Pom in Oz column: The power of words in gender debate

Derek GoforthMidwest Times
Dr. Jordan Peterson from the University of Toronto has declared he will not use pronouns, such as “they”, to recognise non-binary genders. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Camera IconDr. Jordan Peterson from the University of Toronto has declared he will not use pronouns, such as “they”, to recognise non-binary genders. (Carlos Osorio/Toronto Star via Getty Images) Credit: Toronto Star via Getty Images, Carlos Osorio

Most of our society sees no issues with being called “he” or “she”.

But others do not; they want to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns such as “they”.

Should we defer to their preferences? Some people have no issue with this, but many people think absolutely not.

University of Toronto professor and social media star Jordan Peterson has gained a certain level of fame and notoriety by taking a public stand against gender-neutral pronouns.

He says: “I don’t recognise another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them.”

Make note, he has no issue with those people’s wish to be referred to as such — more his issue lies with what he sees as his right not to have this imposed upon him.

The law remains unclear, to say the least. Freedom of speech does exist, as does the freedom not to speak.

Singer Sam Smith declared their preferred pronouns as “they/them” after coming out as non-binary on social media.
Camera IconSinger Sam Smith declared their preferred pronouns as “they/them” after coming out as non-binary on social media. Credit: Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

We are in essence allowed to be referred to as we wish, but on the flip side we are allowed to refer to others as we wish (within hate speech boundaries).

So should we refer to transgender people, (I am aware of many other terms — for ease of writing an article I will stick with transgender) as gender- neutral pronouns if the individualwishes? And if so, why?

A common answer among the Left is because we should respect people’s preferences.

If you’re talking about an individual, you should use whatever pronouns they prefer. But many others believe this is dictatorial.

After all, many people prefer not to use “they”.

Whose preferences matter more? From a conservative viewpoint, liberals are seen to assume a transgender person’s preferences matter more than theirs. There is also the belief this is done to serve a wider agenda.

Even leaving aside the raging argument about the number of genders we have, this does boil down to how a person identifies.

Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Pictured in 1965.
Camera IconCassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Pictured in 1965.

The debate isn’t limited to gender identity. Back in 1964 in the US, Cassius Clay fought to have his identity changed from what he saw as a “slave” to one that showed him as a member of the nation of Islam. He became Muhammad Ali. Do we have the right to refer to a person in a manner we see fit? I suppose we do (within some reason). But does having a right to do something or to be referred to as something make it the right thing to do? That area remains very grey.

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