Here's a series of smiling white dudes saying stupid things when presented with talking about pronouns... And also I'll recount an experience I had a little while ago...
If you're trans you've probably had to talk about pronouns because, let's face it, if you're trans there will be significant amounts of time in your life where the people around you will use the wrong ones. You're probably an expert on pronouns. I can't tell you what a gerund is (and case in point I misspelled the word gerund multiple times while drafting this piece) but if there's one grammatical thing I know it's what a pronoun is.
Recently I came into a space and had a negative experience (which is my political way of saying there was some dumbassery) with regards to pronouns.
The long and short of it was that a fellow writer, one who I had never met, found out a friend of mine purchased pronoun pins so we could use them. We had basically just walked in the door, we all still had luggage in our hands, we were stressed from travel and this writer says something to the effect of:
"Badges? You brought badges, great I /love/ badges I want to be /It/, I need
one that says /It/, and her she needs one that says /Miss Thang/, do you want a
badge that says 'Miss Thang'?"
Myself and another friend, who I knew was trans, exchanged a glance. What ran through my mind was the following:
Is this person (cis gay man, later confirmed) serious?
If they do identify as "it" that's their prerogative but I sure as shit wouldn't willingly do so as it implies that this person isn't a person but a thing
If they don't and are just saying this, they're either looking for attention and a shit, or simply are a shit
Ah, confirmed, this person's friend is also confused after being called "Miss Thang" and has no idea what he's talking about but is still laughing with him
This person LITERALLY just used her pronouns to make up some bullshit they thought would be funny: so yep, def making pronouns the butt of the joke.
Is someone else gonna say something? Am I gonna say something? Is this going to be the way this all goes for the extent of my stay here?
No one's saying anything-- got it, I'll just hang out with the other trans folk and allies I know in the room and keep distance from others.
And it was because of that I said, "I don't want to do any Trans 101 (even though I did a little), and there is a very good chance I'm not going to like any of these new people in the room, and you can be damn sure I do not trust this man." I was very happy to have stayed, and worked through these feelings because there were a number of wonderful folks there who I would love to keep in touch with... but I had the luxury of having multiple other trans folk in the room I could commiserate with, multiple cis allies who I already knew I could commiserate with, and I had booze (while not as necessary and not the right method for others, it was helpful)
Let's run through some questions, I asked myself, and I pondered while hypothetically I told this story to others, what they might ask me!
Why wouldn't you want to do any Trans 101?
Sure, it's a service I offer, and I was given space and my travel and food was taken care of... but I don't have to talk about my identity if I don't feel like it. I knew the organizer agreed with me so I felt empowered to say in this instance, "Nah I'm good." You got questions, watch Honest Accomplice Theatre's Trans Literacy Project. While I didn't know if this group I was with specifically agreed with this person, others made no effort to challenge this man or his actions... so mum's the word.
Aren't they the prime candidates to learn, then?
Those who don't know? Sure. Those who specifically trivialize? Maybe. But those who won't listen are- you guessed it- are not gonna listen. Again, happily, this group started to listen, they did. But I have to make the snap decisions that are going to keep me safe. Because of this unwelcome impression, I had to view them as a group who wouldn't... Always happy to be wrong.
Why didn't /you/ say something? Why didn't you challenge him?
I still had my damn luggage in my hand. I was tired. I didn't know the type of dynamic this person had with everyone else. Was I going to become pubic enemy number one among this group of people I was supposed to help instruct as a writer? We have to pick and choose our battles, and in this case I chose to wait and see.
Why the hell did you write about this? Just move on!
I don't want this person to specifically feel called out... but this interaction stuck with me. He clearly felt comfortable enough to make a joke because he felt pronouns are trivial. My assumption is, it's because he's never had to deal with that. He appeared to be (again, it was later confirmed) a gay light-skinned cis man: why would he have ever had to deal with pronouns outside of his profession as a writer? But he chose to make a joke out using pronoun pins -- the event's very real attempt to cut off a very real issue that can ruin some of our days: being misgendered. As a result, I, the other trans people in the room, and our allies immediately viewed him as a potential threat... In most cases, one only gets to make a first impression once and this person thought that this was the first impression he wanted to make.
He was just joking, don't you think?
Yeah, no doubt... And? I don't know him. I don't know if he's a good person or making jokes in bad faith. I love horrible jokes... from and with people I know.
I sure do hope someone calls him out on it, and that he will listen... But that's not my responsibility.