if your styleguide is disrespectful, update your style guide

This means you, New York Times.

Here’s the deal: if the point of your article is to talk about different pronouns (even if that isn’t the only point of the article), the best way to do that is by using the damn things. Playing the pronoun game with your subject makes you sound incredibly stilted, and in combination with phrases like “born female”, as opposed to a phrase like “assigned female at birth”, makes you look both ignorant and bigoted.

The refusal to use any pronouns at all looks like one of the many failures that journalism frequently has by attempting to be neutral. It’s related to the “false balance” problem that comes up when reporting issues where one side is clearly lying, or the issues that come up when covering issues like the anti-vaccination movement or climate change where the science is clear, but there are people who choose to disbelieve the science.

These articles are more feature-y, but it’s still that attempt to be neutral that’s creating a trap. Here’s the thing: you can’t be neutral on social justice issues. When one side is “this is who I am, and I would like my self and my identity to be respected” and the other side is just a mess of linguistic prescriptivists, who are wrong, people who don’t want to use respectful language because they do not want change, and bigots, attempting neutrality is just reinforcing a marginalizing status quo.

There is nothing sacred about your style guide. English language pronouns were not passed down to us from God. Fix it.

This post is elaborated from a series of Tweets.

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