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Trigger warnings: Gender! Culture Wars! Opinons! Facts? (Also, some amount of tension/discomfort in this episode. Be ye warned.)
Please contribute to this discussion!
Please keep it non-terrible.
Articles that sparked the discussion: The Disappearing Thems, Versus Them, Reducing the Spectrum to a Binary
Also relevant: Hofstadter Person Purity essay, and Cis by Default
Other links of note…
- One of the articles referenced in the initial Discord discussion
- What’s double cruxing?
- Wikipedia’s 3rd Gender Page (it’s got all the genders!)
Hey look, we have a discord!
Rationality: From AI to Zombies, The Podcast… and the other podcast
LessWrong posts Discussed in this Episode:
None! Postponed till next time 🙁
Next Episode’s Sequence Posts: (Are still…)
Pingback: Rational Newsletter | Issue #81
I know Steven uses the “Intellectual Dark Web” designation somewhat jokingly, but if there is such a thing, and it’s a positive designation for long form content and thoughtful conversation, you’ve earned the designation for this episode.
IMO, this was your best episode ever. Special thanks to Jess for intelligently articulating their logic. I’ve seen Jordan Peterson rail against pronoun abuse, but haven’t ever heard the other side articulated in any reasonable way (I’ve seen lots of illogical stuff on Twitter that has really turned me off). I had no idea – zero – of the distinction between gender and sex. I could go on, but suffice it to say, I learned quite a bit from Jess’s logical arguments. Jess’s personal anecdotes were excellent too; the anecdotes were relevant without being overly emotionally expressed, which helps someone like me understand a bit more.
Overall I’m still sympathetic to Eneasz’s views. Getting used to this is just hard, especially because I don’t know any nonbinary people – and if I’ve ever met one, I didn’t know it. However, understanding the argument, along with a bit of what it feels like to be nonbinary, I will do my best to be empathetic and try. to get. the pronouns. correct!
Imagine the following scenario:
Pronouns depend on the age of a person. Children have one pronoun and adults have another. Now, there are some people (let’s say 1% of the population) with a certain kind of growth hormone deficiency that prevents them from growing fully, making them look like children for their entire lives. One of these is Adam. After turning 18, Adam obviously sees himself (I’ll stick to our use of pronouns in my explanation to make it less confusing) as an adult and wants to be recognized as such by others. Now, if you don’t know Adam, you might think he is a child and that will become obvious to him by your use of pronouns. Adam corrects you – somewhat embarrassed but used to it – and tells you about his condition and asks you to use adults pronouns to refer to him, since he is over 18.
Would you find it fair to concur? Would you consider the negative effects on your getting used to referring to people based on their actual age rather than their perceived age to outweigh the positive effects that using an adult pronoun to refer to Adam would have on him and his peers?
Sure, we’d all like a society where pronouns weren’t dependent on age but we can’t change the world overnight. So should we keep using child-pronouns for people that look like children but are adults because changing our language to acknowledge less obvious truths requires time and mental training? Will those 2% simply have to take the punch and get used to being referred to as children because we’d rather use pronouns to refer to people’s perceived age rather than their actual age?
Personally, I think this would be more harmful than helpful. People want to be acknowledged for who they are and not for who they look to be. Being validated and having your internal experiences accepted by others increases your well-being and it increases your chances to keep going to social events (which also increases your well-being). Yes, changing your language is hard and takes time but for the sake of validiating the internal experiences of a growing and already struggling minority of the population, I think it’s worth it.
Of course I would use Adam’s pronouns. I consider this a failed analogy, because this was never a matter of contention.
OTOH, if Barney, who is obviously an adult, insisted that everyone refer to him using non-aged pronouns because he is outside the aging binary, I would probably consider this a heck of an imposition, and would be upset at people who thought less of me if I didn’t use Barney’s weird pronouns.
I made the analogy because it sounded to me like your issue was that you want to refer to people based on how you percieve them rather than how they perceive themselves and you felt like you were lying when forced to use someone’s preferred pronoun if it differed from your perception of them.
My point there was that we can either trust our perception of others or we can do mental gymnastics to compensate for what our mere perception can’t detect.
Is your issue rather the introduction of a third category where there has always been two?
My original contention is that people use pronouns based on perception. I think I’ve been swayed to “people use pronouns based on what they think is correct,” and for most people what is correct is based on some combination of presentation and statements of the individual in question. That’s where I am too. But I reject the idea that there is a neuter sex in humans, and so I cannot view a neuter pronoun as correct, and therefore using them feels dishonest.