Alternate pronouns won’t collapse language system

pronouns

Speaking Out, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 3/17/18

Today, the Democrat and Chronicle printed a letter from George Cassidy Payne , one of Talker‘s most active contributors.

In the letter, George says the use of transgender, non-binary and alternate pronouns are “an opportunity for all members of society to become more creative and respectful in their manner of communicating.”

George’s insights led me to revisit an article we did, Transgender Day of Remembrance. Did it all begin with Jean de Arc? Open Arms Pastor Brae Adams joins the conversation (BELOW). on the Open Arms Metropolitan Community Church of Western New York on East Main Street.

In the entrance to Open Arms, on part of a wall hang dozens of name tags. Worn by all members and visitors if they choose, each tag simply includes a name and 3 pronouns for each: him, he, his or she, her, hers or they, them and theirs.

brae 7

Name tags at Open Arms 11/21/15

As we wrote:

The tags are the great equalizer at Open Arms where each person can identify what pronouns represent themselves and their truth. So no one is singled out for their outward appearance, the tags are worn by all members regardless of their gender identity. Everyone is known and respected as they understand themselves.

The name tags at Open Arms and the environment they foster are tangible evidence that George claims are more than valid.

For a more extensive version of George’s argument, see his Clearing Up the Misunderstood Debate Between Freedom of Speech and Gender Expression 

Transgender Day of Remembrance. Did it all begin with Jean de Arc? Open Arms Pastor Brae Adams joins the conversation

brae 1 cropped

Remembrance photos of transgender victims of violence. Nicole Clark self-identifies as “fabulous” (even in my blurry pic)

November 21, 2015

To show solidarity for an event and a cause deserving support and its own kind of celebration, I visited Open Arms Metropolitan Community Church of Western New York on East Main Street. All day Friday, Open Arms was holding a vigil to honor the many transgender lives lost to violence in the past year. Open Arms MCC, established in Rochester in 1981, welcomes all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

brae 2

(back) Jaime, Thomas, Julie. Nicole Clark, Britnay (front) JoAnn, Kathy, Dwain

Not as well versed as I would like in the transgender movement — if it should be called that — I did some preliminary research. My attention caught by one small part of the discussion. Was Joan of Arc transgender (for which there were 8 responses on Yahoo questions)?

Hook in hand, I inquired of Open Arms’ Lay Pastoral Leader Brae Adams: was Joan transgender and what does asking — and answering — that question say about transgender folks, past and present?

Funny you should ask, said Brae. Actually, a portion of the thesis she is writing for her master’s work at Colgate Divinity School is devoted to that very topic. Serendipity. Had my angle!

As Brae is both a fellow academic (prone to prolixity) and a pastor (aware of audience needs and attention spans), we set her response limit to 150 words:

Was Joan of Arc the first transgender saint? Hard to know. She wore the armor of a man and fought in seven successful battles, even directing troops for France in the Hundred Years war against England. What is certain is Joan wore the armor of a man in combat. Possibly out of practicality. After all, most likely women’s clothiers were not well versed in chain mail. The battle field was no place for a woman’s corset and petticoats. Even when captured and tried by the English, Joan dressed as a man. Only when she,“stood confessed and convicted did she permit herself to be dressed as a woman.” (Holly Dever, FTM Female to Male Transsexuals in Society, 1997, Indiana UP) Does this mean she was transgender? Surely there is validity to that claim. Historically, hard to know. What is certain is that she was surely no slave to the gender conventions of her day.

Had just the beginning of my answer. Hardly limited to 150 words (Pastor Brae was only 4 words over the mark!) our conversation ranged from the Spanish Inquisition, Huxley’s Brave New World, Caitlin Jenner, Queen Victoria, biological determinism, “gender nihilism,” gender “passing,” the staggering toll of hate crimes against transgender people to what it really feels like to be a man or a woman. More from Brae to come.brae 7

When first arriving at Open Arms, I noticed part of a wall on which were hanging dozens of name tags. Each tag simply included a name and 3 pronouns for each: him, he, his or she, her, hers or they, them and theirs.

The tags are the great equalizer at Open Arms where each person can identify what pronouns represent themselves and their truth. So no one is singled out for their outward appearance, the tags are worn by all members regardless of their gender identity. Everyone is known and respected as they understand themselves.

brae 3brae 4The mingling of pronouns and names tags without faces (but decorated with the church logo) made the space feel safe, communal and welcoming. David Kramer: he, him, his. Brae Adams: she, her, hers.

new

Open Arms Lay Pastor Leader Brae Adams and myself [Photo: Nicole Clark] Transgender Day of Remembrance 11/20/15

Appropriately, at the event, a representative of the City of Rochester read a Proclamation in support of the Day.proclam

see WROC TV Day of Remembrance

SEE ALSO

Remembering in 1991 when the RCSD proudly led the way against discrimination

We Are Orlando. And 25 years ago when the RCSD led the nation against discrimination towards gay students

Rochester boasts one of the largest LGBTQ libraries in the nation.