Misgendering is an ‘act of violence,’ university claims

Misgendering is an ‘act of violence,’ university claims

To left-wingers, conduct should be treated like free speech under the First Amendment when progressives engage in it (like when a progressive activist camps out on public property, which progressives unsuccessfully argued was protected by the First Amendment, or when a progressive gay man performed oral sex on stage, which the Massachusetts ACLU argued was protected speech).

But when someone engages in speech they don’t like, left-wingers claim that speech is unprotected “verbal conduct” or “violence.” Even refusing to speak in support of a progressive movement can be deemed violence, as in the left-wing adage “silence is violence.” That adage was used to attack people who remained silent rather than raising a fist to support the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

Another example is “misgendering” — when someone refuses to use made-up gender pronouns like “ze” and “zir” that transgender people want to be called. Progressive officials are forcing public employees to use such made-up pronouns.

For example, the University of Colorado at Boulder informs students that misgendering people is an “act of violence.” “Choosing to ignore or disrespect someone’s pronouns is not only an act of oppression but can also be considered an act of violence,” asserts the University’s pronouns guide. It also encourages students use gender-neutral pronouns until they are sure which gender the person they are addressing uses. “

If someone tells you their pronouns, use those!” the guide says. “If you don’t know someone’s pronouns, don’t assume gendered pronouns and use gender-neutral ones, like they or ze.”

It says it is “never safe to assume someone’s gender” and that “living a life where people will naturally assume the correct pronouns for you is a privilege that not everyone experiences.”

It also says that third parties should intervene when a trans person is not being called their preferred or correct pronoun. “Do not ignore a situation where people continuously use the wrong pronouns. The mark of a true ally is never giving up on the people you want to help. Plus, gender non-conforming people tend to get tired of always correcting other people, so having a friend to help is amazing.”  It also features a chart to educate the people on how to use pronouns, including newly-invented ones such as “ze/zir/zirs.”

Courts have divided on whether you can be forced to use transgender pronouns. A conservative-leaning federal appeals court ruled in Meriwether v. Hartop (2021) that a professor could not be ordered to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns, because such compelled speech violated the First Amendment. It also concluded that using such pronouns is not required by the federal civil-rights law Title IX.

But in progressive Oregon, a school district settled a transgender discrimination claim, paying $60,000 to a transgender employee who demanded to be called “they” rather than “he” or “she.” The district also agreed to “develop official guidance documents” for “pronoun usage,” and “violations of the guidance will be grounds for discipline.”

The teacher effectively forced his co-workers into using “they” to convey an idea about language and how language should be:  “Some people might argue, ‘Why don’t you just use “he?” It’s masculine,’” the transgender teacher said. “But ‘they’ continuously points to the fact that the language is not inclusive.” As the Portland Tribune noted, “using ‘they’ as a singular pronoun sets off grammar alarms in many people’s brains.”

As law professor Eugene Volokh observed in the Washington Post, to mandate such “highly conspicuous, nonstandard usage . . . violates basic First Amendment principles. Drivers, the Supreme Court held in Wooley v. Maynard (1978),” have the right “not to display ‘Live Free or Die’ on their license plates,” because people have the right to refuse to promote “the State’s ideological message.’ They would likewise be free not to display ‘Language Should Be More Inclusive.’ And they should be free not to use words that ‘set off grammar alarms’ that signal such an ideological message.”

Similarly, Professor Volokh notes, it’s wrong for the government to force people to use “ze,” a made-up word that carries an obvious political connotation (endorsement of the “non-binary” view of gender).

Non-transgender people have no right to force people to call them by an imaginary or ungrammatical pronoun, so transgender people should not be able to make such demands under the civil-rights laws, either.  Courts have ruled that civil-rights laws do not create a right to affirmative action or special treatment based on race or gender, in cases such as Coalition for Economic Equity v. Wilson (1997).

LU Staff

LU Staff

Promoting and defending liberty, as defined by the nation’s founders, requires both facts and philosophical thought, transcending all elements of our culture, from partisan politics to social issues, the workings of government, and entertainment and off-duty interests. Liberty Unyielding is committed to bringing together voices that will fuel the flame of liberty, with a dialogue that is lively and informative.


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