Gender-Neutral Pronouns in Victoria’s Public Service

Identity Politics, Rundown

Penned under Libby DownUnder
Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services are promoting to their staff the first Wednesday of every month as “They Day”. Who’s “they”, you may ask? A (plural) group of people? Perhaps the Department’s customers as a group? When you throw common sense out the window, “they” is a ‘gender pronoun’, and the staff have been asked to avoid using male and female pronouns. The Department stated in an email to their staff that “non-binary identities are just as valid as binary gender identities… Names don’t always correspond to a person’s gender. There may be a gap between a person’s gender identity and your perception of the person. Saying ‘they’ is more flowing and inclusive than saying ‘he’ or ‘she’.”

However, identity is a tool to help people naturally interact and understand each other effectively and efficiently. Arbitrarily promulgating that an identity is just as valid as another is not a natural use of the tool. Indeed, it is an abuse of the tool to attempt to police thought and speech. When an identity is socially imposed rather than naturally negotiated, it renders itself useless and invalid. If non-binary identities are just as valid as binary gender identities, then why have a “They Day”? Why not just allow gender thought and speech to occur naturally? Modern language like LOL (Laugh Out Loud) for example, developed naturally, hence gaining social acceptance without the need for speech policing.

‘They’ as a gender pronoun is not more flowing if there’s an attempt to enforce the use of it in such a manner. If there’s a gap between a person’s gender identity and the perception of the person, then it only makes sense that the term ‘they’ be left to people to freely decide amongst themselves how it could and should be used. Some people are nasty, and won’t socially negotiate, but such is the nature of free speech, which is a two-way street. Live and let live, one can’t have cake and eat it too.

One staff member, Nicole Lord, said she has been “mistaken for a man, and that using gender-neutral pronouns will help avoid awkward situations”. Because of my male-sounding voice, sometimes I’m mistaken for a man over the phone, but usually people will self-correct when they realise my gender without my prompt. Even if awkward situations don’t resolve via social negotiation, (learning) self-resilience is key to feeling “safe and comfortable and [experiencing] less mental health problems like depression”, something that virtue-signalling cannot achieve in the long run.