If you happen to work in the District of Columbia we’ve got a heads up for you. Be particularly careful if you have any coworkers who “identify” as a gender other than their own and you need to speak with them, to them or about them. According to a recent ruling from the District’s Human Rights office, you’ll need to use the specified pronouns as set forth in the new employee handbook you should be receiving any moment now. And failure to do so can result in a criminal charge, including a fine. (The Daily Caller)
Employers and employees in Washington D.C. are legally prohibited from referring to a transgender employee or coworker by the “wrong” pronouns or asking “personal questions” about their gender identity, according to the city’s Office of Human Rights (OHR).
OHR published a best practices guide for “valuing transgender applicants and employees” earlier this month with a list of “behaviors by supervisors or coworkers [that] may be considered unlawful harassment or a hostile work environment.”
One of the listed prohibited behaviors is: “Deliberately misusing a person’s preferred name or pronoun.” …
The “best practices” guide featues a chart on “gender and gender-neutral pronouns” that includes the gender-neutral pronoun “ze.” The chart includes example phrases using the gender-neutral pronoun, such as “Ze smiled,” “I met zir,” “Zir bike” and “Ze is zirself.”
We could waste yet more time carping about the insanity of it all, but this is apparently government action in the 21st century. The real question should deal with the obvious issue of what sort of training will be provided to the employees. Normally you could rely on the workplace expecting you to have a basic grasp of the English language and using it in a fashion which at least allowed you to clearly communicate any information relevant to your position. That’s a fair expectation in most anyone’s book.
But what happens when they suddenly introduce language requirements which were never taught in school and, in fact, are not officially recognized as part of any dialect in the English speaking world? If they plan on holding you legally accountable for employing this made up language then surely they are responsible for some continuing education in this brave new world of linguistics. And some tri-fold pamphlet isn’t going to get the job done either.
There are no less than 41 different dialects of gender neutral and otherwise fanciful language we’ll need to take classes on, ranging from “Elverson” (ey laughed, eir head hurts, that is eirs) to “Heshe” (heshe laughed, hes head hurts, heshe feeds hemself). They may be defaulting to the “ze and hir” standard, but even there we’re going to run into immediate legal problems for the uninitiated. Examples include, “ze laughed” and “I kissed hir.”
“Hir?” Uh oh. Now we have big trouble in River City. What if the employee is a woman identifying as a man, but you say, “Ze kissed hir?” You might have been thinking “hir” but it’s pronounced the same as “her.” And if they think you said “her” then you’ve been identified as a neanderthal, barbaric hatemonger who is in line for a court date with a judge. How do you prove you meant to say “hir” all along?
Come to think of it, we may all need legal classes in addition to language sessions or we’ll never get through all of this alive. Or… you could just move out of DC before a hole opens up beneath your feet and swallows you. Er, sorry… I mean, “swallows thiysnr.”