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Lawyers Club of San Diego is a specialty bar association committed to advancing the status of women in the law and society. We use this space to share articles written about Lawyers Club events and programs and items of interest to our members which are relevant to our mission. The opinions outlined in content published on the Lawyers Club of San Diego blog are those of the authors and not of Lawyers Club. All members are encouraged to participate respectfully in discussions regarding the topics posted on the blog. Guest writers are welcome. Guidelines for writers may be found on the Leadership Resources page.

 

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How Many Freakin’ Pronouns?

Posted By Ari Hornick, Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Last year, Laci Green posted How Many Freakin Genders, and How Many Freakin Genders, Part 2. If you’ve never thought about issues surrounding sex and gender, her videos are a good introduction. However, Green makes a common mistake when she says that biological sex has basically two options (male and female). To this point, scientific research has found that the genetic switches determinative of your biological sex are not binary like an on/off switch. They're more like dimmer switches with an infinite number of settings between extremes. How many freakin’ biological sexes? Possibly infinite.


Even if there were only one gender for each biological sex, there would be an infinite number of genders. If different genders use different pronouns, how many freakin’ pronouns? He and she don’t come close to covering infinity, so people have come up with a variety of first person, singular pronouns to fill the gap. There is some resistance to the new pronouns, but remember, we learned how to say “Ms.” We learned to say “African-American.” If a friend changes their name when they get married or divorced, we adapt to the new name. If we know a judge personally, we don’t forget to call them “your honor” in court. We can definitely learn which pronouns people use.


How do you know which pronouns a person uses? They tell you. Until then, stick with gender neutral pronouns. Perhaps the easiest path is to start with the familiar: Use “they” as a singular pronoun. “They” has been both singular and plural (like “you”) since, at least, Chaucer, and we still use it that way. (See e.g. “If a friend changes their name…”). If you don’t want to take my word for it, check out the Motivated Grammar post “Singular ‘they’” or Grammar Girl’s “Gender-Neutral Pronouns” and “Singular ‘They’.”


How do you tell someone which pronouns you use? It’s easy to insert this into your introduction, “I’m Ari—they, them—nice to meet you.” Include your pronouns in your signature block. My signature block says “Pronouns: they, them, their” right below my phone number. If someone uses an incorrect pronoun for you, just give a mild, matter of fact correction as you would if someone used an incorrect pronoun for your pet. “I use they.” If the person looks confused, follow up with “not she” or “not he” as the case may be.


What if you say the wrong pronoun by accident? Don’t freak out. Correct yourself, or accept the correction, in a mild, matter-of-fact tone, and move on. For example, “…she—I mean they—…” The key is to be respectful.


To make your pronouns known, the convention is to list them in the following order: subject, object, possessive, possessive pronoun, reflexive. “I’m Ari—they, them, their, theirs, themself.” You don’t have to list all five all the time, but do include any nonstandard parts. “I’m Ari—they, them” is sufficient, but “I’m Ari—phe, phe, phes” (pronunciation: fē, fē, fēz). I would stop there because the listener will probably assume the last two correctly (phes, pheself).


An easy way to be an ally is to include pronouns in your introduction and signature block even if you’re cisgender. This will help everyone feel more comfortable asserting their pronouns, and you’ll be less likely to use an incorrect pronoun if everyone includes them in their introductions and signature blocks. Win-win.

 

Ari Hornick, who wrote this for San Diego Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee, is an ethics attorney in downtown San Diego.

 

Tags:  binary gender  cisgender  gender  introductions  LGBTQ  pronouns  signature blocks  trans 

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The Journey of Gender Identity

Posted By Jodi Cleesattle, Friday, July 6, 2018

The Journey of Gender Identity


Since 1999, I have been the mother of daughters. Well, in 1999, I was the mother of a daughter. The second one came along in 2002.

 

When I divorced in 2007, it was just us girls in the house. Even our dogs and cats were all girls, except for Sparky, who retreated to his man cave behind the couch when he needed to get away from all the estrogen.

 

Then in 2016, my older child began identifying as genderqueer, or nonbinary. They adopted “they/them/their” pronouns and shortened their first name to a more androgynous nickname to reflect their identity as neither male nor female. Although they flirted with gender fluidity – some days presenting more female, some days more male – they settled on nonbinary status, for a time. In the last year, though, they began leaning more toward a male identity. Now, they are considering transitioning to male.

 

I am used to being the mother of girls, and I admit that I had a “but, boys are icky” moment.

 

But I realized that my child will always be a feminist, whether male, female, or nonbinary. They will always be a champion of women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. They will always be an activist for those who are disadvantaged. They will always be the same spirited, creative, curious, wonderful human being they have always been.

 

Fully realizing their gender identity, and the separate-but-related issue of their sexual orientation, has been a journey.

 

It is a journey that has felt slow to them, but often feels fast to me. Sometimes I get dizzy and confused by the twists and turns of the journey. Sometimes they don’t tell me the path until after they have thoroughly explored it, and I have to race to catch up to where they are. I don’t mean to be slow, but I’m not as nimble and young as they are.

 

I have learned so much while journeying with my child. As a cisgendered (for the unfamiliar, that means identifying with the gender assigned at birth) woman, I never thought much about gender identity. As a bisexual woman, I never thought much about sexual orientation beyond LGBTQ. Through my child, I have learned that gender and orientation are so much more nuanced.

 

Most importantly, I have realized that everybody’s journey is different. Some trans kids feel at a young age that they’re trapped in the wrong gender. Some take longer to pinpoint what doesn’t feel quite right to them.

 

It has not always been easy, but it has been a privilege being on this journey with my child.

 

I love them for who they are, whoever they are. No matter their name, no matter what they look like, no matter their identity, they will always be my child.

 

Editor’s Note: Happy Pride Month, San Diego! Join Lawyers Club for two events: She Fest on July 7, and the San Diego Pride Parade on July 14: She Fest: The Time is Now: Saturday, July 7, 2018, 11-6, North Park Community Park, 4044 Idaho St., 92104

Join the Lawyers Club’s marching contingent at the San Diego Pride Parade on Saturday July 14, 2018 – for details, contact Allison Troini (Allison@lawyersclubsandiego.com).

Jodi Cleesattle is a Deputy Attorney General with the California Department of Justice, a past Lawyers Club board member, the current Lawyers Club press liaison, and she wrote this as a member of Lawyers Club’s LGBTQ Committee.

Tags:  cisgender  LGBTQ  nonbinary  parenting  Pride  transgender 

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