By now the phrase is a cliché — “Never apologize to the left” — but the truth behind the words couldn’t be any more compelling.
Last week at the University of Michigan for example, the Institute for the Humanities hosted the event “The Power of Pronouns,” part of its High Stakes Culture lecture series. As reported by The Michigan Daily, those on the panel “spoke about the linguistics behind gendered pronouns and what language may be used in the future.”
The panelists included a transgender person and a lesbian, but this didn’t thwart some students from taking “issue with the framing of the discussion.”
Junior Jordan Furr, who identifies as transgender, chided the panel for getting “into so much stress about grammatical issues” because, he said, the “power of the pronoun” is really about “how powerful it is.” Whoa — deep.
Like a good contemporary academic, linguistics professor Robin Queen (the lesbian panelist) apologized to Furr, saying it was perhaps “misguided on [her] part not to be more specific” about the political nature of pronouns for different people.
Furr didn’t appear to be placated, however. He said trans issues, such as pronoun use, “should be represented by trans-identifying individuals who are personally affected.” It didn’t matter to him that Scott Larson, an American culture professor, represented the trans community on the panel … because Larson doesn’t use the “they/them” pronouns. Furr said the professor was “tokenized” by the other panelists in order to gain “credibility.”
And then the ante was upped: “At the end of the day, only trans people should be talking about this,” Furr said (emphasis added).
You might think such a statement couldn’t be topped — that is, if you’re unfamiliar with the identity political left. Furr, now joined by another student, returned to Queen: She is “symptomatic of a system that privileges cis identity and perspective.”
“It’s not about just one individual person doing something transphobic, it’s about cis people getting away with doing that,” senior Katrina Stalcup said. “Everything she did isn’t uniquely something that only she does. That’s quantified by all the questions that came afterwards where a cis man reiterated what Jordan said, and just completely invalidated the thing that he had said.”
Looks like another intersectional conundrum in all its glory. And don’t think for a second that if Professors Queen, Larson, and others on the panel did/said precisely what Furr, et. al. were bellyaching about … that the latter wouldn’t find something else about which to whine.
It’s all about maintaining a state of perpetual grievance.
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