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They get to choose

Jeanne Sager - Columnist
Posted 10/22/19

I met a woman named Katelyn this week. I don't really like that name.

I think I'll call her Bob.

I also met a guy named Michael this week. He says he goes by Mike.

That doesn't work for me. …

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They get to choose

Posted

I met a woman named Katelyn this week. I don't really like that name.

I think I'll call her Bob.

I also met a guy named Michael this week. He says he goes by Mike.

That doesn't work for me. I'm going to call him Michael anyway.

Do I sound like a jerk?

I do, don't I?

Now imagine replacing Katelyn or Mike with a person's pronouns.

Imagine they tell you that they don't identify with he or she, but they prefer they or them.

Now imagine telling that same person you don't really like that.

You're going to continue calling them he or she.

Now who's the jerk?

Gender neutral pronouns have been around for hundreds of years. Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and even Shakespeare used “they” and “them” to refer to just one person.

We do it every day when we don't know someone's name or don't want to use the name for sake of brevity.

“They left their wallet here.”

“They ran out to their car, but they'll be back.”

It sounds pretty normal, doesn't it? Like something most of us have said at some point in time?

Now consider saying it when someone asks you to use it, the way someone might share their name (Katelyn) or their nickname (Mike).

Consider what would happen if you shared whatever it is you want to be called. Katelyn? Mike? Something else?

Would it hurt you if someone refused? Would it bother you that they refused to let you decide how you want to be referred to?

Now consider just a few more things. If Katelyn asked to be called Katelyn, would you call her that? What if Michael asked that you call him Mike?

If your answers to the last four questions was yes, then the next time someone says they prefer you refer to them as “they” instead of he or she, don't be a jerk. Just treat them kindly.

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