Transgender high days and holy days are coming thick and fast. Today* marks ‘International Pronouns Day 2021’. The organisers tell us that the third Wednesday of October is the day to, ‘make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace.’
I write a lot about transgender issues. It is niche and not something that is necessarily at the forefront of my mind in my day-to-day life, even though I am trans. Until around 2015, people transitioned and then tended to reintegrate into society. Nobody else took much notice. That’s how I liked it and, I suspect, how most people liked it too. Live and let live seemed to work rather well.
But trans rights have become the centre of a toxic dispute concerning one of the fundamental foundations of human society: the division of humanity into men and women. Biological sex is being replaced by gender identity in law and policy, and also in the way we are expected to think. That worries me and I think it should worry everyone. Especially when it is being imposed with an evangelist zeal that leaves senior politicians unable to define the word woman or accept the kind of truths that are taught in GCSE Biology.
Pronouns Day is just one part of this campaign to muddy the water. Pronouns should simply be a tool to help people describe what they see. But that – we are told – is potentially upsetting. We might incorrectly assume someone’s gender with unknown consequences on their state of mind. And although this didn’t seem to worry previous generations, there is now a well organised campaign to detach pronouns from the evidence in front of our eyes.
The expectation that we should all declare our pronouns – whether verbally, or on badges – might appear to be an act of kindness, but it is an imposition on the rest of society. It changes our language – so that pronouns describe feelings rather than facts – and that changes the way we think.
Unsurprisingly, Stonewall – who still advise a number of large businesses in the UK – have championed International Pronouns Day. In their directions for the day, they insist, ‘the phrase “preferred pronouns” is no longer used. Terms like this make it sound like someone’s gender is up for debate.’ It is remarkable how little of these changes are now not up for debate.
In the past, the response from employers has been all too predictable. Last year we saw NHS England promoting pronoun badges on their website. In London, Queen Mary University published a video, Why Pronouns Matter, to ‘celebrate and raise awareness of this important day.’
Important day? Not for me it isn’t. It is self-defeating. One sign of a successful transition is that strangers use our preferred pronoun without being prompted. But it is much harder to move on when everyone is expected to share and declare their pronouns. For me, having transitioned and got the T-Shirt, this campaign is more irritating than distressing. But in my previous life it would have been debilitating. Every time pronouns were demanded from me I would have had to make a choice. Do I come out now in this business meeting or do I once again share pronouns that are the cause of my dysphoria? So, if your employer gets on the rainbow train today, think about others.
Transsexuals like me did not ask for this campaign; it was imposed on us in the same way that it was imposed on everyone else. Pronouns Day is part of a campaign to change human society. It is not a neutral act, and it is not necessarily kind. You can still say ‘no thank you’.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.