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Burned all my pronouns, what good are pronouns.

I mean, I’ve written about pronouns, like, fourteen years ago pronouns, and while I wince and cringe today at the patronizing tone I took then (forgive me, I was old), the basic stance is one I still take firmly: any system with two gender-poles requires at a minimum five genders of pronouns to operate with any dignity or grace. —That said, and the reason I bring this up now, now that pronouns and their various uses have progressed so far that bios should list them and badges should ribbon them and a third-rate Jungian washout can achieve international fame by refusing to honor them, now that we’ve come so much further than anyone might’ve thought possible fourteen years ago, the reason I bring it up is because when I go to take a step I wholly support everyone else in taking, to suggest or insist upon their preferred or actual pronouns—I find I can’t, and it’s for an entirely irrational reason that only applies to me, and yet, but still: I’d be telling you how to talk about me when I’m not there. —Which seems (to me! only for me!) inescapably, well. Rude. (To me! For me! You, you’re all fine! All of you! And beautiful!)

  1. Jonah Sutton-Morse    Aug 18, 05:43 PM    #

    I dearly love that you have this sense that such dictation would be rude, while also hoping that in another 14 years or so you will look back and apologize for how Old you were. Personally, when I hear someone else’s pronouns, I appreciate that there is this bit more which we can concretely acknowledge about each other (since I am increasingly feeling that for me, at least, the arms-length-ness we so often keep ourselves to out of some kind of politeness is alienating in a particularly dangerous and (to be a Quaker for a moment, while also bothering grammar) anti-Integrity way.)


  2. Mark Gisleson    Aug 19, 07:49 AM    #

    It feels weird being here. Like visiting an ancient aunt you haven’t seen since childhood but talk to every now and then via email.

    Should pronouns change as you get older? Based on whether you are pre-pubescent, sexually active, sexually inactive, too old for sex? Because whether you go with 5 or 16 genders, you’re talking about sex. And that’s really all you’re talking about.

    Is is necessary for us to parse gender that finely to tell a story? Each character’s sexual preferences have to be frontloaded? No discovery, no character evolution? Just wait for a pronoun and all will be revealed?

    Not arguing, just working this out in my head.


  3. Kip Manley    Aug 19, 06:09 PM    #

    But I, too, love learning other people’s pronouns, Jonah! This is strictly and solely about me, regarding me, for me: the math we’re doing’s like quaternions, or octonians: neither commutative, nor associative. It doesn’t add up when you turn it about. And yet.

    And Mark: you say all we’re talking about is sex, but my God, the worlds upon worlds squeezed into those three letters. —The five genders I refer to are merely the logical results of insisting on two poles, the A, and the B: you must also account for those that are both A and B at once; those that are neither A nor B; and all those circumstances and situations in which it makes no difference, A, B, both, or neither, so let’s leave the question unassumed and be about our business. —And while the singular they is doing yeoman’s work in covering all the various possibilites beyond merely A, or B, it can’t cover them all without losing some nuance, and nuance? Well.

    —It’s weird, is the thing, to be writing a third-person scene, in which someone the readers have never encountered before steps onto the stage, and to realize that you can’t begin to speak about them without revealing their gender, or revealing that you’re going to great lengths to avoid revealing (for now) their gender. It grates.


  4. Mark Gisleson    Aug 20, 12:15 PM    #

    Not a fiction writer, at least not yet, so I can’t comment from that perspective. But as a reader all I ask is that you frame your story in a way that gives me a sense of your world, and then proceed as you wish. I routinely process made-up titles and words when reading SF, I don’t think your using unfamiliar pronouns would trip me up. After reading Delany’s Triton when it was published, I’m not really sure why you feel limited to him/her/they. If you feel obliged not to make up words, just use third person pronouns for everyone. I did this as a business writer and as a blogger and it didn’t seem to bother anyone but ‘they’ does lack intimacy and I can see that being an issue.


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