What are Neopronouns?

What are Neopronouns?

Language has rules that we all follow on a day to day basis. These rules are often fluid and open to change, at least to the vast majority of society. To gatekeep, language has often been something the upper classes do to separate them from the lower classes, who are more prone to slang.

I will front this post with the admission that most of my claims here will be theoretical because there is very little academic research into this topic that I can cite. It will be a compilation of my own and others’ experiences. Standard and non-standard English has almost exclusively been a class divide for most of modern history. Still, there has been a shift in recent years with the introduction of Transgender issues into the mainstream. Suddenly, the lines have blurred with a mix of upper and lower class people for language adaptation and a similar mix attempting to gatekeep. However, I do not believe that the blurring is a matter of mixed opinions, but more the product of propaganda from those in the upper classes attempting to gatekeep.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton was the first to say, “the pen is mightier than the sword”[1]. He was correct, considering that the most radical ideas manifest through the written word and not through action most of the time. When one lives in a society that balances the clear divide between two seemingly distinct groups, the most radical thing one can do is defy that system to the extreme. One way is to stand firm with the group treated as inferior and stay firm in believing that both groups are equal. The other way is to undermine those two groups. Neither of these actions is mutually exclusive, but both are equally radical.

Patriarchy in Europe was a Catholic invention, according to feminist Mary Daly. She says that “Patriarchal religion has served to perpetuate all of these dynamics [sexual caste] of delusion, naming them “natural” and bestowing its supernatural blessings upon them. The system has been advertised as “according to the divine plan”.”[2] In simpler terms, religious belief has taken the unjust divides between the sexes and used them to bestow the title of “dominant sex” to males.

“The exploitative sexual caste system could not be perpetuated without the consent of the victims as well as of the dominant sex, and such consent if obtained through sex role socialisation – a conditioning process which beings to operate the moment we are born, and which is enforced by most institutions. Parents, friends, teachers, textbook authors and illustrators, advertisers, those who control the mass media, toy and clothes manufacturers, professionals such as doctors and psychologists – all contribute to the socialisation process. This happens through dynamics that are largely uncalculated and unconscious, yet which reinforce the assumptions, attitudes, stereotypes, customs, and arrangements of a sexually hierarchical society.”[3]

This means Patriarchy is cyclical. The “dominant sex” sets it up so that it penetrates everything – even if one tries to stray away from it. She claims that the masses consent to it by continuing the cycle, and thus we must break away from it in every aspect, which brings me back to my opening concept. The patriarchy establishes two distinct groups, one seemingly inferior to the other, so I hypothesise that the most radical thing people can do is stand up for the perceived inferior or disobey the distinction.

The initial way historical feminists did both was by becoming “political lesbians”. This meant they disobeyed patriarchal heteronormativity by having both romantic and sexual relationships with women exclusively, regardless of their orientation. They disobeyed the distinction between male and female by ignoring their perceived biological duty to be wives to men as forced by Western patriarchal ideation. Now, the battle is on the grounds of expression. An increasing number of feminists have taken charge of their expression, feeling free to dress hyper-feminine or more androgynously rather than continue to obey modern beauty standards. It has created the online trope of the “blue-haired feminist” because some radical feminists began to dye their hair and cut it short as an act of rebellion against patriarchal values.

Of course, the explanation is simplified significantly, but this is not a post about modern radical feminism. This example is used merely for illustrative effect. To be radical, one must break society’s rules.

To be transgender is patriarchally radical. The idea that any sex can be any gender is categorically radical, but that does not mean that the idea of breaking the strict rules of sex and gender as imposed by a patriarchal system is necessarily the end of the fight.

The language we use to describe someone’s gender identity as we know it today dates back to the 1400s[4].

The use of the gendered pronouns “he” (to describe a man), “she” (to describe a woman) and, “they” (to describe someone whose gender is unknown or inconclusive) is standard in society. Recently, gender-neutral pronouns were popularised by gender non-conforming individuals when describing someone even if one knows their sex; however, the language rules were the same. Therefore there was a pre-established expectation for people who were non-conforming to abide by, despite the very nature of their identity being “non-conforming”. Use gender-neutral pronouns and therefore appear to have a gender that is “unknown” or “inconclusive” – be androgenous[5].

The expectation of non-binary people to already fit into a box after attempting to break out of an already rigorously policed “sex caste” conflicts with some non-binary people’s identities, and thus neo-pronouns came into use.

A neo-pronoun is any pronoun used to describe someone in place of any expected options. For example, someone who uses neo-pronouns will go by anything other than “he”, “she”, or “they”. They do this to break free of the pronouns and roles assigned to them by a patriarchal society[6][7][8]. Common examples include xe/xim, xe/xer and ey/em.

In the past year, a debate on “do neo-pronouns exist” has found itself in the mainstream. A select few use their voice to denounce neo-pronouns as something “transtrenders” do, rather than a helpful way to reclaim one’s identity, which has justified the transphobia perpetuated by countless cis people online towards people who use neo-pronouns.

“The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Indo-European root ‘es-,’ meaning ‘to be.’ When I discovered this etymology, I intuitively understood that for a [person] trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet, ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin’.”[9]

The problem with neo-pronouns lies not in theory nor with those who use them, but in the discriminatory and hateful ones. Those who aim to maintain the status quo are too wrapped up in self-importance to make an effort. Rebelling against a societal norm is always met with resistance, but why?

When a person is scared, they elicit two responses: fight or flight. The fight response causes people to resist change by devalidating all those attempting to live authentically. The flight response appears to be too busy with their own life to give a damn about the trans community. Both responses are born out of fear. People resist neo-pronouns because it puts the resistant’s own identity into question, causing fear. This is why it is called transphobia. Daly says, “Courage to be is the key to revelatory power of the feminist revolution.”[10] Therefore, fear is the characteristic of the status quo – fear of disobeying the Patriarchal standard.

Some people have burdened themselves with the role of teacher to the fearful because teaching is a burden. The educators spread a message of freedom; freedom of identity, freedom of expression and the freedom to be seen and heard. For people to understand neo-pronouns, they have to listen to people before forming their own opinions, especially if that opinion is going to be “neo-pronouns do not exist”. How can one call oneself an ally whilst not being empathetic all the trans experience?

To those who experience being trans in the modern world, gender is not a given. We are not provided with the language and the resources to describe ourselves adequately. It is not as simple as looking down and feeling sure that a doctor got it right. Neo-pronouns are a tool that some trans people use to describe themselves better because the accepted language does not describe them. It is that simple.

“The method that is required is not one of correlation but of liberation. Even the term “method” must be reinterpreted and wrenched out of its usual semantic field, for the emerging creativity in women is by no means a merely cerebral process. In order to understand the implications of this process, it is necessary to grasp the fundamental fact that women have had the power of naming stolen from us. We have not been free to use our power to name ourselves, the world or God. The old naming was not the product of dialogue- a fact inadvertently admitted in the genesis story of Adam’s naming the animals and the women. Women are now realising that the universal imposing of names by men has been false because partial. That is, inadequate words have been taken as adequate.”[11]

The problem with established language is that it oppresses. Until recently, Doctor meant man, Nurse meant woman, Scientist meant man, House Keeper meant woman. Semantics is the very root of modern oppression in the western world. We can overcome it by harnessing language and re-writing it for the oppressed. Neo-pronouns allow transgender people to write their own stories without the input of established gender roles. It allows them to break free of the new box society has created. Neo-pronouns do exist, and they are essential.

To find my socials go to iocutmore.com. On my website, you can also find LGBTQ+ support links as well as a list of brilliant (mostly LGBTQ+) creators to who you should go and show some support. I hope you farewell until next time,

-Io

Bibliography

[1] Bulwer, E. (1930). Richelieu, or, The conspiracy : a play, in five acts. New York: S. French, [Approximately.
[2][3] Daly, M.F. (1995). Beyond God the Father : toward a philosophy of women’s liberation. London: Women’s Press.
[4][5] Oxford English Dictionary. (n.d.). they, pron., adj., adv., and n. [online] Available at: https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/200700 [Accessed 7 Feb. 2022].
[6] http://www.yipinstitute.com. (n.d.). In Defense of Neopronouns | YIP Institute. [online] Available at: https://www.yipinstitute.com/articles/in-defense-of-neopronouns [Accessed 7 Feb. 2022].
[7] The Argus. (n.d.). Neopronouns: Helpful or Harmful? Charlotte Lavers, Steyning Grammar School. [online] Available at: https://www.theargus.co.uk/news/young-reporter/18873698.neopronouns-helpful-harmful-charlotte-lavers-steyning-grammar-school/.
[8] Mic. (n.d.). Neopronouns are the next step in the gender revolution. [online] Available at: https://www.mic.com/life/what-are-neopronouns-how-do-they-honor-identity-78034897 [Accessed 7 Feb. 2022].
[9] Nast, C. (1996). SIN BIG. [online] The New Yorker. Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1996/02/26/sin-big [Accessed 7 Feb. 2022].
[10] Daly, M. (1999). Quintessence … : realizing the archaic future : a radical elemental feminist manifesto containing cosmic comments and conversations with the author. London: Women’s Press.
[11] Daly, M.F. (1995). Beyond God the Father : toward a philosophy of women’s liberation. London: Women’s Press.

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