They is wrong

It could have come from almost any campus, but this is from the College of Natural Science at Michigan State University:

“No science is needed to support transgender and non-binary identities,” the email stated. “It is simply a matter of affirming their experiences.”

No science is possible “to support transgender and non-binary identities” as a replacement for biological, binary sex classifications.  Assuming the conclusion that science-based sex classifications are secondary to each person’s internal mind-state at any given moment is baked into the MSU memo.

As to “affirming their experiences,” isn’t that their job? How can another person do that? Doesn’t that require identity appropriation? How else can one know the experiences are worthy of affirmation?

Clicking on the pronoun link brings up a colorful and interactive web page titled “I [love] the singular they,” which maps out benefits and tools to using the pronoun to refer to a person. The page argues that the singular “they” is “neutral,” “easy,” “inclusive,” and “classy.”

And wrong.

“Writing with non-gender-neutral pronouns is a serious pain,” the site linked by MSU says. “Some prefer the Frankenword ‘s/he,’ while others rack their brain. Some stick with a particular pronoun for one paragraph or chapter, then swap out the one they’re using; others alternate ‘he’ and ‘she’ by sentence, or use a plural adapter, but that all sounds confusing.”

Alternating he/she wouldn’t satisfy ze, in any case. And using “they” as singular isn’t confusing? Why do we even have a plural? So that we can understand a sentence like “Chris thought they were late to the party.” Unless we want to make people say, “Chris thought they was late to the party,” “they” is a non-starter.

The suggestion of the singular “they” is an effort to overcome objections to the plethora of neologisms like “ze, ne, xe,” etc.. Those who want a neo-pronoun need to vote on the one they’ll all use and stick to it. That is, if they actually want it eventually generally adopted, rather than just using the issue to harass others who don’t want to start every conversation with a negotiation about pronouns.

I have a suggestion. If avoiding “misgendering” is so important – use the person’s name.  Now, “Chris thought Chris was late to the party,” is still confusing and certainly stilted.  It still requires you to know Chris’s mind, and whether there’s another Chris, to sort it out.  Maybe “thou” and “thee?”  can be appropriated.

Any of this still requires you to deploy two modes of speech based on another person’s current perception of themselves.  But it’s a “good cause:”

MSU physiology student Shad Soldano … admitted the email “did take me by surprise,” he told Campus Reform, “I feel that the email (in my understanding) portrays a good cause in bringing awareness and hopefully eliminating remaining prejudices towards the transgender community.”

He feels elevating a tiny minorities’ attempted appropriation of culture by a set of prejudices against anyone who objects to compelled speech “portrays a good cause.”

When did feeling replace thinking? When something portrays sensitivity, compassion, and diversity – even if the result is 180 degrees out of phase with the stated intention. The real intention, the one you have to think about, is not benign.

If I must “affirm your experiences,” what’s to stop that at your “identity?”