Luxander had a lot of great points in this video, but throughout watching this video I had several thoughts on the subject of normalizing the act of automatically stating your pronouns when meeting new people in an everyday setting.
To Pronoun or Not to Pronoun?
In my view it would actually be easier to promote the normalization of refraining from using pronouns altogether in casual situations. Learning to talk AROUND pronouns is a far simpler and natural process than adding a new step in our normal introduction techniques. Furthermore, we are already seeing this type of adoption in settings such as retail establishments and call centers as a natural evolution to people not wanting to misgender individuals or accidentally ‘clock’ trans-people. The added benefit of this type of adoption is that even non-trans allies are naturally beginning to do this for fear of ending up on social media for being bigots.
While introducing yourself with pronouns in a class setting (an example Luxander mentioned in their video) would make sense in the context of immediately setting an inclusive tone for a specific space, removing the use of pronouns altogether would make sense for the smaller interactions that make everyday life, which is where most personal relationships start anyway. Furthermore, it would also remove the tired argument of:
“I don’t have time to learn all of these new pronouns and it is egotistical for people to think that I should care about their pronouns anyway!”
In the case of relationships such as friends, work acquaintances and the like, the use of pronouns would develop organically as you grow to know a person on a personal level. (See: “Hey girl, heeeeeey!”)
Speech, Behavior and Personal Identity
I think that it is so easy to remember in a world where everyone is so quick to point out problematic behavior is that people have to LEARN behavior and social ques, and it is learned both through positive and negative reinforcement by the people around you. (Pleasing responses = more likely to repeat a behavior while negative response = less likely to repeat a behavior.) This is how society and language naturally evolves. Think for example how swearing has become more of a punctuation mark in millennial conversation, whereas we were raised to view these types of words as bad language. This is a change that happened slowly over time, and swearing isn’t nearly as taboo as it used to be.
It is also important to note that we as people have learned to speak a certain way since birth, and that speech the most basic way in how we articulate our inner world to those around us. It is one of the most fundamental ways that we learn to express ourselves. The way we speak is, in essence, one of the truest expressions we have to articulate who we are as people. It is why freedom of speech is such a previous human right in the United States. “I think, therefore I am.” can only logically be followed by saying: “I speak, therefore I think.” It is how we translate our personal beliefs and share them with the outside world.
Changing Someone’s Mind
The act of living is to be in a state of continual growth and learning, and we continue to learn by fucking up, being ‘problematic’ and growing as people. It is just part of the process. Most people, by nature, are not mean and hateful. At our core, humans WANT to co-exist and live in a peaceful world.
Hesitance or stubbornness to change often comes because of some deep rooted personal belief that won’t change just because someone screams at the person they disagree with. If anything it will just make someone double down on their behavior because a negative and painful response will make them feel hurt and see the person who verbally attacked them as a threat or danger.
In essence, attacking someone will only make a situation worse. The person on the receiving end of the verbal lashing will walk away with a feeling of:
“[This person] yelled at me. They are mean and I am right to not want to help them because I don’t want to associate with someone who makes me feel bad.”
While this reaction is simplistic in nature, it is also a natural and purely human one.
In my experience, if you want to change hearts and minds, you have to meet people where they are at, empathize with them in their personal journey and positively nudge them from there. The alternative is attacking and shaming people which only results in priming someone to be picked up by an alt-righter who says something to the effect of: “They shouldn’t have done that to you, you aren’t wrong, come join us, we already believe what you do.” and groom them from there.