Your Letters: A Look At Gender Identification

Audie Cornish and Melissa Block read letters from our listeners. It's safe to say many people had opinions on a story by Margot Adler about a new generation of young people challenging our understanding of gender.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's time now for your letters. And it's safe to say a lot of you had opinions on this week's story by Margot Adler about a new generation of young people challenging our understanding of gender.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So you can be she/her at one event and then you go to lunch and you say, OK, now I'm he/him. And then one charming, young woman told me, oh, yes, today I'm just using made-up pronouns.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We encountered high school students who said, I want you to call me Tractor and use pronouns like zee, zim and zer. And, in fact, I reject the gender binary as an oppressive move by the dominant culture.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The story had a lot of strong reaction, some negative, but most of your comments were positive. Anndal Narayan of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, writes this: I wanted to thank you and her for this thoughtful coverage. There is so much nastiness about trans people in public discourse. Ms. Adler rightly said that they are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society.

CORNISH: Amy Lawton of Statesville, North Carolina, disagrees with that last line. She writes: How about abused and neglected children? They certainly do not have the luxury of sitting at Oberlin College defining themselves as tractors or determining what gender pronoun they're going to use at any given moment. Lawton goes on: While I believe that these people have the right to choose whatever pronoun they'd like to refer to themselves, by no means are they the most marginalized members of society. Finally, it seems like there are more pressing issues to address around here than rewriting the gender binary.

BLOCK: And finally, Campbell Witkiewicz of Smyrna, Georgia, writes: I think choosing a different pronoun to suit a person's mood this day or this event has a major flaw. Instead of questioning gender roles, it instead reinforces stereotypes. This morning I feel whimsical, sensitive and delicate. I will wear pink and choose she/her pronouns. This afternoon I want to strut, spread my legs out when I sit and use imperative sentences. I will wear a suit and use he/his pronouns.

Witkiewicz goes on to ask the question: Wouldn't it be better to instead recognize that genders do exist for a biological reason but don't define who a person is at their core? My young daughter has a fire truck and a race car in her toy box next to a doll and a fluffy puppy, and those different aspects of her play all work well together. Maybe someday, so, too, can our perception of the many sides of humanity present in each of us.

CORNISH: We appreciate your letters. Keep them coming. You can write to us by visiting npr.org. Click on Contact Us.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLOCK: This is NPR.

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