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No, I Won't Use Your Preferred Pronouns
Jeffrey Marsh, a popular TikTok creator whose content centers around him being non-binary, had this to say regarding his preferred pronouns:
It’s not that you can’t use “they” for one person. You use “they” for one person all the time, “Someone left their wallet here. I hope they come back to get it.” It’s that you can’t look at me and see my humanity yet. AKA Bigotry. You don’t believe us. You can’t look at us and see the “they” in the eyes. So I want to give you a little practice so you can get over it. Look at me. Do you see that I am a they/them? Deep down to the core of who I am? Are you ready to respect us?
You can watch it here.
I won’t respond to this in TikTok because there isn’t enough time to say all I want, and even if there were enough seconds and minutes, TikTok would call it harassment and bullying and remove it. But I can say whatever I want here, so let’s break this down.
1.) You use “they” for one person all the time, “Someone left their wallet here. I hope they come back to get it.”
We use “they” as a singular pronoun when we either don’t know the individual we are speaking of, or we’re speaking of someone in ambiguity. People like Jeffrey use they/them as alternatives to he or she, but that’s not how we use pronouns. We use pronouns in place of a name or an object to simplify the sentence, we don’t use pronouns in place of pronouns. The usage of third-person pronouns is based on the speaker’s observations, not the subject’s self-perception. I can see that Jeffrey is a man, what I cannot see is how Jeffrey sees himself.
2.) It’s that you can’t look at me and see my humanity yet.
This entire schtick is based on one’s self-perception which we as an outsider cannot see. I can see Jeffrey’s humanity just fine, but what I can’t see is Jeffrey’s perception of his humanity, and that’s the problem. That’s what he wants. He doesn’t want me to see his humanity, he wants me to validate his identity and I can’t do that. That’s not my responsibility. If your identity can’t stand on its own and you need others to validate it, then it begs the question: Do you truly believe what you’re saying? If no one validated your identity, are you strong enough to still be you?
3.) You don’t believe us. You can’t look at us and see the “they” in the eyes.
Of course, I can’t! It’s not a thing. There are only two sexes/genders, but there are infinite ways to express oneself. I know what a man is and I know a woman when I see one. Even the women who choose a form of masculine self-expression look like women. Non-binary doesn’t look like anything because it isn’t a physical thing in the same way “man” and “woman” are, but it’s a term one uses to describe how one sees themselves and their role in society. I can’t see your feelings; I can only see what’s right in front of me. Jeffrey looks like a man who wears make-up and prefers shopping in the women’s section. James Charles, the make-up influencer, also likes to wear make-up and shop in the women’s section, but he doesn’t call himself non-binary. If two people who outwardly express themselves similarly call themselves different things, how am I supposed to tell the difference? The difference between James and Jeffrey is James has a very strong sense of self and doesn’t require validation. He just is. He’s comfortable being a gay man who likes to wear make-up, play video games, and build lego sets.
4.) Are you ready to respect us?
If by “respect” you mean changing the way I speak to make you feel better, then no. If someone using certain third-person pronouns makes you feel distressed or dysphoric, then you need to see a therapist. The world doesn’t revolve around you and your issues, nor is the world required to bow down and submit to your proclivities. The goal should be to get to a point where being “misgendered” doesn’t bother you, but you don’t want to heal. If you won’t put in the effort to take care of your mental health, then why should I?
We don’t affirm a schizophrenic’s hallucinations, we don’t tell people who are depressed that they’re hopeless and better off dead, and we don’t agree with anorexics when they call themselves fat. Participating in someone’s mental illness doesn’t promote healing and it can make things worse, so I don’t understand why gender dysphoria gets a pass. Your brain is telling you something that’s not true, and you want me to play along? Absolutely not! I will not affirm your mental illness, I will not affirm your delusions, and I will not participate in your self-degradation. It is not my responsibility to build your self-esteem, and I am not strong enough to tear it down.
Also, these are third-person pronouns. When you talk about yourself you use I/me/myself. When someone is talking to you they use you/yourself. How people speak about you in the third person is none of your business. Again, the use of third-person pronouns is based on the speaker’s observations, not the subject’s self-perception, so if you want someone to use opposite-sex pronouns when they’re talking about you in conversations in which you’re probably not a participant, then you need to make an effort to pass. You might see yourself as a woman, but to others, you might look like a man in a dress. If the crux of your identity rests on how others see and talk about you then you need to make the necessary changes so that people’s speech will naturally change, or you see a therapist and work on building a foundation that’s stronger than the words and thoughts of strangers.
If I allow people to compel or demand I speak a certain way, then that opens up a can of worms. It creates a slippery slope because now people can demand anything of me, even if it goes against my moral compass. My freedom and autonomy are important to me, so I don’t play the pronoun game. I don’t care to know your preferred pronouns. I won’t ask, so don’t tell me. Telling me your preferred pronouns is placing your value and your worth in my hands. It’s a responsibility that’s not mine, and I will treat it like a hot potato. I’ll either chuck it to the next available individual, or I’ll drop it to the floor.
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