School to refer to students as purple penguins

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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Spekio » 2014-10-11 04:38pm

The way it was phrased came to me as sarcasm....

Did I misread it? If so I apologize.

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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Zixinus » 2014-10-11 04:48pm


First, Transgender is a verb not a noun. I am a transgender person, not a transgender.
I apologize, I don't know why I assumed that.

No, I don't want to abolish gender. I have read pieces by people who do, both cisgender people and transgender people, but I don't agree with them as a whole. Gender, in my opinion, is a scale, much like sexuality. At that point, why abolish it, when a person can already identify with either end, be in the middle, vary up and down the scale or remove themselves from the scale altogether.
I kind of meant that it was the same way: you have two ends and there are people between the two somewhere.

One of the problems I see is that the vocabulary is quite confusing if you are not familiar with LGBT culture. Especially in English that has this insistence on using gendered pronouns.

The whole "purple penguin" thing is just a bizarre attempt to fix that. Not that it is a bad thing to try and fix it but it still comes across strange. Which is why I think people react to this idea with some hostility: "English refers to people with he or she, its stupid to try and ban teachers from using English's basic rules!". I admit that was my first reaction and why I thought this was some sort of right-wing satire.

I can sort-of see what they were trying: they were trying to give a childish shield above a person who isn't comfortable with one or the other pronoun. It might work with children or help create a atmosphere where authority isn't confronting a transgender person routinely.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by HMS Sophia » 2014-10-11 05:07pm

Zixinus wrote:I apologize, I don't know why I assumed that.
No worries :) I don't expect everyone to get it right immediately.
I kind of meant that it was the same way: you have two ends and there are people between the two somewhere.
A scale is really the only way you're going to cover everyone. Cis people, trans people, genderqueer people, gender fluid people, agender people, bigender people... the list goes on. A scale is really the only thing that makes sense.
One of the problems I see is that the vocabulary is quite confusing if you are not familiar with LGBT culture. Especially in English that has this insistence on using gendered pronouns.
Hell yeah it is. I still get lost occasionally.
The insistence on using gendered pronouns is a rather stupid one though. There are relatively well established non-binary pronouns which are starting to hit the mainstream. And at the end of the day, it is perfectly good English to refer to a singular person as they. There they are, they are a good swimmer, they like to read to puppies. Plus you can cover a group with it as well.
The whole "purple penguin" thing is just a bizarre attempt to fix that. Not that it is a bad thing to try and fix it but it still comes across strange. Which is why I think people react to this idea with some hostility: "English refers to people with he or she, its stupid to try and ban teachers from using English's basic rules!". I admit that was my first reaction and why I thought this was some sort of right-wing satire.

I can sort-of see what they were trying: they were trying to give a childish shield above a person who isn't comfortable with one or the other pronoun. It might work with children or help create a atmosphere where authority isn't confronting a transgender person routinely.
Purple penguins is not the way I'd have chosen to go with this. To be honest, it feels like they haven't consulted anyway pushing for this sort of change at all (Except maybe the HRC. This seems like something they would do. But then the HRC are gigantic cockbags.). They've just... picked something that seems non threatening to a group who have never experienced the issue.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Zixinus » 2014-10-11 05:46pm

The insistence on using gendered pronouns is a rather stupid one though.
I don't think its a conscious decision as so much as people wanting you to not change the language. People often dislike politically-correct terms, never mind fundamental change in the use of language.

I have not talked about this with Hungarians but we don't have gendered pronouns. I do not think that it makes being a transgender here any more easier really. People think that you are just being obtuse if you say you aren't female or male.
There are relatively well established non-binary pronouns which are starting to hit the mainstream.
A quick check on Wikipedia shows that various people have been trying to come up with new pronouns since the 19th century. They never caught on. I have doubts it will. Adapting a new pronoun is confusing and you have to do a deliberate effort. I was taught (IIRC) that if you don't a person's gender you use the male pronoun and using the gender-neutral "it" degrading. "It" would actually be best if that association would be overcome.
And at the end of the day, it is perfectly good English to refer to a singular person as they. There they are, they are a good swimmer, they like to read to puppies. Plus you can cover a group with it as well.
Yet it is still confusing: in grammar books it refers to plural people only. Non-native speakers will be confused and think you are using bad grammar.

Which is where I see attempt at changing the language extra frustrating. There are more non-native English speakers than ever and they will dismiss gender-neutral pronouns as silly people making stuff up to make learning a new language more difficult. It would never be featured in English-teaching grammar books unless there is a strong movement for things like big-name dictionaries to adapt the words or even just mention them.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Phillip Hone » 2014-10-11 06:57pm

I've heard that when you use "he" in the gender neutral sense ... you aren't really using it in the gender neutral sense, because your readers still implicitly gender whomever you are referring to as male. I should look up a source on that, though.

So if I say, "a scientist is never happy to learn that his article got rejected from a journal," even if I'm making a general statement and am trying to use "he" in a gender neutral way, most people will usually imagine a male scientist. And why would they not? Why would masculine pronouns double as gender neutral ones?

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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by RogueIce » 2014-10-11 07:15pm

The "they" thing got brought up in my Lit class (shut up it's a requirement) and the teacher acknowledged that, while it is an attempt at a gender-neutral pronoun that's not how the English language works (currently) so it's technically wrong and you'll probably get marked off in an academic paper for doing it. The closest you can really get - according to her, anyway - is to go with "he or she" (or the like) which is clunky, but correct.

I have seen various blogs and stuff use "hir" as a gender-neutral word (I think that's the intent anyway, could be wrong) but that obviously could only work with written English, even assuming it ever became mainstream, which AFAIK it hasn't. Because it would just sound like "her" when spoken aloud, it would fail at its intended purposed for spoken English.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Darmalus » 2014-10-11 07:25pm

RogueIce wrote:I have seen various blogs and stuff use "hir" as a gender-neutral word (I think that's the intent anyway, could be wrong) but that obviously could only work with written English, even assuming it ever became mainstream, which AFAIK it hasn't. Because it would just sound like "her" when spoken aloud, it would fail at its intended purposed for spoken English.
All my encounters with "hir" and "shi" have been used to refer to functional hermaphrodites (alien or transhumans) and my understand was it had been invented specifically for that purpose for scifi and fantasy stories (hence the unclear pronunciation, it wasn't intended to be used in spoken language).

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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Zixinus » 2014-10-11 09:38pm

The real problem with just pronouns is that you need to be in LGBT cultures to understand their necessity. If you are not in LGBT and don't really care or have any interest for that culture, why would you change a fundamental rule of how would you use your language? They don't and won't adapt the pronoun. Maybe some will drop it in and try to establish it as okay, but that will be considered an oddity and dismissed as such. Unless the issues of a transgender person becomes a society-wide interest, people don't care to change their behaviour. I would be surprised if so much as a suggestion for one manages to stay in the public consciousness.

The issue is paradigms: as a transgender person the whole pronoun thing is a fundamental issue to you and important. They see the flaw in the English language and personally experience the need to correct it. That society needs to adopt to that is a necessity because gender is complex.

But if you don't have a transgender friend, don't see transgender people, don't have transgender idols... it's a small minority demanding to change how everyone speaks and accept their confusing and (to them) unnecessary vocabulary.

That my understand of this anyway. I am probably missing a whole lot, I'm just summing up what I can figure out. I admit that I probably wouldn't use new pronouns in everyday things, except perhaps if I knew I was communicating to transgender people. I probably would avoid using transgender pronouns to avoid confusing people I talk with.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Terralthra » 2014-10-11 10:39pm

They as a singular gender-neutral pronoun has been around for ~500 years. Shakespeare used it. Your Lit teacher is wrong.

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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Sidewinder » 2014-10-11 11:27pm

Terralthra wrote:They as a singular gender-neutral pronoun has been around for ~500 years. Shakespeare used it. Your Lit teacher is wrong.
It's been a while since I read Shakespeare. Did the bard use "they" the way royalty use "we", i.e., the plural is being used to represent a singular who, as a government leader, represents a land and its people?
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Terralthra » 2014-10-12 02:13am

Chaucer: "And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame,
They wol come up . . ." (1390s)

Shakespeare: "Tis meet that some more audience than a mother, since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear the speech." (Hamlet, 1599)

Chesterfield: "If a person is born of a . . . gloomy temper . . . they cannot help it." (1759)

The singular they makes perfect sense, and is quite reasonable. Consider the following sentence:
"Mr. and Mrs. Wong had a game: who could find the least flattering photo of _____self."

A) "Mr. and Mrs. Wong had a game: who could find the least flattering photo of himself." (masculine, standard in English for the latter half of the 19th century and much of the 20th)
B) "Mr. and Mrs. Wong had a game: who could find the least flattering photo of his- or her-self." ("he or she" as suggested by style guides who apparently don't know how awkward that sounds)
C) ""Mr. and Mrs. Wong had a game: who could find the least flattering photo of themself." (singular they; perfectly clear, understandable, and concise)

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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Executor32 » 2014-10-12 02:32am

Ahem:
Omaha World-Herald wrote:Lincoln schools chief: District not replacing terms 'boys, girls' with gender-neutral ones
POSTED: THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2014 6:16 PM
By Joe Dejka / World-Herald staff writer

Lincoln Public Schools Superintendent Steve Joel said Thursday there’s “absolutely no truth” to news and blogger accounts that his district is mandating that teachers replace the terms boys and girls with gender-neutral terms.
The district came under fire from conservatives after teacher-training materials prepared by an advocacy group and distributed at one school discouraged using terms like “boys & girls,” “you guys” and “ladies and gentlemen.”
Joel said the materials were obtained by members of a committee at Irving Middle School tasked with examining equity issues that might affect students.
Committee members shared the materials with staff for discussion and consideration, he said. The recommendations in the materials have not been adopted as district policy, he said.
However, he said that district officials will continue to look for ways to make every student feel comfortable.
“We have 39,000 students,” he said. “We want every single one of them to be successful. We don’t want any child ever to feel as if they don’t belong in our schools.”
Joel said he said he has no data on how many kids enrolled in his district identify themselves as other than a boy or girl.
“That’s not data that we would commonly collect,” he said. “We don’t ask.”
Russ Uhing, director of student services for the Lincoln district, said teachers and administrators have increasingly asked for help in how to deal with transgender kids.
The American Psychological Association defines transgender as an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.
Prior to this school year, the district provided staff with copies of some local and national news accounts about transgender kids to give them some background on the issue, Uhing said.
“We’ve got a lot of different types of students in our district, and this is a group that we are seeing more of, and our buildings are asking for more guidance, so that’s what we wanted to present,” he said.
Concerns about the materials at Irving Middle School were raised by parents, district officials said.
The materials included a one-page tip sheet titled “12 easy steps on the way to gender inclusiveness...” produced by an organization called Gender Spectrum.
The tip sheet encouraged teachers to avoid asking kids to line up as boys or girls or separating them by gender. Instead, teachers were encouraged to sort kids by odd or even birth date or other means such as whether they preferred skateboards or bikes, milk or juice, or dogs versus cats.
Instead of calling kids with phrases like “boys & girls” or “you guys,” the tip sheet said teachers could say “calling all readers,” “hey campers” or “could all of the athletes come here.” Students could be divided into groups assigned names. That way, for example, a teacher could ask “all of the ‘purple penguins’ to meet at the rug,” it said.
It suggested giving every student the opportunity to identify a preferred name or pronoun. It also said teachers should “be intolerant of openly hostile attitudes or references toward others” and to “point out and inquire when you hear others referencing gender in a binary manner.”
The materials also include information to help teachers distinguish between sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and biological sex.
Joel said he’s proud of his teachers and administrators for being willing and open to gaining a better understanding of student needs.
“We’re doing the right thing,” he said.
Kids who feel like outsiders or unwelcome are often the ones to fall victim to bullying or suicide, he said.
“Some of the behaviors we’ve seen around the country that are so sad are manifested in this general feeling of I don’t belong,” he said. “And so what we want, when the doors open up and students come into our schools, they are valued and they feel like they belong, they’re not being intimidated.”
Teachers are going to be the conduit between the students’ ability to be successful and the issues that they bring into the classroom, he said.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by madd0ct0r » 2014-10-12 03:57am

fucking called it.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Zixinus » 2014-10-12 07:16am

Terralthra wrote:They as a singular gender-neutral pronoun has been around for ~500 years. Shakespeare used it. Your Lit teacher is wrong.
Shakespeare also used singular informer, the thou. We don't use that anymore. It may have been used as such in his time but I doubt grammar books agree with you now. Use it today and people will just think that you are talking about plural persons.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by HMS Sophia » 2014-10-12 09:41am

Zixinus wrote:Shakespeare also used singular informer, the thou. We don't use that anymore. It may have been used as such in his time but I doubt grammar books agree with you now. Use it today and people will just think that you are talking about plural persons.
Do sod off:
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/defin ... glish/they
2 [SINGULAR] Used to refer to a person of unspecified sex:
ask a friend if they could help
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Zixinus » 2014-10-12 11:53am

HMS Sophia wrote:
Zixinus wrote:Shakespeare also used singular informer, the thou. We don't use that anymore. It may have been used as such in his time but I doubt grammar books agree with you now. Use it today and people will just think that you are talking about plural persons.
Do sod off:
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/defin ... glish/they
2 [SINGULAR] Used to refer to a person of unspecified sex:
ask a friend if they could help
Fine, but then tell me how I am wrong.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by HMS Sophia » 2014-10-12 12:26pm

Zixinus wrote:Fine, but then tell me how I am wrong.
Do you want me to quote the bit where you said it isn't used like that any more or the bit where you said books don't agree?
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Zixinus » 2014-10-12 01:43pm

Do you want me to quote the bit where you said it isn't used like that any more or the bit where you said books don't agree?
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Phillip Hone » 2014-10-12 09:49pm

It's odd to say we can't change English for "political reasons," because it's not as if English was constructed in a political neutral manner to begin with.

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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Borgholio » 2014-10-13 09:49am

My father is a transsexual, one of the online community leaders. She is one of the better known voice-coaches to help transsexuals actually sound like the opposite sex, instead of trying to fake it. Regarding gender-neutral pronouns, she never subscribed to that. As a male, he went by he. As a female, he went by she. The question of which pronoun to use always was, "Are you male or female out the outside?" Then that's what pronoun you use.

If you are a transsexual, then all you are doing is changing the exterior to match the interior and the pronoun changes with it. Trying to use "they" or any other gender-neutral pronouns is awkward at best. Even using traditional pronouns, I still refer to her as "he" out of habit. It takes a great effort to call her a her or a she, and she recognizes that...so she doesn't really care. She knows who she is and what she is and that's all that matters to her.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by HMS Sophia » 2014-10-13 10:26am

Borgholio wrote:Regarding gender-neutral pronouns, she never subscribed to that. As a male, he went by he. As a female, he went by she. The question of which pronoun to use always was, "Are you male or female out the outside?" Then that's what pronoun you use.

If you are a transsexual, then all you are doing is changing the exterior to match the interior and the pronoun changes with it. Trying to use "they" or any other gender-neutral pronouns is awkward at best.
No one is really expecting transgender people to use non-traditional or gender neutral pronouns personally though. The majority users of non-traditional pronouns are gender queer/fluid people and others who aren't firmly at one end of the scale of the other. I have never used a non-gendered pronoun, and I probably never will... but I respect the rights of my friends and those around me to do so.
In a school environment however, using 'they' allows people a space in which they can explore/express their gender identity with the understanding that people around them know that not everyone fits into neat boxes. It brings up the concept of non-binary people for the students. It is about creating safe spaces.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Borgholio » 2014-10-13 10:52am

When you refer to someone as he or she, it is simply a reference to whether they are male or female, nothing more. If a child feels they don't feel male or female on the inside then that's fine, but I don't think that a school should stop calling it like it is. They should respect it if a child chooses to stand in the other line though.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by HMS Sophia » 2014-10-13 10:59am

Borgholio wrote:When you refer to someone as he or she, it is simply a reference to whether they are male or female, nothing more. If a child feels they don't feel male or female on the inside then that's fine, but I don't think that a school should stop calling it like it is. They should respect it if a child chooses to stand in the other line though.
What if they don't identify as male or female?
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by Borgholio » 2014-10-13 11:05am

Well then the school should respect that and let them pick their own category. I'm all for people who think they don't belong in either gender, there's nothing wrong with that. But sorting by sex is one of the most basic ways we can sort people and it tends to work nine times out of ten. Even homosexuals identify as a specific gender, regardless of their sexual preference. Proactively going out and making up arbitrary categories just on the off-chance someone doesn't like being a boy or a girl seems like a bit of an overreaction.
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Re: School to refer to students as purple penguins

Post by HMS Sophia » 2014-10-13 11:13am

Borgholio wrote:But sorting by sex is one of the most basic ways we can sort people and it tends to work nine times out of ten. Even homosexuals identify as a specific gender, regardless of their sexual preference.
Well... yes, by definition they would? But a pansexual or a bisexual (or a monosexual or an asexual) person doesn't necessarily identify as a specific gender. I don't see the point of bringing sexuality into a conversation about gender.
Proactively going out and making up arbitrary categories just on the off-chance someone doesn't like being a boy or a girl seems like a bit of an overreaction.
It's about Inclusivity vs. Exclusivity. Sticking to boys and girls creates an exclusive environment wherein some people are not included. Moving to they or using gender neutral terms when creating groups makes for an inclusive environment where you will miss nobody no matter who they are or how they choose to identify.
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