Friday, August 28, 2015

The ‘Wait, What?!’ of the Week, August 28, 2015

The University of Tennesee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion just issued a document expressing concern that students will be offended by the use of traditional pronouns, such as he and she, him and her. Written by Donna Braquet, director of the school’s Pride Center, the document suggests people should use these “gender neutral” pronouns: ze, hir, zir, xe, xem, and xyr.

Wait, What?! Is this for real, or did the author of the document accidentally run a few sentences thru a Chinese translation software program?

No, this is indeed for real. Ms. Braquet explains that there are “people who do not identify within the gender binary.” (I wonder if it’s OK to call her “Ms.”? Oops, is it even OK to call her “her”?!)

Anyway, this begs the question: What exactly does “within the gender binary” even mean? Oh silly, haven’t you been paying attention? Caitlin Jenner? Facebook’s 56 different gender choices? “Within the gender binary” means the traditional two options of male or female. This is now known to some folks as “old-fashioned and oppressive,” while to other less progressive-minded folks the gender binary is known as “reality.” (Personally, I think “Within the Gender Binary” would make a great name for a rock band.)

Nonetheless, Ms. (or Ze or Zir or whatever) Braquet says that students may prefer something other than “the sex they were assigned at birth.” (“Assigned,” as if gender was something handed out to us by a bored Dept. of Motor Vehicle employee while we waited in line.) If these particular students are uncomfortable with traditional pronouns, the recently invented gender neutral pronouns must be used. But how to know which ones to use? Easy, Braquet offers this simple solution: “You can always politely ask, ‘Oh, nice to meet you (insert name). What pronouns should I use?’ It’s a perfectly fine question to ask.”

Perfectly fine question? Yeah, I can see those conversations going smoothly. “Oh, nice to meet you, Frank. What pronouns should I use?”

“Pronouns? Whattaya mean?”

“You know. What gender do you identify with? He? She? Zir? Ze?”

“Uh, are you having a stroke? Should I call 9-1-1?”

There’s an old Chinese proverb: “May you live in interesting times.” Well, we certainly live in interesting times nowadays, don’t we? Of course, insanity and absurdity are often considered interesting. I think the Chinese proverb was written by a guy (or possibly a gal) named Xem Zir Ze (or possibly Yu Kiddn Mi?).

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