No “gendered pronouns” please

posted at 2:31 pm on July 7, 2012 by Jazz Shaw

If you’re like me, (and aren’t you all?) I know you’ve been waiting impatiently with one question on your minds. When, oh when, will Harvard appoint a new permanent director of BGLTQ student life? (We’re going to circle back to that acronym which caught me by surprise in a few moments.) Fear not, readers, for your long wait is over. And the winner is

Vanidy M. Bailey will serve as director of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Queer (BGLTQ) student life beginning July 16, dean of Harvard College Evelynn M. Hammonds announced this week. Bailey, who will report to the assistant dean of student life, will oversee all initiatives that support BGLTQ undergraduates.

So… we’ve got that little chore out of the way. But wait! Steyn discovers that yet another grievous social injustice has taken place even in the midst of this happy occasion.

Alas, this long overdue shattering of the BGLTQ ceiling was marred by the Harvard Crimson’s grossly insensitive coverage:

An earlier version of this article used the pronoun “she” to refer to Vanidy “Van” Bailey, the newly appointed director of bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer student life. In fact, Bailey prefers not to be referred to by any gendered pronoun.

I’ll bet Elizabeth Warren is kicking herself for not thinking of that one.

Stop the merry-go-round, please. My head is spinning. Before I go out on the porch and begin yelling at random Harvard students to get off my lawn, let’s try to work through a couple items from this story which have once again left me alone and confused. And I would note that I only bring up these points in the interest of keeping the language in some semblance of order.

First of all, Mr.Ms. … um … “Van” doesn’t want to be referred to with a “gendered pronoun.” Not for nothing, but as wonderful as the English language is, we’re still working with a finite number of words here. Once you remove “he” and “she” from the mix, we’re pretty much left with “it.” And I’m fairly sure somebody is going to be offended by that. You’re sort of throwing a wet blanket on your future news coverage potential, pal.

Second, what’s up with this acronym BGLTQ? I’m leaving the full definition in the quoted text above because it certainly seems to come from a source which should know, but weren’t we supposed to not be using the “Q word” when referring to gay people? I thought that was pretty much verboten, at least for those not playing on that team. But now it’s part of the official public lexicon?

I only just found out this week that “oriental” is considered an offensive term. Of course, I was never entirely clear on what Oriental meant, other than a vague reference to people or things on the other side of the Pacific ocean. But apparently you’re not supposed to say that now either. I tell you, I simply can’t keep up. (By the way, are people from India “Asians?” Isn’t India in Asia?) Of course, I was recently informed that you’re not supposed to call people of the Muslim faith “Muslims” any more either, but that guy was selling pretzels on the sidewalk near my home and seemed somewhat confused, so I’m not sure how much of an authority he is. One can never be too careful, though.

But be that as it may, we’ll have to soldier on. Clearly we need an alternative to “he” and “she” for the modern era. Does it already exist? Any suggestions?


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