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Right-wing gay journalist is seriously triggered by the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun

Lily Wakefield November 13, 2019
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they as a singular pronoun

The gay conservative journalist insisted that using "they" as a singular pronoun is "absurd" despite the fact that it has been done since 1375. (YouTube)

An anti-trans gay journalist has gone on a rant in a conservative online magazine because he cannot comprehend the concept of “they” as a singular pronoun.

Chad Felix Greene is a regular contributor to the conservative site The Federalist, and his portfolio includes articles such as ‘If we don’t ban fortune tellers, we shouldn’t ban “gay conversion therapy”‘ and ‘I crunched the data. The violence ‘epidemic’ against transgender people is a myth’.

But on Tuesday, November 12 he took on another issue: grammar.

Greene wrote an article attacking a decision by the American Psychological Association (APA) to endorse using “they” as a singular pronoun in academic writing.

The APA said in an announcement: “APA advocates for the singular ‘they’ because it is inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender… Writers should use the singular ‘they’ in two main cases: when referring to a generic person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context and when referring to a specific, known person who uses ‘they’ as their pronoun.”

Green wrote: “They/them just doesn’t work as a singular pronoun. The APA style guide is widely used in academic writing, and the decision to essentially create a new usage from an established pronoun is absurd.”

He was particularly confused about singular “they” being used in two different contexts.

“The messaging here seems to be that non-binary people are both significant and individual enough to require ‘respectful’ recognition while simultaneously being interchangeable with the generic representation of all people,” he continued.

Greene added: “I am certainly not a ‘they’, and I shudder to imagine a society that prefers to see me as a generic and inclusive pronoun, rather than a whole and autonomous person.”

Fortunately, there is evidence to show that “they” as a singular has been used at least at far back as medieval times to refer to “whole and autonomous” people.

The Oxford English Dictionary traces back the first written use of a singular “they” to 1375, in the medieval romantic poem William and the Werewolf, however it is likely it was used in speech much earlier than that.

There are also other commonly used examples of pronouns that have both singular and plural uses, for example the “royal we” and “you”.

“You” is now used interchangeably to refer to individuals and multiple people, but was originally only a plural pronoun which evolved to have a singular use.

The singular use of “you” developed in the seventeenth century to replace “thou”, and the change was met with resistance.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary: “In 1660, George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, wrote a whole book labelling anyone who used singular ‘you’ an idiot or a fool… Singular ‘you’ has [now] become normal and unremarkable.”

Related topics: anti-trans, non-binary, pronouns, singular pronoun, the Federalist, they/them

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