There's nutty, there's political-correctness nutty, and then there's Washington Post political-correctness nutty.
Thus, on the screen at the WaPo, multi-platform editor Lauren R. Taylor explains how she practices pretending that sex is a social construct for humans by pretending that sex is a social construct for cats. She titles her essay "Don't Laugh: I Have a Serious Reason for Raising My Cats Gender-Neutral."
Gender-neutral cats! Tell that to Sylvester! Oookay, here goes:
The cats’ lives wouldn’t change, I reasoned, and it would help me learn to use plural pronouns for my friends, neighbors and colleagues who individually go by they, their and them. Even though using they, them and their as singular pronouns grates on many people because it’s grammatically incorrect, it seems to be the most popular solution to the question of how to identify people without requiring them to conform to the gender binary of female and male. It also just feels right to refer to people as they wish to be referred to.
I don't know how many people actually "wish to be referred to" by gender-neutral plural personal pronouns, but then again I don't work for the Washington Post.
But problems arise, even for the ultra-politically correct Taylor:
I’d make a mistake (called “misgendering”), saying something like “Where’s your brother?” (Yes, I talk to my cats.) Usually, I’d remember to fix it (“Where’s your sibling?” or “Where’s your pal?”). Just as I’d hoped, I began finding it easier to remember to use gender-neutral language for the humans in my life.
And it gets even worse when Taylor's friends, who don't seemed to be as attuned as she to the nuances of gender-neutrality, drop by.
Friends would come over, I’d introduce the cats and their pronouns, and some would ask, “But what ARE they?” Some would randomly use “he” and “she.” Some would stumble, unable to form a sentence when talking about one of the cats.
Um, can't you tell the sex of a cat by just looking? Nonetheless, all goes well in Taylor's gender-neutral universe until one of the kitties gets sick and she has to take "them" (that is, the one sick cat) to the vet. For some reason the employees there aren't with the program, and they keep looking around for the other cat whenever Taylor says "them." Also, since they're in the medical profession, not the political-correctness profession, they can't get over that stick-in-the-mud "binary" way of classifying animals as "male" and "female."
[I] had to weigh the question: Do I explain their pronouns not only to the vet, but also the front-desk workers, the vet techs, and everyone else we interacted with? Before the illness was over, we saw five vets, two sets of front desk people, and countless vet techs. I chose to fall back on my cis-gender privilege (look it up) and used the singular pronoun for Essence. I understood that wouldn’t have been so easy if I were the patient — or if Essence were human.
That is, if Essence were human and into the gender-neutral shtick.
The cat-illness crisis proves to be even more disconcerting for Taylor's poor friends:
While all of this was unfolding, friends would ask me: How is your cat? “They’re better” or “The same. The vets don’t know what’s wrong with them,” I’d say. “Wait a minute—are they both sick?” people would reply, confused.
But there's a lesson here for all of us to learn:
It is confusing. We’ve had gender drilled into us as part of language since we first heard adults talking when we were infants – decades of “he” and “she.”
But at the same time it’s necessary. People are coming to understand that not all of us fit into the “girl” box or the “boy” box. Those who don’t are claiming space to be who they are. We all need to find ways to acknowledge and respect that. My way of respecting it just happens to be raising my cats gender neutral. You can choose your own.
Me, I'm planning to wait until I actually run into someone who doesn't fit into the "girl" box or the "boy" box, which hasn't happened yet. But then again, I don't work at the Washington Post.
As I said, there's nutty, there's political-correctness nutty, and there's Washington Post political-correctness nutty.
Also, since they're in the medical professon, not the political-correctness profession, they keep categorizing animals by the now-hopelessly old-fashioned words "male" and "female." S