The Pronoun Go-Round

Is the Pronoun Go-Round helpful for the Trans* Community?

I’m glad that I was able to share my thoughts in class on topics like
sharing pronouns in public. I was given the assignment to explain my thoughts.
Here’s what I wrote for class, except that this is an edited version of my
answer:

The pronoun go-round breaks traditional gender order rather than reinforcing
it. However, we should consider the ramification of coming out as trans* in
public spaces. Professor Reis maintains that pronoun go-round evokes
transphobia by risking people’s vulnerabilities, such as how her student, a
trans*woman, felt frightened to publicly state her pronouns and see other
students staring at her because of her masculine appearance (2016). The pronoun
go-round risk discrimination by singling people out as trans*.

On the other hand, Professor Jen Manion expounds how they felt invalidated
when people assume they are a cisgender woman despite how they describe
themself as a gender outlaw (2019). The pronoun go-round symbolizes a welcoming
gesture for the trans* community in group settings, such as conferences or
classrooms, through acknowledgment (Spade 2018). The actions of invalidating a
person’s identity create a transphobic culture by normalizing traditional
gender order, especially by threatening against or denying trans* identity.
People assume the objectivity of being a woman requires having a specific body,
heterosexuality, and femininity, along with other subliminal cultural
components unless we deconstruct them to distinguish its subjectivity, such as
realizing how Eurocentrism influences our notion of gender. An example is our
beauty standards, we internalize the notion of hyper-femininity as someone with
long hair, make-up, pink, and dresses or high-heels. The cultural component of hyper-femininity
is not universal, it is culture and history that influence our notion of
femininity. Pink is a classic example of culture changing an object’s meaning
over time, pink is used to represent masculinity (as blue is used to represent
femininity for the Virgin Mary).

Femininity is subjective since there is no absolute truth on what is truly
feminine. In fact, femininity and masculinity are both plurals: Masculinities
and femininities. Sociologist R.W Connell coined masculinities to describe how
masculinity is plural and includes four forms: hegemonic (socially dominant),
complicit (not hegemonic but does not challenge the concept), marginalized
masculinity that is unable to follow hegemonic masculinity (like Black men who
struggle to follow white masculinity, as they are stereotyped as
hyper-masculinity through racism) The concept of femininities depends on
objects deemed feminine or not, comparing femininities to masculinities and
vice versa. The cultural context of determining someone’s gender identity by
their appearance is widely accepted, consciously or subconsciously, into mainstream
culture by everyday actions, such as assigning pronouns by a person’s
femininities or masculinities. The hegemonic interpretation that gender is
binary and unchangeable makes it difficult for individuals to come out to
themselves and other people as trans*, thus leaving transphobia unchallenged.
The public sphere must acknowledge and accept the existence of the trans*
community. The acceptance of the trans* community enables us to accept more
marginalized groups, such as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, by
comprehending the intersectionality and the ramification of social inequality.

Overall, the pronoun-go-round is helpful for people to come out as
non-binary and it represents a form of acceptance of the trans* community.
However, we must consider the negative outcomes of pronouns-go-round, as the
group themselves may not entirely accept the trans* community, especially by cisnormativity,
such as shaming a trans*woman who is unable to pass as a cisgender woman. The
pronoun-go-round may function as a gesture for a group to promote liberal
beliefs, rather than critically understanding how it is risky for the
trans*community, as some trans* people struggle to come out about their gender
but feel uncomfortable continuing to present themselves as cisgender. Every
action we take is political, no matter how trivial it appears. It is critical
to understand why every action and word can impact culture through a collective
form.

Questions

  1. What are other methods of sharing pronouns should people encourage?
    • I am considering privately telling people what are your pronouns, or hinting what your pronouns.
  2. Why do you believe pronouns are significant in culture? What if everyone has the same pronoun in the future?

References

Manion, Jen. “The Performance of Transgender Inclusion.” Public Seminar, 30 Sept. 2019,

publicseminar.org/essays/the-performance-of-transgender-inclusion/.

Reis, Elizabeth. “Pronoun Privilege.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Sept.

2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/26/opinion/pronoun-privilege.html.

Spade, Dean. “We Still Need Pronoun Go-Rounds.” Dean Spade, 1 Dec. 2018,

deanspade.net/2018/12/01/we-still-need-pronoun-go-rounds/

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