ICYMI – Denley: Shifting gender pronouns, racial terminology aren’t doing much to unite Canadians

Interesting results from the ACS poll, suggesting that academic and bureaucratic terminology may not be resonating with people (not a surprise).
Personally, find terminology debates and discussions far less interesting than looking at what disaggregated data (categories) can tell us regarding socioeconomic outcomes of particular groups, recognizing variation within groups as well as between them.
The particular not necessity be at the expense of the commonality, but it is important to have both. Not for “defining” people but understanding them: 
Anyone who follows traditional or social media can be forgiven for thinking that Canadians are divided as never before. Perhaps the better term is “categorized.” There is enormous enthusiasm in government and academe to define people by race, gender and sexual preference.
It has become the norm in the media to refer to people as “racialized” and bend over backwards to make sure that everyone’s personal pronouns are respected. The latter leads to the grammatically puzzling situation where an individual whose name we know is referred to as “them.”

Source: Denley: Shifting gender pronouns, racial terminology aren’t doing much to unite Canadians

He, She, They: Workplaces Adjust As Gender Identity Norms Change

Workplace changes both reflect and influence changes in attitudes:

It’s a pivotal time for LGBTQ people in the workplace. Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in cases testing whether people in that community are protected by the country’s workplace anti-discrimination laws.

That’s happening at a time when more workplaces are adapting to an increasing number of people openly identifying as gender nonbinary — that is, they don’t consider themselves categorically male or female, and favor gender-neutral pronouns like “them,” instead of “he” or “she.”

Some employers are including those preferences on email signatures and name tags. But workers and employers are also navigating changing social norms around gender that can be confusing, and shifting workplace culture away from traditional gender identifiers can also be tricky.

This is something Joshua Byron has thought about a great deal. As a child, Byron realized dressing up as Princess Leia was unconventional for a boy. It wasn’t until young adulthood that Byron first encountered the concept that someone could identify as something other than male or female. For Byron, the idea of being gender neutral — or part one, part the other — felt like it fit.

Byron, 24, came out as such to his inner circle of friends three years ago, requesting to be referred to as “they,” not as “he.” But they didn’t feel comfortable doing so at work.

“I had a very supportive friend group, and then I would go to work and not think about that part of myself,” Byron says.

That changed two years ago, after Byron applied for a teaching job in New York, and a reference outed them as nonbinary.

The new employer had no problem with it and hired Byron. But being out at work meant fielding endless questions from colleagues: Is this really a thing? How can a plural pronoun refer to one person? Byron feels caught in the middle of a culture war.

“I think people feel really intense about it … like this is breaking some rule,” Byron says.

This kind of scenario is playing out in many workplaces, especially as surveys show more people are identifying as gender nonbinary.

“Employers are going to be faced with an increasing percentage of employees over time who have nonbinary identities,” because there is greater prevalence of gender ambiguity among young people, says Jody Herman, a public policy scholar at the Williams Institute at UCLA law school, which researches sexual orientation and gender identity.

There is still not a lot of research quantifying this population, especially since there are so many diverse terms around gender identity. Two years ago, Herman’s study found 27% of youth in California aged 12 to 17 said their peers would identify them as gender nonconforming. Other studiesshow a much smaller prevalence of people who identify themselves as transgender or gender nonbinary.

Some employers are already shifting policies. United Airlines gives customers the option to identify as nonbinary when booking tickets. Retirement company TIAA instructed employees to introduce themselves to clients with their preferred pronouns.

The law firm Baker McKenzie earlier this year set its staffing targets to 40% men, 40% women and 20% flexible — including nonbinary people.

Anna Brown, the firm’s director of global diversity and inclusion, says the policy was designed to reflect the shifting demographics. “These are prospective policies. And as we go forward, we know we have nonbinary colleagues,” she says.

New York psychotherapist Laura Jacobs says most employers don’t know how to deal with the issue of gender-nonbinary identity in the workplace.

But New York psychotherapist Laura Jacobs, who counsels many transgender and nonbinary individuals, says that kind of openness is still new and somewhat rare. “How to handle nonbinary people is still something that I don’t think most employers really have a sense for how to handle,” Jacobs says.

Employment forms, for example, often include only male or female options. References from old jobs might have known someone before the person assumed a different name or identity. And often, employer health insurance requires a person to choose.

“You had to be binary in order to get care and that that was enforced by the medical community, the legal community and so on,” says Jacobs, who identifies as both transgender and nonbinary.

But on a day-to-day basis, some of the persistent challenge comes from coworker questions: “Everybody wonders what’s in our pants,” Jacobs says.

Nowhere does this feel more personal than the bathroom.

For transgender populations, bathrooms are places associated with uncomfortable staring, harassment and even violence. They’ve also been at the center of political controversy. Three years ago, North Carolina passed a law requiring people to use bathrooms corresponding to their assigned gender at birth. That law was struck down.

But Mark Marsen says bathrooms remain a hot-button issue for employers and for coworkers who don’t feel comfortable sharing bathrooms with transgender people. Marsen is director of human resources at Allies For Health + Wellbeing, a community health clinic. He recently participated in an online discussion with other HR executives about making the workplace gender neutral.

“A good 60% — at least — of the conversation was about bathrooms,” Marsen says.

At the time, Marsen says, he was re-thinking his company’s restroom policies. Marsen realized a bathroom is just a bathroom. He ended up re-labeling them simply, “restroom” and “restroom with urinals.”

For Joshua Byron, bathrooms are a central emotional issue.

For Byron, things like restrooms and dress codes become litmus tests for how their manager might react — how strictly masculinity might be enforced. It makes Byron wonder: “Will it be a thing that there is argument or stress over?”

But changing long-held gender paradigms isn’t easy. The terms used by nonbinary people can be difficult to understand.

In fact, it can still be confusing even for people who identify as nonbinary, like Mich Dopiro. Dopiro recently stumbled over pronouns for someone they just met.

“I don’t think they took offense, but it was an embarrassing moment for myself,” says Dopiro, 25, who works as a teacher in Seattle. Among middle school students, gender norms have already changed . One student recently called Dopiro by the wrong pronoun, then apologized.

“They felt like, ‘Oh this is something that I grew up with that I should know not to mess up,’ ” Dopiro says.

Source: He, She, They: Workplaces Adjust As Gender Identity Norms Change

Even A Grammar Geezer Like Me Can Get Used To Gender Neutral Pronouns

Jordan Peterson and followers to take note:

Letter-for-letter, no part of speech gets people more worked up than pronouns do. Linguistic history is dotted with eruptions of pronoun rage. Right now, the provocation is the gender-neutral pronouns that some nonbinary people have asked to be called by, so that they won’t have to be identified as “he” or “she.”

There are several of these in circulation. Some are new words, like “ze” and “co,” but some go back a ways — in fact, people have been proposing new gender-neutral pronouns for 150 years, though none has ever caught on. But the most popular choice, and probably the most controversial one, is the familiar pronoun that people describe as the singular “they.”

You can see why people would pick “they.” In everyday speech we often use that pronoun for a single person, though only when the word or phrase it substitutes for — its antecedent, as it’s called — doesn’t refer to a specific individual. So we say, “Somebody lost their wallet,” or, “If a student fails, they have to retake the course.” Or the person we’re referring to may be simply unknown. Your daughter’s cell phone rings at the dinner table; you say, “Tell them you’ll call them back.” Male or female, one caller or several? The pronoun “they” is like, “whatever.”

That singular “they” goes back hundreds of years. Jane Austen’s novels are bristling with sentences like “No one can ever be in love more than once in their life.” But that use of the pronoun fell into disrepute in the 19th century, when grammarians condemned it as incorrect and proclaimed that the so-called generic “he” should be used instead. The idea is that when you write, “Every singer has his range,” the pronoun “his” refers to both men and women — or as they sometimes put it, “the masculine embraces the feminine.”

When second-wave feminists protested in the 1970s that the generic “he” was sexist, they roused a storm of indignation. They were accused of emasculating and neutering the language. The chairman of the Harvard Linguistics Department charged that they were suffering from “pronoun envy.” William Safire warned that to accept the use of “they” in place of “he” would be to “cave in to the radic-lib forces of usage permissiveness.”

In retrospect, those reactions betrayed the obtuseness that the psychologist Cordelia Fine calls “delusions of gender.” The fact is that the pronoun “he” is never gender-neutral. If Sting had sung, “If you love somebody, set him free,” it would have brought only a male to mind. What the language required was “set them free.”

The gender-neutral singular “they” has history, English grammar and gender equity on its side, and it’s gradually been restored to the written language. Schoolroom crotchets can be hard to let go of. But we’ve largely leveled the linguistic playing field — at least, “he” no longer takes precedence over “she.”

But that didn’t make any provision for the rainbow of nonbinary and nonconforming gender identities that have risen into public awareness in recent years. The language still required us to choose between “he” and “she” to refer to a specific individual. The singular “they” initially sounded awkward here. We can say, “Somebody named Sandy was brushing their hair” where the pronoun replaces the nonspecific “somebody” — that’s been standard colloquial English for centuries. But when someone says just, “Sandy was brushing their hair,” you’re brought up short. Your first thought is that “they” must refer to some group of people whose hair Sandy was brushing.

That new use of “they” has passed muster with the AP’s style guide and the American Heritage Dictionary. In theory, anyone can adopt it, whatever their gender identity. But we’ll still be using “he” and “she” to refer to most individuals who identify as male and female. You can introduce new gender-neutral terms without driving out the gendered ones. “Sibling” has been part of the everyday language for more than 50 years, but we can still talk about brothers and sisters. When someone says, “Taylor has a lot going for them,” it’s a fair bet that that’s the pronoun that Taylor prefers to be called by.

It’s not a lot to ask — just a small courtesy and sign of respect. In fact, the accommodations we’re being asked to make to nonbinary individuals are much less far-reaching than the linguistic changes that feminists called for 50 years ago. Yet the reactions this time have been even more vehement than they were back then.

A fifth-grade teacher in Florida whose preferred pronouns are “they,” “them” and “their” was removed from the classroom when some parents complained about exposing their children to the transgender lifestyle. When the diversity and inclusion office at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville published a guide to alternative pronouns in 2015, the state legislature promptly defunded the center and barred the university from promoting the use of gender-neutral pronouns in the future. Like the classic episodes of pronoun rage in earlier eras, these aren’t about pronouns at all.

Source: Even A Grammar Geezer Like Me Can Get Used To Gender Neutral Pronouns