Monday, April 5, 2021

Trumpish fear roils leafy suburban paradise

Julie Schaeffer, right, and Cal.
    Julie Schaeffer lives in Northbrook with her husband and their two kids, 17 and 19. The younger is a senior at Glenbrook North. The older, Cal, who goes to college in Wisconsin, studying remotely on campus, is the reason she phoned.
     “Cal is nonbinary,” she said.
     I asked how she learned about this.
     “When Cal was about 15 years old, they had gone to a gaming convention with my husband,” she said. “When Cal was there, they asked my husband if they could put a different name on their tag. That was the first time they sort of felt comfortable enough, emboldened to put it out of the rest of the world to see.”
     How did the Schaeffers react?
     “We hadn’t heard much before then,” she said. Her husband had an easier time, referring to Cal with the third person plural pronoun “they” and such. “He did better than I did. I just didn’t understand it at first. I didn’t know anyone else who was nonbinary, I didn’t understand it.”
     There’s a lot of that going around. I asked her to explain what being “nonbinary” means.
     “Cal does not identify as either male or female,” she said. “It’s not that they ever woke up in the morning and said, ‘I feel like a girl,’ or ‘I feel like a boy.’ Neither gender resonated with them.”
     That news might shock a parent.

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  1. I couldn't agree more with everything you and they're mother have to say in todays piece.

    ive taken to using the indefinite pronoun or the plural more and more especially in my professional correspondence. ive occasionally been asked id this is because the person im referring to is trans or binary. my response. I dont know its none of my business.

    the more I use peoples chosen pronouns the easier and more ordinary it sounds

  2. My first inclination was to list the many reasons that using plural pronouns to refer to singular things (people in this instance) is burdensome and illogical. But after a bit, I decided it's not all that hard to take, given that I've already have had a taste of it from New Yorker articles and I like to think of myself as a tolerant guy, a non-bigot, a foe of discrimination in any form. However, I would guess that most newspaper readers are closer in age to me than to Cal and even his parents. And we geezers by and large do not like change, particularly when it impinges on sex, religion or politics. I like to think I'm an exception to that rule, but those who know me best would probably disagree. Cal has chosen a thorny path to trod -- hope it works out for them.


    1. From what I've been told it's not a choice. It's a thing that chooses you. Like him sexuality.

  3. An interesting concept, I've been giving the matter careful thought. For anyone who is low or no class, hereon out you should refer to me as M'Lord Bernie. Those who are people of distinction, e.g. annual household income 6 figures or higher may call me My Lord Bernie. Thanks for your cooperation, it really helps with my self-esteem.

  4. 2nd person pronouns are usually used to refer to those not present. That bugs me - that you can determine my language when you’re not even there. Addressing someone directly as they wish is what normal people do. (Or should do) It’s stupidly rude not to.

    Reading the piece I thought the mother was referring to two of her children because she used the plural form.
    I understand that it’s on me to learn about the modern world.

  5. A little off-topic, perhaps, but it occurred to me that if I was writing this as a screenplay, the bully would have a name like Glenn Farkas. Then I remembered viewing "A Christmas Story" (I'll leave the search on for the name of the character played by Zack Ward as an exercise for the readers), and realized that sometimes life does imitate art.


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