism as an illness. They genuinely believe that subscribing to a “fantasy” perpetuates a harmful delusion. They’re wrong, but I won’t make them criminals because we disagree about the nature of transgender. Everyone is wrong about some things, and we change our minds by learning from others. If I’m hostile, these folks can never learn from me.
My trans friend Kitty agrees. “Listen, sweetie, I’m a ‘she’ not a ‘zi’ and I prefer if someone messes up and says ‘he’—I will use the word ‘zir’ over my dead body. This bunch of coddled babies who think they are ‘trans’ because they want a boy’s haircut, sorry. Don’t pretend you know about me, and stop turning my allies into bigots.”
Kitty is from Montreal, Canada, where our northern neighbours are embroiled in pronoun wars. Canada’s Bill C-16 is purportedly to outlaw gender discrimination, but some fear it can criminalize folks for pronoun misuse. “How can we criminalize this when people change their pronouns as often as I change my wig?”
A Canadian professor named Jordan Peterson is battling it out over his refusal to succumb to language impositions.
Read this article from the DailyXtra: “How to really push back against conservative martyrs like that U of T prof”
While he gets a lot of bad press from people who assume he hates trans people, Kitty and many of her friends are supporters.
Check out this article from The Toronto Star: “He says freedom, they say hate. The pronoun fight is back”
“He is a very nice man, and let us remember the witch hunts, what people do to other people they disagree with. It’s a slippery slope honey when you take away a person’s rights. The person speaking also has rights! It’s not all about me. If someone wants to be a jerk, believe me, a law’s not gonna fix his personality deficits. And laws like this are ultimately not going to protect ME. What if one day someone makes it illegal for me to say ‘she’ unless I was born that way? What if talking about real problems trans women face, like murder and buying shoes that fit, is outlawed as hate against shoemakers and serial killers?”
I love Kitty so much. I keep telling her that she should have her own talk show.
The dangers are real, and the people agitating for people to talk a certain way, who expect never to be offended, are simply not considering what it means to take away human freedoms. Proponents of mandated pronouns say they want to protect trans or genderqueer people from harm, but equating verbal offence with violence is a distraction from real violence and discrimination.
Or, as Kitty puts it, “Honey, if you can’t go on because someone mispronounced missus, you got bigger problems than the law can help you with.”
Add your two cents to the pronoun debate in the comments!