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US Government introduces new pronoun mandate

Queer theory is now firmly ensconced into US law and American society. Credit: Getty

May 1, 2024 - 10:00am

It’s safe to say that as recently as five years ago most people had never heard the term “misgendering”, and could be excused for thinking it described an arcane error in Latin grammar. But, as of this week, failing to respect a queer person’s non-binary pronouns is the newest form of workplace discrimination recognised under the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act in the United States.

The new pronoun mandate for workers, employers, and even customers was issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as part of the civil rights agency’s first move in a quarter-century to bring its workplace guidelines up to date with legal precedent and evolving social norms.

The 189-page document, which is technically legally non-binding but spells out the agency’s policies on investigating discrimination complaints, says that misgendering must be repeated and intentional, not a slip of the tongue, to rise to the level of workplace harassment. In its guidelines, the EEOC also decreed that it’s discriminatory for an employer to deny a transgender person access to a bathroom they feel best matches their gender identity, even if that invades the privacy of the other workers, or, in some cases, conflicts with another employee’s religious convictions.

The new standards were adopted on a 3-2 vote, along party lines, after the investigatory panel received some 37,000 public comments on the updates proposed last October.

With this dramatic decision, it’s no exaggeration to say that queer theory — the provocative academic idea that rejects the normativity of heterosexuality — is now firmly ensconced into US law and American society, at least in the bluest and most urban areas with the most educated residents and top-paying jobs.

The EEOC’s decision is the consequence of decades of queer scholarship and legal manoeuvring to gain civil rights protection and social acceptance for behaviours once deemed as deviant but increasingly seen as liberated from archaic, repressive conventions. The agency said banning misgendering and bathroom restrictions for trans people “logically extends” from the US Supreme Court’s 2020 Bostock ruling that added sexual and gender identity as a protected category under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

This taboo against misgendering can be seen as a natural outgrowth of the speech codes that now govern Anglophone campuses across the globe. Similar speech protections against offending groups which claim a history of oppression have become integrated into corporate DEI policies, so that what appears revolutionary when coming from federal authorities could be more accurately described as a codification of increasingly common policies and practices.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a stricter ban on misgendering in 2019, saying that gender harassment can be a “single or isolated incident”, and specifying that protections extend to people who use esoteric pronouns, such as they/them/theirs or ze/hir.

With respect to bathroom usage, the New York City Commission said that if someone is uncomfortable sharing a bathroom or changing room with a trans person, too bad: the trans person’s interests must be prioritised, and the uncomfortable person can use a single-occupancy restroom.

It remains to be seen whether the beneficiaries of the misgendering project will respect binary pronouns that activists believe reflect a fake worldview constructed for the purpose of domination and oppression. Some activists have proposed replacing conventional pronouns with a generic “they” for all members of society, as a step toward dismantling an oppressive system of arbitrary gender norms.

Such a move would be met with objections from cis-hetero-normative binary holdovers, quaintly attached to the male-female dichotomy, who would consider being they/them’ed as a form of reverse misgendering. And, if past is prologue, those objections will be met with ridicule and derision.


John Murawski is a journalist based in Raleigh, NC. His work has appeared in RealClearInvestigations, WSJ Pro AI and Religion News Service, among other outlets.

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Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
21 days ago

If this was put to a people’s referendum I have no doubt it would fail. But that’s the trouble – these bizarre policies are implemented in a quasi-legal-guidelines-not-laws mode by “the Blob” – powerful undemocratic government agencies, lobbied by NGOs, who in turn receive their funding from other powerful undemocratic agencies, in a never-ending blob-sustaining loop.

David Morley
David Morley
21 days ago

I’d have no trouble referring to someone who clearly presents as she as “she”. The toilet issue, at work, at least, could surely be sorted with a bit of redesign. Male presenting lesbians who still want to be referred to as “she” might be more difficult, but only if they refuse to accept they are a bit ambiguous and tell you what they want without getting upset.

Accommodating biology deniers who claim to be gender fluid, have completely non standard pronouns and might change gender according to mood, is just too much to expect. To be honest it just looks like a trap for the unwary, and the government supporting people who are mentally unstable, incurably pretentious and attention seeking – or both.

Q T
Q T
20 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Yes. Let us imagine the legislative impossibility to trying to cater to people who refuse to be defined in any way other than what they happen to be feeling at the time. Better we define these people as what they actually are, lest we allow them to incrementally destroy society altogether : narcissists and opportunists.

Rob N
Rob N
20 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Well I certainly would have a problem (although I know that I would not know with some) and if ‘she’ slipped out I would correct it. The word ‘she’ is for female people not those who are trying to present as how they think a woman ‘should’.

Q T
Q T
20 days ago

I concur. I did a little maths a while back in response to trans activists claiming that women were overwhelmingly in favour of the toilet ‘diversification’.
Considering the % of trans women to women:
in the UK-
48k trans women (allegedly – we’ll go with it for this thought experiment)
34.5 million women
For each trans women to get their way and be happy (assuming they want into women’s toilets at all) – We need 719 women to be agreeable. 1 : 719.
Does this really seem likely? Have those women been consulted on what they want?
Why should women be forced to defend their position? In my view, it’s quite enough for them to say they are uncomfortable. It requires no justification whatsoever, especially given the vast majority involved. Those who wish to enforce the changes are the people who need to justify it, and by more than just threatening to commit suicide …
This is always their strategy – to enter battle acting as if their position is the normative one, and try to gaslight everyone else into defending the actual norms.
I’ll add my response to the question, “What is a woman?” The answer is – a woman is what she always has been since the beginning of our species. She requires no definition other than woman, nor does she need to justify or defend herself. A woman gave birth to every one of the people who question her truth, and in doing so, they insult and diminish those who created them.
Now, those insurgents who wish to change that status quo … THEY are the people who need to define themselves. And certainly not by trying to hijack other peoples’….

Robert Paul
Robert Paul
21 days ago

You’re invited – no, strong armed — to join the Delusion.

Arthur King
Arthur King
21 days ago

The goal of gender theory is to undermine religion, especially Christianity. It is also to undermine the foundation of civilizationwhose foundation is the heterosexual family. Wars have been fought for much less. Given the radical arrogance of this movement, and it’s demonizing of opponents, I fear that we the civilized may be forced into extreme measures to defend our civilizations from this widespread rot. I fear God a lot more than the ridicule and derision. And while I value democracy, I value civilization and the free practice of my faith more. I can exercise my faith and celebrate “cis-hetero-normative binary” family as normative under non-democratic governments. This is the choice that champions of queer hegemony are placing us under. Make no mistake, we will not quietly roll over and allow civilization to be cast into the abyss.

Q T
Q T
20 days ago
Reply to  Arthur King

“the heterosexual family”
I’m not religious, although I certainly support your right to be and uphold your values. However, I agree with this importance of family on the most fundamental level. A child needs their mother and a father, anything else is suboptimal or even destructive. I’ve had first hand experience of a great deal of what happens when this is disrupted, and I can certainly see how it compounds into a multitude of societal malaises at a mass scale.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
21 days ago

How many of the people who watched Jordan Peterson go from professor to celebrity thought to themselves, this can never happen in the US? And here we are, a speech police initiative that deserves the same condemnation, along with some mocking and ridicule, as Canada’s proposal received.
The idea of govt monitoring, and potentially sanctioning, people over their use of common terms in everyday conversations keeps us on the road to PeakStupid(TM), which can never be reached because each outlandish idea stands as a challenge to lower the bar even further.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
20 days ago

Another reason to put Trump back in the White House with the authority to sweep out all of the foul social engineering brought about by the people who control the senile old president, who is quite clearly the worst in American history.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
20 days ago

What about my gender critical beliefs, which don’t call for injury or violence, unlike trans activists. Why are they not protected speech? America is the country that said Nazis marching through a Jewish neighborhood was protected speech. What about my beliefs? This new “law” will also violate people’s religious rights, as Orthodox Jewish and Muslim women require restrooms or changing rooms free of men. What about their rights? How have these men, who are less than one percent of the population, taken over this country? I think Western countries have lost their minds.

Simon Templar
Simon Templar
20 days ago

Push back if your workplace adopt these guidelines. Use legitimate polite means to protest the policy. Now, as a status quo, most companies will already discipline an employee for using repeated foul language, using racial or sexual slurs, or engaging in any other form of harassment or verbal bullying. People accept this.
I have never found any offense if I’m in a meeting and someone repeatedly drops an F-bomb, and I politely ask people to refrain from golf language. This always gets an apology. It’s against decorum.
But to mandate the acceptance of biological unreality is a step too far. It doesn’t increase decorum, it creates outrage (which is the intent). There is no need for this. If you present as a woman, you will be called ;she’. If you present as a man, you will be called ‘he’. If you present as non-binary, your colleagues will do their best. Making pronoun use mandatory destroys workplace harmony to facilitate one person’s make-believe world. Forcing your employees to lie, is not only unethical, but destroys your integrity as a workplace that is focused on mission.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
21 days ago

Have we reached peak trans yet ?

At this rate, we’ll all heave a sigh of relief when the radical Islamists finally take over.

John Tyler
John Tyler
21 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Those of us allowed to live!

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
20 days ago
Reply to  John Tyler

Yes, though subtract from that all the people whose lives are destroyed by this nonsense.

Q T
Q T
20 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Perhaps the end of this is the continuation of the point that Peterson wisely makes, that the groups vying for attention continue to emerge and/or subdivide into more and more specific categories (witness the trans people demanding their own space at Pride, then black trans people demanding their own little special space etc) ….
Each little group demands ‘representation’ until, at long last, one day … we come back full circle to the time-honoured realisation that we are ALL unique and individual, and that these labels are spurious and detrimental.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
19 days ago
Reply to  Q T

Good points, but:

(a) much of these (absurd) demands are not made in good faith, and will empower the most unreasonable, toxic ideologues who will deploy the pronoun issue as a weapon to destroy people they hate and

(b) while we may be actually unique individuals, there are NOT as a matter of scientific fact, scores of different “genders”. Instead human beings must belong to one of two clear cut biological sexes, with the exception of a tiny proportion of true intersex people, who have nothing to do with the ideological activist claims.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
20 days ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

To the rooftops!

David Morley
David Morley
21 days ago

It remains to be seen whether the beneficiaries of the misgendering project will respect binary pronouns that activists believe reflect a fake worldview constructed for the purpose of domination and oppression

This indicates a rift within the trans movement between those looking for acceptance, and those pushing what is essentially a feminist, or post feminist agenda.

I’ve noticed the same rift on Unherd. Talia who comments here, is roughly of the former. She believes in the sex binary, is a realist about biology, just believes that, in some cases, a female brain emerges in a male body and vice versa.

The latter are social constructivist feminists or post feminist activists, pushing the notion of gender fluidity and the deconstruction of the gender binary. They are continuing the work of second wave feminism, to the dismay of some feminists who just didn’t see the implications of their own beliefs.

Will this difference become increasingly explicit? What happens then?

(Talia – hope I’ve represented your views reasonably fairly. Correct me if not).

Q T
Q T
20 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

There is almost zero difference between male and female brains, and certainly none to account for gender identity. Conclusion : it’s all in their heads.

Rob N
Rob N
20 days ago
Reply to  Q T

I think you are wrong and there are, on average, differences one can identify between male and female brains. But more than that how can you be so sure we have fully cracked the brain. Very likely there are as yet invisible differences.

Q T
Q T
20 days ago
Reply to  Rob N

On what basis am I wrong? Have you actually studied any research? Cite your references.
‘Perhaps’ there are some differences as yet undiscovered, but the onus is on those who make that argument to prove it. They have not, by your own admission. Therefore it is not so. This is how science works.
Some people have decided they’d like it to be true. They like to claim that science have proven them right, yet never cite any evidence. There certainly isn’t any kind of a consensus agreeing it to be so.
It would seem likely that they’ve performed this about face largely because the previous thinking was that it was due to mental illness. Which in fact is far more likely; Occam etc…
They simply decided they didn’t want to think themselves as such – who can blame them? But nevertheless, we cannot simply agree with all delusional people. Do we therefore need to tell anorexics they are too fat and they should starve themselves to death? People who think they have too many limbs should be allowed to cut them off? It’s plainly unkind.

David Morley
David Morley
20 days ago
Reply to  Q T

See Stanford research.

These are large scale structural differences. There may also be smaller scale differences too – but we’ll have to wait for further research.

It will be interesting to see whether these differences tend to confirm or refute our stereotypes about men and women.

David Morley
David Morley
19 days ago
Reply to  Q T

These findings add support to the notion that the underlying brain anatomy in transgender people is shifted away from their biological sex towards their gender identity.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8955456/

David Morley
David Morley
20 days ago
Reply to  Q T

Enough difference for AI to get it right 90% of the time. And of the 10% it got wrong, some could be examples of these “wrong body” types.

Q T
Q T
20 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

What are you talking about?
I have no idea what point you are trying to make, but I’ll point out that AI makes mistakes all the time. So whatever point it is seems moot.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
20 days ago
Reply to  Q T

Yeah, what the hell? Using AI as some kind of baseline for reasonableness is about as self-defeating as an argument can be.

David Morley
David Morley
20 days ago
Reply to  Q T

Google it.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
20 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

It’s all so ‘how many angels fit on the tip of a needle?’ talking points, isn’t it?

David Morley
David Morley
20 days ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

Perhaps – but such things are taken massively seriously by activists and academics and can cause schisms in movements.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
20 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

‘Talia’ regularly spews ludicrous claims about ‘girls being forced to grow beards’ and ‘boys being forced to grow breasts’. Not exactly a pillar of rational thinking.

Mint Julip
Mint Julip
19 days ago
Reply to  David Morley

Frankly, I’ve always assumed “she” IS that which “she” defends, over and over, biased articles ready for copying and pasting.

Gregory Toews
Gregory Toews
21 days ago

I’d like people to observe my adjectives. On what bases might the US government refuse to draft legislation for this? Why are pronouns privileged over adjectives? Adjectives are a more specific and precise descriptor. Surely this would be consistent with our idolization of the “authentic self”. Then again, internal consistency isn’t a priority.

Philip May
Philip May
21 days ago

“Queer scholarship”?
Surely (Shirley) you jest.

Pyra Intihar
Pyra Intihar
21 days ago
Reply to  Philip May

Szirley

Liakoura
Liakoura
20 days ago

“the EEOC also decreed that it’s discriminatory for an employer to deny a transgender person access to a bathroom they feel best matches their gender identity, even if that invades the privacy of the other workers, or, in some cases, conflicts with another employee’s religious convictions”.
Notwithstanding the fact that it is in that most private of places, the bathroom, where all the best detective novels inform us, the most difficult to solve violent crimes take place.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
20 days ago
Reply to  Liakoura

Maybe all the women at work should identify as men and invade the men’s restroom, while taking a peek at the men at the urinals and laughing. I think the government might change its tune.

David Morley
David Morley
20 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Men wouldn’t care, and neither would the government. It’s odd you think they would.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
20 days ago

This is absolute nonsense and self-contradictory. If gender is a mere social construct and not a fixed quality, then it is technically impossible to misgender someone. It’s akin to saying ‘color’ doesn’t exist and then punishing someone for claiming that another person has blue eyes.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
20 days ago

The Democrats will be crushed in the upcoming election. –Anthony M.

R Wright
R Wright
19 days ago

Thank God I live on TERF Island.

William Brand
William Brand
18 days ago

This is an example of elite luxury opinion being imposed by law upon the common people. A compromise would be to require a Trans female to undergo surgical castration to use women’s restrooms. A eunuch would be acceptable in women’s restrooms or female prisons but not in women’s sports.

Christopher
Christopher
10 days ago

Most will see this as one more reason to vote for sanity in November.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
21 days ago

I must admit that as a software engineer, I break the binary all the time.

Karen Arnold
Karen Arnold
21 days ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

That comment makes me smile!

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
21 days ago

Spanish is very widely spoken in the US.
If I’m speaking Spanish with somebody, I am going to get genders and pronouns wrong 50% of the time.

Looks like ‘el cárcel’ for me!

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
21 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

A non-binary man in Spanish is non-binario. A non-binary woman is non-binaria. As much US government literature is in Spanish and English, I look forward to seeing these translations in action.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
20 days ago

Lol

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
19 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

‘La’ cárcel

Kevin Hansen
Kevin Hansen
21 days ago

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a “cis-hetero-normative binary holdover,” my son!
I think Kipling’s version is better.

Steven Carr
Steven Carr
21 days ago

The guidance states ‘Similarly, anonymous harassment, such as racist or anti-Semitic graffiti or the display of a noose or a swastika, may create or contribute to a hostile work environment, even if it is not clearly directed at any particular employees’
How many work places, other than the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen, have swastikas on view?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
21 days ago

I bet Ukrainians and Palestinians wish they had our problems.
Anyone agonising over their pronouns there?.

Michael Drucker
Michael Drucker
21 days ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

However, in Iran if Religious Police see a woman without her hair covered it is He/Her

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
20 days ago

That the EEO’s rule is not legally binding is scant comfort. Recall Obama’s Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” guidance, now reinstituted by Biden, that ruined many young men’s life through the lack of due process. What I need is guidance on how to become higher ranked on the victimhood scale.