The Pronoun Police

Screenshot of the mentioned tweet

Alejandra Caraballo posted a video of a powerful testimony by Lola Smith, a 12-year-old nonbinary person forced to beg for their rights in front of the Florida Medical Board. This video is both terrifying and empowering. Indeed, everyone should see it.

But transphobes transphobing and trans people being forced to defend their dignity is just a part of the struggle. Another one is how our “allies” are pretending to ally…

You'd think that if a nonbinary person says they're nonbinary within the first few seconds of a video, if they literally introduce themselves with name, age and gender, then people watching the video and commenting on it would get the message that the person is nonbinary. And yet, there's comments underneath the tweet calling Lola a “brave young lady”, “inspiring young woman”, she/her-ing them1

Just because transphobic politicians are setting the bar for treating trans people with dignity as terrifyingly low as letting them exist in public spaces, it doesn't mean that's where your allyship should stop.

Real allyship starts with actually respecting a person's identity. If you look at a person who says they're nonbinary and you see a girl2, you're missing the entire point. Lola is very likely to see this tweet and see the comments where “allies” purposefully misgender them. How will they feel, after having to defend themselves in front of a panel full of transphobes, seeing that even self-proclaimed allies don't really respect them?

Yes, purposefully misgender. If you make a mistake, if something slips your mind – it's perfectly fine, we all do that; but you need to take effort to correct that mistake! As an analogy, say you reposted an information about a celebrity dying, but it turns out it was all a hoax, they're very much alive, and you were made aware of that. You would edit or remove your post, so that the fake news doesn't circulate anymore, right?

Yet here the “allies” in question, after getting politely corrected (and interacting with the replies), still as of time of writing this post (13h after) have neither apologised nor removed their tweets. So how on Earth is it not a purposeful misgendering of a child?

And apparently, according to some other user in the replies, politely correcting a factual error that actively harms a trans kid is what makes us “insufferable”, “small-minded”, “pedantic”, “counter-productive”, and a self-designated “pronoun police” 🤦🤦🤦

Holy fuck, that's absurd… The video we’re commenting under is about Lola demanding respect for their identity, and the “ally” in question not only didn’t do that but keeps refusing to do that by not removing the tweet (well, it got 38 likes, you could see how big of a sacrifice it would be to lose those imaginary internet points!). How is it “counter-productive” to correct someone’s mistake, especially in this context?

But most importantly… “Pronoun police”? Seriously?! Police are a tool of power, authority, and often oppression. Calling a minoritised group’s effort to protect each other from mistreatment by simply pointing out that someone is hurting us a “pronoun police” is misguided at best, malicious at worst…

You're trying to flip the reality. You're literally calling the oppresed oppressors, you're comparing care for a kid's identity to state-sanctioned violence.

How insufferable of you.

1 Lola doesn't mention their pronouns in this short video, it could also be some neopronouns or even indeed “she/her” – but outright assuming it's “she/her” just because of their AGAB is a bad assumption to make; English has a normative pronoun used to describe people whose gender and/or pronouns we don't know (eg. “someone left their umbrella in the hallway”), so that's what I'll be using here.

2 Calling them a “woman”, even if preceded with “young”, is also kinda cringe… They're a kid. A 12-year-old who should be enjoying their childhood and not be put in the situation where they have to advocate for their rights in front of adults filled with hatered…

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About the author

Hi! I'm Andrea (they/them). I tell computers what to do, both for a living and for fun, I'm also into blogging, writing and photography. I'm trying to make the world just a little bit better: more inclusive, more rational and more just.