To: All Employees, Students and Anyone(s)

Re: I’ve Sovled the Problem of Pronouns Rather Well.

It has come to my* attention that some people are confused about what pronoun to call me*. Quite frankly, I*’m surprised by this lack of respect.

True enough, my* pronouns change, but this fact is solidly based on social identity theory mainly starting with contributions by Henri Tajfel and John Turner in 1979. For anyone who missed last month’s memo, social identity theory states that who I* am differs depending upon which group I* am in. These group alliances and memberships obviously may differ: vicinity, school, social, gender, religion, institutional, race, career, economic, geography, health, ethnicity, sports, family, age and so forth. Social identification is not stable. Indeed, in light of this, I find it highly bizarre that people wish to settle upon one designatory pronoun for themselves.

Fernando Pessoa. Na Baixa. Lisboa. Between 1920–1935. Círculo de Leitores, Fernando Pessoa — Obra Poética, Vol. I. Wikimedia Commons. Known for his more tha 80 heteronyms that included Chevalier de Pas. Dr. Pancrácio, Charles Robert Anon, Álvaro de Campos, Alberto Caeiro, and Ricardo Reis.

In other words, I* is not one I* given all the circumstances and groups; instead I* are multiple and my* pronouns reflect this multiplicity.

The relationship between doing and reflexive consciousness of that doing may be extended — my* tacit identity changes become determined choice. In turn I* am obliged to confront norms which pressure such identification.

My* identity cannot be externally imposed. My* right to pronoun privilege cannot be denied. I*’m talking about names, subject pronouns, and object pronouns.

To help those who are a little slow on the uptake, I*’ve created a little list. It’s single spaced for about 15 pages. I*’ll be distributing it at the start of the academic year. Carry it, use it. Here are a few of the highlights.

Composition au pochoir : les dix membres de la famille du pasteur Oberlin. Isolée en première rangée, son épouse, Salomé Madeleine, décédée en 1783. Wikimedia Commons.
  • There are varieties of reference as shown by Kripke, Russell, and Frege, but under no circumstances should any pronoun used or listed here be considered to indicate a descriptive reference with respect to me*.
  • Generally, the number of pronouns I* require may shift so this list is NoT wRiTtEn In StOnE, to use a pet academic cliché.
  • You may not apply a taxonomic umbrella term for my* multiple identities, such as “they” or “plural” or “gender non-conformity.”
  • You cannot guess my* preferred pronoun by looking at me*.
  • You may not use a gendered pronoun to speak to me* or about me* unless I* agree you may use one. In that case I’ll be happy if you use it.
  • Note in particular: If you ask me* whether I* at the moment agree to your using a gendered pronoun I* will consider this question to be a form of disrespect.
  • Any indication of “you” when referring to me* must respect the formal and informal such as found in Italian, (tu, Lei) and if it’s unclear then I* must be referred to with the pronoun and adjective to indicate formal or informal as appropriate. To misuse the formal when it should be the informal or vice versa will trigger me*.
  • Under no circumstances may a gendered pronoun in a non-English language be used.
  • Under no circumstances may a single standard or non-standard non-gendered or non-binary pronoun be used.
  • Following Vietnamese, pronouns used with respect to me* must reflect social rank, kinship, and relationship intimacy. If referring to me* with respect to a significant other, child, father, mother, friend, doctor, etc, the appropriate pronoun must be used, not to be confused.
  • You must remain hyper-vigilant. That said I* cannot prevent you being a dodipoll about my* preferred pronoun at any given moment, and I* will hold this against you. I* may even file an HR department complaint against you for repeated misuse.
  • In academic meetings I* must be referred to as: The Supreme Being Bohan The Inquisitor.
  • Cats only may refer to me* as: Meow. Only cats get to put the “me” in their “meow.” With kittens mew is also acceptable.
  • In an informal meeting I* must be referred to by my name or as That Guy. “Guy” is to be said in a non-gendered manner, not with a gendered inflection.
  • In any casual conversation I* may not be referred to in any manner that presupposes a Cartesian viewpoint.
  • With friends I* must be referred to by: Yo, or Yo Stupid.
  • An 800 lb gorilla may call me* anything it wants to, especially if we are locked in the same cage.
  • In any academic setting I* must be referred to by: Doctor followed by my cognome.
  • For any survey I* must be referred to by: The person with no response regarding identity pronoun specification who also may not fill out your stupid survey.
  • Students in classrooms must never refer to me* at all by either name, subject pronoun, or object pronoun.
  • Faculty must never refer to me* at all by either name, subject, or object pronoun. Only in certain instances will faculty be able to use: My Nemesis or Your Excellency.
  • From 7:30 am until 8:05 a.m. I* will be referred to as: Here’s your coffee.
  • From 9:00 to 9:14 a.m. one may not talk to or refer to me* at all for any reason whatsoever.
The Toilet of Venus (The Rokeby Venus). Diego Velázquez. 1644. Wikimedia Commons.
  • No reductive criterion of difference may be applied in any circumstance.
  • From 12:54 to 1:23 a.m. or p.m. I* must be referred to as Pynchon’s Quack or Ferdydurke’s Detractor.
  • From 3:44 to 4:45 a.m. I* must be referred to as Kiddo by anyone who identifies as a woman and as Dawg by anyone who identifies as a man, and as Everybody by anythey who identify as plural, and as Someone by anyone who identifies as non-gendered, and as Nobody by anyone who exists only as a spiritual non-corporeal being.
  • In any instance where anyone(s) must refer to me*, and anyone(s) is/are undecided which pronoun to use, rather than err, anyone(s) must choose Russellian thoughts (per Garth Evans) in the sense that “in the case of the non-existence of the object of a putative singular thought, there is no thought.” (Peter Carruthers, in Russelian Thoughts, Mind, New Series, Vol. 96, no. 381. Jan., 1987, p. 18–35.)

Thank you for your attention and compliance. This will be my final memo on the subject.

Note: * = pronoun placeholder, not to be taken as a specific impure indexical.

Novelist, poet, a post-studio visual artist, and the founder of The Invisible Art Collective International. Recent novels include “Sundre” and “Garbage Head.”

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