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Chase Johnsey leaves Trocks; Joins ENB


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6 hours ago, Helene said:

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.  

When I say “thought about,” I mean it wasn’t an issue constantly before the public, and when people did read about it or know someone who transitioned, many or most as I understand it disapproved, and that was that. It’s a very good thing, in my opinion, that kneejerk disapproval of both the act and (most unfortunately) the person has been called out and challenged, and that most people have gotten to “know,” either through the news or literally as neighbors or colleagues, etc., people who have changed or wish to change their gender. It is never a good thing (logical, astute or just) in my opinion, when one kind of enforced conformity is exchanged for another, swift and major changes  to thinking in such basic areas as morality and sexuality and gender are prescribed, non-conformers are dismissed as prejudiced (one form of presumed moral superiority replacing another), and their thinking (or the evidence that many transgenders regret having had surgery) is not given due consideration.

Enforcing a view also doesn’t change hearts and minds; It only hardens them. And although the goal in this case is to not only defend the rights but spare the feelings of transgender people, calling all non-conformers entitled bigots pure and simple only makes transgenders live in a world where they feel looked down upon more than they are. I’m reminded of Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher, two gay conservatives. One disapproves of the other’s lifestyle, but they’re friends because both are willing to look beyond that to see the other as a person not a stereotype. Sullivan especially, in my opinion, is a model citizen and a moral exemplar here.  

nanushka, I love it that you think about language so carefully. Linguistics is a subject I wish I had more time and brain space for.

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27 minutes ago, kfw said:

It is never a good thing (logical, astute or just) in my opinion, when one kind of enforced conformity is exchanged for another, swift and major changes  to thinking in such basic areas as morality and sexuality and gender are prescribed, non-conformers are dismissed as prejudiced (one form of presumed moral superiority replacing another), and their thinking (or the evidence that many transgenders regret having had surgery) is not given due consideration.

Enforcing a view also doesn’t change hearts and minds; It only hardens them. And although the goal in this case is to not only defend the rights but spare the feelings of transgender people, calling all non-conformers entitled bigots pure and simple only makes transgenders live in a world where they feel looked down upon more than they are. I’m reminded of Andrew Sullivan and Rod Dreher, two gay conservatives. One disapproves of the other’s lifestyle, but they’re friends because both are willing to look beyond that to see the other as a person not a stereotype. Sullivan especially, in my opinion, is a model citizen and a moral exemplar here.  

Funny, the Southern Senators used to say the same thing when they talked about the "Southern way of life." 

People aren't entitled to have their prejudice and bigotry validated. Anyone is welcome to those thoughts. You're not entitled to have other people approve of those thoughts.

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1 hour ago, kfw said:

Enforcing a view also doesn’t change hearts and minds; It only hardens them. And although the goal in this case is to not only defend the rights but spare the feelings of transgender people, calling all non-conformers entitled bigots pure and simple only makes transgenders live in a world where they feel looked down upon more than they are.

As I posted earlier, for the purposes of this board, the standard is to respect the choice of the person being spoken about when they belong in a protected class.  We may disagree about the pronouns they'd choose, unless they are clear about it, but once that choice is clear, individual posters' personal feelings are only relevant in deciding whether to participate in a discussion while, in good conscience, following the standards and policies.

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13 hours ago, dirac said:

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.

As I've written, I completely sympathize with the feelings of awkwardness — I've felt them myself.

Since it sounds, from your other posts here, as if you agree that there are indeed people who are gender fluid, who identify as neither male nor female, and since those people might reasonably not wish to be referred to by either masculine or feminine pronouns, I wonder if you personally have any ideas of how they should be referred to, given your objections to using "they" in such cases. With the pronouns of the gender they were assigned at birth? (Though there are in fact cases in which gender is ambiguous at birth.) With no pronouns at all? In some other way?

I'm asking respectfully, not at all with aggression or snark. (I know the written word can make tone difficult to determine, especially when one is reading quickly, online.) Since it sounds as if you're someone who's thought seriously about this issue, and since it sounds as if you're someone who's sympathetic to the experiences of people who don't fit the gender binary, I'm curious what you think the alternatives may be. (And I don't think it's a problem if you don't have an answer; just because you object to one possible solution doesn't mean it's your responsibility to come up with another.)

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I detected no snark at all, nanushka, so no worries. :)

If individuals feel that strongly about not being a he or a she, we do need to respect and acknowledge those feelings when expressed. I'd say try inventing a new pronoun  or repurposing an old one (if there is such) and see if it gets taken up.  "Ms.," a revival from the 17th century, proved to be a keeper after initial resistance in some quarters because symbolism aside, it provided for very practical purposes an honorific for a woman that did not involve reference to her marital status, helpful for applying for bank loans among many other things. It also met a specific need for the growing class of married women who continued to use their maiden names professionally and/or privately. The analogy isn't quite the same,  I know,  but I hope you will see what I mean.

(The harder sound of Mzz isn't pleasant to the ear, but given the manifest advantages of adopting the title, it's a minor point.)  

 

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2 hours ago, dirac said:

If individuals feel that strongly about not being a he or a she, we do need to respect and acknowledge those feelings when expressed. I'd say try inventing a new pronoun  or repurposing an old one (if there is such) and see if it gets taken up.  "Ms.," a revival from the 17th century, proved to be a keeper after initial resistance in some quarters because symbolism aside, it provided for very practical purposes an honorific for a woman that did not involve reference to her marital status, helpful for applying for bank loans among many other things. It also met a specific need for the growing class of married women who continued to use their maiden names professionally and/or privately. The analogy isn't quite the same,  I know,  but I hope you will see what I mean.

(The harder sound of Mzz isn't pleasant to the ear, but given the manifest advantages of adopting the title, it's a minor point.)  

Thanks, dirac. I do see what you mean.

Alas, our language is much more readily able to absorb a new honorific, such as Ms., which never has to change its form, than to absorb a new pronoun, which does (e.g. from they to them or their).

But the much bigger obstacle is that new function words, such as pronouns, are particularly difficult for a language to absorb — as opposed to content words, such as nouns and verbs, which are very easily absorbed. New content words are quite common (e.g. email); new function words are extremely rare. (When’s the last time we got a new preposition, conjunction or auxiliary verb?) For that reason, function words are often referred to as a "closed class" of words (as opposed to the "open class" of content words). That’s probably why I didn’t even think to list it as one of the possibilities when I asked you the question.

New pronouns have indeed been suggested (see the table of "Non-traditional pronouns" here, for example). But the vast majority of those who have tried to find a solution have landed on they as the best option, since it already has a long history of singular usage (although of a different kind, as we've discussed) in the language, and since it would be a matter of adapting an existing usage rather than introducing a whole new one. It's certainly not a perfect solution, but it may, alas, be the best option we've got for a workable and lasting solution to the problem. It may come down to which we value most: adherence to the language forms we now have or accommodation to the newly accepted reality of non-binary gender.

(I'm also not convinced that it's that all that much more ambiguous than other pronoun usages, all of which depend upon context, as I've explained in a previous post. Once we're used to the fact that they can refer to a singular, named antecedent, I'm not sure it would lack the clarity of other options.)

As for the aesthetics, personally I think a lot of that is more about preconceived notions than about what's inherent in the sounds of the language. Ms. has a perfectly fine sound, to my ear.

Edited by nanushka
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Canbelto, I think the Southern Way of Life parallel is false for reasons that are self-evident, but you’re right, no one is entitled to have their thinking approved of. We do all have a right, though, to grapple with other people’s thinking - or to label and reject it. I think we're all tempted to do the latter; pick any issue nowadays, and the former seems rare. Fortunately Jonathan Haidt and other academics are working to show another way.

Helene, I agree about respect. I show people respect, however, not because they’re in a “protected class,” but because as human beings they have inherent dignity.

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16 minutes ago, kfw said:

I show people respect, however, not because they’re in a “protected class,” but because as human beings they have inherent dignity.

As a discussion board, we are bound by terms and conditions and standards to keep our software license, and that includes enforcing discussion standards of explicit protected classes, which include race, gender, and religion, and beyond that, our board terms and conditions embrace this.   Hence the context of my comment.

You're welcome to show as much respect as you want for whatever reason you want beyond that and our board-specific "no ad hominem attacks" rule, just as every other member here can.

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14 minutes ago, kfw said:

Canbelto, I think the Southern Way of Life parallel is false for reasons that are self-evident, but you’re right, no one is entitled to have their thinking approved of. We do all have a right, though, to grapple with other people’s thinking - or to label and reject it. I think we're all tempted to do the latter; pick any issue nowadays, and the former seems rare. Fortunately Jonathan Haidt and other academics are working to show another way.

Helene, I agree about respect. I show people respect, however, not because they’re in a “protected class,” but because as human beings they have inherent dignity.

I don't really think it's a false parallel. Some of the same reasons (traditional roles of people, the statements of religious leaders, a special "culture" that would presumably be ruined by the changes that were being "forced upon" by Supreme Court decisions and federal laws) were used to argue against desegregation. 

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 It may come down to which we value most: adherence to the language forms we now have or accommodation to the newly accepted reality of non-binary gender.

 

IMO it's not that simple -- or that binary a choice. Their is a distinctly unsatisfactory "solution. "

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24 minutes ago, dirac said:

IMO it's not that simple -- or that binary a choice. Their is a distinctly unsatisfactory "solution. "

I guess I must simply disagree, then, until a linguistically feasible and overall more satisfactory solution is proposed — or until a reason for why it is so unsatisfactory is more fully explained.

The choice seems, to my mind, to be between the options I have described.

Edited by nanushka
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4 hours ago, canbelto said:

I don't really think it's a false parallel. Some of the same reasons (traditional roles of people, the statements of religious leaders, a special "culture" that would presumably be ruined by the changes that were being "forced upon" by Supreme Court decisions and federal laws) were used to argue against desegregation. 

Helene, thanks for explaining. Canbelto, none of those reasons are ones I was referring to. As for the reasons you mention, traditions can of course be good or bad, can be adequately or in adequately grounded. Likewise among both religious and religious people, there are those who examine and evaluate the ideas put forth by leaders, and evaluate the norms of their time and culture and sub-culture, and those who don't. 

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On the level of practice, how do you say:

"She and he" went to the dance.
"Oh, did they."
"No, they didn't go. They stayed at home."

I watched a bit of a small memorial service for a transgender person at UCLA, Doran George, and it became confusing when some of the participants used they singular, though everyone tried to respect it. 

It really seems to be an existential question that language is being asked to solve or accomodate until later.  It needs its Thomas Berhard or Rimbaud or Colette to write about brilliantly from the inside and guide the rest of us. (Or Elizabeth Bishop: "you are an ... you are one of them", first realizing as a child that she is alive, she is a person, is made of the same material as her surrounds. ("In the Waiting Room").)

Edited by Quiggin
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32 minutes ago, Quiggin said:

On the level of practice, how do you say:

"She and he" went to the dance.
"Oh, did they."
"No, they didn't go. They stayed at home.”

If there were a second “she,” or a second “he,” wouldn’t it be exactly the same problem? I don’t see how it’s different.

In context, pronouns always have referents — whether indicated by gesture, by intonation, by syntactic proximity, by logical inference, or by other means.

Once one is used to the possibility that “they” could refer to a third, individual person, the usage you mention actually becomes even less ambiguous. (That’s why I think many of the anticipated problems would actually diminish if this use of “they” really catches on.) The listener wouldn’t think “they” referred to the preceding “she” plus the preceding “he,” since intonation would clarify that the question being asked was about a third, separate person.

(After the first sentence, a response that sounds like “Oh, DID they?” would mean, “Oh, did they REALLY?” Whereas a response that sounds like “Oh, did THEY?” would mean, “Oh, did person #3 go too?”)

Plus, when pronouns prove too ambiguous, we revert to using nouns. We make those accommodations to language’s ambiguities all the time, already. Again, I don’t see how this case would be different.

Edited by nanushka
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8 hours ago, Quiggin said:

It really seems to be an existential question that language is being asked to solve or accomodate until later.  It needs its Thomas Berhard or Rimbaud or Colette to write about brilliantly from the inside and guide the rest of us. (Or Elizabeth Bishop: "you are an ... you are one of them", first realizing as a child that she is alive, she is a person, is made of the same material as her surrounds. ("In the Waiting Room").)

I am a great lover of Bishop’s poetry, but I must say that I think the issue we are discussing is much more of a pragmatic one than a poetic one. And I think that our language is more than capable of responding to these pragmatic challenges.

Edited by nanushka
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54 minutes ago, nanushka said:

If there were a second “she,” or a second “he,” wouldn’t it be exactly the same problem? I don’t see how it’s different.

In context, pronouns always have referents — whether indicated by gesture, by intonation, by syntactic proximity, by logical inference, or by other means.

I think that mixing singular and plural is the big problem. And unfortunately written English doesn't have any of the rich store of emphatic particles that ancient Greek did – all the different shadings of reallys, very much sos, trulys - that help transcribe tone of voice. English is ambiguous as it is without making it more so by tossing out the they. And without rules, you can't be free, at least in poetry (and in ballet!). I'm sure that Elizabeth Bishop, let along Marianne Moore, both very precise in their use of the word (poetry is not a fuzzy business), would not approve. 

But I do think that gender fluid issues could be an interesting subject for everyone if they were linked to the full range of existential questions of being. But we don't do philosophy much any more.

Edited by Quiggin
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3 hours ago, Quiggin said:

But I do think that gender fluid issues could be an interesting subject for everyone if they were linked to the full range of existential questions of being. But we don't do philosophy much any more.

Your comment makes me giggle here -- my partner's training is all in philosophy.  Our daughter rolls her eyes, but it's how we work here...

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13 hours ago, Quiggin said:

I think that mixing singular and plural is the big problem. And unfortunately written English doesn't have any of the rich store of emphatic particles that ancient Greek did – all the different shadings of reallys, very much sos, trulys - that help transcribe tone of voice. English is ambiguous as it is without making it more so by tossing out the they. And without rules, you can't be free, at least in poetry (and in ballet!).

Since I’ve explained why the example you gave seems to me to be unproblematic, and since you’ve given no further examples of cases in which singular they raises obstacles that aren’t quite easily surmountable, I guess that here, too, I must simply disagree.

It’s true that our written language does not have the particles you speak of, but it does offer many fine options for working around the ambiguities that sometimes arise from its forms — as I suspect we’ve all experienced, when the need to tinker with a phrase in order to avoid an ambiguous pronoun has arisen. Singular they, in my opinion, would require only a bit more of the same. I am always open to considering further specific examples or pragmatic explanations that might sway my thinking, though.

If it’s a choice between making the (in my opinion minor) necessary adjustments to make singular they work, on the one hand, and leaving non-binary individuals without a viable pronoun option, on the other, I know which has my vote at present.

13 hours ago, Quiggin said:

I'm sure that Elizabeth Bishop, let along Marianne Moore, both very precise in their use of the word (poetry is not a fuzzy business), would not approve.

With respect, I must say that I have never found the hypothetical opinions of long-dead individuals on contemporary matters to be inherently persuasive — no matter how much I love and respect the thoughts they had and the works they produced while alive. Being hypothetical, such opinions are far too subject to influence by our own biases, projections and blind spots. Bishop was, almost without fail, marvelously sensible, as her letters amply demonstrate; I might just as easily say that she would approve after only the slightest hesitation. But I couldn’t possibly be sure of that.

13 hours ago, Quiggin said:

But I do think that gender fluid issues could be an interesting subject for everyone if they were linked to the full range of existential questions of being. But we don't do philosophy much any more.

As for philosophy, I happen to know a group of teenagers who have recently formed a philosophy club, to read and discuss some of the great works in their after-school hours.
 

Edited by nanushka
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Singular they has a long history in English language going back to Shakespeare (and I think nanushka covered this in a previous comment and provided links). Language changes and the ensuing arguments and angst are as old as complaints about the current generation by their elders, which date as far back as Socrates: "“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

But language changes are inevitable and are necessary because human culture and communication needs evolve. Language keeps pace, or at least living languages do. There's always Latin for those who simply can't deal with it ;) Singular they is very common in everyday speech, so much so that many people don't even realize that they use it regularly.

In the professional realm, the Associated Press and the Chicago Manual of Style have accepted and endorse the use of singular they, not willynilly, but in cases in which it is appropriate to refer to individuals who do not use he or she to describe themselves. Both style guides note that a skilled communicator/writer can make the singular/plural distinction clear in ambiguous cases via rewording or clarification, as we do in conversation.


Overview and explanation of the changes in this article from the Columbia Journalism Review with illustrative examples:
https://www.cjr.org/language_corner/stylebooks-single-they-ap-chicago-gender-neutral.php

 

And really, in my opinion, it comes down to a matter of respect and treating everyone well. We've replaced formerly common terms like "colored" "Oriental", and "cripple", though I'm sure there are those who cling to those as well, and with some time, I'm certain that singular "they" as a nonbinary pronoun will become very normal and unremarkable. I think it's good form to address a person in the manner that they request/prefer and to ask if we are unsure rather than assume.

Edited by kylara7
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That is correct that Finnish has only gender-neutral pronouns (my mother is Finnish). Interestingly, Chinese (Mandarin) has no past tense for verbs and is the language with the largest number of native speakers in the world. In all cases, people are able to use language to convey their meanings, via context clues and inflections and other common communication devices. It's really fascinating to explore! :)

Edited by kylara7
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Language changes and the ensuing arguments and angst are as old as complaints about the current generation by their elders, which date as far back as Socrates: "“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”

I don’t see any special need to turn this into a generational war, but if you insist – such complaints tend to go both ways, as noted earlier in this thread. Fortunately, the narrow-minded absolutism of youth can evolve into something more generous with time and experience. :)

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The choice seems, to my mind, to be between the options I have described.

That is certainly evident, nanushka.

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And back to the Trocks -- has anyone here seen them in the last couple of years?  (I missed my chance here when they overlapped with other events)  What are they dancing in their standard rep, and who's staging it?  I can't find a rep list on their website.

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16 hours ago, sandik said:

And back to the Trocks -- has anyone here seen them in the last couple of years?  (I missed my chance here when they overlapped with other events)  What are they dancing in their standard rep, and who's staging it?  I can't find a rep list on their website.

I saw them in NYC at the Joyce on Christmas Eve 2016. They did two programs, listed here. I saw the first; particularly enjoyed the Pas de Six from Napoli, which I believe was a relatively new work for them at the time (NYC premiere). Some very nice dancing in Bournonville style.

Here's a review by Alastair Macaulay in the Times. As noted there, the program also included "Dying Swan" and a Cunningham spoof.

Will try to remember to check my program when home, if I still have it, for info on staging.

Update:  Must have thrown it out, unfortunately!

Edited by nanushka
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There is a former Japanese member of the Trocks called Hiroto Natori, and recently he published a memoir. In fact he was born as a woman but he recognized that he had gender identity disorder and was living as a man when he found the Trocks and joined the company without telling the AD and members that he was a woman. After some time with the company, they found out that physically he was a woman so the company told him to undergo a transgender surgery, unless he does not do so he would be fired. He was thinking of transitioning his gender so that was not such a big deal for him but this is an example how it went in this company.  It was only recently, after he left the company and returned to Japan that he came out of being transgender (with this memoir which is very inspiring and a good read)  

I did see the Trocks in February (in Toronto) and September (in Tokyo) and I enjoyed their performances very much, and of course Chase Johnsey shone in those performances so this situation is heartbreaking.

 

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