Penny Arcade / PAX gender controversy catch all.

I'll only pronounce them correctly if I get a Speedo and a Glock.

I don't particularly care which one it is, so long as there is one. One that replaces he/she/they as the one singular pronoun (to rule them, and in the darkness bind them!).

LarryC wrote:

I don't particularly care which one it is, so long as there is one. One that replaces he/she/they as the one singular pronoun (to rule them, and in the darkness bind them!).

"One" works, though it's perhaps overly formal sounding in everyday conversation.

I tried using "one" the first few times I posted around here (that I thought about this pronoun thing) and I got the impression that people thought I was being a pompous ass. Not that I'm not, mind you, but I prefer to imply that with other words.

LarryC wrote:

I tried using "one" the first few times I posted around here (that I thought about this pronoun thing) and I got the impression that people thought I was being a pompous ass. Not that I'm not, mind you, but I prefer to imply that with other words.

Hence the "overly formal sounding for everyday conversation" part.

My main problem with using "ou" to completely replace he/she/they is that it feels very much like trying to strip gender away from everyone, instead of merely including non-gendered or other-gendered people.

The problem is that "one" is generally considered to be an indefinite pronoun, i.e. something that refers to an unspecified subject. It belongs to the same category of pronouns like "anyone", "nobody", etc. In my opinion, re-purposing it to be a gender neutral personal pronoun would cause way more language confusion than adding a new word like ou.

muttonchop wrote:

The problem is that "one" is generally considered to be an indefinite pronoun, i.e. something that refers to an unspecified subject. It belongs to the same category of pronouns like "anyone", "nobody", etc. In my opinion, re-purposing it to be a gender neutral personal pronoun would cause way more language confusion than adding a new word like ou.

That's how Larry has been using "ou" so I think it'd be a good fit.

My understanding is that "ou" is supposed to be a gender-neutral personal pronoun, so you can say things like "Dave dropped ous hat", where "ous" would replace "his" if Dave didn't identify as either male or female. "Dave dropped one's hat" is weird and ambiguous. "One" is useful for statements like "one should always brush one's teeth before bed" where you're not referring to any specific person.

muttonchop wrote:

My understanding is that "ou" is supposed to be a gender-neutral personal pronoun, so you can say things like "Dave dropped ous hat", where "ous" would replace "his" if Dave didn't identify as either male or female. "Dave dropped one's hat" is weird and ambiguous. "One" is useful for statements like "one should always brush one's teeth before bed" where you're not referring to any specific person.

That's my understanding too. Larry's been using it for both.

Nevin73 wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:
Mixolyde wrote:
realityhack wrote:

Ou - Ou's - Ouself etc. according to one of the links.

Grammar snob in me says "ous", not "ou's." To match: his, hers, yours, ours, its.

Also, did they say what the direct object form would be? oum would still be slightly preferring the masculine form.

I'd think ou would work equally well as nominative, dative and accusative.

Except that no one really knows how to prounounce it.

It's also aesthetically clunky and doesn't really roll off the tongue as it's close to being a single phoneme which none of the other English pronouns are. English pronouns largely start with a consonant and the oblique and possessive forms mostly end with an r. Which is why I think Ze/Zi sounds more natural in sentences than ou; then the cases obviously emerge as per 'he' and 'she': Ze -> Zes -> Zer (or Zi,Zis,Zer)

Obviously that's a mostly a matter of what people are used to but that is a fairly significantly barrier to acceptance/use for incoming words.

You should only use 'One' to referrer to yourself if you are The Queen of England.

DanB wrote:

You should only use 'One' to referrer to yourself if you are The Queen of England.

Wait, I thought she used "we"?

TOO MANY PRONOUNS

muttonchop wrote:
DanB wrote:

You should only use 'One' to referrer to yourself if you are The Queen of England.

Wait, I thought she used "we"?

TOO MANY PRONOUNS

There are no pronouns, there is only "ou."

I know this means I'm a hateful bigot transphobe but I cannot take Ou seriously. 0.3% of the American population is transsexual. I'm willing to bet the queer population (I don't even know what that means) is smaller. I don't think we are crushing people's rights by using language that is hundreds of years old. At some point if you're an ultra minority you'll just have to live with people not bending over backwards to make you feel better. As long as the big stuff is there I don't think we should sweat the small stuff.

Source:

I don't really have a problem making concessions for a single person, let alone hundreds of thousands of them.

Young People Push Back Against Gender Categories

NPR wrote:

As society has become more accepting of gays, lesbians and even transgender people, a new generation of young people is challenging those categories in favor of a more fluid understanding of gender. They refuse to be limited by notions like male and female.

No, it doesn't mean that. It does mean that if you meet somebody who's genderqueer (agender or bigender probably, in this case) who asks you to use unusual pronouns, and tell them that, they probably won't want to have anything to do with you. Someone like that will probably be rather aggressively non-gender-conforming and not super hard to forget.

Someone who's gender fluid might ask you to use an unusual pronoun or might ask you to use "he" sometimes and "her" other times, or the like, perhaps depending on how they're presenting on a given day.

None of those people will likely be very surprised if it's not an easy task--but they have every right to expect you to do it if you're hanging around them a lot. If you absolutely can't manage it no matter how much you try, consider asking if there's something else you can do (use their name only, or the like). If they don't want to be called either "he" or "she", at least do what you can to respect that.

Remember it's not a matter of "LOL, I want to make life hard for people", it's a matter of "being called something that identifies me as either a man or as a woman hurts." And when I say "hurts" I mean "you know, people do this sort of thing because if they don't things start sucking so bad for them that they end up severely depressed or worse". You don't expose yourself to the kind of public animus that all trans people face unless the alternative is worse. So if someone doesn't even try, they're absolutely putting their convenience over the trans person's mental health, and they should expect whatever response is necessary to get them out of that person's life.

If you're asked and you don't do it, or at least work to avoid using other pronouns, the main thing is: don't expect them to give you a free pass for that.

If you're writing some sort of journalistic thing and can't reasonably use particular pronouns, it's not that hard to use names throughout a piece. Is it awkward? Maybe. But it's at least respectful. Be willing to explain the reasoning behind it. And to bring things back to the original case here: absolutely don't be a giant ass about it and mock them--that's significantly worse than refusing for the sake of your readers.

If someone asks for pronouns that you have a hard time with, like if you've known someone forever as "he" and they ask you to use "she" as they transition or the like, and you're messing it up... keep trying and be apologetic. In that case, you have no excuse for not trying. It's not a weird new word you have to remember. You may have the weight of habit to overcome, but that's it.

Nobody is expecting people to go to superhuman efforts. They're just looking for respect, and safety. The more public they are, the more likely they are to feel up to handling some rough treatment (like the subject of that article who was like "yeah, I really don't expect anything else"). But for someone who isn't in the public eye it's more likely they are to be struggling to hold themselves together--and making that struggle harder is a very sh*tty thing to do. Being willing to use the pronouns you're asked to use is more or less that test for passing the first line of defense: if you will do it, it's probably safe to be around you. If not, they need to keep their guard up. Aggressive refusal is a pretty good sign that someone thinks they're some sort of delusional freak, and better to be safe and get the hell away from someone like that as fast as possible.

(Even if it's a family member. *sigh* I expect my dad to be like that. And I expect to have to more or less cut him out of my life until and unless he decides to behave differently. That's going to make visiting the rest of my family... complicated.)

Anyway, sorry for the scattered form of what I'm saying here. The key thing is: This may or may not be a big deal for an individual person. But it's almost certainly a much bigger deal than anyone who's not trans can imagine. Just... be respectful of what people ask you to do, even if you refuse... and don't get pissy when they and their friends decide you're not worth their time.

I guess part of the problem is that while most of us get the sexuality spectrum, I think very few of us understand what it is to be gender queer. As I've said before, to me, it's binary. You either are a woman or you are a man (regardless of whatever plumbing is present). Before I read the ou-gate article I didn't know that there were alternatives and I'm not sure I'm educated enough yet to believe that there are.

I guess I've been on the west coast too long, because I honestly don't understand what's so controversial about non-binary gender spectrum.

Nevin73 wrote:

I guess part of the problem is that while most of us get the sexuality spectrum, I think very few of us understand what it is to be gender queer. As I've said before, to me, it's binary. You either are a woman or you are a man (regardless of whatever plumbing is present). Before I read the ou-gate article I didn't know that there were alternatives and I'm not sure I'm educated enough yet to believe that there are.

It's really just as simple as accepting people that say they're gender-queer at their word. They know themselves better than you do, so why would you think you know what they really are and that they're just confused or mistaken? You don't have to understand what it means to be gender-queer (it's probably impossible for us gendered people to understand what it's like anyway), just accept what they tell you (and not in a "I'll treat you however you want but I'll still think of you as either a man or a woman" way).

As for "ou" I don't see why it'd be hard to use it (or whatever other pronoun they want used) when people ask you to when referring to them, the same way if someone named Robert no long wants to be called "Bobby." That said, I am pretty set against any movement to have "ou" become a catch-all, default pronoun. I like having my gendered pronouns, and I'm not about to stop using them.

clover wrote:

I guess I've been on the west coast too long, because I honestly don't understand what's so controversial about non-binary gender spectrum.

This gets me thinking: I wonder if there's a distinction to be made here between controversial and understood. The issue with defining genderqueer is that we really haven't done a good job of defining male and female to begin with. I think we had a thread on here where we were talking about what it means to be a man in that 'wise father talking to his honorable son' kind of way, and we didn't really get very far.

Yet, people have strong feelings about gender identity. That's a fact. The issue seems to be making any rational sense out of that fact. I mean, I feel like I got dealt a very comfortable hand in terms of gender, sex, and the relationship between the two, yet I can't tell you anything all that substantive about it.

I'm totally on board with non-binary gender spectrum, and it makes logical sense that if gender is not in a 1-to-1 relationship with sex, there's the room for a non-excluded middle (or whatever the most descriptive word would be) but I don't know if anyone can really explain the difference between something as familiar the male and female genders rationally, let alone any other variety of gender identity (or the lack of one at all).

It's not controversial, but I also don't know how well it's understood. If it is, help me out, because I still can't figure out how to define why I'm a man without making it sound like I'm telling women what they can and can't be. I just know I am, and it makes sense that anyone else feels as strongly about gender identity when it applies to them as I feel it does to me.

tl;dr: it's okay to enthusiastically accept genderqueer identities without fully understanding what makes them different from male/female, because let's face it: we don't understand male vs. female in the first place beyond "it's real."

clover wrote:

I guess I've been on the west coast too long, because I honestly don't understand what's so controversial about non-binary gender spectrum.

I'm from the bay area and it is still a relatively new phenomenon. Il

Hyp: if I knew someone like that and they asked me to call them whatever, I would. Just because I think it's ride not to. To me, it's like someone asking me to call them Steve instead of Steven. We are either friends, Co workers, or acquaintances and I don't want that person to be treated poorly. It's rude not to respect someone's wishes when the wish is trivial. By trivial I mean an easy thing to accommodate.

Ulairi: And that's basically what folks ask, so it's all good.

The media thing, when it comes up, is tempered a bit by the concerns that have been mentioned above. But... *shrug* I think most trans folks are rather skeptical of those arguments, if only because it's common for trans people who [em]do[/em] identify on the binary to be misgendered by the press very very routinely. That's not really covered by any of those concerns, and because of that people aren't really willing to give the benefit of the doubt for more unusual pronouns. (And in this case, well, the way it was handled didn't change opinions at all.)

On "ou": I would also suggest it not be used as a "non-specific" pronoun. I'm pretty sure that's not how s.e. smith uses it: ou uses it to describe ouself, and ou is a specific person. And this is why the other solutions are messy. Singular "they" is generally used to indicate non-specificity. "It" is used for things, not people. So neither one is particularly appropriate for someone who identifies as neither male nor female, but who is in fact a person.

So if you want a pronoun to use generically, use "they".

(Note: A genderfluid person might actually like "they", since their feelings of gender change at times. An agender person might actually like "it" as an implication of neutrality and have that override for them the connotations of non-personhood. This is why it's complicated, and you can't really apply one label for all people outside the gender binary. And different people even with similar kinds of gender identities might still feel more or less comfortable with a given set of pronouns, based on their life experience. One agender person might be "Oh, I'm cool with 'it'!" while another is "Oh, kids teased me with 'it' when I was in school, so it really upsets me."


Some thoughts on gender in parallel with sexuality: I think that if you think about some of the broader range of sexuality, it can maybe help push the boundaries of gender understanding a bit. Let's use a slight revision of sexual preference, that's neutral to the gender of the "subject":

Some people are androphiles, they're attracted exclusively to men. Some people are gynophiles, they're attracted exclusively to women. Many people are somewhat in the middle: mostly, they're attracted to men or to women, but sometimes they get turned on by something they wouldn't expect. They still see themselves as exclusively one way or the other, because it's not common enough to be a big deal, and they're happy sticking with what they're used to. (Social pressures, too, but you know.) Still, they might be more likely to experiment a bit.

Some people are attracted to both men and women in about equal measure. It's significant enough for them to consider themselves bisexual, without regard to who they're actually having sex with or are in a relationship with. I find it weird that there's a lot of weird treatment of this in GL culture: not everybody "believes" that bisexuality is a thing, and bisexuals are sometimes treated badly because "they're not really committed, they're just playing around", or the like. There's some insecurity in relationships at times when one partner is gay but the other is bisexual. There can also be insecurity in a straight/bi relationship... but I think it's a bit less strong, because of the assumption that "being straight is easy". So there's this assumption "Well, you can just go find an opposite sex partner to shack up with if you don't want to deal with stigma against homosexuality, but I don't have that option." That's not the case in the straight/bi dynamic.

Anyway... more! Some people aren't sexually attracted to anybody at all. But that doesn't mean they aren't interested in romance... they may like cuddling, they may fall in love. It's just that nothing really gets their juices flowing. And again, some people don't believe that's really a thing--and that can cause problems too, because it's like "No, really, I enjoy being with you, but I don't want to have sex, period", or even "I would love to marry you, but you know I'm not into sex, right?" And even if they tell someone ahead of time, that person will push forward and say like "it's fine" while really imagining that they're just joking around. And friends/relatives trying to set the person up... messy. And of course, you can take this whole thing and think about a whole range of how much people get hot and bothered. Some people have a crazy strong libido. Some people have no libido at all. Some people are in the middle. Some people are different from day to day.

Some people are demisexual, which is another complication on libido. Demi people don't generally get hot and bothered unless they're already romantically attached to somebody. Of course, that's separate from who they're attracted to (maybe men, maybe women, maybe both) or how strong their sexual attraction is.

So now you've got this much more complex picture of sexuality going around. People can have different libidos. People can have orientations that include only some people based on those peoples' gender. People can physical attraction conditioned on emotional closeness.

And you can, to add flavor, even think about simple taste in partners. Someone likes red hair? Someone likes people who are rounder? Or leaner? Or do they fixate on the curve of the neck or the curve of the hip?

Of course, some of these things we chalk up to "taste". Preferences developed over the course of life experiences. Some of them, well, seem unbreakably strong. Even those sometimes shift a bit throughout peoples' lives. And that makes it easy to believe that other parts that we haven't experienced personally are just a matter of taste like that.

Going on to gender: This is not as clear cut as even some of the more complicated pictures out there that attempt to describe it. It's common to separate "identity" from "physical sex" from "presentation". But... it's not that simple. I mean, in a way I can say I identify as a woman, because I know that's where I will feel comfortable. But at the same time, I still have a pretty masculine body. I have some breast development now, but I'm still in super male pattern baldness mode, and I still have a lot of facial hair stubble regularly, and body hair. And on the gripping hand... my breasts are starting to develop. Like, for real. So on the one hand, I identify as a woman. On the other, I present myself to others as mostly a man (in person, anyway). And finally, I see myself as currently being somewhere in between. I had a real problem with the in between thing for a while... I was terrified of being "in the middle". But once I got over that, and now that I'm getting closer to that in the middle place... it's kind of neat. Hah! Secret oogaba!

Okay, back to comparisons: We can draw parallels to some of the above things.

Some people identify fully masculine, some fully feminine. Some a little from one end but not enough to change the way they think of themselves. (Men who identify with women somewhat, but nevertheless see themselves as men. Women who identify with men somewhat, but nevertheless see themselves as women.) So from there it's not too hard to imagine what "bigender" would mean: someone who identifies with both equally strongly. They can't just "pick one" side to identify with, just like the bisexual person can't just "pick a side" and magically never feel attracted to the other. The feelings don't go away.

Some people feel a very strong connection to their gender identity, some people feel it more weakly. If you look at trans peoples' experience, you quickly find that some trans people get super super dysphoric. But I, personally, don't. That's not to say I don't get dysphoric, it's just that rather than being something that drives me on a day to day basis, it's something that wears me down over long periods of time. So I can pretty easily imagine people with weaker or stronger drives related to that identity. I can also imagine it changing over time, because sometimes I do feel a lot more strongly than others. So this is where you get agender... if somebody doesn't feel any connection to gender identity at all, that's also kind of weird and awkward. They aren't particularly interested in being taken to be either a man or a woman. And after a while, it starts to get weird and awkward when people trying to "include" them as a man or as a woman when they just... don't feel that way. "Guy: I don't get women." "Girl: I don't get men." "Agender person: I don't get any of you." "Everybody: What? *awkward silence*"

And of course, identity and presentation are somewhat separate. Like: Even though I identify fully as female, I don't think I'm super femme. There are butch women and femme men, and that doesn't make them any less women or men. And different people might see different things as being appropriate ways to express their gender, like "taste". Is this shirt me? I don't wear skirts. I don't like having long hair, it makes me feel like less of a man. etc.

So yeah, just like sexuality, things are complicated. I hope that this will at least provide a foothold for understanding how experience of gender can be pretty wild. Maybe sexuality, too... I do think that the wider ranges of that are easier to "get" in modern western culture because we have a core idea that different people have different experiences of sexuality to start with. But... I also know that a lot of people don't even really think about the full range of that.

Human beings are neat. No two alike.

Excellent post Hypatian.

Nevin73 wrote:

I guess part of the problem is that while most of us get the sexuality spectrum, I think very few of us understand what it is to be gender queer. As I've said before, to me, it's binary. You either are a woman or you are a man (regardless of whatever plumbing is present). Before I read the ou-gate article I didn't know that there were alternatives and I'm not sure I'm educated enough yet to believe that there are.

If people can be homo, hetero, bisexual, asexual, and various points in the spectrum between then it's reasonable to assume that the same applies to gender. The brain is a complicated thing. And now that we're at a point in social development where people are beginning to feel like their personal identity might actually be respected as-is, we're hearing about it a lot more. But as Stengah said, it's ultimately just a matter of accepting people for how they are regardless of whether it fits into whatever mental model you've established.

This is why it is important to teach kids the difference between genetic sex and gender/sexuality. We are going over 100 years on formal writing on the subject, so any day now.

Ulairi wrote:

I'm willing to bet the queer population (I don't even know what that means) is smaller.

Don't really have anything to add that Hypatian hasn't covered but I figured I'd fill in this detail. Queer, in the sense we're currently discussing it, is a label used for that group of people who reject heteronormative gender and sexual roles and may even reject those roles which are traditionally defined in opposition to heternormativity. This sense of the word somewhat emerged from a branch of academic post-feminist analysis of society and culture (now conveniently labelled Queer Studies). As a self-identity it's typically used by people who don't feel or don't want to identify with one of the "acceptable" gender roles that society allows/polices (i.e. straight, gay or bi). Of course the word 'queer' is also used colloquially to mean 'gay' (at least in the UK) so to clarify people often use the compound term gender-queer when talking about gender in the way we currently are.

Just as a minor statistics point those figures are obviously bit of a low ball as they are reporting figures for people who willing self-identify as gay/bi/straight/trans/etc...But even at 3.5% that means pretty close to everyone will have various people on the LGBTQ spectrum in their lives at some point or another.

So what prefix do would you use with a gender queer individual? Mr.? Ms.?

I get life is complicated and the Kinsey scale, asexuals, and everything else in the sexual spectrum. Not identifying with a gender? Does not compute for me at all. And while I am respectful to people, I can't see myself ever using "ou". I think I'd just refer to the person by name.

Nevin73 wrote:

So what prefix do would you use with a gender queer individual? Mr.? Ms.?

I get life is complicated and the Kinsey scale, asexuals, and everything else in the sexual spectrum. Not identifying with a gender? Does not compute for me at all. And while I am respectful to people, I can't see myself ever using "ou". I think I'd just refer to the person by name.

You could try asking them what they prefer? This really doesn't need to be harder than that.