Recently, I raised the issue of the worldview of the Resistance to President Trump (“Resistance, in the Light of 1776”). I would like to delve further into the matter. It will take a few installments. Basically, what I hope to do is to put order in some readings, observations, impressions, and overhearings (I live in a university neighborhood, and one establishment I regularly eat at is the aptly named “One World Café”). This effort is neither scientific nor conclusive. Call it “political” in the sense Pierre Manent employs when he says les choses politiques arrivent en gros (“political things first come to sight in rough outline”).
Identity and political power have allied themselves in the modern academy in troubling ways. Exemplifying this is the new “personal pronoun” overture. I recently had to attend a seminar, as a part of my doctoral studies, on “microaggressions and diversity,” and a discussion leader greeted us with: “Hello, my name is Simon, and my personal pronouns are ‘He, Him, His.’”
This strange, preemptive declaration of one’s preferred gender identity is apparently intended to ward off “microaggressions” from potentially confused colleagues.
Last week, in a case brought by the State of Texas and several other states and state agencies, a U.S. District Court (Judge O’Connor, Northern District, Texas) issued a preliminary injunction against the feds’ rule, or maybe it’s just a suggestion, contained in a “Dear Colleague” letter regarding bathroom, locker room, and shower access for transgendered individuals. Judge O’Connor ordered some further briefing on the appropriate scope of the injunction. The ruling is just one brief episode in the transgender bathroom saga, whose trajectory points to yet another Supreme Court determination on conflicts between the Constitution’s Meaning of Life Clause and the rule of law as we thought we knew it.
California Senate Bill 1146 (SB 1146) created an earthquake of controversy.
Grammar has consequences. My grade school still taught, in the 1980s, that words have gender; people have sex. For decades, grammar nerds have bristled at official forms asking whether their “gender” is male or female. It’s like being asked, “What’s your part of speech?”
Somewhere along the line “gender” became a polite substitute for “sex” (perhaps to reduce snickers from adolescent boys). But with sex, gender, and the difference between them now playing into legal and public policy decisions, the confusion of these words means we can barely state the issue. Our gender trouble begins with grammar trouble.