Free Speech and Pronouns

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Suppose someone asks to be referred to by a gender-neutral pronoun: ‘their’, or maybe ‘ze’.   (A) Do you have to do it?  (B) Is it wrong if you don’t?  (C) Does anyone else have the right to require you to do it?  The answers are:  (A) Yes;  (B) Normally; and (C) Sometimes.

(A) We have a social obligation to address people and refer to them in the way they prefer. If your friend wants to be called Daniel and not Dan, then Daniel it is.  If Dad wants to be called Dad and not Bob, you call him Dad.  If Ms. Ahmed marries Mr. Mackenzie, you continue to call her ‘Ms. Ahmed’ unless and until she tells you otherwise—you never insist on ‘Mrs. Mackenzie’ against her wishes.  You call an instructor ‘Dr’ or ‘Professor’ as appropriate, unless invited to call them something else.  (Especially in the case of women. They earned their titles, yet often suffer ‘Miss,’ or even ‘Judy,’ from people who reflexively acknowledge the authority of male instructors.)

(B)   At the same time, a breach of a social obligation isn’t always a big deal, morally speaking. You shouldn’t wear a Hawaiian shirt to a funeral, and you shouldn’t smoke in a friend’s company without permission.  But these are matters of etiquette, not morality.  Why is deliberate mis-naming different? People’s names, titles, and pronouns are part of their identity, and to deliberately address them in a way other than they wish is a gratuitous insult.  That is wrong in itself.  But it is also to presuppose that they are to be admitted to your conversational world only on your terms, not on their own.  That is not only offensive to them, it is also an offence against them.  Of course, there are exceptions.  If you oppose titles of nobility or religious nomenclature, you have no duty to call someone ‘Lord Black’ or ‘Father Brown’, even if their bearers prefer it.  But what if you firmly believe married women should take their husband’s names, because St Paul said something that, in your view, requires that?  Doesn’t that make it morally permissible for you to insist on calling Ms. Ahmed ‘Mrs. Mackenzie’?   No: Love your neighbour as yourself.  And grow up.

(C)  Now, what about free speech? Even if mis-naming is a breach of social obligation, and even when it is also a breach of moral duty, doesn’t the free speech principle prohibit others requiring me to address people as they wish.  Isn’t that my call?  Who is anyone to boss me around?

It is hard to believe, but a Canadian professor of psychology (who insists on ‘Dr. Peterson’ from the press) thought that this would amount to ‘silent slavery with all the repression and resentment that that will generate.’ Knowing even less about the law than he apparently does about psychology, Dr. Peterson fears that pronominal intransigence might expose him to hate speech prosecution.  It would not.  But it might, and I think it should, expose him to discipline on his campus.

Universities are not just public platforms; we have work to do.  One aspect of that work is teaching students in an environment in which they can learn without distraction and, in particular, without being insulted or needlessly exposed to risk.  To insist on calling transgender students (or faculty) by anything other than the name and pronouns they prefer is a gratuitous insult.  (See above, (B): ‘Grow up’.)  More important, students cannot learn effectively when subjected to regular offence or humiliation from their instructors.  So take your opposition to the ‘silent slavery’ of pronouns to Youtube or Hyde Park Corner, where your audiences are not captive.

Mis-naming can sometimes be worse than an insult.  Imagine an anti-Semitic professor who thinks far too many Jews are admitted to his university.  Imagine it is already dangerous for Jewish students on campus. The professor breaches no other laws or regulations, but does insist on mis-naming his Jewish students:  He knows that Green’s father changed the family name from ‘Greenberg’, so that is what he calls Green.  He pronounces all middle-European names ‘correctly’, to emphasize their foreignness:  ‘Weidenfeld’ gets ‘Vy-den-feldt’, never ‘Wy-dun-feld’.  Mike always gets ‘Micah’.  And so on.  If challenged,  he says his mis-naming is merely correcting errors.  He says his purpose in doing that is to highlight Jewish over-representation.  His secondary purpose–he also says–is to stand up for free speech, and to strike back at ‘social justice warriors’ who are trying to sell people like him into ‘silent slavery’.  The effect of his behaviour is that Jewish students are now even more anxious than before, for he has made them visible targets for anti-semitic discrimination, or worse.

There used to be instructors like this.  (Perhaps in some places they still exist.) But there are now many more instructors like Dr. Peterson, who insist on their right to call transgender students by a previous name (perhaps the one on their application form) or to refer to them by what he considers to be their genitally mandated pronouns.  Where transgender people are at risk of discrimination and violence—which is to say, everywhere—this marks them as targets, even if the actual discrimination or assault is left to others.

But isn’t that effectively to ban discussion of transgender rights or (in the case of the Jewish students) to cramp exploration of admission policies?   Of course not.  Prohibiting deliberate mis-naming would be a reasonable time, manner, and place regulation in a university classroom. There is no ‘slavery’ here, silent or otherwise.  Then what about ‘all the … resentment that that would generate’?  Feelings of resentment are partially within our control.   The case for campus speech regulations is at the same time a case for learning to control one’s resentments.  If they prove intractable to rational control, there is always psychotherapy.

 

 

 

37 thoughts on “Free Speech and Pronouns

  1. Mis-naming and mis-gendering also can endanger transgender students even apart from cases of direct address. Take, for instance, instructors speaking to one another outside of the context of a classroom. If a student has disclosed to you they are trans, and you use pronouns which do not match their gender presentation, you are essentially outing them to other faculty. While calling a female professor “Miss” behind her back might be disparaging, it doesn’t carry the same level of new information to your interlocutors (though it could communicate marital status which isn’t so conveyed by “Professor”). I often see intentional mis-gendering online as a way of insulting trans people who are visibly out, which is distressing. However, I think it’s important to keep in mind that many of our students may not wish to be so visibly open about their trans history, and insistence on using different pronouns and names can cause significant repercussions.

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    • A good point—thanks. I meant my example of outing Jews to capture this possibility, but you do so more pointedly. And, now that I think of it, the same might well apply to calling Ms Ahmed ´Mrs Mackenzie’.

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  2. … A lot of what you say sounds very sensible, especially distinguishing between etiquette/social obligation, moral obligation and legal obligation. That really does seem to be the crux of the issue. But I don’t think you really delve deep enough into the issue or come clean about the legal matter. I don’t really think you lay out a clear enough answer to (C), or least I didn’t understand what it was — and I think this is connected to your failure to engage with what I understand to be JP’s official position on a number of issues. JP has said (e.g., in the famous and very public interview with Channel 4’s Cathy Newman) that he personally never has refused, and never would refuse, to call people, e.g., his students, by their preferred pronouns. I don’t believe there is any evidence that he has ever “mis-named” or “mis-pronouned” anyone or intends to do so. But anyway, even if he did and does, that’s really beside the point, because what he objects to is being *legally* compelled to do so, so that not doing so is criminalized by being in the same category as a hate crime; so, e.g., intentionally and knowingly calling a trans-woman a man and ‘he’ would be akin to a racist hate crime. In short, in your terms, mis-naming is indeed a breach of social and moral obligation, and therefore one shouldn’t do it, but it should not be made a breach of the law, so that one is legally forced not to do it and can go to prison for doing it. Similarly, one shouldn’t break promises, lie, commit adultery, and so on, but they shouldn’t be illegal. Perhaps one shouldn’t sleep with one’s students but should it be illegal to do so? It’s really not clear what your view is. … In short, I don’t think you really confront the various deep and difficult issues swirling around this business, in particular the *legal* questions — which I found surprising since you’re a law professor. But maybe you do somewhere else! If so, please let us know. Thanks again for a stimulating post.

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    • Thanks. The difficulty with general comments on a legal position (which, you rightly note, I am not really discussing here) is that the law varies from country to country. I was focussing on people’s moral rights. That is worth thinking through because those who think that no one has the right to tell them how to address others also think that, if the law of their jurisdiction *does* give someone that right, then the law is wrong and should be changed. With respect to Canadian criminal law, I am confident that, on the facts in the article, no criminal prosecution under any of the hate speech laws would succeed. (By the same token, however, even persistent and unwelcome comments of any kind may amount to assault or harassment.) The case I was defending was not direct legal compulsion, but rather the permissibilty of a university, as someone’s employer, having internal speech code requirements that people address each other as they wish to be addressed.

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      • In fact, a recent human rights tribunal has fined a Christian man in British Columbia (Canada) $55000 for referring to a trans woman as male. This is just the sort of thing that Jordan Peterson speculated could happen. If the man is unable to come up with the $55000, it is unknown whether he would be jailed. (The thing is, though, you could argue that the man actually correctly gendered this person. It seems pretty Orwellian that we can fine – or possibly imprison – a person for correctly identifying their sex.)

        The trans woman involved in this particular incident also successfully campaigned to have Vancouver’s oldest rape relief centre defunded because they didn’t believe it was right for women who were victims of violence sexual assaults to have a safe space to recover free from people with male bodies.

        In an incident from 2018, another trans woman from British Columbia also tried to sue 16 female aestheticians for human rights’ violations. These women provided Brazilian bikini wax services to women only (the procedure and products used to wax males’ groins is different, apparently). The complainant had apparently sought out aestheticians who only served women and insisted that they provide them with a bikini wax. Apparently, the women found it difficult to find representation because lawyers didn’t want to handle their cases. If the trans woman had won, we would be in a situation where the Canadian government would be forcing women against their will to touch males’ penises (if they said they were women). Honestly, that would be state sanctioned sexual assault in my opinion… Luckily for these women, the trans person eventually withdrew their complaint.

        I’m not a fan of Jordan Peterson, but I do agree with him with regard to Bill C-16 in Canada. These two recent incidents will no doubt be followed by others.

        For reference:

        https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/court-orders-christian-to-pay-55000-to-trans-politician-for-calling-him-biological-male

        https://www.jccf.ca/victory-for-bc-aesthetician-who-faced-human-rights-complaint-for-refusal-to-perform-waxing-service-on-transwoman/

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      • Thanks. The first decision seems correct to me. (I’ve quickly scanned the reasons; the account on the website you’ve linked is hopelessly incompetent.). In any case, neither bears on my post, which argues only that *sometimes* people have a right that others address them as they wish, and that a university classroom is one of those contexts. (If any teacher referred to trans students in the way this creep referred to the candidate, she would certainly face discipline. The agreed facts at paras 15-16 are pretty shocking. No?). Neither does the decision support the hysterical claim by Peterson that I quoted.

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      • Every reasonable person agrees that no one on a university campus should be insulted, abused, harassed, intimidated, humiliated, bullied, etc. and that doing so is rightly grounds for being disciplined and even fired. ….. on the other hand, [that] isn’t the endorsement of any controversial socio-political stance any one could reasonably object to.

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      • The question I was trying to explore is this: *why* should a reasonable person agree that deliberate mis-naming of students (on whatever grounds) correctly falls under such a policy. (BTW I think you are optimistic about what reasonable people agree with, in England anyway!)

        I touch on the endorsement issue in response to the previous comment. To *believe* that the use of P expresses endorsement of Q does not make it so, and even if it did, there are countervailing reasons nonetheless to use P in classrooms (the only (c)-type case I discuss). Moreover, off campus, one can take to the blog, Youtube, the Conservative Party Conference, etc and excoriate those with views that one thinks are open to reasonable objections. One is not reduced to a form of ‘silent slavery’.

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  3. … I think though that what is missing here is an awareness that the debate is in part one of ontology, in addition to politics. power, and preference. However much one respects a person or feels compassion for them, one may still solidly disagree on the ontological status of their claims and refuse to support them. Especially if one thinks that the world has gone mad. …To call someone ze might seem to be calling someone something that has no clear meaning within conventional language and to have no reference. To call someone by their self-identified gender pronoun may seem respectful of their wishes, but might seem incorrect as a matter of fact if one doesn’t ascribe to self-identification as the ground of gender. …

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    • People use ‘ontology’ various ways. I think you’re using it to mean ‘what is true as a matter of fact’. But I do not deny that there is, say, a matter of fact about how ‘Weidenfeld’ is correctly pronounced. Still, it would be wrong to correct people’s pronunciation of their own names. Or the spelling: I know someone whose parents misspelled ‘Michael’ as ‘Micheal’ on his birth registration. (They were poorly educated and barely literate in English but liked the sound of the name.) That is how to think about the temptation to ‘correct’ people’s preference in pronouns. As for ‘ze’, I’m afraid that horse has already bolted. Language changes. Think, also, about how insultingly cruel it would be to insist on correctness even if–contrary to my argument–you were right. What sort of way is that to treat people? (‘Your name is REALLY spelled ‘Michael’!)

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      • …To ask to be called ‘ze’ is to ask to have one’s identity (read: personality) elevated to the status of protected class, on par with sex and race. There is a legitimate argument, I think, to decline such a request…

        … A case must be made that the deviation is not only appropriate, but also minimize the ‘linguistic burden’ on others. …

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      • I don’t argue that the reason to use a requested nomenclature elevates anything to protected status. (Bob/Robert? Dad/Bob?). Why would anyone think that?

        What is a ‘linguistic burden’? I think I am no way burdened by, say, pronouncing Weidenfeld as ‘Wy-den-feld’. I am not burdened by calling ‘Robert’ ‘Roberta’, if she wants. Some people get pissed off when asked to do something they don’t want to do; but that is a different matter.

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  4. …None of the situations suggested as analogies here seem very close to the issue of transgender identity (at least, as Professor Peterson et al. understand it) – because they hold that gender is binary, that the person REALLY IS the sex they were born with, and to require them to use a different pronoun would be to ask them to express a falsehood. …

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    • I’m pretty sure the objection to requiring respect for people’s wishes in nomenclature, especially in a university classroom, is that it could require people to say things that (some think) come with a presupposition that runs *contrary to their beliefs*–not merely something that runs contrary to what is actually true. If it were the latter, their objection would fall, for it is false that gender (never mind sex) is binary. They do not intend their intransigence to be liable to correction in light of the facts.

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  5. Dr. Green, in the abstract, I think you are correct. But in the current toxic environment, where people are being visited by the police for saying perfectly common things like “women don’t have penises,” the use of these pronouns and especially the more contrived ones seems to me to take on a different cast. I can understand why people would become defiant, when stories like these are becoming more common.

    https://www.thepostmillennial.com/british-womans-family-relentlessly-mobbed-by-activists-for-misgendering/

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    • That’s not what the linked report says. It is one story of cyber-abuse and harassment, including one frivolous report to the police of child-abuse. It does not report people being investigated for saying such things. (Which, if it happened, would be wrong.)

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  6. Right next to zero chance of adoption, nevertheless it seems to me a better route to reduce, rather than increase, the number of pronouns. So drop “he” etc. and take up “it” and “they”. Simpler and no loss of important information. But, as I said, right next to zero.

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    • That sounds right. ‘They’ is already well entrenched as a singular. Though it is rash to predict how a natural language might change. (Vide: urban dictionary)

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  7. Your discussion is a fine summary of the relevant etiquette, but is more avoiding the relevant philosophical issues than addressing them.

    To take your own example: Suppose the teacher of a class insisted on being referred to as “Dr. Smith” although they don’t have a doctorate. You might say: “professor” is a fine alternative in this case, but that’s not on the table; the person in question prefers “Dr.” and corrects anyone not using that term.

    In this case the university would likely not back that instructor up. It’s a credentialing institution and “doctor” is one of those credentials. It, and other universities, decide who does and doesn’t have the status, not individuals based on how they see themselves. It would say “stop insisting on this — you don’t have a doctorate”.

    So it’s not all about someone’s preferences in how they want to be referred to. And if it’s about more than whatever the current etiquette calls for, your discussion hasn’t really grappled with what that might be.

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    • How is a name like a credential? (Call me Dan, not Daniel’; ‘It’s not Mrs Mackenzie, it’s Ms Ahmed’, ‘I’m Roberta, not Robert’). As you imply, there is an obvious public interest in not allowing people to mislead others about professional credentials. What is the parallel public interest in names or pronouns?

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  8. Interesting post.

    Perhaps a credential can be like a name, deeply meaningful and central to one’s self concept. If so, can it not be so central that it is morally harmful to refuse to address one by an earned title?Imagine a deeply religious person who has spent his whole life pursuing the title and role of “father” and conceives of himself as much a deliverer of spiritual guidance as anything else. Perhaps he derives the bulk of his self-worth from this role. How then could it be right to refuse to call such a person “father” based on one’s objection to organized religion but, in the case of Mrs Mackenzie, be required to love thy neighbor and grow up? Why needn’t we do the same in both cases? Is there a principle underlying the distinction drawn in section (B) above that I’m missing?

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    • Some people think that using (as opposed to mentioning) religious honorifics is to express some degree of acceptance of the institution in which they are embedded. That is why, for instance, Roman Catholics tend not to refer to ‘His Holiness’ in respect of the Dalai Lama. I can imagine it being, in some circumstances, good etiquette nonetheless to use it. And, to take the context closest to the one of my post, I can imagine it being wrong not for seminarians not to use his title. But, in general, he is no more entitled to insist on it from others than is, say, the master of a Masonic Lodge entitled to expect non-Masons to refer to him as ‘Worshipful Master’—no matter how hard he worked for the elevation, or how invested he is in it,

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      • ….we see that trans people use pronouns in a different way to non-trans, and so (as per your last sentence) why should trans people be entitled to expect such practice from non-trans people?…

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      • I think they are entitled to it for the same reason that, say, Jews are entitled to expect Gentiles to pronounce Jewish names as they wish them to be pronounced in Anglophone countries. (See the Weidenfeld example in the post.)

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  9. Hi. That distinction makes perfect sense, thanks. However, based on what I know of Jordan Peterson’s views (and I am no expert, merely an outside observer) his stance is formally similar. That is, he believes (and I am not defending this but I also have no reason to doubt his sincerity) that legislation has been passed that is based on (again, what he takes to be) a view of the relation between sex and gender that is not scientifically supported so he does not want to be compelled to endorse this view by the government, but will refer to individuals as they request. Do you read him differently? Or, do you not see these as analogous positions? I’m just trying to understand the logical terrain here, so I apologize for any naïveté on my part.

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    • I don’t read Peterson at all. I was reacting to the quoted comments about the threat to free speech on campus. You may be right, for all I know about the rest of his views. My post isn’t really about Peterson.

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  10. … You said that one appropriate reason to refuse to use a religious title is that you don’t want to “endorse” the institutions or the religion involved. Could that be a legitimate reason to refuse to use a gendered pronoun or title — could it amount to an endorsement of a metaphysics of gender and sex that you reject and regard as harmful, for philosophical reasons? …

    …could there be a public interest in correctly identifying biological sex? Would protecting biological females from the violence of biological males be one? …

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    • Thanks for this.

      If there were any reason to think that using a particular nomenclature did express or presuppose endorsement then one might, in some cases, have a prima facie reason not to use it, if one rejected the endorsement. *Unless*: it is wrong (socially, or morally) *not* to endorse what it expresses, or the reasons for using it were preponderant. (That is my case (c) ). But: merely *thinking* that the use of P endorses Q does not show that it does. That is a matter of presuppositions etc in a public language. It pisses off some people that Jews (or immigrants) to Anglophone countries often anglicize their names to fit in. Someone who is anti-Semitic, or against immigration, may well prefer to name them ‘correctly’. They may have a deeply held view that allowing them to change their names, or their orthography, is to endorse anti-Anti-semitisim, or pro-immigration policies. But that is simply false.

      I think there are many cases in which there is a public interest in correctly indentifying sex. I discuss that issue here: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/news/2019-04-01-legal-oughts-and-stuff. But I can’t think of a public interest in the case under discussion: (c)

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  11. …some feminists who hold that being a woman rather than a man gives one’s testimony on women’s issues considerable credibility, and those feminists are therefore reluctant to use feminine pronouns for those who have not experienced the oppression they feel that women typically undergo. To them, it seems, calling someone by female pronouns is a way of assigning that credential to the person under discussion….

    …. [And] critics of trans activism who feel that many people are pushed into seeing themselves as trans when they are in fact (these people argue) much more likely to be gay or lesbian,….

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    • Thanks for this.

      Your first point is interesting, and there may be cases in which it holds good. I’ll want to think more about that. Offhand, I don’t think it matters (much) in the case I was discussing ( (c): classroom speech). Of course, many other feminist deny the premise about testimony.

      One doesn’t need to be a critic of transactivism to resist people (children, in the cases that are most worrying) being pushing into gender re-assignment treatment and surgery. Nothing in my post touches on that issue though.

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  12. Suppose a sincere person X finds the standard regimen of pronouns, including ‘ze’, excessively binding, because none of the pronouns matches X’s identity. The only pronoun that does honour X’s identity is (regrettably) forty syllables long and includes phonemes found only in Kabardian and certain extinct Athabaskan languages.

    Analysis:

    It seems that the principle you have outlined for (C) should — unless limited — require us to (grow up and) learn to use this new and cumbersome pronoun.

    One possible limit: ‘Let’s stick to pronouns that any normal, reasonable person could be expected to use fluently, without too much inconvenience.’ If we accept this limit, I think ‘ze’ might have to go. The burden of adding a pronoun is considerable (and gets greater as we age!). So too is the burden of repurposing plural pronouns as singular, as some do. ‘They are a cardiologist’ etc.

    Another possible limit is the one proposed — but binding instead on both parties: ‘Love your neighbour.’ It is loving to *try* to honour X with the pronoun of choice. But if it is difficult to do so, it is loving for X to acknowledge that the request is complex and difficult, and to accept that the ideal solution imposes too great a burden on others and is not ideal for them. ‘Go ahead and call me “he.” It’s not my preferred pronoun, but my preferred one is just too much for me to reasonably ask. I know you don’t mean offense!’

    Conclusion:

    If someone asks me to use ‘he’ or ‘she’, I’d have to be quite a twit not to oblige. If someone asks me to use an invented pronoun or to deform standard English grammar, I will try to oblige but will not feel bound by etiquette or morality to succeed. If I am X, I will make only reasonable demands, and will think very carefully about whether freshly coined pronouns etc. are reasonable demands.

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    • Thanks for this.

      A couple of people make related points. But I don’t see any burden here, unreasonable or otherwise. Unless you mean the burden of having to do something you don’t want to do. We should reject that idea of a ‘burden’: we want to be able to say ‘I don’t want to do that *because* it is burdensome to me’. We don’t take that to mean ‘I don’t want to do that because I don’t want to do that.’

      Compare: you get a new colleague whose name is ‘Niamh’. You think: ‘I have no idea how to pronounce that, so I’ll just call her “Nancy”‘. She asks you not to call her ‘Nancy’: ‘My name is “Niamh” [pronounced, roughly, ‘neeve’]’. You think: ‘there is no way I’m going to learn that–it’s such a burden! I don’t mind learning a new English name, but there is no way I have to learn how to pronounce Irish names. This is a matter of principle!!!

      It sounds hysterical–and also a bit dishonest.

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      • Well, there would surely be a burden in the hypothetical case above. Whether there is a burden in the case of (a) a conventional English pronoun or (b) an easily vocable neologism like ‘ze’ is another matter.

        I see little merit to the claim that (a) imposes a burden, and am inclined to see the claim that it does impose one as barely-concealed hostility to the idea of trans-ness per se.

        For (b), which analogizes better to ‘Niamh’, the situation is not so clear, and might be made clear by empirical data. Are pronouns like proper nouns? There might be a way to measure just how taxing it is to adopt ‘ze’, relative to pronouncing a new and exotically spelled name. This is a matter for psycholinguistics. I would not be surprised to discover that open-class words like pronouns use different pathways that are in fact quite cumbersome to lay down, much more so that the burden involved in saying ‘neeve’ for ‘Niamh’.

        Suppose your colleague is not the very easy ‘Niamh’ but ‘Llewellyn’, pronounced with the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative common to Welsh but rather difficult for most English speakers. Your colleague insists on your making this sound correctly — it is his name, after all. I’d say you should give it your best try (and perhaps enjoy the challenge), but if Llewellyn sees you struggle and continues to insist, then at some point the defect is his personality, and not his name.

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      • Fair enough in that hypothetical case.

        It is pretty hard to believe that is an important consideration in, say, Robert/Roberta; he/she; and even (in my view) s/he/ they. A lot of people mention ‘ze’ which, others note, is hardly ever requested. I mentioned ‘ze’ once, in passing. I’m not familiar with any actual case where nominal or pronominal intransigence rests on inability.

        In any event, ‘ought implies can’ is a fair constraint on social obligations. (‘Black tie’) Something tells me, however, that inability is not the actual ground on which the hostile rest their case.

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      • With Robert/a and she/he, I regard the decision to stick with a non-preferred pronoun as indefensible. (‘They’ is a little tougher, since it introduces grammatical short circuits. Do we use plural verb forms with ‘they’? How about with the proper noun? ‘Prof Lazenby are a Fellow of Hogwarts College’ etc.)

        My only contention here is that the principle is not ‘we must call people whatever they want to be called’, contra a common claim, but something more modest, that takes into account an (as-yet-uncharted) standard of social reasonability. The world should bend, and so should the individual — but not infinitely. The reason ‘ze’ keeps getting brought up, and not only by me, is that it does seem that the original principle would authorise too much, and no one feels comfortable being bullied into writing blank checks.

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      • We have no disagreement. I would not defend the principle ‘always address people as they wish, no matter what they wish, no matter when—and failure to do so is a matter of strict liability.’

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