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 New Jersey and  
The Pronoun Problem

August 19, 2004 
Though one of the original 13 states, New Jersey hasn’t acquired venerability with time. Read Joe's columns the day he writes them.Just the opposite. It’s the butt of more jokes than any other state.

The latest New Jersey scandal won’t help. Governor James McGreevey has resigned his office with an eccentric statement combining boast with confession. His boast is that he is a homosexual; his confession is that he has had an adulterous fling with a man. In addition, a second man accuses him of “sexual harassment.” Oh, brother.

Even McGreevey’s formulation is flaky: “My truth is that I am a gay American.” His truth? Gay American? Slow down, man!

What is “my truth” supposed to mean? Do we all have our own truths these days?

And why “gay American”? Is that a nationality now, as distinct from, say, “gay Canadian”? Or does McGreevey just think it sounds a little classier than “queer New Jerseyan”? Should we also speak of “pedo-Americans,” “bestio-Americans,” and “necro-Americans”?

Standing beside him during his announcement was his wife (his second), a blonde knockout who looks like Helen of Troy and then some. She must have been wondering how she’d gotten into this weird scene.

McGreevey is trying to be a sinner and a victim at the same time. But even the liberal media aren’t buying this one. They see hypocrisy, betrayal, and corruption in his double life.

Meanwhile, California’s supreme court says San Francisco’s mayor exceeded his authority by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. So the wedded bliss of thousands has been interrupted by the first mass annulment in recorded history. We do live in interesting times.

Times that make our heads swim, in fact. The homosexual victimhood racket follows a self-contradictory pattern with which we are by now all too familiar.

[Breaker quote: A solution from National Public Radio]First we are sternly told that a person’s “sexual orientation” shouldn’t matter at all. We should treat one’s homosexuality as a matter of indifference, none of our business, and so on. To attach importance and especially negative value to it is “bigotry” and “discrimination.”

Next we are told that to a homosexual, that same “orientation” is the most important thing in the world — a source of “pride” and even “identity” itself.

Well, which is it?

Both, of course. Official victim status means having it both ways. The state must enforce strict neutrality toward its designated victims, forbidding us to act as if their differences count; but it must also offer them special treatment, favor, affirmative action, and government jobs.

This duality is confusing enough when applied to women and ethnic groups, who are relatively easy to define and identify; but how is it applied to “orientations,” for which we have only the subject’s say-so that “I am gay”? And what about bisexuals?

Once the state assumes the job of fighting every conceivable form of “discrimination,” all sorts of hard cases and gray areas emerge. A recent commentator on, yes, National Public Radio has found a new problem: the pronoun. Her father got a sex-change operation, and the family has been left bitterly divided over whether to refer to the altered paterfamilias as “he” or “she.” The woman suggested that we could avoid such acrimony in the future by adopting a new gender-neutral pronoun for everyone.

A sensible, practical compromise if ever there was one. Thanks, NPR. You’re always there for us.

Before the issue reaches the U.S. Supreme Court for resolution, we can all work for pronoun reform. If we can simply agree on a new, universal, transsexual-friendly pronoun, we won’t have to wait for the government to act. All we have to do is start using it. Parents can pitch in by gently correcting their children when they say “he” or “she.” Publishers can purge new editions of Shakespeare and Hemingway of the outmoded pronouns as ruthlessly as some of them now cleanse Huckleberry Finn of racial epithets. And of course the government could assist by using the omnipronoun in all official documents. (It goes without saying that government contracts would be withheld from businesses that persisted in using the old pronouns.)

No doubt it would be quite an undertaking, even more laborious than the revolutionary attempts to teach people to address each other as citoyen or tovarishch. After all, it took centuries to rid everyday English (not to mention biblical translations) of thee and thou. Conservatives may prefer a less radical, more pluralistic approach: allowing everyone to have his (or her) own pronoun preference.

Thus, on the McGreevey model, a man (or a woman, or a transsexual) would be free to say, “My pronoun is he.” But would it catch on in New Jersey?

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2004 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
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