What you’ve suggested isn’t a solution to any of the problems I’ve highlighted. It’s a public request in a social context marked by an imbalance of power which requires those asked to comply, lie, or refuse (and suffer unknown consequences).

I’ve been teaching college since 1997. I’ve never seen a situation where any students in my classes needed to refer to each other using pronouns during class. They all just use each other’s names. Or if they’re addressing another student directly, they use the pronoun “you.” If you were a student in my classroom, I’d simply refer to you as James or “you.” (Speaking about you when you’re present using third person pronouns [he, him, etc.] just seems rude.) Outside of class is another matter altogether. But I think students would be surprised how little faculty talk about students outside of class. We’re usually preoccupied with other matters (though discussion of students does occur). I can’t speak to whether students talk about other students outside of class but it likely happens.

The question is: how do we acquire knowledge of a person’s pronouns without engaging in public coercion? And are efforts at knowledge acquisition ever unmarked by power?

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

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