Let me address your concerns one at a time:

  1. I do not “compare” intentional misgendering to a hate crime. I state I consider the former to be “akin” to the latter. Akin = “of similar character” not “identical to.” By the way, use of words in a way that is, as you wrote, “rude, combative, or unpleasant,” is practically the textbook definition of “verbal violence.” Here’s a handy definition: “Verbal violence, most often also labeled verbal abuse, is a common variety of violence, which encompasses a relatively large spectrum of behaviors, including accusing, undermining, verbal threatening, ordering, trivializing, constant forgetting, silencing, blaming, name-calling, overtly criticizing” (source). Though it is not the case in the U.S., in many (more enlightened) places around the world, the use of hateful language against a protected class is considered a hate crime (aka “hate speech”). If you’d prefer the term “verbal abuse” instead of “verbal violence,” fine. I consider abuse a form of violence…hence my use of the term “verbal violence.”
  2. The textbook definition of “administrative violence” is the use of apparently-innocent functions of agencies of the state to perpetuate social inequality. Because compulsory gender self-identification helps to perpetuate inequality, asking for this information on administrative documents is a form of administrative violence. (Collecting such information so the world can “function better” is what fascists usually say right before marching “undesirables” off to concentration camps.) If you don’t agree, please Google the term “administrative violence” and read what Dean Spade has to say about it. Yes, there are legitimate reasons to gather information about a person’s biology or physiology under the category of biological sex, especially in healthcare contexts, but I can think of no legitimate state interest for gathering information about a person’s gender or gender identity. But even if there were, as Foucault taught us long ago, government collection of such information is a form of “bio-power” used to manage and control subject populations. There is no such thing as disinterested knowledge production.
  3. You wrote: “The openness and willingness to share who and what you are with the world will make you far stronger than hiding pronouns that only exist to make communication and understanding better” (emphasis added). I suppose it’s everyone’s right to see language as apolitical but those who think seriously about systems of representation haven’t labored under that misunderstanding for well over a century. Rather, we view language as central to the workings of power, the distribution of goods and resources, and the production and reproduction of inequality in society. Which is why we fight about language All. The. Time. If language wasn’t connected to power, it wouldn’t be possible to misgender anyone and those misgendered wouldn’t care when it happened. So, no, pronouns aren’t just about “communication” and “understanding.” And that’s because language is always already about power.
  4. You wrote: “Any suggestion that a current system doesn’t work needs to be accompanied by suggestions for how to fix it.” This seems to be a common retort to critical analysis. Rather than responding to the critique, it implies it is the critic’s job to provide a better alternative. But why is it we don’t expect film critics to make better films than the ones they critique? Must one be an author in order to think critically about literature? An artist to analyze art? An athlete to have an opinion about sports? I hope it’s clear how ridiculous that position is. Critical analysis isn’t “tearing down.” It’s critical analysis. It’s how some of us make sense of the world around us. Another response to my piece raised a similar point, which I addressed here: https://medium.com/@emjaymurphee/you-raise-a-number-of-important-points-a8fd14f3e17f.

I’ll summarize: within a society that places a premium on gender, that locates its members socially according to their gender, we may not be able to do better than asking people to give an account of themselves in terms of gender, often in coercive contexts. The solution is changing society so that it cares less (or not at all) about an individual’s gender. That will not be done by continuing to ask everyone to make public declarations of their gender identity by stating “their” gender pronouns. Adopting and furthering the practices of a gender-oppressive society is in no way gender-liberatory…which was the entire point of my original piece.

Professional homosexual. Professor. Writer. Scholar. Activist. Husband.

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