Friday, June 23, 2017

Does Trump's Ed OCR Mandate "Preferred Pronoun" Use?

If so, it's utter madness.
   In about five years we've gone from Here's this obviously crazy new pomo-y idea that some men are women to The state demands that you speak in accordance with the New Transgender Orthodoxy
   I suppose this means that it's only a matter of time before I lose my job... [Actually, it looks like these "instructions to the field" may not apply to colleges and universities.] [Also note: even aside from being a totalitarian diktat, it's a mess. If it goes to court, it should be a bloodbath.]
   And: so much for Trump being the great anti-PC crusader.
   I suppose it's foolish to think that it's possible to reason with liberals/progressives at this point...or, hell, conservatives either, it looks like. They've drunk the kool-aid. They've plumped for an incoherent, fantastical fiction in which people can magically change sexes at will...and/or an alternative history in which Gosh, nobody ever meant that women are female! Where would anybody get such a crazy idea? We've always meant that women are people who think of themselves as women! (And in which circular definitions are A-ok...) At this point, I suppose that any further efforts to point out that the emperor has no clothes will just make you--by which I mean me--even more of a crackpot.
   It really is bizarre. It's like the pod people have taken over. It's astonishing to me that perfectly reasonable, intelligent people are swallowing this patent nonsense without batting an eye. Once we've arrived at the point of using the power of the state to coerce people into participating in the fantasies of principle, we've become totalitarians. After this point, we're just quibbling over details about how expansive that totalitarianism will be. Referring to Smith as 'he' presupposes that Smith is male. To force someone to refer to Smith as 'he' is to force them to profess Smith's maleness. To do so when Smith is not male is to force them to profess something false. To force them to do so simply because Smith desires it is to subordinate their autonomy to Smiths preferences and whims. This is no better than forcing us to refer, as some of my Buddhist friends do, to "his holiness the Dalai Lama," or forcing us to refer to someone as 'reverend' or 'father,' or forcing us to call someone in her 80s 'mademoiselle' because she considers herself trans-aged. It's worse than  legally forcing people always to refer to me as 'Professor Smith' or 'Doctor Smith'--at least those are accurate descriptions. 
   Jesus, when did everyone go crazy?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also in the article, from Obama's OCR:

"Catherine Lhamon, who wrote Obama’s transgender rules, says the new letter is “dangerous” for transgender students because it provides language for officers to dismiss cases before they even investigate them. “It says you have jurisdiction over sex discrimination and sex stereotyping, but here’s how you could dismiss it,” she said. “They can’t have it both ways.”

So apparently this is actually some rearguard action because it doesn't force schools to investigate every case.

Also, this could be a popcorn moment, because DeVos, if memory serves, is actually pretty sympathetic to trans issues, while Trump needs to appeal to socon elements of the Republican coalition, which are obviously unreceptive to this stuff and also very sensitive to speech issues right now.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another thing, Trump is actually pretty pro-LGBT. It's entirely possible he doesn't see anything wrong here, which could get awkward because his base definitely will.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, despite the left just assigning to Trump their usual laundry-list of 'ism's and 'phobia's, they don't actually seem to apply to Trump. He said that he didn't care about the bathroom stuff.

It *does* seem that the right won't stand for dictating non-standard pronoun usage...but I'm kinda inclined to think that the right is no longer capable of winning *any* battles in the culture war.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It *does* seem that the right won't stand for dictating non-standard pronoun usage...but I'm kinda inclined to think that the right is no longer capable of winning *any* battles in the culture war."

I agree. And I think a lot of conservative pols would do anything not to have to discuss LGBT issues. Which is cowardly of them, because it is clearly off the rails with respect to transgenderism. The moment they have a damn good case, they chicken out.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

On the bright side, it recently occurred to me that this might all just slowly adjust itself back toward sanity.

Back in the paleo-PC days, the PCs insisted that everyone *must* say'African-American,' and no one could *ever* say 'black.' (This is one of the many things I am astonished that people have forgotten about paleo-PC.) 'Black' was the new 'colored'--or 'negro.' It became so widespread I am not ashamed to admit...even I knuckled under a few years later when 'black' had virtually disappeared. (To my credit, I snapped out of it pretty soon.)

But now 'black' is perfectly normal again, and, in fact, 'African-American' seems passe...

So maybe that will happen...

11:46 AM  
Blogger Spencer said...

The OCR letter seems to me much hope milder than it appears to read to you.

Here's the relevant part:

"failure to assess whether sexual harassment (i.e., unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature) or gender-based harassment (i.e., based on sex stereotyping, such as acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, such as refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred name or pronouns when the school uses preferred names for gender-conforming students or when the refusal is motivated by animus toward people who do not conform to sex stereotypes) of a transgender student created a hostile environment;"

So OCR can (not must) assert jurisdiction over cases in which there was

(SH v GH) & HE

Where SH = sexual harassment, GH=gender harassment, and HE = hostile atmosphere.

The part that concerns you is the subset of GH that is "refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred name or pronouns when the school uses preferred names for gender-conforming students or when the refusal is motivated by animus toward people who do not conform to sex stereotypes".

The first half of that seems to just be sayin that if school policy is that you will call Johnny "Jack" if he says that's his preferred name, you have to do the same when Jill says she wants to be called "Jack" too. There is indeed the added piece that such a situation requires referring to them by their preferred pronoun, but again this is still in a situation where a school already defers to students about what they want to be called. That might sound bad, but I think if we keep in mind the conjunction above it becomes a lot less likely a candidate for totalitarianism. In other words, refusing to call someone their preferred pronoun is within OCR's jurisdiction only if it also occasions a hostile environment. The cases this conjures to my mind is the difference between the kid that is obviously physically male saying he wants to go by a girl's name versus the male kid who everyone thinks is female. In that case, refusing to call that boy Jill or "she" is basically outing them in front of their classmates. In Hicksville, USA that refusal could most certainly lead to a "hostile environment" for that kid.

The Supreme Court has ruled that students don't leave the First Amendment freedoms at the schoolhouse door, but that the nature of the school puts certain restrictions on that freeedom. That seems imminently reasonable to me, and perfectly reasonable and in accord with the principles of a free society to say the same is true of teachers.

I don't know if the same thing could be said about the Obama OCR letter, but I really don't think this is accurately described as the Trump administration knuckling under to PC pressures or a totalitarian impulse. That teacher is free to refuse their trans neighbor the same pronoun usage.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I think I read that very differently than you do. I'm too lazy to do this correctly right now, but here's how I read the relevant passage, roughly and in brief:

If you use nicknames for ordinary students, then you must use the "preferred pronouns" of "transgendered" students; failure to do so *constitutes* gender harassment.

I agree that the nature of certain organizations like schools put certain constraints on your speech. The problems with forcing the use of the wrong pronouns include: it's forcing people to misuse language, it's forcing them to say things that presuppose clear falsehoods, and it forces them to say things that may be at odds with their academic freedom. I, for example, have spent my entire philosophical career explaining why truth is important and saying something is true doesn't make it true. Asking me to violate the core of my intellectual existence is simply not at all reasonable. My stake in *not* saying such things is much stronger than a "trans" person's stake in the matter.

Also, of course, it will never stand as written, since profs can simply refuse to use third-person singular pronouns with respect to such students--or with respect any students at all (in class). I almost never have occasion to use say 'he' or 'hers' of students in my presence.

I suppose, if the government continues to be insane about this, they might be able to insist that we *not* use non-"preferred" pronouns...but they can never actually insist that we *must* use the "preferred" ones.

8:43 PM  

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