The way I see it: pronoun anxiety

This posting makes use of full aspie bluntness (FAB). If you feel offended reading this, please count to ten and think about the many different ways people can see the world.

There’s a trend growing in certain circles to specifically call out pronouns, for example on name badges at a public gathering. Even with my innate need to see things in crisp black-and-white, I recognize that gender isn’t a binary proposition. There’s many reasons–many not publicly evident–why someone may prefer to be referred-to in a particular way.

I make this promise: I will never wittingly hurt someone by using a pronoun they find offensive. In fact, I get social-anxiety shudders even thinking about the awkwardness of getting that wrong.

But social anxiety has even more far-reaching effects. If we’ve just met and I’m talking to you, there’s a good chance I’ve already spent most of my available mental resources getting to that point. If I can remember your name, there are times I count that a major accomplishment. I can’t and don’t commit to remembering any particular pronoun choices.

(I once joked about the complexity of remembering everyone’s preferences by saying my preferred pronoun was a concise proof of P=NP, but I felt bad about that–unsure whether that was disrespectful to those with special prounoun needs–and deleted it.)

As small consolation, I promise in return to not get offended at any good-faith mistakes you make in referring to me.

The English language changes rapidly. Who knows what things will look like in the future? Maybe gendered pronouns will go away, or become more flexible. Meanwhile, we all do what we can, being kind to others–of whom we know only a fraction of what they’re going through.

Image: CC0/Pixabay

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