This is simply a request to allow they, them, or their, or silence, despite the insistence from SE that they or silence is a form of misgendering, and to remove that idea as a violation of the new Code Of Conduct.
I point to this list here.
I submit that they, them, or their be allowed to refer to any and all of those in that list, based on the evidence that I submit below. I submit that if they has been the preferred inclusive word for the existing pronouns, then it should also be considered the standard for all other pronouns.
Note: I do not suggest here that the list above cannot also be used generically - the evidence below states that they has a massive advantage. I also do not suggest that they (or others) be used as mandatory for all. That is more compulsion and I disagree with that. The submission is that they or silence not be a bannable offense.
Cesar said it himself.
The vast majority of people go by the pronouns sets “he/him” or “she/her.” A small but increasing number of people use “they/them” pronouns or another pronouns set -- sometimes simply because they don’t want to go by pronouns with a gender association (just as some folks go by “Ms.” whether or not they are married, because they don’t think their marital status should be a relevant issue), and sometimes people use pronouns that aren’t associated with one of those two most common (binary) genders because they are nonbinary (i.e. people who are neither exclusively a man nor exclusively a woman -- e.g. genderqueer, agender, bigender, fluid, third/additional gender in a cultural tradition, etc.).
I want to draw attention to the fact that the text Cesar quoted uses "they" in the rest of their post. Why? What's the reason? This thread is a defense of Monica's stance (and many others) that there are multiple ways to avoid misgendering, and I believe it is a necessary inclusion within the new Code Of Conduct. I will do my best to remain completely unbiased and use nothing but language, history, and trends that I can cite.
In The Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing for Writers, Editors and Speakers by Kate Swift and Casey Miller, they rightfully state that the traditional usage to refer to a person of any gender would take the male form. This has been true for thousands of years.
- Plurality in Latin, Spanish, and many other languages takes the male form.
- In English, he/his is often used in place of indeterminate antecedent. Example: Each person to his own, but they or their is becoming more popular. See Cesar's quote above.
Efforts to reduce the male bias has led to a more inclusive switch to neutrality.
- The study "Singular they: An Empirical Study of Generic Pronoun Use" by Darren K. LaScotte found that the majority of respondents chose they because it acknowledged the non-binary individuals who do not use he or she.
- In 2015, The American Dialect Society chose they as the Word Of The Year for its ability to refer to all individuals as a collective rather than any specific gender-based word.
- A study found that usage of gender-neutral pronouns in a broad, sweeping manner helped to combat a bias towards the male gender.
- A survey of 11,242 people, all of whom identify as non-binary and LGBTQ+, led to them choosing they at 79.5% as their preferred pronoun, followed by using the pronoun that reflects their identity, followed by just mixing it up.
- They has the advantage of neutrality due to already existing in the language, and being the only gender-neutral word that has made it to widespread usage, since at least 1375.
Some people may take issue with this from a grammatical standpoint. However...
In In Search of Gender Neutrality: Is Singular They a Cognitively Efficient Substitute for Generic He?" Julie Foertsch, she writes this:
As ungrammatical as this shift may be, the justification for it is quite clear. The generic he that grammarians prescribe is typically perceived as referring to a male, not as being all-inclusive (Khosroshahi. 1989; Kidd, 1971; MacKay & Fulkerson, 1979; Martyna, 1978a; Moulton, Robinson, & Elias, 1978; Silvera, 1980).
Eor this reason, it is perhaps not surprising that the pronoun they—a technically plural pronoun— was readily accepted for all four antecedent types. Indeed, when the antecedent was an indefinite pronoun, readers actually processed singular they faster than he or she, and the rules of prescriptive grammar have already been changed to accommodate this apparent preference.
This demonstrates that they is also preferred by speakers. As a Q&A site, I believe we should strive to maintain clarity and inclusiveness for everyone.
- People already struggle with the English language. They have complained that they will have trouble articulating and formulating the various pronouns. However, I will also add that as a native speaker, I too will have that trouble.
- As someone on the autism spectrum, I do not feel inclusiveness or friendliness towards my constant, daily struggle to follow social norms. I would like a break and for the SE mods/CMs to recognize that it is polite to be neutral.
- It allows those whose conscience cannot allow them to use specific pronouns. For whatever reason, they feel like they cannot. I do not put this here to debate their intentions or moral compass. However, I strongly feel that it is professional to remain neutral.
Going back to Cesar's quote, they use they in the text to refer to each individual in the identity groups. It is very telling that Cesar refers to each and every non-binary as they or their in his own post, without even realizing it. The question is: Why?
Firstly, when there was no explicit antecedent, a larger fronto-central positivity was observed 750 msec after pronoun onset for he/she than they, possibly reflecting the additional difficulty involved in establishing a referent for he/she than for they when no explicit referent is available.
That's the difference. They is an implicit referent. It's so natural to our brains that Stack Exchange themselves couldn't avoid it, to the point that you'll see comments like "If someone asks to be called ze, oblige them," even though the list states that the accusative would be zim.
In summary, they, them, and their are not references to self. They are placeholders for references. They act as a catch-all for he, she, xir, zir, xe, or any other identity that a person would like to have, and it is necessary to cooperate and compromise.
Now, why should we compromise? Because compromise is healthy.
From From communitarianism to dialogue: Building better relationships by Michael Kent,
In liberal democratic theory, the good of the individual must sometimes take a backseat for the good of the collective—but the willingness to give up individual rights or positions for communal goals is done only when people feel safe in the knowledge that they will not lose their rights, safety, or security. Social harmony is a worthy goal for public relations and can better inform practitioner’s roles in building relationships within communities. Dialogue can work to facilitate the communitarian goals of community building and privileging the “greater good” while still respecting the rights and interest of individuals. But only when public relations practitioners discard competitive metaphors and instead adopt collaboration and mutual aid as their goal can genuine dialogue between organizations and their publics become possible.
This is especially relevant to Caleb's departure from Christianity SE.
What we have not done is forced other people to agree with or use other group's preferred terminology. I have not demanded this sites' LDS members to call me a true Christian or themselves heretics. In fact they are free to explain why they think my views are heretical as long as they do so under questions about their own views.
We have a case where people's very core beliefs about the actual universe are at stake, and they're able to perfectly handle themselves by polite dialogue. I point to his departure in particular, because his stance perfectly mimics the paper cited above, which references a hundred years of research on community building. Rights were not taken away. Safety was not taken away. Individualism was not taken away. Collaboration was maintained, and a good community existed as a result.
According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
And from Rights, Utility, and Universalization by J.L. Mackie:
Conflicts between these prima facie rights might be handled by a utilitarianism of rights, so that what would count as the ideally just arrangement would be that in which total right-fulfillment was maximized, or total right-infringement minimized.
In this case, Stack Exchange has not sought balance between rights or compromise.
I will end this with a biased opinion, and how I feel, especially with Cesar's claim here:
Q11: If I’m uncomfortable with a particular pronoun, can I just avoid using it?
We are asking everyone to use all stated pronouns as you would naturally write. Explicitly avoiding using someone’s pronouns because you are uncomfortable is a way of refusing to recognize their identity and is a violation of the Code of Conduct.
1: I saw Shog9's answer stating that "language changes." Yes, it does change, but it's changed for the better with the inclusion of gender neutral language. I believe their answer is at odds with the evidence and ideas I've put forth, and that his stance, while well written, does not sufficiently defend the idea that neutrality is a form of misgendering.
I believe Stack Exchange has made a mistake in believing that neutral language is a form of misgendering, as certain words weren't invented to be a gender, but to refer to any gender, and that includes the words I've defended here. But let's discuss the worse problem.
2: Cesar's assertion is morally troubling to me. This section would also contain sources, but... I cannot find any material on the effects of claiming ownership on our voice, lack of voice, and what we think, all at the same time. All I can hope is that Cesar misspoke.
A lot of users here have talked about freedom of speech, the law, etc. I feel like this is a red herring. I do not feel like it applies here. I feel strongly that the right to be neutral isn't a legal right. It is a right given to me by the universe itself. By virtue of being a lifeform with a central nervous system, I was given the abilities to be silent, refrain from sides, decline to be included, and to do nothing.
I feel very strongly that taking away neutrality such as a centuries old word that the LGBTQ+, feminist, and other activist communities have spent years to include and embrace to avoid bias and exclusion, or taking away our ability to be neutral and silent, is at odds with that right.
If Stack Exchange wishes to prevent people from being offended, it is entirely possible that a very small minority of people will still, against all odds, take offense with they or avoidance. That is their right. However... What about us people on the spectrum? What about those who suffer other mental disorders, disabilities, or various traumas? Must we disallow photography of beer or sports? I have autism, and I do not demand that you navigate all of my intricacies when some of them may fly in the face of a majority experience of reality. I couldn't ask that of you. There should be a line.