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 an 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 is a cisgender woman despites how they describe themself as a gender outlaw (2019). The pronoun go-round symbolizes a welcoming gesture for the trans* community into 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 components of hyper femininity is not universal, it is by culture and history that influences our notion of femininity. Pink is a classic example of culture changing an object’s meaning over time, pink used to represent masculinity (as blue 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 plural: Masculinities and femininities. Sociologist R.W Connell coined masculinities to describe how masculinity is plural and includes four forms: hegemonic (social dominant), complicit (not hegemonic but does not challenge the concept), marginalized masculinity that are 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 for 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 the trans* community. However, we must consider the negative outcomes of pronoun go round, as the group themselves may not entirely accept the trans* community, especially by cis normativity, such as shaming a trans*woman who is unable to pass as 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 her gender but feel uncomfortable to continue presenting themselves as cisgender. Every action we take is political, no matter how trivial it appears. It is critical to understand why every action and words 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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