Reading this letter in the Times reminds me that as fast as things are changing (for the better), there are always people who want them to change faster. These Wesleyan undergraduates, bless their hearts, are annoyed at the Times for not referring to the subject of a story by his (sorry, I suppose “vis”) chosen gender-neutral pronoun of “V,” rather than the patriarchalist “he.” I don’t know Justin Vivian Bond, the subject of the letter (although I did read the book review in question), but it appears that Bond made up this pronoun himself (vimself?).
I actually agree with the impulse behind this complaint. Language choices that go under the heading of “the way it’s always been done” do often mask a bias toward the status quo, and instantiate momentum in favor of powerful institutions and groups and persons over the historically marginalized. And I do think that transgendered people, in the course of figuring out who they are and expressing that to the world, are helping more than most of us to change that.
However. How practical is it to choose your own pronoun, and then be annoyed at the rest of the world for not using it? I’m afraid that’s not a battle you’re likely to win. If I were a transgendered person, given all the daily battles in my life worth fighting, I’d probably be fighting other ones instead.
If you have a different point of view, I’d be interested in hearing it. I don’t know any transgendered people well (although I’ve met several over the years), so my perspective is something of an outsider’s — I’m primarily speaking in practical terms anyway, though.