Yep, I wrote this 1675-word piece on gender pronouns over the last six months and have devoted the entirety of my professional career to researching, thinking, writing, presenting, publishing, and teaching about gender and sexuality because I am “indifferent” to these issues. Sigh.
Perhaps it’s not clear from my story but the reason I respond with “I don’t care” when asked to provide gender pronouns is two-fold:
- My gender expression and gender identity cannot easily be reduced to the available gender pronouns English provides. The currently available gender pronouns shrink the messy complexity of my relationship to gender to the point of unrecognizability solely for the comfort of others. I stopped living my life for the comfort of others when I came out of the closet in 1984. The bullies that abused me all through school did not seem to think I was successfully “passing” but perhaps you — never having met me — know better?
- I bristle at the coercion masquerading as inclusion and tolerance that marks every request to provide requests for “my” pronouns. I am not interested in perpetuating a social gender order that oppresses everyone, no matter how they identify. And that’s how I view demands to provide one’s gender pronouns.
It never ceases to amaze me that those who argue so strenuously that we should never assume a person’s gender identity based on their outward appearance don’t hesitate to do so when their ideas are challenged. And, it saddens me that you have reduced my effort to be authentic to my experience with gender to some kind of cynical “move” designed to undermine transgender and gender non-binary people.
Michael J. Murphy, MA, PhD, is Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Illinois. He is the author of many book chapters, and encyclopedia and journal articles. Most recently he edited Living Out Loud: An Introduction to LGBTQ History, Society, and Culture (Routledge, 2019).