Social Question

OpryLeigh's avatar

For the people that don't believe in genders or don't associate with a specific gender, how do you feel about using words such as "his", "hers", "him", "he" and "she"?

Asked by OpryLeigh (24324 points ) October 5th, 2009

For many people they are simple, everyday words eg: “I saw him yesterday” but many people don’t associate or believe in genders and so I wonder, if you are one of those people do you object to being called “him” or “her”?

Personally, despite my tomboy tendancies I have always been comfortable with the fact that I am female and, for the most part, have always associated myself with being female. I don’t have a problem with being labeled in this way because, to me, it is so simple.

Up until very recently I was ignorant of the fact that many people don’t belive in or associate with specific genders. Of course I was aware of people that felt they were trapped in the “wrong body” but these people still associate with a gender even if they are not in that genders body.

Apologies if this question sounds extremely ignorant. I am just wondering where the the line is when it comes to labelling because even something as simple as calling someone a “he” is labelling right?

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92 Answers

J0E's avatar

Well, you can “not belive” in gender in the psychological sense, but physically you are either male or female. I think they are just descriptive words, no different than black or white, or tall and short.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@J0E That makes sense but I recently there was a question on Fluther about how some people think that they are giving a compliment when actually they are being negative. One of the examples was “you’re strong for a woman”. Surely, if descriptions regarding the physical weren’t an issue with people that don’t associate with gender, then something like “you’re strong for a woman” wouldn’t be considered offensive?

I know I am missing the point somewhere here!

RedPowerLady's avatar

A little background. When I was in college most of the student associations that were “minorities” were housed in one hall in the basement. I was part of the Native American Student Union and very active in it. As such I came to know and befriend people in the other Unions as well.

One of which was the LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Association). And by doing so I learned a lot about LGBT issues. We had many discussions about the use of pronouns (he/she etc..). And I discovered that there was already a system in place for people who preferred not to identify with one gender. There was one friend of mine who preferred not to be associated with either the male or female pronouns. He/She taught us some alternative ones. The one we used most was “ze” which is the equivalent to he/she.

I am a huge proponent of self-determination and since this friend asked we used this pronoun I was happy to do so. Although it does take some practice as we are so infused with gender specific pronouns in America.

I also learned that many times gendered pronouns/speech are not necessary. For example we don’t have to say my boyfriend/girlfriend, instead we could say our partner. Instead of husband/wife we could say spouse. We use gendered pronouns almost excessively in the US.

Personally I don’t mind being called by my gender specific pronoun but I respect the movement of those who don’t “like” them and the awareness that came with my education on the topic. I would be/am in support of other systems. I think a huge part of the ‘pronoun issue’ is learning about LGBT oppression and struggles. Also learning about Gender struggles. And learning about traditional cultural definitions of gender which are not always similar to what we use currently in the US.

J0E's avatar

@RedPowerLady It’s not excessive, it’s descriptive. Which is actually neccessary now more than ever to avoid awkward assumptions.

Fernspider's avatar

I worry about this on occasion.

One night, I went out to a show with my partner’s new workmates (I hadn’t met any of them or their partners before). I met an office woman (I will call Sue) and her partner (who I will call J) who I believed was a man and didn’t think anything of it. Looked like a man in the face and body, sounded like a man and body language of a man. Sue even referred to herself as the wife at one point in addition to them both wearing wedding rings. Ok, enough, you can see why I made the assumption of gender.

Anyway, later in the evening I said “him” and “he” when referring to J and everyone started laughing. I obviously didn’t get the joke (neither Sue or J were at the table at the time).

It was explained to me that J was a woman and that they were lesbians. As the evening progressed, I wasn’t sure if I should say “he” or “she” about J – I wasn’t sure if J was just a very manly looking woman or actually considered herself/himself a guy. These are very personal things to ask someone who you have just met.

What is the best approach to this issue? I didn’t want to make assumptions or embarrass anyone. Each person is different and I sometimes find it difficult to know how to approach unfamiliar situations especially when I don’t want to hurt anyone.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@J0E It can very often be wrongly descriptive. Why do you need to describe someone’s gender when talking about them anyhow?

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Rachienz Would it have been possible to discuss the person without using pronouns? Perhaps using their name instead of saying he/she. Then later after you develop a relationship with the person you could simply ask if they prefer the use of a certain pronoun or even ask their friends as to avoid the awkwardness. When I did a cultural understanding meeting in college we practiced speaking without using gendered pronouns. It was difficult but very possible.

FutureMemory's avatar

I’m down with calling people whatever they wish to be called, but when it gets to the point where they expect you to start misspelling words (“womyn”, “gurl”) I think that’s pretty ridiculous.

Fernspider's avatar

@RedPowerLady – definately started doing that later in the night but I had already used “he” and “him” several times in the evening before the truth was revealed to me.

DominicX's avatar

Here’s why I don’t like this: you may not feel that you belong to any of the two “standard” genders, but some of us do. I want to be called he, him, his, etc. because that’s what I am. It wouldn’t be fair to deny me that just because some people don’t prefer to be referred to with those terms.

I think it should be up to the person being referred to, but I also think people should be reasonable and realistic. It’s not easy for someone to know what you want to be called, especially if they’re meeting you for the first time. Later on you’ll get to know it, but some people want to be called by the standard pronouns and some don’t.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Rachienz That part really sux. We can’t always avoid mistakes, just correct them once we know we are “wrong”. Perhaps you could have just quietly said to “J” that you apologize for using the pronoun “he” as you made a poor assumption. That’s really the best you could do.

@DominicX That is what self-determination is about. Everyone gets to choose for themselves what they want to be called. No one is saying that you should be denied your pronoun. Perhaps the suggestion is that we should just be more aware of how we speak or educate each other on gender-neutral pronouns.

J0E's avatar

@RedPowerLady Because that is one of the core aspects of any language. Can you imagine a world with no adjectives in our speech, it would be such a pain.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@J0E How about: “how is your new partner?” No pronoun needed. Yes I can imagine a world with no pronouns. Seems possible to me. There is always the possibility of adding in gender-neutral pronouns as well so that we can choose what to use per situation.

J0E's avatar

@RedPowerLady While gender nuetral pronouns are politically correct, they would just make things unnecessarily confusing.

This is not a big issue we’re talking about.

gailcalled's avatar

@Rachienz: ^^Quick. Check how to spell “definitely.”

Fernspider's avatar

@RedPowerLady – I agree that mistakes cannot be avoided but this solution does leave room for me to potentially further offend J by apologizing for something J prefered (what if J wants to be thought of as a male and by commenting on J’s gender, I am being rude?). Hopefully J would appreciate the gesture that I was trying to do what was right but with a previous thread about comments or “compliments” offending people without realising, it can be hard to know whether this could offend… that I am making a sweeping generalisation about him/her and gender relations.

Oh my brain hurts.

Fernspider's avatar

@gailcalled – not a big deal, hun.

gailcalled's avatar

(That would be “hon,” if we plan to be on intimate terms.)

Fernspider's avatar

LOL – what, are you the spelling police? You have done this to me before. I am comfortable with my spelling mistakes and prefer not to be corrected when I am busy having a debate.

gailcalled's avatar

Fine. Fall where you like on the learning curve, but keep in mind that the clear writer is often the better debater. His/her (you should forgive the usage) ideas are more readily understood.

Fernspider's avatar

Why was @RedPowerLady not corrected when the word “sux” was used instead of “sucks”. I haven’t seen you correct others.

J0E's avatar

This debaight has tooken a turn phor the worstest.

DarkScribe's avatar

Don’t believe in genders? Have they got a shock coming if they ever find themselves in a public bathhouse. Do you mean people who don’t like being associated with a specific gender? Even so, they have to accept that language is designed to make thoughts clear and as such, many words will have a gender association. Trying to communicate in a manner that avoids all gender references is clumsy, inaccurate, difficult to understand and basically comical.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Rachienz: I actually have a very good friend who is a woman and identifies as a woman and is dating a female person, that is to say, someone with two X-chromosomes and a vagina. This person looks very masculine, dresses in a masculine manner and is, for all intents and purposes, the masculine person in the relationship. Since I had no idea what pronoun I should use, I asked my friend. She told her SO which I had not intended who said it didn’t matter so I use the feminine pronoun which she has no problem with.

Long answer made short: ask someone. It could save you a lot of embarrassment and hurt feelings later on.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@J0E Some would argue that gender equality is a big issue. Also it may be confusing at first to offer gender neutral pronouns but sometimes equality, acceptance, and empathy are worth the pain. Again though I suggest simply not using them when it is not necessary (is it ever necessary?).

@Rachienz I suppose you could just apologize for being assumptive. Then you wouldn’t be saying whether the use of he/she was right or wrong but rather you shouldn’t have assumed either way. Of course in our culture it is ‘normal’ to choose a pronoun, you just happened to choose the wrong one. You are right that this is a difficult situation :)
BTW just ignore the spelling corrections if it is no big deal to you, there are many spell-correctors here on fluther

Fernspider's avatar

I find it is one of those things that is all going on in my head and J is oblivious. If I say “he”, J may think “Oh that’s interesting, I do look like a guy but actually I’m not so I will let Rachael know” or “It really hurts my that people assume I am a man when I am really a woman, I should say something as it offends me” or “I am glad Rachael has referred to me as a man because I feel like a man and would like others to think of me in this way” or J doesn’t even notice.

I try to imagine myself going up to J and saying “Hi J, I apologise for referring to you as a “he” all night. It has been brought to my attention that you are a woman. What would you prefer to be referred to as?” and can’t help but think I would offend.

I really like J and would hate to put my foot in it. Not to mention Sue could potentially take offence one way or the other. I asked my partner about it and he just shrugged his shoulders. Suppose that is why I was pleased to see this issue brought up on Fluther as it has been a wee obstacle I have been facing.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@Rachienz Most people I know in the LGBT community who are faced with this would have been very polite to you if you would have gone up and said what you just quoted. I think that it shows awareness and respect. But perhaps better yet is to take aside a friend of “J“s and ask them what they think you should do? I think the fact that you have thought so much about it really shows that you are caring, and to me (and most others), that is what matters.

DarkScribe's avatar

I find it somewhat absurd to deny gender. Imagine if someone came up to you and said “I don’t recognise the laws of gravity, so although in reality I am standing on the ground, please regard me at all times as hovering two feet above the floor”. It would make as much sense.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@DarkScribe You’re being (or sound like it, apologies if it’s not true) a bit hostile about your opinion and not leaving much room for anyone to debate with you or suggest opposing viewpoints. I thought about it but decided not to ‘go there’.

casheroo's avatar

I just learned of gender neutral pronouns the other day! lol (thanks to another flutherite.
For me, I associate myself as a woman. I think most people who don’t feel they are one gender or another still respect people who do and use he/she appropriately. But, I think they prefer themselves to be referred to gender neutral terms..which is fine with me. Just let me know and I can respect that.

DarkScribe's avatar

@RedPowerLady _DarkScribe You’re being (or sound like it, apologies if it’s not true) a bit hostile about your opinion _

Hostile? It is my opinion, nothing more – it needs no adjective to quantify it – and I am sure that it would be echoed by many millions of others. I am a pragmatist, I deal with reality.

Wishing to be something or someone else is ok, but denying who you are when it is plain that your denial is unrealistic. seems pointless. Try applying it to other personal issues that cannot be changed such as race, height, ancestry, etc. It doesn’t make much sense in a real world manner.

fireinthepriory's avatar

Going back to @J0E – I think you’re confusing gender with sex. For most people, their gender is the same as their sex, which makes it hard to intuitively know the difference. If they are opposites, you’re transgendered – for example, you may have XX chromosomes and female anatomy (your sex is female) but you feel like you are (identify as) a man (your gender is male). And for yet other people, they may feel that they don’t fit into either category (they are “genderqueer”), and I could see being uncomfortable when someone refers to you with either the male or the female pronouns if you don’t feel that you are male or female! Both have strong social connotations.

Nor are all people born with a definite sex, yet letting someone grow up with ambiguous genitalia is neigh unheard of in the US. I don’t think anyone should have their gender chosen for them surgically before they can consent; that cannot be undone! Having some ungendered pronouns in our language and, more importantly, having those words integrated into our culture, would make it more acceptable to let gender be fluid, the way it is in nature, instead of the strict binary that this culture seems to think it is/should be.

KatawaGrey's avatar

The way I see it, “masculine” and “feminine” are umbrella terms. There are lots and lots of gradations of gender that can stay in each category, cross over, take a little from each or even combine aspects from each. I don’t believe that anyone can be “outside” gender because every aspect/detail of a person’s personality is associated with one gender or the other or both.

DarkScribe's avatar

@fireinthepriory let gender be fluid, the way it is in nature, i

Where, in nature is it “fluid”? Gender is to do with “actual” sexual association – nothing more.

J0E's avatar

@fireinthepriory I am not confusing the two, I made the distinction in my first post.

laureth's avatar

I am XX, but I don’t identify with the adjective “girly,” or even particularly “feminine.” I understand there are those people (maybe even most) who have a strong psychological and social identity that is based on their genitals, but that is not me.

I’ve been mistakenly called “he” before, and that doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it embarrassed the people who said it, especially after they notice the two huge lumps on my chest. For strangers who need to use some kind of pronoun in order to promote social nicety or for ease in communication, they can use “she/her” if they want. Or “he,” I don’t really care. “Gender” used for language is the grease that oils a sentence and does not reflect on me.

In writing, instead of using a gramatically inappropriate “their” to denote a person of unknown gender, I’ve been known to use s’he or hir (depending on the part of the sentence, of course). Since we all start out looking female in the womb, it’s even halfway appropriate.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@J0E it’s not a big issue to you because you have no issue with your gender or its descriptives

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe Sorry, I misphrased that. I meant to say that in nature, SEX is fluid, given the existence of people who are born intersex. Gender is obviously fluid, as there are people who identify as genderqueer or trans… Since gender is a construct, it essentially must be fluid, since it is what we make of it. Sex is certainly less fluid, but it still is fluid.

@J0E Whoops, sorry! Missed that. How, I don’t know! It was the first post!! :)

DarkScribe's avatar

@fireinthepriory Since gender is a construct,

Gender is not a construct.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

As someone who thinks gender is a social construct (and therefore doesn’t exist in nature, @DarkScribe , where what you’re talking about is sex which also isn’t as clear cut as mammals have it) and who doesn’t want to be called a woman or a man, I’d prefer people to apply gender neutral pronouns with me…but people do not and I don’t push it because I get tired of educating, truly…and because they can’t imagine how I don’t want to be called a woman, obviously, I have huge breasts and all…and I’m a mother so clearly…obviously I don’t care if others want to use gender specific pronouns for themselves…people feel comfortable in gender roles they were socialized with…but we do need to allow for those of us who don’t fit into either category

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe Gender isn’t the same as sex. Sex is your chromosomes, your physiology… gender is how you FEEL.

J0E's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I can say the same to for you, it’s a big issue to you because you do. Neither one of us is on neutral ground.

DarkScribe's avatar

@fireinthepriory Sex is your chromosomes, your physiology… gender is how you FEEL.

Ok. I am busy feeling seven feet tall. Hmmm – the air is thinner up here…

RedPowerLady's avatar

@DarkScribe I did not say your opinion was hostile, I said how you are expressing it comes across as so. And your response to me was much in the same. I appreciate those with open minds who are willing to discuss freely the opinions of other people even if they do not plan on changing their own opinion. Enough said?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@J0E agreed – then you should say ‘it’s not a big issue, to me’ instead of making it sound like ‘my god, who could possibly care about this stuff when you know global warming is going on’ and I do care about the latter too, p.s.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe Haha, not exactly… Maybe wikipedia can explain it better than I can… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DarkScribe what is the point of denying this? i mean really, what’s the point? so you want to say that you feel ‘masculine’ because clearly that’s inherent somehow in your body due to the penis you’ve gone between your legs and the such but that simply isn’t true (the you being all sorts of a ‘real’ man not the you having a penis part)

DarkScribe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir and because they can’t imagine how I don’t want to be called a woman

It must be nearly impossible for you. There is no way that every new person who you meet can possibly know even if they are the type who will accede to your wishes.

I understand dissatisfaction with realities about oneself – but not how denial helps. It is playacting. Still, it is not an issue with me – I don’t mind, and from a politeness POV, I would address anyone in the manner that they prefer, I simply don’t understand how pretense helps.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir so you want to say that you feel ‘masculine’ because clearly that’s inherent somehow in your body due

This is a presumption on your part. I don’t think about myself in that manner – masculine or feminine – I am just who I have always been. I don’t play a role, I don’t care who thinks what in regard to me. Many people who know me well consider me to have a well developed “feminine” side. I’ll cry at a sad movie or when reading a sad story, I enjoy things that are both masculine and feminine in nature – for instance for more than twenty-five years I have done all of the cooking in our family. I share all household chores, washing cleaning and ironing. I don’t think that I see myself as predominantly anything – but I KNOW without thinking about it that I am a man. I don’t need to prove or emphasise it.

DarkScribe what is the point of denying this? i

It isn’t me who is denying anything, I am asking about those who are denying obvious realities.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DarkScribe yes I can pass as a woman – but I don’t have a problem with my curves or the fact that I like long floral skirts (personally I think any gender should be able to wear skirts but that’s just me) and I don’t want to change into anyone else or to cut anything off…I just don’t want all the assumptions that come with being a woman placed on me…it’s hard for me to imagine raising a little girl because while I know I’ll raise her the same as I do my sons, in a pretty gender neutral fashion, I just won’t have anything all that ‘womanly’ to teach her – I’ll tell her personhood not womanhood is important and I fear I will have too much anger when realizing that I don’t know how to explain away all the inequity she will face just for being the gender she’s perceived as…I know that’s a tangent but that’s just what came up..and I don’t understand your comment about pretense..in reference to what? you know you’re a man because you’ve never been told otherwise…and you find no issue with the label…but my husband who sounds a lot like you does…

DarkScribe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir _the fact that I like long floral skirts (personally I think any gender should be able to wear skirts but that’s just me) _

Hey, this one area that I agree – I live in a hot climate and I think that the Roman Togas or even the Egyptian robes would be more suited to men than business suits.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Point of Information:
In some Native cultures there were multiple gender identifications.

For example, the Osage had seven “genders”. I may not get this correct and if anyone knows how they go for sure please correct me. I am not osage but have a few friends who are.

Man who feels like man and acts as man
Man who feels like woman and acts as man
Man who feels like woman and acts as woman
Woman (all the same)
And the seventh gender is a “wild card”

(I know this isn’t quite right but it is along the general lines of how it is identified, I wish I could find a source for the actually gender definitions).

Relevance: If this were the case then one would not take their gender identity at face-value. You would not assume one’s gender nor your own.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe I think maybe you still don’t quite get the distinction… No one is denying they have a sex (although some people are clearly clearly born intersexed and therefore their sex isn’t “male” or “female”) but some people don’t think of themselves as the sex that they were born… what makes that fake, or “denial” as you put it?

DarkScribe's avatar

@fireinthepriory _No one is denying they have a sex _

Isn’t refusing to be addressed as a member of that sex denying it? Adding a descriptor to whatever sex you are makes sense – you are a male/female with a preference – but refusing to acknowledge your sex seems pointless.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DarkScribe what doesn’t make sense is why one has to be a ‘member’ of any group when you share nothing much in common other than an organ and a chromosome order – that’s the problem, that’s why it’s not pointless to me…I wouldn’t mind so much being categorized as female and that is what I am since we do have those categories but I have issues with this classification if intersex people have to be cut up as infants just to fit one or the other…and so I reject it…I reject it because there is value and a legitimacy placed on those ‘properly’ female and ‘properly’ male…if this was a category that just was and didn’t define ‘me’ then fine call me a female…and the term ‘woman’ is a whole other can of worms…that one doesn’t fit me…I don’t get it…you can’t define a woman without defining man and vice versa..and you can’t come up with a single definition of either…so why bother…so I don’t

loser's avatar

Personally, I wish there were gender neutral pronouns in the English language that would be used on a regular basis. When I was young I hated being referred to as female. It hurt everytime.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir what doesn’t make sense is why one has to be a ‘member’ of any group when you share nothing much in common other than an organ and a chromosome order

I understand that – and you don’t have be a member in you own mind – but you will always be a member in a “technical” sense to other people. Try to change the perception of others is tilting at windmills – a waste of effort doomed to certain failure. I suppose that I like to be logical in both approach and realistic about expected outcome. I don’t like wasting my time.

Not quite the same, but I don’t regard myself as an Australian – not just an Australian – I have trouble with nationalistic jingoism. I love Australia but I don’t feel that for some unfathomable and impossible to ratify reason it is better than all other countries. I also love the UK, France, Japan, the US and Canada. I have lived in all of those places. I get wary whenever I am referred to as an Australian – but I don’t bother denying it or explaining to everyone who asks that I am not tied to any specific geographic demographic. That is simply something that I feel.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe I’m sure any transgendered person would tell you what sex they were born as, thus not denying it. They would, however, deny that they fit the gender role of that sex, and tell you that gender that they identify as is not the one that goes with the body they were born into. I don’t think they are denying anything, merely stating how they feel… wanting to be called by the pronoun that fits your gender identity instead of your sex it totally legitimate, considering language is a social phenomenon, just like gender.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe Ok! Take the nationalism thing. If people were calling you “Australian” at every turn (as people are called “he” or “she” at every turn) and being called Australian had extreme social stigmas (ok, not necessarily stigmas, but characteristics that you did not identify with) attached to it, wouldn’t it bother you more?

DarkScribe's avatar

@fireinthepriory hey would, however, deny that they fit the gender role of that sex, and tell you that gender that they identify as is not the one that goes with the body they were born into. I

I have no problem with addressing someone who I know as whatever gender they prefer. No problem at all. I lived in a share home with some Lesbian friends for several years – they went through all manner of personal preferences about address modes.

I do have a problem with slaughtering the language by replacing gender specific language with gender neutral just for those very few who have decided to take offence at what is inevitably a reality that they are not happy with.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DarkScribe yes I understand people will perceive me to the degree that their paradigm is – if I don’t fit into what they feel is the norm, they will simply not ‘get me’ and say ‘i’m confused’ and all that..believe me I’ve dealt with plenty of that – when my husband met me, he didn’t know anything about genderqueer people but his intelligence and understanding of the world is such that once I explained it to him, he just understood, it didn’t threaten or upset him, it enlightened him…and the argument of changing something of the majority to ‘please a few’ is very common – the same is used by rightwingers for the ‘defense of marriage’ – that doesn’t fly with me either

DarkScribe's avatar

@DarkScribe If people were calling you “Australian” at every turn (as people are called “he” or “she” at every turn) and being called Australian had extreme social stigmas (ok, not necessarily

Nope. I am, as previously noted, a pragmatist. I wouldn’t give it a moment’s thought. It is my response that matters to me, not that of others.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DarkScribe well sometimes, just sometimes, the collective invalidation of others does matter…it does

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe I do have a problem with slaughtering the language by replacing gender specific language with gender neutral

Well that, my friend, I am perfectly happy to agree with! :) I would never deem to get RID of male and female pronouns. I’m perfectly happy to be called “she” and “her,” as I am female by both sex and gender. I’d vote for the addition of gender-neutral pronouns though, because I think that intersexed and genderqueer people should have an option, and so as to make being atypically gendered less socially stigmatized.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir the argument of changing something of the majority to ‘please a few’ is very common – the same is used by rightwingers for the ‘defense of marriage’ – that doesn’t fly with me either

This can be a dangerous path. We are living in an age of small minorities who can access huge amounts of communication and media. There are many issues that can apply that argument that I am sure that you would not fell comfortable about. Ku Klux Klan is a minority. (An over the top example – but you see where I am going. The majority has to have the major say.)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DarkScribe yea clearly it does have it

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe Wellllll yes, but the KKK are in favor of things that harm others, whereas the gender variant just want extra pronouns. I don’t know if it’s exactly comparable to that extent…

DarkScribe's avatar

@fireinthepriory I don’t know if it’s exactly comparable to that extent…

I noted that was over the top. It still makes the point – many small and unpopular minority groups can engender a huge amount of publicity – making them seem more popular than they are in reality.

laureth's avatar

Should popularity be the sole arbiter of who gets to have some sort of recognition, rights, and privileges?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@laureth god no…and no to god…lol anyway

DarkScribe's avatar

@laureth Should popularity be the sole arbiter of who gets to have some sort of recognition, rights, and privileges?

No, it shouldn’t, but in practice – it does. It is called democracy.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe I agree with that logic entirely, but I think the medical numbers (last time I checked) are that 1/100 babies are born with indeterminate gender. That seems like a lot to me. Lot more than the number of KKK members in the US. More than the number of Jewish people in the US! I don’t know, I just think that it’s something we should be considering instead of sweeping under the rug.

DarkScribe's avatar

@fireinthepriory 1/100 babies are born with indeterminate gender

The figures that I recall although vague, would exceed that by a factor of ten. Less than 1 in 1000 to 1 in 10,000. It depends on where you find them. My old Psych books list 1 in 100,000, more modern references have closer to 1 in 10,000.

laureth's avatar

It’s called “Tyranny of the Majority” – which is, I guess, another word for a pure democracy. Good thing we don’t live in one! :)

fireinthepriory's avatar

@DarkScribe That’s the number that have sexes so indeterminate that they are surgically reassigned at birth (almost always to female, because it’s easier). Which is something I don’t think we should do in the first place. And that’s still a lot of people! The US population is 307,635,000 (estimated for 2009) so times 0.01% is 3,000,000 people. Shit, that’s a lot of people to be marginalizing.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@DarkScribe you mean, again, indeterminate sex…and we, sociologists, don’t trust that statistic any more than we trust the whole only 5–7% of the population is gay

DarkScribe's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir you mean, again, indeterminate sex…

I mean what I say at all times, nothing more and nothing less. I really don’t need interpreting. If I quote someone else without changing the quote – take it up with them.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Yep, that was me, not @DarkScribe. Argh, it’s getting late, and I am bad with syntax sometimes… I said sex the second time!! ::headdesk::

tinyfaery's avatar

I’ll say he or she according to the gender someone most resembles until an individual corrects me, then I will use what that person prefers. I see no problem with using gender neutral pronouns or adding them to our vocabulary, but I don’t think gendered terms should be eliminated from our vocabulary.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

There is a Canadian truck driver that is obviously male, yet wears long hair, long painted nails, and goes by the name Susan. This person has a deep masculine voice, very large pores, visible facial hair, etc. I try not to judge, but I am not sure if “Susan” is a he a she or something in a different category. It’s none of my business why this truck driver is calling themselves Susan, but it makes for a strangely uncomfortable experience.

that is going to make me sound so unaccepting of transgendered people, but we don’t get much of that around here, so it is somewhat of a novelty.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra well you don’t sound as uncomfortable about it, actually, as you think – I know that it’s hard sometimes because it’s not the norm but I assure you trans folks are no different from you

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I know that transgendered people are no different than anyone else, its just when it isn’t common, it’s hard to deal with it without coming across as judgmental.

where I grew up, I never saw a real live Black person until I was almost nine years old. Being raised by a racist father didn’t make the experience any better.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra I’ve never seen anyone black until I came to America to live in Brooklyn, NY (11 going on 12)- my parents raised me to call black people ‘chocolates’ and told me all sorts of racist things which I promptly rejected – I rejected a lot of my parents’ ‘lessons’ and I’ve never met a trans person until I started college (shes one of my best friends now) and that was a huge eye opener and a huge learning experience that changed my life forever

OpryLeigh's avatar

I am happy to call people what they want but I think if they want to be called something “against the norm” (for want of a better phrase) then I believe that it should be up to them to inform me of this. I will respect peoples wishes if they don’t want to be called “him” or “her” but I don’t intend on asking everyone I meet what they would prefer to be called.

When I am talking about or too people I always try and use their names first and foremost because it is more polite than saying “him” or “her” but I don’t think I should be made to feel guilty if I do address someone as “the obvious” (again, for want of a better phrase) if they haven’t told me that they wish to be called something else.

What I mean is, nobody should be made to feel like they’re walking on egg shells when it comes to this particular issue.

Aster's avatar

I am neither male nor female. I am referred to as an “it.” If someone calls me up and my H answers , he’ll say, “it’s coming.” When I’m telling my daughter something about him I’ll say, “it was so mad about that.” I wear his clothes, he wears mine even though his fall off me and mine are too tight for him – we stick to our principals.
Being an “it” comes in handy. I use the mens’ restrooms a lot. He takes ballet lessons in a tu tu. I’m growing a mustache; he shaves his underarms. No one seems to care. hmm.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Aster Didn’t you just contradict yourself though by using the words “he” and “him” when talking about your husband? If you both identify as “it’s”, surely your husband isn’t a “he” or a “him”.

Aster's avatar

@Leanne1986 You are absolutely right. It is an “it” and I am an “it.” When someone calls it up I say “it isn’t here; it will be back soon.” I wear it’s clothes and it wears mine. It is mowing the yard now.
I am growing a mustache; it shaves it’s underarms . It did not appreciate my telling these things online so I told it I was sorry.
It will come in soon and shower and I will go to my boxing lesson.

Cozzled's avatar

@ aster: It is an “it” and I am an “it.” When someone calls it up I say “it isn’t here; it will be back soon.” That’s pretty freaky, aster.

My take on the gist of the conversation is hardly novel: 1. sex is a scientific term, specifying the particular genitalia involved; 2. gender is a social construct, a basket of characteristics typically associated with a particular sex.
So you can believe or feel that you’re a particular sex just as you can believe or feel that the laws of gravity do not apply to you or the group with which you share that belief. However, “gender” is flexible enough to include any human with either genitalia within its scope because it is malleable, reflecting our collective ideas (imagination, feelings, desires, ignorance, etc.) of what it means to have a dick or vagina or a combination of both.

Going back to the original question: “if you don’t believe in genders, how do you feel about using pronouns?”
First of all, saying you “don’t believe in genders” is similar to attempting to deny the existence of a readily apparent social construct. Like saying you don’t believe in stop signs. You may not want them there, but they’re actually there.
Second part of the question regarding how I feel about pronouns. I think they’re great as sex identifiers, keeping in mind that Susan in high heels may indeed have a dick.

dabbler's avatar

@fireinthepriory “Sex is your chromosomes, your physiology… gender is how you FEEL.”
That is opposite of correct.

Gender is what you’re born with, sex is what you do with it.

The word “sex” is often used where “gender” should be.
“Gender” is rarely misused (except e.g. in your description) if only because it’s rarely used.

Mantralantis's avatar

Now, for me, I believe in traditional genders, but I would guess they could say something unspecificly neutral like “hey you”, “your” and “their” or even some name personifications such as “Dear Diary…Wow, Butch’s manly odor rang true today.” “I need it stretched long, Peter, for gosh sakes.” or “Muffy, it feels so soft and silky”.

But anyway, I don’t know. I’m probably somewhat biased, but in the end I believe everyone is human. But you know something, Freedom’s manifest can be such a thick confusing fog sometimes.

Okay, I suppose its best I be unbiased

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