On Pronouns and the Self
Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Dana Levin considers the complicated intersection of gender and pronouns in the English language and Western society.
“Who cares!” you might exclaim, or, less generously, “What feminist harangue is about to ensue!”; No, my friends — think instead on the words of Loren Cannon, transgender triathlete from Northern California, as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 3, 2011: “It makes it hard to participate in society when all you want to do is order a Coke and people are so confused about what pronoun to use.”
Pronoun: an argument for a name. To which Waite says, “the lake/has no saint/after which/to take its name.” Who watches over the trans: the neither/nor, the both/and? If the language cannot name you, how can you be referred to, represented? This is of more than legal and commercial import; it’s of crucial psychospiritual significance. If language, via naming, is meant to “distill (your) real being,” what happens when the language fails you?