In an effort to foster “an environment of inclusiveness,” the University of Michigan recently adopted a policy allowing students to choose their own ‘personal pronoun.’ The policy appears to be an effort to accommodate transgender students.
“Asking about and correctly using someone’s designated pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their identity and to cultivate an environment that respects all gender identities.”
Professors are expected to refer to students by their selected pronoun, regardless of whether or not the pronoun conforms to their sex. Students are allowed to select their own pronoun—she, he, him, his, ze, etc.—or create their own. Grant Strobl opted for the latter, the College Fix reports:
‘I henceforth shall be referred to as: His Majesty, Grant Strobl. I encourage all U-M students to go onto Wolverine Access, and insert the identity of their dreams’
Strobl, a founding chairman of the University of Michigan chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom, seems to be trying to make a point. He told the College Fix that he disagrees with the “completely arbitrary” policy, which potentially would result in sanctions against students who refer to someone by something other than their chosen pronoun.
Strobl’s move appears to be the latest revolt against the cultural trend of punishing those who fail to publicly conform to self-sexual-identification. Earlier this year, for example, users were banned from the popular parenting website Mumsnet for “misgendering”; the ban prompted an “I am Spartacus” backlash.
Why are we seeing so much on transgenderism these days? Probably because the issue perfectly captures the cleavage in our culture’s moral philosophy.
Few would argue that people who identify as transgender should not be allowed to live as they choose free from harassment and violence. The disagreement centers on the extent to which institutions and individuals bear responsibility to accommodate and affirm one’s transgender identity. For many who support transgender rights, the issue is a touchstone of cultural tolerance.
But the issue also strikes at the heart of Western moral philosophy and conceptions of truth. For Western thinkers from Plato to Aquinas, truth was determined by how an idea corresponded to objects. Aquinas was channeling the ancient Greeks when he restated this theory: "A judgment is said to be true when it conforms to the external reality."
Saying one’s sexual identity is defined not by an external reality (one’s sexual organs) but by one’s own perceptions or will challenges the underpinnings of Western moral philosophy that existed for more than 2,000 years.
It will be interesting to see what happens when some of his peers or professors fail to identify His Majesty, Grant Strobl, by his new chosen identity.
Is the new focus on sexual identification a fleeting trend or an idea that is here to stay?
Jon Miltimore is senior editor of Intellectual Takeout. Follow him on Facebook.