It isn’t possible to have a full discussion of the biases that we keep without talking about the non-binary gendered and a little linguistic problem that allows the rest of us to dehumanize them in conversation. This is the fact that they have no singular pronoun and many people simply use “it”. Using “it” to describe a person is simply not acceptable. I learned just how important language can be for these issues when I was very young and saw a controversy happen with my favorite tv show. Yes, I’m a nerd and geek. I used to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation when the third wave feminists decided that the language was not acceptable and must be changed in order to stop promoting sexist ideals. Or something like that. I just really remember being irritated at the time because I didn’t get it.
“To boldly go where no man has gone before.” As a race, we are still referred to as “man,” and perhaps “human” would have been a better literal change but adding the syllable probably would have caused scoring problems.
“To boldly go where no one has gone before.” As if the show was about discovering places that weren’t inhabited. The people that live there were there before. We were no longer identifying the progress of the human race, we were identifying the exploration and travel of all races. Why would we do that?
I realize that this is coming from the privileged perspective of a cis-woman who has never had her gender questioned. The point is that, if the language was so important to feminists of the time, why are we not having a larger conversation about pronouns and other non-binary gendered terms now? The language doesn’t stop bigotry, prejudice or any of the other ignorant things that people do. What it does, though, is limit the ability of people to dehumanize other genders. There has been discussion of the new pronouns to use, but none have gotten any recognition outside of the communities that are looking for it. None have made it into the Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary or Dictionary.com.
Here are some articles discussing the issue. Personally, I vote for ze and hir.
Here is a TEDtalk that highlights some of the problems that the non-binary gendered face and one person’s ability to help them: https://www.ted.com/talks/norman_spack_how_i_help_transgender_teens_become_who_they_want_to_be
Here are some statistics on why this is a bigger problem than people realize
Again, I don’t think that giving them a singular pronoun will solve all their problems and make the staggering suicide rate plummet. However, I do think that not using language to dehumanize a sect of our population could be the first step to eliminating the widespread bias against them. It’ll also help us to talk about bringing up their gender equality, as is my goal for all people.
Find me on Twitter at @createparity and at Create Parity on Pinterest for more about gender issues!