In a previous blog post I made fun of the confusing and ungrammatical constructions that resulted when a reporter used the word “they” in every context in which an ordinary speaker of English would have used “he” or “she.” I assumed it was simply one writer’s misguided attempt to deal on an ad hoc basis with the fact that the subject of the article was “non-binary.” Turns out I was wrong. Apparently many people actually think this is a good way of talking and writing, and, what’s more, they think it should be mandatory.
Eugene Volokh reports that:
Leo Soell, born Brina, and a schoolteacher in the Gresham-Barlow (Oregon) School District, “do[es] not identify as male or female but rather transmasculine and genderqueer, or androgynous.” Soell wants people to call Soell “they,” and submitted a complaint to the school district objecting (in part) that other schoolteachers engaged in “harassment” by, among other things, “refusing to call me by my correct name and gender to me or among themselves” (emphasis added), as well as posting “messages on Facebook that denigrate transgender people.”
Soell’s complaint also pointed to other things…. But the refusal to use Soell’s preferred pronouns when talking about Soell was a significant part of the complaint, and a significant part of the rules that the district is required to impose as a result of the settlement agreement: The school district agreed to settle the claim for $60,000 “as compensation for actual damages, emotional distress and attorney fees,” and with the district promising to “develop official guidance documents for administrators/staff that address working with transgender staff”; the documents, to be developed together with “TransActive and the District equity team,” will address, among other things, “pronoun usage.” “[V]iolations of the guidance will be grounds for discipline.”
This isn’t going to end well!