Among hip LGBTQ+ people, neopronouns are the newest thing
In the late 1970s, at a Peter, Paul & Mary concert, Paul Stookey noted how American magazines once had big names, with scope, such as Life or National Geographic. The scope shrank with People magazine. Then, in 1977, a new magazine appeared: Us. With this trajectory, Paul predicted, the next magazine would have only a reflective sheet inside. It would be called Me. Based on the New York Times article about self-referential "neopronouns," it's clear that Paul's prediction has come to pass and then some.
When I read in PowerLine about "neopronouns," a trend that sees LGBT people essentially personalizing their pronouns, I thought it was a joke. It's not. Instead, there is indeed an article entitled "A Guide to Neopronouns: Are you a person, place or thing? We have good news."
In my world, there are only a very few personal pronouns, and they're the classics: I/Me/We, You, He/Him, She/Her, It, They/Them/Their — that kind of thing. However, that's not the case among a certain subset of Americans, most notably the LGBT crowd.
A few years ago, we all used to laugh at the creative pronouns that so-called "non-binary" people concocted to avoid both human biology and the traditional He/Him or She/Her pronouns. They pluralized themselves ("My pronouns are They/Them") or substituted silly consonants in place of actual letters ("My pronouns are Ze/Zir or Xe/Xir").
Now, though, little things like "Ze went to the store" or "Give xir the milk" seem sweetly old-fashioned. The newest thing is a "neopronoun." The New York Times tries to explain:
A neopronoun can be a word a created to serve as pronoun without expressing gender, like "ze" and "zir."
A neopronoun can also be a so-called "noun-self pronoun," in which a pre-existing word is drafted into use as a pronoun. Noun-self pronouns can refer to animals — so your pronouns can be "bun/bunself" and "kitten/kittenself." Others refer to fantasy characters — "vamp/vampself," "prin/cess/princesself," "fae/faer/faeself" — or even just common slang, like "Innit/Innits/Innitself."
No, no. Let me explain. A "neopronoun" is what happens when people become so extraordinarily self-centered that they believe that the entire English language revolves around them —not them as a collective (all gays, all lesbians, all anything else), but "them" as in every single person.
The Times admits that just 4% of young people in the LGBT crowd use these neopronouns (and what's even more comforting is learning that almost 75% of young LGBT people stick to the classics). Nevertheless, it hastens to assure us that this navel-gazing approach to ordinary English is "leading edge behavior online."
We also learn that, as is typical among these self-referential narcissists, they take themselves incredibly seriously and will quickly start name-calling those — like me — who find them by turns amusing and somewhat disgusting:
Many neopronoun users are dead serious, and are also part of online communities that are quick to react swiftly to offenses. They are deeply versed in the style and mores of contemporary identity politics conversations.
Neopronoun users may publish strict boundaries and preferences around behaviors, enthusiasms and hatreds. Many of them have defined lists of behaviors they find unacceptable around privacy or cruelty — sometimes referred to as "DNI" lists, short for "do not interact" — which they often outline in posts on Carrd, a service that makes single-page websites.
Here's an entire "carrd" providing neopronouns guidance. And this is a site where you can go to "share your personal pronouns and stay updated on your friends' pronouns." The public list of pronouns is mind-boggling. I'm struggling to figure out how to handle pronoun lists that are merely emojis:
And of course, if you don't take seriously someone dubbing zirself "bun/bunself," you have "invalidated" zair's (?) identity.
saying you "don't understand" neopronouns isn't an excuse to be transphobic and invalidate someone's identity https://t.co/MlwZtx54eg— nia ⚢ (@s0nginE) April 4, 2021
There's more — so, so much more — in the article. The whole thing reminds me of the super-elite in a dying aristocracy who are desperately relying upon highly detailed, rigidly codified rules that are the only way they can distinguish themselves from the hoi polloi. It never succeeds, and they only look ridiculous.
If Paul Stookey were to tell his joke today, the latest iteration of self-referential magazines would be an LGBT magazine called Navel Gazing. I'll add only what others have said before: the Chinese are laughing at us and counting their guns.
Image: Screen grab from Pronouny.