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Re: Being excellent to one another

From: Alex Sassmannshausen
Subject: Re: Being excellent to one another
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2017 11:17:28 +0100
User-agent: mu4e 0.9.18; emacs 25.1.1

John Darrington writes:

> On Mon, Mar 20, 2017 at 09:57:04AM +0100, Alex Sassmannshausen wrote:
>      >
>      > ... and yes.  If an individual specifically requests to be referred to 
> by
>      > a partcular set of pronouns I will attempt to do so, but may 
> occasionally
>      > forget if that person wants feminine pronouns and is 6'4" and has an 
> enormous
>      > black wiry beard.
>      [I really don't know what your intention is with that last paragraph ??? 
> I
>      will just ignore it, as I wouldn't want to ascribe malice???]
> OMG! What is wrong here?  Why would you (or anyone) think this is malicious?  
> The 
> intention, which I thought was clear, is that if people make unusual requests
> we should try to accommodate those requests, but the requestor should not be
> suprised or offended if people don't always remember.  Surely that was 
> obvious?

Not obvious at all, thanks for the clarification.

> [...]
> Regarding your other comments,  as we have discussed before, we will have to
> agree to disagree about singular they.   I have not the benefit of ever 
> having learned English as a foreign language.  But I do remember in my 
> elementary
> school being taught NOT to use it *especially* not in written text.  And - 
> perhaps because of this early tuition - it still sounds clumsy and confusing 
> to 
> me.

Perhaps we have to agree to disagree on singular they, but I hope we can
still agree on the following statements from my earlier email:

[...] it's super easy:
- if you're not sure (or have forgotten), use "singular they", or ask
- if you know someone has a preference for pronouns, use those
- don't use pronouns when *you know* the other person does not identify
  with them.

If you make a mistake, no-one will tear your head off — it may well feel
like an awkward social faux pas to you, but, c'est la vie! And an
apology will show your intention was not malicious.

In manuals we can just use "singular they", because it is a well
established convention and does not cause confusion.

I think if you agree with the sentiment, but dislike singular they as
the "general fall-back" then the above approach provides an inherent
method for you not to have to use that ("just ask") in the informal

Alternatively it would be incumbent on you to provide an
alternative that is not just "I will bloody-mindedly stick to
gendering people when I don't know anything about them".

In the formal context, well… I think there is broad consensus that
"singular they" is awesome.

> People having been talking about being "welcoming".  Well, I beleive the way
> to achieve that is threefold:
> 1. Try not to offend.
> 2. Try not to be offended.
> 3. Recognise that diversity is an asset.

Absolutely, wonderful sentiment.  To that I would add:

4. Respect the integrity and right to self-definition of all participants



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