October 18, 2023 - 7:00am

Today marks International Pronouns Day. The hashtag is #PronounsDay and according to pronouns.org, we can “transform society to celebrate people’s multiple, intersecting identities.” This self-identified authority on personal pronouns goes on to suggest that:

Local organizers should seek to center the voices, needs, and interests of trans/nonbinary people/leaders, particularly those who face multiple marginalizations, in their planning efforts.
- pronouns.org

This madness needs to stop. I say that as a trans person, but one who has chosen not to also identify as marginalised. If society is being transformed by these dubious initiatives, it does not help anyone who wants to get on with their lives — not as a multiple, intersecting identity, but as a human being.

We should ignore such ‘days’. But when universities, schools and other public bodies get on board, we risk leaving the floor open to ideologues. Liverpool John Moores University, for example, is promoting pronoun badges in a joint campaign with its student union on “getting it right.” This nonsense has become so embedded in some DEI policies that it’s hard to question it.

But we need to go further and challenge the practice. Pronouns are words we use to describe other people. Rather like adjectives. While the subject may be able to influence the choice of word by how they present themselves, they have no right to control the speech of others. 

That, however, is exactly what has been happening when people expect others to use their choice of pronoun. It’s authoritarian, and — I would argue — unkind. Those who wear pronoun badges pressure others into joining them, which includes trans people who would rather just get on with their lives in peace. If were I still in the closet, it would be excruciating. What pronouns would I declare? Unless I was ready to come out to the world, there and then, declaring my pronouns would have exacerbated my dysphoria.

Perhaps the most insidious impact is on children. While schools in the UK are still waiting for government guidance on how to handle transgender issues, lesson plans for Pronouns Day are one click away. LGBT Youth Scotland’s resources for teachers would fill a 50- to 55- minute PSHE lesson. Their International Pronouns Day PowerPoint suggests that using pronouns based on appearance “sends a potentially harmful message that people must look a certain way in order be a specific gender”.

As tempting as it may be, we cannot entirely dismiss Pronouns Day when children may be deceived into thinking that it is kind to deny the reality of biological sex. Science cannot be fooled even if people can be, and we have a duty to call out pernicious ideologies, especially those that are being promoted to children. Pronouns Day? I shan’t be celebrating. 

Debbie Hayton is a teacher and a transgender campaigner.