the pronoun thing
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Especially in spaces where I have the responsibility of setting up norms of engagement - classrooms, panels, teach-ins, workshops, whatever - I suffer about going around the room and requiring everyone state their pronouns.
Instead, I open with something like this about introductory remarks:
I have a nonsovereign relationship with my gender.
Though to be fair, it would be baffling and ungenerous to not assume that others
have not experienced the growing pains of developing a whole
entire personality stuck in a body - stubborn as bodies are - that is also caught up in all the demands of having a life and being in the world.
Many things about someone's appearance and how it can be read by others are out of their control.
Things can change depending on what is happening at any given moment, in any given place, with any particular people.
At the intersection where orientalist stereotypes of effeminized Asian masculinity
and luscious traditions of masculine-of-center, boyish dyke aesthetics meet is the thin
veil between legibility and illegibility. Infuriating, heartbreaking, and even hilarious
things happen there.
(and sometimes, girls just wanna wear suits)
It is worth nothing that it is only one of many places where histories of the racializations of gender, of the sexualizations of race, and of a heavy dose of class politics can meet.
Sometimes, it may be an issue of safety;
sometimes, it may be an issue of play;
sometimes, it is just annoying to have one more thing to have to think about.
Sometimes, it can also be a matter of not knowing what one wants, yet.
When we ask someone for their pronouns, we are actually asking two separate questions:
not just what their pronouns are,
but also their level of certainty about it.
It is ok to not be sure, yet,
or to never want to be,
or to not know where to start in order to be,
or to not have known it was a thing one could be unsure about, in the first place.
Not knowing what you're supposed to ask of yourself can be excruciatingly alienating - particularly when one feels like all the cool kids are hip to all the rad, awesome, dope, lit, edgy, sick, sweet, totally tubular jargon that can be easily deployed to perform enlightenment, or radicalism, or something.
This is not to say that the pronoun thing should not be done. It should.
But that it is also worth the time to offer a brief caveat about why it would be entirely appropriate
for someone to not say/declare their pronouns.
It wouldn't hurt to establish, explicitly, that the absence of a declaration (for example: doing introductions and just going from NAME to MOON SIGNS or FAVORITE REASON LA IS LAKERLAND BECAUSEPFFTCLIPPERSNATIONLOL) will not be read as an absence of care, or courage, or critical chops.
Ensuring and protecting space to demystify the relations of power
built into the
categorizations-oft-turned-hierarchizations of people is not only an act of generosity for those in the room,
it is also one part of teaching why the present was not the only logical outcome of history.
That's why it is important to maintain the practice.
it is also important to consider how:
while the unspoken is often where power calcifies into suffocating norms,
it is also possible that the tacit might hold open space for liberating, pleasurable, or just deeply deeply true uncertainties.
She/hers is just fine.
Though I have learned that some people prefer to use they/them for me, and that's just fine, too.