For the past few weeks, we’ve been cleaning out my mom’s apartment. She died a few months ago. I was surprised at how much stuff I left in her apartment, how much stuff everyone in my family collected throughout the years. Now, her stuff is at my house and, well – there’s just too much stuff. I’m hoping that the season of Samhain has time for some rummaging, sorting, giving away, and old-fashioned dumping.
The English language is in the midst of a gender revolution – one that began the first time someone questioned why the default state of every noun and pronoun was masculine. Since that point, “humankind” has gradually replaced “mankind,” and the male-centric generic “his” has given way to “hers or his” or (the still grammatically incorrect) “theirs.” Gradually, the language has moved toward treating both genders equitably. However, the preceding statement presumes that there are only two genders, and highlights a very real gender gap remaining in the language: the presumption that gender has only two variants, and thus requires two, or perhaps three, pronouns to reflect reality. Like the generic “he,” the use of these gendered pronouns is so commonplace that it’s all but invisible, except to the people who don’t fit either one and their allies.