Yes, it’s the third annual International Pronouns Day, organized by folks who believe that referring to people by pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity.
You remember pronouns, if you had elementary school teachers like I had, in days of yore or thereabouts. There are seven kinds: personal, demonstrative, interrogative, relative, indefinite, reflexive and intensive.
You use them all the time: I, me, we, they, you, he, she, it, yours, himself, ourselves, its, my, that, this, those, us, who, whom, and a whole bunch of popular others.
As far as I know, pronouns are the only parts of speech to have an organization dedicating a day to them.
The need for a special day, perhaps unfortunately, arose in recent generations for the now generally recognized transgender and gender nonconforming people, who want to be known by pronouns that they decide on for themselves, rather than the stodgy old customary ones.
The organizers of the annual International Pronouns Day state that referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves, particularly third person personal pronouns, is basic to human dignity.
The first observance of this event in 2018, according to the organizers, had participants from 25 countries, in every continent except Antarctica. (It’s too cold to participate in almost anything in Antarctica.)
The founder and co-chair of this annual pronoun hootenanny is Shige Sakurai, of the University of Maryland. Long concerned about the importance of sharing and respecting personal pronouns, Sakurai in 2017 became the first person in the United States to officially receive a gender-neutral driver’s license, with a gender marked “X.”
The co-chair of the annual celebration is Crystal Huff, executive director of Include Better, which describes itself as a small company working to make geek spaces more inclusive by dismantling tools of the kyriarchy.
(In feminist theory, kyriarchy is a social system built around male domination, oppression and submission. I’m afraid the ladies are correct that we might have one of those.)
In their material sent out about the International Pronoun Day activities, the leaders admit that “we recognize that not all communities will find celebrating and educating about pronouns to be among top priorities, so this may be the only mention you’ve encountered.”
Both Sakurai and Huff, in their communications about Pronouns Day, use “they” and “them” to refer to themselves, avoiding sexist pronouns. The English language unfortunately does not currently have gender neutral or third gender pronouns available.
The chairpersons recognize, I presume, that it isn’t likely for some group of typical citizens to have some sort of usual holiday observance, like perhaps an International Pronouns Day picnic. I learned about Pronouns Day too late to find out if anyone local is staging a pronoun related event today.
I’ll make a note on the third Wednesday of October on the 2021 calendar. Maybe next year some of our local English teachers and some interested transgender folks can get together and can have some kind of International Pronoun Day celebrations in English classes, with gender-neutral teachers staging who vs. whom games and infinitive splitting contests.
If you want to learn more about International Pronouns Day, go on your computer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, have a nice day today, using the pronoun of your choice.
Visit columnist Jim Smart’s web site atjamessmartsphiladelphia.com.
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