Gender Pronouns (original title: Should we have gender-identifiers on the SDMB?)

I’m on another Discourse board where there’s an explicit pronoun option that users can select. It wasn’t there when the board started, and was added. So that’s a thing that can be done. You don’t see other user’s pronouns unless you check their profile, though. And they are optional, and can be left blank.

Add me to the “hell no” camp for color-coding people’s names by their gender or sex, even if it were possible. And honestly, I’m happy that you have to look for the pronouns on that other site, and they aren’t the first thing you see when you “meet” a person. Instead, you meet their words and thoughts.

Come on, I stuck my neck out! Be a second …

E, es, ers, em, emself!

I’ve started using them in my professional communications too.

I’ve seen several neopronoun movements advanced, but I still don’t see the point in making up words when we already have the perfectly serviceable they/them. The new pronouns might be fine for some particular niche, but they’re never going to catch on with the general public.

Regarding the original question, my answer is “no.” If this system is instantiated, I will not participate. If it’s mandatory, I’ll withdraw from the board.

My gender, like much of my personal information, is no one’s business but mine.

Don’t worry, we’ll never instantiated a mandatory policy. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Primarily as you are 100% correct, it is no one’s business but yours.

Though I don’t think anyone ever suggested it should be mandatory.

I see a point in that I simply don’t like it. I much prefer “neopronouns” for singular third person. Everything in language was “neo” at some point and replaced something else that was serviceable (perfectly or not).

And once (in my dream) neopronouns replace gendered pronounce altogether, then there can still be a distinction between singular and plural (although I now have heard of people who apparently don’t consider themselves singular; I guess that’s something to tackle in the future.)

In my personal use I do occasionally distinguish thou/you and yea/yes and nay/no. I find them useful, even if it’s just me talking to myself.

But if you surveyed everyone, I suspect They/Them would win over E, Em, Es easily. They/Them is pretty understandable to all English speakers.

Well, so what? A survey would represent only a snapshot in time. Things—as we see before us—change. What today is a minority view can (slowly or sometimes even quickly) become a majority view. That’s the whole point of advocating change, isn’t it?

Just saying, don’t expect your attempt to become common.

Did I present any expectation of mine to you for comment? What my expectations might be is my business to bring up if I choose.

I don’t like using “they/them” as singular pronouns because, to me, they’re not singular. On several occasions I’ve spent five or ten minutes combing through a Doper’s posting for some announcement of gender, simply so I could avoid using “they” or “them.”

I wish there were widely-accepted neopronouns I could use instead, but as far as I can tell, none of them have achieved a level of acceptance where I’d feel comfortable using them in written communication. I know a few people who have doggedly incorporated “xe/xim” or “sie/hir” into their writing, but I’m not ready to go out on that limb. “They/them,” however, are already broadly accepted as both singular and plural (my personal discomfort notwithstanding), and they have such a huge head start that I don’t see how neopronouns will ever catch up.

On the other hand, “Ms.” is completely standard now, and when people were pushing it back in the 70s I was sure it would never catch on. Something like that could happen now, but it probably won’t.

Surely, you would have said the same thing to the people advocating for Ms., right?

Sure, and I would have been wrong. I may be wrong this time, too. But I doubt it.

And at that time, you would also have doubted that you would be wrong. So, what’s the point of (1) making a determination about the possibility of future developments, and then (2) judging the quality of your determination? Maybe the lesson should be just to forego those things. This is just armchair speculation on your part, anyway, right?

I change up my avatar pretty often and I would do the same with so called gender colors. Pink blue psychedelic depending on how I feel.

The thing about pronouns, though, is that they’re one of those classes of words that strongly resists change. That’s why ours still have gender and some echoes of the Indo-European case system while we’ve almost entirely abandoned both of those things in the rest of our language.

The existing pronouns will remain, and no new ones will be accepted. IMO, the best you can hope for is they becoming our full-time nongendered pronoun.

Everybody knows (but not everybody agrees) that the alleged problem with they/them is the ambiguity over whether the usage is singular or plural. Everybody who advocates using they/them can give examples where it’s perfectly clear that the usage is singular. But there are certainly cases where it’s ambiguous – you see a sentence with “they” and you can’t tell if it refers to one person or a group. (Sorry, I don’t have in example in mind at the moment. But I’ve certainly seen some.) I reject “they/them” as the third-person singular pronouns for this reason.

Most verbs in English do not need to be inflected to match the number of their subject. Inconveniently, though, it is exactly the third person present-tense verbs that do need to be marked for number – just the ones that cause problems when we try to use “they” for the subject.

A common but flawed rebuttal that always comes up is the fact that the second-person gender-neutral pronoun “you” is used for both singular and plural. The problem is, that’s just as bad. How often, even on this board, do we see this awkward construct: “… you (generic you)” or “you-all” or similar. The correct answer for this would be to re-instate the singular “thou” or something similar.

Strangely, we already have a perfectly cromulent gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun: “it” (which, in fact, a lot of other languages don’t have). Yet that is relegated to be used only for inanimate objects, or sometimes for animals. If pronoun usage were a bit more fluid, we could just as well have repurposed “it” to be the word we are looking for here.

Also, it is strange that there is so much fuss over the gendered pronouns in English, while overlooking how much gender has been eliminated in English compared with other languages. In Spanish, French, and so many other languages, even Hebrew, EVERY noun is gendered, even inanimate objects, usually arbitrarily, and adjectives must be inflected to match their nouns. In Hebrew, verbs must also be inflected to match the gender of their subjects. In English, our third-person singular pronouns, and a few nouns, are but vestigial remnants of gender in the language.

It’s been pointed out that we have a similar gender problem with these honorifics, Mr., Mrs., and Miss. “Ms.” addresses the problem that we need a female honorific that does not convey marital status. But we still need an honorific that does not convey gender at all.

There are ambiguities in practically every aspect of our language. Every language, most likely. So I don’t see that as something to fret over.

I don’t see thou making a comeback, and even if it did, few would use it correctly (see who/whom).

It is a non-starter. Nobody wants to be an it.

I just did a bit of on-line research, seeking examples of “they/them” being of ambiguous number. I didn’t immediately find a clean example. Most examples of ambiguous pronouns deal with cases where there are multiple pronouns referring to multiple antecedents, and you can’t tell which pronoun refers to who. But that’s a separate problem.

However, I did find various essays on the history and use of gender-neutral third-person pronouns, including tables of the various proposed pronouns and their declensions. It’s easy to see at least one reason they didn’t catch on: Words like “ze/zim” or “xe/xim”, “hir”, and others, are ugly and awkward and sound contrived.

However, there are the so-called “Spivak” pronouns, of which @Acsenray 's E, em, es are variations, that seem much more natural, and are apparently used in some on-line gaming platforms.

ETA: The essay: