Pronouns and Transphobia

Recently, the University of Michigan has made an important change regarding pronouns which will help LGBTQ+ students feel they are seen, heard, and included on campus.  For anyone looking to see how this change was handled, see the email sent out, the school’s Spectrum Center page, and the school’s ITS help page.

As previously discussed, a pronoun is, as defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, “A word used instead of a noun to designate an object which is identifiable from context or usage, or which has already been mentioned or indicated (e.g. we, theirs, this, ourselves, who). (One of the parts of speech.)”

Personally, I think think this change is an important one because it is a step toward making initial classroom interactions less awkward for students who challenge or identify outside of the binary.  As an individual who does not identify with a binary gender and who has talked to a number of people who do not identify with binary genders, classroom situations with new teachers/professors can be extremely stressful because we never know how we will be referred to.  By including pronouns on the classroom roster, students no longer have to hope they have time to explain their pronoun preferences and have them understood and accepted.  Thank you to everyone who had a part in making this decision.  You are making a difference in the community, and we are extremely grateful for it.

Following this decision was the decision of one student, Grant Strobl, to write in “His Majesty” in the “Write Your Own” option on the gender identity page.  Though Grant has stated, “I have no problem with students asking to be identified a certain way,” Grant’s decision to start this movement in protest against what Grant considers to be “arbitrary” pronoun use is not at all supportive of students who ask to be identified outside of the gender binary.

I won’t link to any more specific comments because some of the comments can be triggering to trans* people and their allies, and I’m not here to trigger anyone, I’m here to talk about pronouns.

Now, let’s talk about “His Majesty” for a second, outside of the context of Grant Strobl.
“His,” as designated by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as well as countless other sources, is a pronoun.
“Majesty,” as designated by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary as well as countless other sources, is a noun.
In addition to this, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary has a subsection under “His” which states “In titles (as His Lordship, His Majesty): that he is. m16.”

In case you missed it, let me repeat this.
“In titles (as His Lordship, His Majesty)”

“His Majesty” is a title, an honorific if you need another word for it.

“His Majesty” is not a pronoun.

Even if you were to look at nounself pronouns, “His Majesty” is still not a pronoun.

Just because it has a pronoun in it, and can be used to refer to someone, does not inherently make it a pronoun.

The more this is spread around and other individuals join in and change their pronouns to other titles/honorifics/non-pronouns, the more transphobia is normalized.  It is not okay to continue to perpetuate the idea that our identities are arbitrary and shouldn’t be listened to or taken seriously.  My pronouns are no different than anyone else’s pronouns.  We all have them, we all use them, they are important to all of us, and they are used by all of us.

The fact that anyone feels like it is okay to make a joke out of what people sometimes spend their entire lives fighting for is pretty disgusting.  The fact that Grant, someone who is in a position to have a significant number of people follow him in this movement, is signaling to others that it is okay to spread transphobia and mock those who do not conform to the gender binary is pretty disgusting.  I know there’s a lot going on politically in this country right now which make it appear like bullying is okay, but it isn’t.  It is never okay to be a bully.  There are reasons we pass laws about bullying in schools, and this is one of them.

If anyone can sufficiently explain to me how “His Majesty” in its entirety is a pronoun, and whether it is a(n) personal, possessive, demonstrative, relative, reflexive/intensive, interrogative, or indefinite pronoun, please do.  But until that happens, if it even can, I take this as a threat to my community and to the things I stand for.  I support the school’s decision to add a space for preferred pronouns; I do not support students using the system to bully others and perpetuate hate.

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5 Responses to Pronouns and Transphobia

  1. Hugh Mungus says:

    Lol no one cares

  2. Kelley Silla says:

    Just about all of the things you state is astonishingly accurate and it makes me wonder why I hadn’t looked at this with this light previously. This article truly did turn the light on for me personally as far as this specific subject goes. But at this time there is 1 position I am not really too comfy with and while I attempt to reconcile that with the actual main theme of the issue, allow me see just what all the rest of the subscribers have to say.Well done.

    • Tyler says:

      I’m glad it was able to help you see the issue in a different light! If you don’t mind, which position were you not as comfortable with? I want to be able to better understand where you’re coming from.

  3. Her Majesty says:

    I think you failed to understand where His Majesty was coming from when designating the phrase “His Majesty” as His Majesty’s pronouns.

    Grant was NOT looking to dismiss transgenderism– he was trying to call into question a policy that would force sanctions on teachers if they didn’t call a student something as ridiculous as “His Majesty”. And if you watched interviews with Grant, he makes it vocal he really only did this because he found it silly teachers could face harsh punishments for not referring to a student by, in Grant’s own words, “words that aren’t even actual pronouns”.

    Because at the end of the day, pronouns are SUPPOSED to be easy ways to refer to someone so you don’t have to say, “Alex went to Alex’s house and ate Alex’s sandwich.” Instead, you can do the easier “Alex went to her house and ate her sandwich.” Forcing others to remember to refer to people as fake words like “xir” and “phe” defeats their purpose and they may as well just call those people by name to save themselves the trouble.

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