Society as we know it is on the brink of destruction. At least this is how some see it. The transgender and gender non-conforming community is in the crosshairs of what has become a great political divide. A left vs. right battle has been brewing over what some see as political correctness and others see as bigotry. It has become a question of freedom of speech vs. the intent to harm, the right to one’s existence vs. the right to deny one’s existence. At the forefront of this battle is the subject of gender identity and the pronouns that describe us.
“They believe it is a secret agenda to control their thoughts and take away their rights through the use of gender pronouns.”
On one side you have those that see gender identity as an affront to the safety of their binary reality and a ploy by “social justice warriors” to destabilize language as we know it. They believe it is a secret agenda to control their thoughts and take away their rights through the use of gender pronouns. On the other side you have those who see this as a simple matter of human rights, and even more to the point, human decency. So where do you draw the lines?
Canada is just stone’s throw away from fully passing C-16, which would amend the Canadian Human Rights Code and Criminal Code to protect transgender and gender non-conforming citizens from discrimination. The law would also make it illegal to purposely misgender someone with the intent to harm, much like the current transgender rights order in New York City. Taking center stage in the argument against C-16 is Jordan B. Peterson, a professor at the University of Toronto, who is leading the charge against the use of gender-neutral pronouns such a “they’, “ze” and “zir”. He states it is an attempt by “radical leftists” to force people to use government approved words. He feels this would actually work against the transgender community in their fight for acceptance. He also refuses to address students and colleagues by their preferred pronouns, and he will only use “she” and “he” in accordance with the way a person is presenting themselves. He claims the issue is freedom of speech and that political correctness has run amok.
- The avoidance of expressions or actions that can be perceived to exclude or marginalize or insult people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.
There are many who share Peterson’s view regarding political correctness and we are seeing it in our politics worldwide. It appears that white cisgender men are a wide majority in this movement. They see themselves as the victims whose rights are being violated. The reality is that the majority of them have no idea what it is like to have no rights. No one group gets as much privilege as this one, and they are worried they will lose the “privilege” of being able to marginalize and insult those who are socially disadvantaged. In layman’s terms, there are fighting for their rights to be “assholes”. That really is the root of the problem.
Are gender pronouns really the line of no return Peterson’s view? In a world of a million injustices, this is the one he risks his career on? The University of Toronto has already written two letters to him requesting that he respects the identities of the students and faculty. Now he is now expecting a third, fully aware that his stance could lead to his dismissal. A psychologist who is fighting for his right to affect psychological harm on a group of people that he obviously knows nothing about. This is perplexing to say the least.
“Is it really about pronouns or the fact that they just don’t accept transgender people?”
A better question would be how did we get to the point where we are hurting each other so much as a society that we actually have to consider passing laws to prevent the misuse of pronouns? Why are we so hell bent on being mean to each other? Is it really about pronouns or the fact that they just don’t accept transgender people? Though many see this as a “left/right” political issue, in reality it is just about human rights. Members of the transgender community are denied housing and medical attention. They lose their jobs just because they are transgender. They are ridiculed, murdered and beaten. This is not about politics. It is about doing harm to others. It is about life and death.
Believe me when I say Peterson’s right to be an asshole will still be intact when C-16 is fully implemented. What he will not have the right to do is psychologically abuse others without consequence. He will not be allowed to marginalize a group of people by purposely invalidating their identity with the intent to harm. In the end, if people treated each other with dignity and respect, there would be no need for such laws. Unfortunately society is not that way. Pronouns such as “they” have always been used; all you have to do is read Shakespeare to know that. The problem people have is not the pronouns; it is the gender non-conforming community that is using them. If addressing less than 0.5% of the population by different pronouns in “confusing” to you, then you may want to have your head checked out. It is no different than calling someone doctor when they earn a degree or calling a Miss a Mrs. when she gets married. There is also a difference between being harmful and making a mistake. There is a difference between being good to others and bad to others. There are things called kindness and respect. And if we could just have that for each other, the world would be a better place for everyone.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,