5 Easy Ways to Make Your Writing Gender-Neutral

You know, I had another introduction planned, but as I have been writing this over the last month, many articles on the topic of gender-neutral language have popped up (you’ll see me mention some of them below). This topic is on everyone’s mind lately because we have some high-profile people who have brought it to the forefront. But let’s not be naïve. This didn’t start the day Caitlyn appeared on Vanity Fair. This is a conversation a lot of people have been having for a long time.

The way I see it, we can solve this problem by finding ways to talk about each other and talk TO each other without relying on assumptions of gender, race, status, etc. Our biases are killing our ability to communicate respectfully and accurately. The problem of gendered language and the necessity of making assumptions about other people based on the inflexibility of that language is a problem we all face, and we, as writers, have the ability to inspire change.

This article lists several ways that you can write prose that is both neutral and accurate. With the exception of some new terms that might take some getting used to, these suggestions—which could make a world of difference to someone—are actually practical and not very hard to implement. Most lasting solutions to problems usually are. Please read this with an open mind, and remember that approaching each other with language that is inclusive is good for everyone—and that’s the point.

This didn’t start the day Caitlyn appeared on Vanity Fair. This is a conversation a lot of people have been having for a long time.

Without further ado…

1. Call “Mankind” Out

For a long time, we’ve been told that in the absence of knowledge as to whether a subject was male or female, or when referring to a person in the generic or hypothetical sense, it was acceptable to default to male nouns and pronouns. We were told nouns like mankind included non-males, too, even though more than 50% of “mankind” are not, in fact, men.

Let’s call bullshit on this right here and now. When you hear the words postman, fireman, salesman, journeyman, policeman, etc., tell me truly, do you not picture a man? Even in 2015 when there are plenty of real life women (and other non-males) in these occupations, you still imagine a man. I do.

It seems like the answer would be to change the nouns to feminine when referring to a woman: postwoman, spokeswoman, policewoman. Sure, terms like these are 1980s-Hot. When I hear them, I am transported back in time to a day when women-in-the-workplace was, like, a new thing. Back then, we thought that was progress. It was, but now we need to progress further. Gender is not all one or the other—we know that. And even if it were, what good is it really doing to label someone doing a job as either male or female. Postman, postwoman? Who cares!?! All I want to know is whether they delivered my latest edition of Word Dork Weekly!* [*Not a real publication, sadly.]

In the absence of specific knowledge about a certain person’s gender—let’s face it, you are NOT going to ask your mail carriers to reveal their gender to you—it’s wise to use a gender neutral noun that describes only a person’s occupation, not gender. It’s not as hard as it seems. You already know lots of gender neutral nouns, and we long ago started shifting toward these more generic terms because even with “female versions” of many nouns, making reliable plurals was still problematic. How do you refer to a group of mail carriers when 10 of them are women and 2 are men? Postmen?  Even the linguistically conservative can see a problem with that—it’s inaccurate.  Generic terms became necessary for reasons of both inclusion and clarity. So, really, the stage has already been set for thinking beyond binary-gendered nouns. Some generic nouns you might already know are: Spokesperson, salesperson, firefighter, police officer/cop, doctor, medical assistant, pilot, mail carrier, server, cashier, etc.

In 2013, Washington State finished up an effort to scrub its law books of gendered terms such as fishermen and penmanship and replace them with neutral descriptors that were common sense—like fisher and handwriting. According to an article written at the time, some words, like manhole or seamen, could not be replaced because they were engineering terms that didn't have a common sense alternative or they were military terms that the military was not willing to change. (Is there a problem with the word sailor?) They also added female pronouns to augment male pronouns (“he or she”), so the laws are more inclusive than before, but there is still work to be done. Other states such as Hawaii, Utah, and Rhode Island have also passed laws to update the language of their laws. So, silly exceptions aside, there is a shift toward writing with non-specific—and therefore, more inclusive—language that is taking place all over the country.

NOTE: You may have also heard the term “non-sexist language”. I prefer “gender neutral” because “sexist” still implies a male/female binary. More importantly, the use of  “non” gives the term a negative tone that reads more like a scolding that an encouragement. I prefer to encourage change, not punish old habits.

2. Resist gender-izing perfectly good neutral words

“Why don't people like the sound of "woman president"?”, a recent article in The Economist asks. Good question. Why is it necessary to add “woman” or “female” to the otherwise perfectly neutral noun, “president”? The writer points out that in almost every language, the words that describe females are marked, whereas words that describe males are used for mixed groups—like mankind. The author points out that, in addition to just being unnecessary, feminized words sound diminutive, dismissive.

 An actor is a somewhat generic term, but actress specifies a woman. Such specification annoys many women, in part because these feminine forms (which often end with that more playful-sounding -ess or -ette) somehow evoke something both more sexy and less serious. Consider the difference between “master” and “mistress”, and it’s clear why many women performers today prefer the more neutral “actor”.

We have many unnecessarily feminized nouns: actress, stewardess, waitress, poetess, seamstress. There’s no real reason to have to identify the person who is serving you a burger as either male or female. The term server works well because it’s inclusive, specific, and descriptive, which all writers know is preferred. Furthermore, there is no reason to add the word “female” or “woman” to otherwise neutral nouns like “president,” “pilot,” “CEO,” “soldier,” etc. I would advise against the reverse for the same reasons; “male nurse,” “male teacher,” “man receptionist,” sound just as asinine to me as “woman doctor.” It’s not just about male vs. female anyway, and gendering a noun one way or the other is problematic no matter how you look at it because it always leads to exclusion. Besides the sort of obvious sexist connotations of feeling obliged to point out that a particular person in a historically male profession is a woman or vice versa, I think that we need to think bigger than that.

Extrapolate this argument to include racially specific language and any other ways that people are labeled unfairly and unnecessarily, and you can see how helpful it can be to choose unbiased words and avoid adding qualifiers to otherwise strong, descriptive nouns that need no distinction. Saying “black president” sounds just as silly. Not to eschew the accomplishment of being the first to hold the position when it has historically always been a white male, but adding “black” to the perfectly unmarked noun “president” takes something away. We would never have called Dubya the “43rd white male president,” and we certainly never say G. Washington was the “first white male president of the US.” Perhaps it is more accurate to say, the “first time a US president is a black person” or “the first time a US president is a woman.” Maybe that’s a lot to say, but think harder about what “woman president” and “black president” really mean when you would never say it the other way around.

I wouldn’t be a part of this whole writing racket if I didn’t think words could make a big impact.

3. Practice The New Polite

Common courtesy reminds us to refer to strangers and authority figures as “sir” or “maam”, “Mr Soandso” or “Miss/Mrs/Ms Soandso.” I am a huge advocate for being polite and respectful, but I think the old school rules surrounding the words we use to accomplish this are changing—and SHOULD change.

I was recently on the receiving end of a poorly made assumption that is from the old school. Just last September, I wrote an article for LitReactor about old school rules, and I told you all how my college addressed its alumni magazine to “Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Houston.” (Maurice is my spouse). (You can read my detailed diatribe here.) Sure, I sent in a wedding announcement to the alumni association and noted my changed last name in their directory, but they made the decision to address their magazine to my spouse based on an old set of assumptions about married people! I wrote a letter to the editor of the magazine outlining my reasons for outrage, the biggest being that same-sex marriage is LEGAL now, so this makes no sense anymore!!! I received only a passive promise to update my record.  

Really, Hamilton College?

This incident reminded me that we need to find new ways to talk to each other.  Mr. and Mrs. Soandso may have been the polite-speak of yester-year, but it assumes things that many people today don’t appreciate and a reality they are not living. Honorifics such as Mr. or Mrs. assume more than just gender—they assume rank and status, especially for women. Being married may, depending on your point of view, give a person advantages or disadvantages. And a married person may not may not wish to be identified as being married, for whatever reason.

Enough judgment is attached to names, anyway. Because I grew up with a name that was traditionally a surname or a boy’s first name, I found myself able to walk a line between the genders—at least on paper. I didn’t much appreciate it back then—especially when I was put into the boy’s Physical Education class in the 6th grade. Later, when I was putting it on job applications, I was glad that it was a name that could easily go either way because I knew a lot of places would look past my resume just for being a girl. If they couldn’t tell, all the better for me. I hate filling out forms that ask if I’m male or female—unless you’re my doctor, why should you care? There are laws against discrimination, yet we still get asked—are you are girl or a boy? Are you black or white? Are your married or single? What’s it to you?! Either I can do the job, or I can’t. The rest is none of your business.

For me, the new polite consists of taking people as they come. Addressing them by the name they prefer whenever possible. If you don’t know the name, say nothing. You can as easily say, “Can I get the door for you?” as you can say, “Can I get the door for you, maam?” It’s still an act of kindness, but one that is unassuming.

NOTE: I took a Twitter break while I was doing the final edit of this article. At the top of my feed was a link to an article in the UK’s Metro entitled “The ‘gender neutral’ Mx has joined ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ in the dictionary.” Half a scroll later, and I saw an article from Merriam-Webster that explains that you pronounce it “mix” or “mux,” and that it has appeared in print at least a few times since 1977. The article also notes that it took over 80 years for Ms to gain adoption by mainstream publications like The New York Times.

I have not heard of this particular gender neutral honorific, but I am not surprised that someone already tried to amend the issue of formally addressing people who are either transgender or who would prefer not to identify their gender. While I still think a simple solution to this problem is to call someone by their actual name, no honorific required, I can see how practical widespread adoption of this could be. How much junk (and not-as-junky) mail do I get addressed to Mr. Taylor Houston or Mr. Taylor Fleming-Henning (my maiden name)? Answer: a lot. Probably 1 per day. Somewhere, some poor schmuck had to make a blind determination of my gender based on my name alone. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to address mail to Mx. Taylor Houston to be safe? Since first names often move across gender lines, it seems asinine to try to guess the gender of a Jamie Smith or Charlie Jones or Ashley McKenna. (*WINK*)

4. Consider the case for 'they'

They/them/their have been used as singular pronouns for as long as anything else the purists might hold dear; it’s not some new, young rebel here to destroy good writing. In his book, Sense of Style, Steven Pinker explains many of the oft-quoted English writers use they/them/their in place of a singular pronoun—George Bernard Shaw, William Thackeray, Edith Wharton, Geoffrey Chaucer, Billy T. Shakespeare, and even the writers of the King James Bible! To make his point, he cites an example from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park:

                Every body began to have their vexation.

If the purists had it their way, that line would have been:

                Every body began to have his or her vexation.

If the old school “mankind means everybody” people had it their way, that line would have been:

                Every body began to have his vexation.

Aside from there being no poetry in his or her—it’s too clunky!—there is an argument that the plural pronoun is perfectly appropriate in context, even if it’s grammatically un-perfect. Pinker explains how the indication of more than one person in the expression “every body” makes a plural pronoun appropriate—we are talking about more than one person being vexed.

Such usages are everywhere! And, as Pinker points out, they aren’t problematic at all. Have generations of Austen readers been confused by that line? I think not. Most, I’d bet, didn’t even notice. What does that tell us? It tells us that a grammatically singular they should not turn heads, cause confusion, nor start a third world war. On the contrary, it feels natural and it’s inclusive in ways that a he=everybody or he or she can never be.

Some people would say, “Well you could rewrite such sentences to plural to avoid the singular they.” This is true! Pinker shows us that the Austen line could be written as

They all began to have their vexations.

This solution works well! So well that I would remind people that writing something as a plural is another way you can avoid gendered nouns. Instead of “men and women,” use “people.” Instead of “boys and girls” say “children.” Many plural words in the English language are built to be non-gender specific, so they are a great way to make your language more inclusive.

Second person is another way to neutralize gendered language in your writing. You, you all, your, etc. are non-gendered pronouns that, utilized well, can be used to create inclusiveness. I use it all the time in articles because I am talking to an unknown audience. In the past, writers might have leaned on he as a way to talk about unknowns, but in many contexts, you works as well, or better.

5. Try something new

Five minutes after Josh okay’d my pitch for this article, I logged on to cnn.com to see what’s wrong with the world now, and I came across this article entitled Goodbye to 'he' and 'she' and hello to 'ze'? In the article, author John McWhorter makes the case for English speakers to move toward gender-neutral pronouns such as ze or they because:

Our new conceptions of gender are a good time to get past the conservatism about singular “they.”

In some cases, they, might still be an awkward solution to the gender-neutral pronoun problem. Consider a sentence that uses a name:

                Jamie put on their jacket.

Though gender neutral, you can’t argue that this sentence has a contextual plural the way that the Austen sentence does. A singular gender neutral pronoun would be useful here. McWhorter makes a case for ze, which is one of several non-gendered pronouns that people have been throwing around. Some other possibilities are ne, ve, hir, zir, xe, and spivak. (In fact, you can click the link to see a discussion of each gender-neutral pronoun and its viability as a real alternative or click here for a larger list.)

Let me say this: I know something like pronoun replacement will take time, and I don’t foresee the typical gendered pronouns he or she going anywhere—in fact, for some, proper gender identification may be important, so let’s not get freaked out about total language androgyny. But it should matter less to us if someone identifies as male or female or transgender. Though many writers and grammatically-inclined people have their reservations about embracing any particular alternative, I think most of us who want to see a more inclusive language agree with McWhorter’s opinion that:

there is room for presenting "ze" as a matter not of fashion, but of basic civility — people must think of new pronouns as the proper thing to do, not as a stunt.

I do think that until a truly neutral pronoun comes into the common usage, we can let people choose their own, as many colleges, such as Harvard, have already started to do. And we can honor their choices by not making assumptions and by asking politely, when appropriate, what they would like to be called. This is a small thing, and it may not always be without awkwardness, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

A Final Note of Encouragement

Writers have a kind of super power—we can enact real cultural change by shifting the words we use. Paying attention to how you characterize a person with your words can have a negative or a positive impact on that person, so it’s our duty to be mindful of that. I am by no means perfect in this—I have many bad habits, and an audit of my own writing would assuredly produce hundreds of infractions, but the point is to try. And, I am not an expert on gender identity. But I can relate to being called something that isn’t how I identify myself, and I can see how, however unintentional, using the wrong words can be hurtful. Remembering to curb our assumptions by using more inclusive language is a step toward a better world. It may seem farfetched, but I wouldn’t be a part of this whole writing racket if I didn’t think words could make a big impact. Let’s do this.


A request to readers who speak languages other than English:

I would love to know how (and if) there are movements among those who speak Spanish, French, Chinese, Finnish, Russian, or any other language to create room for gender neutral vocabulary. I can imagine with some languages, like Spanish, where most nouns have a gender, accomplishing true neutrality could be more challenging. Feel free to comment below or reach out to me via email. I’m really interested to learn what’s going on in other languages.

Taylor Houston

Column by Taylor Houston

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer and volunteers on the marketing committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College and attended Penn State's MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. She has taught writing at all levels from middle school to college to adult, and she is the creator of Writer’s Cramp, a class for adults who just want to write!

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Comments

helpfulsnowman's picture
Community Manager
helpfulsnowman from Colorado is reading But What If We're Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman November 13, 2015 - 4:03pm

Nice column!

I have a story about "they" as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun.

My sister has a turtle, and I guess it's pretty tough to determine what a turtle's packing under that shell. So my sister decided to call the turtle "they" instead of he or she. My sister was surprised at the reactions she got when she referred to the turtle as "they" and kind of felt like she was freaking out the whatevers, but honestly, and I didn't want to burst her bubble, I just was confused because I thought there was more than one turtle to find in that tank, and I couldn't figure out where the second goddamn turtle was. 

It wasn't until my sister sighed and explained the neutral pronoun thing to a houseguest that I figured out what was going on, and I just pretended like I TOTALLY knew all along.

I'm not at all against the mutability of language. But I get very confused when "they" is used this way, simply because it's used so often in another way. And thanks for providing lots of other good options too. 

honeychuckles's picture
honeychuckles November 13, 2015 - 5:19pm

I don't understand - if my character is a man or a woman, it's not preferred that I call it like it is: he/she/his/her/Mr/Mrs, that I give him or her the attributes of their gender, on the off-chance that my reader doesn't prefer gender-specific pronouns? Instead it's "more acceptable" to start writing Barbara or Michael a "they". I'm all for the movement of addressing transgendered characters/audiences/people or others who do not identify as he or she as gender-neutral, but to adrogonize language entirely, which is exactly what this is, is so over the top. What are we going to do next - change pronouns throughout the history of literature (or history in general)? Harry Potter the Boy Who Lived will become The Person Who Lived?

Chris Fitch's picture
Chris Fitch November 13, 2015 - 7:23pm

I love the first 4 suggestions, because not only does using words like "actor" or "letter carrier" for any gender make one's writing more inclusive, it also adds a certain clarity and crispness. It lets the reader know that your words are selected with care, which builds a certain trust. 

 

I also quite like the idea of genderless pronouns such as xe, and I'm hopeful that they begin to see wider use. However, I also feel there is a certain element of social justice warrior-style intolerance at work when we start to condemn the use of any gender at all. Crisp and inclusive prose should be anyone's rightful goal, but the idea of requiring linguistic gymnastics to dance around the idea that gender exists from fear of offending someone is no fine solution. 

Taylor's picture
Taylor from Portland, Oregon is reading 'Alexander Hamilton' by Ron Chernow November 13, 2015 - 10:22pm

Hi Honeychuckles,

No, I do not think we need to remove gender identifications from all places. I wrote this in the articles, but maybe I could have elaborated.

I don’t foresee the typical gendered pronouns he or she going anywhere—in fact, for some, proper gender identification may be important, so let’s not get freaked out about total language androgyny.

In fiction, you're the boss, so if your character, Michael, is a male, and who identifies as male (or who you have written to identify as such), then, by all means, use he, etc. Same for a female character.

I certainly think that there is still a place for gendered pronouns when appropriate. For instance, I am a woman and I prefer she. But what I do NOT want is to have to identify my gender when my gender has (or should have) NO bearing on the proceedings. Why do I have to fill out whether I am a woman or a man every time I apply for a job, respond to a survey, apply for a license, sign up for a subscription, enter a contest, etc. I want to be able to have neutrality when gender is NOT a factor. 

Gender identity is important to many people, and I am sure for some, being a he or a she might be very important. I'm sure some people who have transitioned or who feel more comfortable as a male or female (regardless of the gender assigned to them at birth) might prefer to be a he or she. That is their prerogative. However, some people feel uncomfortable as either. There should we a way to talk about and TO those people as well. 

I am not saying that we retire gender--masculinity and feminity are important, they just aren't the end all be all of how people ARE and how they can relate to one another.

I hope that clarifies it a bit. 

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated November 14, 2015 - 8:22am

Ze, or anything besides he or she, isn't something I'm going to use. Maybe I should, that is a separate argument, but I know it won't happen.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal November 15, 2015 - 10:15am

I like gender neutral words like "they" sometimes, usually because it's quicker, but if you know it's just a guy or a girl, just say it. I also like the fact that no one says "heroine" anymore. It's just simpler.

But then you come to ideas like "ze" which is just stupid and unnecessary. So is thinking that somehow this holds women down (which is what this is all about, let's face it). Do you know just last night I said "you guys" to a group of three teenage girls and none of them batted an eye. Spoiler alert- it's not because they've been brainwashed by our patriarichal society... it's because it doesn't matter.

In fact, I'd say that going too far takes away from writing. This may shock some, but guys and girls are... different. Equal, but different. The word "she" has a different feel to it in my mind than "he" and rightfully so.

Anyone who gets their (<--- see what I did there?) panties in a bunch (<--- see what I did there?) over this stuff to the point that they need to "fix" the language in the name of equality needs to relax. It doesn't matter. 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal November 15, 2015 - 10:16am

In fiction, you're the boss, so if your character, Michael, is a male, and who identifies as male (or who you have written to identify as such), then, by all means, use he, etc. Same for a female character.

I'm going to go a little harsh on this one. Kaitlynn Jenner has every right to change his name, get implants, take hormones, whatever else; but you'll notice I said his for a reason. He's still a man just as much as Theon Greyjoy is even after his junk was cut off. 

It's called a Y chromosome, and Mr. Jenner has one.

Now that I've pissed off a few more people in the name of accuracy, let me warn you: if you disagree, then to be logically consistent you have to concede that Rachel Dolezal is black. 

Josh Zancan's picture
Josh Zancan from Crofton, MD is reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck November 15, 2015 - 2:55pm

I'm all for "they" as the gender neutral pronoun when speaking rhetorically. As in, "A person screams when they are scared." (it's a god-awful sentence, but I'm sure you get the point).

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom November 17, 2015 - 3:46am

Great article. I think especially with the growth in visibility for trans* rights movements this kind of writing can help bring that visibility into our art. This style of writing is also great for speculative fiction that deals with gender issues. 

Thuggish is bang wrong on the idea that chromosomes determine gender. The history of gender shows that it's a contingent thing, and changes massively depending on a given society's geography and history. Being able to manipulate and alter gender, and people being accepting of this, is definitely moving in the right direction it seems to me.

whiteliz's picture
whiteliz from Sarasota, FL is reading Paw Patrol books to her two- and four-year olds November 18, 2015 - 1:05am

This is a great article.

I was unaware of the term ze (et al) before reading, so it's a nice tool to have in my back pocket. (Though like Dwayne above, I'm not sure I'll be using it anytime soon.) If wanting to Submerge the Privates (as opposed to Palahniuk's Submerge the I), the ze makes it possible to do so thoroughly since Jamie putting on their jacket (from the example above) implies the introduction of some random people, which brings up a multitude of questions. Like, who the hell are they and also, how many jackets are owned by multiple people? 

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal November 21, 2015 - 9:40am

No... it's biology. Got an X chromosome and a Y chromosome? Male. Couple X chromosomes, one that's dormant, female. There area few disorders with extra chromosomes, talk to the experts, that's outside the subject anyway.

We're mammals. This is how a mammals sex is determined. 

It's just like my blonde daughter. She can die her hair, and while she may not look like it, underneath it all she's still a blonde. Her hair will continue to grow blonde. It's determined genetically.

Like I said, this is a (somewhat) free country, I say do what you want. Lop it off, take hormones, get implants, more power to you (unless you want me to pay for it).

But I also say stop making shit up and then insisting it's true just because you want it to be. 

Do tell, though... is Rachel Dolezal black or not?

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated November 21, 2015 - 4:19pm

@Thuggish - You are trying to use logic on people who are trying to spread their view of fairness. I'm not taking sides, because whatever, but it just won't go any place. You'll bring up though out points based on facts (X and Y, Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid, so on and so forth) and they'll bring up why some things aren't fair and acting in certain ways will make them more fair. You'll come back with life isn't fair, and you'll be right very specific point, and they'll come back and say we could do this to make it more fair and they'll be right on that very specific point, and so on. It won't go any place. Go write something awesome, you're better than wasting time like this.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal November 22, 2015 - 11:24am

I can do both.

But you never know. Maybe just maybe someone else will notice that one side's logic was met with the lack thereof. And that's all I want from people, really. Logic.

whiteliz's picture
whiteliz from Sarasota, FL is reading Paw Patrol books to her two- and four-year olds November 23, 2015 - 12:47pm

@ Thuggish.

Question: So what's your point?

You've arrived at this conclusion based on a set of certain facts. I took a right, then a left, went straight for five miles, and have concluded that Jenner is a man. But why did you arrive here? Are you getting out of a black army hummer with a bullet proof vest and a machine gun or are you with your family and have a picnic basket filled with egg salad sandwiches?

If Jenner is a man, are you suggesting that he act like a man? What's a man? Should Jenner not wear lipstick? Should he love women? Careful where you point that machine gun.

If I may, I'd like to use your same logic, where you insert a fact and make a conclusion based on that fact.

Fact: Jenner identifies with being a woman.

Conclusion: Jenner is a woman.

Now that I'm here: Who are we to say otherwise?

Another fact: Dolezal identifies with black culture.

Conclusion: Dolezal is black.

Now that I'm here: I love that she identifies as being a black woman. She's done some fantastic things with her life as a result. Good for her.

So I wonder, now that you have arrived at your destination, why are you there?

I just saw a meme. It was a picture of a cat in a shark costume and reads, "Sometimes you have to tell yourself you're a shark to get through the day." I don't think Jenner and Dolezal are any different. They've donned their own shark costumes and told themselves what they need in order to get through life. Don't we all do that to some extent?

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal November 23, 2015 - 12:24pm

I was thinking about an exception to outright rejecting ze as a new pronoun. In a sci-fi in which androids are walking around, considered artificial but also considered alive, self-awareness and all that, something like this ze it might be a nifty way to do it. 

In fact, how interesting would it be that, in this future setting, the word ze is actually EXclusive rather than INclusive? It used to be that people just did that (oh so terrrrrrible and oppressing!) male-privelege thing and referred to a sexless android as "he." 

But then, as the anti-android crowd grew, they refused to promote these androids to the same status as humans, so they came up with ze and started using that word instead.

Hmmm, that could be an interesting little detail. And you have to appreciate the irony.

whiteliz's picture
whiteliz from Sarasota, FL is reading Paw Patrol books to her two- and four-year olds November 23, 2015 - 12:52pm

Sorry I deleted before seeing that you responded so I put back my original post. (I get nervous about posting stuff and felt silly for replying but since you already replied I put it back.) :)

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated November 25, 2015 - 2:46pm

Now that I'm here: Who are we to say otherwise?

And round and round we go. I'm not saying anyone is or isn't anything, Whatever. But the idea truth should never need permission to be spoken is madness. If you can't explain why you think declaring yourself a woman makes you a woman in when it doesn't line up with biology, many people just won't take you seriously even if they agree with you.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal November 25, 2015 - 7:31pm

Wow, someone's putting a loooot of words in my mouth. I'm not telling Jenner to do anything, he can lop it off, take hormones, love and screw whoever he wants (consenting), I really don't care. I'm not the one pointing a machine gun.

Who are we to say otherwise? We're human beings who have used science to understand that a male human being has an X and Y chromosome, and a female has two X chromosomes. It's solid, you can't debate that without entering the realm of absurdity. You might as well tell me the sky is red all day because you identify that color as red.

So here goes:

Fact: it is well established that a mammal's sex is determined by the chromosomes of said mammal.

Fact: except for certain abnormalities that were not present in Jenner, male human beings are born with a penis and testicles, females are born with a vagina.

Conclusion: bruce jenner is male.

We have defined being black as having at least a mix of certain traits that can also be determined and identified genetically. It's as verifiable as determining weight by stepping on a scale.

So here goes again:

Fact: black is definable on the genetic level, and certain traits are present in those people. 

Fact: Dolezal does not have these traits, and if her genes were examined, would not contain those that make someone what we have defined to be black.

Conclusion: Dolezal is not black.

That's how logic works. Just like 2 + 2 = 4 no matter what you say, no matter what the New Math philosophy says, it's 4. X and Y = male no matter what someone wishes they were, wants to be, "identifies" as, or anything else. I feel for anyone who has to go through life being outside the norm, believe me, but I don't just arbitrarily say shit that's illogical. Feelings don't change reality, and shouldn't trump logic.

One more:

Fact: I can "identify" as a billionaire, a killer whale, an Italian mobster, a 4'11" Chinese woman, or the president of the United States, if I want to

Fact:. By definition, I am none of these things. My net worth is under a billion dollars, my name is not Willy, I'm measured at 6' every time, I have no Chinese ancestry, I've never taken the oath of office.

Conclusion: "Identifying" myself as something is irrelevant. 

 

 

whiteliz's picture
whiteliz from Sarasota, FL is reading Paw Patrol books to her two- and four-year olds November 25, 2015 - 7:42pm

But the idea truth should never need permission to be spoken is madness.

Nobody's saying that.

It's being argued above that sexual identity is strictly defined by biology. I'm saying it's not.

Dwayne's picture
Dwayne from Cincinnati, Ohio (suburbs) is reading books that rotate to often to keep this updated November 27, 2015 - 4:05am

If that was your goal, you failed.

Who are we to say otherwise?

Your question goes to people lacking authority or moral right to challenge a claim about gender.

Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal November 28, 2015 - 8:26pm

Well, if you argue that sexual identity is defined outside of biology, you're just making stuff up. That's called fiction. I like fiction. But we're talking about the world, not a neat book.

Unless by "identity" you literally mean nothing more than what he thinks he should be, or something like that. Which irrelevant. There are people who think they're dogs, or identify as dogs, I guess you'd phrase it. But they're not dogs. I can show you the DNA to prove it.

 

 

Galley Slave's picture
Galley Slave December 15, 2015 - 10:13am

Regarding Jamie put on their jacket:

  1. If Jamie is a character, gender has already been established. What’s the problem with “his” or “her”?
  2. If Jamie’s gender must remain undisclosed, why not use one of the two existing gender-neutral articles, “a” and “the,” e.g. Jamie put on a jacket?

Regarding Mr. and Mrs. Maurice Houston:

  • Why not do away with the honorifics altogether, e.g. Taylor and Maurice Houston?
Thuggish's picture
Thuggish from Vegas is reading Day of the Jackal December 20, 2015 - 9:04pm

^ Yeah... Wanting to keep a gender a secret is very tough with how the language is set up. And every language I know anything about. But to answer your question, I think what's wrong with "his" or "her" is distinguishing genders, which some people just don't want to do anymore. My best guess is people are confusing equality with sameness. 

You know, I've found the Mr. And Mrs. Whoever strange since I was a kid. Always seemed so unneccessary. You could just say "The Whoevers" and be done with it.