New Jersey and
The Pronoun Problem
one of the original 13 states, New Jersey
hasnt acquired venerability with
the opposite. Its the butt of more jokes than any
The latest New Jersey scandal
wont 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.
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,
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
shed gotten into this weird scene.
McGreevey is trying to be a
sinner and a victim at the same time. But even the liberal media
arent buying this one. They see hypocrisy, betrayal, and corruption
in his double life.
supreme court says San Franciscos 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.
we are sternly told that a persons sexual
orientation shouldnt matter at all. We should treat
ones 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
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 subjects 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
A sensible, practical compromise
if ever there was one. Thanks, NPR. Youre 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
wont 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?