Basic norms of respectful speech

From a conversation I saw somewhere:

…it is not non-trans people’s place to decide if misgendering is acceptable or not. You don’t get to decide if I should be okay with being misgendered or not.

Is that a real principle? Is it workable? Can it be generalized? Can it be applied more broadly, ad infinitum?

I don’t think so. I don’t think it can be a genuine rule that we all must use opposite pronouns for people who tell us to. I don’t think it can be because it amounts to ordering us to lie, to override our own perceptions, to pretend to believe someone else’s fantasy – none of which seems to fit into a genuine social rule.

We may want to, some of the time or all the time, to avoid awkwardness, to avoid cruelty, and so on, but we also may not, and it doesn’t seem reasonable to make it mandatory. I do think it is “non-trans people’s place to decide” what words we are going to use, within reason. I think calling male people “he” is within reason.

“… if someone doesn’t share the view that gender is identity and/or that a male person can be a woman, you can’t describe sex-correct pronouns as “misgendering”.”

Yes you absolutely can. Your position on ontology of gender has nothing to do with whether you should adhere to basic norms of respectful speech. I don’t use ‘gender’ synonymously with ‘gender identity’ either and I don’t believe a male person can be a woman, but I wouldn’t call a trans woman ‘he’ because I have respect for the humanity of trans people.

Wait. A position on the ontology of gender does have something to do with whether or not one is willing to call a man “she.” Whether or not it is “a basic norm of respectful speech” that people can mandate special pronouns for themselves is just what is at issue, so it can’t be assumed as part of the argument for yes. Having respect for people’s humanity doesn’t require calling them by special pronouns. That’s a newly-invented “rule” and it’s contentious and we do get to contend over it, trans or not.

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