I do feel affirmed when referred to as “he,” but I know that comes after years of being misgendered, painfully, as “she.” I believe an English language with wide use of the singular “they” would be a gift to those who are misgendered regularly, especially trans youth.
‘In practice, it’s pretty silly’
I have close friends who are gender fluid and want to be called they, not he or she. I love them but honestly, in practice, it’s pretty silly as well as confusing. Everyone around them frequently forgets and they don’t push it, they tell you it’s fine. But it creates a situation where they get to tell you it’s fine. To me, this is about imposing your will on others, and not seeing the forest for the trees.
The majority of humans on this planet are, and want to be, “pronouned” as “he” or “she.” Languages evolve naturally. And this issue is a gift to the queer-haters out there. The more public this issue gets, the more it (rightly) gets ridiculed, and the less we talk about the forest: rights. Not ideology or nomenclature, but being free. Queers are oppressed and this issue is hurting us. — Nile Curtis, Kaneohe, Hawaii
Farhad Manjoo: Nile, I’m not sure you have any data to support the claim that “the majority of humans on this planet are, and want to be “pronouned” as he or she.” For one thing, there are lots of very widely-spoken languages that have no gender pronouns. So how do you determine what those people want?
R. Green, Akron, Ohio: Farhad, in a recent study, more than 80,000 teenagers in the United States were asked how they identify themselves, with regard to gender. The findings, published in Pediatrics, showed a combined 2.7 percent of these young people identifying themselves as transgender or gender nonconforming. Given the physical and emotional volatility of the teenage years, this percentage is likely to be lower among adults.
Nile is right; when there are lots of bigger fish to fry, and the opponents of progress have repeatedly shown a skill for sniffing out wedge issues they can use to scare millions of people to vote against their most basic interests, this article showed a profound tone-deafness with regard to the current American political moment.
Gowan McAvity, White Plains, N.Y.: There is another way to look at it. Rather than seeing a change in common linguistic syntax as a minority trying to impose its will on the majority, try to see it as the majority being more compassionate toward a traditionally oppressed minority.