David Heinen: A case against singular ‘they’ | TheUnion.com

David Heinen: A case against singular ‘they’

I find Sharon Delgado’s defense of plural pronouns in reference to trans and gay individuals (Other Voices, Oct. 9) to be unconvincing.

While I support wholeheartedly full equality for people with diverse gender identity in society, school, politics and the workplace, I fail to see how a fundamental breakdown between the one and the many in English usage can further such aspirations. It is clear to me, however, that this practice can make simple sentences indecipherable, which can be a burden for the rest of us.

In fact, to me, using plural pronouns, implying more than one individual for trans and gay individuals, seems to me to be more of a performative “wokeness” than anything that will provide increased access to social equality.

Ms. Delgado, as evidence of such usage’s provenance, refers to a passage from Jane Austen; “I would have everybody marry if they can do it properly.” Here, I read “everybody” as a group of many, not a singular individual.

And George Bernard Shaw: ”No man goes to war to be killed, but they do get killed.” He would not be saying “Billy goes to war, but they do get killed.” Clearly, to me, “No Man” here is used by Shaw to refer to the ranks of soldiers destined to become cannon fodder, not one “Billy.“ And the Bard: “Every one to rest themselves betake.” Well, it seems clear to me that “Every one” here is used as a collective noun referring to everyone in the bar at the time. Would Shakespeare say “Billy to rest themselves betake?” I don’t think so.

At the same time, I agree with Ms. Delgado that the installation of Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer as head of the regional Sierra Pacific Synod, apparently the first transgender bishop in a mainline church, to be a good thing.

Consider Amy, a trans woman, who meets her friend Alice for lunch. After lunch they go for a walk and a car careens around the corner, killing them. So who went for a walk? Who died?

David Heinen

North San Juan


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