Preferred Pronouns

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Is the act of engaging in the utilization of preferred pronouns an empathetically nuanced expression of neo-etiquette, or does it conceal a more ominous agenda behind its application, whether deliberately contrived or inadvertently present? The author aims to present a counterargument against the usage of preferred pronouns, presenting secular, linguistic, and theological justifications for abstaining from their utilisation.

Sexual Dimorphism:

Sexual dimorphism denotes the condition wherein members of the same species exhibit distinguishable morphological characteristics, which are not exclusively tied to reproduction. Throughout history, this has led human beings to identify themselves based on morphological traits that differentiate males from females, extending beyond their reproductive anatomy. Consequently, language, as a powerful vehicle of expression, has inherently reflected this prevailing reality, employing male and female pronouns as linguistic tools that reinforce the widely accepted recognition of sexual differentiation.

“It is an emerging cultural bargain in which the Woke conspire to protect individuals who try to appear as the opposite sex through cosmetic interventions from the awkwardness of failing to convincingly “pass,” and to protect those who wish to pretend that humans are not sexually dimorphic from facing the disappointment of reality.  The pronoun game is a wink and a nod.  No one is fooled, they’re just playing along.”1Elliott, Leslie. “Preferred Pronouns: Neo-Etiquette or Radical Self-Rejection ?” Critical Therapy Antidote, 19 Mar. 2022, criticaltherapyantidote.org/2022/03/19/preferred-pronouns-neo-etiquette-or-radical-self-rejection/. Accessed 3 July 2023.

Leslie Elliott

At the heart of Elliott’s argument lies the contention that the prevailing contemporary preoccupation with preferred pronouns in society reflects a collective and deliberate “collusion” that perpetuates a “misrepresent[ation of]reality”; a phenomenon driven by a misplaced sense of empathy, one that is seemingly well-intentioned yet fundamentally misguided. (2023)

The concept of preferred pronouns posits that individuals should be addressed using specific linguistic markers that align with their self-identified gender, irrespective of their biological sex. In contemporary times, an increasingly vocal movement has emerged, advocating for the widespread adoption of preferred pronouns as a means to accommodate and validate an individual’s subjective gender identity, irrespective of their biological sex. Proponents of this linguistic shift argue that it fosters inclusivity and affirms the agency of those who identify beyond the traditional male-female binary. However, beneath this seemingly virtuous facade, there is cause for concern regarding the potential consequences of such an approach.

By elevating the subjective experience of gender identity above the objective biological framework, the embrace of preferred pronouns promotes a departure from the long-established understanding of human nature. It implicitly disregards the profound influence that sexual dimorphism, the observable and scientifically established physical differences between males and females, is an inherent aspect of human biology and has played a fundamental role in shaping societal norms and language throughout history. In doing so, it obscures the inherent differences between male and female individuals, dismissing the significance of the diverse physiological, psychological, and sociocultural factors associated with biological sex.

It engenders a society where objective truths are supplanted by subjective interpretations, a society where the principles of scientific inquiry and empirical observation are overshadowed by individualistic assertions. By prioritizing subjective experiences over empirical evidence, we risk undermining the foundations of knowledge and understanding. This is a too long subject to digress into here, however those interested can find compelling arguments by Marinov, Georgi K. “In Humans, Sex Is Binary and Immutable.” Www.nas.org, National Association of Scholars, 20 July 2020, www.nas.org/academic-questions/33/2/in-humans-sex-is-binary-and-immutable.

Briefly, Marinov’s paper illustrates how the concept of binary biological sex has been challenged by various publications and media outlets, presenting alternative perspectives that emphasize a more nuanced understanding of human sex. For instance, Nature, a prominent scientific journal, published an editorial titled “Sex Redefined,” which boldly declared that the traditional notion of two sexes is overly simplistic and that biologists now recognize a broader spectrum. Similarly, popular science magazines such as Scientific American and National Geographic have reinforced this viewpoint, asserting that scientific evidence demonstrates the non-binary nature of sex. These assertions have not only gained traction in academic circles but have also permeated mainstream media, leading to widespread discussions regarding the inaccuracy of the binary sex model.

However, amidst this ongoing discourse, critics like Georgi Marinov argue for the preservation of the traditional binary understanding of human sex, positing it as an objective truth with immutable characteristics. According to Marinov, accepting the non-binary perspective undermines the fundamental principles of biological sciences and disregards well-established findings in the field. In this view, denying the binary nature of human sex threatens the very foundations of biological knowledge. This perspective stands in stark contrast to the views put forth by feminist philosophers like Judith Butler and Anne Fausto-Sterling, who initially introduced the notion that both gender and sex are socially constructed, thereby rejecting the objective reality of binary biological sex.

The emphasis on subjective self-identification diverges from the biological reality and introduces an element of uncertainty and ambiguity into language, potentially leading to communication difficulties and misinterpretations.

Language:

Moreover, this departure from linguistic convention carries with it a myriad of consequences that extend beyond the realm of language itself. From a secular perspective, this trend raises questions about the relationship between language and objective truth. Should linguistic conventions be dictated solely by subjective experiences and self-perceptions, or should they be anchored in a broader understanding of biological realities? As a society, we must carefully consider the ramifications of relinquishing established linguistic practices in favor of accommodating individual preferences.

By refusing to evaluate the implications and consequences of such a linguistic adjustment, we risk perpetuating a collective delusion, one that disregards the rich tapestry of human nature and the intricate interplay between biology, culture, and language. While empathy and inclusivity are laudable aspirations, it is crucial to recognise the consequences of prioritizing subjective experiences over objective realities.

The consideration of the referent’s “preferred” pronouns poses a significant obstacle and diversion to the speaker’s cognitive processes, imposing a burden that ultimately undermines the effectiveness of communication with the intended audience. There is no valid argument that can be put forth in favour of prioritizing preferred pronouns. The depersonalised forms of gendered pronouns in everyday language already exist in the form of third person singular and plural pronouns.

The above is available courtesy of Vergoossen, Hellen, et al. Contemporary Arguments against Gender-Neutral Language. Jan. 2016, https://doi.org/10.13140/rg.2.2.31991.42403. Accessed 5 July 2023.

From the standpoint of a language user, it can be argued that the text “My pronouns are…” lacks logical coherence. As an autonomous individual, one possesses a distinct personal designation – a name, while pronouns represent an intrinsic component of linguistic structure and discourse.

Expecting individuals to consistently recall and employ the pronouns associated with every other person during routine conversations necessitates a level of effort that surpasses what most people are willing to invest. Such an expectation contradicts the fundamental purpose of pronouns, which is to streamline communication by eliminating the need for conscious consideration regarding their selection. It is unreasonable to impose this burden on individuals, as it undermines the very essence of pronouns and their intended function.2Remarkl. “Why I Won’t Use ‘Your ’ Pronouns.” Medium, 1 Jan. 2019, remarklj.medium.com/why-i-wont-use-your-pronouns-2170ea2bbe1c. Accessed 8 July 2023.

The following is an example (courtesy of Kieran Blake3Blake, Kieran. “Gender Neutral Language Is Wrong.” Medium, 5 May 2020, medium.com/@kieranblake13/gender-neutral-language-is-wrong-f3d108b895eb. of the gibberish language becomes when using gender neutral text. Imagine giving instructions to someone learning to operate dangerous machinery.

Standard text:

“He will perform his first show in New York in April, in front of his adoring and devoted fans. Fans say they have waited years for his show and, being so young, they spent all of their pocket money on tickets to finally see their idol.

“I am overwhelmed and humbled by their support,” he said.

“I will do everything to ensure they have a great time in New York.”

Gender neutral text:

“They will perform their first show in New York in April, in front of their adoring and devoted fans. Fans say they have waited years for their show and, being so young, they spent all of their pocket money on tickets to finally see their idol.

“They is overwhelmed and humbled by their support,” they said.

“They will do everything to ensure they have a great time in New York.”

Coerced Monster Creation:

Coercively insisting through institutional policies that we all play the pronoun game is a form of compelled speech that violates free speech ethics and forces people to participate in a cognitive distortion.  

By instructing individuals to exert control over how others refer to them in the third person, we concurrently instill within them a set of narcissistic traits, including interpersonally exploitative tendencies, wherein others serve as mere mirrors reflecting their desired self-image; a sense of entitlement, asserting that others are obliged to validate their assertions; a dearth of empathy, demonstrating an indifference towards the genuine thoughts and emotions of others; and an air of arrogance, demanding acquiescence to their will under the threat of characterizing dissent as harmful. Consequently, the promotion of this pronoun charade not only cultivates fragility and codependency, but also engenders narcissism and entitlement. It is unsurprising, then, that proponents of gender-interventionism exhibit a fervent determination to mercilessly ostracize and silence (“cancel”) any dissenting voices, illustrating the extremity of their commitment to upholding their own perspective. (Leslie Elliott. 2023.)

Frankenstein V2.0:

This article extensively relies on the work of Leslie Elliott and her piece Preferred Pronouns: Neo-Etiquette or Radical Self-Rejection ? where she states:

As Social Emotional Learning and Critical Social Justice ideologies are taking over school curricula, this new radical body-phobia is not being taught as ONE way to understand ourselves in the world, but THE way. 

Leslie Elliott

Elliott’s exploration looks into the phenomenon of individuals who harbor profound discontentment with their secondary sexual characteristics, leading them to embrace an extreme form of self-rejection through a diverse spectrum of cosmetic and medical interventions.

Encouraging young individuals to undertake steps that can lead to permanent sterility, reduced life-expectancy, and bodily alteration, all based on transient and developmentally appropriate teenage identity crises, is particularly troubling. In the context of the growing normalization of gender affirmation interventions during adolescence, there has been an alarming increase in instances where children are encouraged to make irreversible decisions regarding their gender identity. This trend not only perpetuates confusion among developing individuals but also entails the rejection of natural processes associated with coming-of-age. Moreover, it introduces a concerning dimension of medicalization into the pubertal phase. As a consequence, a rising number of young individuals find themselves facing a lifetime of remorse for decisions they were influenced to make before attaining a comprehensive understanding of the long-term implications.

Theologically:

Rosaria Butterfield (a former professor of English and women’s studies at Syracuse University) in her article Why I no longer use Transgender Pronouns—and Why You shouldn’t, either lists the following reasons which I quote:

  • Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against the ninth commandment and encourages people to sin against the tenth commandment.
  • Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against the creation ordinance.
  • Using transgendered pronouns is a sin against image-bearing.
  • Using transgendered pronouns discourages a believer’s progressive sanctification and falsifies the gospel.
  • Using transgendered pronouns cheapens redemption, and it tramples on the blood of Christ.
  • Using transgendered pronouns fails to love my neighbor as myself.
  • Using transgendered pronouns fails to offer genuine Christian hospitality and instead yields the definition of hospitality to liberal communitarianism, identity politics, and “human flourishing.”
  • Using transgendered pronouns isn’t a sin because the times have changed, and therefore, using transgendered pronouns isn’t sinful today but a morally acceptable option in 2012.  Sin is sin. The Bible defines this as sin. Sin does not lose its evil because of our good intentions or the personal sensibilities of others. Changing cultural forces can bring sin into fresh light (as the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision did for me). But a renewed focus is no excuse for sin and no dodge for repentance, not for a real Christian.

This kind of flies contrary to the view of Franciscan Fr. Daniel P. Horan (director of the Center for Spirituality and professor of philosophy, religious studies and theology at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana) who presents disappointingly, a more liberal interpretation in his article “Why Catholics Should Use Preferred Gender Pronouns and Names” which is more inline, with the perspective of that of the “Holy See”. He relates: “It is a continued disgrace that so many of those who self-identify as Catholic use our faith tradition to reject and erase the self-identities of our sisters, brothers and other siblings in Christ”. The author’s Christian perspective does not allow him to stand by such an affirmation, in light of what he has written under the subtitle “Frankenstein V2.0”, but by the ones made by former prof. Rosaria Butterfield.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

(II Corinthians 13:14 [ASV])

Featured Photo by That’s Her Business on Unsplash

Well Argued Reasons4Pronouns: why we should not play along. the radical center https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo-NC3PPOqU&list=PLr7ITdJgU4N2fsG0bT_RFTsHySqVGrgQL&index=3

Bibliography

Blake, Kieran. “Gender Neutral Language Is Wrong.” Medium, 5 May 2020, medium.com/@kieranblake13/gender-neutral-language-is-wrong-f3d108b895eb.

Blatchford, Jeremy. “Follow the Money.” Science & Religion, 4 Dec. 2022, sciencereligion.science.blog/2022/12/04/follow-the-money/?fbclid=IwAR2t3QufqUbJ8PtMU188A70reUiNOc_rKbfHAUU0GgpQ0S3j6XsoZACxXiY. Accessed 11 July 2023.

Butterfield, Rosaria. “Why I No Longer Use Transgender Pronouns—and Why You Shouldn’t, Either.” Www.reformation21.org, 3 Apr. 2023, www.reformation21.org/blog/why-i-no-longer-use-transgender-pronouns-and-why-you-shouldnt-either.

Elliott, Leslie. “Preferred Pronouns: Neo-Etiquette or Radical Self-Rejection ?” Critical Therapy Antidote, 19 Mar. 2022, criticaltherapyantidote.org/2022/03/19/preferred-pronouns-neo-etiquette-or-radical-self-rejection/. Accessed 3 July 2023.

Horan, Daniel P. “Why Catholics Should Use Preferred Gender Pronouns and Names.” National Catholic Reporter, Oct. 2021, https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/why-catholics-should-use-preferred-gender-pronouns-and-names Accessed 4 July 2023.

Marinov, Georgi K. “In Humans, Sex Is Binary and Immutable.” Www.nas.org, National Association of Scholars, 20 July 2020, www.nas.org/academic-questions/33/2/in-humans-sex-is-binary-and-immutable.

Remarkl. “Why I Won’t Use ‘Your ’ Pronouns.” Medium, 1 Jan. 2019, remarklj.medium.com/why-i-wont-use-your-pronouns-2170ea2bbe1c. Accessed 8 July 2023.

Vergoossen, Hellen, et al. Contemporary Arguments against Gender-Neutral Language. Jan. 2016, https://doi.org/10.13140/rg.2.2.31991.42403. Accessed 5 July 2023.

Footnotes

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