Gender Pronouns. A true-life story.

The Week That Was

By Alan Simons


TORONTO. June 3/22 – Before I begin this story, let me explain that I am not a supporter of Gender Pronouns.

To those of you who are unqualified with the term, as I was, I think it only fair to tell you that up to a few days ago you might as well have also asked me if I knew what the difference is between polysynthetic and agglutinative languages.

I would have responded with a Duh?

However, all that changed yesterday, over breakfast, at my favourite Toronto bakery restaurant. Nine thirty-ish on a June morning with all the serving staff decked out at their stations, united, readily waiting to serve their clientele with their first cup, but not their last, of hot coffee of the day.

That’s how she came to talk to me.

Her name, I gathered earlier on in our conversation was Goldie. She sat at a facing table.

“My granddaughter, Oi!, may she soon find an educated boy, she told me to go and Google Gender Pronouns.” With that pronouncement, Goldie had my full attention.

I learned from Goldie that New York City’s Department of Social Services defined a gender pronoun as a pronoun that a person chooses to use for themselves to describe their gender.

Goldie at this time realised she had captured a willing partner. She continued while getting the attention of the nearest member of staff who had a coffee pot in her hand.

“What this means is that, even if a person was born with female genitalia, they may still elect to use masculine pronouns to describe themselves, depending on what suits their gender expression.”

“Oh, really? That is interesting!” I answered, and then to close the subject matter, I diverted my eyes down towards my plate of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, cucumber, and lightly toasted Challah.

Scrambled Eggs with Tomato and Cucumber 001


“Yes, it is interesting,” she replied, without any thought of taking a breath.

“My Sevyn,” she said with a sigh in her voice that any Jew recognises as a clear indication the granddaughter has reached the age of marriage, “Sevyn told me I can use the word other to describe myself.”

I must have misheard Goldie. “Mother?”

“No, no! I am now an other!”

“Another what?” I asked.

It was at this very moment that I had to intercede to express my wish to be left alone to finish my breakfast. I failed. Goldie joined me at my table.

Seated together that morning, Goldie, seized upon the opportunity, as any other other would, to share her newly found knowledge of gender pronouns. I knew I was doomed when she started her next sentence with, “Did you know?”

“Did you know gender pronouns can be broken down into four groups? Subjective, Objective, Possessive and Reflexive.”

My fork at this time, as if it had to obey Goldie, had automatically separated my plate of what now had become cold scrambled eggs, tomatoes, cucumber, and challah toast into four separate groups.

Goldie, in a fit of enthusiasm, continued by searching for a piece of paper in her purse.

“Look here!”

She produced a paper from amongst all the items I had no wish to see and pointed.

“Look here, at the bottom! Ve is the Subjective, Ver is the Objective, Vis or Vers is the Possessive, and Verself is the Reflexive.”

My utter look of confusion egged her on.

“Here’s some example for you. Ve is walking. Subjective! It belongs to Ver. Objective! The sunglasses are Vers. Possessive! Ve brought verself a coffee. Reflexive!”

Not that it was anything unusual or out of the way in which my appointed gender pronoun authority had decided to share her newly found knowledge with me, but there comes a time in one’s life when one has to make a statement. This was that time!

“Goldie. Mother. Another, or just plain Other! Did you know…?

And with those words, I looked straight at her and said in the strongest British accent I could muster:

“Like many English words, other possesses great flexibility in meaning and function. Over the past few centuries, it has served as an adjective, an adverb, a noun, and a pronoun. In recent decades, other has increased its part-of-speech portfolio to include verb use, having acquired the meaning ‘to treat or consider (a person or a group of people) as alien to oneself or one’s group (as because of different racial, sexual, or cultural characteristics).’ Some people find it disconcerting when a word takes on a new part of speech, a process known as functional shift. The phenomenon is quite common, however — our language contains many thousands of words which have been formed in this fashion.”

“So, there you have it! Right? I am not a supporter of Gender Pronouns.”

Hardly touched, I said goodbye to my breakfast, paid my bill, and left.

Sources and credits: betlifeonline.com; merriam-webster.com; gooddecisions.com


 

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