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canbelto

Chase Johnsey leaves Trocks for wanting to transition

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53 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

The problem I see is that "their" is the equivalent of his, hers or its (no apostrophe!), while "they" singular has to stand alongside he, she and it.

Hmm, sorry, maybe I'm being obtuse. But what's the problem there, could you explain?

53 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

You begin to lose a little of the musicality of language when you add artificial constraints.

What sorts of "artificial constraints" do you have in mind? Language evolves as we need it to do new things. I'm not sure at what point that becomes "artificial." (It's a human capacity, after all.)

53 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

Maybe younger, more inflexible brains. Less tolerant of inconsistency in their elders, who've learned to deal with all the contradictions and paradoxes of life and are therefore more agile in their thinking.

Again, I'm not sure I follow. (Sorry!) How would the capacity to more easily incorporate a new language form reflect a type of inflexibility, or an intolerance of inconsistency?

Edited by nanushka

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Hmm getting back to the heart of the matter ... any ideas for where Chase Johnsey might find a new artistic home? He is extremely talented. The original founder of the Trocks Peter Anastos later became a choreographer and writer.

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2 hours ago, nanushka said:

Hmm, sorry, maybe I'm being obtuse. But what's the problem there, could you explain?

I was just trying to lay out what I saw as the differences between the two instances.

That is, in the first case one uses their as a substitute for, or instead of, her, his or its.

In the second case one is using it, she, he, their interchangeably, in parallel.

You could say their is the common denominator in the first case, whereas in the second case its, her, his, their are all numerators - to borrow an image from math. To me they seem structurally different.

I also meant that language evolves organically, not artifically - as in Greek where the demotic won out over the artificially constructed katherevousa. So we'll see what happens a few years ahead.

My other comment, to sandik, is really off topic and just an observation the sometimes the young are more inflexible that their parents. Not really about our language discussion. Supposed to be a little humorous or point out an irony.

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1 hour ago, Quiggin said:

I was just trying to lay out what I saw as the differences between the two instances.

That is, in the first case one uses their as a substitute for, or instead of, her, his or its.

In the second case one is using it, she, he, their interchangeably, in parallel.

You could say their is the common denominator in the first case, whereas in the second case its, her, his, their are all numerators - to borrow an image from math. To me they seem structurally different.

Oh, sure, I didn't mean to suggest that just because singular "they/their" (and there are historical examples of both) has been a part of the language for centuries that this new shift ("they" as a pronoun referring to a named, singular antecedent) would be more of the same. It's obviously different — it feels different, and it will take some getting used to. For many of us, it's a bit awkward. (That dissipates, though, as one gets used to it, I've found.)

My point in bringing up the historical precedents for singular "they/their" was to counter the common response (which I've heard from many grammar-sensitive individuals — among whom I obviously count myself!) that "I just can't accept they as singular, because that's just wrong." That response is often based on ideas about language and grammar that are rooted in prescriptivist fallacies. Many of the grammar "rules" that we all learned growing up (e.g. you can't split infinitives, you can't end a sentence with a preposition) were basically invented by self-nominated "grammarians" who took it upon themselves to tell others how they should speak, when in fact all along we've all already known how to do that pretty well, for the most part.

As I was noting to a friend earlier just this evening, yes indeed, the shift to these new forms is challenging. You try to call people by the words they ask to be called by, because that seems the right and respectful thing to do. Sometimes you mess up, and you feel bad. But it's the trying that matters to them. And it gets easier, and begins to feel more natural. And over time you mess up less and things begin to change.

(Thanks for taking the time to explain by the way!)

Edited by nanushka

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2 hours ago, Quiggin said:

My other comment, to sandik, is really off topic and just an observation the sometimes the young are more inflexible that their parents. Not really about our language discussion. Supposed to be a little humorous or point out an irony.

Indeed -- it can swing both ways.  Though I do find that, once they've realized a situation is possible, they're generally faster to accommodate) -- fewer years of habit to undo.

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3 hours ago, canbelto said:

Hmm getting back to the heart of the matter ... any ideas for where Chase Johnsey might find a new artistic home? He is extremely talented. The original founder of the Trocks Peter Anastos later became a choreographer and writer.

Alas, I do not know.  The Trocks seemed like such a perfect fit, between the style and the skill set -- I'm not sure where else might use those talents in quite that combination.  Unless he were to tour as a soloist.

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2 hours ago, nanushka said:

My point in bringing up the historical precedents for singular "they/their" was to counter the common response (which I've heard from many grammar-sensitive individuals — among whom I obviously count myself!) that "I just can't accept they as singular, because that's just wrong." That response is often based on ideas about language and grammar that are rooted in prescriptivist fallacies. 

A couple of questions come to mind. Why would not using "they" to refer to a singular individual be an arbitrary or spurious rule grammatically? And are people asking to be referred to as "they," or is the term being prescribed by others when the person's gender is in flux? 

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6 minutes ago, kfw said:

A couple of questions come to mind. Why would not using "they" to refer to a singular individual be an arbitrary or spurious rule grammatically? And are people asking to be referred to as "they," or is the term being prescribed by others when the person's gender is in flux? 

It is one of the options chosen by gender fluid individuals themselves.

 

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10 hours ago, kfw said:

A couple of questions come to mind. Why would not using "they" to refer to a singular individual be an arbitrary or spurious rule grammatically? And are people asking to be referred to as "they," or is the term being prescribed by others when the person's gender is in flux? 

On the first point, I'm not sure what you mean by "an arbitrary or spurious rule." It's not a rule of any sort but a common use of language, one that many English-language speakers already employ when the gender of a single individual is unknown. In fact, as the historical examples I've pointed to suggest, it's something that many English-language speakers have been doing for centuries. (See the resources I linked to above for plenty of examples — or just listen out for it in your everyday conversations.) English supposedly does not have a gender-neutral singular personal pronoun; but since it doesn't, and since we've often found that we need one, speakers have quite reasonably come to use "they" to fit that need. As in the first example given on the first page of examples I linked to: "Tell that special person you love them before they're gone."

As for whether that use of language is "arbitrary or spurious" — well, it certainly doesn't seem arbitrary. And if by "spurious" you mean "illegitimate," many self-annointed "grammarians" will tell you it's "grammatically incorrect," but it's not really up to them to decide, and it never has been. That's not how language actually works, as linguists (i.e. credentialed professional researchers who study language) would explain. See, for instance, this page from Merriam-Webster, where you can scroll down to a section headed "Can THEY, THEIR, THEM and THEMSELVES be used as singular pronouns?" You'll notice that the authors of that section (who were likely either advised by linguists or included linguists, hired to sit on a usage panel) say nothing at all about grammatical rules but focus instead on commonly accepted usage.

(I strongly recommend the chapter titled "Telling Right from Wrong" in Harvard linguist Steven Pinker's excellent book The Sense of Style for more on the issue of grammar and rules.)

And yes, on the second point, it's something that many people have asked for, for themselves. As I said above: "You [by which I meant one] try to call people by the words they ask to be called by, because that seems the right and respectful thing to do."

Edited by nanushka

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13 hours ago, sandik said:

Indeed -- it can swing both ways.  Though I do find that, once they've realized a situation is possible, they're generally faster to accommodate) -- fewer years of habit to undo.

Often as not the young are at least as absolutist and narrow-minded, because they have less experience of the world, of life, and have yet to confront many of their own failings and frailties.  It's surprising how often tolerance comes with time.

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I don’t see anyone here taking a purely prescriptivist position and with all due respect, I don’t think anyone here requires admonitions and reading recommendations on the subject (although I do thank you, nanushka, for the language log links, which were.....most instructive).

 In any case, it’s not relevant here since for our purposes, Chase Johnsey is a “he” until such time as he announces that he is undergoing a transition of whatever degree or simply says he wants to be considered a woman.

Returning to our moutons, here's a recent interview with Johnsey.

Quote

Did you ever think what you experienced would be so prevalent in such a creative industry?

There is only one Trockadero. We knew we were being abused and mistreated, and we told them this. I had many discussions with my artistic director on numerous occasions about the harassment. He would turn it around and make me seem as if I was ungrateful for the opportunity; if I didn’t like it, I could leave — things like that.

 

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1 hour ago, dirac said:

In any case, it’s not relevant here since for our purposes, Chase Johnsey is a “he” until such time as he announces that he is undergoing a transition of whatever degree or simply says he wants to be considered a woman.

He's called himself "gender queer," and I respectfully disagree that this means "he" is the appropriate pronoun.  I think "they" is particularly appropriate, because, unfortunately, the singular gender neutral pronoun, "it," is used for inanimate objects and is an insult when used for people.

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I'm in a conference call and just heard one very clear plural unspecified gender usage:  "I appreciate your guyses' time."  I'm actually not sure how that is spelled.

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1 hour ago, Helene said:

He's called himself "gender queer," and I respectfully disagree that this means "he" is the appropriate pronoun.  I think "they" is particularly appropriate, because, unfortunately, the singular gender neutral pronoun, "it," is used for inanimate objects and is an insult when used for people.

 I'll have to respectfully disagree in return. I don't think any mainstream news articles will be using "they" for Johnsey any time soon. Johnsey has not made any such request, he has not specifically declared that he is "gender fluid" ("gender queer" does not mean quite the same thing IMO) and the article I just linked to uses "he."

"Hey, guys," is a common casual greeting among mixed company. Never heard anyone object to it. Yet.....

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2 hours ago, dirac said:

 I'll have to respectfully disagree in return. I don't think any mainstream news articles will be using "they" for Johnsey any time soon. Johnsey has not made any such request, he has not specifically declared that he is "gender fluid" ("gender queer" does not mean quite the same thing IMO) and the article I just linked to uses "he."

"Hey, guys," is a common casual greeting among mixed company. Never heard anyone object to it. Yet.....

I've heard "guys" used as a gender-free designation -- I've also heard "dudes" used in that way, but they both have masculine meanings as well.  I'm leaning towards "folks," which I hear quite a lot in the transgender community as well as from people of color.

And now, back to our main topic:

I missed the Trocks the last time they were in my town, and I'm wondering who is doing their choreography/staging now?  And relatedly, do they still perform Anastos' works from their past?

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6 hours ago, dirac said:

I don’t see anyone here taking a purely prescriptivist position and with all due respect, I don’t think anyone here requires admonitions and reading recommendations on the subject (although I do thank you, nanushka, for the language log links, which were.....most instructive).

 In any case, it’s not relevant here since for our purposes, Chase Johnsey is a “he” until such time as he announces that he is undergoing a transition of whatever degree or simply says he wants to be considered a woman.

I don’t see anyone here taking a purely prescriptivist position, either, and I didn’t mean to suggest that I did.

I certainly did not intend to admonish anyone. I've looked back over my posts carefully and I'm not sure what would have given that impression. In any case, no one here has said or done anything that I think deserving of admonishment, and I wouldn’t consider it appropriate to admonish even if they had. My interest is far more in discussion than in censure.

That said, I apologize if I got carried away discussing a topic that is of great interest to me. Frankly, I find language and grammar to be fascinating. I assumed that anyone here who didn’t share that interest would simply skip over my posts. (The same goes for the links to things I've read and found particularly interesting.)

As it happens, I agree with you regarding the use of masculine pronouns in reference to Johnsey.
 

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3 hours ago, dirac said:

"gender fluid" ("gender queer" does not mean quite the same thing IMO)

Would it be right to say that "gender queer" is a broader term, and that "gender fluid" is one specific way in which one might fit the designation "gender queer"?

Though I've also found that "queer" is a term that some people are much more comfortable with than others. So I imagine it could well be the case that one might consider oneself "gender fluid" but not wish to call oneself "gender queer."

Edited by nanushka

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Aurora and nanushka, thanks for the replies. First of all, I personally would call Johnsey whatever he liked. Most respectful people – people, that is, who feel respect for him – would. Other respectful people, for whom transgenderism is a problematic issue as many issues relatively new to the general public are and should be, and as the varied disagreements even in the LGBTQ community demonstrates this one still is, might not. 

nanushka, I used the words “arbitrary” and “spurious” because when I googled “prescriptivist fallacy,” I found those words . . .  and misread the sentence they were in. So I apologize for the confusion. The linguist I have read is John McWhorter and he agrees of course that usage does change, and that “incorrect” usages become common and “correct.” But that isn’t the issue I find interesting.

I don't think there is any getting around the fact that “they” has a meaning and indicates someone or something plural, or, as in the example you cited, makes no attempt to indicate the gender. (I’m reminded of Lewis Carroll’s famous bit in Humpty Dumpty: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that's all.) In cases of transgenderism, the gender is not unknown. Do transgender people who wish to be called “they” claim to be two genders at the very same time - fluid instead connotes switching back and forth -- and if so, is everyone else obliged to share their point of view? (From the point of view of those who disagree, that might be called a prescriptivist fallacy, :blink: And speaking of rules, it is in more and more places enforced as a rule).

Respect doesn't require agreement, but using someone else’s terminology can connote agreement. So some people balk.

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Transgender is NOT an issue new to the general public. About 30 years ago both my parents had transgender colleagues. Neither of them said much about it bc to them it just wasn't a big deal.

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38 minutes ago, canbelto said:

Transgender is NOT an issue new to the general public. About 30 years ago both my parents had transgender colleagues. Neither of them said much about it bc to them it just wasn't a big deal.

It's an issue few people thought about 30 years ago, and when the issue began to receive widespread publicity, they were immediately told what to think about it. 

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1 hour ago, kfw said:

The linguist I have read is John McWhorter and he agrees of course that usage does change, and that “incorrect” usages become common and “correct.”

I like McWhorter too.

It's actually been quite frequently the opposite as well: usages that have been commonly accepted for decades or even centuries have at times been deemed "incorrect" by grammar mavens who invent fallacious grammar rules to outlaw them.

Edited by nanushka

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6 hours ago, kfw said:

It's an issue few people thought about 30 years ago, and when the issue began to receive widespread publicity, they were immediately told what to think about it. 

It wasn't a big deal to my parents because they didn't have the prejudices that a certain type of person feels entitled to have. In my dad's case Don became Vicky and that was that. In my mom's case Robert became Claire and that was that. They switched bathrooms, and were called by their new names and referred to by their new genders. This was as I said 30 years ago. It's only a big deal if you feel entitled to discriminate and disparage transgender people.

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5 hours ago, nanushka said:

I don’t see anyone here taking a purely prescriptivist position, either, and I didn’t mean to suggest that I did.

I certainly did not intend to admonish anyone. I've looked back over my posts carefully and I'm not sure what would have given that impression. In any case, no one here has said or done anything that I think deserving of admonishment, and I wouldn’t consider it appropriate to admonish even if they had. My interest is far more in discussion than in censure.

That said, I apologize if I got carried away discussing a topic that is of great interest to me. Frankly, I find language and grammar to be fascinating. I assumed that anyone here who didn’t share that interest would simply skip over my posts. (The same goes for the links to things I've read and found particularly interesting.)

As it happens, I agree with you regarding the use of masculine pronouns in reference to Johnsey.
 

I must apologize myself, nanushka. I posted off the cuff and my tone was too sharp, and I appreciate that you did not answer in kind. I  confess I do become irked when people say things like " language changes." Of course, it does. That doesn't oblige one to accept and employ every neologism that comes one's way, at least not without discussion. It does seem to me that people forget that the rules are also there to help us to understand and be understood better by using a common standard that ideally enables us to express ourselves with precision and clarity.  Using "they" in this way in my opinion does just the opposite and is also awkward and unpleasing, and I hope it's one "innovation" that falls by the wayside. But if not, such is life, and language. :)

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4 hours ago, nanushka said:

Would it be right to say that "gender queer" is a broader term, and that "gender fluid" is one specific way in which one might fit the designation "gender queer"?

Though I've also found that "queer" is a term that some people are much more comfortable with than others. So I imagine it could well be the case that one might consider oneself "gender fluid" but not wish to call oneself "gender queer."

Good point. But it does seem to me you can be "gender queer" while still identifying primarily as, or with, one sex.   I don't think that's true of "gender fluid," which implies rejection of such an identification.

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6 hours ago, kfw said:

It's an issue few people thought about 30 years ago, and when the issue began to receive widespread publicity, they were immediately told what to think about it. 

As a kid I knew about Christine Jorgensen, and she transitioned close to 70 years ago, before I was born.  Renee Richards made headlines in the mid-70's when she was denied admission to the US Open as a woman and won a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1977.  

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